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What really happened during the Middle East peace talks?

Photo: flickr/Christyn

There was a mad scramble by Washington last week to prevent the seemingly inevitable -- an implosion of the Middle East peace talks. In a last-ditch effort to stop Israel reneging on a promise to release a final batch of Palestinian prisoners, the U.S. briefly threw in possibly the biggest bargaining chip in its hand: the release of Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard.

With Israel still dragging its feet, an infuriated Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas submitted applications to join 15 United Nations conventions, thereby reviving a campaign to win international recognition of Palestinian statehood.

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Popular memory and the economic underside of Russia's 'geopolitical disaster'

Photo: flickr/Bryan Jones

During the on-going Ukrainian crisis, we in the West have been treated to the endless replaying and paraphrasing of Putin's quote regarding the collapse of the Soviet Union being the greatest geopolitical disaster of the  20th century.

This, or something akin to it, is generally the extent of the notion we are treated to, and it often accompanies suggestions that Putin's manoeuvres in Crimea are tantamount to the Sudeten crisis: Hitler's 1938 annexation of part of then Czechoslovakia according to the justification that he was intervening on behalf of German speakers.

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Nadon and the Supreme Court: A stinging defeat for Harper?

Photo: flickr/Jacob Earl

A dispute over the legality of a politically questionable judicial appointment has resulted in what pundits call a stinging defeat for Canada's prime minister and a bold assertion by the Supreme Court of Canada of its independence and constitutional status.

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2014 People's Social Forum takes aim at austerity and the Right

Photo: flickr/Mary Kosta

The first ever pan-Canadian social forum will be held this year in Ottawa from August 21 to 24. More than 10,000 participants from all over Canada are expected to come to the University of Ottawa to discuss ways and means of combating the austerity policies of the Harper regime and the provincial governments.

While we have been witness to often spirited resistance in many spaces and places -- the Québec student strike, the indigenous Idle No More movement, and the rallies against the Enbridge and TransCanada pipelines -- there has not yet been a united Canada-wide response. What are the prospects for a pan-Canadian fightback?

Québec and First Nations

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NDP should use Venezuelan revolution as inspiration for Canada's labour struggles

Photo: flickr/кiт-кaтн Halкeтт

The Canadian government has become the latest imperialist power to jump to the defence of the far-right protests in Venezuela. Parliament has just passed a unanimous motion that places the responsibility for the current violence in the country on the shoulders of the Venezuelan government rather than the opposition gangs that initiated the unrest. We have become accustomed to both the Conservatives and Liberals attacking the Venezuelan revolution, but what is concerning this time around is the fact that the NDP has sided with the two right-wing parties in condemning the Bolivarian government.

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13 examples of the Harper government's anti-democratic abuses

Photo: flickr/Stephen Harper

Recently, it has not been a good time for the Harper government and they have also shown a disturbing pattern of illegal and anti-democratic abuses.

Here is a baker's dozen of examples with two highly unsettling themes: (1) ignoring the rule of law and (2) flouting the traditional processes of parliamentary democracy.

1. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the Harper government's legislation making retroactive changes to parole eligibility breaches the Charter of Rights and is thus unconstitutional.

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Fair Elections Act? It's all a Con game!

Photo: flickr/postbear eater of worlds

Minister of State for Democratic Reform Pierre Poilievre's first piece of legislation, Bill C-23 (the so-called Fair Elections Act), turns out to be a Con game. This should come as no surprise given the Minister's record as Mr Harper's obfuscator in chief, beginning with his full-throated defence of the 2006 'in and out' expense laundering scheme perpetrated by the Conservatives.

The government's spin on the Unfair Elections Act (and "spin" is putting politely what is now clearly a deception strategy) is a stream of "war is peace" doublespeak. They say they are encouraging voting when they are actively seeking to suppress many voters' rights.

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Who's right? Harper and Putin disagree about Ukraine

Photo: flickr/snamess

Let's begin with Prime Minister Stephen Harper's version. One can think what one likes about deposed Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich, but his election in 2012 was recognized as legitimate by international observers and, after a certain hesitation, by the defeated candidate, Yulia Timoshenko. In fact, relatively honest elections were just about the only positive outcome for ordinary people of the last big mobilization on Maidan Square, the 'Orange Revolution' of December 2004.

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Tony Benn, radical champion for democracy in the UK, dies at 88

Photo: wikimedia commons

There are two things you need to know about Tony Benn. The first is that he always saw his primary role, as a politician, as that of an educator who was engaged in developing popular democratic ambitions and capacities. The second is that, again unlike most politicians, he actually took democracy seriously in terms of its potential for changing the world. These two rare qualities explain why he was among very few political leaders of the 20th century who became more rather than less radical over the course of their careers.

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The Conservatives' multi-pronged attack on science

Photo: flickr/Håkan Dahlström

A colleague of mine in environmental science recently told me that he is about to run out of funding since his Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) discovery grant has not been renewed, twice in a row. Scientists like him, focused as they are on their work, are encouraged to think their funding has not been renewed because there is something wrong with them or their research. In fact, there are broader social forces at play.

It turns out that the feminist slogan the personal is political is relevant to science as well. For decades, the membership card in the club of Canadian scientists was the NSERC discovery grant. The purpose of the grant was to give every working scientist basic funding to do their research.

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