Ruminations

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

Monday, January 31, 2011

Intensive Neonatal Treatment Requirements

Hard to believe, but perhaps not. Most children have had it drummed into their dense little heads that they are not to exit the bathroom until they've cleansed their hands from the sticky little bits that may be clinging to them after having ineptly wiped their smelly bottoms. At least in civilized households.

Perhaps it represents a psychological backlash that as adults they steadfastly refuse to do as they were told, as children.

Bad enough when you witness a co-worker exiting the shared bathroom facilities in an office tower without so much as a sprinkle on their hands, despite their having spent more than ample time in front of the mirror to ensure that they look presentable, after exiting the cubicle.

And we're such a polite society; although the sight of that stupidity makes us cringe, we seldom say anything to admonish such uncivilized, unhygienic behaviour, though we make mental notes.

But when it comes to health professionals ignoring the very basics of viral and bacterial communication through neglecting to wash their hands, going heedlessly from patient to patient, despite their education, despite their knowledge, despite intelligence and despite that it is widely recognized as a failing among health professionals, it's enough to make one tear out one's hair in despair.

Wait: there's a solution. Some bright light in Italy thought up a working solution. And that is? Why, to pay dividends. In the way of a bonus, a hefty one, amounting annually to 3,000 euros ($3,900) to those in the nursing profession who agree to conscientiously wash their hands between patients. This, it should be noted, is in a hospital ward that houses the most health-vulnerable of patients, the premature-baby-unit.

The 70 nurses who work at the Mangiagalli clinic are monitored on closed-circuit televisions, ensuring that they wash their hands, using the correct technique, spending the required time that it takes scrubbing, between patients. As a result, these reward-conscious (notably not profession-conscious) nurses have 'earned' their annual awards. As evidenced by the 30% drop in hospital-spread disease.

By controlling the level of bacteria on their hands before approaching a baby or a newborn requiring very special nursing attention, they successfully lowered the number of babies who died or who became seriously ill as a result of their previous neglect. These were babies who were already seriously ill, or whose health status was compromised by prematurity, or who were immunodepressed.

Would it not occur to a health professional that it would be incumbent upon them to practise high standards of hygiene, commensurate with the demands of their healing profession? "Intensive neonatal treatment is one of the areas with the highest risk of infection", the head of neonatology at the clinic reported in an interview with the daily Corriere della Sera, explaining the drop in the spread of disease.

Impressive accounting of irresponsibility solved by paying supposedly responsible professionals to be professional.

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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Quebec's Due

It's a tough place to be in for a political party and a leader anxious to gain inroads into the province in the knowledge that this way leads to a potential majority government. On the other hand, to gain those constituents, the Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, would have to deliberately alienate his broader support base.

More to the point, he would have to divorce himself from the conservative position of responsibility and fiscal restraint. And one would hope that isn't likely, for to do so he would be identifying himself as someone too prepared to surrender principle, however briefly. If it's a brief dalliance, then a quick return to conservative values, does it count? Damn right, it does.

And the Bloc Quebecois is gleefully laying on that kind of voter volatility, knowing it can only win, whatever the Conservatives decide on. To begin with, the prime minister has earned a copper star, not a silver nor a gold one, for failing to make it abundantly clear that his government will not fund $180-million-worth of a Quebec City sports stadium.

The message delivered to the government by the electorate remains firm; tax dollars are not to be used to fund and support private sport enterprise; professional sport arenas can self-fund or find funding through corporate generosity, even municipal and provincial funding not taxpayer-funded largesse through general national revenues which should be supporting hospitals, education and social welfare systems.

"We're looking at a sweeping victory in Quebec City" crows a Bloc MP, counting on the government giving its final response to a querulous Quebec City Mayor Regis Labeaume complaining the federal government is taking too long to make up its mind. "People are tired of waiting. They are starting to notice the Conservatives are not delivering the goods."

One would hope so, one would assume so, one would be entirely correct in feeling that this matter should have been settled unequivocally right from the start with a resounding, "sorry, but no". Yet the federal minister for Quebec City took the time to patiently explain her government, while not ruling out financial 'help', awaits a detailed financial plan.

"I've never seen Quebec treated with such little fairness ever since I've been elected in Ottawa", Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe complained, stressing as he always does that Quebec deserves far more than it receives, hands out and grasping. Even as he demands a special endowment of $5-billion from taxpayers across Canada, as Quebec's due.

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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Climate Change, Food Monopolization

Poor harvests resulting from disastrous weather conditions in various parts of the world have been contributing to certain food shortages. Russia's wheat crop has been the victim of adverse weather conditions; India and Pakistan have found themselves short of root vegetables and all three have halted exports as a result.

Australia has suffered years of drought impacting deleteriously on their agriculture. Growing middle-class wealth in China has contributed to an abnormal call on meat products. China has been renting land in Africa to grow crops for home consumption. And the West's preoccupation with biofuels production has caused a shortage of corn and other agriproducts on the food market.

Recent riots in countries like Algeria, Tunisia, Yemen and Egypt have reflected those in European countries like Greece and Portugal, and African countries like Zimbabwe, Somalia and Mozambique and with people protesting scarcity and higher food prices in economies already hard pressed with people living constrained lives due to endemic poverty.

The escalating price of oil added to the equation ensures that rising production and delivery costs will also increase food prices.

The geographic and national manipulation of agricultural production by many countries from North America to the European Union and beyond also does its bit to maintain high food prices.

And while Europeans and North Americans complain at the steady rise in food prices on the grocery shelves, they can still afford those prices far better than those living impoverished lives in developing countries. In wealthy countries, capitalism and free enterprise trump everything.

The European Parliament has proposed massive stockpiling of food for the purpose of avoiding price and supply crises; making hoarding of food stockpiles a safety net for the EU, ensuring less exports to those countries whose populations are in dire need of food supplies.

Financial subsidies and regulatory interventions are to be maintained and expanded in a EU-launched we're-all-right-Jack kind of food security proactive initiative.

What is needed is the installation of initiatives that persuade producers to increase production of agricultural products, not stifle them to maintain a steady and increasing commodity issue to disrupt markets, leading to "food price shock", shortages, and an inability of people to pay for the foods that are available.

Less conversion of grains and corn to biofuels and ethanol should be another positive issue to be addressed.
"The reality is that the same speculators that caused the global economic meltdown through their illustrious trade in subprime mortgages, are betting on our food system now too." D. Doane, world Development Movement
This is a reflection on food commodities suffering inflation as a monetary phenomenon through deliberate market manipulation rather than a supply and demand problem caused by climate forces.

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Friday, January 28, 2011

Whose Fraud?

"The wheels of justice grind slowly, but they do grind. I have done this whole thing for justice." Doug Macklem
A jury of his peers has found that Doug Macklem was deliberately and maliciously cheated of the love he so devoutly sought that he willingly of his own accord handed over to a woman whom he knew to be a call girl, $800,000.

Mr. Macklem laid fraud charges against a woman whom he claimed he hoped to marry, for he loved her and envisioned a life of normalcy with her extending into his future. Mr. Macklem has some physical disabilities and is confined to a wheelchair, but his brain is in fine working order and he is gainfully employed.

His life, he felt, was incomplete because it lacked the love of a good woman. He sought to fill that gap by employing a woman who earns her own living by selling her body. He knew what she was and she accepted what he was. It was not, presumably, an intellectual commune he sought, but solely conjugal rights.

The common denominator was the exchange of money for the exchange of a favour; one of the pair had physical charms and the other rented those charms for a finite episode, eagerly paying the going rate, which was steep but for him usefully affordable. This was a business arrangement, one that profited both individuals.

But Darquise Johnson, the woman who was found guilty by a jury of defrauding Doug Macklem of a substantial sum of money will now be sentenced for her crime of impetuous presumption. She has been found guilty of fraud, conspiracy, extortion, money laundering and possession of proceeds obtained by crime.

Ms. Johnson, unknown to Mr. Macklem, was a married woman, but she also operated an illicit, but much-valued business. Valued to a great degree by people like Mr. Macklem. Who decided to focus his longing upon a woman whose sexual favours could be purchased by anyone who could afford the fees.

This little fact did not deter Mr. Macklem from pursuing Ms. Johnson with the purpose of persuading her to consider selecting him as her sole client, establishing a deeper relationship to the exclusion of other clients. Of course, to achieve that status, Mr. Macklem would have to ensure Ms. Johnson was adequately reimbursed, and he seemed willing enough.

Mr. Macklem, a computer systems analyst, quite obviously possesses a fine analytical mind, but presumably it focuses its analytical ability on manipulable objects, not manipulative humans. He attempted to manipulate her, and she managed, as a professional in the field, to out-manipulate him.

That Mr. Macklem suffers from cerebral palsy, leaving him wheelchair-bound, was certain to elicit sympathy from the jury. Who decided in favour of rescuing him from his wilful stupidity, and to send a message to an enterprising female of a sordid occupation that male lust renders men stupid and woman should not take advantage.

Undue or otherwise.

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Thursday, January 27, 2011

A ... Revelation From God

Is it mind control, exposure from a very early age to life's parameters in the guise of religious indoctrination, or is it another version of the Stockholm Syndrome? How can it be that women endowed with even a modicum of intelligence could accede to the demeaning and sexist situation known as multiple marriage partners; polygamy.

Polygamy is unlawful in Canada, though it exists unlawfully in some communities as a respected contract between a man and his wives. Within the Muslim community it functions as a permissible adjunct to Islamic values and principles. Along with many other pernicious cultural values.

And among other fundamentalist religious communities such as the Mormon-affliliated Fundamentalist church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, where in their British Columbia location in Bountiful, B.C., men take multiple wives and father dozens of children. The women are all too often complicit in their degrading conditions.

At least in Islam it is permissible for a man to take more than one wife only if he can prove he has the economic wherewithal to provide adequately for his wives and their offspring. Despite which there are Muslim immigrants living in Canada in polygamous relationships and who depend upon welfare to support them.

In the religious community of Bountiful and others like it around the United States, many in the community live in poverty. The mainstream Mormon community no longer recognizes polygamy, but the breakaway sects do. This is obviously the case because self-serving men choose to prey on impressionable women taught since childhood to be compliant.

This is where 'alpha' males posing as devoutly religious leaders of their little communes inspire their commune members to the belief that this is how the Almighty has constructed the acceptable mores of the faithful. Plural marriages are a gift from God and all his faithful ascend into a privileged position when they value that gift and accept the conditions whereby a man shares his sexual favours with a harem of women, all 'wives'.

Young girls are often inducted into their plural-marriage positions at the age of 15 or 17, and accept this as inevitable, as the way in which they will live out their lives in piety and gratitude to be enabled to do God's will. They are content to delude themselves with the belief that their marriage represents what they speak of as a "celestial marriage".

It does not appear to concern them, because they cannot conceive of it, that they are being manipulated by a tyrannical overseer of women and children. They do not appear to see their lives as representing a long series of abuses.

They consider themselves to have been blessed to be taken into bondage as a sex slave and a bearer of children by men who envision themselves entitled to enjoy the services of nubile, accepting girls and women for whom the future has been circumscribed through the dictates of this peculiar, male-serving religion.

For a 15-year-old girl to be introduced to a 40-year-old man with multiple wives, a half-hour before a marriage ceremony that would fasten her future to theirs in perpetuity is thought of by this compliant girls and women as "...a revelation from God". And may God help them all.

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Hell And The Holocaust

I Hell: Definition and Description

Death camps. Zyclon B: cyanide-based pesticide. Use: Fitting to the nth degree for the purpose of destroying sub-humans having more in common with pestiferous insects than with the human race.
A vast, unbottom'd boundless pit,
Fill'd fou 'o lowing brunstane,
Wha's raging ragin' flame an' scorchin' heat,
Wad melt the hardest whunstane. R. Burns
Gathered from all the cesspools and pits of xenophobic, racist European society where they were sometimes quietly, sometimes violently despised, to assemble into holding areas called ghettoes, far from the original in Venice; these crowded, squalid pre-death camps suffocated the Jewish spirit rendering their victims compliant but not complacent, awaiting they knew not yet quite what.
There is in hell a place stone-built throughout,
Called Malebolge of an iron hue,
Like to the wall that circles it about.
(Loco e interno detto Malebolge,
Tutto di pietra e di color ferrigno,
Come la cerchia che d' intorno il volge.) Dante
In that world there were many helping hands, eager to divest their communities and their societies and their nations of the irritating inconvenience of those classical outsiders; biblical-era scapegoats transformed into the world's detested horde of balefully malicious skulkers intent on world domination.
Hell hath no limits, nor is circumscrib'd
In one self place; for where we are is hell;
And where hell is, there must we ever be;
And to conclude, when all the world dissolves,
And every creature shall be purified,
All places shall be hell that are not heaven. Christopher Marlowe
We pause but briefly to recall six million lives methodically, systematically extinguished because there were those who would have it so. The world made that much poorer for their absence. Loving life as they did, their cries for mercy and for help to avoid their fate went unanswered, their desperately clawing hands ignored, clasping life and loved ones as they made that journey from whence none return.
A dungeon horrible on all sides round
As one great furnace flam'd yet from those flames
No light, but rather darkness visible,
Serv'd only to discover sights of woe,
regions of sorrow, doleful shades, where peace
And rest can never dwell, hope never comes
That comes to all, but torture without end. Milton - Paradise Lost
http://www.ibiblio.org/wm/paint/auth/bosch/paradise/paradise.jpg
Heaven and Hell, Hieronymus Bosch

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Quarry Glen Site Tree Lopping

The City of Ottawa has a problem. Not a new one by any means. It has to learn to firmly deal with aggressive to the point of aggressively-arrogant builders. If for no other reason than to demonstrate that commercial building interests do not rule City Hall. And also for the very good reason of protecting Ottawa's environmental landscape.

It takes an awfully long time for a tree to grow to maturity. Trees play a vital role in our health, absorbing carbon dioxide and emitting oxygen. Trees are elemental to any landscape. And they are beautiful and productive, and most people appreciate the necessity of their presence.

Builders, like the Minto Group, should certainly know better, they've been around the block countless times, take far too much for granted. Despoiling the public landscape is in no one's interest, although Minto appears to believe wholeheartedly it is in their interest. As housing developers they are anxious to get on with things, proceed with their plans, whether or not they have been given lawful permission.

In the latest of a regrettable string of such activities that have occurred in the past, the company initiated tree-cutting at what it has quaintly named its Quarry Glen site, without proper authorization. The activity was halted when the city forwarded notice of a stop-work order to "refrain from cutting down any trees". By the time activity was brought to a halt, the work was done.

How dreadfully convenient. They've got ahead of their game. The city claims that the incident is "under investigation", while at the same time terming the action "an apparent contravention" of its tree bylaw. If a homeowner undertook to chop down a sizeable tree on his own property without first obtaining permission from the city, there would be an investigation - and a fine.

The requisite site-plan review with the issuance of a permit did not follow usual channels whereby developers must obtain permits before taking down trees greater than 10 centimetres in diameter. Residents of the area in Orleans claim Minto cleared up to 300 trees, many 30 to 40 feet in height.

"They cannot think they can go ahead and do whatever the hell they want and get away with it", observed one resident. "You can't just say, 'Well, it was coming anyway so we just went ahead and did it prior to having approval'", commented another. They're perfectly right. Irrespective of the fact that this is precisely how Minto approached the problem and proceeded to deal with it.

As for Minto, its vice-president of land development, Jack Stirling, denies the claims, calling the number and size of the trees cited as "wildly exaggerated". What was cut, he claims, was "a bunch of brush ... there were maybe 10 trees with a (diameter) of 10 centimetres." Because the investigation is underway the city's forestry officials would not comment.

Most trees, he explained, would not survive the regrading that has to be performed in most developments. Minto is concerned about its project as a good place "for smart growth". "In order to do that, you have to cut some trees." Interesting point of view, that.

Around 45 years ago another builder, a quality-home builder from Britain, Thomas Costain, decided to build in the Ottawa greenbelt, with properly accredited permission. This was to be a new, model community with underground utilities, a park system stretching throughout the community.

And the original trees, where feasible, left standing. They succeeded, and produced Blackburn Hamlet.

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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Symbolic Concern of Professional Brotherhood

A long tradition of police attending the funerals of other police forces across the continent has grown in popularity among police forces, as a way in which representatives of various police forces can express their solidarity with their fellow officers at last rites. There is little doubt that this compact can be construed as an heartfelt attempt to share a family's and a police force's shock and grief, for that is its purpose.

Those who work day-to-day on contract with law enforcement agencies have a special bond with one another; they are in the business of public protection and of upholding law and order. That is a responsibility writ large in their employment contract, one which society depends upon to ensure that order is maintained and safety ensured, while the law is upheld.

For all of these fine points to be accomplished requires dedication and courage.

It also requires that those who work in the profession trust and depend upon one another and are capable of working together in harmony to achieve the purpose at hand. All this being so, it is also an idealistic picture of how law enforcement works at the best of times. The worst of times is when police officers betray the trust their position holds them to.

It is often a fine line to tread; they are like anyone else in the public; individuals.

In the wake of the most recent public funeral service that took place in Toronto for police Sgt. Ryan Russell, a record crowd of 12,500 mourners drawn from across North America attended to pay their respects and present a solid front in the face of what they potentially encounter on a daily basis in the performance of their duty.

That number of men and women, duly uniformed, with unison of purpose present as quite a sight. To some onlookers it may resemble a militaristic parade of might and determination, one that many people might shy away from. There have been open critics voicing their repugnance at the display of what to them appears to be raw power in the guise of a parade of civil servants.

The "public spectacles" may put some people off, but on the other hand, it represents a reassuring display of professional and personal support and sober camaraderie to those who work behind the thin blue line. That line that separates the public from the socially disruptive red line where crime and criminals have the potential to impact on our safety and freedoms.

This is not done on the public dole. Those attending these funerals of slain police officers arrange their own time off from their duties as they may, and they pay for the expenses incurred for travel out of their own pockets or through union support. "The policing community is a big family. When we lose a police officer it strikes a nerve with all police officers", explained the president of the Toronto Police Association.

Who could logically argue with that? Criticism of the ceremonial and symbolic presence of large numbers of police officers paying their respect at such times of emotional duress may be inevitable, and it may be unfair, but freedom of opinion and articulating that freedom is one of the guarantees were are vouchsafed living in this society.

Everyone has their own opinion about a multitude of matters concerning the larger community. In this instance, it's fair to say that most people see the purpose and practicality of a professional 'family' mourning together to help ease the pain.
The hearse carrying the casket of Toronto Police Sergeant Ryan Russell travels along Simcoe St. in Toronto during the funeral procession, January 18, 2011.
The hearse carrying the casket of Toronto Police Sergeant Ryan Russell travels along Simcoe St. in Toronto during the funeral procession, January 18, 2011.

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Monday, January 24, 2011

Tainted Funding

Nothing inspires the righteously hysterical indignation of the lib-left like the presence of big money, corporate funding, anything smacking of associated conservative ideology. And most certainly Big Money and entitled CEOs with their immensely disgusting financial emoluments seeking to have their way by interfering in matters relating to their own sphere of influence.

And what could be more relevant to the sphere of influence of the left than academia? Unless we throw in trade unions as well. Both appear to have become morbidly infected with the virus of anti-anything perceived to be illiberal in intent, character or purpose.

Academic entities, however, like other public institutions such as hospitals, are always on the lookout for generosity on the part of their alumni or the philanthropic public, particularly those of economic means.

And isn't it past time for Canada and Canadians of means to begin to divest themselves of all those unneeded earnings? After all, how rich does someone have to be before he/she decides excess baggage - or bank accounts - are capable of doing far more good dedicated to the public weal?

So when that finally happens and more and more Canadians of means decide to spread around the largess of their generosity, we should be celebrating the charitable impulse and consider our good fortunes.

Academic and health-delivery institutions are always in need of additional funding, and they remain the measure of our existence as a favoured, forward-aspiring society offering educational opportunities and medical-health assistance to a steadily-growing and aging society.

But! shriek some within the community of the cerebrally elevated: It's indecent, unacceptable and disgusting that a wealthy alumnus of the University of Toronto has decided to further divest himself of some of his riches. And to convey their disgust a protest 'event' was scheduled by academics and political-social-affairs writer Linda McQuaig, with help from Judy Rebick, Canadian Auto workers Sam Gindin Chair in social Justice and Democracy, Ryerson University.

Oops, there's that academic-union link...!

A 7-hour-long "anti Corporitization teach-in" has been scheduled to protest the generous gesture of Peter Munk of Barrick Gold fame-and-success. Filthy lucre is fairly gross at any time, but when it's connected to Barrick Gold and its stockholder-minions, we're talking serious filth.

Which cannot be allowed to corrupt and degrade the pure and perfect hallowed halls of academe. Even if that funding is scheduled to enrich an already-existing enterprise previously funded by that same deleterious source.

The University of Toronto's Munk School for Global Affairs, in fact. Which has managed, somehow, miraculously, to earn a reputation for balanced, interpretive politics and studies in international affairs whose advisory board is chaired by John Manley, a former Liberal Cabinet Minister in the Chretien government.

Besmirched by a "corporate agenda". Intolerable.

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Sunday, January 23, 2011

A Torch For Peace

When people have in their history and heritage figures who exemplify all the good impressions and emotions that we should wish to emulate, it is beyond peculiar that these figures are not elevated and held to high esteem, encouraging others to fashion themselves after them. These are, of course, figures of historical importance who chose peace and harmony, reason and patience over anger, hatred and social dissonance.

Men like Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, in our most recent 20th Century histories. One a Christian the other Hindu. And there appears also to have been a man of outstanding conviction in the power of compassion and peace who was a close compatriot of Mahatma Gandhi, an ethnic Pashtun and Muslim, Badshah Khan.

Both were born and lived in India, where Hindus and Muslims have lived together for well over a millennium. Along with Sikhs, a minority of Christians, Zoroastrians, Jews and countless other religious sects, peoples of various ethnic backgrounds and languages.

Religions of IndiaTibetan Mandala, circa 1800.

Unlike his more famous Hindu counterpart, it seems that Badshah Khan, a non-violence advocate like Gandhi, is little in the public mind. At one time he was instrumental in successfully raising an army of over a hundred thousand men and women representing a variety of religions, all assembled as "Servants of God", all dedicated to non-violence, helping India to win its independence from Great Britain.

The man and his followers sought to achieve the recognition of official equality for his Pashtun tribe in a new country that had broken off from India - Pakistan. Now, a documentary about the life and times and achievements of this Muslim man who strove for harmony, acceptance and tolerance among peoples, has been produced in a 90-minute documentary by Teri McLuhan.

The documentary won first place in the best-feature documentary award category at the Middle East International Film Festival in 2009, and is scheduled to be shown in Ottawa. If the name sounds familiar, it's because it is. Teri McLuhan's father was Marshall McLuhan of "the media is the message" fame. Not surprising his daughter has followed her father's footsteps.

The subject of her documentary was twice nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. He died in 1988 at age 98. "He was a devout Muslim who sacrificed all in the cause of non-violence, peace and religious tolerance", explained Ms. McLuhan. "It's really just to put a laser beam of light on the truth of the power and beauty and richness of the religion", she said.

Patience, she explained, was the guiding force behind Badshah Khan's quiet diplomacy. He had the patience to endure much with the hope of achieving his aim; unity and peace. It's a different kind of message delivered by a Muslim thinker and peaceful spirit who impressed and mobilized those among his religious peers who felt as he did.

One can only wonder what he would think of the schism that has opened in understanding and accommodation between the world's great religions today, and the threat that militant Islam poses to the world at large, including toward Muslims themselves.

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Saturday, January 22, 2011

"Farmers feed the planet"

Now there's a scene that belongs nowhere other than beyond the gates of Hell. Fully seventy years of living separating an elderly farmer and the two vicious thugs who beat him to death.

An 88-year-old Quebec-based farmer, an immigrant to Canada from Holland, 60 years ago, when he bought farmland, raised a family, grew crops to feed a community, and saw meaning in a life well lived, still fully independent, robbed of his life by young men whose corrupt, unengaged morals saw fit to take that life.

One young man on the cusp of 18, whose anti-social behaviour and drug use saw him disowned by his family and thrown out of school. The unnamed murderer (unnamed under the provisions of the Youth Protection Act) found a haven with 88-year-old Jacques Jong, who rented out a house to him.

Behind in his rent, he convinced his 18-year-old collaborator to accompany him to Mr. Jong's farm. Where the two confronted Mr. Jong and mercilessly beat him. They carried the unconscious man outside, still breathing. Then spent hours in the vacated farmhouse, searching for money, cleaning up the evidence of their crime.

The previously convicted youth, as yet awaiting sentencing had testified that his friend, Jean-Philippe Simard-Desjardins had gone back outside and informed him: "I hit the man in the head with a shovel. It's not pretty." That was his defence, that it was his friend who had killed the old man after they had beaten him unconscious.

The jury at his trial found him guilty of murder nonetheless. And in the later trial of Simard-Desjardins, cautioning the jury to use "great prudence" in the credibility of the younger man, to view him as a "very dubious witness", that same jury returned a verdict of not guilty to Judge Jean-Pierre Plouffe.

Justice hinged upon who, between the two young men who had taken it upon themselves to mercilessly beat a frail, elderly man who posed no threat to anyone - but lived an exemplary life, loved growing tulips, sang Gregorian chants and opera while he worked on the repair of farm machinery - they would believe.

Each of the attackers owns a challenged conscience that could not respond to compassionate care for another human being.

After the death of Mr. Jong, the two smoked pot, drank liquor, went to a friend's house, then to a bar in Gatineau, to spend the evening drinking with friends. They divulged to one friend what they had done, but that dread act stretched credibility too far for the friend until later proof arrived in the form of the news that the old farmer was nowhere to be found.

Until a few days later police, alerted by Mr. Jong's daughters to his sudden disappearance, discovered his body under debris, at his beloved, still-cared-for, 250-acre farm. "When my father disappeared for three days we thought he had been taken sick. He was completely independent." One of Mr. Jong's daughters still cannot understand why her father was murdered.

One of his murderers has been convicted, the other has been acquitted and permitted to return home to his family in Plaisance. Simard-Desjardins' lawyer is satisfied with the outcome of his client's trial: "Everyone is entitled to a miracle in his life, and you've got one", he reportedly told his client after the verdict was delivered.

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Friday, January 21, 2011

Comforting Choices

"This is just an absolute nightmare, this whole thing. People need to know that this is what can happen to you and which side of the victim line do you want to stand on? Lying down dead or in court? That's the way it seems it has to go." Ian Thomson
All civilized societies must have laws so that order and good governance may be achieved. Laws that are enacted for the safety and security of the country and its population are there to ensure we have trust and confidence in our lawful governing bodies, our system of jurisprudence and the forces entrusted to uphold the law.

There are instances when we just shake our heads in disbelief, however, as when the law is interpreted to its last letter, and the end result seems to favour the law-breaker more than it does the innocent victim of crime.

In Canada we see the occasional - and in these instances truly each and every of these distinct cases appear on their merits and their execution inimical to their first purpose; the assurances of safety and security in the implementation of justice - occurrence that draws attention to reactions needful of correction.

When a Toronto greengrocer is arrested and charged with the offence of taking the law into his own hands by apprehending a serial thief. When, as another example, an Alberta farmer corners and shoots one of a handful of would-be thieves attempting to deprive him of his personal possessions.

Or when, as occurred more recently, a quiet man with a disagreement with one of his neighbours wakes one night with the realization that three masked intruders on his property are intent on firebombing his home. And when the man confronts the three, shooting a warning shot into the air above their heads, he is charged with an indictable offence.

"I was horrified. I couldn't believe it. I didn't know what was happening. I had no idea what was going on", said Ian Thomson of southwestern Ontario, describing his reaction witnessing three masked men in the process of firebombing his Port Colborne home. He has proof; videos of his attackers throwing six Molotov cocktails at his house - and doghouse, singeing one of his dogs.

It was the video footage, handed over to Niagara Regional Police that gave the police evidence they would use to charge him with careless use of a firearm. Mr. Thomson is a target shooter and a hunting-safety instructor; he did not aim directly at the intruders intent on killing him by arson. But his collection of guns was taken from him, along with his firearms license.

"If the public are (sic) wondering can you run out of your house and [fire a handgun at an intruder], the bottom line is, according to the laws of Canada, no, you can't", archly explained Constable Nilan Dave of the Niagara Regional Police Service. "That's why the courts are there, to give a person an opportunity to explain their actions."

Much consolation that is to Mr. Thomson, who was put in fear for his life by the violently malicious event. He will be most interested to hear the reasons why two men who were complete strangers to him decided to firebomb his home, and were not the least bit perturbed that the man sleeping inside the home might be burned alive.

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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Diabetes "Myths"

People afflicted with diabetes walk a tightrope of blood sugar control. Both high- and low-blood sugars on a consistent and repetitive basis represent threats to longevity and overall quality of health. Long-term diabetes often leads to neuropathic problems (which may result in limb amputations), eyesight impediments (leading to blindness), heart attacks, stroke potential and kidney failure.

The struggle to maintain consistent, balanced, moderate blood sugar levels is uppermost in physicians' minds and that of their patients.

Both high- and low-blood sugar counts are threatening episodes to be avoided if at all possible. Extreme and ongoing hyperglycemia (high-blood sugar) will inevitably lead to vital organ destruction. Extreme hypoglycemia can lead to convulsions as the brain becomes starved of fuel - can sometimes lead to death. The balancing act of maintaining acceptable control is a difficult one.

Adult-onset diabetes, commonly called Type II, is considered a lifestyle disease; obesity combined with a sedentary habit, treated with drugs. Whereas Juvenile-onset diabetes (infants, children, teens, young adults), now called Type I, treated with multiple daily insulin injections, has its genesis in the mystery of the auto-immune system going berserk resulting in the Islands of Langerhans in the pancreas no longer able to produce insulin.

Type I diabetes is extremely difficult to manage, even for the most conscientious and accepting of patients, requiring extreme self-dedication to the task at hand. Many people resolve to rise above this chronic threat to normalcy, treating their condition as an inconvenience and adeptly rising to the challenge to live a life as close to normal as possible, while managing to take the care required to enable them to do so.

Others are more vulnerable to feelings of inadequacy and resentment, both reactions that in the long term become extremely self-fulfilling and often leading to the early onset of life-continuing complications. Some young people with diabetes defy and in a sense deny the limitations imposed upon them by their revealed condition which makes them vulnerable to self-destructive impulses leading to impairment and death.

It is difficult to feel much in the way of outraged sympathy for a young woman employed by the Canadian International Development Agency who insists she has the right under Canada's guaranteed freedoms to embark on year-long assignments to potentially dangerous geographical hot-spots. Bronwyn Cruden had already travelled through her field postings to countries like Togo, Jordan and Egypt.

She considers herself ill done by because of a Health Canada policy that does not permit federal employees with Type I diabetes to be posted under government auspices to hostile environments. "It would put the lives of other people at risk", is the explanation put forward by Justice Department lawyer Alex Kaufman, representing CIDA and Health Canada at a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.

"Afghanistan", he explained to the discrimination enquiry where Ms. Cruden lodged her complaint, "is dangerous enough as it is; we do everything we can to minimize the risk." Reasonable and responsible. People with Type I diabetes in particular are essentially far more vulnerable to health problems than those whose bodily functions are not impaired, dependent on injected life-prolonging and -normalizing endocrine hormones.

Ms. Cruden is concerned about her career. She informed the tribunal that the long-term (year-long) posting denied her to Afghanistan because of her diabetes would have given her the kind of field and management experience she considers to be critical to advancement within CIDA. She is now demanding compensation for lost wages and opportunities. And insists that Health Canada should change its policy.

Anyone who has witnessed a Type I diabetic go into convulsions as a result of extremely low blood sugar will never forget it. It is a horrifying and spectator-helpless spectacle of the body in extreme duress. Ms. Cruden testified before the tribunal that she monitors her blood-sugar levels very carefully. While on a previous one-month assignment to Kandahar she had erroneously taken an insulin overdose.

That resulted in a severe low-blood-sugar episode where she began violently convulsing in her bed. A startled co-worker in the next room heard the commotion, alerted medical staff, and Ms. Cruden was rushed to a nearby hospital where she was treated, then discharged. This was an incident witnessed by others, there well may have been other such incidents Ms. Cruden prefers not to divulge.

There are many people who live with diabetes and who accept that they must, for safety reasons - their own and that of other people - live within certain boundaries. That awareness of personal responsibility both self-directed and outwardly, has caused some not to acquire driver's licenses. There are times and there are reasons why individuals must accept limitations imposed upon their aspirations.

This is one of those times for this particular ambitious young woman. Who may find the satisfaction she craves through other avenues less potentially fraught with danger to herself and to those around her.

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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Citizen Constables

There's a nice twist in law enforcement and protection, when two alert, stalwart and responsive men take it upon themselves to recognize and react to an emergency of violence upon a female police constable, and rescue her from what appeared to be imminent death.

Police officers are well trained in the law and personal security which helps them extend security and law and order in the larger area of protecting the public. But there are times when they are themselves the subjects of violent attacks and needful of assistance.

Such an occasion developed in Toronto on Monday morning, a day before the funeral of another Toronto police officer, killed by a homeless man who had taken driving possession of a snow plough and fatally ran down Sergeant Ryan Russell.

In the latest attack on a Toronto police officer, Constable Lane Douglas-Hunt was just finishing up a brief investigation into a minor theft in the downtown area when a man lurking nearby the store she had been checking leaped upon her with a knife, slashing at her neck.

It was her great good fortune, and ours as well, that two men in their 40s became alerted to the attack. Rob Caunter, a municipal public employee, recognized the slight woman in uniform as someone he had seen often in the area, reaching her struggling on the ground with her attacker just as Blair Bater from Saanich had parked his vehicle and jumped into the fray.

Both men were able to restrain the attacker, albeit with difficulty.

Each of the men had witnessed the man stabbing Constable Douglas-Hunt repeatedly, as she desperately attempted to defend herself, sustaining deep wounds to her hands, attempting to protect her neck and face. "She looked like she was in trouble. She kept trying to fight for her life and I intervened and got him down and subdued him", Mr. Bater explained.

As he jumped on the man, Mr. Caunter grasped the man's legs to restrain him from escaping.

"Between the cop and the guy who jumped out of his car, they managed to get him face down on the sidewalk. She was on his left side trying to get his arm and the other guy was on the right side getting the other arm. I had both the guy's legs and was twisting his ankles. I had my foot on him and was trying to do anything to stop him from moving", said Mr. Caunter.

It was later revealed the 57-year-old attacker had a history of violence; it was coincidental that he was at the scene of Constable Douglas-Hunt's brief investigation of a minor theft. It was clear for whatever the motivation involved, that the attacker meant to kill the police officer.

She has survived that attack, following emergency surgery, and contemplation of a long, slow recovery before she can return to work.

But she can count her blessings that two men just happened to be on the scene when she most needed someone responsible and reactive to save her from certain death from yet another man whose purpose was to deliver her to death's door.

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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Reproductive Biology Assists

It's fairly fundamental to existence, the survival of the species, the genetically ingrained code invested in all organisms - the urge to reproduce. But not all creatures are destined to reproduce their species. And, among human beings, no less than among other creatures produced by nature, there will always be men and women whose reproductive capacity has been impaired - from birth or through other circumstances affecting their biological destiny.

But it is also human nature to deeply desire that which is withheld. To want something that most people take for granted in the most casual way but that is denied others. People aspire to be like everyone else, to have the positive experiences and accoutrements that others around them have. While many people have no intention of growing a family, others are dedicated to having the pleasures (and pain) inherent in raising children of their own.

And when they cannot themselves successfully achieve that cycle they rebel. In a way it's rather ironic, that people who take the reproductive process for granted and carelessly birth more children than they can manage, and ignore the very basic emotional and material needs of those children form a representative portion of society, while others who fervently wish to raise and love children stand hopelessly by.

Of course those without children can resort to the ages-old sharing of adopting a child, as is done in many 'primitive' cultures, and many advanced societies as well. But the deep-seated urge to reproduce one's own genes is not so easily by-passed since it is written into our genetic coding as the instinct for survival. And modern medical technology has intervened to give hope to those without hope.

Truth is, it's difficult for many to sympathize with a man and woman struggling to achieve that most basic of human rewards and disciplines, the birth of a child. In vitro fertilization has given new hope to many childless couples. It has become a self-sustaining industry, one that is able to extract huge sums of money from desperate people, even with its fairly low success rate.

That it represents a slow, laborious, agonizing process, and an expensive one ensuring that only the well-padded may apply, and still with scant results, demonstrates the tenacity of human desire. Among woman over 40 years of age the success rate for IVF is 10%; under that age, an IVF cycle can have a 30% success rate.

There are risks associated with fertility drug usage; two-fold risk of malformations, Down syndrome, heart disease, malformations of the uro-genital system in boys among them. Women conceiving artificially remain at higher risk of complications like high blood pressure, gestational diabetes and placenta abruption where the placenta peels away from the uterus.

When things go awry there is a call on the public health system to care for mother and child, irrespective of mode of conception leading to the biological creation of another organism. Public funding of infertile couples' attempts to conceive, however, would represent another burden on an already over-stretched health care system.

The inability to conceive may represent a personal misfortune to childless couples, but it does not represent a health problem or medical urgency in the conventional sense. Public health care is there to service the health needs of an entire population, when people require medical and surgical interventions as a result of accidents, chronic health impacts, disease onset and other health malfunctions.

Artificial conception aids, the clinics and the health professionals that offer them, have become an industry, a very profitable one, existing on the margins of the traditional organization of health providers, not entirely unlike the vanity industry of cosmetic surgery.

There are times when cosmetic surgery is recognized as a necessary procedure, however, and the same might be said for reproductive techniques - but rarely.

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Monday, January 17, 2011

Sleaze Central

One might imagine the people of Italy to feel nothing but contempt for the man who they elected - twice, as it happens - to represent as their head of state. A man who at his advanced age of three-score-and-ten-plus-four fondly considers himself an ageless golden gift to womankind. And for whom no sexual relationships can be considered too embarrassingly sleazy.

For he is a man who 'loves' women. And women, quite naturally, 'love him' right back.

It helps, immeasurably, that he is a billionaire. It does not help at all that he is corrupt as a businessman, wily as a fox, unashamed to use his money and his power to alter Italian law to exempt himself through his high office, from prosecution for illicit business dealings and outrageous contraventions of Italian law meant to protect young girls from sexual exploitation.

He is exasperatingly self-willed, as challenging to confront as a vain adolescent, and with the morals of an alley-cat. The cat can be excused, he cannot. Finally, his long-suffering wife decided she and her children no longer wished to be associated with him.

And that severing of relations appeared to give him a new lease on sex, propelling him to ever more outrageous stunts of sexual conquest and purported prowess.

Surely, he makes people wince each time his name crops up in the news? People who voted for him? People who may consider him to be just an ordinary guy doing what guys do - even them? With new revelations that underage girls were paid to perform striptease shows for his pleasure?

Parties at his mansion, a series of recently-discovered properties in Milan where a stable of young women were tasked and handsomely paid to perform for Berlusconi? Where paying women under the age of 18 for sex is a crime in Italy?

The man's errant self-confidence and ego transcend mere arrogance.

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Sunday, January 16, 2011

Geronimo - An American Legend

On the rare occasion Hollywood produces an outstanding film. Not a popular film, not a money-maker, not one that is a box office hit that the film critics gush praise for, but one of those films that just happens to hit all the right notes. That the producer and the director and the actors in the film all happen to be fine masters of the technique of cinematic production and that they were all dedicated to the message the film projected was, of course, a great help.

One such film of majestic proportions in its geographic filming on location, in the sweep of its historical subject matter, in its credible attempt to reach into the characters of the affected peoples' deep-seated emotions and attachments reflective of the time in history in which they lived, was the 1994-released film, Geronimo. This film does indeed merit the sobriquet of an "American classic".

Still of Jason Patric and Wes Studi in Geronimo: An American Legend
29 December 2009
Photo by Columbia Pictures – © 1993
Still of Jason Patric and Wes Studi in Geronimo: An American Legend


The film had the authentic feel of the quite wonderful series Lonesome Dove in which Robert Duvall also distinguished himself. Gene Hackman has lent himself to an entire series of historical figures depicting the not-so-distant past, with outstanding success. In this film their collective talents and their sensitivities in presenting the humanity of the people whom they portrayed left little to be critical of.

Matt Damon, who was invested as a backer, as well as having a part in the film, through his collaboration with the producer, has redeemed himself for acting the principal in the series called The Bourne Collection; action thrillers of which Hollywood box office is extremely fond, reflecting the attitude of most Americans who wish nothing but entertainment, the more raucous and violent the better, particularly if it comes with a dollop of moral ambiguity.

The film was eclipsed by world events taking attention away from its purpose and presentation. Although it was nominated for an Oscar, so little attention was given the film, and so little given back at the box office that many well-known film critics admit they had not even been aware of its existence. More's the pity.

The cast was comprised of many actors whose past performances in epic and often quite good films was excellent in this portrayal of a sad and notable time in American (North American, in fact) history. Jason Patric, Robert Duvall, Gene Hackman and Wes Studi were outstanding in their performances, with Wes Studi playing the part of Geronimo and Jason Patric the principal character, a member of the then-fledgling United States Army.

The film had the authentic feel of the quite wonderful series Lonesome Dove in which Robert Duvall also distinguished himself as a rough-cut diamond. Gene Hackman has lent himself to an entire series of historical figures depicting the not-so-distant past, with outstanding success. In this film their collective talents and their sensibilities in presenting the humanity of the people whom they portrayed left little to be critical of.

Matt Damon, who was invested as a backer, as well as having a part in the film as its narrator, through his collaboration with the producer, has redeemed himself for acting the principal in the series called The Bourne Collection; action thrillers of which Hollywood box office is extremely fond, reflecting the attitude of most Americans who wish nothing but entertainment, the more raucous and violent the better, particularly if it comes with a dollop of moral ambiguity.

The film was eclipsed by events taking attention away from its purpose and presentation. Although it was nominated for an Oscar, so little attention was given the film, and so little given back at the box office that many well-known film critics admit they had not even been aware of its existence.

More's the pity.

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Saturday, January 15, 2011

Versions, Perspectives and Ox-Goring

When is the impassioned work of an artistic talent politically compromised? When, obviously, that artist undertakes to portray through her artwork the pain and suffering of an identifiable group and when the background is painful violence and intrusive social politics.

So an exhibition of paintings whose purpose, the artist claims, is to highlight the undeniable fact that women of aboriginal descent and women who sell their bodies are neglected by society, to the extent that no one cares if they disappear, if they are dispatched by a serial murderer has been cancelled.

The series of paintings memorializing the mysteriously and unaccountably vanished and the obviously slaughtered as a comment on Canadian society's willingness to be disinvested in the safety and security and humanity of certain groups, is now being discounted as self-availing for the heightened reputation of the artist, Pamela Masik.

Her work in assembling a group of portraits of missing and murdered women from the Downtown Eastside in Vancouver, was originally acclaimed and destined for an exhibit at the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia.

The connection of the exhibition to the notorious serial killer Robert Pickton, and the social blot on Vancouver relating to the astonishing fact that dozens of women who worked on the squalid streets of the Downtown Eastside as hookers whose working presence was tolerated, and whose peculiar lack of physical presence was simply ignored would be certain to elicit notice.

The series of paintings by Ms. Masik collectively labelled The Forgotten, accurately identified the issue and the social pain. "I saw my role as an artist to bear witness to the 69 women who were marginalized, went missing and many, ultimately, who were murdered, not just by the hands of a serial killer but by our society viewing these women as inconsequential", Ms. Masik explained.

That explanation isn't washing with her critics. "The Forgotten does nothing to stop the violence against women in this community. It exoticizes them and turns them into commodities to promote the 'Masik brand'", accused an organizer of the annual Women's Memorial March in the Downtown Eastside, as she brought pressure on the university and the museum to cancel the event.

The author of this accusation seems intent on having her dedicated group remaining the sole recognized authority on the dreadful fate of these women.

The claim being by a Memorial March Committee member that by mounting the show the university and the museum would be helpfully instrumental in making the artist, Ms. Masik, the effective "spokesperson" for aboriginal women's issues. Whereas it is the aboriginal women themselves and the Downtown Eastside Women only who could legitimately claim that title.

With the Memorial March Committee enabling them, as their representatives.

It is not to the credit of the University of British Columbia and the associated Museum of Anthropology that the decision was summarily made to cancel the show. This is a show of art and delayed social conscience and consequences which may, according to the artist, now be coming to a venue in Ottawa. Which will be Vancouver's loss and Ottawa's gain.
"There are still missing and murdered women all over Canada and it's going to continue to happen until we acknowledge our role in making this happen. How do we create change if we can't even talk about it? [The museum is] kind of manifesting exactly what happened in the Downtown Eastside: We don't see it, we don't talk about it." Pamela Masik

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Friday, January 14, 2011

There But For the Grace Of Nature

How very odd. While around the world extreme weather events not normally associated with the geographic areas engulfed in cold and snow continue to make the international news, with almost all the 50 states in the United States suddenly having to cope with massive snowfalls, the Ottawa Valley has been experiencing its own peculiar winter weather.

Cold it most certainly is, but not as cold as it so often becomes in the dead of winter. And with a modest covering of snow here, where we are more accustomed to great, deep snow packs.

Europe too has been receiving massive amounts of snow, having to dig themselves out from under heights of snow hitherto unknown and struggling to surmount difficulties where municipalities have never had to equip themselves with snow-removal devices before the present time.

A country like Russia, accustomed to huge winter snowfalls and the inconveniences they bring, well equipped with winter snow removal equipment has been struggling the last few years with unaccustomed amounts of deep snow.

In other parts of the world, Sri Lanka and Australia as well as Brazil have been inundated with massive flooding and mountain slides as extreme rain events have eroded the ability of the ground to absorb the excess amounts swelling rivers into raging torrents rushing through towns and villages and cities, creating hell and havoc everywhere.

People have been swept into the muddy torrents to their death, and rescue crews have been desperately working to save whom they may.

Another volcano has erupted; Mount Etna in Italy, temporarily closing down airports; an inconvenience for the moment, not quite resembling the disaster with the Icelandic volcanic eruption that halted air traffic throughout Europe for weeks.

And here, in the Ottawa Valley, with our low snow pack and relatively cold, but not quite frigidly icy conditions, we are informed that we have the distinction of having the purest air in southern Ontario.

Little particulate matter, and very few days of ozone alerts. Disaster elsewhere, a quiescent environment in our little corner of the Earth.

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Thursday, January 13, 2011

Australia's Torment

Australia has suffered immensely the last few years through environmental challenges. Years of drought have caused no end of problems for the country. The plight of camels for whom water shortages would be those of the animal kingdom most likely to survive under those adverse conditions, a good case in point. And now, after years of intolerable drought conditions, an ironic twist as flooding is devastating vast tracts of the country.

It is not just the huge numbers of properties affected by the flooding, tens of thousands of private homes and businesses ruined, and agricultural areas impacted so deleteriously. That people are losing everything of value to them is tragic. Similar situations are seen in other parts of the world, less able to fend for themselves but even wealthy, advanced countries like Australia are helpless in the face of such natural disasters.

Worse, the loss of life that leaves a timeless legacy of grief. Material possessions are replaceable. Human life is not. Where among the more than dozen people to have died in the flooding - and dozens more whose absence remains unaccounted for - a man witnessing his wife of 30 years and his thirteen-year-old son being washed away by the relentless floodwaters, even as rescuers managed to bring his younger son to safety.

13-year-old Jordan Rice from the city of Toowoomba, pleading with rescuers to take his 10-year-old brother first. And then, as his anguished father watched, the rescue rope attached to the family car snapped under pressure and his wife and older boy were swept away to their death. The helplessness of neighbours seeing a familiar body of another neighbour float past.

A child care worker in the town of Grantham refusing to leave to secure his safety, remaining behind and vulnerable in the family home in an attempt to stay with and save his wheelchair-bound mother. The home collapsed in the following deluge, killing Joshua Ross, his mother and her partner.

Billions of dollars of damage have resulted so far from the flooding in Queensland state. And that most certainly is a tragedy of immense proportions. One that will require Australia to rebuild itself as from the ravages of a war, or a powerful earthquake followed by a tsunami. Yet it is stories of people helplessly trapped in a hopeless situation that will become part of the historical folklore of tragedy.

The story of James Perry, clinging to the roof rack of his car as it swept down and forever away in the muddy, churning waters around Toowoomba, where a rescue workers with a helicopter had just winched his wife and the pair's 9-year-old son to safety before the family vehicle was swept away.

The dreadful sights and losses will remain inscribed as unassuagable grief in the memories of the survivors.

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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Destitute Haitians

It appears most unreasonable that Canada fast-tracked Haitian refugees following the 2010 January earthquake when the entire country was in a shambles and millions of poor Haitians were assembled in refugee camps in dire conditions, and now the country has 9,000 refugees who remain in dire straits. True, they are no longer in a third-world-country suffering from endemic economic-social malaise complicated by the devastation of an earthquake which toppled all government infrastructure. They are now safely in Canada, but destitute.

It transcends compassion and the intelligence of integrity to permit thousands of people to escape the confines of squalid refugee camps where potable water must be delivered daily a full year after the devastating earthquake struck the country, yet not to take steps to rescind, for this group of needy refugees, the stiff government fees required to accompany applications to become a permanent resident of the country. Where are these people with few employment opportunities to earn sufficient money to pay the $550 per adult and $150 for each dependent to enable them to qualify?

Eking out a bare living to provide food for the table, living in emergency accommodations, the money is simply not there, and the thousands of refugees that were admitted to Canada under an accelerated plan to take them out of immediate misery into a safe haven are only marginally better off than they were in Haiti. There are two hundred Haitian refugees living in the Ottawa area, with large families occupying inadequate shelters. A spokesperson for the Haitian-Canadian community is appealing for assistance from Ottawans.

Given the fact that Canada and Montreal in particular have the largest expatriate Haitian community in the diaspora, it is puzzling, in the absence of government ameliorative action, that the Haitian community itself does not pool its resources to rescue other Haitians from a miserable situation. "In Ottawa, we need maybe $25,000 to $30,000" to assist in the payment of government fees for the 200 Haitian refugees in this city, according to Gerard Etienne, a prominent member of the Haitian community.

Until that funding is forthcoming to pay for the government application for permanent residency, Haitians in need cannot approach the provincial Ministry of Community and Social Services for housing assistance and other social supports which they so obviously are in need of. Mr. Etienne is quite correct in stating he does not feel that waiving those fees for indigent Haitian refugees "...would bankrupt the government". On the other hand, the Government of Canada, through taxpayer dollars, has pledged millions upon millions for Haiti assistance.

Those well established Haitians with Canadian status who have done well for themselves in Canada might think about their obligations to their fellow Haitians and come forward to assist them in paying those onerous fees. Tax funding is not infinite, and cannot accomplish everything. For starters, former Governor General Michaelle Jean would do well to exert her influence among her fellow Haitian-Canadians, after herself pitching in a substantial donation in aid of supporting new refugees within the Canadian community.

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Offensive Buycott!

Jewish Canada Community Alert

Speak out against the ongoing campaign to delegitimize the Jewish State

The organization Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJMPE) has launched a boycott campaign against Israel, targeting retail outlets such as the Bay, which sell the Israeli-made AHAVA beauty products. Eyewitnesses phoned B’nai Brith Canada’s Anti-Hate Hotline (1-800-892-2624) to confirm that they witnessed store employees removing the Israeli products from their shelves while protesters outside pushed their illegitimate boycott campaign against the democratic State of Israel.

B’nai Brith Canada has been in touch with store executives to clarify the situation, and these discussions are summarized in this letter sent to the Bay’s President and CEO:

Customers witnessed store employees removing all AHAVA products from your store at Queen Street in Toronto late last week. A spokesperson for your stores who asked not to be identified by name told our organization that a “business” decision had been made to delist the products. The timing of this decision, while the Bay and other named retail outlets are the subject of a campaign to delegitimize the State of Israel and its supporters, leads to the unavoidable perception that the Bay’s decision was in fact a response to such pressure.

As you know, Canada has a strong bilateral trade and cultural ties with the Jewish State. You yourself were recently honoured by the Israel Cancer Research Fund. With such a history of mutual respect and cooperation, surely your stores should reject outright pressure by anti-Israel agitators.

We ask that you personally review the decision made by your company not to carry an Israeli product, and issue a statement to assure our members and supporters, as well as your customers, that the Bay will not support the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign against Israel, which at its core is a shameful example of intolerance and racism.

NOW IS YOUR CHANCE TO STAND UP AGAINST A PROPAGANDA CAMPAIGN BASED ON BIGOTRY

We ask that you contact the Bay and tell them politely, but clearly, that as customers of the store, you hope and expect that they will continue to carry and proudly display the fine Israeli products available.

Contact: Ms. Bonnie Brooks, President and CEO, The Bay

401 Bay Street, Suite 500

Toronto, ON M5H 2Y4

Phone: 416-979-1120

Email: bonnie.brooks@hbc.com

Please copy B’nai Brith Canada on any letters or emails you send, and forward the responses you receive to Adina Klein, aklein@bnaibrith.ca, 416-633-6224, ext. 112.

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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Power Generation

If there was ever a symbol of wasteful excess and fundamentally amateurish control of a powerful provincial power/energy corporation, Ontario Hydro stands out as a sterling example. Of course, it was called Ontario Hydro when it acquired its massive debt which debt load has since, under Hydro One - its neutral-new name - been offloaded to the consumer to pay off in monthly additions to our consumption bills.

This gaffe-plagued, taxpaid-consuming colossus has always distinguished itself by its lack of attention to important details. By its commitment to try any and all intriguing possibilities through which energy sources could be extracted to produce affordable, reliable electrical energy. Massive investments in nuclear plants led to a plentiful source of energy but coal-fired plants are still messing up our atmosphere.

Nuclear plant installation wracked up monumental costs, and when refurbishments were required to maintain operability the costs then, along with reliability were never as relatively modest as they appeared at first glance to be. The corporation's executive elite were always extravagantly recompensed, but that little detail did not keep them from robbing and further bankrupting the treasury through 'entitlements'.

For that matter, it is highly likely that on average all those employed by the former Ontario Hydro now hived off into differently-named units earn salaries not quite in line with other municipal employees; there are more $100,000-plus earners within the energy-producing-and-distributing corporation than anywhere else by far in the province. And what does this formula result in?

Well, for starters, a corporate culture claiming on their website that "Running our business in a socially responsible way is part of Hydro One’s mission and vision. Discover why Hydro One is recognized for its environmentally and socially responsible choices."

Right in line, actually, with the current Ontario Liberal government of Dalton McGuinty which has pledged itself to providing green energy for the province; costly green energy. Time-of-use pricing; encouragement to consumers to use power at low-power-usage times. In a manner that victimizes working and low-income families, further burdening them in a province already suffering from lack of sufficient employment and burgeoning living costs.

And then we learn that Ontario has so much surplus power it has been forced to unload it for whatever it can get, well below market prices. But not for ordinary Ontario energy consumers; rather for those consumers where energy is exported out of the province, to Quebec and across the national border into the United States. It is quite simply too difficult for this technologically modern, highly-paid-staffed corporation to figure when and how much to produce.

Ontario customers have paid tens of millions of dollars to subsidize electricity users in the U.S. and Quebec because of surplus electricity flooding the market. Can't we just fire the whole incompetent lot?

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Monday, January 10, 2011

The Race Ticket

Reason truly does struggle with passion in the most civilized of countries. At least one assumes that the United States qualifies as an eminently civilized nation. The American Constitution purports to portray itself as the blueprint for civilization. Equality of personhood took a long time in coming to the United States, however.

And with the election of a black American elevated to the President of the United States, it seemed, finally, that the world was witnessing a social revolution.

Racial discrimination is a hard battle to fight and a harder one to win. There remains within the United States, a sizeable proportion of the population outraged that the civil rights movement was successful to the degree that it was, and that the monumental attitudinal change that led to the election of a black American president of the United States of America came to reality.

The undercurrent of suspicion and hatred is becoming more palpable as time goes by.

Conspiracy theorists wrack their bigoted brains to 'prove' that Barack Hussein Obama is not the Christian he presents himself to be but rather practises the religion of his forbears on the spear side. As a Muslim he would not necessarily be disqualified, but he would most certainly not have won the vote that brought him to the presidency.

As a biracial man whose birth took place outside the U.S. - say Kenya, for example - he would have been disqualified from the leadership race.

His detractors both clumsily and hatefully portray him as a non-American by birth, a Muslim by heritage and tradition, and a socialist in a country for which the term represents all that is wrong that his presidency has been successful in legislating into law.

With its frontier mentality, its gun-owning 'right' amendment enshrined in the Constitution, and God-fearing Christian fundamentalism in the majority, the resentment against President Obama is incendiary and unappeasable.

Where once the world looked on admiringly at what they took to be a new America, the tired and tedious race ticket is back on the menu, brooking no good for the future of the country.

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Sunday, January 09, 2011

Where Are The Advocates for Justice?

In 18th Century England, a hungry, homeless young lad could be hanged for the crime of stealing a loaf of bread. Thank all the stars in heaven that we live in more civilized, enlightened times. Where justice is fairly meted out in full consideration of all the parameters of civilized mores. Where violence and crime is arrested by the apprehension of social deviants who must stand trial and be judged by their peers, then they must pay for their crimes by sentences that reflect the crimes they have committed.

What can one say about the indisputable, lamentable fact that there remain miscarriages of justice. That the very justice system that is put in place to protect society and keep us safe and secure still is capable of victimizing people, handing out sentences that do not really reflect the severity or lack of, the crimes committed. If there exists glaring instances of miscarriages of justice, they can be found in what should be considered the most unlikeliest of places; the United States of America, for example.

Where two black women, sisters with no record of previous illegal activities or convictions, stood trial on a charge of an armed robbery that netted them US$11, were found guilty as charged, and each sentenced to two life terms in prison. As of this date they have each served sixteen years for their unspeakable crime of robbing two men who were driving them to a nightclub in northern Mississippi in the year 1993.

Mississippi governor Haley Barber has used the authority vested in his office to free the sisters from the state prison where they have lived in incarceration for the past sixteen years. They have been freed on condition that the younger sister, aged 36, donate a kidney to her older sister who requires dialysis filtration due to failed kidneys. They have emerged, smiling and jubilant from the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility.

There is something peculiarly incongruent with a justice system that metes out such atrociously harsh justice. There is a certain level of un-humanitarian arrogance in a governor who cannot recognize that injustice and fails to release two black women from their unjustly severe incarceration without equivocation.

Hiding behind a veneer of righteousness to release Gladys and Jamie Scott as though they would not of their own accord in freedom choose to take an action that would benefit them both sans state intervention.

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Saturday, January 08, 2011

Fraud, What Fraud?

Does being appointed to the Senate of Canada translate as permission to be as arrogant and as rapacious of taxpayer dollars as one wishes? Certainly seems that way. Couldn't qualify as more arrogant, on the record, than sitting-but-disqualified-with-qualifications Senator Raymond Lavigne.

That's the very same senator who dispatched his principal aide to do tax-paid duty as an employee of the Senate, on his rural Wakefield property. Whose enthusiasm on behalf of the senator eclipsed ethical behaviour when he set about cutting down trees from a neighbour's property because the senator wanted an unobstructed view of the Ottawa river from his own property.

Which brought to light the rather unsavoury fact that Senator Lavigne thought it right and proper that he could misuse his Senate seat and use his Senate employed-aides to perform private tasks he assigned them, for his personal benefit, on the public purse.

These 'misdemeanors' saw the senator charged with fraud over $5,000, breach of trust and obstruction of justice for misappropriating public funds through instructing government staff that they should consider themselves his personal and private servants to perform yard work for him.

The Senate must be a rather laid-back place. Senator Lavigne was suspended from the Liberal caucus in 2006 over his misappropriation of Senate resources and the use of his office budget. The RCMP laid criminal charges of fraud in 2007. But the senator continues to collect his Senate salary of $132,300. And he is required to show up in person once each Senate session.

He is in bad odour, and his silent presence is tolerated once each session, but he is not to attend meetings or perform Senate or committee work through his suspension. All the poor man battling an unfair justice system is required to do is bank his Senate salary. And he has continued to do just that religiously.

He has also, unfortunately, continued to wrack up hefty expenses on the public dole. In a three-month period, September to November of 2010, he was found to have expropriated over $30,000 in office expenses, travel and cost-of-living expenses through the listing of Senate expenses.

This unfortunate revelation clearly demonstrates that all is not well with the Senate of Canada. The chamber grants senators facing criminal charges a leave of absence to ensure they may "maintain the dignity of the institution while still maintaining his rights to a presumption of being innocent", according to a spokesperson, but it appears not to be dedicated to keeping tabs on the subsequent 'entitlements' of tenderly disenfranchised senators.

With these new revelations, however, sober minds in the Chamber of Sober Second Thought have been alerted, and they state their resolve to ensure that further abuse of the public purse is apprehended. How tritely reassuring.

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Friday, January 07, 2011

"I Want To Cry"

Children depend upon the parental love and protection they are entitled to as children, to help them face a world that without that support and guidance would be a confusing and alienating one. The sense of security and all-encompassing love in support of their needs is a vital one. To remove that sense of comfort, security and love is to destroy a child's innocence and to destine that child to live an agony of remorseless need unfulfilled.

Could anything be more destructive to a child's sense of security than the sudden departure of their parents? Bereft of the warmth, the support and the love that a child's parents guaranteed by their presence, the child faces life as a bereaved and comfortless soul. And when that child has the memory of beloved parents in violent conflict with each other, and the memory of having witnessed one parent murdering the other what kind of future has the child been consigned to?

That is most certainly the case with a ten year-old Ottawa girl whose father killed her mother in 2008, when she was eight years of age. Her younger brother, three at the time of the murder, may be substantially less affected than his sister. And it was the now-ten-year-old girl who produced a victim impact statement at the sentencing hearing for her father, Demetrios Angelis.

"If I had a magic wand I would want to see my mom and dad. What I miss most is that I cannot talk to them or do things with them anymore", she wrote. At her father's trial the girl testified that her mother and father struck and kicked one another and how her father finally gained through his superior strength, and smothered his wife to death in the presence of their two children.

The girl described her mother attempting to persuade her to run outside and alert someone to help her. But she was too shy to obey her mother, to run outside their home and bring someone back with her. Her father was convicted of second-degree murder, given a mandatory life-in-prison sentence. The father incarcerated for murder, the mother dead at her husband's hands.

"She used to braid my hair, paint my nails", and time was happily spent shopping, going to the movies, to the beach, or to restaurants, wrote the little girl of her mother. "...sometimes I want to have pyjama days and be sad", she reflected on her irreplaceably anguished loss.

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