Shorter Question Everything
• Surete investigating cause of accident: Montreal, Maine & Atlantic, which owns the line, said it was investigating the cause of the accident, but the release of the train’s brakes might be linked to how the locomotive was shut down on Friday night in the nearby town of Nantes. “Every time the Surete [Quebec police] needs to investigate, we need to rule out any foul play,” police spokesman Benoit Richard told reporters. “Right now, we cannot say it is a criminal act. We can only say we are looking at it as if it was.” Nantes mayor Sylvain Gilbert told local radio that town firefighters had dealt with a fire on the train when it was parked in the town on Friday night. It was not clear if that fire was connected in any way to the derailment, or why the train became unsecured in Nantes.
• Deadly Derailment in Quebec Underlines Oil Debate: The police said on Sunday that at least five people had died and 40 were missing after runaway railroad tank cars filled with oil derailed and exploded in a small Quebec town. The derailment and explosions, which took place around 1:15 a.m. on Saturday, underscored a debate in the effort to transport North America’s oil across long distances: is it safer and less environmentally destructive to move huge quantities of crude oil by train or by pipeline? The oil aboard the train had come from the Bakken oil fields of the Western United States. The Bakken oil deposits, which are often drilled through hydrofracking, have become a major source of oil for the railroads to move because the deposits lack direct pipeline links. Canada’s oil sands producers, frustrated by a lack of pipeline capacity, are also turning to trains to ship their products. Unlike pipeline proposals, however, the escalation of rail movements of oil, including light oil shipments from the Bakken fields as well as from similar unconventional, or tight, oil deposits in Canada, is not covered by any regular government or regulatory review.
• Quebec police say 5 dead from oil train derailment, 40 missing: More bodies were recovered Sunday in this devastated town in eastern Quebec, raising the death toll to five. Quebec provincial police Lt. Michel Brunet said Sunday that about 40 people have been reported missing, but cautioned that the number could fluctuate up or down.
• Harper visits scene of disaster: Speaking with reporters afterward, Harper called the site an “unbelievable disaster.” “There isn’t a family in this area that is not touched by this,” he said. “A large part of the downtown has been destroyed. It is really just terrible.” Harper said while he is “very concerned” with the information he has received about the derailment so far, he said government is waiting for all the information and will act on recommendations put forth following a Transportation Safety Board investigation.
• French President Francois Hollande’s office issued a statement offering condolences to the victims in the predominantly French-speaking Canadian province.
• Oil shipments by rail have increased 28,000 per cent since 2009: A whopping 28,000 per cent increase in the amount of oil shipped by rail over the past five years is coming under the microscope following the deadly rail blast in Quebec. Canada’s railways have made a determined push to cash in on the country’s crude-oil bonanza, painting themselves as a cost-effective alternative to politically unpopular pipelines like the proposed Keystone XL. The Canadian Railway Association recently estimated that as many as 140,000 carloads of crude oil are expected to rattle over the nation’s tracks this year, up from only 500 carloads in 2009.
Glenn Greenwald has been more interested in being the story than in reporting the story. I’ve believed that for some time. Guess I’m not alone there. This is where I lost any respect for Greenwald – this whole Snowden thing. And I did have a lot of respect for him, at one point, but he’s made a very serious mistake here in believing it was all about him. Bob Woodward went down this track too. It puts all of their respective work in a bad light, which is unfortunate.
• Snowden fate in balance as Cuba backs asylum bid: US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden won support from Cuba for his bid to seek asylum in Latin America as he began his third week in limbo at a Moscow airport on Monday. Cuba, a key transit point from Russia on the way to Latin America, supported the leaders of Bolivia, Venezuela and Nicaragua, who have offered the 30-year-old fugitive a possible lifeline as he remains marooned without documents in the transit area of a Moscow airport.
• Have We All Been Fooled By Edward Snowden?: Through this whole business, I’ve remained of two minds about Snowden’s tale. While I am certain that what he has reported is true, I’m unsure of motivation. Snowden used to post on a website called Ars Technica: it’s a site for professional techies. In January of 2009 – “those people [leakers] should be shot in the balls” and “Hopefully they’ll [NYT after airing Bush's wiretap program] finally go bankrupt this year”. He was gung-ho for it when Bush was president. Which brings up an interesting point: his opinion of such programs abruptly changed when Barack Obama took office. Snowden revealed that he was a Ron Paul supporter and championed a return to the gold standard along with short selling stocks, bought into Obama conspiracy theories. Snowden, on 2nd amend: “See, that’s why I’m goddamned glad for the second amendment. Me and all my lunatic, gun-toting NRA compatriots would be on the steps of Congress before the C-Span feed finished.” Did he have an ulterior motive to spill what he did? His background isn’t really CIA or NSA material, so say a few people I’ve spoken to who actually have worked for a government contractor. So why was he hired? And why did he pick now to speak out? This has never smelled right to me.
• Venezuela: An influential Russian parliament member who often speaks for the Kremlin encouraged NSA leaker Edward Snowden on Sunday to accept Venezuela’s offer of asylum. Alexei Pushkov, who heads the international affairs committee in Russia’s parliament, posted a message on Twitter saying: “Venezuela is waiting for an answer from Snowden. This, perhaps, is his last chance to receive political asylum.” Venezuelan Foreign Minister Elias Jaua said Saturday his country hasn’t yet been in contact with Snowden.
• Harper maintains ex-chief of staff acted alone in Duffy case: Prime Minister Stephen Harper is sticking to his story in the Senate expense scandal, telling supporters at his annual fundraising barbecue in Calgary Saturday that his former chief of staff acted alone in paying Mike Duffy’s invalid expense claims. Harper repeated on Saturday that it was Nigel Wright’s decision to give Duffy $90,000 out of his own pocket to reimburse the Senate and he must take the responsibility.
• Prime Minister’s Office received letters over funding for Christian aid group that insulted gays: The Harper government has received scores of letters and emails over government funding being provided to an organization that referred to homosexuality as a “perversion” and “sin.” The Prime Minister’s Office and the office of the international development minister got about 170 letters and emails after The Canadian Press reported earlier this year on the $544,813 contract to Christian Crossroads Communications for humanitarian work in Uganda. The criticism of homosexuality on the organization’s website raised concern about its operations in an African country where gays face persistent threats of physical violence and where notorious anti-gay legislation is before parliament. The Harper government briefly announced a freeze in funds but later revised its position.
• Harper aide denies RCMP report that he knew of Wright’s $90,000 payment to Duffy: Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s office won’t say whether two prime ministerial staffers accused of being in the know about Nigel Wright’s plan to personally give Sen. Mike Duffy a cheque for $90,000 will face any internal action as a result of the allegation. The allegation that a circle of advisers in Harper’s office knew of his then-chief of staff Wright’s plan to provide funds to Duffy appears in court documents released last week, and challenges statements made by the prime minister on the subject. According to the sworn RCMP affidavit, Wright’s lawyer told the Mounties that Wright told three people in Harper’s office he would personally provide funds to repay Duffy’s expenses: Benjamin Perrin, former legal adviser; David van Hemmen, current executive assistant to the chief of staff; and Chris Woodcock, director of issues management.
• Voting Rights Decision Primes Backlash Against GOP: Several Republican-led states have already rushed to capitalize on the Supreme Court’s recent rejection of a key part of the Voting Rights Act, but some Democratic and civil rights leaders say the price for threatening Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream could be a nightmare for the GOP.
• Boehner & Ryan Cook Up A Plan That Hands Dems the 2014 Election: John Boehner and Paul Ryan have cooked up a debt ceiling plan that is so unpopular that it hands the Democrats the 2014 election. It is truly one of the most transparently stupid strategies ever.
In other news
• Eugenics: The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation wrongly sterilized nearly 150 women between 2006 and 2010, The Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) has learned. CIR reporter Corey G. Johnson obtained a database of contracted medical procedures that showed 148 women who were confirmed to have been given tubal ligations, but the report noted that there may be another 100 or more dating back to the 1990s. Advocates for female prisoners in the state told Johnson that most of the sterilizations were coerced and inmates thought most likely to be jailed again were targeted. The procedures were carried with no official sanctions, in spite of a state law that requires individual approval by state medical officials. The state formally banned the widespread practice of sterilizing repeat offenders and the mentally handicapped in 1979.
• Militarization: The new warrior cop is out of control. SWAT teams raiding poker games and trying to stop underage drinking? Overwhelming paramilitary force is on the rise.
• Teresa Heinz Kerry, the wife of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and heir to a ketchup company fortune, was hospitalized in critical condition Sunday while on Massachusetts’ Nantucket Island. Heinz Kerry was flown to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston on Sunday night after doctors at Nantucket Cottage Hospital stabilized her, said Glen Johnson, a spokesman for Kerry. The secretary of state was with his 74-year-old wife as an ambulance first transported her to the island hospital, and also during her transfer to the Boston facility. A spokesman for the Nantucket hospital said Heinz Kerry arrived in critical condition, although doctors were able to stabilize her. But neither the family nor hospital officials had released any more details about her medical emergency or her condition Sunday night.