Ruminations

Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Child Alert

The media made much of the phenomena of a woman in the United States having successfully borne no fewer than eight babies, in a spectacular event of successful fertility treatment leading to octuplets. That in and of itself was of great interest to the reading public. That a woman was able to carry to term eight babies, all of which, under careful medical care, will be assured a healthy life.

A team of 46 medical professionals worked together in a choreograph of birthing.
She had presented herself for care at the Kaiser Permanente Bellflower Medical Center in California when she was three months' pregnant. The in-vitro fertilization had taken place elsewhere. In fact, the divorced mother of six other children, aged seven, six, five, three and a pair of two-year-old twins, had used in-vitro fertilization with all of her pregnancies.

The mystery is how a 32-year-old woman already weighted with the responsibility of six young children, could be assessed as an acceptable candidate for further birth assistance. It's a costly procedure, estimated to ring it at $100,000 for the total costs involving an IVF birth. Nadya Suleman claims she did not have to pay for the treatment, that indeed, she was paid to have them.

From her childhood years her mother and her close friends recall how obsessed this woman was with the prospect of motherhood, that she claimed at an early age to aspire to having a dozen children. She has now outdone herself, handsomely, handily, by extending beyond a baker's dozen.

She lives with her parents who themselves filed for $1-million bankruptcy several years ago, abandoning their home in the process. Rumour has it that the family lives on government assistance, although Ms. Suleman's exasperated mother Angela, explains that her Palestinian-born husband plans to travel to Iraq, to work there and earn the wherewithal to support his suddenly-expanded family.

It would appear that not one of the children born to Nadya Suleman, not the six previous births, nor the current one that resulted in octuplets, were the result of conjugal relations with her former husband. Rather, it was donated sperm from a neighbour, in all these instances. Despite that the same neighbour, recently married himself, had asked her to refrain from using any more of his sperm.

This is a convoluted story unusual in its balance of good news, bad news. Good news in that there are now fourteen young children, eight of whom are babies, in one single family. The bad news is that raising that number of children presents an inordinately difficult dilemma. How to pay for their needs, let alone provide all the practical, physical and emotional support each requires?

The mother may be exulting over her good fortune; her own mother rather less. It's truly questionable how the needs of all these children will be met - on the emotional supportive scale to begin with, without the assistance of a hugely supportive expanded family, inclusive of their immediate community. And how to begin to estimate the huge cost to ensure all their consuming needs are met?

And then again, there is the question of responsibility; social responsibility. A conundrum of some considerable proportions.

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'Mommy, Don't'

And those were the last words of a twelve-year-old girl, imploring her mother not to take away her life. The most difficult part of this atrocious and horribly sad, tawdry story is the realization that a child - who chose to live with her mother rather than remain with the father who loved her and in whose care she would be safe - understood at the end of her twelve years of life that she was not able to invoke in her mother the normal response of any mother for the well-being of her child.

It simply boggles the imagination that any mother would deliberately and with degraded malice seek to take her child's life. A life that she had a hand in bringing into the world, a life that she was able to witness bloom as her child grew from infancy to maturity, able to think for herself, display the emotions of need and love, clinging to the belief as all children do, that their mother is their protector, charged by nature to nurture, love and support them.

It is painful in the extreme to read the account of this mother who chose to take literally the choice given her by a boyfriend - to make the choice between his needs and that of her child. A choice - difficult as it might seem to any normal human being - that has been made countless times by others, who chose to abandon their children, or to leave them in the care of others to enable them to pursue an interest they placed before that of their children's.

But to plan to murder a child, to dispose of the life of a young girl, a daughter, for the sole purpose of assuring a lover that his interests were more meaningful and precious to her than those of her child? To cold-bloodedly, in the heat of passion, determine that she would be the instrument of her daughter's death for her desired purpose of retaining the loyalty and interest of a jealous and possessive man? Impossible, a crime too heinous for the human mind to absorb.

Yet the woman, Penny Boudreau, set about to plan and execute a ruse whereby she would murder her child, manipulate her daughter's corpse and surrounding evidence to encourage the belief that her daughter had been abducted, sexually assaulted and left to be discovered by the police. In the process posing as a grief-stricken mother, her performance exonerating her from any undue suspicion.

In the end, this woman informed police how she had wrapped rope around her hands, placed the rope around her daughter's neck then pulled with all the strength she could muster until her child breathed no more. She then lifted her daughter's body into her car, drove to an isolated spot where she removed the child's clothing and then dragged the body to dump it beside the LeHave River.

Returning home, she reported her daughter's absence, as a runaway. And then spent the following several weeks publicly mourning, and presenting tearful appeals over public media to appeal to her daughter to come back to her, to return home to her loving mother. Evidence finally appeared, to confirm what already-suspicious police felt, that the mother murdered her daughter.

Penny Boudreau was sentenced to life with no opportunity for parole. In her case, life will mean 20 years' imprisonment. She had pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. Legal niceties aside, this woman planned to murder her child, she took care to assemble the tools she would need to complete the horrible crime. She forced her daughter, who sensed something badly awry, to remain with her, as she drove her to a desolate area.

In the annals of criminal, murderous brutality utterly bereft of human compassion, the mother of Karissa Boudreau will have her own, very special place of solitary infamy. The unspeakable horror of this act, of a mother betraying a daughter's love and trust, choosing to terrorize and to murder her own child, is a very peculiar act against nature and against humanity.

Those imploring words, "Mommy, don't" will haunt, psychically torment and profoundly affect all those who have read or heard of them, the last desperate words of a dying child begging her mother to have pity, to love and cherish her.

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Friday, January 30, 2009

Despictable Charity

The food banks in our cities and towns are increasingly called upon by those who have become unemployed, by single mothers, by the working poor, to help them in their time of need. They are separate and aside from the hundreds of homeless wandering the streets this cruel winter, seeking comfort over an outside grate, under bridges, huddling for warmth under anything that might protect them from the searing cold and falling snow.

Every community now has a food bank, where those who have, give to those in dire want. People from within the community who recall, from time to time, that there are others out there in need, and they respond by sending the occasional cheque, thus assuaging conscience, and thanking their good fortune not to have been assailed by that kind of sad fortune. And when food drives take place, they deposit foodstuffs.

Supermarkets also help, many of them setting out wire cages where shoppers may deposit non-perishables which accumulate there for pick-up by volunteers working on behalf of the food banks. And, it's possible that when the local newspaper or the local service club or an area school launches a food drive, that people rummage through their pantries for items to surrender to the drive.

It's entirely possible that people welcome an opportunity like this to clean their shelves out of food items that no longer interest them, that were purchased at one time and were never used. And, in the process, have become stale-dated beyond imagining or even notice. So that volunteers at the food bank handing out foodstuffs to their clients hand over a non-perishable item that is over a decade old.

It doesn't take all that much thought to remember that nothing differentiates the need of those in desperate straits having to turn to the good auspices of their community food bank, from their own needs. If a food item is considered not fit for one's own consumption, it stands to reason it should not be passed on to be handed over to people in need.

To harbour the opinion, a truly degraded one, that 'beggars need not be choosers' is to betray an uncharitable, miserable, cranky mindset. Expired goods should be disposed of and never thought to be 'good enough' for those whom good fortune has eluded. People who think they're being neighbourly and charitable by providing stale food items for others by passing on 'best-befores' badly outdated are deluding themselves.

They are, in fact, brutally uncaring for the welfare of others. Those others whom fortune has bypassed, however temporarily, and who need and deserve the civil consideration that society should and does direct toward them.

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Lawyerly Scruples

The young man was sitting at the back of a public transit bus. En route to visit with his girlfriend. To return her iPod, among other things. But to spend valuable time with her; their deep and abiding feelings for one another cemented in love, with the intention to spend their lives together, to marry, have children. Fate intervened as it has a habit of doing, sometimes serendipitously, occasionally fatally.

His mother, his siblings, his girlfriend will never see him again as he was. They bade their farewells when they buried his mutilated body in September 2006. What 23-year-old, with his life ahead of him, fashioning his future, committed to a mature relationship with a young woman who appreciates everything about him and who shares his hopes and values and aspirations, might imagine that death lay waiting for him, on boarding a bus?

He may have noticed the other young men, a handful of obnoxious roustabouts in their late teens, strutting onto the bus, making of it their personal vehicle of choice and in a spirit of generosity permitting others of the public to share it with them. They chose to sit, in an oppressive group, just where Michael Oatway, the young man with the future, had placed himself.

The media are able to publish the name of the 23-year-old victim, but not that of his murderer, who was 17 at the time he decided to take an innocent person's life, because that person refused to comply with his demands. First it was a request for a cigarette, but Mr. Oatway was not a smoker. Then it was the demand that he hand over the iPod he was listening to.

The companions of the murderer-to-be tried to signal to him to cool down, move away, but he insisted that one of them, sitting beside him, hand him the knife he had in his pocket. Which he used to threaten Mr. Oatway, and then to attack him. The much slighter Mr. Oatway might have known he would be overpowered, but he did his best to protect himself. That was two-and-a-half years ago. The wheels of justice grind slowly.

Few survive a knife thrust directly into their heart, that vital pumping organ of life. Now the young murderer's lawyer is performing in a court of criminal justice, insisting that his client should be treated as a youth, given the sentence of an erring youth, rather than that of an adult. Hauling out that tired old plea that his client hadn't had a decent start in life, as an abandoned, abused child.

And he has appealed to the court that this crime was "not the most serious first-degree murder" and therefore the man who killed Mr. Oatway should be treated as a minor. It wasn't quite the same, urged the lawyer, as the murder of the more vulnerable in society; an elderly individual, a child, or persons with mental of physical incapacitation. This was just a garden-variety murder of an innocent young man.

His grieving mother left the courtroom. She will forever live with the nightmare of the fear and pain she knows her son suffered in his final moments of life.

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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Ah, Well

People have their obsessional notions. Regardless of their level of intelligence and experience, their otherwise-professionalism, the wisdom of their years, they somehow fall prey to believing that things are not as they should be, and take steps to sideline pedestrian ways of doing things and create their own solutions.

Well, there's absolutely nothing new regarding peoples' suspicion of banking systems. It's the purview, actually, of the ignorant, the unschooled, those without experience. Opting to put away money they have managed to collect in the oddest places: empty old tea tins, under mattresses, children's piggy banks, root cellars. Peoples' imaginations can just run riot.

Mind, people often resorted to burying family treasures, heirlooms, in their backyards during war situations when they feared their possessions would be looted in their absence, as they fled the the theatre of war, becoming refugees. Hoping to return at some later date, to dig up their treasures and reclaim them.

Illicit gains are often buried, too. Think of Treasure Island. Think of people with guilty consciences, hastily burying incriminating evidence against themselves. And then there was the case of the elderly Japanese businessman who took it upon himself to bury in his garden a whopping US$4-million in yen.

A businessman, imagine. In this day and age. In modern Japan, where business and entrepreneurship thrives. He was so respected, so well placed that at the time of his death, in his 80s, he was still serving on a corporate board. Imagine the decision-making entrusted to the wisdom of such as he.

He had placed his cash into a container, over a four-decade period. Guess old habits are hard to set aside. He was obviously convinced that his carefully stored funds were safe where he secured them, right in his own backyard. It's true that in Japan backyards - where they exist - are surrounded by privacy walls. But anyone living in apartments can look down on such sheltered places.

And there he was, busily, over the space of forty years, digging up his treasure, adding to it, then carefully placing it back into its specially designated safe-place. Where no one could see what he was about, and no one would have even a smidgen of suspicion, of knowledge of his treasure.

How wrong he was. He noticed, to his dismay that something was awry, mere months before his death. "He noticed that there are signs that parts of his yard were dug up. Then he learned that the container in which he kept the money was gone", said a local police official, looking into the matter.

"He buried the money because financial institutions are offering only low interest rates, and he thought it was better to keep his cash himself" added another official.
Low interest rates? Keep his cash himself? Well, now the trail of the theft has gone stale, though the police are still searching for clues.

And someone is extremely grateful to that elderly businessman for elevating them out of a state of penury.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Driver Dementia

Sometimes it's easy to believe that a kind of amnesia evolving around civility has eluded most drivers on the road. At other times things get so bad that one can almost believe a universal dementia has overtaken drivers. Speeding, disobeying rules of the road, failing to stop at red lights and pedestrian crossings, cutting off traffic, ignoring the need for courtesy to be extended toward other drivers and pedestrians.

We're all in a great big hurry and time is speeding away from us, just as we speed up trying to catch up with that elusive elemental construction; enemy of the best laid plans of getting it all done in a timely manner. Now our worst suspicions have been validated. There are indeed mentally unstable drivers out there amongst us more responsible ones, able to restrain our baser driving instincts.

But they're not necessarily the young louts we usually blame, who bedevil us by their irresponsible driving habits. They're those to whom the wisdom of old age has come and gone, to be replaced by cerebral feebleness beyond their control. Those whose frontal lobes have been attacked by the dread disease of dementia. The elderly who have always driven, and for whom driving themselves about equates with independence.

And who will not submit to the pleas of their worried families to give up driving. Such a drastic impediment in the familiar arc of their everyday lives would be tantamount to removing a source of comfort; that they are as alert, capable and responsible - and more so - than most on the road. But they're not, and their medical condition will only become more aggravated as time goes by.

Moreover, with the growing demographic of elderly people everywhere, much less in Canada, this presents as a real problem. That elderly woman who lost control of her vehicle, crashing into a bus stop, her tonnes of uncontrolled steel killing another grandmother in the sight of her grandson; another who hit an individual yet was unaware that she dragged the body for miles. They're representative of that group.

We will become increasingly reliant on overworked and disinterested medical professionals to make the proper diagnoses, to follow up on the care of these patients, to assess their growing instability, and to decide when it is time to contact relevant authorities to ensure that these elderly people, incapable of normal functioning, no longer threaten themselves or others, driving vehicles.

Clearly, family members of the elderly must develop a steely determination to insist that their afflicted elders must no longer present a danger to society. It's a hard reality, but a necessary one.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Medical Outsourcing

Canada hasn't enough medical technicians, nor sufficient numbers of high-tech medical machinery to meet the needs of Canadians.

It now transpires that, like other industries outsourcing to call centres in India, the medical technology industry has begun outsourcing as well. MRI, CT scans and X-ray images developed in Ontario are converted to digital format and sent over the Internet to the subcontinent where Indian radiologists, trained in Canada, interpret the scans and send back their results.

The costs are far lower, and the results are received in one-third the time it takes to get the job done right in Ottawa.

A company by the name of Telediagnosys, operating out of India turns around non-emergency results for a Canadian imaging centre in less than 12 hours, compared to the usual 48 hours for such results. This kind of outsourcing to companies set up for that very purpose and employing medical specialists trained to Canadian standards is on the verge of expanding.

The analysis of human tissue; pathology, and possibly even going as far as remote-control surgery appears on the horizon as the concept expands. This is a brave new world of increasingly complex and useful medical technology. In a nod to Canada's severe shortage of physicians and medical specialists, all symptoms point to the potential for the greater use of health-care outsourcing.

It's already happening in a myriad of other ways, by individuals initiating their very own foreign-based medical treatments. It's called international medical tourism. Where people from Europe or North America travel to Asian countries advertising special rates for tourists (still far more costly than like surgeries done domestically for the indigenous population)inclusive of travel costs and after-surgery care.

It's become a crucial part of the worldwide economy, reaching a value of $80-billion in 2008, scheduled to amount to six million medical tourists by 2010, worth some $162-billion. Needless to say there are caveats, mostly evolving around critical after-care once surgical patients return to their home base.

But the concept is enticing to the adventurous and those willing to take a gamble. To visit exotic new environments, different cultures and traditions, while knowing that medical and health needs will be taken care of efficiently and relatively inexpensively in modern hygienic hospitals replete with the latest medical gadgetry and trained professionals.

Some of those professionals having even been trained in Canada, with speciality certification by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons. A growing concept, an entirely new industry, combining the curiosity of the world traveller and the needfulness of a patient.

Of course there will always be people who prefer to remain at home, close to the familiar, to family and friends and the comfort of the known. Who prefer their foreign travel untrammelled by the anxiety of anticipating surgery in the midst of their sight-seeing activities.

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Monday, January 26, 2009

Lives Devoid of Meaningful Purpose

Sometimes it seems near to impossible to do anything right, despite the best of intentions. And often enough human communities do act out of the conviction that their decisions are made with the best of intentions. Those intentions being to endow children with the wherewithal to experience learning opportunities of a kind not available to them in the communities in which they traditionally live.

Encouraging government and church groups to join forces to establish a network of residential schools for children of aboriginal origin. The children would be taken from their homes and removed to the residential schools, where throughout the school year they would learn the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic, geography and history. Admittedly, not their own history necessarily.

They would learn these things, in a language strange to them, not their own tribal languages, that they used all their lives to communicate with their families and their friends on Indian Reserves, but another, exotic one unfamiliar and urgently pressed upon them. They would also be taught practical life-skills and sports.

Take young children away from their home settings and you have children that become home-sick, once they transcend their initial fear; children who yearn to return to the familiar and the comforting. Young boys separated from their families at an early age in Britain to attend "public" (private) schools suffered similar pangs of suffering and longing for home.

And the physical punishments they endured, the humiliations, and the occasions of abuse, including sexual abuse were legendary. While their parents may have been aware of these inconvenient circumstances, this was the tradition of the upper class and the privileged, the wealthy and the titled, and not to be forsworn simply because children detested it.

In Canada, thousands of aboriginal children of Indian and Inuit ancestry were taken from their homes and installed in residential schools. And while many of those now-grown residents feel the lessons they learned there in practical self-help and basic education served them well throughout their lives, this opinion is hardly shared by all.

Certainly not by those many who felt their lives to have been irretrievably ruined by the experience. Whose resentment of having been taken from their families and having been exposed to what they say was rough treatment verging on abuse, and to neglect and absolute abuse, including abuse of a sexual nature has long caused them to blame that well-meant system for their later inability to get on with life.

It is entirely possible that the virally unpleasant conditions in which Canada's First Nations live in too many Indian Reserves, with patchy health services, poor education opportunities, few-to-no employment opportunities, substandard housing and a lack of dependably potable water, is the real culprit. Passivity to their condition, dependence on alcohol and drugs saps the spirit.

Yet these communities insist they must live in the traditional ways of their forefathers, despite that modern conditions are so far different from that of their forbears. They no longer live as hunter-gatherers; their traditional diet has been vulgarized by imported fast food and unhealthy nutritional choices impairing their health as surely as drink and drugs do.

No decent employment opportunities leads to resentment and depression. Blaming the residential schools experience is as handy an excuse as any. That First Nations suffer social discrimination in the present day is hardly to be credited. That First Nations people fail to sufficiently respect themselves to make the effort to make something of their lives, to reach out for opportunities is a general failure.

A failure not only of the entire country to help the First Nations communities position themselves more advantageously, but more to the point, a distinct failure on the part of the Assembly of First Nations and generally, the various First Nations Councils and chiefs which have steadfastly overlooked and failed to meet the real needs of their people.

The Government of Canada, through the Indian Act and through the reliance on elected chiefs of First Nations tribes have all failed to meet even the basic needs of First Nations. Truth is, government hardly knows what to do, where to turn, and the chiefs insist on their traditional right to accept funding and allocate it as they will.

The distinct failure of any and most attempts to move the matter of disadvantaged First Nations toward a completed agenda, the lack of movement on Aboriginal Claims, the abandonment of aboriginal children to inadequate education opportunities, speaks as a monumental national failure of the first order.

And although Prime Minister Stephen Harper had the grace and the vision to offer, on behalf of all Canadians, a sincere apology to the 'survivors' of Indian residential schools, the cash settlements have done little, it would appear, to assuage the wounds, nor to advance the lives of those same Canadians in any meaningful manner.

News that the cash compensation, instead of restoring some modicum of self-regard has instead caused deaths among these Canadians, is disheartening in the extreme. Recipients of that compensation have gone on to squander it, drinking themselves to death, drugging themselves to death, and committing suicide.

There are most certainly times when perplexed and well-meaning outsiders frantically attempt to compensate for the unrealized harm they have done to others, and it all amounts to nothing of any value. Sad beyond understanding.

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Luminous Mind

It's never too early for a creatively introspective young mind to begin the journey toward finding his place in the world of enterprise, experiment and invention. Certainly that is precisely how Charlie Sobcov, all of thirteen years of age, appears to feel. He is in elementary school, but not for long. He is young, but that too will change.

He already has somewhat of an extraordinary mind and if early signs of mature expression designate him for a lifetime of scientific endeavour and creative ability, the world will surely gain much by his presence. It's clear that he has the ability to think deeply and to reach certain conclusions leading to action and credible results.

The knowledge that hundreds of millions of birds die annually simply by attempting inadvertently to fly through transparent panes of glass installed in windows all over the world - in modest houses and monumental skyscrapers alike, has moved him by the biological tragedy that this bird-slaughter represents.

Inspiring him as a nascent scientist, to stimulate his mind for a solution to the feathery carnage. His Grade 8 science fair project at the Turnbull Learning Centre in Ottawa has nudged him toward putting his thoughts into action, and in the process encouraging bird lovers to make use of his brainchild and report back results.

Something to warn birds that they must veer away from crashing their tender bodies into the cold, hard glass surface that would take life from them was his goal. And the solution appeared to him: a warning geared specifically to the avian community's vision sensitive to a light spectrum the human eye is incapable of distinguishing.

The resulting stylized bird shape fashioned from a flexible, electrostatic vinyl upon which he brushed a specialized UV-reflective paint, invisible to the human eye, but posing a warning to birdlife, is to be affixed to windows in this living experiment to save the lives of countless birds on this planet.

"It looks invisible to us, but to birds it's like a big stop sign in the middle of the window", explained Charlie. "I painted it on a plastic that clings to windows." He put out a call to local birders, and the response was gratifying, sufficient to keep him busy supplying the bird-visible window decals to those eager to prove its efficacy.

He now awaits the results to pour in from his many volunteer experimenters helpfully using his hand-shaped and painted decals, to enable him to complete his science project and present the proof of his very particular pudding. Kudos, Charlie Sobcov.

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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Industry Marketing Ethics

What ethics? Why that of the tobacco industry, of course. It has long been proven in litigious court action and testimony and evidence given therein that the tobacco industry is fully aware of the nastily deleterious effect that nicotine has on peoples' longevity. The pernicious effects of long-term smoking been known for at least a half-century to wreak dread havoc on smokers' vital organs and tissues.

In North America and in Europe a more educated public has been made abundantly aware through determined anti-smoking campaigns, of the high health risks associated with the use of tobacco products. By law now, cigarette manufacturers are required to alert their customers to the fact that using their products will most surely be injurious to the smokers' health. Moreover, that smoking creates second-hand dangers to those around the smoker.

Most responsible governments, in recognition of the high death toll resulting from tobacco product use have enacted laws forbidding the use of those products in both public and many private spaces. It's hard to believe that in living memory smoking was once permitted in hospital wards. In the Province of Ontario it has now become unlawful for anyone to light up in a car carrying children who will be exposed to second-hand smoke.

Impressionable young people who, as young people have always done, consider themselves invulnerable to harm, prefer to shrug off these warnings. Smoking, still considered 'cool', and sophisticated, proves over time an unhealthy addiction that people are later unable to disconnect from. Special government-sponsored warnings through grim advertising is targeted at the young. Yet films still feature societal smoking.

Tobacco has turned elsewhere for its product-use to prosper. In Third-World countries where, although poverty is rampant, people can still be persuaded to purchase in smaller numbers. China, which once imported cigarettes, now is the largest producer of cigarettes in the world; tax revenues are enormous. Roughly 60% of Chinese men smoke, but a mere 5% of Chinese women. Causing the industry to turn its advertising toward women.

While currently a million Chinese die each year from smoking-related disease, that number is due to increase. At one time Russian officials faced the prospect of riots when the population was unable to obtain sufficient imported cigarettes to meet their nicotine addiction needs. That was a lesson that Russia has never quite forgotten, one that will not be repeated, and a home-grown industry now provides for those needs.

It's difficult for a caring, knowledgeable and responsible government to take the initiative to steer their populations away from self-injurious addictions. Russia has the double spectre of alcohol addiction, giving the country's population the distinction of presenting overwhelmingly with a low life-expectancy thanks to those two grim health-and-life-sapping addictions.

In the Philippines and in Africa street vendors hawk individual cigarettes because poor people cannot afford to purchase in greater numbers than singly. Cigarette manufacturers take care to infuse these single cigarettes with a higher quotient of nicotine, to ensure addiction. Governments are complicit, encouraged by the increase of revenues thanks to taxes imposed on tobacco products.

Perhaps it's only in countries where medical and hospital treatment is offered to the entire population that governments can recognize the uneven trade-off; tax revenues against medical treatment costs. The tobacco industry is corrupt and clever; packaging by Philip Morris during Breast Cancer Month, elegant 'purse-pack' packets in the reassuring soft pink colour used by the cancer campaign.

Medical research has proven that babies born of smoking mothers are more prone to smoking and addiction because their metabolism has been affected in the womb. Babies born to smoking mothers have a much higher incidence of asthma. Yet, when people can be convinced that smoking cessation can guarantee them a healthier, longer life, if they do manage to drop the habit despite long-term use, their mortality rate will be reduced by 36%.

As for the industry, their boardroom elites will continue to employ marketing geniuses to keep persuading people how much their lives will be improved and glamourized by responding to the needs of their craving for nicotine.

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The Family Business

Nothing like it, inheriting the family business. The difficult work was in getting it started, and there's nothing quite like word-of-mouth to spread momentum and hope among those wishing to avail themselves of such a unique product. Word-of-mouth has it, when dishing out spirituality, over conventional advertising. Word-of-mouth goes directly to that demographic most in need and most likely to respond to the enticement of proffered hope; one need but have inviolable faith.

And that's quite the family business. In most families there may be some kind of family treasure handed down from father to son, ad infinitude, but in the spirituality and touch-healing business that's quite the gift; an heirloom treasure of the living touch. Healing hands that upon application are capable of producing an extraordinary effect. In fact, a quite other-worldly effect, a transcendent moment eclipsing the kindly ministrations of church-sanctioned priesthood.

For this is a quite unaffiliated religious institution, the Dal-Grotto Mission, hard by Eganville, Ontario. A place where business comes right to the door of the miracle-maker, the man with the healing touch. Desperate people obedient to the rules of the establishment; to sign in before eight in the morning if you have any hopes of being tended to that very day. For this is a busy man, this Reverend Dale. And they come in droves, imploring, pleading for a moment of his time.

Jesus Christ was more in the mode of one dispossessed of property; he travelled from village to village, from town to city almost as a mendicant, with his faithful followers, spreading the goodness of God's promise to humankind. Reverend Dale is more of the mendacious mode, hunkered down on his property with its grotto and its figure of Christ the King. Like Jesus, Reverend Dale aspires, and like his father before him, to minister to the halt, the lame, the blind and impoverished.

Heaven forfend that they be too impoverished to grace the good reverend with a donation. For he too must have his daily bread. On his lovely lakeside property he has established a canteen where those anxious for his attention, remaining in their cars, their tents, sacrificing their time and hope for his attention, may purchase candy bars, soft drinks, Freezies. The Reverend Dale has felt obligated by his worship of Jesus and his love for his fellow man to follow in his blessed father Edmund's footsteps.

Or laying on of hands, as the case may be. And he has proven himself exceptionally enterprising, as entrepreneurial as his sainted father before him. In a truly Eureka! moment he bethought himself of opening up the family business to a mail order sideline. As a testament to the power of his hereditary gift, he has managed to hone that priceless gift to a fine edge; conveying the power that God has gifted his family with, through the medium of time and space.

Send a recent likeness, a description of one's malady, and sit back. Reverend Dale has it in his extraordinary supra-natural powers, to mend all ills. Even at a remove. At your service. Business gone sour? Send a photo. Reached end-stage disease predation? Send a photo. Wife threatening to leave with the children? Send a photo. Out on bail for your court hearing resulting from a criminal charge of sexual assault? Send a photo.

Oops, scratch that last one. Reverend, heal thine self.

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Friday, January 23, 2009

The Merciful Church

Is it to be considered as merciful to allow a brain-dead woman's body to be kept quick? Her condition knows no salvation. Her body is being medically, scientifically, halted from corrupting, but it is a hollow shell, and has been for the past 17 years. An agony to her family, who wish nothing better for their beloved child than to bury the past, to no longer have to face the anguish of her artificial presence, a rebuke to their ability to end their suffering and the charade of her fictitious existence.

Eluana Englaro lost her life for all practical purposes, in a car accident that occurred seventeen years ago when she was a vibrant 20-year-old. She has been in a coma ever since. She, like all such victims of tragedy whose consciousness and soul evaporates into nothingness never to resurface, bears no physical resemblance to the blooming young woman she once was. Her father has been attempting for the past ten years, to have life support withdrawn, to allow her the final dignity of burial.

In predominantly Roman Catholic Italy some regions of the country had offered to step in and allow her to expire when Milan, capital of Lombardy, the second largest city close to where Ms. Englaro remains hospitalized refused to permit hospitals under its jurisdiction to comply with her family's request. However, even they have been forced to withdraw their offers of assistance, under pressure from Italy's minister of health.

Maurizio Sacconi, the health minister, warned subsidized state hospitals that they would face "unimaginable consequences" were they to suspend life support for this poor woman. More to the point, the Catholic Church is fierce in its resistance toward any form of euthanasia, and has pointedly warned against halting the artificial feeding of the now-37-old woman. The Archbishop of Turin, Severino Poletto, said that to do so would clearly represent an act of euthanasia.

Clearly, it is not to be seen as an act of compassion.

Now the governor of Piedmont is prepared to disregard the objections of government officials to assist the family of Eluana in their search to end this travesty of prolonged death in the guise of protecting the sanctity of human life. As a consequence, the daily newspaper of the Italian Catholic Church has accused the court which ruled in the family's favour to have her life support system removed, of "necrophilia".

The Church will most certainly disallow a religious funeral for the young woman, further exacerbating her family's pain and sorrow.

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Unholy Lifestyles

Father Francis Guinan of the St.Vincent Ferrer Catholic church in Delray Beach, Florida has hired an attorney to defend him against charges of unholy malfeasance. Father Guinan, alongside Father John Skehan are both facing charges of embezzlement.

They will face their accusers in court, and hope that kindness, compassion and understanding will descend their way, not from the heavens, but from their parishioners. After all, they extended to those who formerly sat in the pews of the church they represented, kindliness and caution in the ways of the world. They meant nothing but the best, extending God's love to their faithful.

From whose offering-plate donations for the past twenty years, at a rough estimate, they managed to fund a rather palatial lifestyle. The 66-year-old Mr. Guinan's lawyer asserts his client has done nothing wrong. That the funds he is accused of purloining were for the purpose of making cash payments to church employees. And there lies the rub, or there rubs the lie the wrong way.

Facts being unveiled during the course of the investigation, and according to the investigating authorities, point to an "intimate" relationship with a former church bookkeeper toward whom much of the Mr. Guinan's swifted cash was directed. To support her lifestyle, and for the purpose of accompanying his lover on luxury vacations. Everyone has their private life, after all.

The $800,000 of donations which the duo are accused of taking to flesh out their lifestyles, does not represent their total emoluments of the past twenty years, however. According to the statute of limitations the priests may be charged only with such thefts occurring after 2001. Speculation has it, however, that the total of their self-availment was likely closer to $8-million.

That would make for a fairly rich lifestyle, no doubt about it. Father Skehan for his part, has plead guilty to the charges of collecting unto himself those donations entrusted to their care each Sunday from collection plates. He felt entitled to those generous stipends personally for the excellence of a job well done, obviously, in serving his parishioners.

Nothing parsimonious about his gifts to himself; those donations to his lifestyle enabled him to purchase luxury homes, and to pay for much-appreciated and extravagant gambling trips to Las Vegas, as well as funding his numismatic passion for rare coinage. He will perhaps pay rather dearly for that rarefied lifestyle, facing up to 31 years' incarceration.

They both used those 'found' funds to open offshore bank accounts to grow their lifestyles. In the interim, the purloined cash was handily hidden in the church ceiling tiles. The good Father Skehan has seen the light and resolved to accept responsibility for his actions, hence the guilty plea.

And he is gladdened by the inspiring reality that those whom he sinned against, while lecturing each Sunday against the avails of evil-doing and the misery of the sinner in this life and the next, stand stalwartly behind him, willing to support him and to speak on his behalf. So, then, you can hoodwink people and have them thank you for it, too.

As for the former Reverend Guinan, his lawyer says "Just because both priests worked at the same church and one pleads guilty, it doesn't mean my guy is guilty". So there, y'all, stuff that in your collection plate!

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

An Admirable Code of Abduction Conduct

Kidnappings and abductions go on all over the world. Children are often subjected to being spirited away from their families identified as having the wherewithal to pay for their safe restoration to home and hearth. In areas of conflict there are attempts to kidnap soldiers to trade them for those taken into security by adversaries. In other areas of the world where terrorists hold nations to ransom, foreign aid workers and members of the news media are abducted.

Often enough children and women are abducted to be enslaved by unscrupulous and uncompassionate slavers. The children and women to be used as slaves for the production of goods, or farm labourers, or sex. Their lives are a living misery. International humanitarian aid groups try to locate and to ransom the children and the women, when and if possible, but most are never freed.

Young people, boys and girls, are abducted from their villages in Africa and Asia, never to see their families again. They are brutally inducted into a life of crime, or of warfare, given the tools of the trade and taught the way of life their captors have in store for them, as indentured slaves, as foot soldiers obeying commands to kill others, knowing no other way of life.

There are those who are abducted and sometimes imprisoned in dire, inhumane conditions for long periods of time, before being set free. Often enough, abductors choose to slaughter their hapless victims, symbolic of a cause. The drug trade has its own vicious code of vengeance against dealers invading their territory; capturing, torturing and murdering their victims.

Islamist terrorists abduct international messengers of various humanitarian intervention agencies, to hold them for ransom, or for exchange of those of their jihadist-tribe held in incarceration. Some of these abductees are released speedily once ransom has been paid, others are kept for indefinite periods of time in the most squalid and inhumane conditions before and if they are finally released.

In Greece, things are done differently. Shipping magnate Pericles Panagopoulos (what a wondrous name) was abducted on January 12 by three gunmen armed with Kalashnikovs who blocked his car with their van as he attempted to leave his home. They chose their victim judiciously, his status as one of the country's wealthiest men marking him as a rich, ripe target.

After his release, once a ransom of an estimated $49-million to $162-million was paid by his family, Mr. Panagopoulus described his captors as civil and respectful to him. They took extremely good care of him; upon learning of several serious medical conditions he suffered, supplying him with the requisite pharmaceuticals.

Finally, with the ransom in hand, his kidnappers, whose faces were always well hidden with hoods in his presence, said to him: "Thanks very much, you're free to go grandpappy", as they released him. And all is well that ends well.

It is only money, after all that has been lost, and not a human life.

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Indefagitable Adventurers

It's a phenomenal event of human determination when people push their physical endurance to the very limits, endeavouring to meet nature on her own terms in some of the most bleak yet beautiful of Earth's landscapes. Exposure to extreme weather conditions for the purpose of pushing on to break old records and establish new ones as extreme athletes test the boundaries of time, space and aspirational achievement.

Three such men are Kevin Vallely, Ray Zahab and Richard Weber, from Vancouver, Chelsea (Quebec) and Alcove (Quebec) respectively. They set out to launch themselves into a frigid adventure against time and nature. Starting at Hercules Inlet on the Ronne Ice Shelf on December 7, they traversed across Antarctica 1,130 kilometres in 33 intrepid days, 23 hours, and 55 minutes to reach the South Pole, on January 7, 2009.

That's some peoples' idea of how to celebrate and bring in the new year. Exhausted they must have been, at the conclusion of their icy trek, but jubilant as well. Putting their determination and aspirations, their skills and their companionship to an ultimate test of capable endurance. In so doing setting a new world record for the speediest unsupported course across Antarctica.

They faced indescribable whiteouts, hazardous ice crevices and extreme cold conditions. Out there in the vast wilderness of white, sleet, wind and cold, anything can happen, and does. The doughty depend on their own resources. There are no weather forecasters to warn of incoming storms or to emphasize the deleterious effects on the human body and skin of exposure to dire weather events. One copes.

Throughout the process maintaining contact with students from Canada and the United States; blogging, recording impressions and experiences via satellite phone, sharing with the young and inspiring them to rise to their own mental and physical challenges.

Ray Zahab travelled on foot and snowshoes; Richard Weber and Kevin Vallely chose to ski, the over 700 mile journey. They met with altitude sickness, experienced blisters, frozen snow drifts, and in the process encouraged and supported each other.

They took care to consume a high-calorie diet to ensure their energy output did not exceed their physical capabilities. Eating pemmican, butter and other high-calorie foods, along with plenty of Gatorade, adding up to roughly 7000 calories a day, easily four times what a male under normal conditions might wish to consume.

They covered up to about twenty miles a day in their push to succeed in their endeavour. Sending back pictures, communicating with thousands of young people following their adventure. They coped with the exigencies of difficult terrain and with illness that assailed them at various times. They set some arduous standards for themselves in establishing their record trek.

Their purpose was twofold; to satisfy their inner need for adventure, and to inspire young people to follow their example. They've established themselves as a team of extreme adventurers, naming their team "Impossible2Possible", and through their exploits teach and inspire, as well as entertain themselves. They hope to bring a consciousness of environmental sustainability to the minds of the young.

And they're planning follow-up expeditions.

An Arctic expedition in late spring or early summer. To run across Akshayuk Pass on Baffin Island. Running across Liberia in western Africa in November as spokespeople for Spread the Net, raising awareness of malaria prevention. And an adventure relay along the Colorado River accompanied by high-profile American athletes and high school students to raise awareness of water shortages.

They're adventurers par excellence, intrepid warriors of nature and personal discovery. We, who control our environment and grumble when weather inconveniences us, distance ourselves from nature. They, while taking full advantage of the human need to control what we can, also face the elements and nature's landscapes head on, revelling in both worlds.

For more information, visit
www.impossible2possible.com.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Great Pain, No Gain

The City of Ottawa is still being held ransom to the demands of the Transit Union representing 2,300 OC Transpo drivers, dispatchers and maintenance workers. Ostensibly representing the fortunes of 2,300 workers, but in reality sticking it to the City and its population on behalf of a much lesser number of senior drivers, roughly one-tenth of the total work force.

The strike is going into its 42nd miserable day. The special fund set up to aid those needing social assistance as a result of the problems people have encountered through the strike, has already been exhausted. Low-income applicants for assistance who qualified for help with taxi coupons, or funding for unforeseen bills and supplements to their rent have been so numerous in their need the temporary $200,000 fund was clearly insufficient.

Distress calls for social assistance keep coming in. People have lost their jobs because of an inability to travel to work, and others foresee an imminent loss of employment for the very same reason. People are unable to keep medical appointments or hospital-therapy appointments. Seniors are unable to get out and about without public transit. And students with bus passes attending schools outside their normal jurisdiction cannot attend classes.

People are doing their best to cope without public transit. They've resorted to car-pooling, to hitch-hiking, to bicycling, when this brutal winter season permits, and that's not often. And they have taken to walking long distances to reach their required destination, through icy winds and deeply cold temperatures, fresh-fallen snow and icy sidewalks alternately.

When universities and schools arrange alternate means of transportation for their students through private agencies, the union leaders threaten to picket the schools. There are some area businesses already hit hard enough by the economic slow-down, that are facing a real dilemma of whether or not they will be able to stay open, or be forced to shut down through lack of customers.

Volunteers who normally assist charitable organizations are unable to travel to their destinations to perform their usual volunteer activities. Everyone's routines have been disrupted as working people have been forced to find alternate means of transportation for themselves and for their children. Traffic is constantly congested, and the overall air quality badly impacted.

Traffic tie-ups and frayed nerves are causing people to lose civility. There is a far greater incident of road and highway traffic accidents. Partially as a result of the season of the year, with an abnormally cold winter, and incessant snow, creating difficult driving conditions at any time, all the more so when the roads and highways are that much more packed with people irritated by long commutes.

Neither the municipality nor the transit union is willing to budge on negotiations. Neither entity is adequately concerned about the welfare of the population being so ill served. When the strike eventually is concluded and transit returns to normal, it won't be anything approximating normal for a good long period of time, while the buses undergo required maintenance before they can be put back on the transitway.

And there is the prospect of 500 drivers who will be laid off for up to three and a half months until the system is back up and running properly. Those lay-offs will be affecting junior drivers, who were coerced into complicity with the union's determination to support the perceived entitlements of senior drivers. So how has the union served its junior drivers, roughly 50% of drivers?

They have had to sacrifice their normal salaries while out on the picket line, urged to maintain solidarity for the good of the union. They now face an additional three months and perhaps more of waiting before they can be called back to duty, and with it their salary. A salary, even without the negotiations, which many in the city would love to be able to earn, along with the additional perquisites.

The city council, particularly the mayor, along with the transit union, have served this city badly. A plague on all their houses.

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Monday, January 19, 2009

Nasty Little Charlaton Revisited

Oops a rebuke. In my inexcusable audacity and ignorance in characterizing Minister Dale as a religious charlatan, his son is mortally offended. In defence of his father's sterling reputation as a healer of souls and broken bodies, one who invests his days with care for the needy, for the sole purpose of offering solace and hope to those poor souls who flock to his ministry, Mr. Dale's son slams the writer's ignorance and simple conclusions. Here, below, is that response:

"It's funny how people that do not understand something are so quick to speculate and accuse.
R.Dale does not have followers. He has patients that come to him for help, assistance and guidence. Most of these people have been turned away from the medical system that has tapped them out and do not have much to offer in return when they go to see R.Dale. As far as a person coming in and donating $20 or a person donating $1, they recieve the same. And, yes, their are people that do not donate into his so called basket. He is not the Easter bunny. Money is not the point of a non profit buisness. The satisfaction of healing or helping someone gives him full gratification. Is it for everyone? No. Can he help everyone? No.
R.Dale is not devious and patently crooked. He also does not prey on fears and vulnerability of people. Glad to see you've done your research on this.
He does not give people promises of a better life or that they will all be cured of their illnesses. He has a gift, a gift from god that works in mysterious ways. Not devious ways.
As far as being up on charges to discredit him. Anyone can charge anyone in this day and age because our government allows it. In fact, I could probably charge you. But I don't work like that and until the facts come out on R.Dale's charges, lets not speculate and accuse.
There are alot of things I don't understand in this world, but the last thing I would do is write something as discrediting and untrue about something or someone that I know nothing about.
Why do I know so much about R.Dale? No, I am not a so called follower as you put it. I am his son. Have I followed his footsteps? No, but I do know more about all this than you do.
So until your have all the facts on something maybe your better off sticking to your simple life instead of speculating on things that you have no knowledge or facts about.
G.Dale"


And there we have it, a son's passionate defence of his blameless and admirable father whose altruistic outreach to those in need should be commended, as far as he is concerned, not condemned. Allow me to elucidate further on my personal impressions of society's feral self-availers who seek their calling in preying on the vulnerable among us.

The Reverend Dale has transformed himself from private citizen to controversial public figure, and as such presents as one who is subject to public scrutiny. The media have expressed an interest in writing of his ministering, and the details that reporters have noted with respect to his supplicants and the reverend's business have been laid bare to the reading public.

A charlatan has been identified for what he represents, regardless that he self-portrays as an emissary from Most High. He preys upon the vulnerable, the desperate,the gullible within society. His vicarious defence through his son's response notwithstanding.

Spurious claims to supernatural healing powers are the hallmark of a very special cadre of exploiters of the human condition who promise to deliver the vulnerable from misery, instill hope, and then profit from their misbegotten reputations. These are those without conscience invested of a belief in their superiority, offering their sublime connections to a universal healer.

They are experts in manipulation; charismatic figures of self-availment; just another scourge on society. That segment of society that is ready to suspend rationality to explore any path that might promise relief from life's conditions that are so anguishing to so many. The exploiter may believe he offers hope to those clamouring for it, but it is a temporary relief from temporal conditions which will inevitably reassert their presence.

The spiritual hope and longing may be longer lasting; an illusory human pathology of those intimidated by life and misfortune, eager to accept support from any confident manipulator posing as a spiritual advisor by the laying on of hands. An emotional transference of assurance and hope on the one hand; a validation to the charlatan that the power of his persuasive overtures has a ready market.

He is either grandiloquently delusional and as such somewhat mentally deranged, or has purposefully and deliberately embarked upon a mission to defraud, lining his pockets with the avails of mock spirituality. A social scourge, a sociopath, scavenging on human fear, misgivings, misery and need.

One who preys on society's frail and needy is a despicable fraud, an indefensible charlatan, a social misfit seeking to profit from human misery. The Reverend Dale represents as only one of a veritable army of such poseurs. He is a free enterpriser, busily engaged in selling a tainted product.

That product is himself and his self-professed auspices geared to offering comfort and hope at an undeclared but anticipated, yet unqualified price. Many have obviously chosen to take up that offer. That is their choice. However, victimizing people under emotional stress is not a pretty occupation, nor is it advantageous to anyone in the final analysis, but the self-proclaimed spiritual leader.

It represents as an affront, an offence to human dignity, fairness and integrity. a nasty scam, preying on the frail. People, in their need, become complicit pawns in the fraud being perpetrated upon them by unscrupulous self-availers. The vulnerable are anxious to be delivered from their crises. The mass of suffering humanity present a great pool of potential victims to the self-proclaimed healers, prophets and faith healers infesting society.

In a free and open society which Canada most certainly is, anyone is able to express their thoughts and apprehensions. People are free to make life choices. Others are free to believe whatever it is they are told, most particularly when they have a dire need to believe. Defend the indefensible if you will, but don't expect others to desist from making their views known.

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Farewell, And Thank You

Tomorrow, the administration of George W. Bush will join history as the 43rd president of the United States of America. Mr. Bush's tenure over two four-year presidencies produced quite a bit of damage, not only to the country itself, as a result of poor decision-making, secretive and under-handed manoeuvrings, but to the world at large.

The almost universal lack of esteem in which this president is held is a fairly good barometer of his failure in administering his country's fortunes to achieve and advance a fair and just society. He has left the United States, and the world in general in a poorer state than when he entered the White House. His passing into history is celebrated, not mourned.

And the country is alight with expectation with the arrival and investiture of the 44th president of the United States: Barak Obama. Mr. Obama inherits a country in grave economic difficulties, one that is engaged in two wars, and with a legacy of wasted diplomacy on the world stage. Almost friendless within the international community, but not for much longer.

Much hope has been pinned on the potential that president-elect Obama brings to the Oval Office.

Whether, or how much of what the American public has been led to believe can be accomplished will be for the future to decide and history to analyze. The least that can be said of Barak Obama is that he is not George W. Bush. The most that can be said of him is his presentation as a reliable, honest, gifted and intelligent man, offering his services to the country he represents.

With the departure of George W. Bush, his representative in Canada, Ambassador David Wilkins, takes leave of this country. Ambassador Wilkins, much unlike most of his predecessors, is a decent, sweet-tempered, kind and diplomatic individual. He, with his wife, did their very best to bridge a widening gap between the two countries. They both made an enormous effort to understand the country they were stationed in.

No officiously rude and intolerant statements issued from his lips, condemning Canada, which his predecessors seemed to feel it their duty to engage in. His three-and-a-half years in this country were marked by the civility of his personality, his willingness to understand the differences in cultural values between his country and ours.

His acknowledgement of Canada's importance to the United States as a stalwart ally in most enterprises, and a leading source of energy and other commodities, in a mutual trade exchange that greatly benefited both countries went a long way to mollifying Canada's occasional hurt feelings on being rebuffed by his country's leaders and lawmakers.

He was aware of the growing rift in trust between the United States and Canada as a result of the growing fear and mistrust the United States experienced after 9-11, and he did his best to support Canada's position that it was a trustworthy and reliable partner in the global battle against terror, erroneously targeted as a terror gateway into the United States.

This country can only hope that the next U.S. diplomat assigned to represent American interests as ambassador to Canada will be imbued with a similar sense of fairness and empathy that we experienced with Ambassador Wilkins. He will be missed.

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Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Day Arrives

Yes, it's quite the occasion. Who might ever have imagined that such an event could take place in a nation that has so divided itself across colour lines? That a people whose humanness has been so drearily exploited by those of another colour distinguishing them as lesser beings, could finally look to the dream sequence of what has transpired in the last six months on the political front.

The event is monumental in the sense that a man of black mixed heritage has so distinguished himself on the national stage and inspired so many across racial and societal lines that he has been elevated by popular opinion to take residence in the Oval Office. His self-assurance and professed love for country and the people who have inherited its history lead many to believe in his promise.

While it's true that after a miserable and harrowing history, blacks have finally managed to establish their own social, literary, cultural, political and financial hierarchy and aristocracy, not even the accomplished and privileged among them might have imagined this coming day. It ranks as an event of divine intervention for many, establishing a promising era of justice and equality of opportunity.

It is astonishing in and of itself, that the country could turn itself inside out and discover on the inside a willingness to recognize the full equality of those who were once so shamefully degraded and demoralized and terrorized. The journey has been long, arduous and dangerous. Leaving behind a history littered with corpses.

And the never-forgotten national tragedy of a civil war where idealists, humanists and those of religious conviction in the brotherhood of man fought against those who were complacent in the status quo, whose fortunes were reliant on the tragic enslavement of the unfortunate many whose skins were black. So it's time, and about time.

That the acclaim wafting from the international community toward America may portend a healing of relationships so badly sundered by the recent administration is undeniable. That the world looks on with great anticipation through the window of the house of America speaks volumes about the global need for a resolute and justly rational leader.

Yet it's also true that so much hope has been placed on the anticipation for change that Barak Obama has promised, that he has been garlanded with the status of a supra-being, one whose accomplishments may solve all the ills that society faces in these days of insecurity and universal unease for the future.

He does not himself appear to be unduly troubled by the heavy weight that will all too soon descend on his shoulders; like Atlas he will struggle to balance tremendous expectations that no single individual could ever possibly hope to bring to fruition. Solutions to the seemingly unsolvable problems besetting the world community may be far more elusive than hope would have us believe.

Promising a puppy to two beloved daughters is one thing. Bringing the world on track to a better future is fraught with all manner of pitfalls. He understands this, as his acceptance speech in Chicago indicated in no uncertain manner, but it hardly seems that those who elected him and who have tied their hopes to the frail wings of his poised but untried governance, do.

Time and the tides wait for no man, and he will be swept along on the backwash of world events and history just like any other mortal. It is how he manages to navigate the storms and heavy seas on the way that will mark his presence for the future.

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Saturday, January 17, 2009

Innocent of Malicious Intent

Six health officials in France have been cleared of malfeasance in the deaths of one hundred and seventeen people who died a horrible, untimely death because of a deadly pathology they were introduced to through the auspices of those same doctors. Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is a dreadful, insidious, and deadly disease which robs infected people of their physical functionality, then their cerebral function, leading to coma, and death.

As children, the hundred and seventeen people who died as a result of the ministrations of these physicians, were treated with growth hormones that were horribly contaminated. Those contaminated prions, over the course of many years caused the gradual onset of a form of what is better known as "mad cow disease", more familiar to the public after people in Britain, exposed to contaminated meat products from cows fed with brain matter and offal from ill animals, died horribly.

The hormones these children were infected with had been taken from the pituitary glands of human cadavers in the 1980s, using corpses from neurological and geriatric wards that had specialized in treating serious contagious diseases. How the potential to further infect others by using obviously contaminated materials from corpses could have been overlooked by these medical practitioners is mind-boggling in its lack of oversight.

The primary focus of offering medical treatment to ailing people, is to ensure that in the process the attending physician, in selecting a mode of treatment, a therapeutic protocol, after satisfying due diagnosis, would not result in harm to the patient. Within the Western world, medical practitioners sign on to an ancient term of reference, a pledge called the Hippocratic Oath, whose shorthand advice is "do no harm".

Hippocrates' axiom of initial intent for any responsible physician responding to the health needs of a patient made the doctor's obligation to his patient obvious: "As to diseases, make a habit of two things...to help, or at least, to do no harm." In other words, emphasizing the primary necessity of due diligence. To ensure that whatever trajectory the healing process undertaken, the prime focus was that harm be averted.

"For our children who died, for our dead husbands and wives, we cannot let this go unpunished" pledged the head of the French Association of Growth Hormone Victims. The Paris prosecutor in this case plans to appeal the verdict handed down for Fernand Dray, 86, former laboratory chief at the Pasteur Institute that purified the hormones; Marc Mollet, 84, of France's central hospital pharmacy, which turned them into medicine form; and pediatrician Dr. Elizabeth Mugnier, 59.

Louis Pasteur would turn over in his grave. It was his life-saving experiments in neutralizing harmful organisms through identifying the process whereby he demonstrated microorganisms evolve from other microorganisms - contaminating living creatures - that allowed medical science to successfully isolate and contain these deadly organisms. It would appear that familiarity with process, with cause and effect, puzzlingly resulted in due care being given short shrift in this case.

Another defendant in this notorious case, before he died, begged the victims' families for forgiveness. He was obviously aware that the neglect of the medical-health authorities in this miserable case in ensuring that their involvement in creating a safe and reliable product was not adequately safeguarded. French authorities, irrespective of the trial and its conclusion paid out damages to the families of each of the victims.

Grief is never assuaged by the awarding of funds in lieu of any other kind of recompense for such a monumental loss as a human life. But death is not a reversible health condition. Recognition of fault in inadequately analyzing the potential for damage in using contaminated materials, consigning the recipients to a a lethal degenerative brain disorder and then assigning an appropriate penalty, is society's way of giving closure to victims.

Denying responsibility for unpardonable actions resulting in untimely deaths serves the narrow interests of a cadre of professionals whose responsibility to the public was not followed to its needed conclusion. Taking the judicial decision not to hold these professionals to the basic standard of their profession based on the court's finding that those involved were not aware of the risk of infection through their prescribed treatment ignores the reality and gravity of professional responsibility.

Little wonder the families of the victims greeted the verdict with anger and astonishment, vowing to carry on in their search for justice and relief from the anguish of not being allowed to reach closure by the offending medical professionals not being held to account for their decisions and actions.

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Friday, January 16, 2009

No Problem, Have a Nice Day

Truly, the Vatican over-extends itself in informing and indeed, surprising those of us unaware of its deep heritage in forgiveness of one's sins through absolution. The deep and abiding kindness that is the foundation of Christianity is truly amazing. To be absolved of sins of vile commission, to no longer suffer the burden of absolute knowledge of responsibility for deeds ill done, must be a great relief to a great many.

Of course, as has been recently revealed by the Vatican - in its very recent attempt to persuade greater numbers of penitents to approach and be blessed - there are quite particular levels of sin. Some can be readily forgiven, others are so beastly in their atrocious commission that it takes a good deal more than a casual blessing to relieve the sinner of guilt.

The mechanisms of forgiveness that relate to the Apostolic Penitentiary, considered to be reflective of a "tribunal of conscience" have been in use by the Holy Roman Catholic church for the past eight centuries. No one would deny that represents an awfully long period of observance - and patiently loving forgiveness for those truly penitent of their sins.

The Apostolic Penitence, we are informed, represents as the Vatican's highest court. Brought to their patient attention are those acts, dreadful deeds so dire that only the Pope himself, the Good Father, the Shepherd of God and of Hope, may undertake to lead the sinner toward righteousness and ultimately, forgiveness, shedding the sinner's conscience of guilt.

And what, the curious among us enquires, represents a deed so grave that it must require, singularly, the intervention of the Holy Father to absolve the guilty? Why, for example, one who would, in their depravity, defile the Eucharist. Make light of the wafer and the wine, the body and the blood of the living Christ.

On the other hand, commit another kind of atrocity, say for example, murder - multiple murders - serial murder - genocide, and that's another thing altogether. For those expressing true humility and repentance, absolution is quite a bit closer at hand. A local bishop, or a priest may be tasked with the consoling task of hearing such a confession, and healing the troubled soul.

What a truly sensible dispensation of God's mercy. The utility of which was recognized by Pope Alexander II, and which he established in 1179, that good and wise man. So that should any think to pursue a crime so heinous as to blaspheme against the symbol of divinity, sacrifice and torment, only the intervention of a pope may save that malefactor from eternal damnation.

Commit homicide, triple homicides, and try out for genocide, and forgiveness is at hand. Makes sense, after all. We've seen or heard of just such loving forgiveness extended to repentant Nazis immediately post-WWII, when the Vatican extended its forgiveness for the slaughter of countless innocents, spiriting the forgiven offender to safety from prosecution by the courts of justice set up by the Allies.

Deploring, doubtless, the Nuremburg Trials sitting in temporal judgement against mass murderers - those who obediently, unquestioningly followed orders, and committed countless acts of inhumanity, exemplifying untold atrocities - and throughout the process holding the convicted to a different standard altogether.

Choices, responsibility, humanity and guilt; all in the eye of the beholder. Behold the deliberations of the Roman Catholic Church. All can be forgiven. Almost.

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Friends and Fans of Israel

They're everywhere, it seems, in every damp and dark nook and cranny, under rocks and slimy creek beds: up they pop, where you least and most expect them.

They're the fringe element of most respectable groups of protesters and they become the mainstay of those marching in solidarity against whatever it happens to be that Israel does at any given time, whether finally lashing back at those who attack it, or just doing its best to remain low-key, unnoticed, going about its business of behaving like a well-adjusted member of the international community.

The latest assaults on the country's reputation as the sole liberal democracy within the Middle East are taking place throughout Europe, Asia and North America. Possibly in Africa too, who knows? Protests, demonstrations, marches, they all have their utility when a core group comes together with the intention of singling out the State of Israel and her people, for pointed accusations edging right into slander.

The simple fact is, Israel can do nothing whatever without the world peering in her windows, condemningly.

It has become a useful substitute for anti-Semitism, to claim that one is righteously anti-Zionist, and that to express that opinion in whatever terms deemed necessary, politely or vilely, is to exempt one's intention from expressing that everpresent, but ungracious predilection toward hatred of Jews in a more general way.

Racism is unacceptable in most of today's societal politically-correct mores, deemed to be too raw, too discriminatory, too impolite. But anti-Zionism, now that's another story altogether.

Entirely justified by the brutality with which Israel zips up her borders, enclosing them with walls to safely encircle her population from atrocities. Atrocities to Jews, to the population of Israel, but somewhat less so to those who support the need to demonstrate to the Jewish state, time and again, that she is not welcome where she sits.

The "struggle" against "occupation" will continue. Israel remains an occupier by the very reality of her existence on land the Arab world claims for Islam. Palestinians will remain mortally aggrieved at the very idea of partition, and world opinion hovers protectively, over the perceived legitimacy of that aggrievement.

Some of the world. Canada, for example, remains the sole country that decided to cast its vote against the most recent United Nations condemnation of Israel for her defensive assault against the Gazan government dedicated to its destruction. European countries daintily abstained, as did Israel's great patron and defender, the United States.

Canada is my country, and for this I remain proud, although I don't need this affirmation of Israel's rightful place within the world community to remind me of my pride in my country.

In those demonstrations of anger against Israel for her long-overdue determination to defend herself against the violent assaults of Hamas, signs are hoisted aloft equating Israel with terrorism, fascism, apartheid. Whereas she is, in reality, the leading democracy within the international community whose population is daily terrorized by committed jihadists whose fascist declarations against her legitimacy are well known within a region that practises its own special version of apartheid.

These denunciatory parades of like-minded protesters chant demonizing phrases, and incite and provoke hatred against an ever-embattled nation encircled by countries whose suspicion and distrust of her renders her utterly vulnerable to the temper of the day. What is utterly amazing is that among members of various unions there are also present those affiliated with the Archdiocese of Montreal's Social Action Office.

Young thugs burn Israeli flags, "chanting burn, burn, Israel". A woman is seen on video screaming "Jewish child, you're going to f------ die, Hamas is coming for you".
Fully exploiting any opportunity good fortune situates within their communities to vent their hatred of the Jewish fact. Tender regards from the community.

When, just a few months before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, I searched among my friends and neighbours for someone to accompany me to a peace march in February in downtown Ottawa, no one was interested in my invitation. Then my Egyptian neighbour decided he would attend, after all. On that bitterly cold and windy day, we marched in a peace process, together, a motley crew of protesters.

Among whom were those who bore aloft signs denouncing Israel. Apropos of what, exactly...?

It hardly matters the occasion for a protest, somehow hatred-addled and spite-filled social troglodytes will mar the process by their hateful presence.

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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Nasty Little Charlatan

The Reverend Richard Dale - who operates the Dal-Grotto Mission - a self-sustaining and self-assertive messenger of God, whose life-work it is to defraud vulnerable, gullible people anxious to receive his blessings and promises of a better future for themselves and their loved ones is a rum one. How is it, one can only wonder, that anyone could be so deviously and patently crooked, preying on the fears and aspirations of so many people?

On the other hand, how can it be possible that so many vulnerable and trusting people can exist, turning their money over to the absurd promises of a fraudulent faux-preacher, enabling him through their eager complicity to deprive them of their wherewithal? It's certainly impressive, in a most depressing manner, that such people can exist and somehow manage to get through life without doing even more damage to themselves.

As for the Reverend Dale, he appears to have been so enamoured of himself as one singularly recognized and blessed by God, one whose healing propensities were so desperately sought out by so many willing to allow themselves to be duped that he thought he could get away with anything. Seems he came up against a woman who wasn't too eager to receive his sexual advances, and when he persisted, she launched a complaint of sexual assault.

Now he's in trouble, out on bail. No matter, even if the charges stick - and they likely will - and he is brought to justice, his reputation temporarily besmirched, people will forgive and forget; they always do, in their pathetic need to trust and believe someone with the charismatic promise and presentation that this man has perfected.

People, unable to cope with the diagnoses of disease and illness, seek his assistance. He places his healing hands upon them and all is well. He may or may not recommend that they no longer seek medical help. Instead offering to sell them his herbals, right at hand, beside the prayer cards. While they're at it, they can toss a Loonie into a wishing well and if they're really good all their problems will disappear.

In his white robe and distinguished bearing as a man of God, clients flock to his compound. They obediently sign a guest sheet and take a number, awaiting their turn in the long line-ups of supplicants. The good Reverend charges nothing whatever for the grace of his gentle administrations. Touching those anxious people, awaiting the miracle he will most surely deliver, he tells them they will be healed.

There is an 'offering' basket sitting in full view on the desk he sits at, ostentatiously filled to the brim with cash, deposited there by grateful clients. He charges nothing for his services, but who, in their gratitude, would be so ungracious as to leave without depositing a symbol of their gratitude?

The Reverend emphasises that, just like Jesus the Healer, he too never asks for remuneration. His skills know no bounds. He is capable of extending his healing capabilities to those for whom distance from his Mission in Eganville, Ontario, presents a problem. No problem: send along a photograph, with identifying name, and nature of distress or illness and all will be solved.

As for the charge of sexual assault, that too will be solved, after his court appearance, in due course.

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Drear Repugnance Revisited

Bullying is a problem visited and re-visited continually within society. It is practised by children, by adults, by governments, by corporations, by countries. Intimidation of others whose background, culture, ethnicity, ideology, customs, values, religion or agenda does not reflect one's own has a distinguished history. It is usually the vulnerable who are targeted, minorities, those least able to fend for themselves.

In politics an adversarial system often succumbs to the recognized practicality of uncivil bullying. Governments whose territorial aspirations encourage them to launch an offensive against another nation are simply expanding on the graceless human propensity to bully, to use force and violence to enable themselves to reach a goal. There are always victims, people whose lives are impacted, and who, in fact, forfeit their lives, if not their homes and belongings.

In the case of children in a schoolyard setting - for bullying starts at an early age as a social phenomenon where sides are taken, and cliques formed and a target identified for the very special attention meted out to those who present as somehow different, exotic in nature, not readily assimilable into the greater collective - it presents as rejection and loneliness. The result is a hapless victim, tears, a bloody nose, and a destroyed psyche.

But there are worse scenarios than those. Moving from an elementary school atmosphere to older children, those in secondary school, or institutes of higher education the consequences can be infinitely more dire. When the bullied, the outcasts, the social misfits, take such utter umbrage in their hurt that they seek revenge. As their humanity has been denied, they deny their own humanity by launching an armed outrage.

And then there are instances such as that which occurred in Victoria, B.C. in 1997; the murder of a young girl by other young people. A teen whose presence was barely tolerated when it wasn't being shunned, who despite that struggled for acceptance by her social peers, desperately wanting to be one of them, despite their contempt for her. Fourteen-year-old Reena Virk was lured by a group of her schoolmates to a secluded rural area for a party.

There she was beaten by a group of girls, her teenage peers, all of whom disdained her, the awkward child of immigrants, so dreadfully desirous of acceptance, prepared to accept any humiliation, if she were only eventually accepted. She was taunted, punched and kicked. Wounded psychically and physically, she made her way over a bridge, where two of the teens, Warren Glowatski and Kelly Ellard, pulled her under the structure, beat her again, then drowned her.

The young man, 16 at the time, was convicted of second-degree murder and served eight years in prison. Six teenage girls were convicted of assault. And Kelly Ellard, convicted also of second-degree murder in 2000, she yet faced a second trial on appeal resulting in a hung jury in 2004. She was found guilty after her third trial in 2005, sentenced to seven years in prison.

Yet granted a new trial when the B.C. Court of Appeal overturned the conviction. Yesterday, however, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled to permit the Crown to appeal the fourth murder trial. Justice struggles against appeals to the contrary.

But it will be done.

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EnCana On Alert

The several hundred people who live around Tomslake in northeastern British Columbia, and those living in Dawson Creek are not fond of the presence of energy giant EnCana in their neighbourhood. They have protested against the presence of the oil and gas wells despoiling their environment, but know they are battling a powerful company. Their protest group, Citizens for Responsible Energy Development in the Peace is, on the other hand, not very popular with EnCana.

But it is the wellheads and the sour gas pipes owned by EnCana that have had a hugely deleterious impact on the lives of the residents of these communities, and they have no intention of halting their voices raised in opposition to the oil and gas company's presence. Tomslake is located about 28 kilometres south of Dawson Creek. And in October of 2007 it was discovered that under a pipeline south of the hamlet an explosion had occurred, creating a two-metre crater.

Soon afterward another bomb was found to be responsible for a cracked pipeline, creating a small gas leak. And then a third wellhead was targeted and began leaking later that same month. Followed, some months later, by a fourth bomb which was powerful enough to blast apart a shed wall housing a sour gas pipe. That shed was located directly across the road from a family home, housing two small children.

The community is fearful on two fronts; the presence of the despised wellheads and sour gas pipes, and the potential for an explosion to trigger a fatal gas leak.

The RCMP is on the alert for someone who has a grudge and is acting upon it, in this criminal manner. The fact, needless to say, that a huge oil and gas conglomerate has impacted deleteriously on the lives of hundreds of people, hitting them directly where they live, poisoning their atmosphere, is not considered to be criminal, simply a fact of modern life. And modern life is utterly dependent on the ongoing extraction of fossil fuels.

The people of Dawson Creek and Tomslake are unfortunate casualties of energy extraction, of commodities that the world is severely addicted to. No one in the two communities is aware of who the bombers might possibly be, other than to guess that it is someone radically disaffected by the energy company's presence. Someone dedicated to the environment, not to the extraction of fossil fuels.

But, they claim, although they're under deep suspicion and the RCMP keep enquiring, security keeping a tight monitoring schedule on the inhabitants, it's not they who are responsible.

What an utter misery; living in their secluded Eden, only to have it turned, in the last decade, into an atmosphere of uncertain fear, the imposition of health and safety problems, and now under deep suspicion of domestic terrorism. When, in fact, the domestic scene has been dominated by the deep-seated terror of health and safety impacts due to the presence of an extracted substance that imperils the lifestyles of residents.

The only positive aspect of the situation is that the country is now alert to a problem that the industry and government would far prefer be kept to a restrained silence. Regardless of the identity of the vigilante bomber.

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Sunday, January 11, 2009

Love and Marriage

Western societies do not condone men marrying more than one woman at a time. Serial marriages are just fine; one at a time, thank you very much. Plural marriages are simply seen as rather unseemly. Fairly unworkable too, one might imagine. Although in times long past the phenomenon of polygamy was fairly common, it might have made a lot more sense, then. A man of wealth could afford to support more than one wife and the children that resulted from a bevy of wives.

Concubinage too was in vogue then, and harems, as well. For the man of means, that is. Fair to women? Likely the temper of the times encouraged women to consider themselves fortunate that an aristocrat, a rich man, took them under his patronage, fed and clothed them, gave them what was no doubt then considered to be luxurious appointments and apartments. Not that that very thing doesn't happen in modern society.

Muslims are permitted to have more than one wife, although that temptation is tempered by the admonition that they may do so only if they have the material wealth to ensure the well-being of those dependents. One can only wonder what women may feel, how they adapt, whether the little green worm of jealousy intrudes within these relationships, whether they're resentful, bored and unhappy.

It is distinctly unlawful in most societies of the West for men to marry more than one wife; it's called bigamy and one who so indulges is prosecutable by laws set in place to ensure these social disgraces don't occur. Although they do erupt from time to time, and scandal sets in just as the law asserts itself to fine and imprison those who have the audacity to tolerate the wrath of a wife betrayed.

On the other hand, while the practise of polygamy seems distasteful to most people other than practising fundamental Muslims, it would appear, on the evidence available through the religious community near Creston, British Columbia, in the province's deep interior, that many women who have been married to a single man appear to be comfortable with their situation.

All is obviously not sweetness and light, however. In these ultra-'religious' communities it is generally older men who have the opportunity to select multiple wives, many of them very young women, occasionally mere girls, from the community. While the young men of the communities are encouraged, strenuously, to leave the commune, and their homes, lest their presence tempt young women bespoken as additional wives for old men.

The presence in Canada of communities like Bountiful have always made the various levels of government uneasy, but reluctant to enforce the law. Set in remote areas, practising their ideas of religious conviction - which do appear to the cynical eye to be tailor-made for lascivious old men, eager to enjoy a bevy of young women under their control, under the guise of religious entitlement - no one has been too eager to intervene.

It's fairly well understood that within the immigrant Muslim communities in Canada's large cities there are secretive practising polygamists; Muslim men who have taken multiple wives; in many instances unable to support them, reliant on welfare to do that for them. Through subterfuge municipal agents are kept in the dark about these women's - and their children's - husbands and fathers.

Government authorities have finally taken courage in hand to arrest two of the leaders of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints from Bountiful, charging them with polygamy; Winston Blackmore, 52, and James Oler, 44. Bountiful has a population of one thousand, a branch within Canada of the American Church. Which itself has seen its share of notoriety and prosecution of its leader.

Some of the women who have left Bountiful have complained to the authorities about the physical and emotional abuse they suffered on that farming and logging compound, and spoken about the forcible marriage of young girls to older men. They claim that the children of Bountiful do not have the opportunity to be properly educated, nor encouragement to pursue higher education or professions.

It's a complex situation. Feminist academics have studied and written about the situation on the commune and come to the conclusion that the women are not exploited, but rather willing participants in that very peculiar and particular social contract. "Bountiful's women are more diverse, less unaware than you might expect", according to McGill University assistant professor of law, Angela Campbell.

"This I learned from travelling to their community to conduct interviews with the women who live there." Brainwashed, perhaps? Or just simply relaxed and comfortable with their situation in life, and that of their children? Who's to say, in fact, whether that kind of arrangement isn't less appropriate for society than serial marriages of temporary convenience.

Within normal marriages between consenting partners, relations so very often go awry, and the children are left with one parent and great insecurity, all too often mired in poverty, when the marriages are sundered. Men and women habitually abuse one another in normal marriage situations. Conventional marriages don't necessarily offer security to women and children.

It's a tough call. All things considered, though, there are good and practical reasons to recognize societal convention in traditional one-man, one-woman marriages. Men can present as predatory creatures when it comes to women and sex, and the more the merrier, all too often. The situation in Bountiful appears to be just one of those man-made creations to satisfy the egos and lust of certain men.

Do away with it.

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Saturday, January 10, 2009

The World Their Oyster

What need might there be for an ethnic, social, traditional-cultural, religious group, so long dispersed from their historic geography as a vast diaspora, to return to their geographic heritage, if their safety and security and respect for the integrity of their values were assured wherever they lived throughout the world?

None, ostensibly. Unfortunately, however, reality has proven otherwise, since wherever Jews have lived throughout the several millennia since their violent uprooting from the Middle East, they have been set aside, hounded and persecuted as inferior, undesirables, representing as a social blight on the societies they have joined.

Through pogroms and ghetto-imposed social restrictions, denied the right to equality and citizenship, to land-ownership and access to higher education and security, they have managed to survive the impossible odds arrayed against them. During their travails they recalled their historical time of nationhood, of autonomy, of security within their indigenous communities in the Middle East.

During the times of their deepest, darkest persecution, the community endured, dreaming of a return to Zion. "Next year in Jerusalem" went the refrain. That was the hope of the pious, the religiously devout, the rabbis and the learned religious-academic community of Jewry, flung across the Globe.

And then there were all the others, the vast majority that put down roots in countries far and wide, who finally experienced some modern degree of comfort in a sense of belonging, of acceptance and citizenship, despite the incendiary phoenix of anti-Semitism. In Germany, for example, Jews became more German than the Germans. Identifying first and foremost as German, incidentally as Jews.

They absorbed the prevailing culture, took pride in their genteel regard for the arts and sciences; excelled at both, and considered themselves to be faithful to the country in which they resided. Volunteering to serve in the German military. Gaining influence as bankers, lawyers, in the news media, as practising musicians of outstanding performance calibre and acclaim.

Nothing saved them from the vicious predations of Nazi anti-Semitism. Those Jews whose heritage had been so dissolved into their nationality that they were hardly distinguishable as ethnic Jews, those whose grandparents only were Jewish, those who were secular, those who were highly-placed as members of the social or financial elite, all were captured and gathered into the net of fascist-determined destruction.

Yet it is within the present-day milieu in the diaspora of young Jewish men and women, content and comfortable with their positions as academics, intellectuals and political advisers that criticism of Israel resounds most critically. Young Jewish writers, representing progressive think-tanks, who know no life but that of privilege and accomplishment, who cannot visualize a history that has been so deadly for Jews.

They cannot conceive of a spreading evil so ineffable that the mind has difficulty constructing a replica of the extent to which Jew haters would plan to execute a mass murder of such mastery in the intricate execution of the master plan that they would succeed in obliterating six million men, women and children from the face of the earth. What they did not experience cannot possibly impact upon their consciousness.

They thrive in the blessed obliviousness of youth for whom all is possible. And for whom disaster is not an option in their lives. Lives that have been uninterrupted in their steady progress toward success. Lives that could not conceivably become complicated by an ill-conceived strategy of genocide. A political-social strategy that would absorb the thought and work of countless people dedicated to that singular cause.

People just like anyone else; ordinary citizens whose humanitarian impulses, concern for others, kindness and generosity, compassion for neighbours would all be suborned by a relentless campaign of hateful propaganda painting Jews as disgusting sub-humans with soul-destroying traits of greed and subversion, better disposed of than permitted to ruin society. The banality of evil was permitted to prevail.

So it is that within North America and Europe, young Jewish men and women, caught up in the general expression of outrage against the decision of the State of Israel to finally take up the cudgel of self-defence against a committed Islamist army of hate-mongers and Jew-killers see fit to denounce and decry the government of Israel and its military as offensively immoral in their response to bloodily violent existential attacks.

The very armies of jihadist terror that threaten unceasingly, incessantly, to destroy the State of Israel - and with it the millions of Jews who have found haven there; roughly equivalent in numbers to those who perished in the Holocaust - to effect their own modern version of a genocide, receive validation in their commitment by the children of the children of Holocaust-surviving Jewish populations.

From the righteously-moderate young Jewish women who invaded the Israeli consulate in Toronto, to the Jews who march in solidarity with Muslims in decrying the 'disproportionality' of Israeli military response against jihadist bombing goads, to the young Jewish progressives who disown the Jewish state's resolve to defend itself, we see ignorant disdain for the experience of history and the history of experience.

Those threatened with imminent genocide being accused of practising genocide. By the children of those who managed to escape genocide. How strangely pernicious.

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