Monday, June 16, 2014

Do UK Muslims need to 'be more British'?

"Cameron tells UK Muslims: Be more British" headlined the front page of the Mail on Sunday, which published an article by Prime Minister David Cameron in the June 15 edition. Cameron's op-ed was a defence(link is external) of British identity and British values, but many found the subject polarising.

The op-ed follows comments by the Education Minister suggesting schools promote "British values" after an official investigation found some Birmingham schools were not protecting their students from "radicalisation and extremism". The investigation was prompted by the so-called "Trojan Horse(link is external)" letter, now believed to be a hoax, that alleged 'radical Muslims' were infiltrating schools. 

The op-ed did not single out Muslims, and the prime minister's office told(link is external) the Mail on Sunday that article was not directed expressly at Muslims, but "all sections of the community". Many online reacted to headline, and Cameron's article, by wondering what it means to "be more British". READ MORE....

El-Tawhid Juma Circle in Toronto (LGBTQ Friendly)

Dave Zirin on the World Cup You Won’t See on TV: Protests, Tear Gas, Displaced Favela Residents

The 2014 World Cup in Brazil is entering its fifth day. The United States team will play its first game of the tournament today against Ghana. Meanwhile, protests are continuing on the streets of Brazil. The demonstrators’ concerns range from public transportation fare hikes to inadequate wages, housing, education, security and healthcare, among other things. Strikes and the threat of strikes have emanated from almost every sector of Brazilian society, including airline employees, metro workers, teachers and homeless workers, to police and even the main federal employees union. Many Brazilians have expressed fury over Brazil spending an estimated $11 billion to host the Cup while the country’s hospitals and schools remain woefully underfunded. READ / WATCH HERE

Media advisory - Nurses speak out against ongoing cuts to health coverage for refugees

TORONTO, June 14, 2014 /CNW/ - The rights of refugees to access health care will be the subject of a series of rallies taking place across the province on Monday. 

For decades, refugees in Canada have enjoyed health-care coverage. That right was stripped away two years ago when the federal government enacted changes to the Interim Federal Health Program (IFPH), ending coverage for vision, dental and supplemental health benefits. Access to prescription drug benefits was also halted, as access to most hospital services - except in urgent cases.

On Monday, June 16, registered nurses and nurse practitioners will join physicians and other health-care providers in condemning Ottawa's decision.

The federal government argues its decision was a cost-savings measure. However, a study released this spring byToronto's Hospital for Sick Children shows the opposite. Costs have actually gone up since the changes were implemented on June 30, 2012. Before the cuts were made, 6.4 per cent of refugee children appearing in the hospital's emergency department had to be admitted. After changes to the IFHP were implemented, the admission rate for refugee children doubled to 12 per cent. RNAO says the rise in admission rates, which led to ballooning health costs, is a direct result of refugee families forced to resort to ER departments because they didn't have access to primary care when they needed it.

"Health-care professionals critical of this decision at the time predicted this would happen," says Vanessa Burkoski, president of RNAO, adding "now we are seeing the results of the federal government's faulty logic. Prime Minister Harper said the changes would save money, but the reverse is true, and, worse, those costs have been downloaded onto the provinces and on the backs of refugee families." 

RNAO's Chief Executive Officer Doris Grinspun says the federal government's decision is shameful. Refugees who come to Canada to escape their home country have incredible challenges to overcome, such as finding a place to live, finding employment and adjusting to life in a new country. Denying refugees access to health care is simply wrong and violates a basic human right."
Nurses will be speaking at events across Ontario as part of a National Day of Action organized by Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care.RN Andrea Baumann will speak at Kitchener's City Hall (200 King St. W., Kitchener) at 12 p.m. (noon)RN Yessica Blasham will speak at Springer Market Square (behind Kingston's Town Hall) at 12 p.m. (noon)RN Morgan Hoffarth will speak at London's Victoria Park at 12 p.m. (noon)RN Leanne Siracusa will speak at Hamilton's Citizenship and Immigration office (55 Bay St. N.) at 1 p.m.RN Maria Tandoc will speak at Mississauga City Hall (300 City Centre Drive) at 12 p.m. (noon)NP Vanessa Wright will speak at Toronto's Citizenship and Immigration office (25 St. Clair Ave. E.) at 12 p.m. (noon)
RNAO says its members will bring a unified message to the rallies, and will call on Ottawa to do the right thing by immediately reversing its decision.

The Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario (RNAO) is the professional association representing registered nurses in Ontario. Since 1925, RNAO has advocated for healthy public policy, promoted excellence in nursing practice, increased nurses' contribution to shaping the health-care system, and influenced decisions that affect nurses and the public they serve. 

For more information about RNAO, please visit our website at

SOURCE Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario For further information: To arrange an interview with a nurse, please contact: Marion Zych, Director of Communications, RNAO, Cell: 647-406-5605, Phone: 416-408-5605, Toll free: 1-800-268-7199 ext. 209,

Universalist Muslims Support Sex-health education and Anti-Homophobia initiatives for all of Canada’s Schools.

At Universalist Muslims we believe Canada’s schools must play a large role in creating a safe, nurturing and knowledgeable environment for all our children, whether they identify as LGBTQ and/or straight. As such, we encourage all schools in Canada to teach sex education in a manner that is age appropriate and to create a safe and nurturing environment for all children and youth including those identifying as LGBTQ. READ MORE.....

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The U.S. Military’s Campaign Against Media Freedom


FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. — WHEN I chose to disclose classified information in 2010, I did so out of a love for my country and a sense of duty to others. I’m now serving a sentence of 35 years in prison for these unauthorized disclosures. I understand that my actions violated the law.

However, the concerns that motivated me have not been resolved. As Iraq erupts in civil war and America again contemplates intervention, that unfinished business should give new urgency to the question of how the United States military controlled the media coverage of its long involvement there and in Afghanistan. I believe that the current limits on press freedom and excessive government secrecy make it impossible for Americans to grasp fully what is happening in the wars we finance.

If you were following the news during the March 2010 elections in Iraq, you might remember that the American press was flooded with stories declaring the elections a success, complete with upbeat anecdotes and photographs of Iraqi women proudly displaying their ink-stained fingers. The subtext was that United States military operations had succeeded in creating a stable and democratic Iraq.

Those of us stationed there were acutely aware of a more complicated reality.

Military and diplomatic reports coming across my desk detailed a brutal crackdown against political dissidents by the Iraqi Ministry of Interior and federal police, on behalf of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki. Detainees were often tortured, or even killed.

Early that year, I received orders to investigate 15 individuals whom the federal police had arrested on suspicion of printing “anti-Iraqi literature.” I learned that these individuals had absolutely no ties to terrorism; they were publishing a scholarly critique of Mr. Maliki’s administration. I forwarded this finding to the officer in command in eastern Baghdad. He responded that he didn’t need this information; instead, I should assist the federal police in locating more “anti-Iraqi” print shops.

I was shocked by our military’s complicity in the corruption of that election. Yet these deeply troubling details flew under the American media’s radar.

It was not the first (or the last) time I felt compelled to question the way we conducted our mission in Iraq. We intelligence analysts, and the officers to whom we reported, had access to a comprehensive overview of the war that few others had. How could top-level decision makers say that the American public, or even Congress, supported the conflict when they didn’t have half the story?

Among the many daily reports I received via email while working in Iraq in 2009 and 2010 was an internal public affairs briefing that listed recently published news articles about the American mission in Iraq. One of my regular tasks was to provide, for the public affairs summary read by the command in eastern Baghdad, a single-sentence description of each issue covered, complementing our analysis with local intelligence.

The more I made these daily comparisons between the news back in the States and the military and diplomatic reports available to me as an analyst, the more aware I became of the disparity. In contrast to the solid, nuanced briefings we created on the ground, the news available to the public was flooded with foggy speculation and simplifications.

One clue to this disjunction lay in the public affairs reports. Near the top of each briefing was the number of embedded journalists attached to American military units in a combat zone. Throughout my deployment, I never saw that tally go above 12. In other words, in all of Iraq, which contained 31 million people and 117,000 United States troops, no more than a dozen American journalists were covering military operations.

The process of limiting press access to a conflict begins when a reporter applies for embed status. All reporters are carefully vetted by military public affairs officials. This system is far from unbiased. Unsurprisingly, reporters who have established relationships with the military are more likely to be granted access.

Less well known is that journalists whom military contractors rate as likely to produce “favorable” coverage, based on their past reporting, also get preference. This outsourced “favorability” rating assigned to each applicant is used to screen out those judged likely to produce critical coverage.

Reporters who succeeded in obtaining embed status in Iraq were then required to sign a media “ground rules” agreement. Army public affairs officials said this was to protect operational security, but it also allowed them to terminate a reporter’s embed without appeal.

There have been numerous cases of reporters’ having their access terminated following controversial reporting. In 2010, the late Rolling Stone reporter Michael Hastings had his access pulled after reporting criticism of the Obama administration by Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal and his staff in Afghanistan. A Pentagon spokesman said, “Embeds are a privilege, not a right.”

If a reporter’s embed status is terminated, typically she or he is blacklisted. This program of limiting press access was challenged in court in 2013 by a freelance reporter, Wayne Anderson, who claimed to have followed his agreement but to have been terminated after publishing adverse reports about the conflict in Afghanistan. The ruling on his case upheld the military’s position that there was no constitutionally protected right to be an embedded journalist.

The embedded reporter program, which continues in Afghanistan and wherever the United States sends troops, is deeply informed by the military’s experience of how media coverage shifted public opinion during the Vietnam War. The gatekeepers in public affairs have too much power: Reporters naturally fear having their access terminated, so they tend to avoid controversial reporting that could raise red flags.

The existing program forces journalists to compete against one another for “special access” to vital matters of foreign and domestic policy. Too often, this creates reporting that flatters senior decision makers. A result is that the American public’s access to the facts is gutted, which leaves them with no way to evaluate the conduct of American officials.

Journalists have an important role to play in calling for reforms to the embedding system. The favorability of a journalist’s previous reporting should not be a factor. Transparency, guaranteed by a body not under the control of public affairs officials, should govern the credentialing process. An independent board made up of military staff members, veterans, Pentagon civilians and journalists could balance the public’s need for information with the military’s need for operational security.

Reporters should have timely access to information. The military could do far more to enable the rapid declassification of information that does not jeopardize military missions. The military’s Significant Activity Reports, for example, provide quick overviews of events like attacks and casualties. Often classified by default, these could help journalists report the facts accurately.

Opinion polls indicate that Americans’ confidence in their elected representatives is at a record low. Improving media access to this crucial aspect of our national life — where America has committed the men and women of its armed services — would be a powerful step toward re-establishing trust between voters and officials.

Chelsea Manning is a former United States Army intelligence analyst.

Canadians have right to online anonymity, Supreme Court rules

This is an important SCC ruling at it reminds is how willing Harper is to erode our rights and how important the SCC and the Charter is to protecting those rights. As one person commenting on the article wrote, "This completely kaiboshes the Tories' Anti-cyberbullying bill, which would give warrantless surveillance powers to a wide variety of government entities. Turns out we still have rule of law in Canada. You want to surveil someone? Get a warrant." 

Canadians have right to online anonymity, Supreme Court rules


The Globe and Mail

Published Friday, Jun. 13 2014

Rejecting government fears of a “crime-friendly Internet,” the Supreme Court of Canada said anonymity is vital to personal privacy in the digital era. It told police they need a judge’s permission before asking Internet providers for basic information that would identify their customers – such as a suspected child pornographer at the heart of a 2007 Saskatchewan investigation.

Legal observers called the unanimous ruling a privacy landmark, with implications for everything from child porn investigations to snooping by national security agencies to police powers under the Conservative government’s cyberbullying bill.

David Fraser, a Halifax privacy lawyer, said that "the message to police is 'Come back with a warrant;' customers' names and addresses are not as innocuous as police might think, or want us to believe." The Conservative government would not say whether it would amend proposed laws that expand the sharing of that kind of private information.

Paul Gillespie, a former head of the Toronto Police Service’s child exploitation unit, said the ruling creates major practical problems for police.

“The challenge is that there are tens of thousands of Canadian computers actively trading images of child abuse and Canadian police only arrest about 500 people a year. This additional court order will impose an increased investigative workload on the police who are already overwhelmed.”

Internet providers “will now have to process many more court orders, which will likely lead to greater backlogs. This is a major problem when you are talking about crimes against children,” Mr. Gillespie said.

Friday’s ruling came after a 2007 child pornography investigation in which Saskatoon police, acting without a warrant, asked Shaw Communications for information on a user, and Shaw complied. That request led ultimately to the arrest and conviction of Matthew Spencer for possession of child pornography. The Supreme Court allowed that conviction to stand, saying police believed they were acting lawfully, and throwing the child-porn evidence out would harm the justice system’s reputation.

But in future, Canadian police are on notice — whether they are chasing child pornographers, terrorists or any other criminals — that they need a search warrant, even if they are asking only to obtain the name and home address of a consumer who has signed up for Internet use.

The Saskatoon case forced the judges, most of whom were born before 1950, to determine what Canadians reasonably expect in privacy when they use the Internet. They found a high expectation of privacy, with anonymity a “foundation” of that right.

The federal Director of Public Prosecutions had warned that “recognizing a right to online anonymity would carve out a crime-friendly Internet landscape by impeding the effective investigation and prosecution of online crime.” But Justice Thomas Cromwell, writing for the court, said the ruling “falls short of recognizing any ‘right’ to anonymity,” though “there may be a privacy interest in anonymity depending on the circumstances.” In any event, police could have obtained a court order to oblige Shaw to give over the subscriber information, he said.

Mr. Spencer had made child pornography available over a widely accessible file-sharing network known as LimeWire, and Saskatchewan prosecutors argued that this kind of outrageous public activity would justify a police question to an Internet provider.

“If someone set up a stand at a public market and left child pornography lying around, a reasonable person would expect someone to notice and the police to investigate,” Saskatchewan said in a brief filed with the Supreme Court. “The police would no doubt arrest the individual at once. If the person who set up the stand was not around, though, the police would surely investigate, perhaps asking others at the market the identity and location of the stand's owner, or linking the stand to the vehicle that brought it to the market.”

But the court said that to know the basic subscriber information is to potentially unlock detailed information about what they are using the Internet for. “The Internet has exponentially increased both the quality and quantity of information that is stored about Internet users. Browsing logs, for example, may provide detailed information about users’ interests. Search engines may gather records of users’ search terms.”

Follow Sean Fine on Twitter: @seanfineglobe