Please read journalist Peter Maass's spellbinding account of how reporter/polemicist Glenn Greenwald and documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras collaborated in bringing to light NSA leaker Edward J. Snowden's disclosures about massive illegal spying by the US Government. Seriously, if you read nothing else this week, do read this richly detailed, 10,000-word account of how Snowden made contact with Poitras, how Poitras roped Greenwald into the project, and how they communicate privately when all three are targeted by the most sophisticated electronic spying in the world. It reads alternately like a novel, a spy thriller, a quirky travelog, and most importantly, like detailed expose of...

Contrarian friend Gus Reed, co-founder of the James McGregor Stewart Society, sums up the significance of a unanimous decision today by the House of Assembly Management Commission that will require that constituency offices for all Nova Scotia MLAs to be barrier free: This simple regulation marks a sea change in approach for the provincial government: People with disabilities are acknowledged to have the same rights as others Written rules, rather than promises, are the solution All parties agree on the principle, the problem and the solution The initiative came from the community of Nova Scotians with disabilities Let's hope that the lesson is not lost and...

Last spring, a disability rights organization surveyed the constituency offices of Nova Scotia MLAs and found hardly any were fully accessible to citizens who use wheelchairs. In May, the James McGregor Stewart Society cajoled the House of Assembly Management Commission into meeting and considering ways to remove barriers from MLAs' offices. The campaign hinged on passing changes before the election, so newly elected MLAs could be required to find accessible space, while returning MLAs would have a modest grace period to comply. I was skeptical. I expected the inconvenience of modifying or relocating constituency offices might trump the obvious injustice of preventing...

Last month, University of Massachusetts scientists working with laboratory cell cultures said they had succeeded in suppressing the extra chromosome associated with Down syndrome, a technique they predicted could lead to treatments targeted at the symptoms of the condition. Halifax resident Renee Forrestall, whose 22-year-old daughter Marie Webb has Down Syndrome, condemned the research as akin to cultural genocide. We've got a genetically similar community, visible minority who are being targeted and terminated globally. People think, "Well, this is the way it is and these people just shouldn't be." A friend who knows I have identical twin grandchildren with Down Syndrome sought my...

Huffington Post's Canadian edition yesterday published an investigative report by a team of student journalists from the University of King's College detailing the housing crisis facing Nova Scotians with intelectual disabilities. There is not enough room in the system for all of the people who need a place to live. They languish on waiting lists that are hundreds of names long. Their families, in turn, must support them with scant financial, caregiving or community programming resources. Eventually the families get too old or sick to do it, making the situation for their relatives in rehab even worse. With so little room, placements...

The James McGregor Stewart Society, a small voluntary group with a single summer intern, has managed to pull off in a month what the Disabled Persons Commission of NS (annual budget: $600,000) and the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission ($2.1 million) have not achieved in the decades of their existence. It has surveyed the accessibility of MLAs offices throughout the province. The results will not be a source of pride for Nova Scotia or its legislators. The survey rated MLAs' constituency offices based on parking facilities, power door buttons, entrance accessibility, washroom accessibility, and proximity to accessible bus routes. Since accessible bus routes are...

A committee meeting at Province House this week has the potential to correct a logstanding injustice in the way Nova Scotia is governed. At the behest of the James McGregor Stewart Society, a disability rights organization, the House of Assembly Management Commission will consider requiring constituency offices to be fully accessible before MLAs can claim reimbursement of office expenses. You might expect this to go without saying in 2013, but it doesn't. Many MLAs' offices are only partly, if at all, accessible. They may have a level entry or a satisfactory wheelchair ramp, but lack a paved parking lot or an accessible...

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that New York City has become the first major municipality to adopt the new active symbol of accessibility, which Contrarian first wrote about in September, 2011. The result of a collaboration between Sara Hendren, graduate student at the Harvard School of Design, and Brian Glenney, philosophy professor at Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts, the revised icon recasts the passive, static International Symbol of Accessibility (demeaningly known as the "handicapped sign"), investing it with vigor and a sense of motion. The Chronicle reports: New York, in a move that could spark similar updates worldwide, has now agreed to use...

[Headline-related punchline at the end.] One reason behind my campaign [here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and most amusingly, here] to restore sanity to weather warnings and school cancellations is the tremendous cost these bureaucratic panic attacks impose on society. Every school cancellation begets a cascade of expensive waste: students missing school; taxpayers paying school employees not to work; parents losing work time to make last minute child-care arrangements; employers with missing or distracted workers; etc. Blogger Clark [NLN] at Popehat argues that Friday's unprecedented lockdown of commerce, transportation, and public events in Boston imposed a vastly greater cost with no...

Contrarian reader Joyce Rankin reacts to Contrarian's caution that justice will not be served by presuming a hearsay accusation of sexual assault to be true in every detail. I don't usually print reader responses at this length, but in the interests of fairness I will do so in this case without edits. Please, please, please don't be one of those men who keep doubting that a rape took place. Every woman knows that there are many many rapes that are never reported because the victim knows exactly what kind of a shitstorm she will letting herself in for and decides not...