Ruminations

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

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

 Flying With Confidence

"These people are extremely lucky that the airplane structurally remained, from a cabin point of view, intact, and there was no fire."
"Normally when an airplane hits the ground, there's considerably more damage than is indicated here."
"The question here is why did he [the pilot] land short. Regardless, it's pretty obvious that they weren't on the glide slope [trajectory leading to runway]."
"They're probably lucky there was snow [so sparks wouldn't start a fire]."
Ron Coleman, aviation safety consultant, Canadian Aviation Safety Consultants


The damage on Air Canada Airbus A320 is seen after the plane skidded off the runway while attempting to land at Halifax International Airport on Sunday, March 29, 2015. (Transportation Safety Board of Canada/Supplied)
The damage on Air Canada Airbus A320 is seen after the plane skidded off the runway while attempting to land at Halifax International Airport on Sunday, March 29, 2015. (Transportation Safety Board of Canada/Supplied)
"It was safe to fly in this weather. The aircraft did circle for a period of time but when the approach was initiated, the weather was at the approach limits."
"We at Air Canada are greatly relieved that no one was critically injured. Yet we fully appreciate this has been a very unsettling experience for our customers and their families, as well as our employees, and we are focused on caring for all those affected. We will also fully co-operate with the Transportation Safety Board as it begins an investigation to determine the cause."
Klaus Goersch, executive vice-president, COO, Air Canada

"It was just completely surreal. I was running down the landing tarmac, and there was the smell of kerosene. I tripped over a big metal object, which must have been one of the components. It was just completely surreal. I just thought about my boys and my family."
"That was the reason we ran from the plane. I was talking to another woman who's got kids, and we both said we kind of felt like cowards because we just ran and didn't stop to help people. But we were just driven to get away from the plane for the sake of our families."
Dominic Stettler, passenger, Airbus A320, Halifax International Airport

A snowstorm over Halifax on Saturday night caused Air Canada flight 624 from Toronto to circle the airport, awaiting improved landing conditions. Passengers were informed that if ground visibility didn't improve since the plane might run out of fuel, it would have to be redirected to Moncton, New Brunswick. Then clearance to land was received shortly afterward.

In minutes' time, the passengers did not disembark casually as their plane landed on the airstrip assigned to it. Instead, they scrambled in panic to exit a ruined shell of a plane lying crumpled on the snowy ground, nose cone and landing gear sheared off. They hadn't landed on the runway, and in the process of attempting to land crash-skidded instead, losing an engine on impact.

Some passengers were aware that it seemed the pilot tried to abort his descent, but it was too late. The 25-year-old Airbus severed power lines, temporarily closing off electricity to the airport. In its descent a scaffold that held the airport's localizer system used to help guide landings, was destroyed. As the plane came to a skidding stop a stewardess opened the emergency hatch deploying the slide, and a passenger opened another emergency door.

Some passengers, returning from holidays on sun-filled beaches were clad in shorts and sandals. They, like the rest of the 133 passengers waited, huddled in the cold winter air for buses to arrive to deliver them to the airport. Some 25 of those passengers were briefly admitted to hospital with minor injuries. All but one of the passengers not yet released from hospital spent an uneasy night in an airport hotel.

It isn't too difficult to imagine the nightmares that visited those passengers in their sleep that night. Perhaps to return occasionally. None of them would have been unaware of the horrendous crash into a mountain top in the French Alps, of Germanwings Airbus 320 a few days earlier, killing all 150 people on board, including the pilot, crew, and co-pilot who had engineered the disaster.

"When I look[ed] at pictures this morning, I really did not realize how damaged that plane is", said Mike Magnus, a passenger on the Airbus A320 that missed the landing strip in Halifax. In his mind he plays over what might have been the result in summer when a dry runway would have created more friction and sparks with no moisture to depress a fire. The snow, he observed, "caused the accident but I think it also saved us."

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Monday, March 30, 2015

The Immediate Intimacy of Religious Devotion

Religion is a faith devotion reflecting the inner spiritual need of human belief in a deity, a fathomless being of great omniscience held to be the source of all that exists, including the living creatures that worship that being, in whatever form taken. Religions and their sacred beliefs are as diverse as the ingenuity of human beings' imaginations in constructing their belief in a divine presence whom all should be grateful to and honour.

It is precisely the differences, however, that serve to create distance between one believer and another. Belief in a  higher order of supremely powerful intelligence is globally universal, and probably arose as humankind sought to make sense of the natural world and its incredibly diverse presentation; its geology, biological forms, environmental dramas of volcanic action, earthquakes, the nighttime heavens, raging storms and windswept vistas.

Unto many and diverse, and finally one supranatural force humans invested reverence and responsibility. Belief required no proof of existence, since faith accepts the presence of an omnipresent creator blessing humankind with the fruits of its labours. Again, trouble lies in the challenges inherent in human nature to consider what one group believes to be the superior relationship with that powerful being over all others.

And where once, adherents of newly-realized religious devotions were persecuted for the impudence of their belief that theirs represents the only true acknowledgement of devotion to the creator, we believe we now live in a world that is more tolerant, accepting of differences. But the fact is our human DNA is invested with certain universal traits and exclusion of the 'other' reflecting the primal blueprint of survival.

On a small but telling scale a drama is playing out in social housing, an apartment complex operated by Ottawa Community Housing where a multicultural, multi-faith building whose inhabitants have come to the conclusion that some among them are exhibiting symptoms of entitlements of an exclusive nature. All such large buildings inhabited by many people have common areas for the use of the aggregate.
Dena Ware stands beside one of the Christian pictures put up in the common room of her Ottawa Community Housing building after some Muslim women were spotted praying there. Images of Jesus cropped up after bingo and those pictures have been removed twice now. However, more crop up, she says.
Julie Oliver / Ottawa Citizen
In one of the buildings at the Russell Gardens community complex a cultural/social/religious dysfunction has surfaced. In the lounge of the building which is a common room for the use of all tenants, people gather to play board games, to celebrate birthdays, watch television and other group events. In the last several years residents worshipping Islam have taken to using the area for prayers.

Eliciting from other tenants who are Christian, resentment. In the words of one resident: "It's not a church". One woman who is Roman Catholic stated that Catholics make no use of the lounge as a place of worship, why then should Muslims? Another woman, in charge of the bingo games, became incensed when five Muslim men gathered tablecloths from the bingo tables to place on the floor while they prostrated themselves in prayer.

In response to her verbalized protests, one of the men called her a "terrorist". Some of the female tenants took to hanging religious prints or large hangings of the Nativity and other symbols of Christianity on the walls in hopes of deterring further use of the common room for prayers to Islam. And then the hangings began to disappear. Strangely enough a devout Roman Catholic woman had spirited them away and destroyed them.

Because, she explained, no religious symbols should hang in the building's common room. "I know I will burn in hell", she said, after admitting she had dumped the hangings in the garbage. Her action was prompted by concern that images of Jesus in a common room would convey to non-Christians they were not welcome there. Obviously, no one ever informed her that Christ has his place in Islamic theology.

Rumours began to circulate that the Muslims living in the apartment complex were members of al-Qaeda. The controversy and poor relations between the tenants raised the ire and sympathy in equal measure of the residents. At a meeting of tenants with an Ottawa Community Housing manager, tenant Dena Ware stated a policy was required to settle these disagreements.

The management of the project should either ban religious images representing any faiths whatever, in the public areas of the building: "[2100] is a multi-denomination and multicultural building", she said; images of Jesus and the cross have implications that the lounge is special to only those of Christian faiths.

In reality, the common area of the building should be off limits to any expression of religious devotion. No symbols of Christian belief should be seen in those public areas. And most certainly no one among the tenants should feel entitled to use the area as a site for prayer. Tenants who are Muslim have their own private space in their apartments where their prayer rugs can be spread. And it is there that their devotions should take place.

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Sunday, March 29, 2015

Arcane Evolutionary Mystique

"It really shows how tenacious life is. The possibilities are just beyond our prediction."
Professor Reed Scherer, micropaleontology, Northern Illinois University

"[When the research scientists saw the first fish they] started screaming and yelling and clapping. [By the time they saw fish repeatedly] we got to the point of, 'Oh, there's another fish', instead of, 'Oh my God! There's a fish'!"
Professor Ross Powell

You'd think these scientists had never seen a fish before. What could be more commonplace than fish, for heaven's sake, in the ocean? It's where anyone would expect to see them, after all. Fish, and any number of other aquatic creatures, from the size of walruses to the minuscule proportions of bacteria thriving in salt water. We know the world's oceans are thriving with various types of aquatic life. New species being identified all the time. And complaints about catches of the most popular types of table-fish diminishing.

And some countries (all right; Japan, detested by Greenpeace) which traditionally hunt for whales gaining an extremely bad reputation for continuing to hunt them even as the strain upon their numbers from over-hunting are placing them in the diminishing-species category. And animal activists going out of their way to rev up their propaganda networks toward boycotting of the annual seal slaughter off Canada's East Coast; Norway not so much.

Life survives in Antarctic A leopard seal rests on a piece of floating ice near the Chilean station Bernardo O'Higgins, Antarctica on Jan. 22, 2015. (AP / Natacha Pisarenko)

So, why the surprise over seeing a fish ... in Antarctica's South Shetland Island archipelago ... oh, that's why. The deep, dark underworld of the frozen South Pole. Really deep. Really dark. Places that haven't seen sunlight for actually aeons, as in millions of years, that long ago. Yet there they are, both microscopic creature and translucent fish of eye-ready dimensions.

On the other hand, who might anticipate that worms could be found within frozen ice? Alive, that is. In great numbers. Worms which by nature have their own natural anti-freeze, that keeps them thriving in ice. They're seen in great numbers in Alaska and parts of Washington State and British Columbia. Living in glaciers. Really.
Ice Worm on Easton Glacier (Marieve Desjardins)


"You don't have to be a rocket scientist to look around and see how extreme this environment is", commented biochemist Jenny Blamey, surrounded by ice-blanketed black volcanic rock on Deception Island, Antarctic. "This is really like a desert, where you have extreme low temperatures", Ms. Blamey, research director at the Biosciences Foundation Chile, studying the genetic material of micro-organisms, explained.

Researchers who had trekked hundreds of kilometres from established structures or from a research post to reach a National Science Foundation mobile base camp at the edge of the Ross Ice Shelf, placed a remote-controlled submarine over a half kilometre deep under the ice to search for what could be seen under one of Antarctica's melting ice sheets.

It happens to represent an area on Earth of total darkness, one thousand kilometres from the closest ocean, nine metres of water under ice where the water tests at -2Centigrade, but because of the salt permeating it, remains unfrozen. When the cameras were turned on there was a thin, almost translucent fish darting about while amphipods, orange-shelled, drifted by.
Life endures in frigid Antarctic temperatures
An amphipod lies on ice shortly after it was brought to the surface, in a sediment lab set up in Antarctica on Jan. 19, 2015. The animal was fished out of an area of total darkness far from the ocean, where it was living a space of 30 feet of liquid water under the ice. (Reed Scherer / National Science Foundation and Northern Illinois University)

An attempt to net a fish or two failed, although some amphipods cooperated. The researchers also travelled to remote Lake Vostok, a freshwater lake buried under 3.7 km of ice, which hasn't been exposed to open air for an estimated fifteen million years. When scientists took water samples and tested for life traces they discovered genetic sequences for 3,507 recognizable species, about ten thousand of which were unknown to science.
Water bear organism
This image released by Bob Goldstein and Vicki Madden taken with an electron microscope, shows a tardigrade, micro-animal also known as a water bear, at the UNC in Chapel Hill, N.C. In Jan. 2015, scientists found the DNA of a tardigrade in Antarctica's Lake Vostok, located in an area considered the most remote place on Earth. (UNC Chapel Hill)

"It seems like most of [them] were alive recently", said Scott Rogers, a professor of microbiology at Kentucky's Bowling Green State University, who was part of the study team. "You start to wonder if that couldn't happen on an icy moon or exo-planet", Lisa Kaltenegger, astronomer and director of the Institute for Pale Blue Dots at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, suggested.

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Saturday, March 28, 2015

The Short, Trauma-Filled Life of a Child

"Meika was covered in bruises. She was dirty and her hair was matted. Chunks of it were missing. There was a dirty bandage on her left hand."
"Our theory is that Spencer Jordan and Marie Magoon committed many of the acts of violence against Meika between Thursday and Sunday, November 10 to 13, 2011."
"The medical team... determined quickly that Meika had serious head injuries with extensive bleeding and swelling, and they knew she would not survive."
Crown prosecutor Susan Pepper, Calgary
Lorraine Hjalte/Postmedia News
Lorraine Hjalte/Postmedia News   Father Spencer Jordan and stepmother Marie Magoon are facing first-degree murder charges in the death of Meika Jordan. An autopsy determined she died as a result of multiple blunt-force trauma.
"I know I've done nothing wrong. And I don't understand why I'm the biggest suspect here. I wasn't the only one there, and I've also read that blunt force trauma could happen years before death."
"How ... how would I have been involved in doing this? No, I didn't do any of this. I'm sorry, but I did not. I did not do this. And you're wrong. And this is just wrong. I'd never have hurt her. Trust me. I never have."
"I don't know who could've done this. Meika came home bruised all the time. She ... her shins, for example ... she always had bruised shins."
Marie Magoon, charged with first-degree murder

She was a bright six-year-old child, a beautiful child, inclined to be friendly, once a happy child, with long blond hair, who lived with her biological father and her step-mother. She did visit with her biological mother. Who, on the stand, described a week-end her daughter spent with her in November of 2011 when she walked into the bedroom where her children were jumping on a bed.

Family photo
Family photo   Meika Jordan

"Hey, what are you doing?" she challenged them cheerfully. Her daughter Meika, on hearing those words appeared intimidated, backing into a wall: "I'm sorry, mommy, I'm sorry. Don't give me big trouble ... I just don't want big trouble, like Daddy and Marie give me", the child pleaded with her mother. What mother wouldn't pursue the issue, ask her former husband, ask his new wife, what was behind her child's reaction?

What mother wouldn't enquire gently of her frightened child just what it was that so inspired fear in her. What were the experiences alluded to, living with her father and her step-mother? Perhaps that is precisely what Meika's mother Kyla Woodhouse, did. And perhaps, when she heard the paramedics speak of the condition in which they found her little girl, "clinically dead" from severe injuries, eyes partly open, that earlier incident threatened to haunt her for the rest of her natural life.

The prosecuting attorney in the trial taking place in Calgary before Court of Queen's Bench Justice Rosemary Nation, outlined what the medical examiners and the prosecution feel happened to the child, based on the evidence. That her father pushed his daughter to the floor, and her head was traumatized, punched her in the stomach, dragged her by her ankles up a flight of stairs, and caused her to hit her head on a stove.

As for Meika's step-mother, to her is attributed Meika's hand being forced over the flame of a lighter, and that she slammed the child's head into the kitchen floor, and forced her to run up and then down stairs, hands tied in front of her, and tripped the little girl while she was thus running, causing her to fall. Meika suffered a third-degree burn to her hand, head trauma, abdominal injuries and multiple bruises and cuts.

The six-year-old died as a result of blunt-force trauma to her head, caused by five significant impacts, according to the prosecutor. She was struck with a flat object or her head struck against a flat surface. But there were reasonable explanations for all of these injuries, beyond what the prosecution in its zeal to see a pair of victims convicted, contended to be their cause.

For as it happened, on the final weekend of her very short life, according to Meika's step-mother -- and shouldn't she know? -- Meika fell down the stairs at their home, she burned her hand while she was playing with the electric hair-straitening iron, and she was hit in the head with a basketball. Of course, when the detective questioning her insisted the injuries were inconsistent with a fall down stairs and asked her how that could be, Ms. Magoon had a response for that, too.

"I have no idea."

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Friday, March 27, 2015

Vanity, Thy Name Is Woman

"At the very least, nine women engaged Ms. Reid's services. All nine women suffered bodily harm as a result."
"[She] preyed on [women, lied in response to questions, was] dismissive, insensitive and uncaring]."
"[Marilyn Reid was] born with both male and female sexual organs [underwent] affirmation [surgery at the age of seven, and was hereafter raised as a female.] She was ridiculed and bullied because of her deep voice."
Ontario Superior Court Justice Jane Kelly
Marilyn Reid, 50, was convicted of eight counts of aggravated assault in January. Reid lied to clients, claiming she had been a nurse or doctor in various other countries and even showed her own rear end to show the effectiveness of the procedure she was offering.
Marilyn Reid, 50, was convicted of eight counts of aggravated assault in January. Reid lied to clients, claiming she had been a nurse or doctor in various other countries and even showed her own rear end to show the effectiveness of the procedure she was offering.

In this age of public revelations so common on the Internet when gossip moves at the speed of light, we know strange things we would never have become familiar with in an earlier era of hushed silence on all matters pertaining to unusual gender orientations and anything remotely concerned with the secretive portions relating to sex surrounding the human anatomy. Now, social media reveals all.

Oddly enough, at a time when people of every age and representing all social strata take to social media to casually and trustingly reveal intimate details about their lives, the very same people insist that though those intimate details are available to the curious across the vast universe of the Internet, government agencies of all stripes have no right to infringe upon their personal data.

And certainly because of the swift relay of gossipy tidbits through the various instruments of social media when everyone carries a smartphone and relies heavily on their Twitter account for updates in a celebrity culture where perfection of the human form is exemplified by some very well endowed Hollywood actors, male and female, people aspire more than ever to exhibit those same curvaceous or muscular physiognomies.

Cosmetic enhancement of body features have become so popular in today's culture of 'look at me!' that plastic surgeons bless the day they decided to specialize in promising all callers they can become Venus or Adonis, at a price. And that's just the point; the price. It's a costly process to have some professional in plastic surgery perform those transformative miracles.

So when someone advertises that for a relatively modest price they can provide the eager body-perfectionist with the plump curves they hunger for, the net is cast to haul in clients who often don't ask too many questions before handing over their hard-earned cash for the favour of body enhancement. The result is that a covert, unlicensed coterie of predators are on the prowl for easy money.

One of those predatory sharks was a woman with a troubled background -- whose own experience as a child of being hugely different from her peers at a critical time in her emotionally formative years -- who felt she was more than capable of providing a service for which she had no practical medical background. Marilyn Reid of Toronto, 50 years of age, put up photos of women's posteriors whose fulsome curvature appealed to flat-bottomed women.

Nine of whom responded to her advertisement that she would provide them with the body shape to complement their dreams of Venushood. Her website spoke of injecting a substance called polymethylmethacrylate, a substance not authorized for use in Canada. But in fact, what she appeared to have injected the buttocks of the nine women who came to her for her cosmetic enhancement services with, was stale, industrial-grade silicone.

What's more her skillful injection was carried out by use of an ordinary caulking gun. For this service carried out in unsterile conditions, the women paid between $7,200 and $1,800, to finally achieve the profile of their imagination which everyone would admire and men would desire. Except, that isn't the way it worked. All nine women experienced instead, infections requiring surgery to remove as much of the injected material as possible.

They suffered fevers, abscesses and pain and had to be put on antibiotics. And since the disfigurement and pain was located in the posterior, it must have been extremely difficult to go on normally throughout the course of a day. Sitting, lying on one's back, bending over, using the body as one ordinarily does without much thought of discomfort and pain, was obviously absent in their lives for a considerable amount of time as they convalesced.

And throughout the process experienced a burning sense of embarrassment. That they would ever have submitted themselves to such a primitive procedure, without even knowing what the substance being pumped into their behinds was comprised of, taking on trust the promises of Ms. Reid that all would be well. And then, experiencing the humiliation and fear of being ignored when their conditions became obvious and they turned to her for help.

Only one of the woman lent her experience to the court case. All of the women hoped that their disfigurement and discomfort would pass without medical intervention, and as a result kept putting off seeking medical help, unable to bear the misery of publicly revealing their condition. Once they did attend a clinic or hospital, they were unable to describe what exactly had been injected in their behinds for the simple reason they didn't know.

In passing judgement, Justice Kelly noted that the woman on trial before her had no previous criminal record. The fact that she pleaded guilty was in her favour. And her sad history as a child brought her some sympathy from the judge. Not enough, however, to persuade the judge that a prison sentence hadn't been well earned. And so, Marilyn Reid of Toronto was sentenced to eight years in prison for her actions as a posterior-enhancing enabler.

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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Courage, Among Her Many Traits

"I had been planning this for some time. It is a less complex surgery than the mastectomy, but its effects are more severe. It puts a woman into forced menopause. So I was readying myself physically and emotionally, discussing options with doctors, researching alternative medicine, and mapping my hormones for estrogen or progesterone replacement. But I felt I still had months to make the date.
Then two weeks ago I got a call from my doctor with blood-test results. “Your CA-125 is normal,” he said. I breathed a sigh of relief. That test measures the amount of the protein CA-125 in the blood, and is used to monitor ovarian cancer. I have it every year because of my family history.
But that wasn’t all. He went on. “There are a number of inflammatory markers that are elevated, and taken together they could be a sign of early cancer.” I took a pause. “CA-125 has a 50 to 75 percent chance of missing ovarian cancer at early stages,” he said. He wanted me to see the surgeon immediately to check my ovaries."
Angeline Jolie, Diary of a Surgery, New York Times
Angelina Jolie Pitt -- Credit Luke MacGregor/Reuters
It doesn't take talent to be born beautiful. It does take talent to make a name for oneself through excelling in a profession, and Angelina Jolie was more or less born to the profession of acting. She has also distinguished herself as a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations. Through the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees she was appointed a special envoy to focus on the crises of mass population displacements; using her celebrity appeal for humanitarian work.


As a hugely admired celebrity and a role model she is contributing to the public weal on an international scale. The mindless admiration for actors that elevates many in Hollywood as flamboyant examples that people largely tend to adore and emulate usually relates to their physical appeal, their personalities, their charisma, as much as their professionalism in portraying characters in the film roles they undertake. Angelina Jolie became famous for her beauty and her voluptuous figure.

Both stood her in good stead as a box office attraction, gaining her fame and fortune. She has not consigned herself to that kind of vacuous figurehead, but has used her celebrity status to reach out to those whose backgrounds are that of poverty, deprivation, disease, displacement. And for that alone she is to be greatly admired. But she has gone further, using her own experience with a genetic inheritance that not only endowed her with beauty, intelligence and poise, but a potentially morbid propensity to a deadly disease.

About Us
© UNHCR/K.McKinsey

Now 39, and having undergone genetic testing to determine what her chances are of facing various types of cancer in light of the unfortunate fact that women in her family line have died early deaths due to cancer, including her mother, she decided to sacrifice the very symbols of womanly physical attributes that gave her fame. She did that in favour of increasing the chances that her children would never have to face a future without their mother, as she was forced to do.
"There's this belief in our society that more information about our health is always better and that's not the case. Most people are not going to be in Angelina's situation."
"Is more information always more valuable, is screening always effective? The answer is no."
Timothy Caulfield, Canada research chair, health law and policy, University of Alberta

Angelina Jolie's well-publicized surgeries to remove the potential source of cancer infection after having been screened for genetic mutations, has motivated thousands of women to do the very same thing; be screened for the possibility of detecting genetic mutations that would place them in the high percentile of future cancers. Many medical researchers believe this kind of screening popularity represents a form of social hysteria, and criticize it is entirely unnecessary.

"While three of four Americans were aware of Angelina Jolie's double mastectomy, fewer than ten percent of respondents had the information necessary to accurately interpret Ms. Jolie's risk of developing cancer relative to a woman unaffected by the BRCA gene mutation", stated a British study in response to referrals for genetic services to identify hereditary breast cancer doubling in 2013.

But it is unmistakable that this woman is doing a public service by being up front and fearless in revealing her personal health history and the decisions she has chosen to make. In so doing, she has empowered herself by rejecting the symbols of femininity so beloved of men, as representing all that matters in being a woman, and in the process, empowered other women to confront the myth of that objectification.

Whatever surgeries have taken place, there she is, radiant and rational.

"Regardless of the hormone replacements I'm taking, I am now in menopause. I will not be able to have any more children, and I expect some physical changes. But I feel at ease with whatever will come, not because I am strong but because this is a part of life. It is nothing to be feared", she wrote.

The thoughts of a powerfully strong-willed and admirable woman whose priorities cannot be faulted.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Absent Social Conscience

"We receive calls from transit, public libraries, restaurants, you name it, it's regular."
Doctors don't have the expertise to determine if that dog is of good enough behaviour to be out in public."
Laura Watamanuk, executive director, Pacific Assistance Dogs Society

"It's just seemed to explode. This is a very pet-oriented society ... so when people see a legitimate [service] dog they think, 'Well why not my dog?' But they don't realize the ramifications."
Lynn Raloff, head, Guide Dog Users of Canada
This is likely one of those fake guide dogs.
imgur.com  This is likely one of those fake guide dogs.

It's human nature, it seems, to be resentful of what some view as special privileges extended to some within society, but not others. That the some to whom special privileges are extended are usually people who require those courtesies -- like parking for the handicapped, and permitting especially trained guide dogs entry with the people they guide -- seems not to adequately penetrate the minds of those who park in those spots regardless, and in the instances of some dog owners, claim their pets are entitled to special 'guide-dog' treatment.

It's true, we love our dogs. Why wouldn't we? They love us, and we're impressed that they're so dependent on us. They trust us and they like being around us, so why wouldn't we do our utmost to reward them, have them around us all the time to bask in the feel-good aura of their adoration of their owners? There are some places where dogs are permitted everywhere; certainly more so in Europe than in North America where there are municipal by-laws preventing people from bringing pets into places where food is sold.

As a hygienic, precautionary measure, even though it's true that some dogs are cleaner than some people. As a general rule, humans believe that there is a place for companion animals and it isn't where people tend to congregate in places of commerce. Although we're animals just as they are, we don't threaten to bite others, we just threaten them in other, more human ways. Since there has to be certain limits of permissibility in polite society where a social contract is generally accepted, we obey laws that permit animals trained to guide the blind or the hearing-impaired entry where other pets' presence is forbidden.

Since where there's a will there's always a way, people in British Columbia -- and for all we know elsewhere as well -- have taken to portraying their pet companions as guide dogs, though they are not, to gain them entry and favoured status. But there have been more than ample complaints about this growing phenomenon and the province has decided to address the issue; no longer, without an official permit may people be allowed to bring their dogs into grocery stores and the cabins of airplanes.

A new provincial law has declared that faux service animals will no longer be permitted to make their presence where they clearly do not belong. The Guide Dog and Service Dog Act had its second reading in the B.C. legislature. And under its provisions guide-dog owners are to be given government issued identification, not unlike a driver's license. The current system which accepts cards issued by certified guide dog training facilities has been too long abused.

Doting dog owners have been dressing their dogs in service harnesses and present fraudulent identification which business owners are wary of challenging. Ms. Watamanuk in her capacity as executive director of the Pacific Assistance Dogs Society frequently fields calls by irate citizens reporting suspicious actions with "service dogs" constantly barking, or being placed on chairs in restaurants.

Sometimes doctors' notes accompany the uncertified dogs, but as she points out, authenticating a dog as a service animal is beyond the professional scope of a physician.

Facebook/Government of British Columbia
Facebook/Government of British Columbia    This service dog is the real thing. The Guide Dog & Service Dog Act would provide the province's guide-dog owners with government-issued identification, similar to a driver’s licence.

Lynn Raloff, herself blind, and as head of the Guide Dog Users of Canada's recently initiated fake service dog committee has her own Labrador Retriever guide dog to help her 'see'. She explains that the fake service dogs' actions are impacting on the positive views in the public of real service dogs. People are bringing their untrained dogs into public spaces sometimes prone to bad behaviour, even attacking legitimate working dogs.

One eBay seller of "certified service dog cards" has boasted "my dog flies on all major airlines with me at no charge, as well as stays in all the hotels with me at no charge". And at the Internet site FreeMyPaws.com, an ID card kit can be had for $70, and an official-appearing service dog cape can be bought for $20. What a changed world we live in; at one time such baldly illicit behaviour would have been looked upon by society with distaste.

View image on Twitter
Veteran Traveler @veterantraveler
Wonder if @9news or @denvernews wants to meet this guy at the gate? Fake service dog bugging other passengers.

Is it the rise of cutsie social media messages where images of "service dogs" are common, wearing pink cowboy hats, getting into fights with other dogs, defecating in the aisles of planes in flight and generally giving a bad name to the legitimate service dogs trained to behave entirely differently? These irresponsible pet owners appear to believe it is their right in a free society to disport themselves in whatever manner they wish.

Why would they not, when all too often celebrities flaunt their special status by bringing their dogs with them where lesser mortals would never dare, insisting that their pets are "emotional support dogs".

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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Will Surfaced -- The Way Seized

"Nothing was going to stop me from furthering my education now. And so I thought, 'Well, if I could get a career, I could get married and put my husband through school and have a family'. That's what I wanted -- that's what I was raised to want my entire life, and now that I knew I could have that, I had all the drive in the world to make it happen."
"I had really high expectations [that I would get pregnant quickly]. I had been able to make so many things happen so easily, once I got all my health problems out of the way."
Whitney Quinton, 25, Calgary
Parents to be: The Quintons battled infertility for four years but finally, last November, a pregnancy test came back positive 
Parents to be: The Quintons battled infertility for four years but finally, last November, a pregnancy test came back positive 

At age fifteen the young woman experienced seizures caused by a brain tumour. Doctors informed her family that their daughter would be disabled for the rest of her life. After six years had passed she was herself informed that her hormone levels were similar to those of a menopausal woman. Her aspirations to bear children would never be realized.

"I should be pregnant all the time, that's how good I feel. I feel like I can take on the world", she enthused in the first stages of a pregnancy. It's been quite a while since she began experiencing seizures in Grade 9, attending school in Cardston, Alberta, a community of about four thousand people, north of the Montana border. She was having a few seizures daily, causing her to miss a third of her school year.

And when a Calgary neurologist explained that brain surgery meant to put a halt to the seizures would be "experimental and might do nothing", she was devastated. Her dreams of graduating, of driving a car, of getting married or having children quelled in a disappointment that was crushing. "I bawled. [But then] I'm like, 'Well, I don't plan on having that happen'."

Another neurologist in Alberta discovered the presence of a benign tumour in her right temporal lobe. Its presence had been affecting her memory and her personality. This surgeon assured her that with its removal she could expect to lead a normal life. Post-surgery, she was informed, would mean a month's hospital stay for recovery. In fact, she was out of hospital in five days.

And then she met a young man who just happened to be from her hometown of Cardston, a Mormon-settled community. They courted for six months and married the Christmas of the summer they first met. She began work as a dental assistant and was able to put her husband through school as a chartered accountant. A year of marriage produced no pregnancy.

The next year she began experiencing painful abdominal cramps that required prescription medications. Her doctor informed her at that point when she was 23, that she should accustom herself to the realization that she was infertile, and in vitro fertilization would not work for her. Then came a second opinion and it was "just like my brain surgery all over again; two very different diagnoses."

For a Montreal gynaecologist had diagnosed her with the condition of endometriosis where tissue that is meant to grow within the uterus grows outside it. And it was removed. Then two months later a pregnancy test showed positive. Ms. Quinton and her husband Brett were in a positive state of exaltation over the news and posted a video to YouTube. News outlets picked it up as a social 'good news' story for their readers.

"When you go through hard things in life, God won't give you anything you can't handle", she now says with confidence. Certainly there has been pain and fear in her life, but fortunate serendipity solved much of that for her and so she is entitled to attribute her good fortune in the outcome of her life trajectory at her tender age to a heavenly spirit.


Big surprise: Whitney Quinton from Alberta, Calgary, filmed the moment she and her husband Brett told relatives their pregnancy news over Christmas 
Big surprise: Whitney Quinton from Alberta, Calgary, filmed the moment she and her husband Brett told relatives their pregnancy news over Christmas 

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Monday, March 23, 2015

Antiquated, Awkward, Deadly

"They were so pure. My wife, she came out fighting."
"My children were unbelievable. They were the best."
"You have to love them as parents. You have to love them as teachers."
Gabi Sassoon, funeral eulogy, Brooklyn, New York
The father of the seven children from the Sassoon family who were killed in a fire in Brooklyn remembered them at a funeral service in Israel. March 23, 2015. Photo by Oded Balilty/Associated Press.
It is the ultra-Orthodox Jewish tradition that on the Sabbath none of the faithful may exert themselves in any manner that can be construed as labour, for Jewish law forbids working in any form on the day of rest. 'Working' is construed as using any modern convenience or equipment of any kind, even switching on a light, or turning the knob on a stove, or turning the heat up for a furnace. Driving a vehicle is strictly prohibited, and religious Jews walk to synagogue.

In obedience to the strictures in the use of any device whatsoever, neither television nor computers can be used; in short just about everything is proscribed. Some Orthodox Jews resort to paying a fee to non-Jews to do those little things that everyone takes for granted, like flicking a light switch, like turning on an oven to bake a meal for a family. It certainly seems as though such proscriptions are absurd to anyone looking on, but the pious observe these customs.

They are hugely inconvenient, but are hewed to nonetheless as a symbol of faith. Rabbinical scholars find small measures that are permitted to bypass some of the obstacles to daily living during the Sabbath but the general proscription does remain. And the tragedy that unfolded this past Sunday in the home of an ultra-religious Jewish family owes its accidental occurrence to that very restriction. It would appear that some such families leave hot plates on all the time so they may be used to warm food without actually turning them off and on.

And the devastating fire that occurred to consume seven children in the Sassoon family on Saturday resulted from a malfunctioning device left on a kitchen counter. So, three girls, age 16, 11 and 6 and their brothers aged 12, 10, 8 and 5, died in that consuming furnace that their home because, trapping them in their second-floor bedrooms. Their mother and one 14-year-old girl managed to escape the conflagration, but not without serious injury. Their father was not at home at the time.

A neighbour saw flames in the Sassoon house and called 911. It took firefighters less than four minutes to arrive, to be met by the distraught, badly burned mother of the children, begging for help, but it was too late to save any of her seven children. She and her daughter were rushed to hospital. The children's father arrived home to find his family destroyed. The fire had spread through the kitchen to the dining room, to a hallway, the stairway leading to the second floor, and the bedrooms.

A funeral service took place on Sunday, thousands of people turned out to pay their respects, while mourners were struck with grief at the sight of the seven small coffins which had been flown to Israel, where the family had lived in Jerusalem before moving to the United States a year and a half earlier. The prayers were conducted in Hebrew. And the mourning was intense.

The bodies of the children, which had been flown to Israel from New York City, were laid out on stretchers inside the small Sephardic funeral hall. Credit Oded Balilty/Associated Press
 
As the entire city of New York mourned, its  Fire Department handed out pamphlets titled "Fire Safety for Jewish Observances" as well as smoke alarms and batteries. An online version of the Fire Department pamphlet about dangers during the Sabbath and Jewish holidays appears with a warning: "Stay in the kitchen - don't leave cooking food unattended."

A common-sense caution that one might imagine anyone would be aware of, but timely enough as a reminder to people that such tragedies can result and it is prudent at all times to be aware of such potential danger; too late for the anguished parents who have lost seven children, but perhaps it may help others to avoid a similar dreadful occurrence.

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Sunday, March 22, 2015

Pleading Exculpatory Insanity

"[Such] cases can conjure thoughts of violent offenders faking a mental illness to avoid prison time, shortened hospital stays with early release into the community accompanied by fears the individual will reoffend."
"This emphasizes the importance of supporting family members ... as both potential helpers and potential victims."
Study, Canadian Journal of Psychiatry

"This suggests that violence risk-assessment training and interventions to reduce further mental-health deterioration and criminal offending are a priority in civil psychiatric services."
Anne Crocker, McGill University, study co-author

"A truly safe society does not change that established principle [accused not be convicted for crimes arising from mental disorder] by incarcerating people with mental disorders -- or by further stigmatizing them -- but rather ensures that procedures are in place to protect both the individual and the public."
"What is particularly frustrating to at least some of us from a more scientific and less political background is when major policy changes occur in the absence of -- and sometimes directly contrary to -- what quality research has shown to be the current truth."
Patrick Baillie, psychologist, Alberta

A new study purports to show that a mere fraction of less than 0.2 percent of criminal cases annually will take advantage of pleading mental disorder to win a verdict of not criminally responsible for crimes committed. The finding was once spoken of as "not guilty by reason of insanity". And it is an option that is often used by lawyers who make their defence based on the assumption that no one in their right mind would commit offences such as their clients engaged in.

There is the recent case of a young mother of five children who really did suffer from mental illness and that was used in her defence against a charge of murder when she rammed her accused rapist into a brick wall with her vehicle, and testified that she had no memory of having done any such thing, that her mind blanked out at that critical time. The jury set aside the mental incapacity plea but did so for humane reasons, to leave her with a relatively short prison sentence rather than a lifetime of incarceration in a mental-health holding facility.

And then there is the infamous case of Luka Magnotta who tortured and murdered a young Chinese exchange student in Montreal, and who dismembered the body sending body parts anonymously to various politicians including the Prime Minister, and who then fled to Germany. He had videoed his grisly performance for Internet entertainment, and at his trial his lawyer presented him as a man suffering from mental illness. Magnotta had emulated symptoms he recalled of his own father's mental illness. The jury rejected his plea to find him guilty as charged.

And then there's the more recent case of a man who sexually abused his seven-year-old daughter, whom the Crown accused of being drunk, and the defence insisted their client was in a state of automatism while sleepwalking. He was diagnosed with "sexsomnia" (sleep sex), accused of crawling in bed with his child when his wife spurned him after he had indulged in too much liquor. A sleep expert testified at the trial it was his belief the man was suffering from parasomnia triggered by alcohol. The judge found him not guilty.


Many of the cases where the accused attempt to take shelter under mental disorder relate to minor assaults, property offences or other crimes not considered to be seriously violent. Instances involving severe violence appear rare overall, and recidivism is held to be lower than that of the general prison population with those committing severe violent offices less likely to reoffend than those who committed less serious offences.

According to the study, 17 percent of cases reoffended within three years of followup; equating to half the rate for the general prison population. Rates of reoffence are much higher for mentally ill inmates in the general prison population; about 70 percent. Three in four such patients had a history of at least once being hospitalized for a mental-health condition; usually a psychotic disorder compromised by substance abuse.
  • About 3 in 4 were on government assistance at the time of the offence;
  • One in ten was homeless;
  • About half the not-criminally-responsible group had no prior major criminal convictions;
  • Most victims were family members, not strangers.
The point is, it's hard for ordinary minds to wrap around the notion that anyone could commit heinous and gruesome crimes and not be insane. Yet when Clifford Olson was arrested for the serial murder of no fewer than eleven young people ranging in age from nine to 18 in the early 1980s, the reality was that he was a cold-blooded psychopath, a dangerously violent predatory pedophile. Who died after thirty years in prison, parole repeatedly denied.

www.nationalpost.com
Russell Williams' day: Dump body, help plan security for world leaders
And certainly there was a severe underlying mental imbalance when former Canadian Forces Colonel Russell Williams, a man on an upward trajectory in the Forces -- who had flown high-profile government leaders and royalty in the course of his trusted duties before becoming commander of Canadian Forces Base Trenton -- became known as a murderer. No fewer than 88 charges faced him in court; two murders, numerous horrific sex assaults and allied predatory sexual offences and break-ins. Life in prison.

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Saturday, March 21, 2015

Interpretive Faith

"An exemption cannot be withheld on the basis that Loyola must teach Catholicism and Catholic ethics from a neutral perspective."
"To ask a religious school's teachers to discuss other religions and their ethical beliefs as objectively as possible does not seriously harm the value underlying religious freedom. These features of the ERC [ethics and religious culture course] Program are essential to achieving its objectives."
"But preventing a school like Loyola from teaching and discussing Catholicism in any part of the program from its own perspective does little to further those objectives while at the same time seriously interfering with the values underlying religious freedom."
Supreme Court of Canada ruling

"Every single judge is entirely behind the idea that Loyola as a Catholic school should be allowed to teach its religion and its  ethical system without ceasing to be who they are, kind of thing."
Mark Phillips, lawyer, Loyola High School, Montreal
Loyola High School
Loyola High School, a private boys school in Montreal founded by Jesuits, aims to teach with a Catholic perspective. The school sought an exemption from Quebec's wider curriculum on ethics and religious culture. (CBC)

"I think more than anything there was a question of principle behind this and the idea of saying that you cannot be Catholic for whatever period of time during the day [when you're teaching the ERC course], that's where the problem was that the government should mandate that."
Paul Donovan, former principal, Loyola High School 

"However, it is important to underline that the Supreme Court confirmed the validity of the ethics and religious culture course, even in private religious schools."
"The course will always be taught in all Quebec schools."
Francois Blais, Quebec Education Minister

How realistic is it really in a free and democratic society to expect that a religion -- any religion -- can be expected to teach impressionable young people who attend religion-mandated school courses that their religion is no different in essence than any of the world's other religions. It is a nice, cozy thought that all religions should be regarded as having equal validity to the people who worship at their altars and believe them to be exceptional, but this is not the way that religious ideology works.

People do believe in exceptionalism; it is why, after all, there is such a wide range of religions reflecting cultures, traditions, heritage and customs that 'fit' all the parameters of a larger social contract giving human groups comfort in the belief that their religious traditions express a closer contact with god, than do others and in a manner they are most comfortable with. That people should be familiar with the basic tenets of other religions to be informed is another matter altogether.

So the idea behind Quebec's compulsory ethics and religious culture course as enacted by the province's Education Department is a sound one, but not as it was mandated, that the course be taught in a strictly secular, neutral manner, by all schools, even schools that have their own religion-mandated values and principles. And so because the province insisted that this be the case, Loyola, a private Catholic boys' school went to court for an exemption.

And the Supreme Court ruled in their favour in the sense that the ERC course which equates all world religions and ethics through the lens of secular distance goes a tad too far in interfering with a religious institution's freedom to teach its own religion in a manner consonant with its faith. Though the major objective of the course is to ensure that people recognize other religions and give equal respect to all in pursuit of a common goal, its outcome as mandated, would have neutralized the Catholic message.

A course teaching other religions, doing so in an even manner with no favour to one over the other, nor criticism of one against the other in an objectively secular manner makes sense in a public atmosphere absent a religious bias but somewhat less so in a religious institution which has a most definite religious bias, as how could it not have given the divisions in the substance of thought and belief between all the various religions?

If each religion is to be given its just due within a secular society that at an intellectual distance respects each equally, then each should be respected sufficiently to acknowledge that it will teach its own religion from its own perspective, then go on to teach about other religious beliefs from that neutral perspective so favoured by the Education Ministry.

The entire point of the exercise was to ensure that young people growing to maturity in a pluralistic society not be taught that one source of ethics, one religious devotion is inferior to another; merely different in approach to a broader, common belief in religious faith.

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Friday, March 20, 2015

Detergent Danger to Tots

"To require intensive-care management for something that is entirely preventable is a very big deal. This is not a rare event. We've likely identified just the tip of the iceberg in Canada."
"It was important to understand this problem in the Canadian context. We identified numerous cases across the country of children being harmed."
"The trouble is, this is highly concentrated detergent -- it's like eating an entire cupful of laundry detergent. You can imagine what that does to a little person."
"It can cause tremendous irritation of the oral cavity, it can cause lung injury as the frothy bubbles get into the lungs and cause serious damage to the airways."
Dr. Jonathon Maguire, pediatrician, researcher, St.Michael's Hospital, Toronto

"Should there be lack of compliance with the standard, or should the measures prove insufficient, Health Canada will take necessary further steps, including regulatory action, to protect the health and safety of Canadians."
Health Canada
Laundry detergent makers recently introduced miniature packets, but doctors across the country say children are confusing the tiny, brightly colored packets with candy and swallowing them.
Laundry detergent makers recently introduced miniature packets, but doctors across the country say children are confusing the tiny, brightly colored packets with candy and swallowing them.   Pat Sullivan/Associated Press 
 
Procter & Gamble, the manufacturer of one type of detergent pods they name Tide Pods voluntarily added warning labels and latches to its containers of these concentrated detergent packets that have become a distinct health menace to inquisitive young children. In 2013 they added opaque packaging to their product, to make them less appealing to children.

But this represents only one manufacturer of these highly concentrated laundry detergents; apart from name-brand products there are the generic brands, and their focus is on popularity, advertising and sales, not particularly public health and the safety of small children. Canada is working with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission in the development of voluntary new safety standards for these packets.

Of particular importance is opaque wrapping to deter children from being attracted to the candy-coloured detergent pods with their colourful stripes and invitation to grab and ingest them, since they do resemble candy to children. Since 2012, Health Canada had nine reports of "life-threatening, disabling or severe" injuries resulting from poisoning from detergent pods. No deaths have yet occurred.

In the United States more than 17,000 cases of accidental poisoning involving detergent pods were reported in a two-year period. There was an accounting of several hundred injuries, and one incident severe enough that it resulted in death. The objects are brightly coloured, they're shiny, spongy-liquid packets whose appearance to young children is similar to candy or toys. And toddlers are notorious for putting everything they come across into their mouths.

The pods are manufactured to sit within a water-soluble film, quick to dissolve for their household house as cleaners. But they also dissolve in a child moist hands, and certainly in a child's mouth. Children are known to swallow or burst the packets, with the detergent being spread on their skin or in their eyes, or swallowed to deleterious effect.

CTV National News: Toxic threat to small children

The candy-striped packets are harming Canadian toddlers, causing chemical burns to the mouth and esophagus. And life-threatening lung inflammation is another danger. Researchers uncovered data leading to reports from Canadian pediatricians that 54 children were injured by exposure to laundry and dishwasher detergent pods. Most of the children were under two years of age.

And the injuries they sustained included nausea and vomiting, chemical burns to the skin, decreased heart rate and blood pressure, and loss of consciousness. Corneal damage also occurred and pneumonitis, a condition causing dangerous inflammation of the lungs leading to some children having to be placed on mechanical ventilators to breathe for them while their lungs were cleared of the detergents.

Dr. Maguire, medical director of the Canadian Paediatric Surveillance Program, which conducted the survey with the Public Health Agency of Canada, finds these statistics alarming, all the more so when with a little bit of forethought much of the prevalence of attraction-and-emergency can be avoided with a change in the end-stage manufacture of the items.

A steady rise in injuries from accidental poisonings in young children has been noted in other jurisdictions as well, since the single-load detergent packets began showing up on store shelves in 2012. This is an area where parents and guardians should be made fully aware of the potential danger to their children in the use of these products.

And should an effort not be made by the manufacturers to ameliorate the situation through a change in packing, consumers would do well to simply bypass the products rather than bring them into their homes.

Accidental poisonings from squishy laundry detergent packets sometimes mistaken for toys or candy can cause serious injuries to children.
AP Photo/Charles Rex   Accidental poisonings from squishy laundry detergent packets sometimes mistaken for toys or candy can cause serious injuries to children.

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Thursday, March 19, 2015

Taqiyya: Islamic doctrine of deceit

"Contrary to what many think, that we are only discussing one issue, it is not correct. We are discussing many issues and nothing is agreed until everything is agreed."
"Contrary to what the Iranians are saying with regard to 90 percent of an accord being done, that's not correct. We are not close to an agreement."
"We are pretty far away. There are a lot of issues that still need to be resolved. The Iranians must make substantial concessions."
"Research and development currently has become the most critical and difficult issue, and there won’t be an accord if the Iranians don’t back down."
"They [Iranian negotiators] insist they have to go immediately [sanctions targeting nuclear program]. No way. It is out of the question."
European negotiator demanding anonymity

Iran Lausanne nuclear
Iran's FM Zarif (C on left) and head of the AEO of Iran Salehi (C on right) with colleagues in Lausanne March 19, 2015 . (photo credit:REUTERS)
"The main issues have been closed. I hope that in the remaining time we can close this."
"[One] final item still missing; that resolved] we can say that on technical issues, things are clear on both sides."
"Of course there are many details, but I can say that, as a whole, I am optimistic [of a deal before the deadline]."
Ali Akhbar Salehi, Iranian nuclear chief

"[A comprehensive accord would result in] phased, proportionate [relief from sanctions but such relief could be reversed should the Islamic republic violate any final deal]."
"[That is simply not true] Iran crank up and develop a bomb when the deal ends]. To the contrary, Iran would be prohibited from developing a nuclear weapon in perpetuity -– and we would have a much greater ability to detect any effort by Iran to do so."
"[Some constraints could be lifted for a] significant period [others would last] indefinitely, including a stringent and intrusive monitoring and inspections regime [by the IAEA]."
"That [restrictions on centrifuges] would provide us more than enough time to detect and act on any Iranian transgression. The critical question of the possible military dimension of Iran's program... would have to be part of any agreement." 
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken
This testimony from Mr. Blinken at a hearing of the  House Foreign Affairs Committee was greeted by both Democrats and Republicans present with an lively degree of skepticism, with some snorting that the reality of the situation has been that the Islamic Republic of Iran has in the past "been violating those commitment for years". They pointed out as well of the necessity that restrictions be included on the country's robust and threatening ballistic missile program in any nuclear deal as insurance against Iran using them to carry atomic bombs.


Iran's representatives appear to believe, however, that they have the upper hand as their top nuclear official claimed that the main disagreements between his government and the American negotiators and the other partners in the P-5+1 team -- France, Britain, China and Russia, plus Germany -- have been resolved and that little is left to iron out to meet the end-of-March deadline for the framework deal. That deal to place reliable limitations on Iran's nuclear activities to restrict them to what Iran insists they're intended for; strictly peaceful energy needs and medical isotope production.

The West would then be prepared to proportionally release Iran from the economically crippling sanctions. Enabling Iran to get on with its other programs, funding, training and arming Shia non-state and state militias alike to bring them ever more comfortably into its sphere of influence from the Middle East to North Africa and even Latin America and Asia; Iran has been growing influential tentacles. (Strangely enough, although Iran has found its economy strangled, it has managed to continue developing its long-range rockets, and to fund its terrorist proxies.)

The final agreement to be obtained by the end of June looks ever more possible, and the Iranians are smiling broadly. On the other hand, another unnamed but senior American official claims the sides, though having made progress, still face a struggle in eliminating differences on expectations for Tehran to meet before a gradual end to sanctions can be counted on. The disputes focus mostly on technical issues such as the centrifuge numbers Iran could be permitted to operate.

U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz joined the talks along with Mr. Salehi in an attempt to reason out technical differences. Republicans in the U.S. continue to argue their case that a deal with the Republic would never be sufficient to guarantee the country that has become so skilled in evading demands over its ambitions for nuclear status would run roughshod over any promises it makes to quell international suspicion over its true plans.

Iranian missiles are displayed at a park in northern Tehran (AFP Photo/Atta Kenare)

This is a country, after all, that has threatened another country in the Middle East with annihilation, not merely once in the hallowed halls of the United Nations, but frequently, expressed by the Grand Ayatollah Khamenei himself as well on occasion. Iran's designs for the Middle East as one of the only two non-Arab countries, to dominate all other Muslim countries through its Shi'ite brand of apocalyptic Salafist Islamism represents to the Sunni-majority countries a looming threat.

Which is why the U.S. Republicans hold the position that such an agreement would be unenforceable, and Iran would inevitably reach the status it so craves, as a nuclear-armed state. And the rush would be on for Saudi Arabia, Egypt and perhaps others to claim their own self-defence needs in the hopes of nuclear deterrence. And while President Omama continues to insist that his administration would never agree to any deal that would permit Iran to acquire nuclear weapons, his words ring hollow against the actions of the past and Iran's slippery reputation for taqqiya.

Otherwise known as the kind of deceit permitted in Islam to throw one's enemies off track and gain the desired advantage -- at any cost.

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