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Canadian government collapses in no-confidence vote


"I'm stroking a kitten. Trust me." Canadian PM Steven Harper.
Fourth election in seven years will take place in May after opposition parties bring down Stephen Harper government

Canadian opposition parties have brought down the government of Stephen Harper in a vote of no confidence, triggering an election that polls suggest will reinstate the status quo of minority rule by his Conservative party.

The opposition parties held the prime minister in contempt of parliament in a 156-145 vote for failing to disclose the full financial details of his tougher crime legislation, corporate tax cuts and plans to purchase stealth fighter jets.

Opinion polls expect Harper's Conservative party to be re-elected but not with a majority, meaning he could only continue governing dependent on opposition votes.

The opposition parties combined hold the majority of the seats in parliament with 160 while the Conservatives have 143. There is a chance the left-of-centre parties might join forces in a coalition if Harper wins another minority government on the expected election date of 2 May.


Japan faces new setback in fight to avert disaster at Fukushima plant

© Kyodo/Reuters
Police undergo radiation checks after taking part in contamination precautions in Minamisoma City, Fukushima, Japan.
Prime minister urges vigilance after safety officials said break in nuclear reactor may have caused big radiation leak

A suspected break in the core of a nuclear reactor could have been responsible for a leak of large amounts of radioactive contamination at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, Japanese nuclear safety officials said on Friday, in another setback to efforts to avert disaster at the stricken facility.

In the latest developments, officials have said seawater outside one of the units has registered 1,250 the normal level of radiation, while efforts are under way to pump radioactive water that has pooled around the reactor turbines into safe storage. The BBC has reported that short-term radioactive iodine has been detected at very high levels in the Pacific Ocean near the plant.

US naval barges have started rushing in supplies of fresh water amid concerns the seawater being used to cool down the reactors might be causing corrosion.

Arrow Down

Iowa: Psychopath Pastor: I Had Sex With Those Boys To Help Cure Their Homosexual Urges

Psychopath Pastor
© The Dreamin' Demon

Brent Girouex, a former youth pastor at Victory Fellowship Ministeries, was arrested earlier this month after four young men came forward with complaints that Girouex molested them, and police say the number of victims continues to rise.

Reverend Lonnie Parton said church leaders were stunned when the young men came forward with the allegations against Girouex last month. At that point, Parton told Girouex he needed to go to the police and make a full confession, which he did on February 16.

Girouex reportedly told investigators that the most sexual contact he had was with one teen over a four-year period, starting when the boy was 14. He claimed he and the teen had "mutual sexual contact" somewhere between 25-50 times over that time span. That particular teen, now an adult, told investigators the numbers were more in the vicinity of 50-100 times.


Washington, US: Man Dies Trying to Revive Collapsed Wife

Joyce - Authorities in Washington state say a man who called authorities to report that his wife had collapsed apparently suffered a heart attack and died as he was trying to revive her.

The Clallam County sheriff's office says when deputies and medics arrived eight minutes later on Wednesday night at the home near Joyce, they found the man slumped over her body. He apparently had been attempting to resuscitate her.

Both died. He was 60. She was 59. Their names weren't released because family members had not been told.

Evil Rays

Gaps in US Radiation Monitoring System Revealed

civil defense monitoring
© flickr
Part of the nation's key radiation warning system was out of service as the U.S. braced for possible exposure to the fallout from a nuclear crisis in Japan.

While no dangerous levels of radiation have reached American shores, the test of the monitoring network has spurred some lawmakers to question whether it can adequately safeguard the country against future disasters.

The system is crucial because federal officials use the monitors' readings to validate the impact of nuclear incidents, then alert local governments and the public.

In California, home to two seaside nuclear plants located close to earthquake fault lines, federal officials said four of the 11 stationary monitors were offline for repairs or maintenance last week. The Environmental Protection Agency said the machines operate outdoors year-round and periodically need maintenance, but did not fix them until a few days after low levels of radiation began drifting toward the mainland U.S.

Heart - Black

Navy Training Linked to Dolphin Deaths

© National Marine Fisheries Service
Navy training off the Silver Strand has been linked to the deaths of at least three dolphins in the area and may be responsible for two more, the National Marine Fisheries Service said on Friday.

Fisheries agency leaders said they will take another look at the Navy's pending request to disturb marine mammals between Imperial Beach and Coronado, where the Navy runs what it calls "a realistic venue for amphibious training and special warfare tactical training in the coastal environment." The existing application - which has been in the works for years - doesn't anticipate dolphin deaths related to training, and that premise is now in question.

The fisheries service also has opened an enforcement case. A central question is whether the Navy violated the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, a landmark law designed by Congress to safeguard dolphins, whales and similar creatures.


Corporate Profits At All-Time High As Recovery Stumbles

© Unknown
New York -- Despite high unemployment and a largely languishing real estate market, U.S. businesses are more profitable than ever, according to federal figures released on Friday.

U.S. corporate profits hit an all-time high at the end of 2010, with financial firms showing some of the biggest gains, data from the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis show. Corporations reported an annualized $1.68 trillion in profit in the fourth quarter. The previous record, without being adjusted for inflation, was $1.65 trillion in the third quarter of 2006.

Many of the nation's preeminent companies have posted massive increases in profits this year. General Electric posted worldwide profits of $14.2 billion, while profits at JPMorgan Chase were up 47 percent to $4.8 billion.


Japan: Now, a Weak Link in the Global Supply Chain

Setbacks to Japan's industries could disrupt the flow of components to tech and auto companies in the U.S. as well as in other countries

Samsung Electronics, Ford Motor (F), and Boeing (BA) are waiting for suppliers in quake-stricken Japan to increase one key export: information. A top supplier of high-end components for the global tech and auto industries, Japan may need weeks to recover lost output from the country's strongest earthquake on record, according to a forecast by Barclays Capital (BCS). That's why manufacturing executives from San Mateo to Stuttgart are scrutinizing production schedules, searching for backup suppliers, and figuring out how to cope with rising component prices.

The crippled nuclear reactor complex in northeast Japan has resulted in rolling blackouts throughout the country, forcing Japanese suppliers such as Sanyo Electric and Toshiba to reduce their production in order to conserve power, water, and materials. If the reduced output continues well into April, the ripple effect will be felt in Seattle. "We're O.K. for a few weeks, and I can't tell you beyond that," says Boeing Commercial Airplanes President James F. Albaugh. Japanese companies design and supply 35 percent of Boeing's new 787 Dreamliner.


Social Media Stomps Traditional Media

The web is increasingly becoming the top source for news and information with about 41 percent of Americans citing the Internet as the main location they seek out national and international news from -- a 17 percent rise since December 2010. Journalism professor Jeff Cohen from Ithaca College explained that new and social media fills a void often ignored in traditional media -- it enables more voices and transparency and allows for greater government change. "The debate among quality bloggers is better than the debate amongst the best TV mainstream shows in America, Cohen argued. He noted that social media has been far more damaging to world dictators than old media ever was.

Arrow Down

Canada: Hunger is an Epidemic

We need an intelligent national discussion on hunger in Canada.

Let's get down to it.

Look, the number of Canadians forced to visit a food bank last March set a record, according to Food Banks Canada.

This upward trend started in 1989.

The number of Canadians who must turn to food banks to feed themselves and their families has more than doubled over two of the most prosperous decades in the country's history.

Canada's GDP was close to $1.4 trillion in 2010, more than twice what it was in 1989. Total that cumulative annual value and it amounts to more than $11 trillion.

Our collective wealth grew by more than 100 per cent at a time in which the number of people who couldn't get enough to eat was doubling.

This troubling trend should register as a warning flag that there is serious structural imbalance in Canadian society's economic ability to distribute incomes.

Instead, we get constant pleas of poverty from on high. And we get the same bleating from business, where CEOs award themselves fat increases every year while low incomes stagnate.

In fact, 30 per cent of companies that fell below the median for total shareholder return still gave management raises, according to one independent report tracking executive compensation.

Let's be clear. Last year, in March alone, 867,948 Canadians visited food banks. If these folks were classified as a province -the province of hunger -it would rank seventh in population just behind Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan. In a country so self-congratulatory about its compassion, this seems unpardonable.