3, 000 Protest Hospital Closures, Privatization, and Extra Fees

From People’s Voice

More than 3,000 people turned out Oct. 21 for a Queen’s Park rally and march past some of the biggest hospitals in Toronto, to protest the Wynne government’s drive to close hospitals across the province, privatize the clinics that operate inside them, and allow widespread and illegal extra‑billing for services covered by OHIP.

About 20 buses brought protestors from Windsor, Sudbury, Ottawa, Niagara Falls, and other communities in the middle of a cold work day, to express their anger at the Legislature. Torontonians also came to make their views known, loud and clear.

“This is not hospital cuts as usual,” stated Natalie Mehra, Executive Director of the Ontario Health Coalition. “It is the systematic dismantling of public community hospitals all across this province. We are seeing the death of community hospitals and we must take a stand to stop these cuts and privatization now if we are to save our local public hospitals and preserve care in our home towns.”

Protestors in Toronto. Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist).

Protestors in Toronto. Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist).

“We are experiencing the most aggressive moves to dismantle local community hospital services in decades,” said Ross Sutherland, R.N., Chairperson of the Coalition. “As care is moved out of our hospitals it is being privatized and patients face higher costs, user fees and worse access to care.”

Unsafe conditions in the private clinics springing up across the province have recently been exposed. Thirteen percent (one in seven) of private clinics failed mandatory inspections and did not meet minimum healthcare standards. Another 22 clinics (not part of the 13%) received “conditional passes”.

The clinics offer cosmetic surgery, colonoscopies, and pain injections, among other procedures.

“The percentage of clinics that did not pass inspection without conditions should be setting off alarm bells,” said medical negligence lawyer Paul Harte, in a Toronto Star interview.

One pain clinic infected three women with hepatitis C, leaving one permanently crippled and the others with long‑term consequences after spinal cord injections gone wrong. Dirty needles and an anesthetist with undetected colonies of disease on his skin were responsible.

Private clinics have been booming since the province began closing public hospitals where many public health clinics for out-patients were traditionally housed. Closing public hospitals and re‑building some as P3s, minus the clinics, has opened the floodgates for the new private clinics. This was clearly intentional by a Liberal government working hard to privatize public assets and services.

Liberals have been in government in Ontario since 2003, continuing to carry out the Harris Tories’ plans for P3 hospitals and private clinics, though they were elected to reverse the health privatization plans which were just taking hold 11 years ago.

Now, Ontario’s hospitals are funded at the lowest rate of any province. Ontario has the fewest hospital beds per person in the country, and provides the least amount of hospital nursing care. The average patient (average weighted case) in Ontario receives six hours less nursing care than the Canadian average, according to the most recent figures available from CIHI.

The government plans to close outpatient clinics, cut chronic care beds by as much as 50% in regions of the province, and cut public hospital surgeries and diagnostics to contract them out to private clinics. Already outpatient physiotherapy and labs have been systematically closed and privatized, and more outpatient services are closing every day. Patients face new user fees for privatized care, amounting to hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Community hospitals will be devastated, after already suffering more than 20 years of almost non‑stop service cuts.

Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne. Council of Canadians.

Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne. Council of Canadians.

The Communist Party, in a flyer handed out at Queen’s Park, called for a halt to the closure of public hospitals, restoration of P3s into fully public hospitals, and replacement of private clinics with public clinics, located in hospitals and communities, and operated at the highest standards.

Hospitals and healthcare must be adequately funded in Ontario, so that beds and staffing are adequate to meet the needs of urban and rural areas. Further, the wages of healthcare workers must not pay for rising costs of healthcare, as suggested by the government’s budget which will freeze public sector wages across the board.

The CPC (Ontario) says the Liberals are colluding with Ottawa to roll back Medicare and open the doors to US big box healthcare providers and insurers. “But the Communist Party and the public demand an end to healthcare privatization and the expansion of Medicare to include pharmacare, dental care, vision care, long‑term care, and mental health care now.”

The Ontario Health Coalition has more than 400 member organizations, including the CPC (Ontario), and 70 local chapters. Representing more than half a million people, it is one of the most active and effective coalitions in the province, with a mandate to uphold single‑tier public Medicare under the principles of the Canada Health Act. Visit the OHC website at http://www.ontariohealthcoalition.ca or call 416‑441‑2502.

The Modus Operandi of Imperialist Propaganda

From Global Research

Coming soon to a theater near you, a US imperialist propaganda blockbuster, the latest production from CIA Pictures, made in participation with Pentagon Entertainment, and with the collaboration of American Media Partners: Cyberwar North Korea.

Such an announcement would have been useful last week, to alert American public opinion to the impending avalanche of entirely unsubstantiated assertions by US government officials, rebroadcast uncritically by the major newspapers and television networks. The target of the blitz was North Korea, blamed for the hacking attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment, which led the studio to cancel the premiere of The Interview and withdraw the film from circulation.

Zero facts and evidence have been made public to support the claims of North Korean hacking. The isolated Stalinist regime was certainly hostile to the film, a comedy based on the premise that the CIA contracts two American journalists (played by James Franco and Seth Rogen), to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, after he agrees to be interviewed by them.

But Pyongyang has vociferously denied any role in the hacking attack on Sony, and proposed Saturday to join the US government in an investigation of the attack’s origins, declaring, “Whoever is going to frame our country for a crime should present concrete evidence.” This offer was quickly dismissed by Washington, which has presented no evidence whatsoever.

The FBI issued a statement Friday declaring that it had enough information to conclude that North Korea was responsible for the hacking attack, but it gave no details. President Obama pinned the blame on North Korea at his press conference later that day, but cited only the FBI statement.

Since then, the US media, with very few exceptions, has routinely described the event as “the first major, state-sponsored destructive computer-network attacks on American soil” (New York Times) and “North Korea’s cyberattack on Sony Pictures” (Wall Street Journal). North Korean responsibility for the Sony attack is reported by the television networks as unquestioned fact.

It has been left to the Christian Science Monitor to cite cautionary statements from security experts in Silicon Valley, to the effect that the presence of Korean-language code in the malware and the use of servers in China and Taiwan are not unusual for hackers, who grab bits of code from multiple sources, in many languages, and use vulnerable servers wherever they can be found.

“The speed at which US officials identified North Korean involvement in the Sony Pictures Entertainment hack surprised many experts familiar with the enormous challenges of pinpointing the origins of cyberattacks,” the online newspaper reported.

Pyongyang denounced the Sony film as a provocation commissioned by Washington for the purpose of destabilizing the North Korean government, a claim that, as the WSWS noted Saturday, is substantially true.

In a remarkable interview with the New York Times, given just before the film’s withdrawal from circulation, co-director Seth Rogen confirmed that he made the film in collaboration with the military-intelligence apparatus. “Throughout this process, we made relationships with certain people who work in the government as consultants, who I’m convinced are in the CIA,” Rogen said.

The North Korea-Sony affair is just the latest example of the type of provocation regularly employed by American imperialism to manipulate public opinion, either in support of US military and foreign policy, or, as appears likely in the current case, when the military-intelligence apparatus wishes to distract public attention from the exposure of its own crimes (last week’s report by the Senate Intelligence Committee on CIA torture).

Five months ago, the US government and the US media declared with one voice that the Russian government, or separatists armed by them, shot down Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine, killing 298 people. The claim that Russian President Vladimir Putin was the moral author of mass murder became the basis for a full-blast propaganda campaign. But the official investigation into the MH-17 disaster, conducted by the Netherlands, home of most of the victims, could produce no evidence of Russian involvement in shooting down the plane.

A year earlier, the US government and the US media waged a similar campaign against Syria, charging the government of President Bashar al-Assad with responsibility for an alleged nerve gas attack on US-backed “rebel” forces outside Damascus. The Obama administration declared that Assad had crossed a “red line” and ordered air strikes against Syria, only to pull back because of divisions among its allies, most notably in Britain, where parliament voted not to back such an attack. Months later, the investigative journalist Seymour Hersh uncovered evidence that the gas attack was staged by the “rebels” themselves to provide a pretext for US intervention.

These methods go on from administration to administration: Clinton used alleged atrocities in Kosovo as the pretext for bombing Serbia in 1999; Bush used bogus claims of “weapons of mass destruction” and ties to Al Qaeda as the pretext for the invasion of Iraq in 2003; Obama cited impending massacres in Benghazi as the pretext for the US-NATO bombing of Libya in 2011 and a CIA-backed Islamist uprising that culminated in the murder of Muammar Gaddafi.

There is a definite modus operandi at work. In each of these campaigns, the American government counts on the American media as a willing and entirely uncritical partner, pumping out propaganda to delude the American population. The technique is to demonize the leaders of the target countries, with Kim Jong-un only the latest in a long line, from Slobodan Milosevic to Saddam Hussein, Gaddafi, Assad and Putin.

Certain conclusions can be drawn. No one should believe anything that comes out of Washington, a cesspool of official lying and provocation and the principal organizer of military violence all over the world. And no one should believe anything simply because the entire American media repeats it, as there is no media so shamelessly uncritical of official lies as in the United States.

Partners in Apartheid: Boycott Indigo Books and Music

Branches of Indigo Books and Music and its subsidiaries Chapters, Coles, SmithBooks, and IndigoSpirit are a familiar site to Canadians from coast to coast, thanks to the company’s monopoly control of retail-bookstore sales in Canada. But behind the inviting facade of each store there lies a terrible reality – the murder of Palestinians.

Heather Reisman, the founder and CEO of Indigo Books and Music, and her husband, Gerry Schwartz, the co-founder of Onex Corporation, are among the most rabidly pro-Zionist capitalists in Canada. With a combined net worth between $1.5 billion and $2.5 billion they donate millions of dollars to support Israeli soldiers in their occupation of Palestine through the Heseg Foundation, an organization they founded that provides scholarships and other support to foreign-born soldiers that serve in the Israeli military and participate in the oppression of the Palestinian people. The Heseg organization handed out over a hundred thousands dollars worth of rewards to Israeli soldiers that participated in the 2008-2009 assault on Gaza.

28 December: Palestinians gather in the crater left by an Israeli missile strike on a building used by Hamas in Gaza City - Photograph: Khalil Hamra/AP - The Guardian

28 December: Palestinians gather in the crater left by an Israeli missile strike in Gaza City – Photograph: Khalil Hamra/AP – The Guardian

The assault, which had nothing to do with ending rocket fire, an act of resistance legal under international law when a nation is occupied, but to murder Palestinians and to weaken the democratically elected Hamas into submission, killed 200 Palestinians in a single day, and killed more than 1, 400 Palestinians, including 400 children, in total. Reisman and Schwartz are close to several powerful Israeli military leaders and war criminals. “On the Heseg board are army and air force chiefs of staff, the head of Israeli intelligence (Mossad), and Maj General Doren Almog who has been charged with war crimes by Britain for his role in bombing civilians.”

During Israel’s genocidal war on the people of Lebanon in 2006, a war that killed thousands of Lebanese civilians and destroyed much of the country’s infrastructure, Reisman and her husband, in a highly publicized spectacle, switched from supporting the Liberals to supporting the Harper neo-conservatives due to Harper’s support for Israel. Kate Gilmore, speaking for Amnesty International, dismissed claims that Israel tried to avoid civilian casualties: “Many of the violations identified in our report are war crimes, including indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks. The evidence strongly suggests that the extensive destruction of power and water plants, as well as the transport infrastructure vital for food and other humanitarian relief, was deliberate and an integral part of a military strategy,” she told the press.

Destruction in Beirut, Lebanon, August 2006. Marco Di Lauro/http://www.marcodilauro.com/

Destruction in Beirut, Lebanon, August 2006. Marco Di Lauro/http://www.marcodilauro.com/

The level of destruction in Lebanon invalidates Israeli claims of ‘collateral damage’ and indicates that the war was about much more than ‘self-defense’. The Lebanese government estimated that 30, 000 houses, 900 businesses, 120 bridges, 94 roads, and 31 other vital points were destroyed in the 7, 000 Israeli airstrikes and 2, 000 naval shells launched against targets in Lebanon. The firing of over a million cluster bombs has left large swathes of southern Lebanon uninhabitable, and the extensive use of cluster bombs near the end of the war “looked suspiciously as if Israel had taken the brief opportunity before the war’s end to make south Lebanon – the heartland of both the country’s Shi’ite population and its militia, Hezbollah – uninhabitable, and to prevent the return of hundreds of thousands of Shi’ites who had fled Israel’s earlier bombing campaigns.” The use of white phosphorus shells, a chemical weapon that “causes skin to melt away from the bone and can break down”, a clear war crime committed by Israel. In total an estimated 700, 000 Lebanese were displaced and around 1, 100 murdered by Israel forces in the 34 day campaign against the people of Lebanon.

All peace loving people should support the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid’s boycott of Indigo Books and Music.

French Workers Call for Strike against Amazon

From RFI

From Monday, workers at four warehouse sites throughout France could down their tools just days before Christmas, when Amazon is at its busiest time.

Barbed wire in front of the Amazon logistics centre in Graben, Germany

Barbed wire in front of the Amazon logistics centre in Graben, Germany. Reuters/Michaela Rehle

Amazon claims that this strike won’t affect their business.

Sebastien Boisonnet, a CGT delegate who called the strike, says industrial action will have a major impact on the US company’s deliveries and will damage Amazon’s reputation that one click online will send a package to your door.

Amazon strikers in Germany went on strike last week which caused the brand to send more of its orders to France to fill.

Boisonnet says that the strike is not to upset customers or to block the trucks delivering Christmas parcels, but for Amazon to pay attention to worker claims.

CGT is calling on Amazon to open negotiations on work conditions and salaries.

40% of Amazon’s staff are members of the CGT union, the first union to organize workers in the company. But there are fewer card-carrying union members in Northern France.

Amazon staff in Germany extend strike to Christmas Eve

From Canoe.ca

Amazon staff at three German warehouses will extend their strike until Christmas Eve to increase pressure on the online retailer in a long-running dispute over pay and conditions, labour union Verdi said on Friday.

Verdi also filed a lawsuit against a decision by regional authorities to allow Amazon staff in two German cities to work this Sunday as the mail-order group steps up efforts to deliver orders to customers before the Christmas holiday.

Industrial action this week had already been extended until Saturday in four of Amazon’s nine distribution centres in Germany and until Dec. 24 at one warehouse.

More than 2,400 workers took part in walkouts on Friday, Verdi said.

The union has organised frequent strikes at Amazon in Germany since May 2013 as it seeks to force the retailer to raise pay for warehouse workers in accordance with collective bargaining agreements across Germany’s mail order and retail industry.

Verdi said that the lawsuit filed against Amazon meant that the authorities’ approval of the group putting its employees to work this Sunday was effectively void.

“As the Federal Administrative Court only recently stated, work on Sunday has to be reserved for strictly exceptional cases, which we do not see in the case of Amazon,” Verdi board member Stefanie Nutzenberger said in an e-mailed statement.

Amazon, which was not immediately available for comment, has repeatedly rejected the union’s demands, saying it regards warehouse staff as logistics workers and that they receive above-average pay by the standards of that industry.

The U.S. company employs almost 10,000 regular staff at its warehouses in Germany, its second-biggest market behind the United States, as well as more than 10,000 seasonal workers. It can also draw on 19 other warehouses across Europe.

Amazon said on Wednesday that its deliveries had not been delayed by industrial action so far and that it had even extended to midday on Dec. 22 the order deadline for gifts to reach customers in time for Dec. 24 by normal delivery.

Leaked Internal CIA Document Admits US Drone Program “Counterproductive”

From Common Dreams

Wikileaks on Thursday has made public a never-before-seen internal review conducted by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency that looked at the agency’s drone and targeted assassination programs in places like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and elsewhere.

The agency’s own analysis, conducted in 2009, found that its clandestine drone and assassination program was likely to produce counterproductive outcomes, including strengthening the very “extremist groups” it was allegedly designed to destroy.

Here’s a link to the document, titled Best Practices in Counterinsurgency: Making High-Value Targeting Operations an Effective Counterinsurgency Toolocument (pdf).

In one of the key findings contained in the CIA report, agency analysts warn of the negative consequences of assassinating so-called High Level Targets (HLT).

“The potential negative effect of HLT operations,” the report states, “include increasing the level of insurgent support […], strengthening an armed group’s bonds with the population, radicalizing an insurgent group’s remaining leaders, creating a vacuum into which more radical groups can enter, and escalating or de-escalating a conflict in ways that favor the insurgents.”

Wikileaks points out that this internal prediction “has been proven right” in the years since the internal review was conducted near the outset of President Obama’s first term. And despite those internal warnings—which have been loudly shared by human rights and foreign policy experts critical of the CIA’s drone and assassination programs—Wikileaks also notes that after the internal review was prepared, “US drone strike killings rose to an all-time high.”

Reached by the Washington Post on Thursday for response, CIA spokesperson Kali J. Caldwell said the agency would not comment “on the authenticity or content of purported stolen intelligence documents.”

According to a statement released by Wikileaks:

The report discusses assassination operations (by various states) against the Taliban, al-Qa’ida, the FARC, Hizbullah, the PLO, HAMAS, Peru’s Shining Path, the Tamil’s LTTE, the IRA and Algeria’s FLN. Case studies are drawn from Chechnya, Libya, Pakistan and Thailand.

The assessment was prepared by the CIA’s Office of Transnational Issues (OTI). Its role is to provide “the most senior US policymakers, military planners, and law enforcement with analysis, warning, and crisis support”. The report is dated 7 July 2009, six months into Leon Panetta’s term as CIA chief, and not long after CIA analyst John Kiriakou blew the whistle on the torture of CIA detainees. Kiriakou is still in prison for shedding light on the CIA torture programme.

Following the politically embarrassing exposure of the CIA’s torture practices and the growing cost of keeping people in detention indefinitely, the Obama administration faced a crucial choice in its counter-insurgency strategy: should it kill, capture, or do something else entirely?

Given exclusive access to the CIA document ahead of its public release, the Sydney Morning Herald’s Philip Dorling reported earlier on Thursday:

According to a leaked document by the CIA’s Directorate of Intelligence, “high value targeting” (HVT) involving air strikes and special forces operations against insurgent leaders can be effective, but can also havenegative effects including increasing violence and greater popular support for extremist groups.

The leaked document is classified secret and “NoForn” (meaning not to be distributed to non-US nationals) and reviews attacks by the United States and other countries engaged in counter-insurgency operations over the past 50 years.

The CIA assessment is the first leaked secret intelligence document published by WikiLeaks since 2011. Led by Australian publisher Julian Assange, the anti-secrecy group says the CIA assessment is the first in what will be a new series of leaked documents relating to the US agency.

The 2009 CIA study lends support to critics of US drone strikes in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen by warning that such operations “may increase support for the insurgents, particularly if these strikes enhance insurgent leaders’ lore, if non-combatants are killed in the attacks, if legitimate or semi-legitimate politicians aligned with the insurgents are targeted, or if the government is already seen as overly repressive or violent”.

Drone strikes have been a key element of the Obama administration’s attacks on Islamic extremist terrorist and insurgent groups in the Middle East and south Asia. Australia has directly supported these strikes through the electronic espionage operations of the US-Australian Joint Defence Facility at Pine Gap near Alice Springs in the Northern Territory.

Pentagon Claims ISIS War Cost $1 Billion So Far

From Antiwar.com

Constantly trying to downplay the massive cost of the new ISIS war in both Syria and Iraq, the Pentagon today issued a statement claiming the “total cost of operations” has been $1.02 billion since the war began, an absurdly low number considering what’s involved.

At present, the US has some 1,700 ground troops in Iraq and has carried out 1,371 airstrikes across both Iraq and Syria, including scores of attacks with Tomahawk cruise missiles, which by themselves cost $1.5 million each.

With the Obama Administration funding the war through a discretionary fund, the specific amounts going into the conflict are being carefully kept from the public, but most estimates have the war costing conservatively $30-$40 billion annually, and that’s not counting the constant escalations.

The Pentagon has never been particularly good at doing things in a cost-effective manner, and even assuming this doesn’t include the cost of massive weapons shipments to Iraq, the official figure is preposterous.

The DPRK, Sony, and Imperialism

The media is reporting that the DPRK is responsible for a hacking attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment, the American subsidiary of the Japanese technology conglomerate Sony. Once more I am left dumbfounded at how citizens of the West, especially Americans, will so readily believe whatever is reported in the news without a shred of evidence.

The BBC, the Guardian, the Washington Post, none of them offer real evidence of the DPRK’s involvement in the attack despite the clever wording to mislead uninformed readers. The BBC reported that the “FBI says its analysis spotted distinct similarities between the type of malware used in the Sony Pictures hack and code used in an attack on South Korea last year.” The evidence for the DPRK’s involvement in the attack last year on South Korea, however, is equally as vague and inconclusive; the BBC reported only that the attack could be traced to a Chinese IP address. In other words, the connection between the DPRK and the attack on Sony shows similarities between the attack on South Korea, which could be traced to a Chinese IP address, as if that is evidence of anything “as hackers can route their attacks through addresses in other countries to obscure their identities.” The UK’s Guardian reported that “the FBI discovered that several internet protocol (IP) addresses associated with known North Korean infrastructure,” again not releasing any real evidence of the DPRK’s involvement. Neither does the Washington Post offer any clear evidence of the DPRK’s involvement, citing the same cleverly worded references to the attack on South Korea in 2013, to “North Korean infrastructure” whatever that means, and that the FBI’s statements “are based on intelligence sources and other conclusive evidence.”

To those that suffer from short-term memory loss I remind folks that this kind of cleverly worded and deceptive language was used to justify the illegal U.S. occupation of Iraq in 2003. The New York Times ran an article titled “Why We Know Iraq is Lying”, with the author writing that “Iraq has failed to provide United Nations inspectors with documentation of its claim to have destroyed” its chemical weapons stockpiles and that “by both its actions and its inactions, Iraq is proving not that it is a nation bent on disarmament, but that it is a nation with something to hide.” “Iraq already possesses a threatening cache of chemical and biological weapons,” ABC News reported before continuing on to quote a “leading think tank” that Iraq could assemble a nuclear weapon within months if in possession of radioactive material. On Colin Powell’s speech at the United Nations, CNN reported that he showed “satellite photos that he said indicated the presence of ‘active chemical munitions bunkers’ that had been disguised.” CNN earlier reported that “the United States has evidence that Saddam Hussein is working on a nuclear weapons program.”

We all know now that the Bush administration and their puppets in the media fabricated all this evidence to loot Iraq’s resources and create a new Middle East favorable to U.S. imperialism and Israel. No weapons of mass destruction were ever located in Iraq. Neither was al-Qaeda active in the country before the occupation.

Be mindful of the language used in stories like the DPRK’s involvement in the hacking of Sony that President Obama has vowed retaliation for.