Ruminations

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

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Cultural Normatives

We live in interesting times. They're inordinately interesting for teen-age boys, it would appear. Up to mischief, and more. Faced with irresistible temptations, and urging one another on to exploit opportunities that just happen to present themselves. These kids are impressively precocious. Imagine, three boys, all fourteen years old, making the decision to indulge in a little bit of car-jacking.

Fourteen years of age, with an ambition to perform brave deeds, the better to boast of, later. Knowing that, at least in Canada, the Youth Protection Act will ensure that they receive an obligatory wrist-slap, and little more. Their names are protected because they're vastly under-age, and even their parents are protected from notoriety that might result in publishing their names and addresses, to protect the privacy of their young 'uns.

Who can even begin to imagine what hormone-addled, adventure-obsessed, opportunity-craving young boys get up to?

Well, the news published on a daily basis certainly enlightens us. In this instance, three young boys in the Niagara region of Ontario taking possession of a Hummer, and driving it at breakneck speed - the better to indulge in the exhilaration of replaying a high-speed pursuit just like in the movies - with the Burlington-based Ontario Provincial Police hot on their tail lights.

Still, he-he, they managed to evade the police pursuit. Imagine, the bravado of three 14-year-olds and the engine-power of a Hummer, what a combination. No crashes. Hummer intact. Fourteen-year-old bodies intact. Nope, that's not the scenario. In fact, the boys deliberately struck three police cruisers, as police attempted to intercept them.

Who needs a war situation, who needs a lumbering, indestructible tank when you've got a Hummer and three kids who fantasize battle with the authorities?

Write off three police cruisers, damaged by collisions with a Hummer. And commend the OPP for calling off the chase, given the dauntless youngsters in charge of a whole lot of horsepower. The vehicle was soon after, however, spotted in a mall parking lot. Where, doubtless, the swaggering trio stopped to convince a shop owner they were old enough to buy smokes.

And where they were apprehended. What a lark! Surely there should be some mechanism by which the OPP on behalf of the Ontario taxpayer, could charge the parents for lack of parental oversight? And their penalty, one that would surely make them wince, could logically be to pay the freight for damage caused to 3 police cruisers...? Sparing the taxpayer the expense?

Worse things do happen with teen-agers.

In East Jerusalem, for example, two idling teens, aged 13 and 15, nurtured with a hatred for Jews, beat a 60-year-old American Jew to death for refusing to provide them with the requested cigarettes. He had the temerity to speak his mind to the two boys. And they took umbrage. Left him unconscious and bleeding in the center of the city, the bloody stick left beside him.

Other teens were there too, hanging around, and they witnessed the episode. And not one of them attempted to intervene, nor to check the condition of the man left beaten and bleeding. Hours later, the battered man discovered, he was rushed to Hadassah Hospital where doctors fought to save his life. He died.

A contrast in societal norms.

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Monday, August 30, 2010

Positively Impressive

While the opposition parties and the news media harp on about the failings of the current Conservative-led government and Prime Minister Harper's shortcomings, Michael Ignatieff, leader of the official opposition in Parliament, was out and about in Canada, making himself known and available as an affable, misunderstood future prime minister of Canada.

And, reflective of summer-time news, the media are suddenly waxing enthusiastic about the man and the success of his trip. His initial start on a bus that balked appears to have morphed into a successful cross-country get-to-know-ya summer event.

And Mr. Ignatieff and his recalcitrant bus are set now, to return to Ottawa. Mission accomplished. Stopping at little towns and cities in various provinces along the way he has accomplished what he set out to do. Preaching to those who would listen how far more useful he would be as prime minister than the current one.

He comes complete with a social conscience, one he knows is quite absent from the current position-holder. At every stop along the way he made it his business to present as a personable and intelligent future prime minister. Whose forays abroad that consumed much of his life were highly beneficial to him personally, and made him far more fit to hold public office.

In fact, he highly recommended foreign travel and stays as a mind-broadening attribute. If it was good enough for him, it's doubtless good enough for any Canadian. Actually, it seems that living and working abroad for most of one's adult life is a great introduction to the possibility of accomplishing a personal vision of attaining to the highest office of the land.
(Seems he is prepared to depart back to the U.S. if Canadians are too befuddled to recognize his prime ministerial potential; aw.)

Getting to know the world doesn't necessarily mean that in the process Canada is forgotten. It only means that current events globally have greater resonance, and if daily life and news events peculiar to Canada are lost in the shuffle, well, that's just the way it is. Does the reverse hold true too, then, that re-acquainting oneself with Canada dilutes knowledge of the international kind?

Tellingly, at one Nova Scotia stop where curious people came out to see the real McCoy, one voter enquired of him whether as prime minister he would be prepared to encourage honesty of politicians. "I just got the non-answer I was expecting", she reported later. So then she wasn't entirely disappointed when Mr. Ignatieff engaged in his metier of circumlocution. Otherwise known as evasion.

"I anticipated that, I just needed to hear it. I'm just looking for an honest politician", the Haligonian said. Aren't we all? Would we recognize one when/if we see/saw him/her?

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Sunday, August 29, 2010

It's A Conspiracy

Actually, likely a business understanding between pharmaceutical manufacturers, lawmakers and the pharmacists who dole out prescriptions which amenable physicians scribble in a danse macabre of controlling the lives of women's reproductive rights.

As liberating as the birth control pill became in freeing women from concerns with respect to unplanned pregnancies, and in regularizing their menstrual periods and flows and the pain of that many women experienced as well, it remained a benefit that required the intervention of a medical doctor.

Perhaps at its initiation when the balance between the artificial hormones used had the capacity to complicate women's health issues through the very real potential of dangerous side effects, that kind of monitoring made good sense. Now, with a much safer product, it no longer makes good sense.

There are some chronic health conditions that mitigate against the use of birth control pills. That kind of forewarning, printed on the product packaging should suffice to warn women against its use and/or seek a physician's advice.

It no longer makes any sense for women to continue having to see a physician, for the protocol of physical checks, presentation of a prescription at a pharmacy counter. Physical check-ups are intrusive and many women hate them. Having to constantly renew prescriptions represents another nuisance in a busy woman's life, necessitating she make another appointment for yet another physical before the renewed prescription clasped in her hot hand can be turned over to the dispensing pharmacist.

This is society treating women as though they are immature dependents, incapable of making decisions for themselves. It is past time - as many women now begin to assert themselves in a growing movement to set aside regulatory imperatives of the oral pill - to make the product available as yet another over-the-counter convenience.

The editor of the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Canada, an expert in reproduction health, admits it to be paternalistic that this self-administered birth control continue to be available only at a doctor's discretion. When potentially health-harmful products like some pain relievers, like tobacco products, analgesics, are available as over-the-counter products, why not birth control pills?

When women find themselves suddenly faced with the prospect of having inadequately planned, and off somewhere far from home without the needed supply of pills, they should be able to enter any pharmacy and pick up what they need without having to supply a prescription, without having to worry about a doctor appointment, and a physical.

Law-makers and the medical fraternity should respect women enough to recognize they are capable of monitoring their own health issues, and to permit them to make their own life choices.

Canadian retail drug stores last year alone filled 10.3 million prescriptions for the pill, statistics tracked by IMS Health Canada. Oral contraceptives are among the top 20 most-prescribed medications, useful not just as a contraceptive but to help control abnormal menstrual conditions. The current pill has been found to reduce the risk of ovarian cancers.

Federal drug regulators should be on their toes on this one, ready to react to a growing demand for loosening restrictive policies. And the country's pharmacies should prepare themselves for the prospect of losing control of what is currently an unneeded impediment to women's freedoms to self-prescribe.

And deal with the concurrent lost revenues.

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Thursday, August 26, 2010

"It's Just a Cat"

Her mother, aghast at the unfairness of all the notoriety her 45-year-old daughter was receiving through dreadfully negative reactions of the public enraged at witless cruelty to animals, explained that this was completely out of character for her daughter, Mary Bale. After all, Mary Bale is not a baleful person, she loves cats. Just ask her mother.

Mary Bale has a responsible job working at a bank. She has grey hair, and is rather stodgy in appearance. Such people do not deliberately set out to portray themselves as gruesome characters, do they?

They tend to keep to themselves, maintain a low profile, behave like any other decent minded member of the public who would never, ever, under any circumstances take it upon themselves to torture a helpless animal, and perhaps in the process, ensure it will die, frightened, alone, starving to death.

After all fifteen hours enclosed in a dark, closely confined area with no escape would send anyone, let alone a defenceless companion-pet into fear for their lives. Ensuring that the trapped creature would cry out piteously for salvation from its prison before it expired.

Lucky thing for little Lola, its owners were attuned to the mewling of a frightened cat, and set about to discover its whereabouts after a 15-hour absence.

Unlucky for Mary Bale that, despite attempting to ensure that no one was about to witness her descent into nasty malice against an inoffensive animal, her actions were picked up by a security video. Which enabled her to be identified. So that her despicable behaviour, seen by the public, has earned her much-deserved contempt.

So "what's all the fuss about" anyway, says Mary Bales. It was a joke. Can't anyone take a joke anymore? Sheesh!

The cat didn't think it was funny, but that's a cat for you. The public has taken huge umbrage over the matter, but that's the public for you, always looking for something to take umbrage over. The police don't think it's such a big deal; it doesn't constitute a criminal act, after all.

Mary Bale admits to being guilty of a "split second of misjudgement". Was she referring to an impulse she perhaps once experienced, to throw herself under the wheels of a transit bus? So what is the fuss all about? Has no one explained to Mary Bale, not even her concerned mother that she behaved quite, quite atrociously?

She has proven rather adequately not to have been consumed by worry over family concerns which caused her to momentarily lose sight of reality, culminating in that vicious act of incarcerating a cat, but rather to be a self-absorbed imbecile, most evident in her querulous statement: "It's just a cat."

She don't get it, do she?

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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

"In A World Of Her Own"

The question is rhetorical, but why might we reasonably expect human beings to treat helpless animals with compassionate care, when those same human beings treat one another with violent contempt? Well, perhaps because animals who rely on humans for their very existence once they have become domesticated call upon something deep within us to viscerally react against cruelty to animals.

Now that's a fond hope. Helpless infants are abused by their own parents all too often, and there are more than sufficient instances in the public eye where it is revealed just how brutally we behave to one another by one incident after another where people do real harm to one another and until they're hauled before a court of justice experience no remorse.

Violator of the rights of innocent helpless creatures beware; there are snooping eyes everywhere that may, in the end, bring to the attention of the wider public what manner of moral imbecile you are. In the case of a grey-haired woman - that descriptive; 'woman', 'mature', meant to emphasize that there, at least one might expect decent behaviour - that proved to be just the case.

Where a security camera installed by a family as a result of having experienced personal home thefts, captured images clearly revealing a woman whose nasty impulse against a helpless cat, identified her. The result being that great numbers of the public in Coventry, central England, would dearly enjoy doing to her what she did to that cat.

Which is to say, if they could get across protective police barriers. To confront and hiss their contempt at a woman who could gently stroke a cat sitting on a fence outside the home where it lived, gaining its trust only to capture it and slam it into a large garbage bin that stood nearby. And then leaving the scene, conscience untroubled by the probable fate of the creature.

Fortunately, its owners heard the cat miaowing in stress and searched to discover its whereabouts, finally finding it, to their amazement and the cat's good fortune, to have been locked into the garbage bin. And when they checked the video footage of their security camera, there it was, all clearly laid out before their incredulous eyes.

Well, what this woman did is not considered to be a criminal offence. Violence and cruelty to animals can be overlooked. There are so many other laws on the books for public social offenders, to add another in defence of domesticated animals would be too arduously difficult to enforce, clogging up the courts and distressing people no end.

These things happen. The cat was rescued, after all, no worse for its ordeal, and undoubtedly a trifle more cautious about whom it will readily give its trust to. Including women whose defenders claim they love animals, and particularly cats. And the woman the video identified and whom members of the public would enjoy lynching?

Clearly illegal. That would be classified as a criminal act. And, in any event, according to the woman's mother "she was just in a world of her own".

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Ottawa Court Roster - Justice Meted

Ontario Court Justice Lise Maisonneuve is one very busy, actively engaged, philosophically ingrained and jurisprudence-dedicated individual. Ottawa is indeed honoured to have one such as she so deeply steeped in the niceties of the law and the social conditions in which we live among
one another, along with the predilection of some segments of society to make life miserable for others.

An acquired wisdom of balancing the need for society to file its lawful grievances and for an adjudicator to examine evidence and circumstances, resulting in a useful remediating solution.

Sitting in a courtroom day after day must be a particularly dreary experience. Witnessing a long succession of problems surfacing one after another, as prime indication that all is not quite well in the state of human society.

As the dregs of the community are brought forward, from their holding cells where they have been incarcerated temporarily to ensure that polite society is shielded from their further predations. To stand, one after another, the sorry lot, to plead their case of extenuating circumstances causing them to 'act out'.

If disobedient children can be excused for their continual bouts of violently disruptive lash-back at adult authority, then why cannot socially immature sociopathic elements of society whose so often sadly inadequate childhoods can be seen as deserving of forgiveness of the occasional society-afflictive disorderly conduct?

Ottawans can be assured that their safety and security is a top priority with the police and with our judicial system, meting out sentences reflective of the severity of criminal acts.

In one day's newspaper reportage alone, a veritable stew of cases; the criminal offenders and their defence lawyers pleading mercy, and the victims, whose message of having been afflicted beyond human endurance, the presiding judge must balance to achieve a moderating influence; to satisfy the offended and the penitent.

For the offenders are always penitent; we know that because their lawyers assure us this is so. And the offended, whose lives will never be the same, rarely recognize justice when it is astutely and honourably presented on their behalf.

"Unbelievable", was the aghast response of a volunteer at an area ice rink who had been left permanently brain-damaged by what the presiding judge described a "callous, senseless and cowardly" attack. And the presiding judge sentenced 20-year-old Said Muddei to 3-1/2 years in prison.

While Douglas Beardshaw, at age 43, a father of two children, now relies on a cane to assist his perambulation. A beer bottle smashed over his head, then struck with a heavy object on his skull. Pre-warned that the thug who resented his drunken behaviour at a public rink, had a knife and knew how to use it, before mounting the relentless attack.

An onlooker who came to Mr. Beardshaw's aid hit with a shovel, shattering his orbital bone, knocking out a front tooth, kicked and stomped upon. "The level of violence inflicted on these two individuals by this group is atrocious and aggravating", said Judge Maisonneuve. "It is important the sentence clearly sends a message to our community that this type of violence will not be tolerated." Rejecting the Crown's recommendation of 4 to 6 years' prison time.

Rehabilitation and reintegration into society are considerations of deterrence in the sentencing of youthful offenders.Therefore, with eight months' credit for time served in detention, the remorseful Muddei has three years years left to serve. His accomplices, 17 year-olds, found guilty also of aggravated assault, sentenced to 20 months; one scheduled for early release and several weeks of open custody and community supervision; the other 8-1/2 months of open custody and community supervision.

Whew, what a relief when the penalty is commensurate with the crime. There's more.

A 17-year-old fantasizing violent rapes, sentenced to 2 years' probation for what Judge Maisonneuve spoke of as a "terrifying" intent to sexually assault women out walking their dogs at night in a local dog-walking park. He carried a backpack with yellow nylon rope, duct tape, sex toys, padlock and chins, lubricant and condoms. And he stalked three startled, fearful women in an hour and a half. Who obviously did not appreciate his very thoughtfully prepared backpack.

The wishful intent was never brought to fruition; the usefulness of cellphones and 911 calls cannot be over-emphasized. Ontario Court Justice Lise Maisonneuve saw fit to reject Crown arguments for 6 to 12 months in a group home, and opted instead for probation, counselling and treatment, banishment from Conroy Pit and not to effect communication with the women he had stalked. A psychiatric assessment found the youth at worst a moderate risk to re-offend. Until he does.

More? Try this on: Ontario Court Justice Lise Maisonneuve, while deploring the actions of a diagnosed pedophile, a retired OPP officer who sexually abused a 3-year-old girl on separate occasions, sentenced him to an additional 90 days, after permitting the offender 2-for-1 credit for almost 3 months of confinement in pre-sentence custody. The Judge felt additional jail time would be more difficult for the 27-year veteran to serve than the 'average offender'.

John Bateman, 70 years of age, whom wisdom appeared to have escaped in his sunset years, despite a lifetime of 'serving and protecting' the community as a member of the Ontario Provincial Police, was found to be usefully remorseful, admitting he was wrong to abuse a child. He was felt, by the presiding magistrate, to represent as a low risk for re-offending. Which will assist the assaulted child to adjust to her future, immeasurably.

And then there's the case of the 49-year-old man who befriended a disabled wheelchair-bound woman, 78, for whom he did odd jobs, and whom he embezzled out of thousands. Richard Dean Broome also pleaded guilty to defrauding a 70-year-old man who lived in the same apartment building as he. Ontario Court Justice Lise Maisonneuve ordered Broome to pay back $10,000 to each of his victims. And, oops, no criminal penalties will impact upon him if he perchance, does not give monetary restitution as ordered.

That's it folks. No, no it isn't! There's another one, honestly there is.

An Ottawa woman who suffered the misfortune of being dragged by a car driven by a 17-year-old man answering her advertisement for the sale of an emerald and diamond bracelet. He grabbed the jewellery and fled with it, and she hung on to the departing vehicle. Her life will never be the same, having suffered a traumatic brain injury, fractured sinus wall, arm injury and broken teeth, clinging to the car. Until the teen slammed the door on her arms, and she fell.

"I get very emotional. I can't sleep at night", the woman confessed to Ontario Court Justice Lise Maisonneuve during the sentencing hearing. The defence lawyer assured the judge that the teen is so remorseful his "heart breaks" whenever he thinks of how seriously the woman was injured during his little escapade. He even planned to write a letter of apology to the victim. The lawyer recommended two years' probation since time in a group home might set his future back.

Sentencing awaits.

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Monday, August 23, 2010

B.C.'s Cariboo Mountain Range

British Columbia is a vast region of mountains, coastal and interior, of huge swathes of boreal forest, of great rivers, extended areas of desert, complete with tumbleweed, and rich valleys where ginseng is grown in the Fraser River Valley. And where huge cattle ranches abound, in a different view of the province. Driving to Cache Creek where in an earlier era a gold rush drew people with a sense of raw adventure and greed presents a landscape one might hardly imagine.

From there, a long drive to the Cariboo Mountain range, sitting at approximately 3,000 feet above sea level. And it's in central B.C.'s Cariboo Regional District that the worst of the raging wildfires have beset the province, burning a total and growing, of 272,000 hectares of forest. Far outstripping the annual average of forest destruction, at 90,000 hectares. Entire communities have been evacuated, and air quality, due to the fire's ash particulates has been impacted as far as Alberta and Saskatchewan.

The Cariboo region is comprised of 82,000-square kilometres of forest and farmland in the interior of the province. Ninety three of the 280 wildfires burning their way through the province are located within the borders of the Cariboo mountains. Severely impacting on the local forestry and ranching enterprises. The loss of grassland and fences will spell food and security shortages for ranchers. The harvesting of the area's lumber is seen to be in jeopardy.

Hot, dry weather and the prolongation of a drought is held responsible for the lightning-caused fires, catching readily on tinder-dry forests. But fully one-third of the wildfires are thought to have been occasioned by the carelessness of people in the area. Not the kind of weather conditions we happened to have experienced years ago when we drove to that part of the province, and dedicated well over a week to making our way through the Bowron Lakes circuit.

Undertaking long and arduous portages from lakes to rivers in a network of circuitous routes, paddling our rented canoe with all of our supplies on board, with the mountains rising majestically about us, impenetrable in their stoic presence, with snowbound tops, and early morning mists rising from the lakes and the rivers, still and quiescent before the daily winds picked up. And the rain. Incessant, daily rain events, so frequent we wore rainsuits over our jackets, for it was cold there in September as well as wet.

No worries then about the possibility of wildfires. Only concerns about the potential of coming face to face with grizzlies. And to come across good camping sites, most of which had ladders to be hoisted between tall trees where our food-containing backpacks had to be stored overnight, out of the reach of bears. Where we saw alternate-sited steel food safes well bashed by irritated bears. And the prints of wolves impressed on sandy beaches.

And where we woke to gentle mornings suffused with bright light and mist rising off the rivers and lakes. Where, at night, screech owls made their eerie presence known, and black flies did their best to impress upon us the voracious appetite that tiny creatures can possess. And where moose could be found along the shores of the rivers, whose aqua-systems held large, bright-orange salmon.

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Sunday, August 22, 2010

Bright Flashes from Dull Minds

What can they possibly be but juvenile cretins, involved in the pleasure they take from placing others at risk. Sociopaths out for a night of thrills, and nothing will get in the way of their planned frolic with danger. Setting danger in someone else's path, not their own. But thrilling to the powerful sense of mastery of the situation.

Armed with an innocent enough light probe, but one which is capable of bringing a mighty airplane down from the night-time skies. Not, needless to say, the inexpensive dollar-store variety of laser pens that people put on keychains, but the kind that can be obtained at astronomy shops and establishments that sell laser pointers to adults, scrupulously avoiding their falling into immature hands. But the best laid plans can always go awry, and where there's a will, a way will always be found.

Laser pointers possessed by mature adults with immature minds can be put to the kind of vicious mischief that endangers pilots, flight and passengers. The same laser pointer that can be used for conferences and board meetings to illustrate a point can be capable of illuminating the flight deck of an airplane, momentarily blinding the pilot. There have been occasions when the direction of the light has been sufficiently persistent to cause damage to a pilot's eyes.

There has never been a documented case, thus far, where maliciously-used laser pointers have caused a plane crash, but some idiots are working on it. Who have managed to procure serious laser pointers, like the Spyder II Pro Arctic, a potentially dangerous product that does have the capacity to cause serious eye injury, and obviously, a disastrous accident, bringing a plane out of the sky.

The fact that there does exist people who are curious about what can happen if they point those 'light sabers' spot on, and are determined to act on their sense of curiosity is fairly astonishing.
But they do exist, and they do attempt, from time to time, to deliberately blind pilots.

A Sikorsky S76 helicopter, part of the Ornge transport medicine service on a flight to The Ottawa Hospital was targeted six nautical miles from the Civic campus heliport, when a green laser beam was aimed into the flight desk for a few minutes. Another incident, with another medical service helicopter was dangerously laser-flashed on its way to the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario.

The risk for pilots hit directly by a laser beam is temporary loss of night vision, distraction due to surprise, and could result in extreme danger particularly during descents, landings and take-offs procedures. "A bright flash of laser light can destroy night vision and the ability to see cockpit instruments, and depending on the severity of it, it can cause longer-term damage to the eye."

Twice the past week-end, pilots of airliners were targeted by conscienceless idiot-vandals; one a descending Air Canada Airbus A319 coming in from Vancouver at 7,000 feet over west Ottawa. The 124-seat jet was landed safely. A year ago an air ambulance pilot, flying 2,000 feet over the Gatineau Hills experienced serious eye damage when he was targeted by what must have been a military-grade laser.

There are penalties to be exacted that reflect the seriousness of this particular crime. A maximum fine of $100,000 under the federal Aeronautics Act, along with up to five years' imprisonment. Unfortunately, it's a little like searching blindly in the dark to identify these juvenile delinquents, regardless of their age.

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Saturday, August 21, 2010

Abysmal Ignorance

When Americans were facing the early stages of their last national electoral process, one whose outcome was to amaze the international community, let alone the U.S. electorate, a surprising few people on the streets of any U.S. city could recognize the name of a very different candidate for the U.S. Democratic party. When asked by roving reporters what name-recognition the name Barack Obama brought to mind, people responded with the reply that he was an international terrorist.

Osama bin Laden doesn't really sound like Barack Obama, but both are sufficiently exotic-sounding, resonating of a heritage and a tradition and not least, a religion so unlike that which came most readily to the minds of most Americans that the misappropriation of identify seemed explicable, even if remotely so. Since then, Americans have had ample opportunity to scrutinize the persona and performance of their new president.

The first biracial American elected to the highest executive office of the land. A man whose highly unusual background, moreover, and complex relationship to his country made him suspect in the opinion of many. Their suspicions appear to have grown, rather than be curtailed throughout the time this man has been in public office at the helm of government. The world's most ferocious democracy invests itself in rumours and innuendos beloved of conspiracy theorists.

Whereas before the election took place, a small segment of the population strenuously defended their belief that Mr. Obama was a practising Muslim, his time in office has not relieved them of this determined belief. His recent remarks respecting the proposed building and installation of a huge mosque two blocks from the collapse of the World Trade Center in the horrendous attacks by fanatical Muslim jihadists have done him no favours in this respect.

He loftily upheld the rights of U.S. Muslims and the obligations of all U.S. citizens to recognize that right in reflection of lawful freedoms guaranteed to all Americans in the free practise of their religions, in an obvious defence of the planners of the Cordoba Initiative that came back to sting him. In a transparently obvious bid to save himself after the pronouncements' public and viral backlash, he backtracked on the "wisdom" of the mosque placement.

Even without the clumsily righteous declaration of support for the imposition upon the New York landscape of a sacred monument to a religion whose many clerics have been supportive of violent jihad targeting the United States as Islam's deservingly-primary enemy, a large demographic of voters would see in Mr. Obama "the other", a covert enemy of the country's traditions and values, a foreign interloper-by-cunning-stealth.

Popular-media rags blare out headlines accusing the American President of false citizenship, of harbouring an agenda that is meant to be of great harm to the country he now heads. Where a larger percentage of voters felt assured on his inauguration that he was a practising Christian, that number has now succumbed to a larger number of those same voters insistent that he is a Muslim.

Those Americans who see President Obama as a Christian have a far greater approval rating of his performance on behalf of the country than those who believe him to be Muslim, and who consider his governance to be an utter disaster. Fully one-quarter of Americans persist in their belief he was born outside the U.S.

"Obama's Secret Life Exposed!"

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Friday, August 20, 2010

What Lesson Learned?

How absurdly improvident people can demonstrate themselves to be. Lured by the prospect of having their very own swimming pool in their very own backyard, of their very own house in their very own neighbourhood, and the prestige attached to that ownership, they succumb. Within a country with all the intemperate seasons of a northern latitude, where the potential for pool use is restricted to three to four months of a 12-month year.

A costly proposition; its installation and its maintenance. Yet it is a symbol of successful attainment and people are drawn to its symbolism and visions of fun in the sun. Soon enough the shiny new toy is not used as frequently as when it was first installed and it becomes an owner's albatross. The sacrifice of space given over to a pool, above- or in-ground, gardens seen as lesser value. When the family's children are young the family pool, though gated and fenced represents an ever-present danger.

Too many young children are lost each year to the presence of pools and the lack of presence of adult oversight. But then, there are anomalies in the equation as well. As, for example, when the adults in proud ownership of their very own backyard pool are not themselves capable swimmers, though in the particular instance newly reported, their two young girls, 13 and 9 years of age, are. The father, it would appear, never learned to swim adequately.

He normally restricts his pool time to instances when his wife, an able swimmer, goes into the pool with him. However, on a hot and humid day when she was not present, their two daughters went swimming along with their father. Mindful of his lack of aquatic fitness, he normally avoids the deep end staying at the shallow end, but on this occasion he floated beyond to the slope and found himself in water deeper than he was comfortable with.

Imagine, far from the pool's edge or a ladder, finding himself going underwater, flailing helplessly about, while the two girls were happily distracted swimming about competently. Until noticing their father's distress, at which point the 13-year-old dove, grasped her father and swam with him to the edge of the pool, leaving her little sister to keep the unconscious man's head above water, while the older girl dialled 911.

"I thought he was dead because he wasn't moving", said the younger child afterward, hugely relieved that their father was recovered from his brief ordeal. One that, without their presence of mind, would have left them fatherless. How feckless is that?

And how reckless that young adults out for a day of fun in the sun at a lake on the north shore of the Lanark Highlands hadn't the perspicacity to understand that there might be danger in store for someone left alone in the middle of the lake, intending to swim back to shore on her own. Obligingly, two friends of a 19-year-old woman watched while she disembarked from their watercraft in the middle of the lake.

Her intention, to make her way back to the shore on her own. And this was the last the friends saw of their adventurous swimming companion until the following day when her lifeless body was pulled from the lake by search and rescue teams. (Chalk up yet another drowning death in the Ottawa Valley this summer.) In both instances, what were they thinking? Assuming they were capable of rational thought.

In the case of the father whose two daughters rescued him from his own backyard pool, unconscious and perilously close to expiring, he claims he has learned a life lesson: "I'm not going to go near water without a lifejacket". Well, that's quite the solution, isn't it? Mightn't dedicating himself to learn how to swim properly be a more useful vow of intent?

As for the happy-go-lucky friends of a young woman who saw fit to drop her off in the middle of a lake and then continue their zipping about on that lake with never a thought to the woman's safety, one can only wonder what life lesson they've learned?

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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Guarding The Nation

Dreadfully sad, the admission and the knowledge that the RCMP might have averted the horrible deaths of a dozen - perhaps more - women by paying attention to the evidence in their possession, by heeding the anxious queries put to them by Vancouver's police respecting the puzzling disappearances of women from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. Dreadfully sad, when the country which has for so long entrusted their safety and security to this national institution has for so many recent revelations, been given reason to doubt its dedicated effectiveness.

Pretty ridiculous to read of an RCMP investigation into a remotely-located marijuana grow-operation in southeastern British Columbia. Marijuana has never been accused of killing anyone, and it remains a popular recreational drug, like tobacco and alcohol; the latter two legal, the former deemed an illegal substance. Which, despite its illegality remains in great general use. By all manner of people, from academics to politicians - students to people ameliorating the pain they suffer from intractable health problems.

But here is the courageous RCMP venturing into back country, driving up a steep logging road situated in the foothills of the Rockies, to check out a 'tip'. A remotely-located cabin inhabited by two people who relish living in the rough, preferring it to 'civilized' society, in the company of the wild animals whose environment they borrow. Claiming to have confiscated a million dollars' worth of plants growing in the brush, these doughty warriors of crime arrest the two cabin residents.

And confront what they jokingly aver is the legion of bodyguards protecting the thousand marijuana plants to be destroyed. The 'bodyguard' bears, well fed, accustomed to the calm presence of humans who feed them, quizzically view the appearance of the uniformed and armed police, but make no move to intervene in their process of apprehending crime. In perusing the contents of the rude cabin, a pig is discovered in residence and a raccoon asleep in the bedroom. They were not arrested.
Mountie at the scene of an interior B.C. grow op that was apparently being guarded by more than a dozen bears. (Photo submitted by the RCMP)
Mountie at the scene of an interior B.C. grow op that was apparently being guarded by more than a dozen bears. (Photo submitted by the RCMP)
Satisfied with a day's work well done; the two property owners, a married pair at their half-century mark of rural wisdom are taken into custody. They are later released, to return to their little Paradise so rudely invaded by law and order. Residents of the area are bemused, they know of no illegal activity in the region, while allowing the commonality of marijuana cultivation as a popular local practise.

Living a reclusive life at one with the wilderness and the creatures therein, in a cabin with no modern amenities, but providing all the necessities of life and the pleasures of existence is no longer an innocent, let alone laudable decision for one's well-considered satisfaction in life. Feeding the local wildlife, and appreciating their trust and the peculiarities of their individuality will surely bring additional problems the way of this couple, for this too is forbidden by law.

And the investigation continues.
Scene photos after police raid on a marijuana grow operation that was apparently guarded by black bears, at Christina Lake in southeastern B.C. (RCMP hand out)
Scene photos after police raid on a marijuana grow operation that was apparently guarded by black bears, at Christina Lake in southeastern B.C. (RCMP hand out)

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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A Notable Personage

In her official photograph as the first female mayor of Ottawa, Charlotte Whitton looks, to put it rather uncharitably, formidable, grim, unmovable, lacking in humour and empathy. Well, that is what meets the eye, and not a particularly critical eye, prepared enough to give a little leeway to the formality of the likeness and the sobriety of the topic. After all, her time and place was not a particularly welcoming one for women in the public eye.

She was said to have been a very good mayor of the capital city of Canada, and she was reputed to have been energetically involved in a whole range of good-works projects. A responsible citizen of the day, one who had the eyes and ears of the public upon her public maneuverings. Her work on behalf of the welfare of children in Canadian society, in helping to launch through her directorship, the Canadian Council on Child Welfare, in which she was involved for two decades is remarkable in itself.

That was well over a half-century earlier. A time when ethnic minorities knew their place within Canada, for they were relatively few in number, geographically localized, and not held in particularly high esteem. The founding nations, English and French, were the dominant and the privileged in society. Looking askew at the presence of foreign elements, particularly racialist in their attitudes as visible minorities being of obviously lesser stock.

On the other hand, one needn't have been particularly 'visible' in the sense of looking all that different from the majority population. Jews might have been held to be Caucasian [close genetically to the Armenians], but they were still well, Jews. And virtually everyone knew what that meant. And Charlotte Whitton, being a person of her time, heartily subscribed to the inferiority and implied sinister presence of Jews mingling in polite society.

Now, celebrated as an individual of the greatest integrity, a person of great personal accomplishments to which the country owes much, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada has recommended that Parks Canada give designation of this remarkable woman as a 'person of national historical significance'. In fact, she has already been designated in that manner, having been cited in various publications as a rabid anti-Semite.

This is a label that once read, Jews never forget. But others do, since it hardly concerns them. Little wonder then that the nomination sponsors 'had no idea' of this dark aspect of her character.

Concerned with child welfare reforms, she was hugely instrumental in her bigoted insistence that Canada not accept a desperate boatload of Jewish refugee orphans, and in the end, thanks to her exceptionally vigorous denunciations and rigorous denials, the hundreds of orphans perished along with other Jewish refugees whom Canada would not deign to accept lest they perilously soil Canadian values by their presence.

After the war, when it became abundantly clear that Nazi Germany's success rate in extinguishing Jewish lives included many that could have been saved, inclusive of those thousand Jewish orphans, her singular role in sending them to their certain deaths rather than risk having them become Canadian citizens, never seemed to trouble her conscience. She was a creature of her times beyond extraordinary.

A million Jewish children died in fascist Germany's extermination camps, alongside five times that number of adult Jews. The Jews that Canada's then-Prime Minister Mackenzie King and his executive crew denied entry to Canada, alongside Charlotte Whitton's denied-entry Jewish orphans represented a fragment of those who perished. But they might have lived, had Canada's concerns of "none is too many" not overridden humanitarian need.

Ms. Whitton's sterling work on behalf of her city, her country and its institutions had been recognized and she was bemedalled by an Order of Canada and later elevated to Commander of the British Empire. Well done. Recognition of a life well lived. More or less. Far less than it might have been, impacting so hugely on the lives and the deaths of the world's abandoned.

Honour her memory further? Hardly.

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Mixed Martial Arts

People must have their circuses. Their curious fascination with the brutal side of life, evidenced by the popularity of physical 'sports' like professional wrestling and boxing, like hockey and rugby games where the goal seems all so often to inflict as much physical punishment on the adversary as rules and regulations appear to permit. The roar of the crowd, the approving entreaty to continue to thrill their vicarious mesmerization with anything approximating combat, brings an euphoric pleasure to the minds of the protagonists.

This is redolent of earlier times when in Roman-era arenas gladiatorial skills in combating equally skilled men of powerful physique and familiarity with the primitive side of human existence, gave the crowds their moments of collective satisfaction. Not quite the reflection of an even earlier era when Greek 'games' of physical beauty manifested in the perfect shape of a well-toned human body brought admiration, doubled by the contestants' ability to demonstrate the grace and power of physical prowess and precision performance.

In our era, a jaded public, bored with the usual that the sporting world has to offer, has their imagination caught by 'ultra sports'. Mixed Martial Arts in which brutish appearance and hulking physique twin with a marginal spirit of fair play and a far harsher interpretation of what's permitted on the battlefield of the stage. Men and women priding themselves in having the genetic physical endowment, the training and mindset and the urgent need to display themselves and their muscular training to advantage.

Winning, earning adulation and brief stints of glory, acquiring the 'win' proceeds and the reputation transcends dedication to the pure spirit of competition for the sake of demonstrating grace of movement and beauty of presentation. These martial arts games are another story altogether, combining all the worst elements of physical manipulation and strength, cunning and belligerence marked by events to which the public flocks: Ultimate Fighting Championships.

These events stand on the threshhold between civilization and primitive behaviour where the champion is the one with the greatest strength and carefully crafted moves meant to overpower the attributes of the other through intimidating viciousness. Just as boxing dealt wicked blows to the human head resulting in the eventual destruction of brain cells and debilitating future health conditions, so too do these modern-era events with their techniques geared to winning at all costs, auger ill for their players.

As much as the supporters and the presenters enjoy speaking of these extreme events as exhibitions of the "martial arts", they are not. They are, quite frankly, exhibitions of human brutality posing as an art form. One that exploits the public's keen enthusiasm for witnessing blood and pain and atrocious conduct in the guise of a well-accepted 'sport'.

These events have their relative counterparts elsewhere in the world. Public executions still take place to great public acclaim in those parts of the world where a deeply fanatic religious movement has taken root. Where men and women are flogged, tortured, stoned to death and an entire village will turn out to aid and to celebrate the deaths of those who dare challenge religious values.

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Monday, August 16, 2010

Calgary Has A Problem

Construction projects in Calgary appear to be taking their toll of the population, unaware that they may be in mortal danger when they drive close to, or walk by areas where high-rise construction is in progress.

Evidently, there has been an inexplicable rash of accidents occurring in the city in the last while. Everything from vehicles being dented because of falling construction debris and unsecured tools, to the death of a three-year-old little girl, killed when a piece of metal unaccountably fell from the 18th floor of a hotel under construction.

Inadequately secured scaffolding has fallen from a great height to the street below the 19th floor construction of a building, and a two-metre high glass pane also fell from a tower under construction.

More recently a three-metre-long metal piece fell from a construction site, and it fell upon a SUV, not a soft, warm body of flesh and blood. But this occurred during a morning rush hour, and anyone could have been hit and killed by the large piece of metal.

Gusts of wind blowing large pieces of plywood to the street, wrenches falling from the 45th storey of a skyline showpiece, smashing into the window of police headquarters below.

Construction companies have been charged with violating safety rules, but it would appear that incidents of carelessness and accidents keep occurring. Construction workers on a condo development were filmed tossing tools to one another over an open gap between scaffolds.

Just some good-hearted fun, a release from the tensions of high-rise construction. And the chance taken that there would be no one below who might suffer the consequences of the fun.

Some of this inattention to safety is attributed to companies taking short cuts or simply not enforcing basic safety rules, and some to novice construction workers, not well schooled in safety practices.

There's a simple enough solution. Do as is done in Japan. Over the scaffolding, spread huge nets to encompass both building and scaffolding, securing safety. It's more costly, more time-consuming, but it is effective.

Plenty of things are done differently in Japan. Roadwork is never done during the day in Tokyo; rather it is done at night, when the roads are clear of traffic.

Perhaps someone at Calgary City Hall might take a trip to Tokyo and check out their best-practise methods.

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Sunday, August 15, 2010

Perceptual Reality

Ottawa has suffered more than its presumed share of tragic accidents of late. Occurring when blunt force meets up against soft, yielding flesh. A motorcycle driver ramming into the side of a SUV. An elderly driver backing out of his driveway directly into a pedestrian. No contest. (Backyard swimming pools insufficiently tended taking the lives of toddlers.) Cyclists in collision with vehicles. People not attuned to the dangers that surround them.

Still, we cannot live our lives constantly on anxious alert.

On the other hand, we have every reason to believe that people are reasonably able to detect when situations call for greater care. Drivers of great lumbering vehicles have a huge advantage in safety outcomes. They may end up in a shock of denial, but the other end of the argument between steel and flesh is generally a funeral for someone. And inconsolable grief for loved ones. Even likely enough a lifetime of guilt for the driver of the vehicle.

A mix of truly unfortunate circumstances; an NCC bicycle path latterly under rehabilitation so the anticipated route of safety is interrupted, sending cyclists onto city streets as an alternative. And there are inexperienced drivers of vehicles, at any given time on the roads. In this instance, a mix that proved to be dreadfully lethal. Taking the life of a 53-year-old man who was pinned under a SUV driven by a G1 class license holder.

The man suffered horribly. It was reported that he begged a woman who was a passenger in the SUV that destroyed him for help. "He said, 'Help me'. I touched his shoulder and said, 'God will help you.'" Did he find that comforting? One sincerely doubts it. The bicyclist had taken due care, he was wearing a helmet; just in case he had a bad fall, a slight collision with an immovable object. The helmet could not help him in this scenario.

Nothing could. His body was crushed, and his life simply evaporated, in excruciating pain. He might perhaps have heard the woman say to him "911 is coming". Not soon enough, but even so, there was nothing they could have done to help him. Ironically, the passenger in the driver's SUV was coaching her, giving her a 20-minute driving session, to enable her to take the G2 driver's license test with greater confidence.

The woman driver is the wife of a pastor of Britannia Baptist Church. She and her husband are the church founders. Church members have compassionately turned out to their home to pray, for both the driver of the SUV and for the dead cyclist. "Our faith was a key factor in providing that strength at a time like this. That support group and her faith in God are the bedrock of stability", explained her husband in an interview.

"Either the motorist misjudges the speed of the cyclist or doesn't look", commented the treasurer of Citizens for Safe Cycling. He most certainly should know. Cycling can be recreationally rewarding, a joy at times, and wonderful past time and at the same time a perilous undertaking, one with lethal consequences. Cyclists are all too aware of their vulnerability. There are been, altogether too many deadly accidents with unalert drivers and cyclists.

"Some of them are going as fast as they would on the bike paths", said the pastor of Britannia Baptist church, the SUV driver's husband, in musing over the number of cyclists temporarily riding on the residential streets close to where the bike path has been temporarily off limits.

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Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Judge Awarded What? To Whom?

"It is a central tenet of the rule of law that everyone is required to obey the law and all are entitled to the protections of the law, even those litigants who may be deserving of little sympathy. In that latter category would be members of gangs reputed to be engaged in some of the most serious of illegal misconduct in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia." Federal Court Judge Michael Phelan
Well, then, that's fairly straightforward. Isn't it? Got problems with that? With, for example, members of a criminal gang, the founder of which has been sentenced in the United States to 30 years' imprisonment for his part in the unlawful activities of a cross-border drug smuggling ring being guaranteed access to the very same protections as any other member of society. How admirably high-minded.

And delicately noble. Or is it twisted, that a convicted felon, one whose life-work has enriched him and his other gang members while destroying the lives of drug-addicted people incapable of helping themselves by leaving their drug habit - the end result of which they are destined to live a life of desperate poverty and petty crime to support it - is required by law to receive fair justice ensuring his 'rights' are not trodden upon.

The logic is a trifle slippery here. Jurisprudence is an extremely exact science, and legal minds pride themselves on the quality of the justice they mete out on the one hand, and on the other their ability as prosecutors/defenders to slip through providential interstices where they may, in a game of legal dice. On the surface, however, all citizens, the honest individual who has never run afoul of the law, the violated and the violator alike (theoretically) receive equal justice.

Canada Revenue Agency, it would appear, made unwonted information demands with respect to the earnings of some of the members and associates of a grubbily notorious crime cartel naming itself - some might aver puckishly appropriately - the United Nations. Legal protection (to privacy) under the law has been impacted in a way that a federal court judge has held to be in conflict with the gang members' legal rights under the Constitution.

"There was an air of disregard for the citizen's legal rights, including confidentiality, obligations imposed on CRA officials, which elevate the unlawful conduct to one deserving of some reprobation", ruled Judge Phelan. The UN associates had brought suit against the Canada Revenue Agency, having taken umbrage over the impolite tactics employed, challenging the content of letters and the serving of documents.

Carried out late at night, in the presence of police cruisers at the homes of the gang members. Drawing embarrassing attention to their presence, within the neighbourhood. "Police presence was clear and visible and highly obtrusive." Deliberately and offensively so, to the extent that these poor harassed criminals felt dreadfully abused by the process which the judge characterized as "invasive and unjustified".

Noble declarations in the defence of criminals to whose feelings and emotions the general public is, to say the least, fairly indifferent. One of the challengers happens to be awaiting trial in British Columbia Supreme Court with two others with respect to importing cocaine. Two others of the challengers have been dispatched, so to speak, in a gangland settling of accounts. These insults to society can be indulged as needful of justice.

To the extent that Judge Phelan has awarded $200,000 for the appellants' legal fees. To be handed over to the United Nations gang members who brought suit, from the federal government. This is tax money to the tune of $200,000 which the government is adjudged to owe to conscienceless criminals. Who should be prosecuted, judged and sentenced for their crimes against society.

And most certainly not held up as prime examples of 'citizens' in need of protection from government agencies because their 'rights' have been impinged upon.

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Friday, August 13, 2010

Please Complete The Questionnaire

Well, there's an interesting scenario and a rather novel response to it, one might think. Hazarding a guess, one might also think this was hugely experimental. And as such, representing as a signal failure. One can imagine how a community might feel more than a little unsettled, spooked and fearful to discover that among them, close to where they live, to people whom some might have known and many others might recognize, murder has interrupted three lives.

Presumably, the three people were not integrated into the community, as it were. For their absence appeared not to have been immediately noticed. Which meant that the people, living in a housing complex, had no curiosity about the whereabouts of a small family, husband, wife and three-year-old child, or there was little communication and little interest expressed by the community toward the family, and/or vice versa.

But they were absent in an actively present sense. For they had been murdered; 31-year-old Gray Nay Htoo, and 28-year-old Maw Maw along with their son Seven June Htoo. Their names identify them as having perhaps been fairly recent immigrants. Living among others with whom they may not have shared a language, a common culture and heritage. Perhaps explaining in part the lack of involvement on a social level.

When they were finally discovered by police, their bodies were in a state of decomposition. A horrible thing to have occurred; to be murdered and to be overlooked. One imagines the neighbours to feel more than a little vulnerable, for among them lived a family which likely kept to themselves, and they are no more; their lives violently taken away. Who might be next? Who would do such a dreadful thing?

And this appears to be what the police in Regina are mulling over, themselves. And they've taken an unusual step in attempting to recruit volunteers from among the people living in the complex to assist them in their search for answers. They have circulated a questionnaire to the residents of the complex, soliciting their co-operation in their search for answers.

And oh yes, their search for the killer or killers of the unfortunate family. People have been requested to co-operate, to write in detail what they can recall having been engaged in during the week that would equate to when the homicides occurred. Some residents are definitely not amused, but they are most certainly bemused. Who would not be? One of the queries: "Do you know who murdered those people?"

Really, it asks just that. "If you were going to conduct the investigation, how would you do it?" The form moreover, carefully instructs people to think deeply and thoroughly before committing their responses to the paper provided. Asking people to relate their personal opinion on what caused the murders. And, incredibly, going on to ask directly whether the respondents themselves actually committed the murders.

Or, perchance, happened to take part in the murders. "I think it's insulting", one unnamed resident fumed. And isn't that an understatement. "Every time people are murdered, do they go to their neighbours and give them something like this? I just think it's terrible. ...I feel like we're really being interrogated and unfairly." Another hazards the opinion that the tenor of the questionnaire appears to require the assistance of a good defence lawyer.

As for the Regina Police Service, responding obliquely to a direct question on the particular investigatory details and The VIEW Questionnaire, "We know and have heard loud and clear that people want us to find the person or persons responsible, and that means carrying out a thorough investigation." That's what they're doing.

In the process thoroughly demeaning peoples' sensibilities and even the level of their intelligence. Everyone, it would appear, is a potential suspect when the investigating authorities appear to lack the professionalism to do their work without harassing people already under stress as the safety and security of their homes and their lives are under question.

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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Youth Offenders, Offending Parents

In Ottawa a trial of one of two 16-year-old boys arrested for break-and-enter, and maliciously destroying the interiors of the homes they invaded during a day of boredom-relieving mayhem has been sentenced to four months' incarceration, on top of the six months already served. The presiding judge condemned their "orgy of vandalism", citing their "extreme level of callousness" and "utter indifference and contempt" for other peoples' privacy and property.

These two bored boys fried a pet gecko in a microwave, sloshed paint over a small, vulnerable family dog, ruined furniture, smeared walls and upholstered furniture with paint, defecated on the floors of households, stole clothing, jewellery and electronics, and generally disported themselves as sociopathic louts in practise for a lifetime of crime. A lifetime of crime actually describes this boy's aspirational outlook on life.

He had once informed a psychiatrist it was his goal in life to be "good at crime, famous and important". Evidently he has absorbed a life lesson in achievement from his mother who refuses to take responsibility for her son's behaviour, rarely bothered to attend court, couldn't be put out enough to visit him in custody and had no interest in participating in the preparation of a pre-sentencing report.

Now, remind me again why people have children? And why and how it is that society does not discipline parents for not maintaining parental responsibility to groom their children to become well-adjusted members of society? A psychiatric assessment found the boy derived his pleasure from destructiveness, and harboured resentment toward people who were emotionally and financially secure.

This was not his initial venture into criminal activity. He has a string of past stays in both secure and unsecured open custody. With convictions of assault, assault causing bodily harm, possession of a weapon and break-and-enters into two schools where satisfaction and joy in opportunity were achieved by damaging computers. Quite the accomplishment for a 16-year-old.

But this boy is a relative novice.

In Nanaimo, British Columbia, police are faced with the conundrum of a 12-year-old child exhibiting all the symptoms of a hardened criminal. He's had three years of apprenticeship in the trade. Like the 16-year-olds in Ottawa, he cannot be identified by name, under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, nor for the same reason, can the names of his parents be revealed. But this 12-year-old has acquired a history of run-ins since the age of 9 with local police.

And now he has been arrested - at age 12 - for armed robbery. Having accosted a 20-year-old man exiting his vehicle, and demanding from him his cellphone and other items. The gun, retrieved from a source other than the boy's home, turns out to have been a replica. The victim had no way of knowing that; he saw himself confronted with a child pointing a firearm at him, demanding he divest himself of objects the boy wanted.
"This youth has been so involved in the criminal system it is scary. We would really like to see this youth get help. He really needs some help." Sergeant Sheryl Armstrong, Nanaimo police services.
"Most of the arrests police have made of this young man have been for indictable or more serious crimes."
Why cannot the parents of these children be placed alongside their offspring, in front of a judge to be held accountable for what their neglect has realized?

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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

International Philanthropy

Well, just look at that. Saudi Arabia has money to burn. Funding mosques and 'community centres' all over the world. And let's not forget those madrassas established all over the Arab and Muslim world - and to complete the picture in just about every city in the Western world where burgeoning Muslim populations have migrated. And now they're completing a world-class clock to appear in Mecca, to challenge the primacy of Greenwich Mean Time.

That's a lot of funding, representing a whole lot of money. And where did that money come from? Well, oil proceeds, since Saudi Arabia, like many of its peer countries in the Middle East has been handsomely endowed by nature and geography with an immensely valuable natural resource. Fossil fuels to be precise. Which, in an energy-hungry world is greedily consumed. So Europe and North America help the Saudis extract those natural resources, and they import it to their home countries and pay big time.

And a lot of that money emanating from those sources making their way into the Arab oil-resource-full countries are spent on lavish display, buildings of immense proportions, funding princely lifestyles of ostentatious excess. And of course, exporting Wahhabi-style Islamism abroad. Some of which; much of which, has transmogrified into violently incendiary Islamist jihadism. Which is most definitely not healthy for the rest of the world.

And, with all this oil wealth is there anything that can be characterized as a philanthropic bent within the oil-wealthy Arab republics, dictatorships, theocracies, autocracies, and kingdoms? Not that one could notice. When other, far less financially and geographically naturally-endowed Muslim countries suffer great hardship due to natural disasters or internal catastrophes, it appears to be the West and its finances that pick up the rescue tabs.

In contrast, interesting contrast,there is the recent initiative by the Gates and their friend Warren Buffet to encourage other billionaire Americans to surrender much of their vast wealth in the name of charitable enterprise. America is also hugely wealthy, having hundreds of billionaires, the most of any other country by far. Thus far, 40 members of the American billionaire elite have pledged to give away over half of their fortunes. And 13 of that 40 just happen to be American Jews.

The Giving Pledge, pioneered by Warren Buffet and Bill and Melinda Gates has energized and enthused the philanthropic spirit among U.S. billionaires. Their funding will be directed toward health issues, scientific projects, education, and a vast array of charitable projects, at home and abroad. And it is more than a little interesting that wealthy Jews represent the most charitable donors on a huge scale, per capita. According to Forbes, over a third of living donors who have given away over $1-B of their fortune, happen to be Jews.

And although Jewish philanthropists give generously to Jewish causes, those donations represent a mere fraction of the millions given away annually to a variety of other causes unrelated to ethnicity or religion. Quite a contrast in sensibilities.

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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Restrain, Rebuke, Punish

"You work a lifetime just to get by. Why would somebody break in and destroy everything I worked so hard for?"
These are no first-time offenders. With a streak of previous anti-social acts behind them to identify them as repeat social deviants of the criminal variety. Representing sociopathic tendencies that no one would willingly accept within a neighbourhood. All the more so those individuals who have been victimized by the truly grisly viciousness the unnamed louts perpetrated upon the security and comfort of the homes they stupidly and with obvious malice aforethought, penetrated.

Four break-ins on the same street, in the same day. One in which a pet gecko was incinerated in a microwave. Another where a small family dog was covered with paint. Where, upon entry to peoples' homes, the excitement-seeking youths whom the Youth Criminal Justice Act protects from identification, proceeded to trash. Where cans of paint were sloshed over furniture, over floors and walls. And where human excrement was flung about to ensure that the residents, on returning to their homes would be utterly repulsed by the filth.

These 'boys', guilty of previous incidents of assault, possession of weapons, breaking into school properties, made it their business to excavate food from refrigerators and freezers littering it about just as they did bedroom furniture; punctured television and computer screens, consumed food and beer, smoked marijuana and left the homes they invaded in a state of complete, disastrous disrepair. And the owners of those homes in despair, some with inadequate insurance to cover their losses.

So what kind of deviant mentality equates fun with wasting peoples' property, and hoping to succeed in wrecking peoples' lives? Is it possible to hope to teach such people who have no consideration for others - who feel that to break peoples' hearts by destroying what they've built up in a lifetime of work is great fun - that each and every one of us has a social and moral obligation to be decent human beings?

One of the victims of these break-ins appears to feel this way. She is herself a single mother, whose own work has been with helping troubled youth, as a professional counsellor. And who is appealing that these youth offenders not be sentenced to prison, nor to probationary time, but rather that they be committed to a year and a half of remediation. On the other hand, the lawyer representing one of the offender's interests feels a slap on the wrist would be just fine.

"We're not talking about a heinous crime where this young person has committed murder and chopped the body up", claimed the lawyer piously. Insisting that his client committed what is not considered to be violent offences under the Youth Criminal Justice Act; in which case the sentence, according to his logic, should a sentence of two years' probation and community service. And the add-on of an essay of regret for youthful indiscretion.

As an observer, seems to me what these young thugs did, should certainly qualify as violence perpetrated against others. Frying an innocent animal isn't exactly an act of kindness. What's that old adage? Do the crime, do the time...? And where the hell are the parents of these criminals-in-training? If they're too young to prosecute as adults for the crimes they've committed, then they should still be in the care of parental authority.

Where was that parental authority when it was needed? Prosecute them for lack of due diligence as supportive parents.

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Monday, August 09, 2010

Problem? What Problem?

Britain's Royals are in the throes of yet another embarrassment. They have most certainly borne their share of such embarrassments. Among their familial hangers-on a propensity to indulging in all the addled ills of a society whose Victorian rectitude has long since passed into fond memory. Queen Elizabeth II, Elizabeth Windsor so to speak, entertains one annus horribilus after another, with the odd free year of few scandals in between.

Choices, and consequences. Of course with her unerring sense of noblesse oblige it is not she directly who causes the scandal sheets to mockingly capitalize on the Royal House of Windsor's lapses in social and moral sobriety - indulgences in societal scandal, but she has a family among whom there exists the irresistible urge to behave just as they will because they will it, irrespective of their mother's and their father's stern warning to comport themselves otherwise.

For the most part, it has been the unfortunate choices of their sons (only incidentally their daughter) in selecting fetching but insensible partners lacking that internal second sense that might swerve them away from revealing their corruptible core. Sarah Ferguson the proverbial gold-digger? Say it isn't so, and you'd be telling an unfathomable lie, simply based on her past and current performances. Her behaviour, like that of her predecessors, "deeply concerns" the Queen.

The Duke of York, for his part, is most certainly not amused. On the brink of bankruptcy because she has become accustomed to living the most lavish of lifestyles? Doesn't it happen to many whose grasp of realities eludes the concept of insufficient income not equating with a luxurious lifestyle? Oblivious to the most elemental of mathematical equations; that of incurring bills far outstripping income?

The interest in the Duchess's debt, like that of many insolvent nations of the world, even begins to outstrip her meagre income. What to do? Well, wring the royal hands, and then use some of that munificence to pony up and bail the red-head out of her personal hell leading to the bankruptcy that will present as so embarrassing to the Crown. Better yet, forget the embarrassment; Ms. Ferguson has previously comported herself in such an egregious manner as to have forfeited her right to rescue.

Bailing her out to the tune of the $8-million to which she has indebted herself will only encourage the incorrigible spendthrift with fantasies of limitless spending opportunities to embark on further, future escapades. Barring that, she may yet again attempt to sell her entree to the palace to the highest bidder, and bail herself out; she has become consummately skilled, it would appear, at such skulduggery in attempts to enrich herself.

Poor dear, her defenders insist that it is the result of her generous soul, forever gifting people with the largesse of her large heart and easily disposable income that has landed her in this lamentable condition of penury. She has, her defenders claim, no 'real idea about money', allowing others to take advantage of her, run up impossible bills, because she is so trusting. Handily overlooking her deliberate use of her connections to assure service people she is to be trusted to repay their efforts on her behalf.

Let her sink or swim; she will survive. She will 're-build her career', as a poseur, a cleverly charming charlatan extraordinaire. Really, it doesn't matter what she does, how she does it, when it happens and why, she will evermore pose as an embarrassment to those who trusted their son's good judgement. That's life, isn't it?
Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York (C) with Princesses Eugenie (L) and Beatrice of York attend the "The Young Victoria" Premiere held at Roy Thomson Hall during the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival on September 19, 2009 in Toronto, Canada.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Needful of Assistance?

A story, a story of grief, of misfortune, appearing in the newspaper. It is reported for a singular purpose, to alert the public to the sad story of an immigrant family's circumstances. And in this instance the spotlight is focused on a family of four children, aged 6 to 1-1/2 years, and their father, a 38-year-old immigrant-refugee from Kenya who has lived in Canada with his wife, for the past five years. The wife, a woman 15 years junior to her husband, died tragically, from cancer.

When the wife's cancer was diagnosed, her husband stopped working at his job as a security guard for the purpose of looking after her and their four children. She died not long after giving birth to their fourth child who was three weeks old when she was diagnosed with the cancer that killed her. They have lived in social housing since their arrival in Ottawa from Kenya. He has not worked for over a year.

Her illness entitled the family to a monthly income of roughly $1,000 under the Ontario Disability Support Program. On that $1,000 income the family of five has lived sparingly. Even so, the husband undertook to plan a fitting funeral for his wife, with the assistance of a pastor from one of the two local evangelical churches the family attends. That funeral was an extremely costly one, leaving the man in debt to the tune of $16,500.

Because of the poverty in which the family lived they would quality for the city's social services department to have paid $2,370 for funeral services and up to $1,000 for burial. A substantial decrease in cost compared to the contract that the husband signed with a local funeral home. The funeral home accedes to the specific demands of the client; conspicuously absent any enquiry with respect to affordability as it would seen insensitively intrusive.

One of the churches that the husband attends has responded to his plight by assisting him with $500, all that the church could afford. His friends, charitably responding to his need, contributed another $8,500, to help him pay his debts. He had assumed that he would be enabled to pay off the remaining debt with the proceeds from his wife's life-insurance policy from which source he anticipated $100,000.

The policy, however, was nullified. He received a refund of about $150, representing the premiums he had paid into the policy. The problem was that in applying for the policy some extremely vital details that the insurance company requires to determine whether or not they would be prepared to take on the policy holder, were not disclosed. Information was withheld to ensure that the policy would be accepted.

The insurance application was absent full details of the state of health and behavioural information with respect to the individual to be covered. Now why would a family living in genteel poverty as new immigrants to a new country take out a life insurance policy on a 25-year-old woman? As for the funeral home, had it been divulged to the director that the individual making funeral arrangements was strapped for funding, they would be directed to the city.

"If the family chooses a $5,000 coffin over the $1,000 one, and they say 'we can afford it and that's what we want', we have nothing to say." Now that's fairly clear. The church which the man attends had already overdrawn its resources previously, by $4,000, to fund the wife's sister's travel to Canada, on a 6-month visa, to help care for the family. She is attempting to have the visa extended.

Within the period when the sister-in-law was present to assist in the care of the children, it would appear that the widower made no effort to find employment. In the interim, the father of the four children, the bereft husband, has applied for social assistance. However, an appeal is made to the public to assist the family with the cemetery bill.

Some story.

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Saturday, August 07, 2010

65 Years of Mourning

180° view of Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. The Genbaku Dome can clearly be seen in the center left of the image. The original target for the bomb was the "T"-shaped Aioi Bridge seen in the left of the image.

The 65th anniversary of a retributive response to a covert operation that resulted in the bombing of Pearl Harbour, and Japan's decision to join the Axis countries during World War II.

Japan has the distinction of being the sole nation on Earth to have suffered an atomic attack. The new weapon that was unleashed upon the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki represented weapons of dread magnitude, capable of extinguishing human life and human construction and natural geological features to an extent that no other single armament could ever achieve.

Over 140,000 people died as a result of that bomb dropping on Hiroshima. Although the scientists who worked on the bomb had a fairly good idea of its destructive force, having witnessed more than enough test explosions, it was not until the 13-kiloton bomb, "Little Boy" was launched and exploded over Hiroshima that the full extent of its massive destructive force was exhibited.

People going about their normal daily lives were, in a split-second, entirely obliterated, the city reduced to radioactive rubble.

The survivors of the blast were thought of as monsters by the Japanese public, since so many of these survivors suffered the horrible physical scars left by their close encounter with the effects of radiation. Many died of radiation sickness and cancers that resulted from their exposure to the bomb.

Astonishingly, 227,565 people still live in Japan, registered victims of that horrific occasion. Many of the survivors have never been able to live normal lives, shunned by a frightened society. In the aftermath of the event, people viewed them as carriers of radiation sickness.

A small number of elderly survivors have pledged themselves to spreading the message of the horror of nuclear bombs, revealing to school groups the extent to which their bodies were physically stigmatized by their close encounters with death.

They lived lives of desperate loneliness after the attack; their physical recovery was never complete; their resources were exhausted. The experience and their suffering has left them as steadfast and credible spokespeople for the elimination of all nuclear weaponry.

All succeeding wars, even those pursued by countries which possess nuclear armaments, have been waged with the use of sophisticated but conventional weaponry. No country has been willing to make use of nuclear weaponry, knowing the capability of such explosive devices - all now far more powerful than the relatively 'modest' 13-kiloton bomb dropped on Hiroshima, to destroy on a monumental scale.

Today's fear that totalitarian, rogue, fanatical theocratic countries and even non-state actors like terror groups may be successful in accessing nuclear fissionable materials of a grade readily transformable into arms is not an idle one, without substance. In which instance the dread ravages witnessed in Hiroshima and Nagasaki may be repeated on an even more horrific scale.

It is not very likely that international moves to demolish all existing nuclear devices would ever succeed, much less that the countries currently in possession of such materials would agree to halt their manufacture. The far more worrying prospect is the eventual potential of conscienceless belligerents acquiring such weapons and using them.

Not a future anyone would like to contemplate. Yet it begins to look more and more like the future we may anticipate. Inconceivable, but then the very reality of the existence of nuclear-armed rockets is beyond rational human conception to begin with.

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Friday, August 06, 2010

Only In America

Those who have, get, goes the old saying. And one supposes there is more than a little truth to that, since money begets money. There are ample examples available to the casual observer and reader of news of money also begetting unease, discomfort and unhappiness. When people born to money experience few personal challenges, have no reason to exert themselves to become engaged in the world of work and business in order to ensure they have a reliable livelihood.

Nor does being in possession of a fortune ensure personal happiness with one's choices in a life lived, or with a suitable partner. Pursuing a hedonistic lifestyle because there is funding to spare for whatever quirky choices people make also leads on more than a few occasions to the wealthy leading lives of desperate misery. Dread disease may give the moneyed a leg-up on expert medical professionalism, and this may prolong their lives, but not necessarily as the ravages of some diseases cannot be held in abeyance forever.

For those people who have been born and bred into a society that views compassion and charity as necessary components to living balanced lives, fully engaged with their society and empathetic to the needs of others, it isn't such a long haul to see philanthropy as an attractive lifestyle, complementary to the fashioning of a personal fortune. Those that have, have the opportunity to become more charitable.

It is immensely gratifying, then, to read that dozens of American billionaires stand prepared to surrender large portions of their personal fortunes for the greater good of society. This is a humanely responsible decision. In a very practical sense when people become so wealthy that they will never in their lifetimes or those of their offspring require even a fragment of their wealth to enable them to live graciously, there is no useful need of acquiring more or holding on to a fortune.

Far better to retain financial gains sufficient to permit a lifestyle that satisfies the owner of the fortune, and to distribute the balance to charitable enterprises of one's choosing to attain greater satisfaction in life. Financial gain is attractive, but there comes a point when the sum is overwhelming and vastly redundant. And, there is something peculiarly, particularly American in the fact that billionaires in that country would respond to the call of their peers to join them in a massive philanthropic venture.

Microsoft founder Bill Gates and his friend and co-charitable companion Warren Buffett have pledged immense sums of their vast earnings to charitable causes. And they have undertaken to take it upon themselves as exemplars of charitable giving to approach their wealthy coevals, with the result that the well-recognized names of 42 American billionaires have joined them in distinguishing themselves for their generosity.

The United States, the wealthiest country in the world, is estimated to have about 403 billionaires. Roughly 10% have thus far agreed to divest themselves of significant portions of their great wealth, amounting to perhaps $150-billion to be distributed to the charities of their personal deliberation. They have joined a unique billionaires' club, called The Giving Pledge. This is utterly admirable. That old phrase "Only In America" peals loudly.

On the other hand, it is also worth noting that individual Americans, those in the general public, the ordinary person on the street, are far more charitable than citizens of most other countries. Even with the recession, ordinary Americans gave over $227-billion to charity in 2009, according to a Giving USA report by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.

The oil-rich Middle East states are undoubtedly wealthy, comparable to the treasury of the U.S. Does Saudi Arabia, with its vast oil resources and incoming state wealth fund charitable enterprises? Do any of the OPEC states? Does Dubai? Their single-source wealth leads them to ostentatious display, to enriching princelings who live lives of excess with little value added. Religious institutions are funded; madrasses and mosques, worldwide.

Poverty in Muslim countries is not alleviated by the generosity of their religious brethren; the wealth is held in the hands of the powerful and the entitled while the slum dwellers, the subsistence farmers and the vast populations of the oppressed have their needs overlooked. Charity comes from fanatic religious groups dedicated to violent jihad (former students of the madrasses), in their zeal to win the 'hearts and minds' of the impoverished and the disentitled.

Inhabitants of the same Globe, but worlds apart.

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Thursday, August 05, 2010

Medieval and Modern

Veiled Saudi women talk on their <span class=It is a rudely unpleasant photograph, one of a woman in Oman, completely covered with a black burka, not even her eyes visible behind the black veil. The photograph is a head-and-shoulders shot. (No, not the photograph seen here, taken from the Blackberry site.)

The woman's hand holding the Blackberry up to where her ear would be under her shroud, has purple splotches on it. They resemble an acid burn. Making one think of how many Arab and Muslim communities have instituted a heritage custom of visiting upon women who disobey the dictates of their fathers, brothers, husbands, a kind of end-stage discipline.

Honour killings are seen in some of these communities as a just and fair and appropriate form of honour-restitution. A woman, or a girl suffering the loss of her life because she has, by her manner of behaviour, whether it is being seen in public in the company of a man other than her husband, or a young girl wearing clothing considered to be an insult to female modesty under Sharia dishonoured her family.

Or punishment for having been raped.

A girl raped? She must surely have conducted herself inappropriately, somehow led the man on, and men being what they naturally are endowed with, poor creatures, cannot resist the temptation of female flesh. The burka, therefore, becomes mandatory. Not necessarily to save the girl or the woman from being raped, but to save the family honour from disgrace.

The burka-clad women, dressed in head-to-toe covering, meant to hide the features of her face, the conformation of her body, presents as a medieval abomination, woman as chattel. But here's the modern touch; in her hand instant communication, a Blackberry.

But to put things into perspective, the kind of view that demonstrates just how absurd all of this is, the disgrace it represents to the individual liberty and freedoms of women in the Muslim world, the latest out of the United Arab Emirates is that women using Blackberries should be prepared to dress their handset in a burka designed specifically to cover the communication device in a modest manner. They are to be used exclusively as telephones, not for access to the Internet.

Photo from NewsBisuit

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Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Keycard Holders; Internet Protection

Who might've thought that someone living in Canada is that well entrenched in the IT world and has amassed sufficient skills to match those of other similarly intriguingly gifted individuals as to present as one of only seven individuals world-wide seen as capable of holding the rescue-future of the Internet in their minds and experienced hands?

Seven skilled computer specialists who have been entrusted with part of a code which is capable of restoring the Internet, that core of its system controlling browsers into routers capable of identifying websites which Internet users type in with the expectation their orders will result in the required destination. Obviously, security for this core capability is tight.

Quite as obviously, greater numbers of computer-skilled individuals than ever before are moving from literate to potentially sinister purpose with the intention of throwing governments, corporations and all manner of users in between into complete panic, with the idea that they can impair the functionality of the World Wide Web.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers server facility situated in Culpeper, Virginia, must be alert constantly to the very real potential of failure in the system they oversee as malign forces seek to sow anarchic destruction of a vital instrument of communications so instrumental in enabling modern governments, their administrations, international conglomerates, financial, scientific and academic institutions to operate.

The Canadian, Norm Ritchie, a man with deep and long experience in the management of Internet names, is one of six other-identified "trusted community representatives". Each of these selected representatives having in their possession one-seventh of the code that would be instrumental in resuscitating a damaged Internet system.

There is a sister centre existing in California, to augment that facility which is placed outside the nuclear blast zone of Washington, D.C. The two facilities dedicated to the protection of the Internet servers in control of assigned names and numbers are state-of-the-art fully protected facilities with their own anti-terrorism personnel and monitors, and rapid-response security forces.

This is serious stuff. The selected individuals come from Burkina Faso, the Czech Republic, China, Trinidad and Tobago, Britain and the United States - and of course, Canada. So the protocol is that these seven individuals have a link of some kind. The control system to ensure that their keycards are synchronized is known to those in charge, and to them as well.

The formula will be operable as long as the seven key cardholders are capable of functioning, of sequentially inputting the data to restore a downed system. Do they have trusted understudies? What happens, if heaven forfend, one of them comes a cropper due to simultaneous Internet terror attacks alongside another that strikes at people takes one out?

We can only hope that the various types of scenarios that might potentially result from a catastrophic event downing systems the international community relies so heavily upon (including municipalities whose computer-driven services are so essential to people on the home front) have been thoroughly studied and solutions that are not obvious to the casual study have been reached.

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