Your morning five: Ukraine endures a fragile peace

Also: John Baird wants a fair trial for a jailed Canadian journalist

Manu Brabo/AP

Manu Brabo/AP

We tell you five things you need to know this morning.

1. Ukraine endures a fragile peace. Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s decision to send six CF-18 fighter jets to Poland was only a few hours old, and Russian President Vladimir Putin had just referred to eastern Ukraine as Novorossiya (“New Russia”), when high-level diplomatic talks in Geneva produced an apparent deal that, with promises of amnesty, forced pro-Russian occupiers of dozens of Ukrainian administrative buildings to give up their positions and disarm. The militants aren’t playing along. They’re still demanding the resignation of Ukraine’s interim government in Kyiv.

2. South Korea’s death toll rises. Twenty-eight passengers of a sunken ferry off the Korean coast were confirmed dead, with 268 still missing somewhere beneath the ocean’s surface. Prosecutors want an arrest warrant for the ship’s captain, who’d previously apologized to the families of those who lost loved ones, among other crew members. The cause of the Sewol’s demise remains unclear, but investigators are probing a sharp turn that caused the ship to list not long before it capsized and, not long after, sank.

3. The F-35 might be Canada’s next fighter jet. The Lightning II turned into a big, stubborn headache for Stephen Harper’s Conservatives. The auditor general slammed the procurement process, and KPMG produced an eye-popping cost estimate for the purchase of the next-generation jets. The fracas cast doubt on the F-35, the government’s favoured replacement for the air force’s fleet of CF-18 fighter jets. But now, cabinet will consider a final report into all of the options to replace the current fleet. The Globe and Mail reports that the F-35 is, and remains, the “safest choice.”

4. John Baird wants a fair trial for Fahmy. Canada’s foreign affairs minister, on a visit to Egypt, wouldn’t say that Mohamed Fahmy, the Egyptian-Canadian journalist accused of terror-related crimes, should be released unconditionally. But he did insist that Fahmy receives proper medical care, which Fahmy says has been lacking. Baird explained his rationale for his measured position on Fahmy to the Toronto Star: “If I’m loud and vocal and use a bullhorn, I’m accused of bullhorn diplomacy,” he said. “If I try to work quietly and directly, it’s not enough.”

5. Métis and non-status Indians may earn more rights. The Federal Court of Appeal upheld a lower court’s ruling that Canada’s Métis deserve all the same constitutional rights as status Indians. The court also ruled that the rights of non-status Indians ought to be considered on a case-by-case basis. The federal government, which appealed the original ruling, could appeal to the Supreme Court. The protracted legal battle stretches to 1999.

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Your morning five: Ukraine endures a fragile peace

  1. Whose oligarchs are really behind this mess — Russian or American or both, but certainly not the people?

    Study: US is an oligarchy, not a democracy, says the BBC in Today’s must-read section.

    The US is dominated by a rich and powerful elite.

    So concludes a recent study by Princeton University Prof Martin Gilens and Northwestern University Prof Benjamin I Page.

    This is not news, you say.

    Perhaps, but the two professors have conducted exhaustive research to try to present data-driven support for this conclusion. Here’s how they explain it:

    Multivariate analysis indicates that economic elites and organised groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on US government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence.

    In English: the wealthy few move policy, while the average American has little power.

    The two professors came to this conclusion after reviewing answers to 1,779 survey questions asked between 1981 and 2002 on public policy issues. They broke the responses down by income level, and then determined how often certain income levels and organised interest groups saw their policy preferences enacted.

    “A proposed policy change with low support among economically elite Americans (one-out-of-five in favour) is adopted only about 18% of the time,” they write, “while a proposed change with high support (four-out-of-five in favour) is adopted about 45% of the time.”

    On the other hand:

    When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organised interests, they generally lose. Moreover, because of the strong status quo bias built into the US political system, even when fairly large majorities of Americans favour policy change, they generally do not get it.

    They conclude:

    Americans do enjoy many features central to democratic governance, such as regular elections, freedom of speech and association and a widespread (if still contested) franchise. But we believe that if policymaking is dominated by powerful business organisations and a small number of affluent Americans, then America’s claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened.

    Eric Zuess, writing in Counterpunch, isn’t surprised by the survey’s results.

    “American democracy is a sham, no matter how much it’s pumped by the oligarchs who run the country (and who control the nation’s “news” media),” he writes. “The US, in other words, is basically similar to Russia or most other dubious ‘electoral’ ‘democratic’ countries. We weren’t formerly, but we clearly are now.”

    This is the “Duh Report”, says Death and Taxes magazine’s Robyn Pennacchia. Maybe, she writes, Americans should just accept their fate.

    “Perhaps we ought to suck it up, admit we have a classist society and do like England where we have a House of Lords and a House of Commoners,” she writes, “instead of pretending as though we all have some kind of equal opportunity here.”

  2. Americans built, in the US, exactly what they had left behind in the old country.

    Donald Trump, the Koch brothers, Mitt Romney, Pat Robertson as the Witchfinder General….you couldn’t make this cast up…but the play is the same.

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