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

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Hunt On For Killer

Hungry for attention, so much so that there are no boundaries of human decency and morality that he will not transcend in a horrifying march to the kind of dreadful notoriety reserved for society's disgust and dread of sadistic psychopaths so narcissistic that their personal satisfaction and need for celebrity will impel them to the most degraded and unimaginable atrocities.

Identified by one of his chosen names of Luka Rocco Magnotta, and considered the logical and obvious suspect in a grisly murder of another young man in Montreal, this 29-year-old's visage, whose personality so utterly rejects normalcy, gazes out at the public from every newspaper in Canada.  It is hardly surprising that he has a connection with another of Canada's vile psychopaths, Carla Homulka.  Like her he is a misfortune on society.

This is his personality, utterly warped, beyond the psychotic impulses of those who momentarily lose their sense of societal restraint in committing to violent acts of depravity.  This is a man who revels in depraved behaviour so utterly beyond human understanding that he prides himself in his love of destroying life.  He takes to the Internet to boast of his interest in defying normal human values and the boundaries of morality.

Right now, after busying himself with a plan to fulfill his dreams of celebrity as a feared figure who will commit to the most unbelievable excesses of human descent into lunacy, he must be a very happy man.  He has achieved the attention he has so long craved.  The loathing and disgust that people felt for him for his taped acts of cruelty against helpless animals gave him his start.

And now, he has completed the circle, committing the most vile acts his deformed mind could conceive of.  Taking the trouble to very carefully video his planned slaughter of a helpless man, dismembering the body, and then abusing the remains, and finally bundling up discrete portions in another determined choreograph to bring the bright lights of infamy to shine upon him.

Where would the receipt of a mailed package containing a human foot, and a hand in the process of putrefaction and decay most receive attention?  Why forwarded to very the symbols of political power and governance which act would bring in police forces at every level of investigation to determine the source of the grisly message.  A message completed by his deliberate clues left for discovery.

This man has laid out his utter contempt for human society by describing his penchants and desires.  His affection for himself and his lust for attention have combined to produce a monster of revolting proportions.  He has fled, to protect himself from the obvious outcome were he to be apprehended to face trial for his actions.  But he will soon become bored at being wherever he has secreted himself.

He will long to re-create the same reaction from the public once again, to enable him to feel proud of himself, to preen and to strut and to convince himself that his complete lack of human decency somehow makes him superior to those whom he so obviously feels judge him by a standard that is applicable only to the meek and the fearful.

And when he once again strikes out, as his need for notice will compel him to, committing yet another act of desecration of humanity, he will be followed, and he will be captured, and another one of society's monsters will be dealt with in the only way that is possible, to keep society from further harm.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A Short and Tragic Life

Bad things happen to people that no one can foresee and none can prevent.  Imagine yourself to be a 23-year-old single mother of a seven-year old child.  Single women with families are notoriously cited as being hugely disadvantaged in any society, even one as wealthy as Canada.  Single mothers are disproportionately represented among the poor of society.

Needless to say, if a mother is poor, then her children are poor as well, lacking the comforts and the security that children in two-parent families may have in the knowledge that there are two parents to look to their futures and usually at least one secure paycheque, sometimes two.  Often, a low-paying, difficult job is all that keeps single mothers off welfare.

Victoria Shachtay was a single mother, a very young woman who was wheelchair-bound as the result of a 2004 car accident.  She was permanently disabled, and was the recipient of a $1-million court settlement.  She planned to live off the interest from that settlement.  And to ensure that the money was secure and well invested she entrusted it to the management of a former police officer, turned financial consultant.

"Basically [Victoria] threw her money at him and listened to his promises", her sister explained.  Victoria and her daughter, also named Victoria, lived on the west side of Innisfall.  This is a town with a population of fewer than ten thousand people, roughly 100 kilometres north of Calgary.  Brian Malley, the financial planner whom Victoria Shachtay trusted, also lived in the town.

In November of 2011 something quite startling occurred; particularly strange for a small town.  A package had been delivered to Ms. Shachtay, and when she opened it, the package exploded, killing her.  Police responded immediately but there was no one to rescue.  Seven-year-old Victoria hadn't been at home at the time. 

Police claimed they had no clues to one of the strangest crimes they'd ever seen.

Who would deliberately plan to kill a 23-year-old wheelchair-bound woman?  Could it have been the result of a drug deal gone bad?  Might the bomb in the parcel have been meant for someone else, and Victoria Shachtay just happened to have received it through a dreadful error? 

Six months passed before police felt confident enough to move in to make an arrest.  The well-liked and trusted Brian Malley, the financial planner to whom Victoria Sachtay had entrusted the funds through which she planned to be able to finance her life and that of her daughter, had not, after all, managed the $625,000 entrusted to him, as promised.

Mr. Malley has not been charged with theft, although it seemed, unbelievably, that as and when Ms. Shachtay attempted to withdraw living expenses from her carefully tended nest egg, there was nothing there to draw from. 

He has been charged with first-degree murder, one charge of causing an explosion with a substance likely to cause serious bodily harm, and one count of sending an explosive device.

Victoria Sachtay's sister Sarah is "extremely angry", but not, however, surprised at news of Mr. Malley's arrest.  "Everyone knows that it's the person you know the most and least expect. Certainly I had no idea", her brother Derek said. 

It took no fewer than 70 investigators months in attempting to understand what had occurred and why it had, and who had inscribed the fate of this young mother and her child on a bleak, black slate.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2012


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Unalloyed Loyalty

He's sweet enough in appearance and obvious willingness to be a trusting and trustful companion to melt the heart of the most hardened.  A tiny terrier who by an accident of fate, met up with a group of Chinese cyclists celebrating their graduation with an adventurous bicycle trip of substantial proportions.  The tiny stray was hungry when it came across the students on Highway G318 in the Qinghai Tibet Plateau, in Sichuan Province.

One of the bicyclists threw a chicken drumstick to the little dog.  After that the little dog's loyalty was assured.  He came across and adopted the cyclists on the fifth day of their 1,600-kilometre expedition.  Remaining with them for the 20 days it took to complete their bicycle venture.  Xiao Sa, as the little dog was named by the young men, managed, along with the cyclists, to clamber over 12 mountains in excess of 13,000 feet.

Despite inclement weather and storms, along with physical exhaustion, as one cyclist after another dropped out of the group of friends, 22-year-old Xiao Yong described an ongoing scenario where the little dog's determination and devotion ensured that they kept going.  "There was one day when we climbed the 14,700-foot-tall peak of Anjiala mountain", he said.
"We did over 40 miles uphill and at the end I had to get off my bike and push.  The dog ran ahead of me and stopped at a crossroads. She waited for a while, but got bored because I took so long, so ran back, put her paws on my calves, and started licking me."

The little terrier, he said garnered sufficient inner resources to run with the cyclists for their average of 50 to 65 kilometres each day.  Occasionally, Xiao Yong would pick little Xiao Sa up to carry him on the back of his bike in a box.  He slept on their raincoats, and shared their rations of custard tarts, boiled eggs and sausages.

"Once, a large dog started chasing us along a series of dark tunnels and his barking drew a whole pack of others.  I put Xiao Sa on my bike and started peddling desperately.  One of my bags was ripped, but otherwise we got away."

Unsurprisingly the saga of the long and arduous trip shared by the little dog, whose name means "Little Sa", captured the imagination of the Chinese public.  And its reward was expressed not only in its newfound celebrity as a sustained and energetic little athlete, but as the companion of the young man who has since adopted him.

Xiao Yong, meet Xiao Sa.

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Monday, May 28, 2012

The Queen Of Flight

Indefatigable, and tireless, quite obviously.  Even more obvious, enthusiastic and eager to share her talents and her love of flying with any who came to her to take advantage of her knowledge and experience as a flight instructor.  This was a woman who knew what she liked and was determined to live the way it pleased her to.  She passed well beyond elderly by the time she died at age 103 in Tennessee.

She outlived two husbands and was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame at Dayton, Ohio.  She became the manager of a small airport at Morristown, Tennessee in 1953.  And there, over a fifty-year time-span she busied herself among other absorbing and enjoyable duties teaching roughly five thousand student pilots, and certifying over 9,000 pilots for the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration.

Evelyn Johnson, who has died aged 102, was an aviatrix known as “Mama Bird” who made it into the Guinness Book of Records as having the most flying hours of any woman and the most of any living person.Evelyn Johnson Evelyn Johnson Photo: AP

And if that wasn't in and of itself distinguishing enough for the record books, she became the oldest flight instructor in the world, teaching others to fly until she reached the age of 96.  She learned to fly herself, in 1944.  And over the years she logged 57,635.4 flying hours throughout her sixty years as a pilot; roughly equidistant to flying 12 times to the moon and back.

For two decades she operated a flying service, taking cargo, passengers and sightseers in trips around the United States.  She experienced two complete engine failures, but managed always to keep her aircraft aloft without a crash.  Her flying-hours record is distinguished as the greatest number of flying hours attributed to any living person.

But there was another individual, Ed Long, who managed to fly a greater number of hours, over 64,000.  Before his death in 1999, his last words were reputed to have been : "Don't let that woman beat me".  As luck would have it, she tried but didn't quite manage to surpass Mr. Long's exceptional flying record.  Glaucoma took its toll, and a car accident that resulted in one of her legs being amputated complicated the issue.

Even as she was forced by such circumstances to give up flying, she continued to manage the airport at Morristown until she reached the age of 101.  Amazing woman that she was.

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Sunday, May 27, 2012

"Be Aware"

The moral of this story is that you can never be too alert.  You can never succumb to the comfortable feeling that you are so well versed in the mechanics of the open road and driving, along with human nature and peoples' propensity to take things for granted, that you can too, with impunity.  You might find yourself in a very awkward situation through no fault of your own, aside from letting down your guard.

And people who drive motorcycles are extremely vulnerable on a road that is shared with those who drive trucks and SUVs, and vans and other modes of conveyance.  All such vehicles, including the compacts, sub-compacts, Smart Cars and inattentive drivers in them, are susceptible to inadvertently placing themselves in danger by not paying due and careful attention.

Worse, much worse, they place others in potentially dangerous situations when they relax normal driving vigilance by observing what and who they are sharing the road with, from bicycle riders to motorcycle drivers, to transport trucks or any other motorized conveyance.  This is a truth, well known to Don Dobson, 72 years of age, who took his BMW motorbike out for a spin on Woodroffe Avenue of a lovely Saturday morning.

He discovered himself to be dreadfully inconvenienced, en route to the closest hospital, still in the morning hours.  Mr. Dobson has long acted as a motorcycle safety advocate.  He would have been enormously chagrined and surprised during the process of being hit by a SUV, if he could remember the event.  A grim reminder of our mortality.

When firefighters arrived from a nearby station, they discovered Mr. Dobson pinned under the front of the Toyota SUV, with some kind of fluid pouring from its engine.  A call had been made for the heavy-rescue squad with its extraction equipment to appear on the scene, immediately if not sooner.  The firefighters decided there was no time to wait for the imminent arrival of the experts.

Three of them lifted the front of the SUV, allowing paramedics to haul Mr. Dobson out from under and away from the wreck, spiriting him into the ambulance nearby.  Mr. Dobson has no memory of the almost-catastrophic encounter that might have taken his life; he regained consciousness en route to hospital.

May has been proclaimed Ottawa's 'motorcycle awareness' month.  A factoid that appears to have been lost to most drivers.  "It's called inattentional blindness", Mr Dobson said later, in discussing how some drivers seem unable to see what is directly in front of them.  "(The accident) is a wake-up call to all of us.

"Nobody is invulnerable.  Until driver training includes attention to other people on the road and drivers pay attention to what's around them, we're going to have a lot of problems."  He was, after his near-brush with death, in fine enough fettle, having sustained a series of painful bruises and a mild concussion.  He plans to be back on his bike before long.

Charges have been laid with respect to the incident.  "I'm just glad I wasn't a few seconds faster in to the intersection.  Because then the (car) would have driven into my leg", he sighed.  Or worse.

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Saturday, May 26, 2012

 Criminally Demented, But Legally Sane

"You are not the ones I am targeting.  I consider you as brothers.  It's a coup; I must save Norway from Islamization."  Anders Behring Breivik

The Norwegian police whose response and behaviour had been so dismal on that fateful day of July 22, 2011, have come under great scrutiny and criticism from the public.  Their pathetic handling of a dire emergency that left 69 mostly young people dead from the deliberate slaughter imposed on young leftists whom Anders Breivik accused of being traitors to their country seemed inexplicable.

It can hardly be a comfort to them now to receive fulsome praise for their professional performance, during his trial for mass murder of the man who, to make a political/ideological point, decided to bomb a government building in Oslo, killing eight people there before decamping to the island of Utoya where the Workers' Youth League had a summer camp.

The testimony given to the court in Oslo by the head of local police operations outlined the picture of  a man who was fully self-possessed, calm, and determined to carry out a plan he had practised to perfection.  He was psychically removed from the bloody carnage, fear and mayhem he had committed, feeling fully justified in his choreographed play as the Grim Reaper.

While dealing deserved death to the youth wing of the ruling Labour Party that he loathed, holding them responsible for the influx of Muslim immigrants into the country of his birth, and which process was transforming Norway from a white, Christian country to one more resembling the Middle East, he co-opted tactics he so admired that were perfected by Islamist jihadists to make his point.

His point was to startle the country into a realization that the Muslim invasion was altering Norway beyond recognition.  And he would be the one to mobilize action against the invading horde.  His actions would prompt a change of government, an insistence that Muslims be expelled from the country, and all would be well, Norway returned to 'normal'.

What he succeeded in doing was to shock and horrify normal human beings at the vileness of his actions as the entire world condemned his act of brazen, inhuman butchery as the actions of an unbridled lunatic.  In that way he utterly resembled those he both detested and admired; jihadist Islamists.  But it was also his craven self-awareness and narcissistic personality that strikes those watching his trial unfold.

His personal fears for his own secure, physical well-being even as he was brutally butchering terrified teens who attempted to flee for their lives.  And he, with the greatest of composure, in the assuring uniform of a Norwegian policeman, carefully and with great precision killed them.  Bemoaning the fact that he hadn't killed more.

He is sane, and he is demented.  He is sanely demented. 

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Friday, May 25, 2012

Mordant Observations From The Scene

"Lots of dead or dying bodies.  Thought I was in a morgue", wrote a female Canadian mountain climber in a tweet sent out to her followers.  She was in a kind of morgue, in point of fact.  One that was located in the great out-of-doors, at a height that most people could not imagine themselves being landscaped within.  But this was the kind of environment that this mountain climber thrived upon. 

The danger inherent in the ascent, the dauntingly grim geological features and the unexpected climate seizures that could take the day from a clear sunny atmosphere to sudden white-out conditions with freezing sleet and impossible high winds, let alone the chance of an avalanche occurring, or the wind shoving the unfortunate off the slippery slope of the hostile mountain, made it all the more thrilling.

As an accomplishment.  To know that she had faced the worst that nature could summon in her conflict with the human spirit, bringing all the inclement weather condition combinations at her disposal, with the elements of high winds which together with the cold could scorch the lungs, and the rarified oxygen-thin atmosphere adding its threats to survival.

But this was a woman who had already summitted many of the world's most inaccessible, and difficult peaks.  And she did so with her sturdy spirit of endurance and strength, endowed with an athletic body and a mind that simply refused to harbour fear that she might be the next one that death would claim. 

She was merely an onlooker of the dread events that occurred to others, while an active participant in the success that came also to others.

It was beside the point that her group had been forced to turn back before making the summit.  Back to base camp, to rest, to consider whether they might wish to push forward, upward and onward on another day when the weather conditions appeared more auspicious to success.  If not, she would have to return on another occasion, to attempt the summit of Mount Everest again. 

She knew what she was about, the fiercely adverse conditions she would face.  She had climbed four of the seven major summits of the world.  Not a bad record.  And the fever to climb would not allow her to rest before she had managed to surface atop all seven.  Her oxygen regulator had frozen on this occasion and she had climbed four hours without the oxygen she needed to remain fully capable and alert.

She had packed her gear, prepared to admit this would not be the year she would successfully summit Mount Everest.  And then, she changed her mind.  Planning within the week to give it another try. 

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Thursday, May 24, 2012

A Unionized Cause Celebre

"Maybe it's time to get into the streets of Ontario and start the same kind of movement that they have in Quebec to demand that tuition be lowered and that we start working towards free university."  Sid Ryan, President, Ontario Federation of Labour

And out he went to march along with the university student demonstrators on Tuesday.  Urging that Ontario students also become involved.  He's in support of what the students are doing, but he's not advocating for violence.  He just wants his iced cake served with tea.

The students, albeit representing a minority among the minority that have been out marching on the streets of the province's cities, have been demonstrating their unconcern with the law. Beyond the fact that many of them have lobbed rocks and bricks at police, have smashed shop windows, have illegally blocked traffic and created havoc, they have gone out en masse to defy the law.

After having defied court injunctions whose purpose was to have them cease harassing those majority students in the province who wished to attend their university classes, and obstructing their way into those classes.

These are, of course, the students who claim that the provincial legislature in increasing their tuition fees over a seven-year-period to eventually represent about 17% of the cost of their education (the government that has done this in view of its massive provincial debt and increasing deficit) is an undemocratic one.

The students have their rights in a democratic society and they mean to exercise those rights.Which most definitely do not include intimidation, harassment, violence, threats, public mischief and criminal behaviour.  All of which they feel they are entitled to commit, because they are, quite simply, entitled.

And they have the support of many of their university instructors.  Whose own unions have quietly encouraged the students and proffered funding to mount legal challenges.  And now unions in Ontario have become involved in support of the 'striking' students, funding them as well.

After all, the current union leaders recognize the emerging human material from which their future leaders will emanate, and these students require encouragement, they feel.

Although they are perfectly capable of their own volition of challenging democratically elected lawmakers, and breaking the law in the process, proving without a doubt they are fully capable of taking their place as future union leaders.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2012


Absolutely, unthinkably hideous.  A lively young man of 24 taking a bus as a routine event, heading back home from a temporary summertime job as a carnival worker.  Fortune was not with that young man.  His name was Tim McLean. 

And his friends and his family mourn him.  When we speak of someone being in the wrong place at the wrong time, there are many examples that old adage would fit.  Tim McLean's passage on that Greyhound bus near Portage La Prairie, Manitoba in 2008 qualifies in large measure, in blazing highlights, in fact.

His was a totally unexpected, absolutely gruesome end. 

His murderer, Vince Li, was found not guilty of decapitating and cannibalizing Tim McLean.  Horrified bus passengers, desperately rushing off the bus watched, mesmerized and disgusted, as Mr. Li went about his grisly carnage.  The bus was locked from the interior and when RCMP police arrived there was a standoff.  Mr. Li was found not guilty by reason of temporary insanity.

His dreadful act of murder was considered to be the result of a psychotic outbreak occasioned by Mr. Li's undiagnosed condition of schizophrenia.  Mr. Li has been treated at the Selkirk Mental Health Hospital for the criminally insane.  He takes medication and his progress is monitored by staff psychiatrists.  Who now deem him to be well balanced and able to stroll the grounds of the Selkirk Centre safely, in the company of hospital personnel.

He hopes eventually to be able to leave the facility.  He now accepts that he has a mental illness that requires ongoing treatment.  He recently submitted to an interview that took 45 minutes in total at the forensics unit of the Selkirk Centre in Manitoba.  His interlocutor was Chris Summerville, CEO of the Schizophrenia Society of Canada.

"In 2004, I didn't know what it was.  I now know what it is.  I began to hear voices that normal people do not hear.  I thought I head the voice of God telling me to write down my journey.  The voice told me that I was the third story of the bible.  That I was like the second coming of Jesus.  I was to save people from a space-alien attack.  that is why I travelled around the country.  I am not sure of all the places I went to.  I now know that it was schizophrenia I was suffering from", he explained.

"I bought a knife at Canadian Tire.  I bought it for any emergency for the journey to protect myself from the aliens.  I was really scared...  I believed he was an alien.  The voices told me to kill him.  That he would kill me or others.  I do not believe this now.  It was totally wrong.  It was my fault.  I sinned.  But it was the schizophrenia."

When asked do you remember what had occurred, he responded that he clearly remembered what had happened.  "I try to forget it.  I try to stay busy here.  It is painful to think about.  I feel nervous.  I feel painful.  I am embarrassed.  It was wrong."  "My thinking is becoming normal.  I don't think weird things.  I take my medication, Olanzapine, every day.  I am glad to take it.  I don't have any weird voices anymore."

"I understand people are scared because of my behaviour on the Greyhound bus.  I am not at risk for anybody.  I don't believe in aliens.  I don't hear voices.  I would call my doctor if I heard voices again.  Yes, I understand their fear."  "I should have been killed at that time.  I still believe that.  But I am thankful that the RCMP didn't."

"I would like to say to Tim McLean's mother 'I am sorry for killing your son.  I am sorry for the pain I have caused.  I wished I could reduce that pain'."

Is the public prepared to have this man released, as he hopes eventually he will be, to take his place in society again?  He thinks he should be, eventually.  The mother of the man he murdered has worked tirelessly to see the passage of "Tim's Law": it holds that any mentally insane person who kills someone would not ever be released from custody.

"I don't think so, that that should happen.  Mental illness is an illness.  It is treatable.  My schizophrenia is not the real me, but it is an illness."  He would know, he said firmly, if he were to become ill again, and he would know because he would be "Hearing voices, stopping my medication and starting to believe in aliens.  God would not tell me to do something bad", he said. 

But then, back in 2008 he believed that God was telling him how to respond to a perceived threat that so obviously terrified him, that he calmly slit a living man's throat, ferociously kept at it until he had succeeded in removing head from neck, then proceeded to consume parts of the still-warm flesh.  Conscious of what he was doing, because he is capable of clearly recollecting it.

He can never be happy, he said also.  "No.  I can never forget the Greyhound bus."


 Life-Risky Mountain Climbing

"I sat Yasuko down in Beck's lap," Madsen recalls, "but he was pretty unresponsive by that time, and Yasuko wasn't moving at all.  A little later I saw that she'd laid down flat on her back, with snow blowing into her hood.  Somehow she'd lost a glove - her right hand was bare and her fingers were curled up so tightly you couldn't straighten them.  It looked like they were pretty much frozen to the bone.
"I assumed she was dead", Madsen continues.  "But then a while later she suddenly moved, and it freaked me out; she sort of arched her neck slightly, as if she was trying to sit up, and her right arm came up, then that was it.  Yasuko lay back down and never moved again."  Jon Krakauer: Into Thin Air

A lot of people have died on Mount Everest in the Himalaya.  And on that expedition-crowded day of May 10, 1996 a record number died in one day; it represented the deadliest season in the history of Mount Everest.  Jon Krakauer, an experienced summitteer, wrote of his experiences on that fateful day, up the mountain and within the 'Death Zone' above 25,000 feet where extreme cold and exhaustion, and high winds and oxygen-depletion took its toll.

History has a habit of repeating itself.  There was a 'traffic jam' on that fateful day in May, the most auspicious month for such ascents, and considered to be the optimum climbing season, and a similar situation that revealed itself in May of 2012, sixteen years later.  Five people died on Everest this week.  Weather conditions were atrocious, and people were dreadfully fatigued, coming down off the peak.

A Canadian woman, Shriya Shah-Klorfine, was blown to her death off the mountain by a sudden storm.  South Korean Song Won-Bin, 44 is missing, but the Nepali government assures it it was simply "not possible for him to have survived.  A German national, Dr. Eberhard Schaaf died of altitude sickness - or alternately was swept away by an avalanche, and Chinese national Wangyi Fa was killed by the same high winds that took Ms. Shah-Klorfine, born in Nepal.

"[One man] was basically hallucinating, he took his hat off, his gloves were thrown away and then he kind of reached out and looked at me ... he kind of reached out to me, kind of in a zombie-lake fashion", related U.S. climber Jon Kedrowski to a Colorado Fox News affiliate.  Oxygen deprivation, extreme fatigue, they take their toll.

And everyone is desperately exhausted, so much so that they must concentrate on their own survival.

Ms. Shah-Klorfine, the Nepali-Canadian, 33 years of age, was summitting as an aspirational dream.  "Nothing is impossible in this world, even the word 'impossible' says 'I M POSSIBLE'!", she wrote on her website.  She was among a group of 150 climbers who grasped the opportunity of what looked like good weather ahead, to press on for the summit.

In all, there were over 300 aspirants to the top that day, Saturday, May 19th.  Altitude sickness and extreme cold took their toll at the 8,000-metre level, the "Death Zone".  This year's push to the top was marked by extremely dangerous conditions as well.  A mix of loose snow and slick surfaces as a result of the mountain's warmest spring on record.

This kind of extreme mountain climbing adventure is life-risky.  The British Medical Journal in 2006 put the death rate at one fatality for each ten successfully-concluded climbs.  Those who manage to make it to the peak experience a one-in-twenty chance they won't survive the descent.  Those who die on Everest remain there.  Over 200 dead climbers are visible from various aspects on the trails and mountain slopes.

It is an immense mountain.  With a single passage or trail or pathway in most areas which people must traverse.  With such a crowded group of mountain enthusiasts negotiating the trails, time elapses waiting for the line to thin out as each takes his/her turn at the tricky, difficult passes and climbing areas, negotiating ice and snow and geological irregularities and assistive bridges and ladders.  Waiting is dangerous.

Two Sherpas died on the mountain that day that five foreigners lost their lives.  The Sherpas perished in the service of those who come to the region to challenge their own nature and endurance and that of the mountain.  The Sherpas died in an effort to make a living for themselves and their families.

There is a vital time limit for ascending and descending to minimize danger.  And danger is always present.  Five climbers dead in 2012; eight climbers who died in the blizzard of 1996 that Jon Krakauer wrote of.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A Teachable Moment

A young girl pouts after presenting Prince Charles a bouquet of flowers during a walk about Saint John, New Brunswick, on Monday, May 21, 2012. The royal couple are on a four-day visit to Canada to mark the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.Paul Chiasson, the Canadian Press

It has been well publicized how involved, introspective, curious, and concerned Prince Charles has always been on matters as diverse as the environment, architecture, art, agriculture, vegetarian-organic food, and the welfare of others.  All the more surprising that he failed to discern that he had disappointed the expectations of one female.

Of course, Prince Charles has famously disappointed the expectations of more than one female.  And managed, in the end to meet those of another.  But it is obvious from this sez-it-all photograph of one member of the fair sex who had been graced with the tender task of gifting the monarch-in-waiting with a floral bouquet, that her expectations have been dashed.

These were her flowers, her nosegay, which she so generously proffered to him in the full expectation that the elderly grey-haired man with the wrinkled skin who towered over her would understand that he was given the opportunity through her generosity to heft the flowers, and then sweetly return them to her possession.

It is clear from what we can discern from this touching photograph that Prince Charles - inadvertently or not - has sorely misunderstood the situation.  This was to have been her moment, her flowers in reflection of her talent, youth and beauty.  How could he have so misinterpreted the event?

Surely this trauma - trifling to the onlooker no doubt, amusing to those standing nearby who were able to view the girl's facial expression and so-obvious body language - will haunt her all the days of her life.

As this little girl goes through life, she will emote her frustrations as a superb thespian on the stage, without a doubt, wowing her audience with the authenticity of her pain.  She will doubtless write a best-seller 'tell-all' book relating her experience with the British Royal family.

He will live to rue the day.  Gallantry and  chivalry have their place.  And he somehow misplaced them.

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Monday, May 21, 2012

Commendations Versus Justice

It is a sadly paradoxical situation when a professional who has been engaged as such for two decades momentarily betrays the raison d'etre behind his profession.  All the more so when he has, over the course of his career as a police officer, been the recipient of numerous commendations.  Someone whose record as an officer of the peace stands above his peers in the opinion of his peers and those who come in contact with police officers.

St. Chris McGuinness has a service record bulging with 53 pages of recognition and commendations.  His "unique skills" demonstrated throughout his career encouraged a high degree of praise for his work as an Ottawa police officer from senior homicide detectives, a handful of police chiefs, two deputy Ottawa police chiefs, a federal Crown prosecutor and a provincial Crown prosecutor.

All of these people were hugely impressed with Sgt. McGuinness's performance and professional skills.  "He has probably the best set of people skills of anyone I have known.  He is someone whom others choose to call upon for help", wrote assistant Crown attorney Kevin Phillips, describing St. McGuinness further as "an extremely intelligent ... natural leader."
"I would also say that he developed an impressive reputation as top-rate investigator, a reputation that lasts to this day.  Simply put, Chris McGuinness is an excellent police officer."

There exists a host of other sincere and appreciative statements of recognition by colleagues and Sgt. McGuinness's superiors praising the level of his work, his capability, his personability and his professionalism. The praise speaks generously of his "unblemished integrity", his "loyalty". His reputation as a police officer goes beyond the opinion of him held by members of his own profession. 

There are also letters from people who ran afoul of the law and whom he went out of his way to aid and to sagely and helpfully counsel.  And then there is one from a wife of a former colleague, both themselves police officers.  The husband was in end-stage ALS and Sgt. McGuinness made it his business to regularly visit with and help care for the man.

"Chris is an exceptional human being who was able to show my dying husband so much compassion and respect.  Brian passed away Oct. 8, 2010.  He was very close to his family but he did not ask for them to be there that day.  He did ask for Chris", was the testimonial written on St. McGuinness's behalf by the wife of the deceased.

Sgt. McGuinness has been temporarily removed from active duty, deployed as a case manager while he has been the subject of an internal affairs disciplinary hearing.  This is the police officer who, on St. Patrick's Day of 2010, drove his vehicle into a utility pole, then pulled away, striking another vehicle before abandoning his car.

He has admitted to having consumed beer with some friends that evening before getting into his car and driving off.  He has pleaded guilty to dangerous driving, and has expressed deep remorse for behaviour that could have resulted in a serious accident as driving under the influence often does, occasionally taking someone's life in the process.

The incident is all the more serious since it was a police officer, and one of long standing, who happened to indulge in this kind of unlawful, dangerous driving.  The question here is whether or not his past record should be held in consideration of balance against charges brought against him.  On the one hand he has been scrupulously aware of his professional obligations, carrying them out in an honourable manner.

On the other hand, during what appears to be a brief period of injudicious decision-making, he behaved extremely poorly to the extent that he posed a public threat.  This is the proverbial tough nut to crack.  People do make mistakes, and this represents someone imbued with a particular sense of public obligation who momentarily fled that obligation.

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Sunday, May 20, 2012

Family Values

Federal prosecutor Celine Harrington feels that 38-year-old Terry Phillips is due a prison sentence of between 2-1/2 to three years as a social penalty matching his second conviction of dealing crack cocaine.  He was, in fact, on probation from his first conviction, for which he served six months, when he was apprehended for selling an undercover police officer crack cocaine.

Trouble is, Terry Phillips has two children, one a teen-age boy who is autistic, and the other a little three-year-old girl.  A happy, smiling child by all accounts.  At least that's the way she looked, wearing her Mickey Mouse T-shirt, holding on to her Daddy's hand, as he took her along to one of the five drug deals he was engaged in.

Presumably, the task of looking after the child fell to him, that day.  And matters of necessity taking precedence what option had he as a good and caring father other than to take the child along with him, so he could keep a keen and protective eye on her?  As it happened, he also brought the little girl to his sentencing hearing, where the judge felt her presence inappropriate and the mother whisked her away.

His lawyer argued forcefully for the "caring and thoughtful" family man that Terry Phillips so obviously represents.  "A period of incarceration will have a negative impact on this man, his family and the community as a whole", said the accused's lawyer.  And without a doubt it most certainly will have all of that.

He is a changed man, committed to becoming a "positive person".  He pledged to Ontario Superior Court Justice Lynn Ratushny that he is determined to make a better life for his family.  Which gave the prosecuting attorney the opportunity to interject that this was the same "song and dance" that was brought out the last time around, with the previous crack-dealing episode.

"He brings his three-year-old toddler with him ... despite the violence associated with drug dealing.  An innocent three-year-old girl holding her dad's hand to do a drug deal.  Are those the actions of a good father?"  The evidence is there, the moment captured on police surveillance photographs.

"Are those the actions of a good father?" was the closing argument of the federal prosecutor.  Depends.  Squeezed in tight below that news article was another, of four family members, father, mother, son and daughter, all accused by the RCMP of exporting cocaine to Australia, Russia, India, the U.S. and a few European countries.

There are 62 charges in all, levelled against the family.  So it's hard to say; the above might be an instance of grooming the next generation.  And it might simply be a befuddled father whose values have been horribly compromised, and who really, truly intends to turn himself around and devote himself to being a good father to his two children.

Who really knows?

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Guest writer:  Karen Rosenfeld - Ottawa Valley Dog Whisperer

Foods, Rich in Probiotics - Beneficial For Your Dog

Kefir and fresh sauerkraut are inexpensive, readily available and are two of the best sources of viable, high quality probiotics - in fact both of these foods contain more strains of bacteria and more probiotics than most supplements.
Sauerkraut typically contains 13 strains of bacteria and about 100 times more probiotics than most probiotoc supplements. Kefir typically contains about 10 strains and 5 billion beneficial bacteria. Only the best of Probiotic Supplements for dogs can match these two foods! Your dog gets all of the health benefits at a fraction of the cost of prepared supplements.

Kefir is a creamy, dairy based food made from the milk of cows or goats, sheep, coconut milk, rice or 1soy. Kefir is one of the oldest forms of cultured milk. Although it is similar to yogurt, kefir provides even more health benefits than yogurt.  

History of Kefir
The use of Kefir dates back about 2000 years. It was developed by shepherds in the Caucasian Mountains. The shepherds carried fresh milk in leather pouches - on occasion the milk would ferment into grains and result in an effervescent beverage. The grains were considered precious. Upon discovery, the people of the mountain learned to culture kefir by talking the kefir grains and mixing them with fresh, raw, cow or goat milk which they left in goatskin leather bags to ferment. If you would like to learn more about the history of kefir you can check this site out.
Active Ingredients in Kefir
Fermented milk results in the formulation of ‘gains’ that look like small cauliflower florettes. The kefir grains are made up of casein and gelatinous colonies of friendly (beneficial) bacteria - predominantly Lactic Streptococci, Lactobacillus caucasicus, Leuconnostoc species, Saccharomyces kefir, Torula kefir. In addition the kernels include some yeast. Kefir is the only cultured milk product that has more than three types of beneficial mico-organisms, typically averaging about 10 strains of bacteria.

Lactobacilli (genus)
Streptococci/lactococci (genus)
Lb. acidophilus
Lb. brevis
Lb. casei ssp.alactosus
Lb. casei ssp. rhamnosus 
Lb. casei
Lb. cellobiosus
Lb. delbrueckii ssp. lactis
Lb. delbrueckii ssp. bulgaricus
Lb. fructivorans
Lb. helveticus ssp. lactis
Lb. hilgardii
Lb. kefir
Lb. lactis
Lb. kefiranofaciens
Lb. kefirgranum sp. no
Lb parakefir sp. nov.

Lc. lactis ssp. lactis
Lc. lactis var. diacetylactis
Lc. lactis ssp. cremoris
S.  lactis
S.  salivarius ssp. thermophilus
Enterococcus durans
Leuconostoc cremoris
L. mesenteroides
Candida kefir
C. pseudotropicalis
K. bulgaricus 
K. fragilis / marxianus Kluyveromyces lactis
Kluyveromyces marxianus var. marxianus
Saccharomyces ssp.
Torulopsis holmii
Benefits of Kefir
Typically one tablespoon of kefir contains 5 billion beneficial bacteria. As a rich and concentrated source of beneficial bacteria the probiotics found in Kefir contribute to health in a wide variety of ways:
Contains a substantial amount of B Complex vitamins, Calcium, vitamin A, Vitamin D, magnesium, phosphorus;
Contains typtophan, and essential amino acid;
Helps prevents illness;
Is easily digestible;
Is excellent for the immune system;
Natural antibiotic and anti-fungal properties;
Promotes anti-cancer and anti-tumour activity in the body;
Promotes the faster healing of wounds;
Sugar and artificial sweeteners are not good for dogs so make sure you purchase plain, natural kefir.
How to Introduce Kefir to Your Dog’s Diet
As with any new foodstuff that you introduce to your dog’s diet you should go slow. The probiotics in kefir are highly concentrated so give your dog’s system time to adjust. For the first few days to a week cut the recommended dosage in half. This will avoid stomach upset as your dog’s system adjusts to the increased quantity of good flora in their GI tract. You can bring the daily dosage up to the recommended amount over the space of a few days to a week or two. If your dog has a negative reaction to the new food stop providing the food to your dog. All of my dogs get kefir, sauerkraut and yogurt on a daily basis. None of my 10 dogs have ever had a negative reaction to any of these food stuffs.
Daily Dosage of Kefir

  • Small size dogs - 1 tsp
  • Medium size dogs - 1 tbs

  • Large dogs - 11/2 to 2 tbs

Sauerkraut is made by: combining finely shredded fresh cabbage and salt (about 1.5% salt), then packing the resulting mixture into an airtight container and allowing it to ferment for three days at 23 degrees Celsius and then for an additional eight weeks at a cooler temperature. 

History of Sauerkraut
Although many people think of sauerkraut as a German invented foodstuff, its true origins are thought to be ancient China. The Chinese have been fermenting cabbage since 200 BC. Over 2,000 years ago, Chinese labourers responsible for building the Great Wall of China ate sauerkraut as part of their daily diet - that early version was made using rice-wine. It is assumed that sauerkraut made its way to Europe 1000 years later during the 13th century when Gengis Kahn plundered China. The Romans carried barrels of sauerkraut on long campaigns - feeding it to soldiers in order to prevent intestinal infections. The Dutch sea faring traders ate sauerkraut on a regular basis as it could be easily kept on board ship, do not require refrigeration and helped to prevent scurvy due to its high vitamin C content. Captain James Cooke followed the example of the Dutch sailors.
Active Ingredients in Sauerkraut
Sauerkraut is a dense source of a wide range of benefical lactic acid bacteria. The predominate bacteria in sauerkraut is Lactobacillus plantarum. While commercially produced sauerkraut does retain these valuable properties, fresh sauerkraut is higher in beneficial organisms. Sauerkraut typically contains 13 strains of bacteria and about 100 times more probiotics than most supplements while being a lot less expensive! If you are purchasing rather than making your own sauerkraut, make sure it is in the refrigerated section of the store to ensure that it contains live bacteria.
One of the best ways to ensure that you are providing your dog with fresh, probiotic sauerkraut is to make it yourself! If you would like to see some simple but very good sauerkraut recipes you can read this article. Sauerkraut is quick, easy and very inexpensive to make.
Benefits of Sauerkraut
Aids in the digestion process;
Boosts the immune system;
Helps prevent cancer (sauerkraut contains compounds called isothiocyanates which protect against cancer);
Fights E. Coli, salmonella and candida;
Has anti-inflammatory properties (inflammation can cause some cancers);
High in Vitamin A, B, C and E;
High in Minerals calcium and magnesium, folate, iron, potassium, copper and manganese;
High in phytonutirent antioxidants;
Helps alleviate anxiety and depression;
It helps generate omega-3 fatty acids;
It can help reduce allergy symptoms;
It is very low in fat and calories.
Each batch of fresh, raw sauerkraut contains different species of beneficial probiotics in different proportions. The table below provides a list of the bacteria species found in sauerkraut.

Main Species
Secondary Species

- Lactobacillus brevis 
- Lactobacillus plantarum 
- Leuconostoc mesenteroides, - Pediococcus pentosaceus

- Lactobacillus coryniformis 
- Lactobacillus curvatus 
- Lactobacillus sakei
- Lactococcus lactis subsp lactis  
- Lactobacillus paraplantarum  
- Leuconostoc argentinum
- Leuconostoc citreum
- Leuconostoc fallax
- Weissella species

In addition, 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of fresh sauerkraut contains…
Nutritional Information
15 mg Vitamin C
48mg Calcium
.21mg Vitamin B6
1.5mg Iron
1.5mg Vitamin K
288mg Potassium

14mg Magnesium


Alcohol is poisonous to dogs so do not purchase wine sauerkraut. Make sure you purchase or make water based sauerkraut rather than wine based sauerkraut.
How to Introduce Sauerkraut to Your Dog’s Diet
As with any new foodstuff that you introduce to your dog’s diet you should go slow. The probiotics in sauerkraut are highly concentrated so give your dog’s system time to adjust. For the first few days to a week cut the recommended dosage in half. This will avoid stomach upset as your dog’s system adjusts to the increased quantity of good flora in their GI tract. You can bring the daily dosage up to the recommended amount over the space of a few days to a week or two. If your dog has a negative reaction to the new food stop providing the food to your dog. All of my dogs get kefir, sauerkraut and yogurt on a daily basis. None of my 10 dogs have ever had a negative reaction to any of these food stuffs.
Daily Dosage of Sauerkraut
  • Small size dogs - ½ tsp to 1 tbs
  • Medium size dogs - 1 to 2 tbs
  • Large dogs - 2 tbs to 3tbs
Related Articles

Probiotics for Dogs, Essential for Optimal Health - What, Why, When and How

1 If you live in North America, do not purchase kefir made from soy. 99% of soy grown in North America is derived from genetically modified (GM) seeds. GM Round-up Ready Crops are a broad-spectrum systemic herbicide used to kill weeds. The long-term health affects of ingesting GM foods is suspected of causing serious health problems. Numerous studies on animals suggest reproductive problems as a side effect of glyphosate exposure. In addition GM crops are seriously detrimental to soil health, and the health of important insects such as bees.

As well, large factory farms use a method to process soy that leaves it very high in photoestrogens. Photoestrogens have been proven to interfere with reproduction and thyroid function. Factory farming processing methods for soy also result in a product that is very high in phytates. Phytates prevent mineral absorption as well as substances that prevent the normal function of enzymes required to digest protein. And one last thumbs down for large factory farm produced soy - it has one of the highest concentrations of pesticides found in North American crops. Traditional methods of processing soy by fermentation (as employed in Japan and China) greatly reduces photoestrogens, and phytates, thus making consumption of the resulting soy, safe and nutritional.

How to Choose a Good Probiotic Supplement for Your Dog

Not all probiotics sold for dogs are affective or safe for your dog. Probiotic supplements for dogs are not considered a drug - as such, in many countries, including Canada and the USA probiotics are not regulated. 
Manufacturers are free to do as they please and many do - cutting corners to increase profit leaving ethics far behind. Impurities can make their way into product and that the product may not even contain live, or enough species and strains of viable bacteria to have an beneficial efficacy. Attractive labels are not an indication of quality, nor is price. To protect your dog and spend your dollars wisely you need to know how to select a truly good product. So let’s take a look at what you should be clearly identified on the product label or available through inquiry with the manufacturer...
You need to know what probiotics are included in the product. Each species and strain should be noted. So you know what to look for here is an example - remember a good supplement should have at least 10 such strains.
For this example we will use Lactobacillus acidophilus. 

  • Lactobacillus is the genus;
  • acidphilus is the species, and; 
  • DDS-1 is the strain.

The product should include at least 10 of the above examples. The more strains the better as diversity will ensure that the good flora in your dog’s GI tract is varied enough to protect against all of the bad strains of bacteria. Research has shown that to achieve truly beneficial results the presence of at least 10 strains is required.
Here are a few examples of why diversity in strains is so important…
  • L. plantarum fights viral infections, cancer;
  • L. salivarius fights fungal infections such as candidia; helps the digestive system break down undigested protein and detoxifies the GI tract, may prevent colon cancer;
  • Lactic Streptococci protects against colitis and IBD (irritated bowl disease);
  • Lactobacillus caucasicus fights diarrhea;
  • Lactobacillus GG (L. rhamnosus), protects against respiratory illnesses, treats candida, colitis and diarrhea, reduces stress and anxiety.
CFU (Colony Forming Units)
The label should identify:
  • The number of CFUs (live microorganisms) per gram;
  • The number of CFU’s per serving;
What Are CFUs?
CFU is an acronym for colony-forming units, which are a scientific measurement of the viable microbes (bacteria) in a probiotic. .
Affective CFUs per Gram
Make sure that the supplement you purchase contains at least 20 million CFUs per gram - a product that contains billions of CFUs is however more desirable.
Probiotics (good bacteria) live and provide their beneficial function in the large intestine. In order to reach the large intestine the bacteria must pass through the very acidic environment of the stomach and small intestine. During this journey some of the bacteria die, but most do survive. In order to ensure that enough of the bacteria make it to the large intestine a dog needs to ingest billions of viable (intact and fully functioning) bacteria. The number of live bacteria is measured as the number of colony-forming units - commonly noted as CFU per gram of probiotic.
If the product labelling lists the CFU’s in scientific lingo you may see this:
One million CFUs/gram will be noted as 1 x 106 CFU;
One billion CFUs/gram will be noted as 1 x 109 CFU.
Suggested daily serving/dosage size
The label should clearly provide directions regarding daily serving/dosage of the product.
Health Benefits
An explanation of what the product can do for your dog
Best Before Date or Expiration Date
If the product label does not have an expiration date do not purchase it. Viable live bacteria do have a shelf life and you need to know when the product is no longer at maximum efficacy. If no expiration date is provided it is a pretty good indicator that the probiotics in the supplement are not really probiotic!
Required Storage Conditions
Where the product should be stored to ensure maximum survival of the probiotic
Corporate Contact Information
Who manufacturers the product;
Who to contact for additional information.
Does The Product Meet or Exceeds GMP Requirements
Just because a manufacturer says the product is probiotic does not mean that it is a probiotic. Some products labelled ‘probiotic’ do not include any clinically validated strains. Tests carried out on multiple products have revealed that many manufactures and retailers are selling probiotic supplements that do not include ingredients as noted on the product label and/or include dangerous contaminants. To make sure you are purchasing quality, look for products that meet or exceed the ‘Good Manufacturing Products’ (GMP) ISO Requirements. This may not be noted on the label, so you may have to contact the manufacturer or look on-line. 
Shown below is an example of a product that does meet all of the requirements explained above...
And One More Thing That You May Want To Consider... 
Avoid purchasing supplements from manufacturer’s that do invasive and harmful testing on dog’s and other animals. Many pet food and pet pharmaceutical companies carry out invasive and lethally harmful testing of their products on dogs and other animals. Do your research and purchase a quality product that has not been developed at the cost of dogs’ lives. As an example, Ralston-Purina, the manufacturer of Forti-Flora routinely do invasive and harmful testing on dogs after which they kill many of the dogs they test their products on. 
Related Articles
Probiotics for Dogs, Essential for Optimal Health - What, Why, When and How

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