Ruminations

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

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Last Laugh

A resident of a Swedish coastal town Skelleftea, Curt Degerman, was considered an eccentric for forty years. Townspeople were accustomed to seeing him with his old bicycle, cycling along the streets of the town, searching in waste bins to secure tossed-out tin cans. The empty containers he rescued from the town's garbage dump were stuffed into bags he had tied on the handlebars of his bicycle.

As an eccentric it can be assumed that no one thought it particularly odd that he would often be seen in the town's library. Where he appeared to be especially enthralled by daily newspapers' financial pages. The man was obviously an early environmentalist, and concomitantly a budding capitalist. For he regularly hauled his cache of empty tins to recycling depots, receiving small amounts of cash for his trade-ins.

And those modest cash earnings? Well, it would appear that "Tin-Can Curt" was a financial genius in disguise. This man traded on international markets with his modest earnings elicited from searching out scrap metal and selling it for meagre profit. The meagre coinage gradually turned into lavish earnings on his investments over the four decades he spent trash-diving and investing.

At his death it was discovered that Mr. Degerman had managed to amass a fortune of over $1.7-million. He had a rented safety deposit box which turned out to contain 124 gold bars. Not bad for a scrap collector. Two of Mr. Degerman's cousins have been busy entertaining the locals through their legal battle over his estate.

The matter has now been settled, according to a court order. A bit of devilish wickedness, to have died intestate with the understanding that with the revelation of his fortune his two remaining relatives would be at odds against one another ... ?

Did he overlook the fact that he could have been even more mischievous had he left his fortune in support of orphan seagulls?

Labels: ,

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Free Speech U.S.-Style

The truly abominable, fanatical Christian fundamentalist who preaches hate at Westboro Baptist Church, in Kansas, the Reverend Fred Phelps has an ally in the U.S. Constitution which protects his right to free speech.

Well, that's the price of offering freedoms of conscience, association, speech, and what have you. When the enthusiastic hell-fire damnings of one such as the Reverend Phelps has a conscience not quite like anyone else's, and attracts to him the support of other self-righteous, licentious-loathing Christians, they too can partake of civil rights.

That they are hatefully, monstrously evilly harmful in their predations on others does not, perforce, limit their activities, even when they go beyond the pale. As when they prepare to gather at the funerals of fallen soldiers, for example, or murdered gays, to proclaim that they have met their just end, and Satan will greet them, not Gabriel.

Canada has its Human Rights Commissions pretending to be legal entities, which can be called upon to protect the 'human rights' or hurt feelings or perceptions of bias of those who perceive they have been uncivilly insulted.

The United States has its Court of Appeals, and the Court of Fourth Circuit has rendered its verdict of what is appropriate under free speech law in producing a peculiar judgement concluding their assessment of what constitutes justice under America's free speech laws.

The grieving father of a combat soldier who died in Iraq has been ordered to pay appeal costs in the sum of $16,510.80 to Reverend Phelps.

Previously the U.S. Supreme Court had agreed to rule on whether American free speech laws give Reverend Phelps the right to picket funerals. He has evidently been found to be protected under those same laws. And there is nothing to protect families burying loved ones from the vicious imprecations and slanders of fundamentalist dooms-day Christians like the Reverend.

Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder, all of 20 years of age when he was killed in combat in March 2006, had his funeral ceremony in Maryland desecrated by the Reverend Phelps and his outlandishly religious zealots. His understandably upset father filed a lawsuit in federal court claiming invasion of privacy and intention to cause emotional distress.

Despite the truth of those assertions, and the grievous psychological harm done Matthew Snyder's family following hard on his untimely death, the reality is that the guaranteed exercise of free speech trumps anyone's right to respect for the grieving, no matter the occasion.

A hard price to pay for a freedom held dear, one not readily absorbed.

Labels: , ,

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Bane of Students' Existence

The kind of education that children today receive at the elementary school level seems quite far advanced beyond what was taught several generations ago. It is quite simply amazing what today's generation of young children are expected to absorb, from world affairs to advanced mathematics. At least it seems like advanced mathematics, when perused by someone whose early education was not all that long in the past.

So how do busy parents, exhausted after a long day at work, then focusing on their children's needs, even begin to cope with helping the kids with homework that seems difficult enough to give them a headache, never mind the young ones? Patience grows thin and tempers no doubt flare, even when the parent understands the process and aids the kids, because homework has become an onerous add-on.

Ensuring that young students understand that these homework assignments are meant to be completed at a due date, and meant to be done well, does instill a sense of personal discipline that will be of use to them throughout their lives. But perhaps the occasional work assignment, not everyday homework could substitute for that discipline process, leaving young kids free to enjoy a few untrammeled hours after school is out.

One reads, on occasion, of parents becoming totally fed up with the demands of additional time spent mentoring their children with their homework. And those demands, if there happen to be more than one or two children in a household, can be suffocating to time-strapped adults. All the more so with the prevalence of single-parent families. So does the regular daily assigning of homework function to improve a child's learning abilities?

Apparently not, according to a report recently released under the imprimatur of the Conseil superieur de l'education in Quebec that advises the provincial government. That report advised that homework assignments for elementary school students be reconsidered, and perhaps even done away with. The 124-page report makes note of a paucity of time in families making for children left adrift to their own devices in completing homework.

Scientific studies, the report points out, have not demonstrated a definitive link between the assignment of daily homework and future academic success of elementary school students. Educators, parents and community groups should re-focus on student needs. One mother who became so disgusted with time-compression and the resulting irritation quotient she would not permit her children to do assigned homework.

And although the children's teachers complained that she was short-changing her children, their marks on report cards reflecting her children's school performance were not at all deleteriously impacted. There is a distinct lack of evidence that assigning homework has any purpose other than to burden children with unnecessary distractions throughout their early learning years, when they should be free once school hours are done, to be themselves.

The school-place formula that includes special class assignments and daily homework assignments is due for a re-think, quite obviously. One can be proud of the fact that children struggle and learn to do their best in handing in homework they've worked on the night before, and do this without undue prompting. But is it really necessary?

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Smug Conformity

It was 'lights out!' everywhere on Saturday night. Instructive to glance outside the house to fleetingly determine who among your neighbours are the meek and the mild, the conformists, those unwilling to demonstrate their lack of awareness, of sensitivity, of respect for the environment and environmentalists. Why, even Parliament Hill demonstrated its delicate awareness of Earth Hour.

If our politicians can invest in that little tip of the hat to climate change, then why not the SUV-and van-driving neighbours? You know, the ones that cried foul when the new by-laws came into effect that pesticides and herbicides could no longer be used legally for the beautification of their lawns and gardens? The same people that can't be bothered with a backyard composter to diminish the amount of garbage they send to the dump?

The people who use power washers to clean down their driveways? Who wash their vehicles assiduously on a weekly basis? Who could never conceive of the possibility of washing a sinkful of dishes by hand? Who, regardless of the weather, turn their sprinklers on in the summer lest their green lawns languish and turn brown? They're the ones too that turn up their house heat in the winter so they can comfortably wear shorts.

But come the visibility of a bright light in an unheeding household and that's not where they're at. The Earth Hour chortles its success in four thousand cities and towns across 88 countries where, they claim, "hundreds of millions of people" switch off their lights for an hour. That's a wonderful solution to the bugbear of global warming - sorry, climate change.

If the idea is to make people think about the energy we use and abuse, is this the solution?

Labels: ,

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Glorifying War

It's doubtful whether most countries think highly of war as a mechanism for dispute-settlement. War is a human condition of last resort. It is engaged upon when all other human endeavours to satisfy or ameliorate unacceptable conditions impacting deleteriously on human beings and their states have failed. War stands as the most visible, debased human activity demonstrating our inability to engage one another in rational debate and reach reasonable conclusions.

War is a dreadful anomaly on the human condition of nature's imperative to survive as an entity, a family, a society, a nation. No right-thinking, self-respecting, humanely-empathetic individual or governing council choose to wage war. Defensive wars, however, do become a necessity. And there is an international recognition that any country has the legal right to defend itself from other countries wishing to do it harm, to murder and to maim its citizens, to wrest control of the country and its resources from its rightful stewards.

Countries like Canada, recognizing the need to establish order and good governance not only within its borders but internationally, lend themselves to attempting to pacify situations, as mentors and protectors, sending troops to assist to restoring order in the event of natural disasters, and peace-keepers in the event of civil war. Canada also sends its military to other countries when the international coalition of which it is a part establishes a need to enter another country with military, occupational intent.

Ordinary Canadian citizens respect the work of the Canadian military. They come to our aid wen they are dispatched to assist in provinces and municipalities that have undergone catastrophic events. They are honoured and respected when they heed the call of duty to represent this country and its interests through being stationed abroad facing real and present dangers. They do the work that protects us as well as other countries from tyrannical oppression.

To have a cadre of professors at the University of Regina protest a national scholarship program to advance the educational needs of children of soldiers who have died in the line of duty goes beyond the pale of intelligent comprehension. "We think this program is a glorification of Canadian imperialism in Afghanistan" according to one of 16 professors who drafted an open letter to their university president.

Project Hero is a much-needed program meant to provide financial aid for children of Canadian Forces personnel who have died while serving in an active mission. Whether that mission is one of aiding a country's population that has undergone a serious natural disaster, or helping to combat a violent insurgency in another country, each is a legitimate need being fulfilled on the part of the Canadian military, reflecting on all Canadians.

Universities who establish terms and conditions of scholarships for children of military personnel who have died serving their country and its people, are to be applauded in their recognition that these young people deserve this support through their growing lives. We owe them no less. Those academics at University of Regina should be ashamed of themselves.

Their university is, and so are most Canadians.

Labels: , ,

Friday, March 26, 2010

Bloody Idiocy

Manor primary school in Melksham Wiltshire, has a truly peculiar idea of how best to care for the young children in its care.

A five year old student climbed a tree on the school grounds, and once up the tree he obviously could not conceive of how to descend on his own. The school has a truly idiotic policy that if a child climbs a tree he will not be helped down, but rather be placed under 'observation'. On the theory, perhaps, that he will eventually figure out how to clamber down on his own, or he would be miraculously lowered by some higher power.

A woman who was herself the mother of a young child, albeit not one who attended that particular school, saw the boy's plight. She entered the school grounds and helped the child down from the tree. The little boy had been stuck in the tree for 45 minutes. Perhaps the school authorities felt that might represent a kind of disciplinary punishment to cure the boy of his adventurous spirit.

The helpful woman passerby, after coaxing the boy off the tree, delivered him to the school building.

She might possibly have been anticipating that her good-spirited helpfulness would be appreciated and she would be thanked, and be on her way. Such was not the case. For the fact of the matter was, according to the school, the boy was being "observed" by teachers within the building, with instructions not to intervene, should the child therefore become distracted and happen to fall. Hmmm.

The woman later received letters from the Manor primary school, not thanking her, but instead reprimanding her for entering the school grounds without permission. A community support officer also visited her. "I am a mother myself and I find it a bit ridiculous that the school's policy is to leave a child up a tree."

Ah, but this is the school policy, one which prevents staff from going to the aid of children who have climbed trees. "The only danger as far as the school was concerned was that a stranger came onto the premises and talked to the child, who was being observed." This statement from a school spokesperson.

But bloody idiocy can take place anywhere. And right here in Canada, an Edmonton radio host has been informed he could be charged with trespassing and face a fine for daring to enter private property without permission. Evidently a peahen had escaped from its owner. It was on the loose for days, roosting on the rooftops of an Edmonton neighbourhood.

The radio host had managed to secure the bird. "It was pretty calm. We were holding it for awhile, petting it to make sure it wasn't too scared. We knew we had to get it down. We're animal lovers, and we knew it didn't have many chances left", he explained. Nevertheless, Dylan Wowchuk, from The Bounce radio station, faces a $280 fine.

Common sense and a modicum of intelligence appears to be absent from the skill set of too many people; good for light comic relief, but irritatingly, spectacularly stupid.

Labels: ,

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Fair Representation

Within Israel there is more than enough dissent on whatever government policy happens to be at any given time that the country hardly has time to rest between staving off attacks from abroad and those from within. Just as international ultra-left-wing groups find fault with Israel, claiming the country to be racist, apartheid, oppressively oblivious to the plight of the Palestinians, so too do groups within the country fault their government.

There are so many Israeli coalitions faulting the government for its lack of sensitivity to the needs of Palestinians, little wonder the government might feel beleaguered. But then, this is Israel, and the Jews who make it their home are a fractious, often irrational, irritable, curmudgeonly group. The ultra-orthodox make their demands for exceptional recognition, the secular try to ignore them and get on with their lives and in between they get on one another's nerves.

Of course, there are innumerable factions within the two larger ideological/religious separations and all those disparate groups feel equally entitled, all adding to social disequilibrium and resentment of one another. But it is the commitment of Jewish Israeli groups whose dedication to protecting the civil and human-rights entitlements of the country's Arab-Israeli citizens that provides a picture distinct from any situation existing elsewhere in the Middle East.

The Coalition Against Racism, whose interest is primarily in promoting equality between the two isolations within the country; Jews and Arabs, claim that legislation which has been introduced in the Knesset is purposeful to de-legitimizing the country's Arab citizens by decreasing their civil rights. They identified a number of bills which they defined as racist in nature, presented to the Knesset.

Their report, released on the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, deplores laws enacted which they claim discriminate against Arab citizens. And claim they are on the increase. "There has never been a Knesset as active in proposing discriminating and racist legislation against the country's Arab citizens", according to the report's authors.

At the very time of the release of this report the Cabinet approved the largest economic development plan for the Arab sector in the nation's history. With this economic development plan the Government of Israel will address serious housing shortages in Arab communities.

Funding for the scheme also includes plans to address Arab sector unemployment. And includes as well funding for public day care facilities in Arab towns where only 18% of women are employed outside the home. There will also be funding allocated to the improvement of public transportation. Doesn't quite sound like neglect.

But the report implicates Members of the Knesset with right-wing agendas proposing laws to bypass Israeli Supreme Court laws. Some MKs openly seek the expulsion of the country's Arab population. Little wonder, in a country where the sizeable minority with its own elected MKs is belligerently averse to even recognizing allegiance to Israel, and from among whose members radicals espouse violence and occasionally run murderously amok.

One quaintly-observed bit of claimed discrimination is that citizens who serve in the army or do national service are offered benefits, but Arab-Israelis, who do not serve in those capacities receive no benefits. Amazing. And quite unlike Israeli Kurds who do serve in the army.

True, there is one seemingly draconian bill that would have the effect of imprisoning anyone who publishes or utters something that would effectively "bring contempt upon or discomfort to the country." That would effectively violate the concept of free speech, discomfiting as free speech is at times, even within the Knesset when Arab MKs denounce the country that has given them the right to represent their constituents' interests.

Another seeks to change all street names in Israel to "Hebrew names". A bill as well that identifies who can purchase land. And this no-brainer: that state funding for events marking Israel's celebratory independence as a day of mourning, a Nakba bill be cut off. Considered to be discriminatory; incredible. The state expected to pay for a day of mourning for Arab-Israelis while all other Israelis celebrate the state's independence.

Another report points out that there are a mere sixteen, out of thousands of government employees in the Negev representing Bedouin, Arab or Circassian communities, in conflict with a government decision that by 2012 at least 10% of national employees represent minority populations.

Given the country's split personality, competing interests, and Arab intransigence, balancing that item seems the least of its problems.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Deviant, Defiant Catholicism

Isn't this precisely what has infuriated the Irish victims of Roman Catholic priests' sexual abuse over the years of the children in their care?

When it was made abundantly clear that compassion was restricted for the poor unfortunate celibate priests, and their indiscretions hurriedly covered up, as parishioners were hushed, not to embarrass the Church. And the transgressor was spirited to another parish, then another, leaving behind him the broken souls of children deprived of their faith and the innocence of their youth.

Faith not only in the Church they had been brought up to trust and obey, but in the holy figures which were there to protect them, and the silently and so highly-respected priests whose word was the Law of God. Lost faith in their lost childhoods, their misplaced trust that their parents too would protect them from evil, those same parents who placed the care of their children to the ministrations of priests with their formidable entitlements.

One doesn't have to go to Ireland, to Germany, to Austria, to Switzerland, to observe first-hand the laxity of the church hierarchy in their casual dismissal of the vicious damage done to survivors of child molesters, pederasts clothed in priestly garb. Right here in Ottawa manifestations of that same light disregard for the emotional upheaval the faithful abused are submitted to takes place, as well.

When a highly-placed Church authority figure whose obsession with children as sexual objects of desire, one whose guilt in the possession of child pornography is uncontested - when as Bishop of St.George's, Newfoundland, the now-disgraced Raymond Lahey, faces trial in 2011 on criminal charges of possession of child pornography, living for the while in the tender care of his Catholic brethren in Ottawa - gets somewhat of a free pass.

An introductory letter for a series of publications titled We are Strong Together, used in Grades 7, 8 and 9 Catholic instruction curricula - written by then-Bishop of Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Raymond Lahey - is considered to be of lasting value as an instructive letter of the faith and Catholic academics to be included for young Catholic students in schools in the Ottawa and Eastern Ontario Catholic school boards.

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, responsible for the publication of those books, did issue to dioceses across the country stickers which they could use to cover the page with the letter under the signature of Raymond Lahey, but the Ontario and Eastern Ontario Catholic school boards obviously consider this to be an unrequired subterfuge, themselves assessing the message as enduringly valuable.

Assistant to Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast claims the letter to be so well written its content was too valuable to be lost, and simply his signature was not sufficient to detract from the messages inherent in the books' intent, to deepen the faith of young Catholics in God. What kind of mixed message do they think they're providing for impressionable children? Young people are not completely unaware of what occurs of a sensational nature that appends to their Church's reputation.

They will understand that the deeply degraded behaviour of Raymond Lahey in betraying the faith and trust of the young under his care, does not matter all that much to the Church. The harm he has done to the lives of young parishioners in Nova Scotia is irrelevant to the Church hierarchy; children's feelings, their emotional and physical debasement is irrelevant to the work of the Church.

That while there is a hushed understanding for the human fallibility of a fallible human being, there is scant left over to be lavished on the victims. How this will work to "deepen a young Catholic's faith in God", as Father Joseph Muldoon contends, is questionable. It would represent to the young who use these instructive books, a salient instruction in the depths of unsurpassed hypocrisy.

Exemplified by their Church authorities. Who obviously have little regard for the sensibilities of the young, other than as slates to be filled with Churchly dogma. While the most basic of human rights have been transgressed under their tutelage and imprimatur and they simply refuse to take ownership and responsibility for that failure.

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Juvenile Delinquent Celebrity

Imagine, the existence of a feral teenager. Glamorous, isn't it? Many apparently think so, he's reputed to have a 22,000 fan club on Facebook. "Ur awsome", his adoring public note. This is no cute little kid, he stands 6-foot-5 and because he forages he's likely always hungry. But no matter, he just breaks into private places to steal whatever he wants, or orders pizza delivered to the edge of a wood. Surreal? Kind of.

Just another abandoned kid; obviously the parenting he enjoyed left something to be desired. He has become skilled at evasion over the years, having managed to escape from a halfway house in 2008 where he was ensconced for a 3-year sentence related to burglaries he invested his time in. Since then he has roamed across the U.S. Pacific Northwest. And right into Canada, which he also treated to some of his burglary triumphs.

The police in Island County, Washington, where he was brought up, were very busy attempting to cope with this young man's irresistible urges to act out from the time he was all of eleven years of age, with one incident after another. The sheriff there is not impressed with the celebratory notoriety he enjoys among well-wishers and admirers. "He is an adult felon! I will not have him made into some kind of folk hero."

Isn't that an impudent way to describe a potential Hollywood star? Evidently movie producers, intrigued by this kid's exploits and the rings he's run around law enforcement are interested in making a deal with him; they sense a rising new star in the Hollywood firmament. They'll even pay his legal fees if he turns himself in.

It is, however, an issue he doesn't seem quite interested in. He's cheeky enough to have left a needling note behind one of his burglaries, with the legend "C-Ya!" from the Barefoot Bandit. So named for his proclivity to go about barefoot. Colton Harris-Moore, the Barefoot Bandit, stands accused of no fewer than 50 burglaries. But law enforcement agents have thus far been unable to corner him.

Meanwhile, he has made off with light planes and vehicles, each of which he uses, then abandons. Speculation has it that he taught himself how to fly planes studying manuals, and on-line how-to, so he's able to take off in the planes and fly them, but landing presents as a bit of a difficulty. He hot-wires the planes, isn't that clever of him?

Each of these incidents presents as a taunt to those out looking to apprehend him. Manhunts have been spectacularly unsuccessful; he just seems to vanish into thin air. He breaks into stores during off hours, takes what he wants, then vandalizes the place. Joyriding in stolen vehicles, he's just having himself a fine old adventure. Fodder for an autobiography at some future time?

This fugitive from justice is experiencing adventure writ large in the minds of juveniles who eschew normal societal values. And his mother? "I hope to hell he stole those airplanes. I would be so proud", she told an Associated Press reporter. Unsurprisingly, neighbours of the family claim he experienced a difficult childhood at a trailer park in Camano Island, Washington.

Labels: ,

Monday, March 22, 2010

Phony Pulchritude

Disney sets the rules. Family entertainment must be authentic, wholesome, natural, and amusing, above all. Formulaic? It works. With one blockbuster after another, pleasing both to adults and to their children. Pleasing, immensely so, to the bottom line. Success just goes on breeding success. Why throw away that wonderful recipe, after all?

And Disney has no plan to do anything remotely like that.

Casting for the next Pirates of the Caribbean - At World's End is proceeding. This will be no less than the fourth of these swashbuckling fancy-ticklers to be produced. Box office success supreme. Starring none other than that family man, Johny Depp. Who has the great good sense to earn his keep handsomely through Hollywood products, ensuring his own progeny is well protected from its effects.

Casting is looking for a female lead. And it is advertising for same. Word circulating is that no one with breast augmentation need apply. Looks toothsomely interesting, but does not quite represent family viewing fare. There may be nothing quite natural about Disney fantasies, and breast augmentation, come to think of it does represent the fruition of some fantasies, but not Disney's.

"Beautiful female fit models. Must be five-foot-seven to five-foot eight, size 4 or 6, no bigger or smaller. Age 18 - 25. Must have a lean dancer body. Must have real breasts. Do not submit if you have implants." Got it? That's the precise formula. Of course there may be some problems inherent in that search, since so many size 4 or 6s, ages 18 - 25 with 'lean dancer' bodies, aspire to be other than what they have been naturally endowed with.

Genuine, natural, authentic, honest, that's what the game-plan is. To reflect the clean-cut and amusing Pirates stories, of course. Captain Jack Sparrow may represent like no other such hero in history, an ersatz buccaneer with frippery and foppery and scrambled eggs for brains, but he is so lovable, is he not? That's good enough for audiences; it's the reality they want.

This is Hollywood, after all.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, March 21, 2010

On The Land, Off The Grid

Isn't it past time for First Nations peoples in Canada to decide to come in from the cold? Living in seasonally-inaccessible places might have made perfectly good sense when First Nations lived in their traditional milieu, but that is no longer the case. People living in remote communities no longer fend for themselves, using age-old knowledge handed down through the generations of how to live on the land in all seasons. Capable, and independent and resolutely knowledgeable.

Yet those same people cling to what they claim is their heritage, to the traditions of which they are proud, but don't really know how to practise. Or, if they do, and the results are as they once were, and privation and starvation brought death to communities unable to adequately feed themselves over long winter months, that too has been altered.

As valued citizens of Canada, the government and the people they govern wherever they are, feel an obligation to the well-being of those in remote communities.

Wishing to honour their ancestors and a way of life long gone, there is a reluctance to sever the link with the land. In all likelihood, that refusal has more to do with local politics, with tribal leaders enthusing their members with a need to respect the past and live within it, than any practical reasons to remain there. There is nothing practical about huge unemployment figures, about poor health facilities, about expensive, imported food and inadequate schooling.

Aboriginals in far-flung communities in Manitoba, where 30,000 First Nations peoples live, require 2,500 shipments of food, construction materials and medical supplies annually. There is a constant trucking in of those supplies, at huge cost, all to supplement and fortify an impractical existence. The people living in those remote communities are totally reliant on winter roads to enable trucking in of supplies and for access to hunting trails.

Those roads are also vital to enable the ill, people with high rates of tuberculosis, those with diabetes, young and old, and there are many, to reach dialysis centres. The roads are a vital life-line to social interaction with relatives living on other reserves, and just to connect far-flung communities. The current year has proven to be a difficult one for those remote, northern communities.

This year's unusually mild winter has meant that winter roads that go over semi-frozen rivers, lakes, creeks and muskegs have melted unusually early into muck and mush. Stranding trucks carrying supplies, and people travelling from one site to another. A state of emergency has been declared in 11 communities due to dwindling supplies; food, fuel, construction supplies.

Since 2001, over 25% of the winter road system was moved to land at exorbitant cost. Still, the roads have become impassable. And rescue missions have had to be launched to ensure that those stranded on those remote roads do not die. "The federal government told us that they are ready to work with us. The department has agreed that they will pay to fly in supplies like construction materials and fuel."

Indian and North Affairs Canada is responding to the crisis. Have they any other option? The Grand Chief of the Assembly of Manitoba chiefs thinks not. "I hope this year's events and the current situation will force all levels of government to take action", said Grand Chief Harper. "This has become a human rights issue - no one should be cut off like this", he said. "No one should feel this isolated."

Precisely. Given the vast and distant Canadian geography, the difficulty of getting around, the uncertainty of the seasons, given climate change, it makes no good sense whatever for remote communities to continue to insist they wish to live as their ancestors did. They do not, they cannot; they are entirely dependent on costly rescue missions.

The self-imposed isolation, leading not to an authentic replication of traditional aboriginal lifestyle, but become a failed experiment in stubborn nostalgia. No one can turn back the clock on a vanished era.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, March 20, 2010

For Her Own Good

Here's a story just revealed of a federal public servant, a young woman who works for the Canadian International Development Agency, who has filed a complaint with the Canadian Human Rights commission to order a hearing into her complaint of discrimination against CIDA.

Well, that's interesting, a federal government agency whose purpose is to be of good and practical use abroad in the interests of aiding other countries develop themselves and assist their people to a better state of life is being chastised by an employee for abusing her human rights? How very untoward.

CIDA has undoubtedly been accused of many things, but abusing the human rights of one of its employees?

It appears that Bronwyn Cruden wishes to be posted to Afghanistan. But CIDA, after due thought and investigation into the matter has deemed her personally not an appropriate individual to send to that dangerous and existence-precarious place. CIDA, after all, is concerned not only with the well-being and sound future of those in the international community, but its Canadian employees as well.

The fact being that Bronwyn Cruden is a Type-1 diabetic. Susceptible to sudden alterations in her blood-sugar levels, from hypoglycemic to hyperglycemic, and often, apparently, with little warning. Which is what happens when one is a long-term diabetic, and nerve-endings begin to deteriorate, along with other bodily functions.

People with insulin-dependent diabetes formerly termed "juvenile-onset" and now merely Type-1, to distinguish them from older, sedentary, overweight Type-2 types who usually don't inject insulin, are quite vulnerable to sudden drops in blood sugar levels. Just as they are vulnerable, having to balance food intake (quantity and quality), exercise and insulin amounts, to the dangers of high blood-glucose levels which, over time, are organ-and-nerve-destructive.

While some people with diabetes who are truly dedicated to balancing their endocrine needs - injecting insulin repeatedly throughout the day, taking blood-glucose readings countless times and reacting accordingly - there are others who are more casual in their approach to diabetes management. Even so, within those two groups - the intensive-managers and the less-concerned managers of their condition - there are no guarantees. Some diabetics find their balance more readily achievable than others, irrespective of control method.

Ms. Cruden, now 38 years of age, had previously enjoyed a short posting in Kandahar, in early 2008. At that time she had suffered a severe hypoglycemic event when her blood-sugar levels had dropped precipitously and dangerously, causing her to go into convulsions. This is not a pretty thing to witness; although the individual undergoing convulsions will not be aware, having no memory of it, afterward.

But it is vital that this type of event not occur often; people have been known to die from ultimately-fatal steep blood-sugar loss.

With all the best intentions in the world, Ms. Cruden, wishing to be posted in a place like Afghanistan, would create an undue burden on those with whom she works; her colleagues and locals, along with the medical-health community set up to provide needed care for those who require it, in that backwater of human social development.

She cannot promise to ensure that her condition will be in perfect balance at all times. No one can do that; neither she nor her doctors.

Health Canada, fully aware of this, has a policy disallowing federal employees with Type 1 diabetes into hostile environments.

CIDA's declining to post this worker observes Health Canada's guidelines in this respect. CIDA has not singled out this young woman in particular; no federal employees with Type 1 diabetes are sent to places like Afghanistan where expert medical-hospital care is not always available, of the calibre required in catastrophic situations.

Labels: , , ,

Friday, March 19, 2010

It's a No-Brainer

Perhaps it might appear to be unfair to the elderly that they cannot be permitted to do as they wish, particularly those who, though retired and well along in their years, feel they still have much to offer society. They're perfectly correct; if they feel inspired to remain within the work force nothing stops them from searching out jobs that seem suitable to their energy levels and their aspirations to continue working.

Above all, society has an ongoing need for volunteer assistance in a great many spheres of public life.

But people over the age of 70 offering their services as school bus drivers?

Think again, and consider carefully. As well preserved as some older people may be, and may think they are, their reflexes have, inexorably slowed. Their physical strength is not what it once was, their mental abilities slightly slower, and while they may be excellent drivers, their driving forays should be restricted to driving themselves - family members if they wish, but not a school bus-full of children.

It transpires that there are some school districts in British Columbia, Alberta and the Maritimes which will not permit bus drivers to ferry children to school, if they're over 65 years of age. People of that age may feel themselves yet young and capable and they may very well be, since individuals age at different rates; it is idiosyncratic, just as all things are among living organisms; one older individual may be supremely capable, while many others are not.

It is a general rule that should be set when dealing with the lives and well-being of an aggregation of vulnerable children. It isn't often that buses are involved in accidents, let alone school buses, but don't stack the deck. Advocates for the elderly protest that to cut older people off from driving school buses if they feel they're capable of doing it, is unfair. It is not unfair, it is a demonstration of the recognition of the fitness of things.

It is not fit that an older person driving a busload of children be depended upon to react in a timely manner as that same person might have done when much younger. Elderly hurt feelings are one thing in a denial of the opportunity to drive school buses, but balanced against the physical safety of children, those feelings of rejection should be tempered by the self-knowledge that no one would want to be responsible for an accident.

Issues such as a sudden onset of a critical health condition inimical to the driver and by extension to those in the bus entrusted to that driver's care increase with the increase in age of the driver. Sudden stroke, blood clots, impaired motor skills, hypoglycemia, any number of incapacitating events could occur, leaving the children in the care of a driver incapable of controlling unforeseen events at risk.

There have been more than adequate examples of 70-year-olds and those in their 80s responding incorrectly to traffic signals, and to incidents where quick decision-making balances life or death. It is more than fair to conclude that at age 65 the cut-off has arrived in chronological-health fitness for such an important job.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Monoculture Disasters

What is more fundamental to human need than food? Water yes, and the air we breathe, but without food to fulfill our dietary/nutritional needs we'd be in a very dire, existential dilemma. Well, it seems we are facing a dilemma without directly recognizing it. Scientists, biologists do see the dilemma, but the consumer, not so much. We have not yet been faced with the imminence of collapse of our agri-food system.

Yet so much of our food, grown in farm fields throughout North America, and dependent on pollination by bees stands in real peril. Any time humankind interferes too broadly in a natural system, like the introduction of new species because someone has the brilliant idea that it might be beneficial, we are ultimately faced with a disaster. Species not native to a certain geography do not have natural enemies to control their spread. Often the introduced species aggravate the existence of native species.

Similarly, when agribusiness decides to formulate new grain species or fruits or vegetables and we end up with monoculture rather than a diversity of various types of the same, the spectre of a single pathogenic bacteria specific to that plant is capable of destroying an entire plant species, leaving plant scientists, botanists and biologists scrambling to retrieve some of those old heritage seeds to replace them.

The potato blight that so horribly afflicted Ireland in the 19th Century was caused by the replacement of various types of potato plants with a singular plant. The potato that was chosen was an inferior one, but more easily cultivated. That potato plant, upon whose nutrient value the Irish peasants and their animal stocks depended was a nasty, watery breed, susceptible to a plague that turned it into stinking, inedible, failed monocrop.

Originally in uninterrupted nature, it was wild bees that pollinated flowers and fruit trees continent-wide. Then the European honeybee was introduced and as the more biologically aggressive breed they gained the upper hand and wild bees declined. Ninety percent of apple crops would not flourish without honeybee pollination. Citrus fruit are dependent on pollination.

Honeybees pollinate canola, soybeans, broccoli, celery, asparagus, squash, cucumbers, peaches, berries and melons, among other crops. Common practise is to hire beekeepers on a circuit, to bring along their hives at specific seasons for pollination purposes. In the last five years, however, beekeepers have seen a quick and deadly decline in their beehives.

A dreadful and serious puzzle to scientists, it was finally concluded that a number of factors lead to the mass death of hives, including deadly mite infections along with moulds and other impacts - five in number - on the hives, weakening the bees, ensuring that new generations never materialized, and leading to the decomposition of the hive.

Now, out of Ontario at the University of Guelph a bee scientist feels he has a partial answer to the problem, in the varroa mite, the size of a pinhead. A parasitical mite that feeds off the bees that cannot dislodge it, leading to eventual death. Lack of adequate winter-stored food, other parasites, a fungus, and untenably-small colonies have been highlighted as other causes of "colony collapse disorder" (as it is termed in the U.S.) or "winter colony mortality" (in Canada).

Dr. Ernesto Guzman, of University of Guelph, feels that the varroa mite has managed to alter itself sufficiently so that pesticides normally used to cleanse hives no longer affect it mortally. Not all scientists agree with Dr. Guzman, claiming that the causes are too various in nature. A recent study points to healthier bees resulting from pollen from mixed sources rather than from a single pollen source.

Logically, a healthier organism is more able to fight off disease impacts, to survive biological assaults. And if we look at another living organism, say humankind, for example, it makes good sense. Humans too require a varied diet to ensure good health resulting from adequate vitamin, mineral and nutrient intake. Why should bees be any different than humans, requiring a varied diet for ultimate good health?

And there lies the rub as huge agricultural concerns continue their shift to mass production of single grain species; monoculture again.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Obediently Oblivious

We like to think of ourselves as inherently compassionate, by and large. We would come to the aid of the distressed, those in need, offer our assistance, in heartfelt response to obvious emotional need. If we witness someone in physical danger and we can intervene without risk to ourselves, we do so, willingly, without giving it a second thought, for this is an automatic response.

We empathize with the suffering of others, for we too are human, and we like to think of ourselves as responsible, as decent, as humane beings. Yet we can also behave as though we are indifferent to pain and suffering.

None of us really knows how we would respond under great duress. None of us is really capable of foreseeing how we would behave if we were placed in a dire situation of imminent danger that could be relieved by removing ourselves from the potential of helping others, others who have been targeted, not us. We witness instances of brutalization of others and make no step to intervene, if we too are to suffer.

This is human nature. It is not admirable, but it is understandable. That we would weigh our actions in relation to what danger it would pose to ourselves, if we choose to act. The sociologist Hannah Arendt, in studying the actions of those instrumentally involved in the Holocaust, concluded that human beings act as they do, not as fanatics or psychopaths, but as ordinary people who believe it is their duty to do as they are bidden.

She coined the phrase "banality of evil" to express that thesis. That people act at the behest of authority, believing that their response is 'normal'. Others have since taken that thesis and experimented with it, coming to the same conclusion; that if assured that what they are doing is perfectly all right, people will do actual harm to others. Now a new French television game show expresses a live psychological experiment.

Where The Game of Death presents as a traditional quiz show, with an enthusiastically approving audience in place to prompt the contestants, and a celebrity-figure hostess on duty to urge the players to act in accordance with the game 'rules'. The game is to pose questions to another player, and each time an incorrect response is given, to punish that response with electrical charges.

When the actor cries that he can no longer sustain the pain of the charges, the electrical prods continue with the players responding to the urging of the host and the shouts of the audience to continue. Even when the actor, whom the players take for another player just like themselves, pleads for mercy, and then finally acts as though he is dead, the electrical volts continue, the players seeming oblivious to reality.

The audience chants "punishment" with each incorrect response to a question, the host urges the players to continue playing, and the players obediently do just that. This is group mentality; not too many are prepared to defy the orders from authority, to deviate from a popular course, setting themselves apart from the social compact, obeying their conscience instead of consensus.

Fully 80% of the contestants fulfilled their audience-fuelled obligations to keep zapping the actor with the incorrect responses, with the maximum 460 volts, until the actor appeared to perish. Out of a total of 80 players, sixteen instructed themselves to walk away from the game, to separate themselves from the punishing scenario.

So much for participants in totalitarian-inspired brutalities against others. It is not that societies are necessarily evil, but that they are immensely suggestible, and their sense of the fitness of things, and their sense of justice is overtaken by their apprehension of response to an authority figure as being right and proper.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Just Who, Not What

Human nature is so complex, personalities so different, inherent values similar to a degree, it is yet no little wonder that even gender identification can be a confused and confusing issue. There are definite males and females of the species. And hermaphrodites, a confused-gender circumstance, often leading to sad decision-making. The transgendered, lesbian, gays, whose gender-wiring has been inconclusive, but leading toward same-gender preferences.

But what about all those people - and likely they represent a great number of very quiet people, happy not to bring undue attention, and with it pressure, to themselves - who are neither, nor? Individual human beings who are quite simply disinterested in gender identification because it holds no meaning for them. They are what and who they are, gender undifferentiated, simply people, individuals, human beings of another gender dimension.

Their humanity is absent of gender proclivities. Their lives fulfilled by being human beings without being endowed with what most people would claim to be essential to their being; sexual preference and gender identification. And concomitant with that, having intimate sexual relations with others. Instead they represent people just interested in getting on with their lives; unassuming and content with who they are, because they have accepted what they are not.

They are there, and they may be anomalous, but no less important for that missing link to nature's imperative to recreate themselves through passing on their genetic inheritance. Now Australian officials in Sydney have rendered a certificate for immigrants whose interest it is to have their sex change observed. A man born in Britain, who had undergone a sex change operation, but who had decided after all, to halt the alteration and recognize himself as gender-neutral.

"The concepts of man or woman don't fit me. The simplest solution is not to have any sex identification." Doctors had concluded they were unable to determine Norrie May-Welby's gender. He had no gonads, his hormonal system was atypically male or female. His mental-intellectual psyche was neutral. This comes as a shock to parents who typically think their offspring will be one or the other, male or female.

But parents, most parents, love their children. Their wish is for their children to be satisfied with life, find happiness and fulfilment in whatever they do, however they mature. "You love your children. You may try to change them when they're growing up, but after a time, there's nothing you can do but accept the way they are", this person's mother said.

And, said a spokesperson for the Gender Trust in Britain: "Many people like the idea of being genderless". In a sense, it does render people a trifle less complicated.

Labels: , , ,

Monday, March 15, 2010

Post-Avalanche

There are those who took place in the Big Iron Shootout at Revelstoke that ended in several hundred onlookers, the snowmobile participants and their vehicles being inundated by a veritable mountain of snow and ice, who admitted with the candour of insouciance that they were well aware of the high risk involved in their adventure.

The lovely, sunny weather, the fresh, deep snow and the thrill of the adrenaline rush captivated them and they were willing to take the risk.

"It was like a bomb went off, a war zone", was the description given by a witness, while another said "the whole ridge let go". "The avalanche scrambled the machines and wrapped them around each other. You could see people's arms, legs and heads sticking out of the snow. They were yelling for help and trying to get out. There were a lot of broken legs, arms and wrists."

Yes, and several deaths, and quite a few people hospitalized, a number in serious condition. But this was an event, despite the potential for nature's backlash, that no one wanted to miss. "They seen the avalanche coming down, got on their snowmobiles and rode out." Stolidly stalwart snowmobilers, worshipping the opportunity to taunt nature.

An extreme 'sport' event, to race snowmobiles directly up the side of a mountain, pulling off jumps and stunts, and generally having a whale of a time, demonstrating skill(?) and ferocious ambition to outdo one another. "Everybody just disappeared - tossed, thrown, taken with the snow. The amount of snow that came down was unbelievable."

The avalanche occurrence was directly associated with the racing snowmobilers climbing the mountain with their souped-up, powerful machines, unleashing the unstable mass of snow and icy crust. They practised what they called "extreme high marking" and the mountain answered with its "extreme high fall-out".

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Sublimely In The Moment

Perhaps fulfilling - in their zeal for being in the moment, utterly unaware, disinterested in anything but their fascination with what they're engaged in - survival of the fittest.

How can people in a potentially dangerous environment be so completely cut off from reality? Everyone admires the beauty of a landscape with its mounds, hills and valleys, trees and shrubbery enveloped in a pristine blanket of snow. And those hills and plains just invite exhilarating speed, best accomplished by snowmobilers in the heedless glory of competition.

Oblivious to the potential danger they present to themselves. By their laxity in fully informing themselves of the safety of their enterprise. All the more absurd given the fascination with and mass-market use of communication devices. What would it take, after all, to zone in on avalanche warnings before undertaking the life-precarious adventure of soaring off onto those pristine hills, adequately informing oneself?

The area around Revelstoke had just recently received fresh snowfall, and it was very enticing. But at the same time for the last several weeks people were warned that the potential for avalanches was high. And on the very day that several hundred people set out to watch three annual snowmobiling events in Revelstoke, urgent avalanche warnings had been launched. Of those several hundred people, none of them aware?

The organizers themselves of these three events, if not the participants, would surely have felt they had an obligation to keep themselves informed, would they not? Well, evidently not.

A massive avalanche struck, and people were inundated with all those unstable layers of snow and ice that washed over the area. Mere hours after the Canadian Avalanche Centre issued a special warning for the week-end, for the Kootenay-Boundary area, along with the Southern Selkirk and South Chilcotin Mountains north of Whistler.

In fact, even prior to the Saturday avalanche where several hundred people found themselves in the path of that massive avalanche, ten others had struck in the Kootenay-Boundary area since Friday. Now the RCMP and rescue crews along with police dog teams and rescue helicopters are rescuing people from their folly.

The numbers of those who will be found buried and suffocated will tell the story.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, March 13, 2010

A Thought Beforehand

Well, it's a sad story of an incautious approach to solving one problem and in the process creating another. Isn't that what we so often do when we respond with great enthusiasm and determination in the face of need? Overlook a careful reconnaissance of what the problem really requires to give ease to troubled waters? In the case of a community responding to a newspaper story of a mother with a handicapped child who badly needed an alternative to her shut-in existence, the end result is a case in point.

The mother of a 31-year-old woman - afflicted with a degenerative genetic condition, metachromatic leukodystrophy (MLD), which has left her chronically physically and intellectually impaired (she has the mental intelligence of a 12-year-old, and from what I've seen of the mental intelligence of today's 12-year-olds, that's considerable) and is wheelchair-bound - explained her concerns that her daughter's illness could be remediated with some alterations in their living accommodation.

Both lived in rental accommodation, a bungalow located in an area of the city relatively accessible to the required assistance of a nursing assistant whom they hugely depended upon for services. In response to the newspaper story, local individuals and agencies took note and offered their help. Everyone felt compassion for the paralyzed young woman unable to even sit comfortably, whose weight had dropped perilously and who hadn't been in the out-of-doors for 6 years.

The West Ottawa Rotary Club raised $8,000 in a trust fund they established. Home Depot donated $20,000 in the form of building materials. Volunteers offered an estimated thousand hours of work to build a wheelchair-access ramp and an outdoor deck on to the bungalow that the pair were renting. Electrical upgrades to made to the house and a number of additional improvements which would assist in making their lives more easeful there.

Those changes in their living accommodations, according to the young woman's mother meant a world of difference. The daughter became transformed from an introvert into a "social butterfly". The mother described how her daughter had gained weight, was able to sit comfortably for hours, was eating well, and was happy. "She's in her wheelchair all the time, bombing around."

And she was newly able to accompany her mother on shopping expeditions or on walks through their neighbourhood. "We were doing so well. She's got a long way to go, but it's been up, up, up", Holly Ritchie said of her daughter Melanie. And then trouble raised its ugly head. Although their landlord had given permission to install the wheelchair-access ramp, she had signed a one-year lease. Nine months after, they've been given notice of eviction.

Their landlord, Ajaz Ahmed, was returning from living in England. His sister, Bajma Bhatti had been acting as rental agent for her brother's property. Obviously, there had occurred a lack of communication somewhere along the line. Mr. Ahmed denies he ever agreed that the renters could live in his house on an indefinite basis. There does exist an email from Mr. Ahmed's sister stating they "can live there as long as (you) like if we are both happy with each other."

Alas, Mr. Ahmed was clearly discombobulated when, after the lease had expired he anticipated moving back into his home and Ms. Ritchie, for her part, wanted to renew the lease. Mr. Ahmed offered her the option of remaining in the house, if she would agree to his moving into the finished basement. Ms. Ritchie thought this unsuited to their needs and as a result the eviction notice was given.

Leaving Ms. Ritchie to look for alternative accommodations in the rental of another bungalow for herself and her daughter, in the same general area. All that work and the cost associated with it for a mere 9 months of reprieve, and now the dismal prospect of starting all over again. The mother points out that change could be deleterious to her daughter's condition. The ramp installed in the house they are leaving cannot be moved to another prospective location; it is cemented into place.

It's doubtful that anyone can really fault the house owner; he has a perfect right to want to live in his own home, and did offer to share it with Ms. Ritchie and her daughter. Someone did not do due diligence in this matter; perhaps a whole lot of someones. The end result is sad, and that's the way life sometimes turns.

Labels: , , ,

Friday, March 12, 2010

Vaccines For Poor Countries

Well, doesn't that make a nice read, revelations that pharmaceutical manufacturers have agreed to sign on to a program to supply up to 200 million doses yearly of cut-price pneumococcal vaccines to developing nations. The global immunization alliance, funded by Canada, Britain, Italy, Russia, Norway and (one supposes instead of the U.S.) the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is overseeing the program. With a total investment of $1.5-billion.

The idea being to entice pharmaceutical manufacturers that they might, in the interests of global health, be prepared to present themselves as good global citizens as it were, not merely grubby, greedy bottom-line bottom-feeders. So, if this program works out as planned, the drug industry can begin to wear two hats, one supposes. The original, as above (grubby, greedy, etc.) which is where their collective dark little hearts reside, and an additional one, where they've been arm-wrestled to give a little back.

As 1.6 million lives are lost each year in Africa and Asia primarily, but elsewhere in the world as well, through pneumococcal disease, one of the world's worst child-killers, this is, to say the least, a worthwhile program. A highly needful, and perhaps long-overdue one. Illnesses such as pneumonia and meningitis result from pneumococcal disease, a scourge that requires international attention and pharmacological commitment.

And it is hoped that with the success of this program, others may evolve, to introduce vaccines against rotavirus, the cause of severe diarrhea, along with another experimental vaccine against malaria, both of which manage to kill millions of people each year in undeveloped countries of the world. Manufacturers of these vaccines include Glaxo-SmithKline and Pfizer; they could use a bit of good public-relations news.

The program is termed Advance Market Commitment, a guaranteed market for vaccines supplied to poor nations, setting a maximum price that pharmaceutical manufacturers can anticipate receiving in recompense for their products. The altruistic element exists on the part of the governments involved and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, certainly not the drug manufacturers. Done without compensation for the public good does not describe their end of things.

But we'll take it as it is, for the good it will accomplish.

Labels: ,

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Operational Deficiencies

Dr. Barbara Heartwell, a well-regarded, experienced surgeon, and a colleague, pathologist Dr. Olive Williams have been placed under investigation by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario. The Ontario Ministry of Health has also launched a probe into surgical and pathology errors in Windsor, in surgeries which took place at Hotel-Dieu Hospital. Indeed, the hospital itself stated that it planned to launch an internal investigation.

With good reason. A woman from Leamington, Ontario underwent a mastectomy, despite that she did not have cancer. Despite that little fact, Dr. Heartwell authoritatively, on the basis of her vast decades of experience as a highly-praised oncologist insisted that Ms. Johnston had no option but to undergo surgery. Ms. Johnston, unsurprisingly, fearful for her life, deferred to the professional experience of Dr. Heartwell.

Only to learn later that the surgery was unnecessary. And then it was revealed that another woman, two years earlier, also underwent radical mastectomy at the insistence of Dr. Barbara Heartwell, who had gone so far as to inform the woman's husband that he should be prepared for a worst-case scenario. And Dr. Heartwell had, on this occasion, denied that the woman might benefit from a second opinion; for one thing her condition was so dire, she hadn't the time to waste...

"To learn that my breast was removed unnecessarily is devastating for me and [my family]. Sometimes, I'm alone and I just sit there and think about it, and I start to cry", she said. "If I'm not crying, I'm angry, I'm anxious." Who wouldn't resonate to those emotions? Is there a worse diagnosis ever heard by any woman than that she has cancer, and advanced cancer at that, so advanced she has no time to wait, and must undergo surgery as soon as possible.

Foregoing a second opinion. After the fact, the president of the Canadian Medical Association, Dr. Anne Doig, made a public statement, that no one should hesitate to seek a second opinion when facing a serious diagnosis and treatment options. They should discuss the issue with the initial doctor who made the diagnosis and be "unafraid" to seek a second opinion. Well, there's nothing particularly new in that; people are always encouraged to do just that.

Unfortunately for Dr. Heartwell's patients, this surgeon's ego was so splendidly self-assured that she simply could not conceive of her diagnosis undergoing a second opinion. So two women went through the agony of breast removals that were completely uncalled for. And Hotel Dieu Hospital was not alert to the situation where apparent carelessness once occurred, might re-occur. Nor was the oncologist who once made a dreadful error sufficiently attuned to her own failings.

Ms. Johnson has filed a lawsuit, alleging that Dr. Heartwell failed to properly diagnose her condition, and that the doctor "failed to read or properly understand" the pathology report that indicated Ms. Johnston's lump was benign. And that Dr. Williams who had examined the biopsy samples had produced a confused pathology report to begin with, effectively contributing to the surgeon's error.

The hospital suspended Dr. Williams, while Dr. Heartwell voluntarily undertook to remove herself from the performance of surgeries at Hotel Dieu Hospital. While her past cases are under review. "We are profoundly sorry that this tragic situation has occurred and we know this is an extremely difficult time for Ms. Johnston", was the message delivered to the media by the hospital's CEO.

In addition, it was revealed that the hospital offered its support to Ms. Johnston and "...will continue to do so". How might they do that, one wonders; restore her breast? Assure her that such a dreadful misadventure will never again occur to bring misery to another woman? Well, it would appear, they've done that by restoring surgery privileges to Dr. Heartwell who had second thoughts about sitting at home and pondering her professionalism.

In the meantime, the $1-million in general and special damages, and additional $1-million in punitive and aggravated damages that Ms. Johnston seeks in her lawsuit may eventually result in some measure of satisfaction. It's clear there is no other available to her.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Obese and Obtuse

As living organisms of the animal variety, we eat to live. All living organisms require nutritional intake to be converted into energy to enable life to continue.

The downfall of human beings is that despite our capability to think, to plan, to react and to theorize, we take our most basic physical need for survival rather more for granted than we should. So that we turn that maxim around, and too many of us live to eat. The irony in that situation taken to extremes is that we then eat ourselves to death.

It seems reasonable that intelligent, independent, adult human beings might devote a little bit of their time, energy and reason to thinking about what we're fuelling ourselves with. It seems simple enough; we are, in effect, what we eat. When we eat junk we're fuelling our bodies in a way that will result in ill health. Similarly, when we eat too much of anything, we're overtaxing our bodies to metabolize more than we need for survival.

Our overtaxed organs groan under the demands placed upon them and begin to falter, then fail. Too much fertilizer of the wrong produces little of any practical value to the living organism; an exercise in practical futility. The growing, phenomenon of statistics that tell us that a huge percentage of the Canadian population is overweight, and a truly alarming number of people in Canada fall into the obese and morbidly obese category tells the story.

Now how intelligent is that? Mindlessly consuming packaged, pre-prepared and convenience foods on a regular basis, heavily laden with what food manufacturers well know will make their pseudo-food taste good does us ill. The manufacturers can claim that they're only providing us with what consumer tests tell them that the public wants and demands, and will purchase. High fat, high salt, high sugar-laden products.

Heavily laced with artificial chemicals, some of which are clearly injurious to long-term health. We're shortening our lives and placing a heavy burden on a public health-care system that is already overburdened. And if adults don't give much thought to how they're impacting deleteriously on their own health, one might logically think they'd give a second thought to how they're patterning their children for early disease-onset and its companion, early-death.

Mass edible consumer goods' production ensures that convenience trumps concerns for health, and advertising easy lifestyles and lip-smacking-good tastes in a pretty nasty convergence of food industry and advertising industry bottom-line enhancement does the trick. Alarmed health care providers and government agencies make attempts to counteract this pernicious alliance through public efforts to inform people.

Is anyone interested? Seems not. For a while, there was a back-to-basics movement seen in an interest in whole foods and bulk food stores made some inroads in the fast-food environment, but that appears to have fallen by the wayside. The trend now is for supermarkets to super-size themselves and as a result fewer normal-sized supermarkets appear in many urban areas; their slack happily taken up by the surging appearance of fast-food outlets.

When people live within easy distance of fast-food outlets, out of handy reach of grocery stores, guess who wins? Not the consumer. Responsible governments cannot legislate good health. Informing people about their self-interest in making responsible judgements in how and what they eat isn't making that much of an impact on public consciousness. Can we fine people for slowly killing themselves by consuming unhealthy quasi-food products?

Not likely; they're already willingly-enough fining themselves big time by ensuring through their bad choices that they'll be welcoming heart disease, diabetes, hip-and-joint replacement requirements and certain cancers into their private lives, all leading to diminished quality of life and finally to a truncated life expectancy. Everything seems to think they're immune to paying the price of indiscretion.

Preparing whole foods is slightly more time-consuming than the alternate fast-food dig-ins. Decent meal preparations take more thought. But as long as the general public feels there are more important things for them to be concerned about than their future state of health and that of their children, and make those continued 'informed' choices to eat what their distorted palate tells them tastes good, it remains a non-issue.

This makes for a real bind in principles of human rights; do those deliberately sabotaging their health deserve for the rest of the public through their tax dollars to pay for catastrophic health issues? Can health-care administrators and government agencies invoke Big Brother to tally who among us has been excessively careless with their health and invoke a penalty clause in the nature of self-pay health care?

Seems the only alternative we have is to continue raising those red flags, warning, wheedling, enticing people away from bad nutrition choices, attempt to teach them that more and big and whopping big are not necessarily attractive in the long run that results in morbid obesity.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

The Fairer Sex, The Weaker Sex

Neither claim is particularly relevant; men can be as handsome in appearance as women, and women can be as inclined to strength as men. Generalizations usually submit to scrutiny that proves the average, disproved by the anomalies among the average. Which is called splitting of hairs. In a world where extreme poverty on a wide scale exists, men are often as disadvantaged as women.

It is true that women's burden is often greater than that of men. But it is also true that men are burdened with the responsibility of their families and where poverty is king, men are paupers no less than their wives and their children. So when we speak of women finding their equal place within society we speak of a relatively small international society, that of entitled advancement within economically, socially, politically advanced countries.

Where women are advantaged by enlightened society's recognition of their equal rights and abilities and rewards thereof. If women are held back to a degree, it is certainly because the world in general is patriarchal. And men have always sought to control women, to own them, and to dictate to them. In certain cultures and religions nothing has changed to alleviate women's lot.

But in Western countries of the world women have moved from dependent to independent status. The struggle was long and difficult and the rewards were hard to come by, at first. Now, the difference in the way women are regarded, the esteem in which they are held, the respect given them, between developed and the undeveloped world is as distant as pre-history from the present time.

The question is whether over half of the world's human population will ever attain equality. The answer is that this can occur only when the world has been able to move from partial developed, part undeveloped, to fully, entirely developed. Women will have to continue to take their place, as development continues, in every facet of human activities, to gain the momentum to insist on their human and social rights.

There will likely always be a struggle between men's and women's entitlements. Partially as a result of the heritage of male control, partially as a result of the patriarchal social contract that recognized the male as head of family to whom full respect is given as opposed to women to whom full respect is never appropriate as a dependent.

In the developed world where women's work is vital to families' welfare, both as bread-winner and household controller, women still lag behind their male counterparts in monetary recompense for equal work of equal value. But in under-developed countries where women's work is often the mainstay for the family, they are burdened indescribably and scorned as of lesser value than men.

According to the United Nations, women perform 66% of work internationally, while producing 50% of the food, earning 10% of global wealth, owning 1% of property. Of the world's estimated 1.2 billion poor, women represent 70%.

We've come a long way, and have a far longer way to go.

Labels: ,

Monday, March 08, 2010

Yes, they Did

Despite the very real threats from al-Qaeda in Iraq, and the very real deaths that suicide bombing caused in Iraq, far more registered voters in that country obdurately turned out to have a say in their new government than either the country itself might have hazarded would brave the threats, or the international community anticipated, viewing the event from afar.

People were fearful, and with good reason. But they were also defiant. And they turned out in amazing numbers, even in the most volatile places where violence could be expected to occur. Their purpose, to cast that ballot, and to celebrate that purple-stained finger, elevated the country's independent voting day to a true exercise in responsible democracy.

Even though Sunday's national voting day concluded with 38 people dead and over 80 people injured throughout the country as a result of violence, including 25 people who were hurt when an apartment building collapsed in an early-morning bomb blast in Baghdad, the country did itself proud in the voter turn-out.

Whether, once U.S. troops pull out as scheduled in 2011 - concluding their combat mission in the country, withdrawing to surrender safety and security entirely to the new government - the country's own security forces will be capable of securing their country when future occasions arise as they must, requiring security, is yet to be seen.

But a milestone has been reached, and perhaps there will be hope for the future of the country, after all. Not that one single event can predict a final outcome, given its proximity to Iran and the influence the Islamist Republic will have on its neighbour. Nor that internecine violence and a return to the brutal sectarian atrocities is not still a possibility.

But, in the best of all possible worlds, one success may inevitably lead to another. Even if we don't live in the best of all possible worlds. An impossibility, clearly, in a world populated by all-too-fallible human beings.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Nature's Histrionics

Now, that must surely represent the ultimate of 'being in the wrong place at the wrong time'. To be present during two catastrophic upheavals, one after the one, and survive them both must surely represent as blind good luck. Of course nature is neutral, completely indifferent to anything that occurs under her watch and her instructions. The welfare of any of the host of creatures dependent on her and her goodwill and alternate hysterics are of no moment to her.

And presumably, as the most powerful of all imaginable forces in unknowable nature, she pursues no vendettas, simply winds the clockwork of her mechanistic creation and sits back impassively as time clicks by and her instruments of creation and destruction wreak their events on the natural world.

There are not many who actually worship nature, but most certainly she is admired, her handiwork acclaimed, and the more intelligent among us take note of her activities and do our best in avoidance.

Humankind has been adept in forecasting when their mistress-in-existence is about to embark on yet another one of her unpredictable but generally awesome adventures. If we are able to, we attempt to step out of the way of her servants' misadventures, lest we become hapless victims.

It's doubtful, in the event of massive earth-shaking events, when tectonic plates become unreasonably irritated with one another's too-close proximity culminating in a gigantic hissy-fit that sufficient lead time could permit a massive and vast evacuation of the areas surely affected. So a family living in Haiti, the Desarmes, were fortunate to survive their country's 7.00 Richter-scale earth shudder.

"In Haiti, they got me out from under the ruins of a house, and I felt lucky to have survived", recounted Joseph Desarmes, the family head. "To come to Chile and go through the same situation, you can't imagine how I felt." He's right there; it is unimaginable. The entire family, parents, adult sons and their families and three cousins left Haiti and travelled to Chile. Just in time to experience the 8.8-Richter-scale quake.

Over 230,000 people died in Haiti as the country virtually collapsed around them. But the Desarmes family did not number among them. If the Desarmes family is religious, they will ascribe their miraculous survival of two quakes, mere weeks apart, to divine intervention. Talk about beating the odds - in a secular interpretation of their good fortune.

It's not too difficult to relate, in a micro-manner. Having lived in Japan and experienced a number of unremarkable quakes, but remarkable enough to someone who had never been so acutely aware of their possibilities. It is an experience like none other, to feel the earth shudder under your feet out-of-doors, or everything quiver and tremble around you, indoors.

Yet it was a tremblor of no particular significance that we experienced right where we live, in Canada, over a minor earthquake-prone zone, exacerbated by the ground under us comprised of leda clay ans sand, that really fixed my imagination. When an unimaginably loud roar encompassed the area, and the house shook, and shook, and shook....

Labels: ,

Saturday, March 06, 2010

End of an Era

Well, that's kind of sad, that all those stone Gothic-revival or Romanesque-styled churches that dotted the landscape of Quebec in reflection of the province's religious heritage have succumbed to the reality that religion within Canada - particularly Roman Catholicism, particularly inside Quebec has seen a dramatic reversal in fortunes. The Quiet Revolution that dominated French society saw a reversal of fortune after 1980.

At that time the Church began to realize a huge loss of power and prestige when the State began to take over all the services it had previously dominated, from education and the provision of health care to social services. The prestige of the Church plummeted, with people no longer seeing a need to promote a Catholic political culture. Church attendance declined rapidly, in lock-step with a new kind of secular 'liberation'.

There are an estimated four thousand churches and convents in the province, and as churchgoers continue to dwindle the fate of these edifices looks bleak. The religion that dominated the culture of Quebec for hundreds of years saw its sun set, and with it the need for its edifices. For as popular support ebbed and failed, and there were fewer clergy, there was a corresponding decrease in funding available for upkeep.

The buildings began deteriorating, and since their upkeep was prohibitively expensive with ever-diminishing support, some were sold, others abandoned. Even those churches located in the provincial capital whose historic area has been declared a "world heritage jewel" by UNESCO, have faced a steep decline. Some have seen transformation into community centres and libraries.

Others have been demolished to make way for condominiums, even as a handful have themselves been transformed into condominiums. A few century-old buildings of quiet dignity and beauty have been the victims of fires; whether accidental or deliberately set.

Simply put, without worshippers to warm the benches of the great cathedrals that were once a vital part of most peoples' lives, they have outlived their day.

The provincial government is making an effort to preserve its religious heritage, but there exists too many buildings for the government to commit to overhauling. Public funding will be directed toward restoration of the most eminent examples of ecclesiastical architecture, in the hopes that roughly 40% may be saved.

These well-used Houses of God are somehow appealingly forlorn and inexpressibly sad. They represent a lost time in history. Those architectural masses of stone, with their ceremonial silver, their alters, their reliquaries, and their traditions of a people are history.

Even those who have no use for religion must find it sad to see the plight of these noble architectural monuments to humankind's absorption with their faith in the existence of a Higher Authority crumble into decay.

The fate of us all.

Labels: , ,

Friday, March 05, 2010

Adventure On The High Seas

One German and one Italian passenger were killed in an extreme-weather-related event as the Mediterranean cruise ship Louis Majesty of the Maltese-flagged, Cyprus-based Louis Cruise Line sailed off the coast of Spain. "We didn't know what was happening, if there were dead or injured, only that we were going back to Barcelona", said another Italian passenger.

Another passenger had had presence of mind to film screaming people fleeing as a wall of water crashed through a window, sweeping into a lounge area, knocking furniture over. "It was a monster wave ... it smashed all the windows. Everything happened so quickly", another passenger told Spanish public television. There were three giant waves, eight metres in height that swept over the ship.

Aside from the two passengers who died, fourteen others were injured, one woman in hospital in "very serious condition". The 200-metre-long ship was embarked on a 12-day cruise of the western Mediterranean with 1,350 passengers and 580 crew, when the freak waves overtook the ship, smashing windows in front of the ship in a public area.

An expert from the French national weather agency said the cruise ship was in heavy seas where eight-metre waves were to be expected. "The conditions were favourable to the formation of waves higher than normal". Experts say that these kinds of huge waves are generated by storm-related winds. "As wind increases in intensity, it is first going to create relatively small waves, and then bigger ones, which travel faster", said a French oceanographer.

But according to a spokesman authorized to speak on behalf of the cruise line, "This was a natural unforeseen and unpredictable phenomenon because we are talking about three big waves, higher than eight metres, striking the vessel. This is not an incident which we could have prevented. Therefore, there will be no investigation. All passengers are on their way back to their respective countries as we speak."

One might imagine that cruise enthusiasts who book onto such enterprises mostly do so for relaxed enjoyment, confident that the cruise line has their best interests at heart, safety uppermost, to ensure return and word-of-mouth business to result from their satisfaction. Those people might be inspired to look elsewhere for their relaxing vacation time away from home.

On the other hand, this cruise line might look into the feasibility of offering a new kind of travel cruise adventure; who knows, it might become wildly popular with the extreme-cruise crowd who might look forward to challenging nature on the high seas. And to live to tell the tale. Pity, those others who were unfortunately felled, but their untimely demise might just add the required frisson of danger so attractive to doughty adventurers.

The cruise line might think of advertising along the lines of: "Come with us and experience a new type of daring adventure on the high seas; you might even survive".

Irresistible.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Integration?

There is the question: why would anyone choose to leave their country of birth, their heritage, their traditions, culture and yes, religious comfort to take up residency and citizenship in another land geographically removed from the original, and where that tradition, culture and religion they hold dear represents the truly exotic, in a way that is foreign to the receiving country's traditions and values. Most particularly when the welcoming country to which the choice has been made to emigrate has itself a tradition of egalitarianism.

Is there any symbol more reflective of a tradition of gender bondage than that of the burqa, the hijab, the naqib? Of the three examples the hijab is relatively unobtrusive, appearing a more than sufficient signpost of a different kind of surrender; that of acquiescing to a modicum of modesty as required by Koranic precepts specifically designed for women. As for the burqa and the hijab, their purpose is clear enough; to remind women of their place in a society stringent with repression.

Femininity must be repressed for it is symbolic of the wicked nature of womankind. A woman's physical presence is too damningly alluring for men who cannot be held responsible for their actions if they view an ankle, a head of hair, a full face, womanly contours. Which is why in some Arab and Muslim countries a woman's lack of attention to her garments may be sufficient for justice practised there to hold her guilty of her own rape.

The wearing of the burqa and the hijab can be accepted in an enlightened society that wants to practise what it preaches; freedom for its people regardless of ideology, religion, gender or orientation. Which is why certain religious/cultural symbols are accepted without question, or even after some heated discussion, as with the Sikh kirpan and turban, and the Jewish kippah or skullcap; needful as symbols of dedication to one's faith and to be respected. But even these can be taken a bit too far in demands emanating from their symbolism.

It would, of course, be best if upon being interviewed by immigration officers would-be immigrants were assessed by the quality of their responses, with respect to their seeming suitability for integration into the prevailing larger society. A commitment to become absorbed to a certain degree, while still claiming one's original background, should be a pre-requisite to acceptance. Extreme rigidity in clasping customs clearly at odds and even offensive to the welcoming country should signal a red light of exclusion.

As it is, there are the occasional and fortunately relatively rare, instances where those of religious conviction insist that their right to wear what they will be respected. And it might be, if it were done discreetly, without interfering in any way with the greater social good and the public at large. In the case of the niqab, a square of cloth that covers all but the woman's eyes, it cannot even be claimed that this reflects a religious imperative, for it is one of regional custom and tradition, not religion.

Women who insist they must be accepted as they are, formless and characterless, yet individualistic are playing a game of idiosyncratic entitlement at the expense of the larger society; using a gameboard of semantics to insist on their rights. They refuse to recognize, or to see their use of total covering as a sign of oppression and that is their right. But while the larger society recognizes oppression where they do not, it becomes another kind of symbol, an offence to the society itself.

For it is abundantly clear that by claiming exceptionality as one's right, and rejecting the norms of the accepting society, the individual is demanding that society conform to their values. This is seen in the example of the Egyptian immigrant who is taking the Province of Quebec's stance in rejecting her as a student in French language classes, as long as she wears the niqab, to the province's human rights commission.

She has her supporters, and in the words of the president of the Muslim Council of Montreal: "To deny a person the chance of integration, just because they follow what they believe is correct for them, is wrong", there is a clear conundrum being expressed. How is the woman being denied integration? She is, in fact, by her very actions, rejecting integration.

As for the Muslim Student Association of Concordia University, supportive of the woman's right to wear a niqab wherever she wishes, whenever she desires, whether or not her doing so creates difficulties and problems for others - including her language instructors, including other men in the classes whom she insists be removed from her presence - this has become a 'cause'.

The simple fact appears to be that any backlash against such traditions which are seen as societally strange and even offensively unacceptable, brings to the fore a matching support from those whose traditions uphold these customs. Women whose mothers had never in their lives worn anything remotely resembling a hijab suddenly think it fashionable, as a sign of being 'different' appealing to them.

These young woman apply eye makeup to increase the fetching appeal of their look, and then feel themselves appearing glamorous because of the mysterious sexuality that is enhanced by the combination. While others consider their garb offensively oppressive to women, they who choose to wear those garments consider themselves to represent a vanguard of religious devotion, defiance and style.

A facade to be sure, with little depth of devotion, but a delightfully insouciant way in which to bring attention to one. Now how perverse is that?

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

There One Moment, Gone The Next...

Ottawa Fire Chief John deHooge: "Don't let your kid, don't let your pets, don't let your family go on the ice."
What does it take to instill a note of caution into peoples' awareness of what they're about to embark upon? That old adage that familiarity breeds contempt is no more accurate than when we hear - twice in the space of a week - that two experienced ice fishermen have been involved in deaths on the Ottawa River. Perhaps it's also true that we "get too soon old and too late smart".

In any event, those who feel familiar with nature's capricious changes all too often feel more confident than they should, under circumstances they cannot control.

Last week it was a feckless younger man who had grown up to adulthood familiar with ice conditions in the winter and feeling sufficiently confident about those conditions despite a mild winter and earlier-than-normal thawing, to place himself and his girlfriend (and his dog) at risk, resulting in the death of his 37-year-old girlfriend and his trusting dog, when his truck sank with them inside, unable to free themselves.

This week it's another river ice-fishing enthusiast and old-timer.

This time the accident occurred not near Aylmer, Quebec, but close to Petrie Island in the Orleans section of Ottawa, where well over one hundred ice fishing huts are placed on the ice, and the man who lost his life, Jocelyn Belanger, was considered by the ice-fishing community to have been the most seasoned, knowledgeable, experienced among them.

When you have that kind of reputation you just have to live up to it.

And Mr. Belanger attempted to do just that. He'd already safely removed his own ice shack and turned his attention to that of a friend, a newer, more costly hut its owner said that anyone who retrieved it could take possession of. In the company of friends, Mr. Belanger drove his truck onto the ice, when its back wheels began to sink, whereupon one companion told him to cease trying to free it, and wait while another truck was brought over to pull his out.

When his remaining friend who stayed with him turned around momentarily after Mr. Belanger exited his truck, it appeared that the deteriorated ice around the back of the truck gave way and Mr. Belanger dropped through the resulting ice mash. "They didn't see [him] go down, but when they turned around, he was gone." Another wasted life, another needless, careless, readily avoidable death.

Experience should have whispered in Mr. Belanger's ear that he was being foolhardy. Reputation coaxed him to rise to the occasion. And then it took police divers almost two days to find the man's body and bring it to the surface. "It's like looking in pea soup. It's like looking in mud - you feel for everything", according to the head of the Ottawa police dive team, describing the search through murky, slushy half-ice, half-water.

During the search underwater, twice police divers got stuck themselves under the ice and had to be pulled free by surface crew. "The fear was we were going to get our divers stuck. Obviously, we don't want to risk their lives." It was explained by the police spokesperson that the divers faced the risk of themselves becoming pinned under the man's truck, or trapped under the ice in the fast-flowing water.

It does not, after all, take a logistical genius to figure out the odds. When conditions are so questionable, the better road to take is one of caution. Lady Luck is not always on the alert to lend a helping hand to those who gamble with their lives.

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

"Don't Worry About It"

Those were his precise words, and they afterwards haunted his life. After that history-ranking event, he did, often, worry about it, but the die was cast, the deed done, and there was nothing whatever he could do to turn back the tide of history and somehow manage to raise the alert he hadn't felt compelled to commit to, in 1941. December 7, 1941, to be precise; even more precise, 7:00 a.m. on that historical date.

On the other hand, had the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor never taken place, the Americans would likely have remained isolationist. And the Second World War which imperilled much of the world would have concluded in a far different way then it eventually did. Britain, for one, might have been occupied by Nazi Germany. And the killing machine that exemplified what racist hatred could accomplish in the Holocaust, might have been even more successful.

So who knows? After all, it's said that there are some theories that hold the slightest of changes, even the effect of a butterfly's wings riffling the air, could have consequences through an ongoing chain of events influenced by that butterfly that simply could not be visualized, that could have the effect of altering - everything conceivable in historical and natural events.

In any event, all seemed still at a Fort Shafter U.S. base on Oahu, Hawaii as 28-year-old Kermit Tyler, a U.S. fighter pilot stationed at a radar unit and tasked with the 4:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. shift at the information centre made a decision that would take history on a trajectory that no one might have imagined.

On being informed that a blip on the radar screen had presented itself, he shrugged it off and responded: "Don't worry about it".

As the first wave of Japanese fighters and bombers closed in on their mission to destroy the America naval base at Pearl Harbor. A later navy court of enquiry in 1941 exonerated the man who fought with distinction for his country, earning the Legion of Merit. He had been assigned temporary charge of the radar information centre as his commanding officer wanted the pilots under his command to gain radar experience.

They'd had no previous training, knew nothing about how they should react in case of a troubling report, and this was his second day on duty with no one present to advise him. He did know that there were six B17s due to return to base. And when he was informed of the blip on the screen, without being informed also that the blip was sufficiently large to represent about 50 planes, he assumed it was the B17s returning.

Logically, nothing to worry about. So he didn't. He was an untrained officer, taking responsibility because he was tasked with that responsibility without being sufficiently aware of the full impact of what a lack of awareness leading to the right alarm being raised at the critical time would result in. What it resulted in was 2,402 U.S. military dead, 1,282 wounded, 188 aircraft destroyed and 12 naval vessels sunk.

There were, in total, 353 Japanese aircraft that flew in on waves determined to wreak as much damage as possible. And they succeeded in their duty. And the Government of the United States of America understood they had no other option but to enter the war they had thus far studiously avoided. Had they not, the results would have been far more devastating for the entire world, under the heel of the 1000-year Third Reich.

It may well be that the man who fought so well for his country and who received accolades of praise and achieved a senior post with Air Defence Command, retiring with the rank of lieutenant-colonel, failed in his first vital role. While he remained haunted throughout his life by the fall-out of his lack of astute awareness, there are those who aree, and believe gut instinct had failed.

Labels: ,

 
( )() Follow @rheytah Tweet