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Friday, September 24, 2010

G20 'Secret Law' to Undergo Independent Review

by Rob Ferguson
The Toronto Star
September 22, 2010

A so-called "secret law" widely criticized for giving police excessive powers during June's G20 summit protests and riots will be the subject of an independent review, The Star has learned.

Government sources said Tuesday that former Ontario chief justice Roy McMurtry has agreed to lead the examination of the 1939 Public Works Protection Act, passed to deal with home front security risks during the Second World War.

The move follows repeated calls for the law's modernization in the wake of the G20, which saw thousands of protesters take to the streets and small bands of vandals torch police cars and smash store windows. Police arrested 1,105 people and charged 278. The rest were released or never booked. Most charges have been subsequently dropped.

At issue is widespread misinterpretation of a "five-metre rule," under which authorities fuelled the belief that anyone coming within five metres of the outer security fence snaking through downtown Toronto could be required to provide identification or submit to a search.

Civil libertarians complain that impression emboldened police and had a chilling effect on the rights of citizens to free expression and association.

"We need to make sure our laws reflect the security concerns and values of our society today," said Community Safety and Corrections Minister Jim Bradley, who will announce the review Wednesday.

"That includes maintaining both public order and freedom of expression."

McMurtry, an attorney general and solicitor general in the 1970s and 1980s under premier Bill Davis, will look at the scope of authority given to police and requirements for public notice of regulations made under the act, how it applies to major events, and what constitutes a "public work" under the law.

It was a regulation under the act, quietly rubber-stamped by Premier Dalton McGuinty's cabinet early last June, that designated areas within the downtown G20 security zone as a "public work." Misunderstandings over the significance of the regulation catapulted the Ontario government and Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair into controversy.

McGuinty's cabinet made the temporary change at Blair's request.

The chief wanted clarification for officers if they had to apprehend anyone inside the restricted area, including the Metro Toronto Convention Centre and Royal York hotel where world leaders met June 26-27.

The Star first revealed the unusual modification June 25, three days before it was to expire and eight days before it was published in the Ontario Gazette.

In the wake of that story, the prevailing, incorrect impression was that police had been given the power to arrest people who refused to provide identification or submit to a search within five metres of the security zone's outer perimeter.

But Blair, McGuinty and then-community safety minister Rick Bartolucci, who defended the "extraordinary" powers during the G20 summit, didn't set the record straight until two days after the event ended.

Blair admitted there was no five-metre rule, saying, "No, but I was trying to keep the criminals out."

Bartolucci was replaced by Bradley in a recent cabinet shuffle, taking Bradley's former post as minister of municipal affairs and housing in a sign of McGuinty's displeasure over the fiasco.

"There was no five-metre rule. It was constantly published in print and republished on TV and radio and there was no foundation in fact for that," McGuinty later acknowledged. "And we should have acted on that sooner to make it clear."

The regulation was published on the specialized provincial legislation website known as e-Laws on June 16, more than a week before the G20. But the site is not well known, meaning the regulation was not adequately publicized.

"When passing regulations under this act, we have to make sure we provide the public with proper information and notice," a senior government official said Tuesday.

McMurtry is expected to report next spring after consulting with lawyers, police, civil liberties groups and others.

He will also consider recommendations from Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin's previously announced review of the act and take into account the Toronto Police Services Board investigation of the G20 command structure and policing model. The province's Special Investigations Unit is also probing five alleged incidents of police brutality against protesters.

A number of the more than 60 complaints to the ombudsman's office were critical of the government for confusing the public in the way the policy change was "communicated or not communicated or miscommunicated," Marin said when he launched his probe in July.

"What our complainants are telling us is the way it was explained and sold to the public as the ‘five-metre rule' led to contravention of their constitutional rights to freedom of expression and had a chilling effect."

"The other thing they're telling us is it had a misguided effect on the law enforcement around the fence and that it led to liberties by law-enforcement officials and how they reacted to demonstrators within those five metres," Marin added.

The review by McMurtry will help the government, which faces a provincial election on Oct. 6, 2011, develop a foundation for future legislation, sources said.

Both McGuinty and Prime Minister Stephen Harper have ruled out holding public inquiries into the handling of security at the summit.

© Copyright Toronto Star 1996-2010


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Millions of Chinese Oppose Mass Vaccination Plan

Boston.comSeptember 14, 2010

The World Health Organization is at it again trying to push mass vaccinations, this time on the people of China.

But its efforts to "eradicate measles" by vaccinating 100 million Chinese children have fueled widespread protest by Chinese citizens who not only distrust their own government's health recommendations, but also believe that the vaccines are dangerous.

According to the Boston Globe, the Chinese government recently announced a ten-day measles immunization drive that sparked an outcry from concerned citizens over the safety of the vaccines. According to reports, internet bulletin boards have been overflowing with chatter about the campaign, and countless text messages continue to be exchanged among citizenry about potential dangers from getting the vaccine.

The Chinese government has been working in overdrive to quell the public's concerns, but efforts have been futile. The totalitarian government already has a poor reputation for lying to and deceiving its citizens over things like the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak back in 2003, and the milk contamination fiasco that sickened roughly 300,000 babies and killed at least six a couple years ago.

"The lack of trust toward our food and health products was not formed in one day," explains a piece in the Global Times. "Repairing the damage and building credibility will take a very long time. The public health departments need to take immediate action on all fronts."

But adjusting rhetoric and designing new public relations campaigns will hardly pull the wool over the eyes of the millions of Chinese who know good and well what their government is up to.

Back in March, four children were killed and dozens injured from vaccines for encephalitis, hepatitis B and several other diseases. The Chinese health ministry denied that the illnesses and deaths were related to the vaccines while simultaneously admitting that they were improperly stored.


Saturday, September 04, 2010

Glenn Beck's George Washington Whopper

The Fox host says he held the inaugural address of the famously truthful founding father. Yeah right, says the National Archives.

By Stephanie Mencimer
Mother Jones
Sept. 1, 2010

During his much-ballyhooed "Restoring Honor" rally on Saturday, Glenn Beck told a whopper involving the founding father who was supposedly unable to tell a lie: George Washington.

Speechifying at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial, the controversial Fox News host highlighted the legacy of the nation's first president to drive home his claim that encouraging honesty and integrity was a main aim of the event.

Beck even told attendees that "the next George Washington" was "in this crowd. He may be 8 years old, but this is the moment. This is the moment that he dedicates his life, that he sees giants around him. And 25 years from now, he will come not to this stair, but to those stairs. And he can proclaim, 'I have a new dream.'"

Beck also invoked Washington while describing the inspiring experience of visiting famous tourist destinations around the nation's capital. "I have been going to Mt. Vernon," he explained. Holding out his hands for emphasis, he declared with emotion, "I went to the National Archives, and I held the first inaugural address written in his own hand by George Washington."

It was an eyebrow-raising revelation and certainly an original image: Beck cradling the actual words of the first president. But would the persnickety gatekeepers of the nation's historical legacy at the National Archives allow some talk show bombthrower to put his mitts on a rare (and fragile) artifact?

The answer, it turns out, is no way. Beck was not telling the truth.

Beck did receive a special VIP tour of the archives, arranged by an as-yet unidentified member of Congress. During that tour, he did get a peek inside the "legislative vault," which isn't open to ordinary visitors. But Archives spokeswoman Susan Cooper insists that Beck didn't lay a finger on any precious documents, much less George Washington’s inaugural address. That would be a major violation of policy. "Those kinds of treasures are only handled by specially trained archival staff," she explains.

Cooper acknowledges that someone at the archives did show the document to Beck, but that was the extent of it. Regarding Beck's claim that he held the document, Cooper says that seeing such documents for the first time can be a very emotional experience. "I'm certain it was a figure of speech," she says.

Cooper is being charitable. Beck's whopper gave his speech more heft and rhetorical flourish. It was high patriotic drama. But his fib stands in stark contrast to the point of the rally, which was all about restoring the principles of courage and honor that the nation was founded upon. In fact, one of Beck’s only prescriptions for fixing the country was to "tell the truth."

Moreover, Beck has a history of chiding others for lying and stretching the truth to bolster his own incendiary rhetoric. 

In April, for instance, the Rev. Jim Wallis wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post criticizing Beck for suggesting that the term "social justice" was "code" for communism and for encouraging his radio show listeners to flee churches that promote social justice. Beck retorted by quoting the Bible to Wallis: "Thou shalt not lie."

Groups like Media Matters soon found clips from Beck's show where he said precisely what Wallis had claimed he did.

Yet getting caught in lies hasn't ever stopped Beck from holding himself up as someone with the honesty of, well, George Washington. He even has his own version of a cherry-tree-chopping tale, which he recounted during a February show in a segment dedicated to the "Lies Politicians Tell."

He told viewers:

When I was a kid, growing up you could get away with just about anything in my house except for lying. You did not want to lie in my house. I'll never forget the day my sister decided to play hooky. My dad worked in the bakery all day, so we never saw him in the light of day. My other sister and I were a little surprised when my dad picked us up and the sun was still out. He said, "Where's your sister? Be careful what you say. Remember, we tell the truth in this family."

He made us both sit in the backseat. At this point, we knew bad things were about to go down. When we finally found my other sister, dad pulled up next to her: "So, how was school?" He kept asking and asking, letting her dig the hole deeper. I think I got only like three spankings in my life. My sisters never got any—until that day. The belt made an appearance.

Just imagine what Papa Beck would have done if she said she had skipped school to hold the Declaration of Independence.