News for progressives

The shame of Toronto's homelessness crisis

Rabble News - Thu, 2017-12-21 14:32
December 21, 2017Civil Liberties WatchBehind closed doors sleeps a city’s shame: The crisis of Toronto’s homelessness Hidden behind the doors of All Saints Church is the long history of the abandonment of Toronto’s poor by all three levels of governmenthomelessnesscanadian homelessnesscanadian poverty
Categories: News for progressives

The Hybrid War On The Cultural Fabric of Russian Society

by Larchmonter445 for the Saker blog Ramzan Kadyrov, President Putin and the Moral Sensibilities of Russian Society are the targets du jour of the Rabid Russophobes and the Khazarian-American-Rothschild Globalists.
Categories: News for progressives

Republican Tax Bill Is A Prelude To Higher Taxes

Yesterday the Republican controlled U.S. Senate passed a gigantic tax bill. The House will today agree to it and Trump will sign it as soon as possible. The bill lowers the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%. It lowers...
Categories: News for progressives

Canada's explosive Christmas gift to the world

Rabble News - Thu, 2017-12-21 02:40
Civil Liberties WatchPolitics in Canada

A few days before Christmas in 1988, I was dressed as Kris Kringle, sitting in the back of a police squad car, my hands tightly cuffed behind my back, my glasses fogged up, and my beard itching like crazy. Outside, I could hear people asking over and over again: why have they arrested Santa Claus?

A few moments earlier, I had been inside a major Toronto toy store resisting the militarization of children, along with five other Santas and two elves, all of whom would also be arrested in a major police takedown that made the holiday-adorned shopping centre look more like a scene out of CSI. We were removing war toys from the store's shelves and placing them in garbage bags. Toy machine guns, missiles, grenades, sniper rifles, and tanks were among the various "fun" things being promoted as the perfect gift during the season of peace and good will to all.

The criminalization of Santa came in response to our concerns that war and militarism were being promoted as an inevitable but nonetheless harmless game, the first rung of recruitment into a militarized culture where young people would either be active participants as little GI Joes and Janes, or bystanders desensitized to the real thing when they saw it on the news.

The connections between playing at war and war itself were made painfully obvious in those days by none other than the always befuddled President Ronald Reagan (the slightly more refined Trump of another generation). In a speech at Disneyland, Reagan famously declared that:

"I recently learned something quite interesting about video games. Many young people have developed incredible hand, eye, and brain coordination in playing these games. The Air Force believes these kids will be outstanding pilots should they fly our jets. The computerized radar screen in the cockpit is not unlike the computerized video screen. Watch a 12-year-old take evasive action and score multiple hits while playing 'Space Invaders,' and you will appreciate the skills of tomorrow's pilot."

Militarizing the holidays

Every December, the state-sanctioned holiday season is always infused with an unhealthy dose of militarism, from the military jet flyovers of sports events and the mini arsenal that's always available in aisle four of your local toy store to the hijacking of Santa Claus by the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), which "tracks" Santa and "accompanies" him with fighter bombers. It's an insidious propaganda game that inculcates children into an acceptance of the heavily acronym-ized world of militarism that includes NATO and similarly violent institutions. Indeed, children are encouraged every December to call NORAD, which has operators standing by to answer Santa-related questions. The people answering those calls are normally engaged with systems integrated into nuclear war fighting schemes.

As Eric Schlosser writes in his frightening book, Command and Control, it has often been false alarms from NORAD that have led the world to the precipice of nuclear Armageddon. But Santa-tracking is a brilliant piece of deflection and distraction that normalizes NORAD as a friendly, protective umbrella shielding us from the dangers "out there."

Indeed, the Santa-tracking website that hosts children's games tells tiny tots that:

"NORAD makes a point of checking the radar closely for indications of Santa Claus leaving the North Pole every holiday season. The moment our radar tells us that Santa has lifted off, we begin to use the same satellites that we use in providing air warning of possible missile launches aimed at North America….Rudolph's nose gives off an infrared signature similar to a missile launch. The satellites detect Rudolph's bright red nose with no problem."

While Rudolph is not quoted -- nor is Santa or Mrs. Claus (who many believe has long been a member of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom) -- NORAD continues with its insidiously packaged bedtime story, claiming Santa is accompanied by Canadian C-18s and U.S. F-15s, F-16s, and F-22 fighter planes, all of which have been employed to drop bombs on the children of Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, the former Yugoslavia, and other parts of the globe. "When the jets intercept Santa, they tip their wings to say, 'Hello Santa! -- NORAD is tracking you again this year!'" the story continues. "Santa always waves. He loves to see the pilots!"

And in a last bit of colonialism, NORAD reminds children that Santa "will visit everyone (i.e. Afghanistan, Israel, non-Christian countries)… Santa visits all homes where children believe in him." No data is provided to document how many Santa-believing children have been murdered by the bombing runs of these warplanes.

Agents of peace selling weapons systems

Meanwhile, Canada's emcee and leading bedtime storyteller, Justin Trudeau, spent a very busy year playing Santa Claus both to recipients of corporate welfare, as well as some of the globe's worst human rights violators. Supplying presents that explode, obliterate, lacerate, behead, burn and disable women, children and men, the Liberals have wrapped up their role as the Canadian weapons industry's global pimp in lots of pretty paper. As Trudeau said with no trace of irony at the Vancouver "peacekeeping" summit last month, Canada will be "agents of peace in a world that sorely needs it…. we'll protect the world's children, empower women and girls, and build a more peaceful and a more prosperous world."

To underscore that message of hope and peace, just before Parliament shut down for winter break, Global Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland gushed with joy at the announced opening of weapons sales to the brutal regime in Ukraine. Meanwhile, as part of a year-end Middle East tour, War Minister Harjit Sajjan inked a "defence cooperation agreement" on December 18 with the torture-stained regime of the United Arab Emirates, which detained and tortured Canadian citizen Salim Alaradi for two years. The agreement promises new training opportunities and "defence engagement," code words for weapons sales.

The day before, Sajjan promised more support for the Jordanian regime, which according to Amnesty International's latest report, continues to:

"[r]estrict the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly, and detained and prosecuted critics and opponents under criminal defamation, blasphemy and anti-terrorism laws. Torture and other ill-treatment continued in detention centres. Trials before the State Security Court were unfair. Women faced discrimination in law and in practice and were inadequately protected against sexual and other violence. Migrant domestic workers were exploited and abused."

But Sajjan focused on other issues, including Canadian support to build a road that will make it easier for Jordan's armed forces to repress any outbreaks of homegrown democracy. "I am pleased to be in Jordan to announce further support for one of our most trusted partners in the Middle East region, and in turn help to build a more secure and stable world," Sajjan declared. "Jordan has shown that it is always ready to do its part and Canada is happy to reciprocate by supporting the needs of the Jordanian Armed Forces." 

Part of the cooperation appears to have been the Jordanian torture of Mohamedou Ould Slahi, one of the longest-held detainees in the war of terror, who in his book, Guantanamo Diary, recounts that most of his troubles appear to have arisen because of unfounded Canadian state security allegations cooked up while he was living in Montreal.

While it is too soon to tell when Syria's brutal regime will once again become one of Canada's "trusted partners" and weapons buyers (Syrian dictator Assad's regime played a significant role in torturing Canadian citizens at the behest of this country's state security agencies, the RCMP and CSIS), Sajjan's tour will continue this week as part of the federal government's ongoing efforts to maintain its pride of place as the region's second-biggest weapons dealer.

Massive military investment

It was Christmas in July for Canadian weapons-makers last summer when Freeland and Sajjan delivered a series of one-two "hard power" punch lines, informing the world that Canada would invest over $100 billion in new warfare spending while using military force to back up its global objectives.

In a "major policy" speech last June, Freeland smugly asked, "Is Canada an essential country, at this time in the life of our planet? Most of us here would agree that it is." Freeland continued, "Why do we spend billions on defence, if we are not immediately threatened?" She then proceeded to discuss how Canada's "interests" on the world stage must be backed by "the principled use of force" and, in a phrase that illustrates the psycho-sexual undertones of most forms of militarism, "the backing of hard power."

These policy pronouncements were part of an ambitious year of similar instances in which the Liberals committed themselves to a massive theft of the poor that would make even Scrooge blush. At a time when they should be investing in everything from massive reparations and land transfers to Indigenous communities, to a universal daycare program, as well as pharmacare, environmental cleanup, affordable housing, proper pensions and supports for veterans, women's shelters and sexual assault survivor programs, and countless other desperately needed socially useful programs, Trudeau's team then announced a huge war spending spree.

In their advertisement for this massive investment in militarism, "Strong, Secure, Engaged," the War Department not only had the standard introductory page from its own minister, Sajjan, but also a similar note from Freeland, who praised the celebration of mass murder as a key part of her government's "progressive, feminist foreign policy." Freeland's appearance in the document also signaled a confirmation that Canada -- which has historically used its military for imperial adventures that back its corporate clients -- is no longer shy about the role that its diplomatic corps is playing to promote the use of armed force as a preferred policy option.

Indeed, as Thomas Friedman wrote two decades ago in The New York Times, "the hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist [the military]." With the Freeland/Sajjan policies as described in "Strong, Secure, Engaged," the role of the Canadian Forces continues to be what it always has been, despite being prettied up with lots of pictures of women and children to promote "inclusivity" while extolling the exciting military opportunities for "Indigenous Canadians." That role is to intercede on behalf of Canadian capital, whether abroad or here at home, where Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr promised last year to call in the military to quash anti-pipeline resistance.  

A 'feminist' foreign policy

To support this supposedly "progressive, feminist foreign policy," the plan is for a $62.3-billion boost to war spending (Canada currently spends well over $20 billion annually on war), over $60 billion for new warships, $19 billion for fighter jets, and over $1 billion for armed drones. To sell this bill of goods, the Liberals rely both on Canadians' fears of Trump (how will we defend ourselves against the madman in the White House?) and the long-standing mythology of Canadian benevolence (because we are, as Freeland concludes, an "essential nation.") Would Canadian drone operators really launch hellfire missiles against a village in Afghanistan from some NORAD bunker in North Bay if the Liberals get their wish to purchase these deadly aerial vehicles? Surely not our boys!

The war spending spree has been criticized by some as empty rhetoric because much of the funds are slated for after the next federal election. While true, it misses the far more important point: such announcements normalize the robbery of the treasury to benefit a global conglomerate of war profiteers. Because such spending is couched in the state security narrative, it becomes a bottomless pit that has no match in any social program. No other federal department is so frequently the focus of "underfunding" whining, even though last year, Canada was ranked the 15th-highest war spender by Jane's Defence Weekly. Indeed, the War Department has always enjoyed the largest use of discretionary funding in the federal budget, and the outlay of well over half a trillion dollars in war spending over the past 30 years has done nothing to guarantee anyone's security.

Just after the announcement of the new war spending spree, the Liberals quickly extended their Iraq military mission for another two years. Instead of a proper national debate about the dangerously under-reported role of Canadian soldiers in that conflict, Trudeau instead chose the final week of June to celebrate the murder of an unnamed human being who, we were told reassuringly, was one of the "enemy," killed as part of  what the government continues to insist is Canada's "non-combat" role.

"What happened there is, first of all, something to be celebrated for the excellence of the Canadian Forces in their training, in the performance of their duties," Trudeau said of the Canadian soldier who killed someone from 3,540 metres away. Little discussed is the role that Canadian troops are playing in that region to help pave the way for what Canada's ambassador to Jordan foresees as a $1-trillion opportunity for Canadian companies interested in rebuilding the infrastructure that other Canadian companies helped to destroy.

If all this weren't maddening enough, Trudeau's self-regarding Prince of Peace imagery is also being branded by Canadian bureaucrats to pitch the idea of "peacekeeping." Trudeau expounded on how he represents the "goodness" of Canadians when he declared:

"What I'm seeing around the world is that Canada is looked at as a place where people are smart and get it and have good values. So that uplifting of Canadians and what it is that we do well, diversity being a strength, being part of it, is, I think, where the brand is making the biggest impact on the world stage."

Testing Brand Trudeau

While that brand is currently being tested via litigation in the Court of Appeal opposing the sale of $15 billion in killer vehicles to the Saudi regime, it's also being tackled at the International Criminal Court, where former MP Craig Scott has asked prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to consider including Canadian complicity in torture as part of a wider investigation into war crimes committed by occupying forces in Afghanistan. The "progressive, feminist" Trudeau brand was also undermined when a number of former Canadian "peacekeepers" recently escaped accountability for their alleged role in sexual misconduct in Haiti.

Meanwhile, as veterans continue fighting the government for proper pensions and health care to deal with the scars of past battles, the government is confident that a new generation of recruits looking down the barrel of decades of student debt will sign on to the military via the "poverty draft."

Towards that end, the armed forces have been busy trying to encourage women, LGBTQ2, and Indigenous people to join an institution rooted in misogyny, homophobia and racism. The military also relies on the mythologized Canadian soldier as a benevolent world force to infiltrate events like last summer's Ottawa Pride Day, where some 100 uniformed military personnel joined federal Liberals who last year approved the sale of $15 billion in weapons to the homophobic regime of Saudi Arabia. The same parade's organizers had rightfully asked Ottawa police not to wear uniforms because many participants did not feel safe having symbols of the city's occupying army in the event. That concern did not extend to solidarity with those in other countries for whom the occupying Canadian military uniform is representative of complicity in torture (Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq) and bombing runs (Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Yugoslavia, Libya). Nor does it extend to Indigenous people who have had their lands occupied by the Canadian military (such as Kanehsatà:ke, site of the 1990 "Oka crisis," and numerous other sites where unceded Indigenous lands were seized by the War Department for training purposes and bases.)

 As 2017 came to an end, and homeless people were freezing to death on the streets of Canada, the Liberals also discovered they had an extra $500 million lying around to purchase 18 used Australian fighter jets that were supposed to replace on an interim basis CF-18 fighter jets. Even though the Australian jets are the same age as the Canadian ones, we were asked to forgive the nonsensical purchase in the name of a non-existent "capability gap" reminiscent of the mythic "missile gap" that propelled John F. Kennedy to the White House and accelerated the Cold War nuclear weapons race in the 1960s.

The purchase of the Australian jets was meant to bypass an ongoing dispute involving war manufacturers Bombardier and Boeing, and also to defend against those who, Trudeau said, would "harm" Canada's economy. But nowhere in the military funding discussion has there been a proper analysis of how military spending in and of itself is always harmful to economies. Indeed, for decades, studies about conversion from a war economy to a peace economy have shown that monies traditionally poured into war industries like Lockheed Martin and L-3 Wescam would, if directed to human needs, create more long-lasting jobs, and result in far more wholesome contributions like affordable housing, child care, improved access to health care, and environmental cleanup.

What to do?

While there are countless opportunities for resisting militarism and globalized violence, there are some very specific things we can all do to say no to the war that is being funded in our name. First and foremost, don't pay war taxes, and instead divert that portion of your taxes that would go to the War Department to a peace tax fund. Learn more at Conscience Canada.

In addition, one can demand that the Canada Pension Plan, which is riddled with war investments, divest itself from the business of killing. One can also demand that Global Affairs Canada stop playing the role of weapons industry pimp (and their Ottawa lobby offers very spacious facilities for those considering a sit-in).

Almost every community in Canada has industries that profit from war, including London, Ontario's production of killer vehicles for the Saudi regime at General Dynamics, Kitchener's Colt Canada (sniper rifles, machine guns, grenade launchers), Lockheed Martin in Halifax, and drone warfare specialist L-3 in Burlington. Canada's war industry association has a very helpful map documenting the 800 war profiteers that occupy every province and territory. You can also do some basic internet research to find out how many millions in your tax dollars are pumped into your local war industry and ask how that money could be better spent on education, clean water for Indigenous communities, health care, child care, and support services for victims of male violence.

In addition, all of those war industries gather for a massive arms bazaar every year in Ottawa, CANSEC, which hosts some of the world's most horrific human rights violators. Taking place at the end of May, CANSEC is one of those rare opportunities in Canada that provides perfect blockade weather.

Perhaps most importantly, it is critical to stop buying the mythology that Canada's military and war industry are any different from those of the U.S., U.K., Israel, or any other regime willing to employ the tools of terror to achieve their objectives. As former general Rick Hillier famously and accurately declared: "We are the Canadian Forces and our job is to be able to kill people."

Matthew Behrens is a freelance writer and social justice advocate who co-ordinates the Homes not Bombs non-violent direct action network. He has worked closely with the targets of Canadian and U.S. 'national security' profiling for many years.

Photo: NORAD Tracks Santa

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Canadian militarismTrudeau governmentmilitary salesarms dealsdefence spendingMatthew BehrensDecember 21, 2017Bombs away! How Canada is here to helpTrudeau's cheery offer at the UN to bring peace to the world fell flat in light of his government's "principled" commitment to sell billions in weapons and blanket militarism.Saying no to Canada's death gameIn a reminder that the warfare state is never affected by who gets elected in Canada, the Trudeau Liberals are about to embark on a militaristic spending spree that will draw no opposition.Santa Claus rejects NORAD escort, may be placed on no-fly listIn a little-noticed news release from the North Pole, a jolly senior citizen has asked that his image not be co-opted this holiday season by the Canadian War Department and NORAD.
Categories: News for progressives

Smooth Sailing Ahead For the Global and Canadian Economy?

Progressive economics forum - Thu, 2017-12-21 02:26

The consensus forecast of just about everybody – the IMF, the OECD, the Bank of Canada, the Canadian banks – is that Canada will share in a global recovery from the stagnation which followed the financial crisis of a decade ago. All of the major economies – the US, the EU, China, Japan – are growing; business investment is finally on the upswing from depressed levels; world trade is on the rise again; and fiscal austerity has more or less run its course. Central bankers, we are told, can be counted on to only gradually increase ultra low interest rates even as growth returns to near normal levels and employment recovers.

The world economy is forecast to grow about 3.7% in 2018, and Canada is forecast to grow at a respectable 2.5%, a bit below the rate in 2017.

This relatively optimistic outlook may well be true for next year. Many economic indicators are indeed very positive. But there are grounds to think that structural obstacles to a global recovery remain formidable. Indeed this view is registered by the financial markets in continued very low long term interest rates, which are based on an expectation of slow growth and low inflation over the next decade.

As widely noted, the recent upturn has been felt almost everywhere only very weakly in terms of wage growth, which is in turn by far the major determinant of household demand. Wages are generally lagging behind even weak labour productivity growth despite a significant fall in unemployment rates in the United States, Canada and even the European Union. In Canada, household spending growth has remained dependent upon increased debt rather than rising wages, even as the job market has seemingly tightened.

While the consensus forecast assumes that wages will gradually pick up, it is unclear what mechanism will reconnect wages to productivity growth in the absence of major structural changes such as the revival of a shrinking labour movement or hikes to minimum wages. The rise of insecure work seems to be limiting wage increases even at low levels of unemployment.

High and rising economic inequality is also a structural drag on growth. The continuing tilt of income growth to the most affluent means that a relatively high proportion of income gains will be saved rather than spent. The excess of financial savings over real investment is another reason why long term interest rates remain low.

High levels of household debt in many countries, again very much including Canada, also weigh against consumption and thus final demand growth. The pace of borrowing is likely to slow as interest rates creep up, making spending even more dependent upon wage growth.

Again as widely noted, following a very slow recovery, business investment remains sub par despite expectations of growth, and a large share of buoyant corporate profits is still being hoarded as cash or paid out to shareholders rather than re-invested. Part of the reason seems to be that growth has become more tilted towards the “new” high tech/digital economy where costly physical capital requirements are low compared to the “old”economy where expansion was based on major investments in new machinery and equipment rather than in intangible and relatively cheap intellectual and human capital.

Productivity growth remains low. For all of the talk of the emergence of a highly dynamic digital economy and the threat to jobs from artificial intelligence and the robots, growth in output per hour has been generally low, not least in the United States, and even more so in Canada. Pessimists point to the still small weight of the digital economy in the overall economy, which tends to low productivity growth due to the increasing weight of labour intensive services which cannot easily be automated.

The lack of global economic co-ordination also undermines the potential for sustained growth. The basic economic strategy of most countries, certainly including Canada, is to increase global market share through higher business investment combined with a competitive cost structure. Global competition and labour cost arbitrage by global corporations weighs against wage and income growth, fettering the growth of the overall global market. This structural problem may be exacerbated by openly protectionist trade policies if Trump prevails against liberal trade deals such as NAFTA and the WTO. Part of the solution is to co-ordinate expansionary fiscal policies and also to promote labour rights and standards across the global economy.

Added to the structural barriers to growth is the potential for systemic financial problems to once again undermine stability. A decade long run of very low interest rates has inflated numerous asset bubbles. Many countries, including Canada, have highly inflated housing markets which are vulnerable to a correction which would have a big negative impact on household wealth and spending. Equity markets are widely considered to be significantly over-valued, as are high risk corporate securities, creating risks for the financial system should prices fall. Many corporations have taken on excessive debt to pay out dividends to shareholders.

In sum, there are reasons to believe that the prospects for a sustained recovery of the global economy are not quite as robust as the new consensus would have us believe.

Categories: News for progressives

A year of progressive, purposeful eating in 2018

Rabble News - Wed, 2017-12-20 23:41
EnvironmentFood & Health

The New Year is just a few weeks away -- a good time to start reflecting on what we should do that might be different. At least that is what I like to do at this time of year.

Besides wishing everyone health and happiness (I always dodge the prosperity stuff 'cause I tend to feel that term is ambiguous at best), I always end up reflecting on how best to make this life count in the New Year. What things do I need to consider or undertake that might make this world, my community and myself better?

For some, this time of year might lead to reflections around health, finances or acquisitions -- that never quite cuts it for me.

My resolution this year is going to be all about how I can work towards sustainable eating practices -- practices that work to help the environment as well as food producers here and elsewhere…and practices that help to support food sovereignty.

1. Dump the transnationals

This, I must admit, can be a lofty goal -- but it is one worth aspiring to. On the consumer end of it, I cringe when people tell me to seek out a particular product at Costco. I long ago decided that Costco and Wal-Mart would never be on my list, and I have avoided online shopping through Amazon.

Now, Amazon is about to become an online grocery store as well? Oh boy!

In 2018, I will continue to avoid the transnationals as best I can -- and that extends to very large grocery stores like Loblaws. My goal is to shop locally first, sourcing some foods directly from farms and farmers' markets, and shopping smaller, Canadian, outlets, otherwise.

This is serious business, and as a consumer, I have a responsibility.

It may be a lot easier than you think -- and shopping responsibly is not necessarily more expensive. And it is much safer, I believe, than trying to keep an eye on the mega-food recalls that plague the mega-food industry. A handful of corporations control food production. If I can help it, I do not intend to be a part of helping that continued concentration.

2. Campaign against GM crops, and for food safety and the environment

I plan to continue to keep an eye out for the latest news on genetically modified (GM) foods. The Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN) is a collaborative research organization that is a great resource to keep track of GM products and campaigns in Canada. It also provides a lot of information about corporate concentration in the seed and food industry. Also on my list of resolutions is to do my best to support sustainable fishing practices and to source sustainable fish products. That will be challenging, I know!

3. Become the new foodie -- progressive and purposeful

On my list of resolutions is to support community food groups and community agriculture by continuing to frequent farmers' markets and projects that encourage locally grown and harvested foods.

I don't eat out a lot, but when I do, my 2018 resolution is to, as much as possible, support Canadian restaurants that source healthy, local foods and that contribute to sustainable farm practices and community food projects.

4. Engage in agriculture

While my very small backyard is currently snow covered, come spring, I plan to grow some food -- maybe a few tomatoes and maybe a few berries from a well-nurtured vine. But there is also garlic and herbs, and lots of other stuff to consider, even on a small plot of land. And I plan to learn more about foraging.

Farmers begin planning their crops in January and February -- a good time for me to start on my small-scale project as well!

If I had a flat roof on my house, I might even consider a rooftop garden -- we could use a few more of those on commercial buildings, so that might be another resolution to consider. Imagine rooftop gardens on all provincial and federal government buildings. I feel a campaign coming on…

5. Join-up -- get a new membership

This year, I plan to join at least one more organization -- one that actively promotes policies and practices that benefit farmers, working folk and our planet.

I was stunned and oh so pleased to learn in 2017 that there is now a local of the National Farmers Union in the middle of Toronto. These are urbanites eager to support a progressive and activist farm organization by becoming associate members. I am big on coalitions believing that change will only happen if there is collaboration between urban and rural folks around food issues, both on an individual and an organizational basis. The NFU Toronto local is heartening!

There are some excellent membership organizations that work on food issues. Another is Food Secure Canada. But there are likely many others to be found.

And if you don't want to join or can't for some reason, I would consider donating time or money or both to community food groups working locally, nationally or internationally.

All the best in engaging in purposeful eating in 2018! Happy New Year!

Lois Ross is a communications specialist, writer, and editor, living in Ottawa. Her column "At the farm gate" discusses issues that are key to food production here in Canada as well as internationally.

Photo: Thomas Nilsson/flickr

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Categories: News for progressives

Syrian-Iraqi War Report – December 20, 2017: Iran Deploys Reinforcemenst On Syrian-Iraqi Border Syrian government forces have continued to develop momentum in southern Idlib and liberated Tal Afghar from Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda). Previously, government
Categories: News for progressives

A Tale of two Ukraines- Health Care in War-Torn Lugansk and Peaceful Kiev

by GH Eliason for the Saker blog This is the story of two Ukraine’s, but it’s not the tired and typical before and after the coup tome. This is a
Categories: News for progressives

The Site C Dam decision by the NDP is a disaster for British Columbia

Rabble News - Wed, 2017-12-20 15:25
December 20, 2017EnvironmentNo insight from BC NDP as they approve Site C DamThere are times when you think the NDP has changed. But then you get a stark reminder that it hasn’t.
Categories: News for progressives

Augmented reality is building a world of digital exclusion

Rabble News - Wed, 2017-12-20 04:43

The sad green bubble is the shame of high school students everywhere. You'll see it when a group chat breaks out on friends' iPhones. There they are, their blue balloons of conversation rich with pictures, animated gifs, stickers, song clips and music videos. And, in the midst of all that gay banter, sits the plain green speech balloon of the one student in the group with an Android phone. They can only share drab text because their messages are sent to iPhones as simple SMS, or text messages. And their poverty of media is signified by that lonely green bubble.

Every time they try to join in the reindeer games of their friends they are reminded they have a bright lime light on the end of their nose. They are not a part of the Clique of Blue. The existence of the proprietary iMessage platform is one reason so many young people who can afford it, gravitate to iPhones.

I think of the sad green bubble when I consider the coming wave of augmented reality (AR) devices. Already phones like Tango-enabled Android phones or the latest iPhones and tablets deliver these augmented reality experiences. So do phones everywhere in the hands of energetic Pokemon Go players.

And soon they'll be added to by hordes of Harry Potter fans. Next year Niantic, the company behind Pokemon Go, will be releasing Harry Potter: Wizards Unite. The augmented reality version of that magical franchise will allow players worldwide to capture fantastic beasts no matter where they find them. The cryptozoological menagerie will be projected into the real world via players' phones.

In the next few years, augmented reality will become a common overlay on the real world. An owner of an AR device will be able to walk down a street lined with shops and see bobbing information bubbles with ratings,comments and special offers inside them.

Empty plates in restaurants will be filled with sample meals from the dining establishment. You'll be able to rotate, zoom in on and order the items all from your phone. Early versions of each of these experiences already exist.

A couple of months ago, IKEA released an app that lets you plunk down their furniture in your own rooms to see how they look. Then, of course, you can buy the items on the spot. Soon assembly instructions will appear over top of a jumble of pieces. All you'll need is an Allen key and an AR app.

And, by 2020 or so, AR-enabled smartphones will be replaced by AR glasses. That eyewear, offered by fashion-forward vendors, will float information over the real world as if it were on an acetate overlay. Google and Microsoft have already released crude and clunky versions of these devices. Apple is rumoured to be developing AR glasses for release in the '20s.

So, here's what all this has to do with the sad green bubble. When these devices are released, they will be expensive, exclusive and excluding. Consumers who can now afford to shell out nearly CAD $2,000 for a top-of-the-line iPhone X or Galaxy Note 8, will be first in line for the novel AR glasses. But it will be years before the technology trickles down to less expensive devices. Only then will low-income earners be able to afford them.

Until that time they may well be seeing a city, interacting with people and attempting to get better employment devoid of what might seem to be an extra sense. Well-to-do folks will see a world overlaid with advantageous information and will be able to share and store that information easily. They will be a part of the Blue Clique, with everyone else stranded in the sad green bubbles of unenhanced vision. There will be a class structure built on sight. It will literally be hard for the disadvantaged to see their way clear to make a better life for themselves.

We've seen this kind of technological divide before: those with computers, those without. Those with broadband, those without. In both cases, the playing field, in all but the more extreme cases and challenging geographies, is beginning to level. But as the dozens of people hunched over public library computers attest, there still remains a home team advantage to those who have a home computer.

It may well be that the future may not be so polarizing, but seeing the world through rose rather than tinted spectacles won't augment the reality of as many of us as possible.

Tech companies have been faulted for not paying much attention to the societal impact of their inventions and services. Cool conquers consequence. But AR isn't just about creating a "bicycle for the mind," as Steve Jobs once called a computer. It isn't about getting a cheap bed for the night or an easy ride. AR is about altering how we see.

If the developers of that technology don't have a worldview that encompasses the society beyond R&D labs, their blindspot will mean that all but the most affluent will be stumbling about and hitting brick walls as surely as if someone turned out the lights.

Wayne MacPhail has been a print and online journalist for 25 years, and is a long-time writer for on technology and the Internet.

Photo: Oliver Lavery/flickr

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augmented realitydigital divideeconomic inequalitypovertydigital technologyiPhoneWayne MacPhailDecember 20, 2017Darkness comes to San JoseA visit to Silicon Valley conjures up images of Dickensian-level poverty.When worlds collide and boundaries bleed: Intersections between online and real lifeLast week we witnessed two liminal moments in the space between the online and real worlds. In two very different ways, the edges bled beyond the boundary of one to the other.Technology? We are still in the steam eraWhen I was 15 I couldn't imagine owning a computer. Teens today have no idea what's about to happen to them.
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