News for progressives

Robert Parry Has Died

Robert Parry, the classic investigative journalist, founder and editor of the Consortium News website, has died. This is a huge loss for everyone who has kept some skepticism about the propagandistic media onslaught on our conciseness. Parry's writing was always...
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Weekly Review And Open Thread 2018-04 (also Jordan)

Jan 15 - Syria - U.S. Traps Itself, Commits To Occupation, Helps To Sustain The Astana Agreement Jan 18 - Syria - Tillerson Announces Occupation Goals - Erdogan Makes Empty Threats A few days later those threats turned out to...
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Navy Brief 1/18 January 2018

by LeDahu The UK politicians and senior military officers at the helm of defence these days, seem to excel at outpourings of Russian scaremongering soundbites, which the UK MSM are
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Jabhat al-Nusra: History, Capabilities, Role In Syrian War History Jabhat al-Nusra, originally Jabhat an-Nuṣrah li-ahli ash-Sham min Mujahideen ash-Shām fi Sahat al-Jihad or “Victory Front for the People of the Levant by the Mujahideen of the Levant
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Syrian War Report – January 26, 2018: Turkey Threatens To Attack Manbij On January 25, ISIS units attacked positions of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) in the villages of Kishmah and Ghuraybah in the province of Deir Ezzor. According to the
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Moveable Feast Cafe 2018/01/26 … Open Thread

2018/01/26 22:00:03Welcome to the ‘Moveable Feast Cafe’. The ‘Moveable Feast’ is an open thread where readers can post wide ranging observations, articles, rants, off topic and have animate discussions of
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Erdogan has made his choice

by Ghassan Kadi for The Saker Blog It seems that Erdogan has already made up his mind, but the speculations about what deals have been and haven’t been done seem
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'No Foreigners' makes the Chinese mall a multimedia cultural experience

Rabble News - Fri, 2018-01-26 20:48
Anti-RacismArts & Culture

A mysterious door at a Chinese mall in Vancouver became the gateway into a project for Toronto playwright David Yee, whose latest production examines the racialized spaces of those malls and the Chinese diaspora.

No Foreigners is a collaboration between Vancouver interdisciplinary group Hong Kong Exile and Yee's Toronto-based company fu-GEN Theatre. No Foreigners launches in Vancouver February 7 - 17 (the Cultch) and then moves to Toronto Feb. 21 - 25 (Theatre Centre).

"We decided to investigate the Chinese mall […] these malls were created for the community, they have been a hub for the diaspora coming to Canada. It's where culture and commerce collide," Yee told in a Skype interview from Vancouver.

It began with Yee and the collective seeking to explore the debate around signage. In Richmond, B.C., there were protests about the number of Chinese signs popping up and pressure to impose bylaws to require English as well. A similar controversy occurred in Markham, Ont., north of Toronto, about a decade prior.

The group visited the Aberdeen Mall in Richmond to soak in the flavour of the place. They spotted store frontage, "Rome Station," with MTR insignia (which stands for "mass transit railway" and refers to Hong Kong's subway system) and luxury handbags in the display window. The sign read: "Members Only."

Yee decided he would pretend to be a rich business guy.

"I rang the bell and a woman answered. I told her I had just moved to Vancouver after getting a job in finance and I wanted to buy a bag for my girlfriend and I wanted to become a member," Yee says.  "She said, 'Sorry, no foreigners,' and closed the door!"

Yee had the start of the play, which doesn't follow a traditional narrative.

"The play starts exactly like that but our guy stays in the mall for three years and learns to be Chinese," Yee explains. "He goes to a DVD store and the girl there says, 'I will train you to be Chinese' and gives him Chinese dramas to watch and then all the way to karaoke videos. He also watches Bruce Lee movies and others, like Jet Li. Learns Kung fu and there's even a fight in the food court."

At the end, the main character goes back to the Members Only door and goes through a series of tests to prove he is Chinese. Throughout the play other characters are given the limelight. And, half the play is in Cantonese and translated into English onto screens onstage.

"We have an older Chinese couple operating an electronics store but with [more people buying through] the internet, they've seen all the stores around them close," says Yee. "They are trying to survive and it's also affecting their marriage. These stores are so interwoven into the fabric of all the relationships of the [store owners]."

There's also an elderly man by the koi pond who talks about how the fish are culled and sent to Chinese malls -- a metaphorical story. Here's a line from one of the man's musings:

"[S]ome young koi fish who do not live up to their parents' expectations and are not good enough for rich men in Kowloon are sent to shopping malls…"

Since it is an interdisciplinary performance, the play utilizes miniatures which are projected onto five screens in addition to the one main screen throughout the play. The miniatures are mostly projected as shadows.

Governor-General's Award

Yee, who is used to sitting at a computer and punching out script, says he appreciates having projects that push his artistic abilities.

Not one to shy away from challenges, Yee has been the artistic director of fu-Gen since 2010 and is currently playwright-in-residence at Toronto's Tarragon Theatre. He is an accomplished actor and his plays include Lady in the Red Dress (2008), Paper Series (2011) and the Governor General's Award-winner Carried Away on the Crest of a Wave (2013), based on survivor interviews about the catastrophic 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia. In October 2016, fu-GEN and Factory Theatre mounted his new play, Acquiesce.

Fu-GEN and Yee -- who is of Chinese-Scottish background and graduated from the University of Toronto's drama and theatre program in 2000 -- have come a long way.

"When we started [back in 2002] we didn't know how it would 'play' to the white and the Asian communities. We wanted to tell stories differently and not just the identity story," recalls Yee.

"In the Lady in the Red Dress, I use a lot of Yeats' poetry and people were asking ' Why Yeats?  This is a Chinese play.' But it's f**king poetry!" exclaims Yee, a lover of poetry. "People will always find something to criticize… but they also find something to love. We've created a rich, artistic community that engages with narrative and performance in a myriad of different ways, we just want to keep embracing that."

Looking at the current landscape of entertainment and media, I ask Yee if he thinks there's been a sea change in how Asians are portrayed. He shakes his head.

"The changes are subtle, not big. I see them checking some quota box but the Asian character is still always the cleaning lady, doctor or best friend," says Yee. "What I'm seeing now at least, is more Asian creators in Canada and the U.S., so writers and directors."

Although Yee won the Governor-General's Award for his play in 2015, he hasn't seen it mounted as much as the works of other GG winners and that is somewhat disturbing.

"Carried Away on the Crest of a Wave involves eight countries and people speaking different languages and I believe, it's because these companies just don't have the possibilities within their organizations to stage it," says Yee, referring to the fact many theatre companies still aren't diverse enough.

As for the future of seeing more fully realized Asian characters in the mainstream?

"I remain cautiously optimistic."

No Foreigners in Vancouver

No Foreigners in Toronto

fu-GEN Theatre Company

June Chua is a Berlin-based journalist who regularly writes about the arts for

Images courtesy of "No Foreigners" by Hong Kong Exile & fu-GEN Theatre

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racialized communitiesChinese communityshopping mallsDiasporaJune ChuaJanuary 26, 2018Ramen gets dunked in decolonization in CBC animation shortInterview with "Marco's Oriental Noodles" filmmaker Howie Shia on using a story to show cultural appropriation through food.Calgary artist explores public space, cultural interactionsArtist Hye-Seung Jung's work on the dynamics of culture and public space spans Canada, Europe and Asia, bringing together cultures, ideas and urban muckraking.Canadian curator's groundbreaking slavery 'Republik Repair' festival in BerlinKarina Griffith uses film, music, theatre, panel discussions and storytelling to address the 10-point Plan for Reparatory Justice produced by CARICOM in 2014.
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Corporate subsidies make everything else about Canada poorer

Rabble News - Fri, 2018-01-26 15:47
January 26, 2018Politics in CanadaHuge wasteful subsidies to corporations deplete funds for social programsIf the national income were more equitably allocated –- as it is in truly progressive countries –- much of the prevailing social distress in Canada could be alleviated.Corporate subsidiescorporate welfare
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Uncle Sam dumps the Kurds (yet again)

[This article was written for the Unz Review] The drama which is unfolding in northern Syria is truly an almost ideal case to fully assess how weak and totally dysfunctional
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Syrian War Report – January 25, 2018: Syrian Army Prepares To Clear Abu al-Duhur Pocket The Syrian military is deploying reinforcements to northern Hama and eastern Idlib reportedly preparing to launch a military operation to clear the militant-held pocket there. According to pro-government sources,
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"Who Lost Turkey?" - The U.S.-Kurdish Project In Syria Endangers NATO

Back in the 1950s the U.S. political sphere was poisoned by a groundless smear campaign against country-experts in the State Department who were identified as those who lost China. If the Trump administration proceeds on its current course we may...
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Listening to Mattis

by Auslander for The Saker Blog I watched US Secretary of Defense ‘General’ Mattis live on 19 January and I’m reasonably sure a lot of us either watched him or
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Albertans lose money while energy companies continue to let escaping methane make climate change worse

Rabble News - Fri, 2018-01-26 00:24
David J. Climenhaga

Methane released from oil and gas operations in Alberta represents lost natural gas royalties of up to $21 million a year and lost Alberta carbon tax revenues of as much as $2.3 billion yearly, according to a briefing note released yesterday by the Pembina Institute.

On their own, the foregone royalties, lost when oil and gas companies allow natural gas to escape through undetected leaks or intentional venting, would be enough to pay the annual salaries of 180 newly employed nurses, build 25 new schools, or construct 420 new playgrounds, the advocacy organization Progress Alberta said this morning.

According to the note from the Pembina Institute -- an energy issues think-tank founded in Alberta in 1985 -- recent research by Carleton University using measuring instruments on aircraft indicates that Alberta releases of methane are likely 25 to 50 per cent higher than currently reported. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that is the main component of natural gas. Other studies elsewhere in the world have made similar findings.

Since the industry reported emitting approximately 30 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, that would mean 38 to 45 million tonnes were actually emitted by the Alberta oil and gas industry. So right off the top, the Pembina briefing note argues, "wasted methane represents lost value to oil and gas operators due to lost sales volumes of natural gas, and lost value to the government through lost royalty collection."

"Based on the Carlton University research, annual lost sales from all methane releases in the Alberta oil and gas sector are roughly between $213 million and $253 million, with lost royalty estimated at between $17 million and $21 million," the briefing note concluded.

Since Alberta's carbon levy doesn't apply to wasted natural gas under the NDP government's Climate Leadership Plan, no tax is applied to these releases. If the carbon levy were applied, they would generate up to $1.4 billion at $30 a tonne and up to $2.3 billion at $50 a tonne, Pembina's note said.

Under the Alberta Climate Leadership Plan, oil and gas companies were excused from the carbon tax because they made a commitment to curb methane emissions by 45 per cent by 2025. However, according to Progress Alberta Executive Director Duncan Kinney, "as a result of industry foot dragging, those regulations are still not in place."

Reports in the business press last fall suggest this interpretation is correct. The Financial Post reported in November that negotiations among the Alberta government, industry and environmental groups broke down last summer. "Central to the dispute was industry's claim that government should not prescribe which sources of methane emissions it should be forced to measure and reduce."

According to Progress Alberta's statement this morning, "Albertans are losing money and the oil companies continue to put what is convenient to them ahead of what is good for Alberta." The group called for industry to have to pay the carbon tax on such emissions, "like every citizen in Alberta does on their home heating natural gas, gasoline or diesel."

In May last year, in an announcement of new regulations to reduce methane emissions and air pollution across Canada by Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, the Canadian government said "reducing methane emissions is one of the lowest-cost actions Canada can take to reduce greenhouse gases."

McKenna said Ottawa's intention was to reduce methane emissions by 40 to 45 per cent by 2025, aiming "to catch up on the action taken by such U.S. states as California, Colorado, and North Dakota."

The federal Liberal government's plan announced by McKenna allowed provinces and territories to develop their own regulations to replace the federal ones if they can achieve similar outcomes.

While natural gas is a valuable natural resource that all Albertans own, "the only time that Albertans get paid for this resource is when oil and gas companies pay royalties to the provincial government," Kinney observed.

"Without regulations, there's little incentive for companies to restrict the venting and leaking of natural gas and money that could be going to schools, playgrounds and nurses is instead just floating away into the atmosphere making climate change even worse," he concluded.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog,

Photo: WildEarth Guardians/flickr

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Who marched and why? The Women's March 2018

Rabble News - Fri, 2018-01-26 00:12
Maya Bhullar

The 2017 Women's March brought hundreds of thousands of people out into the street. When the 2018 Women's March rolled around, contacted organizers and friends across Canada and scoured social media to learn about their experiences. Officially, 38 communities across Canada organized marches. In reality, there were more marches, some of which were under a different banner.

Two of the important critiques of the 2017 Women's March were about inclusivity and the failure to channel the energy into local fights. The march in Vancouver made headlines when it became one of the marches boycotted by Black Lives Matter (BLM) and trans activists in 2017. Many of my friends from the BLM movement, or who were working on immigrant rights, or on prison reform, were disappointed when protests organized against deportations or police violence in the following months had very few new faces.

In Vancouver, representatives of BLM Vancouver and from the trans community were part of the organizing committee and participated. This time the conflict around inclusivity arose on the other end of the country, in Halifax, where a separate "Walking the Talk" march was organized by two spirit, queer, trans, Black, Indigenous and women of colour activists who did not feel enough was done to represent intersectional feminist perspectives. Photos from Whitehorse, where it was -13 degrees C, and Sandy Cove, N.S., where more than half the town came out, made the rounds on social media around the world.  

Did the marches address the concerns of all people who identify as women? The speakers' lists, the signs many marchers carried, the Walking the Talk march, showed that the critique had raised awareness and pushed the discussion about inclusivity forward. 

The question for me will be in how many of the people who marched on January 20 will turn out when another person of colour is killed by police, another person is being deported, or when workers are standing up for their rights. That is where the change is made. If you only go to the Women's Marches each year, that is a social activity. Getting involved in community struggles is where your participation really matters. That is where intersectionalism comes in, in supporting each other's struggles.

One of the best innovations I read about was the living library. In Lethbridge, the organizers decided to help the marchers get involved in local campaigns and struggles by organizing a living library, a space where local organizers set up booths explaining their initiatives and how to get involved. 

Click here to see photos and accounts. 

Read more about the Women's March:

Image by Abdul Malik

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Turkey invades Afrin: the Kurds lose again

By Aram Mirzaei for The Saker Blog After weeks of belligerent rhetoric and preparations, Turkey finally invaded Afrin last week. It came as no surprise that Turkey would go for
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Signing on to silence: Confidentiality agreements in sexual assault cases

Rabble News - Thu, 2018-01-25 22:07

The case of Larry Nassar, who for years was a doctor for Michigan State University and the U.S. Women’s Gymnastics Olympic team, and who has pleaded guilty to seven counts of criminal sexual conduct, is truly disturbing. In the sentencing phase of the trial, 156 victims made statements to the court about the impact of his acts on their lives.

This case also drew attention to situations where an attempt is made to silence victims through a non disclosure or confidentiality agreement. One of Nassar's victims, McKayla Maroney, reached a settlement with USA Gymnastics (USAG) in December, 2016, which included such an agreement, prohibiting her from speaking about any abuse she suffered at the hands of Nassar. The confidentiality agreement also contained a provision that if Maroney violated the agreement, USAG could "fine" her US$100,000. This raised the question of whether she would, or could, make a victim impact statement at Nassar's sentencing hearing. Ultimately, USAG confirmed that it would not seek to enforce those provisions if Maroney made a victim impact statement.

As a result of USAG's decision, in this case the confidentiality agreement will not have prevented Maroney from speaking out. But what about other victims who have signed confidentiality agreements in the course of settling sexual assault claims, in cases when the other party to the settlement agreement will not agree to waive the confidentiality agreement? Are those persons free to speak without any repercussions? Unfortunately, in Canada, the answer is not clear.

Contracts that are 'contrary to public policy'

The starting point is that, generally speaking, our legal system protects the freedom of competent persons to enter contracts (including confidentiality agreements). To that end, courts will try to give effect to an agreement between parties to a contract. However, as with most legal issues, this is not always clear cut and courts employ many legal doctrines when warranted to find that contracts are not enforceable.

One basis for courts to find that provisions in contracts are void and unenforceable is that a provision in a contract is "contrary to public policy." This doctrine has been applied to render contractual provisions unenforceable in numerous situations, such as some non competition agreements, contracts to commit illegal acts, and contracts that provide that certain statutes do not apply to the parties and their agreements.

What about a contract in which a person agrees not to go to the authorities about a crime? An agreement whose purpose is to stifle a criminal prosecution is contrary to public policy and unenforceable as a result. However, an agreement whose purpose is to settle a civil lawsuit might be enforceable even if the civil lawsuit involves matters that might also support a criminal prosecution. The determining factor seems to be what the primary purpose of the agreement was.

Competing public policy concerns

Having said that, agreements that interfere with the administration of justice will generally be held to be void as contrary to public policy. On the other hand, courts have typically held that there is a strong public interest in promoting settlements. So where does that leave a settlement agreement with a confidentiality clause, meant to settle a private (that is, not criminal) dispute between two parties, regarding behaviour that would also support a criminal prosecution if reported to the authorities? Does the court treat the prohibition against reporting a potential crime to the authorities as an interference with the administration of justice and void as a result, or does it prefer the policy of encouraging settlement of private disputes?

I have not found a case that has considered this question in the context of allegations of sexual assault; in fact, there appears to be little case law regarding the enforceability of confidentiality provisions in agreements to settle civil disputes where the underlying facts could also support a criminal prosecution. One case that appeared to provide some guidance (although it involved the enforceability of an indemnity provision, not a confidentiality provision) considered a separation agreement in which a wife agreed to indemnify her husband for 50 per cent of any payment he might be required to make in the future in respect of retail sales tax liability that he had failed to declare.

At trial, the court found that the real purpose of the indemnity was to discourage the wife from reporting the matters in issue to the authorities, and wrote that "it would be in my opinion, contrary to public policy for the courts to lend assistance to the nondisclosure of statutory offences." However, the case was appealed and while the appeal court ultimately decided that the separation agreement was void as against public policy, it also noted that courts needed to use caution in finding contracts to be void as contrary to public policy so that the doctrine does not "unduly impinge on the basic right to enforce engagements freely and voluntarily made."

The appeal court determined that it could interfere with this separation contract because it was "well settled" that a contractual provision whose purpose was to perpetrate a fraud on a taxing authority was contrary to public policy. The appeal decision leaves open the question of whether the settlement of a private dispute concerning a matter that could also support a criminal prosecution, but which does not involve a fraud on a taxing authority, will be enforceable where it includes a confidentiality provision.

Challenging confidentiality agreements

With the MeToo movement, we are in a new era, in which many victims are more willing to report sexual harassment and sexual assault. We are also hearing about many instances where the perpetrators of harassment or assault have tried to silence their victims through confidentiality agreements. McKayla Maroney challenged the confidentiality agreement she signed; time will tell whether others will follow suit, and how successful such challenges will be.

Pro Bono provides legal information designed to educate and entertain readers. But legal information is not the same as legal advice -- the application of law to an individual's specific circumstances. While efforts are made to ensure the legal information provided through these columns is useful, we strongly recommend you consult a lawyer for assistance with your particular situation to obtain accurate advice.

Submit requests for future Pro Bono topics to Read past Pro Bono columns here.

Photo: Paola Kizette Cimenti/flickr

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pro bonoconfidentialitysexual assaultpublic policyCanadian legal systemcontractsMichael HacklPro BonoJanuary 25, 2018The law is settled on sexual assault. When will the legal system catch up?The treatment of sexual assault complainants in the justice system has received a great deal of mainstream media attention. Why has the system failed victims?Sexual assault law in Canada: What women need to knowIt was 1982 before marital rape was acknowledged as sexual assault. A short overview of the Canadian law governing sexual assault, with an emphasis on the hazards women face.Privacy compromised: Legal rights and protections in CanadaWhat should the institutions that are privy to our private information do when they have to deal with competing privacy and secrecy concerns? Michael Hackl looks at Canada's privacy laws to find out.
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Why Europe Must Reject U.S. Blackmail Over Iran's Nuclear Agreement - An Update

The Trump administration has threatened to end the nuclear deal with Iran. In our last post we argued in detail that the attempt of the European 3, the United Kingdom, France and Germany, to soothe Trump by condemning Iran's ballistic...
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Looking forward by looking back -- 1978

Rabble News - Thu, 2018-01-25 16:19
January 25, 2018Politics in CanadaLooking forward by looking back -- 1978Pierre Trudeau had been in power for 10 years. Nigeria moved toward a (brief) return to democracy. And René Lévesque prepared the ground for 1980’s referendum on Quebec independence. Quebec separatismPierre TrudeauRené Lévesque
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The end of French artistry: ‘Labor capitalism’ comes to France in 2018

by Ramin Mazaheri for the Saker blog The French don’t want to think of themselves as miniature capitalists: they want to think of themselves as artists. Or at least artisans.
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