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

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Murderous Mental Instability

Infanticide is a difficult crime to understand.  How it can be that a father or a mother might destroy the life of a child.  Their own child, although child-murder is a spine-chilling crime when committed by anyone, including strangers murdering someone else's child. 

A Quebec cardiologist, Guy Turcotte, whose physician-wife had left him, pleaded temporary insanity when he murdered their children, Olivier and Anne-Sophie Turcotte, ages 5 and 3.  He was acquitted of the capital offences on the basis of his insanity plea. And now, a few years later, is out on unsupervised day-long parole, seemingly quite at peace with himself. 

One can assume that these self-assured people who become psychotic and commit dreadful offences against humanity have compromised personalities, born as psychopathically deranged individuals who cannot find it within themselves to wholly relate to others, to have compassion, to restrain their basest impulses.

From Berlin comes another story of a woman who felt that having babies would compromise her relationship with her husband.  She chose to kill no fewer than five babies to which she had given serial birth, fearing her husband would leave their family if she had any more children.  Can anyone possibly be that ignorant of contraception techniques?

How is it possible that a young woman in her twenties could be so devoid of feeling that she would feel compelled to murder her babies rather than confront her husband, explaining to him that conception is never immaculate? 

At age 28, after a six-year investigation by German police, the unnamed woman (to protect the identities of her still-living children, 8 and 10) made a "comprehensive confession".

Her pregnancies must have been difficult to detect physically for she gave birth in secret, at home or out in the surrounding woods.  "She had the impression her husband would leave her if she had any more children, and that's why she didn't tell anyone she was pregnant, including her husband", explained Ulrike Stahlmann-Liebelt, chief prosecutor in Flensburg, northern Germany.

Although it is unclear how the woman managed to keep news of her pregnancy private, her husband claims not to have known anything about the pregnancies.  The first dead infant was discovered in a paper-sorting station, 15 kilometres from the family's home in Husum.  The second in a parking lot off a regional highway, a year later, in 2007.

DNA confirmed the bodies were related.  Thereafter the woman hid the three later dead infants in boxes in the basement of the building where the family resided.  The police investigation included hundreds of DNA tests from local women after authorities concluded where the parents were likely to have come from, on Germany's north sea coast.

Fully realizing that the DNA sample would divulge her to be the mother of the two initial dead babies themselves linked by forensics, the woman surrendered herself to authorities, confessed, and is now in custody awaiting a formal indictment.

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Saturday, September 29, 2012

 Cleaning House

Looks like a tidy little empire is coming to an end.  Looks like a business reporter smelled a bit of corruption and thought he would clear up any ambiguities, laying the case before the public in a series of articles all targeting one very particular entrepreneur who built his consulting business through what may be far more common in countries where personal contact rather than neutral business interests motivate and connect sources. 

Brian Card, the owner and CEO of CRG Consulting has done quite well for himself, realizing that if he took on as contractors people who know the inside of the public service very well, including former public servants, he would have the inside track.  Not all that different, actually, from high-paid and well-connected lobbyists hiring out their insider expertise after leaving government. 

But in the case of CRG there was also a cozy personal relationship with a moderately high-ranking government civil servant at Public Works whose friendship was converted into quite profitable contract acquisitions in the real property branch netting the consulting company millions in annual billings.  Perhaps Mr. Card was not humble enough when he was interviewed for the initial story.

Perhaps it was his insouciance in his response to questions from a reporter over his having been accused of bid-rigging and subsequent leniency under the Competition Bureau program after Mr. Card pleaded guilty, that his ongoing real estate consulting services contracts would continue as usual that offended the reporter, who thought he would dig a little deeper.

Digging any deeper wasn't really required; all it takes for a government agency to become uneasy at finger-pointing is for the issue not to disappear, but to be brought to the fore by a busy reporter whose findings are given a prominent presence on the first section, front page above the centre fold.  Not once, not twice, but three times, doggedly following the scent of criminal corruption.

The leniency Mr. Card was promised from the Competition Bureau would not have included protection from a back-lash resulting from public embarrassment where the federal Department of Public Works and now a municipal works department following suit, have been reconsidering a continuation of business with CRG Consulting.

Which led the department's deputy minister to instruct his procurement officials that all contracts in which CRG was involved be forwarded directly to head office, where they would be placed on hold.  That is a situation that impacts deleteriously on any enterprising company's cash flow.  Those standing offers upon which CRG Consulting has been depending have been standing idle.

Being held in suspension, frozen in an attitude of 'cause well-aired public embarrassment to this government department through questionable activities, and there's unwelcome pay-back'.  All those standing offers that were easy pickings in the past have become elusively unavailable.  Now that's living proof that measures that seem reliable, albeit suspect, come back to haunt one.

Those former government workers taken on as expert consultants were able to offer sage insider advice on when contracts would surface, and the most expeditiously successful manner in which to furnish responses to invitations for proposals.  The assistant deputy minister in charge of the real property branch became very intimately approachable, and that helped, enormously.

It helped CRG Consulting, but not the government career of the assistant deputy minister who is no longer with Public works, as a result of a declaration by the department that he was in a direct conflict of interest, and as such his value to the government department procuring branch was greatly diminished.

But the method perfected, and the primary contacts solidified, those contract just kept coming in.  Until now, that is, with the persistent business reporter having accomplished his job by highlighting the unethical connections between someone entrenched in manipulating himself into a favourable contract-granting position and a government department whose own have been complicit.

Now the Minister of Public Works is preparing to place a permanent ban on contracting with CRG Consulting.  It wasn't the guilty plea of criminal bid-rigging directly, but it is most certainly connected with it, because the leopard had no intention of changing his spots.

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Friday, September 28, 2012

Rideau Hall

Every representative of the Queen in Canada, as the in-house Head of State, standing in for the Monarch, has his or her official portrait painted, just as each Prime Minister of Canada has his (and one brief 'her') official painting commissioned and hung in an appropriate gallery; in the former instance within the walls of the Governor-General's official residence, in the latter, the House of Parliament.
Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, former Governor General of Canada is hugged by portrait artist Karen Bailey, left, following the official unveiling by current Governor General David Johnston.
Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, former Governor General of Canada is hugged by portrait artist Karen Bailey, left, following the official unveiling by current Governor General David Johnston. Photograph by: Wayne Cuddington , Ottawa Citizen
Michaelle Jean was a figure unpretentious in some ways, and exceedingly and ostentatiously pretentious in others.  While she seemed to misunderstand that her temporary reign in office was not quite that of Head of State, but rather as a representative within Canada appointed to act for the real Head of State who is the Queen of England and the Commonwealth, her natural ebullience and obvious love of people more or less leavened that obdurate miscue.

There were questions about her allegiance to Canada, along with that of her husband, Jean-Daniel Lafonde, in their dalliance with the rebellious Quebecois fixation on separation and sovereignty.  There was pictorial and anecdotal evidence of their having been absorbed within and absorbed with support of the sovereigntists.  Despite which, she was chosen, a Haitian-Canadian, with a journalist background, hard on the heels of the departing Adrienne Clarkson, also a journalist.

That said, Michaelle Jean as half of a vice-regal pair, did Canada very well indeed.  Like her predecessor she was a credit to Canada, while never forgetting her native Haiti.  She travelled, representing Canada, and she welcomed high-ranking visitors to Canada as the Queen's representative.  She was placed in fairly strenuous political quandary on several occasions, making decisions that few other Governors-General had been faced with, as a result of Parliamentary dilemmas.

The painting that she requested as a commission does not reflect the rigid sobriety and formality of most other such portraits.  She was quite specific in informing the artist of her choice that she wanted to be shown among people, doing her duty, performing the purpose of the station she had been elevated into.  And this is what the painting portrays.  She is the central figure, surrounded by her family, by those whom she served.

Throughout her years in her post, representing the country and its military, she acquitted herself with grace, composure and intelligence.  Good for her, good for us.  A woman of distinction, intelligence and regal bearing.

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Thursday, September 27, 2012

"Are You A Prostitute?"

Johra Kaleki, who came to Canada as a refugee with her family from Afghanistan, retains the cultural and religious values that she is most familiar with as an Afghan-Canadian.  She has four children, all girls.  The oldest, Bahar, is now over twenty years of age.  And it was Bahar - so far - who managed to contest her parents' cultural-social values.

And Bahar lived to tell the tale of her final confrontation with her parents - but just barely.  Bahar had turned from a compliant, biddable child who obeyed her parents' wishes to a defiant young woman who chose to defy her parents' orders.  They had no wish for any of their daughters to behave with the casual social behaviour that they noted in other young women in Montreal.

Bahar was informed she could not go out with boys, dress indecorously, or go anywhere without her parents' permission.  That worked for quite a while, until Bashar began attending a CEGEP, when she began to feel herself to be too confined, her parents too controlling.  As she rebelled she began to behave in a manner that her parents found confounding and threatening.

Two years ago, 19-year-old Bahar Ebrahimi stayed out beyond dawn.  "I felt like she would never be fixed", the mother told Sgt.-Det. Alexandre Bertrand in a video that recorded her interrogation after she had been taken into police custody and charged with attempted murder.  She spoke of her efforts to steer her daughter in the path of virtue, all failed.

When her daughter returned home from her second night out Johra Kaleki told her husband who was weeping while confronting their oldest daughter, to "Just leave us alone for five minutes.  Don't come until I call you."  She would solve all their problems.  All she needed was that five minutes.  She embraced her daughter, told her to lie on her stomach and she would massage her back.

"Then I stab her, stab her neck.  She said, 'No mom!'  I said, 'It's for your good.  Let me finish'."  In recounting the event she responded to a question whether the knife blade had been sharp:  "No, it wasn't.  I wish it was.  I wanted to give her the peace that she needed", she responded.  That eternal peace would be death for her daughter, a peaceful conscience that she had done right, for herself.

Bahar managed to survive the attack.  Her father, hearing his daughter's screams rushed down, grasping the knife from his wife.  "I said to my husband, let me finish her", after which she attempted to choke the girl.  Bahar escaped her mother's even while she chased her upstairs and attempted to break through the locked bedroom door where she dialled 911.

The first time that Bahar had stayed out late her parents went to a local police station to file a report.  They had been informed by their daughter that she was going downtown to a concert.  The officer told the parents that nothing could be done by them.  "He said 'She's safe.  Don't worry.  She's a teenager."  Little did he realize that she was an Afghan-Canadian teenager, expected to obey.

After the second late night when Bahar told her mother she had spent much of the evening walking, her mother said she was horrified: "I asked her, 'Are you a prostitute"  Are you a whore?'"

"I hope she gets well", the mother told the detective toward the end of the interview.  "She live with that wound.  She remembers me."  What she experienced, the mother said, would ensure that her daughter would gain by it, it "will make her strong and give her wisdom.  It means she will give up her ways of living."

This caring, loving mother came very close to giving up her daughter to death, closing off her opportunity to do any more living.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Alternate Lifestyles

Giving special dispensation to aboriginal people because of their historical heritage and culture while overlooking their failure to adapt themselves to an ordered and civil lifestyle does those who have immersed themselves in drugs and alcohol and homelessness little good.  The influences on their lives through their original experiences and cultural exposure that have led them to ruin their lives represent a tragedy, but if the will is there to turn themselves to become responsible for themselves it can be done.

It is a tragedy that someone like Annie Pootoogook whom an artistic muse has favoured with great talent in being able to produce colourful original paintings that describe her memories of her life in the far North has despite her great talent immersed herself in a homeless lifestyle.  She lives with her demons, unpleasant memories of her early life and her own obvious dysfunctionality.  She gave birth to two children many years ago, and those children have been raised by relatives.

While Annie Pootoogook travelled from her home on Baffin Island to Ottawa, to live in the city where she can seek out the support of well established Inuit-welfare agencies she has not been dependent upon them.  Her artwork has been recognized and is valued by collectors of aboriginal art.  She was honoured with a $50,000 Sobey Art Award, her drawings selling for thousands of dollars through galleries.

That money is gone, used to feed her drug, alcohol and tobacco passions.  She has latterly sold her artwork in downtown Ottawa, living off the street, earning $25 to $200 for each work of art.  Obviously valued by an artistic-appreciation society.  The money she earns used fairly solely for tobacco.  She claims her background on Baffin Island to have been replete with beatings, sexual abuse, alcohol and drugs.

She has a partner, a 49-year-old man who fathered a baby that Annie Pootoogook has just given birth to, a little girl, born prematurely and set to remain in hospital - currently in an incubator - for a month.  She is 43 years of age herself, and looks much, much more aged than her chronological reality.
Celebrated Inuit artist Annie Pootoogook draws a picture while sitting on the sidewalk near the downtown Rideau Centre with her common law partner Bill Watt. The couple made headlines recently when it was revealed Annie is pregnant and living on the streets while her artwork sells for thousands more than she charges passersby.

Celebrated Inuit artist Annie Pootoogook draws a picture while sitting on the sidewalk near the downtown Rideau Centre with her common law partner Bill Watt. The couple made headlines recently when it was revealed Annie is pregnant and living on the streets while her artwork sells for thousands more than she charges passersby.  Photograph by: Wayne Cuddington , Ottawa Citizen

After a newspaper story reported on her current life, Annie Pootoogook and her partner, Bill Watt, were offered accommodation by a number of individuals moved by her story.  Mr. Watt felt they should not accept any of those offers because people were always trying to 'control' their lives.  So while his common-law wife was pregnant, earning a few dollars for her cigarettes, they lived on the streets, sleeping at night under culverts, and eating at charitable institutions.
"I know it sounds sad, but we slept good.  In retrospect, it was nothing because I was with the love of my life."  Bill Watt
Acclaimed Inuit artist Annie Pootoogook with her partner William Watt.
 Acclaimed Inuit artist Annie Pootoogook with her partner William Watt.  Photograph by: Jean Levac , Ottawa Citizen/Postmedia News
The pair feels that the Children's Aid Society will be interested in convincing them to surrender their baby.  That they will be considered to be unfit parents.  Mr. Watt seems to have a revolving relationship with Ottawa's jail system.  He is occasionally invited to occupy a cell as a result of being charged and found guilty of minor crimes, like theft.

He has preferred to live outdoors during the summer rather than sleeping at shelters.  A one-bedroom apartment was found for them recently, and they have lived there for a week.  Mr. Watt pays the rent from the Ontario Disability Support Program cheque he receives monthly.  And they will continue to eat at shelters and receive food through area food banks.

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Did Life on Earth Come From Space?  

Photo by Liaison.

Forget looking in outer space for aliens, because we may in fact be the aliens.
Life on Earth may have begun when meteor-like planetary fragments carrying microorganisms collided with the planet during the early days of the solar system. This according to a joint study by Princeton University, the University of Arizona, and Centro de Astrobiologica in Spain.

The research offers the strongest evidence of lithopanspermia: the theory that basic life forms transfer through the universe via fragments propelled from planetary systems at high velocities by volcanic explosions and collisions and then get trapped by the gravitational pull of neighboring systems.

The study estimates our solar system and closest neighboring planetary system exchanged fragments 100 trillion times before the sun left its native star cluster.

And somewhere Ridley Scott is smiling and saying, “I told you so.” His Prometheus, which depicts aliens from a faraway planet implanting life on Earth, comes out on DVD in October.

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Hubble captures extraordinary view of Universe

BBC News online - 26 September 2012

Hubble Space Telescope image - dubbed eXtreme Deep Field - of the universe. In the image are 5,000 galaxies. The image took 2,000 exposures lasting a total of 500 hours.

The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) has produced one of its most extraordinary views of the Universe to date.

Called the eXtreme Deep Field, the picture captures a mass of galaxies stretching back almost to the time when the first stars began to shine.

But this was no simple point and snap - some of the objects in this image are too distant and too faint for that.

Rather, this view required Hubble to stare at a tiny patch of sky for more than 500 hours to detect all the light.

"It's a really spectacular image," said Dr Michele Trenti, a science team member from the University of Cambridge, UK.
The patch of sky captured in Hubble's XDF image, compared in size to the Moon

"We stared at this patch of sky for about 22 days, and have obtained a very deep view of the distant Universe, and therefore we see how galaxies were looking in its infancy."

The XDF will become a tool for astronomy. The objects embedded in it can be followed up by other telescopes. It should keep scientists busy for years, enabling them to study the full history of galaxy formation and evolution.

The new vista is actually an updating of a previous HST product - the Hubble Ultra Deep Field.
That was built from data acquired in 2003 and 2004, and saw the telescope burrow into a small area of space in the Constellation Fornax (The Furnace). Again, it necessitated many repeat observations, and revealed thousands of galaxies, both near and far, making it the deepest image of the cosmos ever taken at that time.

But XDF goes further; it dials down into an even smaller fraction of the UDF.

Hubble Space Telescope

The Hubble Space Telescope
  • The Hubble telescope was carried into orbit aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery in 1990
  • It creates images of the Universe from near ultraviolet, visible, and infrared light
  • Hubble helped astronomers calculate the age of the Universe, which is about 13.7 billion years old
  • The telescope is named after the astronomer Edwin Hubble
Source: BBC Science
It incorporates more than 2,000 separate exposures over 10 years using Hubble's two main cameras - the Advanced Camera for Surveys, installed by astronauts in 2002, and the Wide Field Camera 3, which was added to the observatory during its final servicing in 2009.

To see what it does, Hubble has to reach beyond the visible into the infrared. It is only at longer wavelengths of light that some of the most distant objects become detectable.

"Modelling studies suggest that galaxies start small with fewer features and then as they grow in size they acquire the magnificent look that we can see in the closest galaxies observed in this XDF image," explained Dr Trenti.

Of the more than 5,000 galaxies in the XDF, one of them (UDFj-39546284) is a candidate for the most distant galaxy yet discovered. If this is confirmed, it means it is being seen just 460 million years after the Universe's birth in the Big Bang. Scientists time that event to be 13.7 billion years ago.
Until that corroboration, another of the image objects, UDFy-38135539, probably holds the record. We see this galaxy as it was 600 million years after the Big Bang.

But as remarkable as the XDF is, it is a prelude for an even deeper Hubble view that is likely to be released later this year. A team led from Caltech (US) and Edinburgh University (UK) has acquired more than 100 hours of additional observations, doubling the exposure time in the all-important near infrared wavebands made possible by WFC3.

The expectation is that it will contain galaxies even closer to the Big Bang.
To see the first starlight in the Universe will most likely require Hubble's successor. The James Webb Space Telescope, which is scheduled to launch in 2018, will carry a much larger mirror and even more sensitive instruments. and follow me on Twitter: @BBCAmos

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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Untouchables

"These are gypsies, a culture synonymous with swindlers.  The phrase gypsy and cheater have been so interchangeable historically that the word has entered the English language as a verb: he gypped me.  Well the gypsies have gypped us.  Too many have come here as false refugees.  And they come here to gyp us again and rob us blind as they have done in Europe for centuries...  They're gypsies.  And one of the central characteristics of that culture is that their chief economy is theft and begging."
Ezra Levant, Sun News Network
 Titian, Gypsy Madonna, 1510
What a hate-sizzling statement.  Hard to credit, harder to understand how and why anyone would sully his lips by allowing such a hate-mongering assessment of an ethnic group like the Roma/Travellers to be spoken.  One reads about the life of Roma in European countries, being forced to live in squalid, miserable conditions because society simply doesn't want them polluting the rest of society.

They are discriminated against in employment.  Their children are held in contempt and denied the same opportunities for educational achievement that other children may take for granted.  Their housing is always substandard, and they have few in power who will champion their human rights cause.
 Landscape With Gypsies, John Wootton, English, 1748

Their reputation precedes them.  Thieving and conspiring to do ill, begging.  A set of values starkly different than most inhabiting society.  Theirs is also a romantic tradition.  Their differences, their caravans as wandering people skilled in poetry and music, loving colourful things and particularly costly objects that belong to others, have made a legend of them. 

British 19th Century authors incorporated them in their novels.  A peculiar culture of a mysterious people who cannot be trusted, who squat on private property and become difficult to dislodge, whose quick eyes can sum up the value of objects they plan to take for themselves.  Whose propensity to violence instructs others to exercise care.

Gypsies were among those notably whom the Third Reich took it upon themselves to expunge from the face of the Earth, in so doing making the world a better place, free of the scum and scourges of society.  Jews, political dissenters, the infirm, the mentally retarded, homosexuals, they were all hugely expendable and deliberately expended.

Ages-old resentments and very particular slurs of debased human presence requiring to be obliterated remain the mark of an uncivilized society, a barbaric mindset.  Canada as a nation comprised of multitudes of people from various locations around the world representing unique cultures, historical backgrounds and universal aspirations, also has a population of about 80,000 Roma.

Many have lived in Canada for four generations, handing down the native Romani language and vestiges of a culture enriched for having been formed for centuries in various parts of the world.  Parts of the world that have rejected their presence, and so they have come to Canada as refugees.  Somehow, it's difficult to credit that France, Hungary and the Czech Republic, among others, treat their Roma like lepers.

Gypsy talk. Mount Pleasant artist JoEllen Brydon will share details of her large scale installation, Lost Histories: The Gypsies of 1909, on Saturday, April 21 during the Manvers Historical Society's annual meeting. The presentation includes images of her art as well as historic photographs. Special to This Week

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Monday, September 24, 2012

Societal Dysfunction Writ Large

The Government of Afghanistan is notoriously corrupt, a condition that represents most of Afghan society.  Despite which, the level of corruption seen at the highest governing level is such that Afghans themselves deplore the extent to which it impacts on their lives.

 Billions of dollars have been sent to Afghanistan from Western sources attempting to aid the country in its aspiration to become a normally functioning country, but very little of that funding has advanced the civil infrastructure, having been re-directed to private internationally-invested bank accounts.

With the relative imminence of ISAF/NATO troops departing from the country in 2014, much will change.

Afghanistan has demanded - through President Hamid Karzai - guarantees of the international community of $3-billion yearly to continue funding the Afghan National Army and the National Police to keep the country from once again falling into the hands of the Afghan Taliban.

There has never been an adequate accounting for the manner in which the international funds have been disposed of.

But just as the members of Parliament and provincial governors and their retinues continue to enrich themselves personally at the expense of the populace and an appropriate, reliable government infrastructure, so too do they profit through support of the poppy trade.

Graft, corruption and self-serving is endemic.  As several hundred female workers in a Kabul-based female-only factory are soon to experience for themselves.

A factory that has a $35-million annual contract to provide uniforms for the new Afghan security forces under NATO has been put on notice that that contract which keeps these women employed is soon to be imperilled.  Managers at the factory have been informed the contract will be lost when responsibility switches from NATO to the Kabul government.

Simply put, officials of the government claim they can obtain those same uniforms more cheaply from China or Pakistan.  The factory understands full well that this has occurred as a result of their refusal to pay kickbacks to ministry staff.  If the Sarco Abad factory cannot find alternate order sources it will become inevitable that its 230 workers will be laid off and the factory closed.

"We have told the workers we are trying to do everything we can to keep the factory going, but I am afraid the women will slowly lose hope", Angela Sidiqi, the factory's deputy managing director explained.  Monthly wages for these women range between$126 to $165.  They are the earning mainstays of their families.  "If I lose the job I will not be able to feed my children", said one worker, a widow.

Many other Afghan businesses which have been dependent on the presence of foreign interests, foreign aid and NATO troops will find themselves in a similar position with the withdrawal of ISAF/NATO.  An economy almost entirely reliant on foreign investments and aid will see its GDP dissolve over the next few years.

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Sunday, September 23, 2012

 Safety of GM Corn

There is something inordinately wrong with our values when governments permit strenuous lobbying by powerful conglomerates to create monopolistic markets - whose only interest lies in producing products that will make them ever more wealthy, rather than give consideration to the public weal - by allowing those interests to create empires that prove to be inimical to health and safety. 

As in the case with massive industrial interests such as Monsanto who have no loyalty to country or to human need, only to their share of the industry's profit margin.

Monsanto's herbicide Roundup, now represents the widest selling such product in the world.  If that doesn't represent a monopoly what does?  It doesn't represent a successful formula that is safe for use and which enhances agricultural production as much as an assortment of combined chemicals assigned a particular purpose whose long-range effects have never been competently and studied in an unbiased attempt to arrive at meaningful conclusions.

The same appears to be true for genetically modified corn, a product that has hugely wide use in all manner of commercial applications, introducing supermarket products that a consuming public has been assured by food scientists is a completely safe product.  Yet the first genetically modified food safety study to test the entire lifespan of laboratory rats, published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Food and Chemical Toxicology, calls into question that assumed safety.

It is a study, conducted in France, which is being taken seriously by the French government which ordered an urgent review of the findings.  Once it is confirmed - if it is - that the safety of GM corn does present as a health threat to the public, there are plans to work for a Europe-wide ban of imports of the crop. 

Genetically-modified corn is grown in Canada, used for animal feed and processed food ingredients, so it is well integrated into the food production chain. Health Canada has announced that while it feels it would be premature to produce an assessment of its own on the matter, its scientists are reviewing those cautionary findings.

Monsanto's GM corn NK603 was approved in 2001 by Health Canada.  It was engineered to surmount the effects of Roundup spraying.  The newly-revealed study has found that rats fed the GM corn or Roundup developed tumours faster, died sooner than non-GM-fed rats.

The study found that up to 50% of male rates fed GM corn or Roundup and 70%of female rats died prematurely, in comparison with 30% and 20% respectively in the control group.  Rats fed GM corn or Roundup developed two to three times more tumours.  Female rats developed pituitary disorders; male rats suffered liver damage, developed kidney and skin tumours and digestive system problems.

The preliminary and yet-to-be-confirmed suspicion is that Canadian-grown genetically modified corn has been linked to elevated risks of cancer, organ damage and premature death.  In rats, of course, but the findings also point to a possible "demonstrate a risk" for human health.

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Saturday, September 22, 2012

Cell death offers hope on fertility and cancer treatment

BBC News online - 2 September 2012

Woman having chemotherapy Chemotherapy can cause fertility problems
A discovery about how cells die could lead to ways to protect fertility in women having cancer treatment, researchers suggest.

Australian scientists found two specific proteins caused the death of early egg cells in the ovaries.
Blocking them meant cells survived the effects of radiotherapy, according to the study published in the journal Molecular Cell.
A UK expert said the research was an "encouraging starting point".

The researchers from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, Monash University and Prince Henry's Institute of Medical Research looked at egg cells called primordial follicle oocytes, which provide each woman's lifetime supply of eggs.

They found that, when the DNA of cells is damaged through chemotherapy or radiotherapy, two proteins called Puma and Noxa cause the eggs to die.
This causes many female cancer patients to become infertile.

"Increasing the understanding of the damage done and the potential for directly protecting the ovary and its contained oocytes has to be welcomed” Dr Jane Stewart, British Fertility Society

Low numbers of egg cells can also lead to a woman going through an early menopause.

When these cells were manipulated so they did not have the Puma protein, they did not die after being exposed to radiation therapy.

Prof Jeff Kerr, from Monash University, who worked on the study said: "This might ordinarily be cause for concern because you want damaged egg cells to die so as not to produce abnormal offspring."

But he added: "To our great surprise we found that not only did the cells survive being irradiated, they were able to repair the DNA damage they had sustained and could be ovulated and fertilised, producing healthy offspring.

"When the cells were also missing the Noxa protein, there was even better protection against radiation."

Prof Clare Scott, from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, who also worked on the lab and animal research, added: "It means that in the future, medications that block the function of Puma could be used to stop the death of egg cells in patients undergoing chemotherapy or radiotherapy.

"Our results suggest that this could maintain the fertility of these patients."

The researchers said that the discovery could also mean it would be possible to slow the loss of egg cells from the ovaries, thereby delaying early menopause.

Dr Jane Stewart of the Newcastle Fertility Centre at Life (the Life Science Centre), and a spokeswoman for the British Fertility Society, said: "Potential loss of fertility is an issue which worries many young women undergoing cancer treatment.

"Whilst it is not always an issue it can be unpredictable and the possibilities for effective fertility preservation in women remain limited.

"Increasing the understanding of the damage done and the potential for directly protecting the ovary and its contained oocytes has to be welcomed and - whilst this work may some way from being translated into clinical practice - it is encouraging as a possible starting point."

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Inmates File $500 Million Lawsuit Over Lack of Dental Floss

As published by NewsMax, 22 September 2012

Friday, 21 Sep 2012 10:50 PM
By Todd Beamon

Inmates in a suburban New York jail are suing  for $500 million, contending in a federal lawsuit that the jail’s refusal to let them use dental floss has ruined their teeth.

In a 25-page lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, Santiago Gomez, 26, the lead plaintiff, said his Westchester County jailors have violated the prisoners’ civil rights by “not allowing inmates access to dental floss while being aware that failure to use causes cavities.”

Gomez is being held on a gun charge, The Journal News newspaper reports.

“We feel that the Westchester County Department of Corrections is depriving inmates of the use of dental floss, which is causing us cavities,” Gomez told the Journal News in a telephone interview from the jail in Valhalla. “They recognize the importance of it — that you have to floss — in the regulation manual. They clearly state if you don’t floss you’re going to get cavities.”

“When you get these cavities, they give you a temporary filling which almost, by three or four weeks, falls out, which requires unnecessary procedures such as more drilling to replace this temporary filling,” Gomez continued. “What they do is after they give you a hole so big in your tooth they’re telling you, ‘Well, extract the saveable tooth or suffer in pain.’ The only medication that the new department they have here is providing is Motrin.”

The lawsuit, filed by a total of 11 county inmates, seeks the payment “for all civil rights violations mentioned in this complaint,” and asks that “the decision be made retroactive affecting all prisoners on behalf of all inmates still being violated.”

Westchester Deputy Correction Commissioner Justin Pruyne declined to discuss the lawsuit, but said the jail is not required to provide dental floss to prisoners. He told the Associated Press it could potentially be used as a weapon.

“There is nothing in the New York state regulations which regulate jails that would require Westchester to provide an inmate with dental floss,” Pruyne said. “That being said, at present we are looking into whether there are appropriate items out there in the community that could be used in a jail setting.”

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Friday, September 21, 2012

Don't Eat That!

Hey, eat popcorn, lots of it.  It's great for nibbling.  And calorie-wise.  As snacks go, it's one of the nutritiously-innocent ones, relatively speaking.  And hey, it's corn, after all.  Exploded corn.  Not the rice crispy cereal kind, but oven-popped and delicious.  Here, have a bowl of it. 

There's some guy in Colorado so devoted to his daily bowl of popcorn he never saw it coming.  Saw what coming?  That his daily dose was liberally laced with !yum! butter, of course.  Oh, not butter-butter, instead chemical-butter.  And therein lay the problem.

We're trying to avoid saturated fat, after all, found in animal-based products - like butter.  So, avoiding the expense and the cholesterol found in real butter brings us to the usefulness of chemical alternatives.  In this instance that alternative was named diacetyl, butter flavouring.  And, it is dangerous.

This man, Wayne Watson, 59 years of age, would still like to live to a ripe old age.  Riper than 60, for example.  But he has been afflicted with a dangerous chronic condition -  Yess!  This is a form of obstructive lung disease which makes it difficult for air to flow from the lungs.

And it is an irreversible condition.  Mr. Watson is rather aggrieved that neither the popcorn's manufacturer nor the supermarket where it is marketed informed the public by clear labelling that the butter flavouring is, in fact, dangerous.  

He was so persuasive in his annoyance that a U.S. federal court jury awarded him $7.2-million in damages.

Gilster-Mary Lee Corp. located in Chester, Illinois manufactures the popcorn; the jurors found them 80% liable for the damages awarded, with the King Soopers supermarket chain, and its parent company Kroger Co., liable for 20%. 

That won't, of course, return Mr. Watson's lung capacity to him.

He had been diagnosed at Denver's National Jewish Health, a respiratory health centre, following years of consuming the artificial popcorn he ate on a !daily! basis.  The examining doctor asked him if he had been around large quantities of microwave popcorn.

Dr. Cecile Rose had been a consultant to the flavourings industry, had observed the same disease that Watson presented with among workers exposed to the chemical.  Microwave popcorn and flavouring workers across the U.S. have been suing since 2004, awarded large damages.

Ditch those microwave popcorn packages.

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Setting Examples

It has been reported that Prince William and his wife Kate Middleton chose to sue the paparazzo and the French gossip magazine that published !scandalous! photographs of the Duchess of Cambridge in the almost-nude.  She was sunbathing, in France, at a borrowed villa, on a balcony from which a clear, though distant view of the street below must have made it evident that she could be seen. 

Perhaps if she had done the cautionary thing and lifted her head she would have seen the distant figure of the photographer who took advantage of this splendid opportunity to pursue her craft.

The royal couple, in nudging distance of the British throne, chose to break from Queen Elizabeth II's usual response of resorting to legal action reluctantly, and then only as a last-means-resort.

 Of course, in choosing to appear in public - albeit at a remove - mostly nude, with her naked breasts visible, the departure from how Queen Elizabeth would under any circumstances whatever disport herself began with that choice, as well as the one following it.  The Queen's granddaughter-by-marriage chose to eschew her regal example.

But, this is also why the royal couple decided to go to court, and a French court ruled in their favour, awarding a fine of roughly $2,500.  Carefully thought-out as a warning measure that they will not tolerate this kind of intrusion into their private lives. 

But what about private lives made ostentatiously public, on the other hand.  They are thinking ahead, claim prognosticators, to that time when they will have a child, third in succession to the Throne. Their fervent desire being to shield that child, and presumably any others, from similar such intrusions. 

They have the example of Prince William's mother who claimed to detest the paparazzi constantly monitoring her every move, yet her every move appeared to be orchestrated by her in her need of constant attention, to draw them toward her.  Her legacy, it seems, has not been lost on her son, aware of conspicuous behaviour drawing unwanted attention, but the lesson has not been totally assimilated.

The revealing photographs perhaps represent a trajectory of personal revelation, that began, as far as the public may know with fun-loving Kate during her university years wearing skimpy black underwear over which a very sheer garment was worn, and this daring costume was, evidently, what first drew her consort's attention to this vivacious, scintillating young woman whose persona seems, on reflection, quite like that of his mother's.

This deliriously happy young couple, engaged with their adoring public, happen to represent a pair of young people who are pampered, privileged, protected and entitled.  They have been responsible themselves for titillating and beguiling a young woman who is a professional photographer, someone who actually works for a living and who knows she must produce to earn her salary. 

She took advantage of a very obvious opportunity, being in the right place at the right time.

And now this precious couple is hounding her, for doing her job.  We are not amused.

Copies of French magazine Closer showing pictures of Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, and Britain's Prince William are displayed in a newspaper kiosk in Nice September 14, 2012.

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Thursday, September 20, 2012

 The Right To Publish

"To me, these religious hardliners who protest and kill over a crappy film are no different to the people who made the crappy film.  They're all the same pack, a bunch of a--holes."  
Stephane Charbonnier, editor, Charlie Hebdo

Well, that's calling it like it is, isn't it.  And Charlie Hebdo isn't doing too badly out of the little adventure it devised for itself, intent on pricking the balloon of Muslim exceptionality.  The magazine has been selling like proverbial hotcakes in a snowstorm.  And the magazine in the process has fulfilled its mandate yet again.  Provoking public opinion, demonstrating how absurdly antic we all are.

Particularly how sanctimonious we can be about what is sacred and what represents the fear of offending against the wish to demonstrate how absurdly irrational people are in their reactions to what they perceive are insults to their honour - in the case of insults to Islam a mass psychosis of rage against blasphemy deserving the ultimate punishment of death.

Mind, the caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed are by anyone's standard rudely offensive.  But, seen in the context of what the magazine's editors set out to do, prick the propensity of human pomposity, amusing as well.  Since they do reflect in part what is assumed and even documented from the background history of the religion and its original initiate and sponsor.

In preparation for chaotic havoc French police have preempted possibilities by taking up positions outside the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo.  And rather than risk a replay of the Libyan attack against the American Consulate in Benghazi, precautions have been taken in the former French protectorate of Tunisia where 30,000 expatriates make their home.
"This is a satirical paper produced by left-wingers, and when I say left-wingers, that goes all the way from anarchists to Communists to Greens, Socialists and the rest.  Above all it is a secular and atheist newspaper.
"When we attack the Catholic far right ... nobody talks about it in the papers.  It's as if Charlie Hebdo has official authorization to attack the Catholic hard right.  But we are not allowed to make fun of Muslim hardliners.  It's the new rule ... but we will not obey it.
"It shows the climate.  Everyone is driven by fear, and that is exactly what this small handful of extremists who do not represent anyone want: to make everyone afraid, to shut us all in a cave."

Charlie Hebdo may represent the left in all its zany manifestations, but those who are generally held to be behind all that is offensive to Muslims are held to be pawns of the Zionists.  Jews are responsible for everything untoward that occurs in the world, linked inevitably by anti-Semites and just plain old racist bigots to all the troubles that beset the world, particularly the world of Islam.

In the northern Paris suburb of Sarcelles, one person was hurt when two masked men threw a small incendiary device through the window of a kosher supermarket.  Although police hesitate to link the incident to the cartoons, it takes no genius to arrive at that conclusion.  Other than that incident, and a formally lodged legal complaint by a Muslim group against the weekly, no mass protest.

"We saw what happened last week in Libya and in other countries such as Afghanistan.  We have to call on all to behave responsibly", urged French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius.  Official France condemning the offence to its Muslim citizens and the wider world of the Muslim Ummah.  But freedom of speech is also a paramount guaranteed right in the Republic.

As it is in the United States where the offending video the Innocence of Muslims which went on to certify by reaction just how innocent Muslims are.  "We know that these images will be deeply offensive to many and have the potential to be inflammatory.  But we've spoken repeatedly about the importance of upholding the freedom of expression that is enshrined in our constitution. 

"In other words, we don't question the right of something like this to be published, we just question the judgement behind the decision to publish it."  White House spokesman Jay Carney.

Charlie Hebdo, on the other hand, went on to prod the product of ignorance and social psychosis that afflicts the tribal, religious fanatics of the Muslim world to demonstrate yet again how utterly absurd they are in their mind-boggling dysfunction.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Stunning Social Failure

 Too young? Fernandez is being tried as an adult and could face life in jail, which has sparked a fierce debate

What an incredible indictment of society, an utter and complete failure of parents and their extended families to give emotional support and guidance to young children.  And those young children, from infancy onward, left to their own devices to attempt to understand their place in the world that surrounds them.  A world where their parents have no emotional attachment and sense of responsibility.

Where, instead of security and comfort, the child is exposed to neglect and brutality.  A result of which a child who never in his life had any meaningful direction, no one to positively pattern himself after, anyone whose values would be a credit to society, is now, at age thirteen, accused of first-degree murder in the killing of his two-year-old half brother and the sexual abuse of another, five-year-old half-brother.

Children naturally enough know very little but what they observe and what they experience and what they suffer.  What has been done to them and considered normal, is what they have been given instruction to repeat, themselves.  At the age of two, Cristian Fernandez was discovered wandering a street in South Florida, naked, dirty.

He was in the charge of his grandmother, who was herself found to be in a motel room, shooting up cocaine, while his fourteen-year-old mother was absent completely.  His father was convicted of sexual assault and Cristian was sexually assaulted by a cousin, later beaten by his stepfather, who then committed suicide.

The State of Florida has decided in its prosecutorial wisdom in the search for justice to charge the boy as an adult.  He is, understandably, the youngest inmate awaiting trial in Duval County whose conviction of first-degree murder, if he is indeed found guilty, may bring him a lifetime in prison as a consequence of his actions.

This is a child who was horribly deprived of all the comforts and emotional support and societal, ethical and moral guidance that children have every right to expect.  That his direction in life has been morally depraved is the responsibility first of his family, and second - albeit at a remove - of the society in which he lives.

If the young boy is detached from what occurs around him, and reacts without anticipating what will result, it doesn't represent a mystery why that could be.  He should be brought to trial in a youth criminal court.  What this young boy whose needs were denied and himself abandoned to the fate that developed really needs is a return to the very basics of what it is to be a human being.

If rehabilitation is a goal for adult offenders of society's normatives, why would it not be far more of a necessity in recognition of the boy's humanity-  denied, for Cristian Fernandez?

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 Fertility Advance - Or Not

It's considered to represent  a first, a huge medical advance.  The transplantation by specialists at the University of Goteborg in Sweden of a donated uterus in two young women.  One woman had previous surgery to remove her uterus because of cervical cancer, the other born without a womb, and both in their 30s.  T

One of these surgeries is termed by the doctors the first mother-to-daughter uterus transplant.

These women are sterile, absent the biological equipment to carry a pregnancy.  Now it is hoped and anticipated that the women will be able to undergo successful in vitro fertilization to result in pregnancies.  Those pregnancies will provide for the surgeons involved the last word in success of their bold new enterprise.

The doctors will have to be as patient as the women.  A year of observation post-surgery will be required that all has gone well as far as the surgery and the bodies' adaptation to the new transplants are concerned.  Researchers around the world are paying close attention to this new development. 

Fertility experts are understandably anxious to see whether the transplants will result in successful pregnancies.

It does represent a radical approach to fertility treatment in sterile women.  How many women would be prepared to undergo such a track, from hugely invasive surgery to a strict regimen of anti-rejection drugs, to in vitro fertilization treatments?  Better by far, perhaps the use of surrogate mothers.  Or adoption when all else fails.

Michael Olausson, one of the surgeons involved in the transplants felt that the mother-daughter transplant connection might result in a better outcome to "know that the transplanted organ works", and that if the donor is past menopause that has no bearing whatever. 

Doctors will have to monitor how the patients adjust to the anti-rejection drugs to ensure their immune system doesn't attack the donated wombs.

The transplanted wombs will be useful for a maximum of two pregnancies, before removal, to enable the cessation of anti-rejection drugs.  Those drugs have side effects such as high blood pressure, swelling and diabetes, and some fear they may also raise the risk of some kinds of cancer.

"There's no doubt this will be a pioneering step if it's been successful" according tot he chairman of obstetrics and gynecology, University of Glasgow, Scotland.  "At present, the only option for these women is to have a surrogacy - i.e., having their embryos implanted into another woman."

The risks don't stop with drug side effects for the mother; the donated womb would not come complete with all original blood vessels, potentially a risk for the normal development of a baby.  "Pre-term birth is a major risk; a small baby being born.  That's what you'd mainly be worried about", he said.

The procedure might be hailed as a breakthrough, it also represents a highly risky surgical procedure which may result in other, unwanted conditions affecting both the health of the mother and the child.  Surgical experts may always be anxious to attempt all manner of theoretical new transplants simply to prove they have the skill and the dexterity to be 'first' at whatever they're attempting.

Whether that 'first' translates into a practical manoeuvre to solve a vexing personal problem is another thing altogether.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Choices: Live and Let Live

It seems a reasonable enough proposition.  Leave people alone.  Everyone should have the right to choose their way of life.  And that right, optimally given to everyone should not dictate to any how they must and should react to others, sparing any outright acts of gross intolerance, insult or hatred.  Simply go your own way.  And allow others to do the same.

Homosexuals have in the past in Western society suffered great discrimination that made life extremely difficult.  The indignities and misery that they suffered, the fear, insecurity and the violence that often accompanied their passage through life was a marked instance of bigoted discrimination.  That time has now long past. 

Most decent and fair societies recognize equality between people irrespective of gender distinctions.

But there are miserable, small-minded people who exist within all social communities, and the gay and same-sex communities are no different.  Among them there are sufficient numbers of people whose resentment against straights are so profound that only genuflection will suffice to allow them to grudgingly accept that not everyone is interested in their gender distinctions.

Nor should they logically, given human nature, expect that people whose religious faith has taught them that gender differences are not acceptable, would suddenly embrace those differences, abandoning their faith.  As long as these die-hard refusals to acknowledge that many choose same-sex alliances and that is a private matter, there will be resistance.

But a passive resistance is not a criminal act, it is an affirmation of a personal belief that has its basis in culture and religion, and it is tolerable, because under the law there exists guarantees of equality.  Yet because a religious individual politely declines to proffer professional services on request to a same-sex couple gives scant reason for compelling them to act in a manner that offends their human rights.

A family photographer that refuses to be hired by a same-sex couple to document their "commitment ceremony" in New Mexico, a state that does not officially recognize same-sex marriage, is being taken to the state's human rights tribunal for declining to take photographs of other than "traditional weddings". 

The absurdity of a state whose marriage laws discriminate against same-sex unions insisting that an individual be compelled to provide a service she finds personally repugnant is completely nonsensical. 

The nasty, mean-spirited effort of a woman, Vanessa Willock, to compel Elane Photography to bend to her will, despite that she could easily obtain services from any other like photographic company is overwhelmingly unjust.

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Monday, September 17, 2012

Directly to Americans

On Sunday Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took to speaking directly to the American people.  Often when people have a grievance of some kind they avoid speaking to those directly involved and seek out the intervention of a higher authority.  In this instance the higher authority has deigned not to meet with another head of state with whom he has less-than-courteous relations, averse to having pressure of any kind, political or moral, exerted upon him.

"You have to place that red line before them now, before it's too late", Prime Minister Netanyahu urged his audience, speaking on NBC's Meet the Press program.  By so doing, he insisted the United States had the power to reduce the potential of forcing an attack on Iran's nuclear sites.  The idea being that firmness in resolve to commit to direct action take the form of a threat, one that would be well understood by the Islamic Republic of Iran; that could avert a worst-case scenario.

By mid-2013, Mr. Netanyahu insisted his listener's understand, Iran would be "90% of the way" toward its goal of having produced sufficient enriched uranium to proceed with the manufacture of a nuclear weapon.  A defining and definite 'red line' must be drawn, one that would be well understood by the Republic, that their inspiration toward nuclear weaponry is held to be intolerable by the international community.

The U.S.-Israeli gap in the dispute in acknowledging precisely how close Iran has come to achieving its goal is becoming a chasm.  The United States, with its standing military numbers, its superior technological arsenal, coupled with its geographical distance from a possible Iranian nuclear-tipped ballistic missile can enjoy a more relaxed attitude about confronting Iran than can Israel, which has been targeted for extinction by a threatening Iran, and where geographic proximity makes a strike more imminent.

American officials claim Iran has not yet decided on a nuclear "breakout", not yet having committed to the assembling of bomb components, which is, in any event, as far as they are concerned, a year into the future should they decide to proceed.  The Israeli government's timetable is far more advanced.  The Israeli Prime Minister equated the danger of Iran armed with nuclear weapons with the fury now seen across the Muslim world.

"It's the same fanaticism that you see storming your embassies today.  You want these fanatics to have nuclear weapons?"  When he was asked whether Israel, given the obdurance of the Obama administration to the red line demands, was prepared to go it alone, Mr Netanyahu responded: "We always reserve the right to act.  But I think that if we are able to co-ordinate together a common position, we increase the chances that neither one of us will have to act."

As for the Obama administration's position on the matter, it remains as it was.  The U.S. envoy to the United Nations, Susan Rice, has responded on behalf of the administration:  "We will take no option off the table to ensure that [Iran] does not acquire a nuclear weapon, including a military option."  She repeated her president's position that "they are not there yet".

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Sunday, September 16, 2012

Beneath Contempt

It is well understood that in the profession of law and legal defence of someone charged with a criminal offence, a lawyer is charged to do his or her utmost on behalf of a client.  However, in some instances, the challenge to play the advocate on behalf of someone charged with a truly odious defence should have its moral limits, and yet remain well within all the parameters that justice demands.

An adult male who has furthermore a deep knowledge of what is immoral or otherwise, but is still capable of physically sexually attacking a child of ten, repeatedly raping her, threatening her if she informs of what he has done, is beyond reprehensible.  A lawyer, who despite all the incriminating evidence that is beyond dispute that his client committed this dreadful series of acts is himself despicable in defending that client.

All the more so when his defence of his client leads him to charge the child - now three years older, and still a child, having just reached her teen years - with mischief in claiming herself to have been raped by the man, a former custodian of the law himself, as an RCMP officer whose disgraceful conduct in other areas led him to be taken off active duty and held in suspension by the Force.  And whose total disintegration as a human being was completed when he murdered a policeman.

Now, it is the action of Kevin Gregson's lawyer, Craig Fleming, that can be called into question.  By arguing on behalf of his client that the girl - who was ten years old and who trusted him before she was repeatedly raped by Gregson - of giving false evidence though she implored him to leave her alone, and who suffered grievous physical harm above and beyond the psychological pain caused her - it is clear his manner reflects a total lack of humanity.

Doctors who examined the little girl after her claims of having been raped explained that they had never seen a more obvious physical manifestation of violence perpetrated against a child.  Gregson's DNA was recovered along with that of the little girl, and held as hard evidence in the nerve-numbing assaults.  Lawyer Craig Fleming seems to feel he has a trump card in the fact that the child cannot recall what her assaulter was wearing when he first raped her.

This man, in pursuit of his profession, and possibly a reputation as someone with a deviously clever mind has only succeeded in portraying himself as an ignorant lout dedicated not to justice but to advancing his career at the expense of a child's self-awareness and dignity.  He is clearly demonstrating his incapacity as a lawyer, as someone with a readily-shelved conscience.

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Saturday, September 15, 2012

 Charity Taken to New Heights

"We encountered him at an elevation of over 13,000 feet on the fourth day into our climb.  He was wandering on the mountain.  He was wearing torn pants, a T-shirt and light sweater and open-toed sandals, if you can believe it.  It was surreal.
"I was so pleased that we found him when we did because he certainly would not have lasted the night.
"I've been an emergency physician in an Ontario hospital for 17 or 18 years, but I had such an emotional reaction to this - to finding this little boy in that environment.  It was so out of place to find a little lost boy there and he was so scared and so cold.  It was quite emotional."
Dr. Bjug Borgundvaag, emergency department physician, Mount Sinai Hospital

How fitting.  From Mount Sinai to Mount Kilimanjaro.  What else could it represent but an emergency, a small boy on his own, lost, in the final hours of surviving an encounter with death.  The sudden appearance of an emergency room doctor climbing Mount Kilimanjaro on a fundraising climb saved the child's life.  On examination, it was established that the frightened child was suffering from hypothermia and dehydration.

Sean Wisedale / Handout
Sean Wisedale / Handout A porter hugs six-year-old Emmanuel, who was found lost and close to death on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro by a group of climbers from Toronto's Mount Sinai Hospital. "He couldn’t survive another night,” says Dr. Bjug Borgundvaag, one of two emergency room physicians who treated him.
The climbing team of thirteen philanthropists, among them two doctors from Ontario and their porters took care to wrap the child into sleeping bags and a solar blanket, have him drink hot tea, and administered an electrolyte solution and high-carbohydrate food.  "He had been lost for three days and two nights.  Sent by his family to cut grass for their cattle".  

He became disoriented, lost his sense of direction and set about wandering in an attempt to find his way back home.  He had traversed about 40 kilometres trying to find help.  A six year-old child in Tanzania.  No supplies, no shelter.  The nighttime temperature drops there on the mountain to -10C.
"If that boy had not been found then, he would be dead for sure.  He couldn't survive another night."

"It looks a bit like the Moon.  There is no vegetation; it is barren, rocks, stone, all lava rock.  It is a dormant volcano."  Seven hours after the child's rescue a porter carried him down the mountain, leaving him at a police station where people there began work to reunite him with his family in the village of Moshi.

The climbing adventurers, most of whom had managed to summit the 5,l995 metre-high mountain  in Tanzania were successful in their enterprise, raising over $1.3-million to benefit Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto.

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Friday, September 14, 2012

 The Fear Factor

"It promotes tolerance of different ideas and different viewpoints within Canada.  It shows the value of tolerance to Muslims and the Islamic community and teaches them, in Canada, we do have tolerance and diversity and they are simply going to have to tolerate diverse viewpoints and opinions without rioting and without going berserk."  Ron Banerjee, director, Canadian Hindu Advocacy
Mr. Banerjee has decided that his organization should produce a public screening of the Innocence of Muslims, the film produced in the United States by a few Coptic Christians who have a dim view of, and a grudge against Islam and planned to showcase their version of the character of the Prophet Mohammad, as somewhat less than piously well-mannered.

Mr. Banerjee has informed the press that he is in communication with a number of contacts; a Christian Coptic group for one, in his attempts to take possession of a full-length, professional version of the movie, said to be two hours in length, clumsily produced and certain to raise the hackles of Canadian Muslims if it were to be shown in Canada, as planned.

It is highly doubtful that Canadian Muslims would lend themselves to anything remotely resembling what is occurring across the Muslim world in dangerously raging, violent riots.  But it could be assured that running the film anywhere in Canada for whatever proposed reason, including that of "promoting tolerance", would guarantee the exact opposite.  Particularly on the international scene.

A furious mob of enraged Muslims would not descend en masse on Canada, certainly not, but such a deliberate act of contemptful mockery of Islam would most certainly serve to give additional fodder to the collective paranoiac hysteria in the Muslim world.  More mobs of furiously avenging worshippers would roam the streets wherever they live, and they would turn their vicious ire on any vestiges of Western presence.

Just as has occurred in Tunis, where an American school has been attacked and ransacked.  Innocent people might die in the melees that would result.  There is little point in further exacerbating an already dangerous situation with an even more heightened sense of emotional fervour among people for whom there are few civilizing restraints, where the mullahs send the faithful out after Friday prayer to create further havoc.

So, sorry, no, Mr. Banerjee, not a good idea.  Doing so might make Mr. Banerjee feel good about taking some kind of initiative under the banner of furthering tolerance, but what it would actually be doing is demonstrating a lack of common sense, let alone tolerance.  "We are going to end up getting a copy, that is the least of our worries.  The bigger concern is to find a location and provide security."

Shelving that idea would be far more appropriate.  Mr. Banerjee, who is without doubt a decent man should be aware of how volatile the situation is, should be fully understanding of events thinking back to the strained relations in his native India between Hindus and Muslims, and not wish to furnish any more fuel to a hugely incendiary situation.

It's hard to really feel comfortable about agreeing with anything the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations has to say, but on this occasion, it might be a good idea for Mr. Banerjee to take seriously what they are saying, through spokeswoman Maryan Dadabhoy: "Everyone has a right to freedom of speech and can show whatever film they want but, at the same time, you should show respect to those around you.
"This just doesn't make any sense.  If they know it is only going to hurt people and incite more hatred, I don't see how that fits in a multicultural community like Canada.  By doing this it is only going to make things worse.  Just because it is your right to do doesn't mean you have to do it.  The only purpose that comes to mind is inciting hate and upsetting Muslims.  I don't see the purpose of showing it here."
When, in response to his cautionary plea, Mr. Banerjee cites the perceived insults his community feels with the production of films by Canadian directors that show Hinduism in a socially poor light his argument becomes tediously petulant.  "As a minority community, we get victimized because we're peaceful:  We don't behead people, we don't blow up embassies. We are sick and tired of this moral inversion."
"Meanwhile, when it comes to Islam, here are these horrible, horrible reactions and, what's almost worse, is the reaction of society - democratic societies - that seem to bow to it and apologize.  The message seems to be:  You have won because you are violent."
Mr. Banerjee, you are quite correct.  But screening that film will most definitely not be helpful.  It will not, as you suggest, "remove the fear factor".  In response to what Canadian Muslims see occurring across the Globe with their co-religionists it well behooves them to condemn not the foolish film but the extraordinary reactions of those who join insane mobs screaming for revenge.

Maryam Dadabhoy and her associates should make common cause with moderate Muslims and advance the long-overdue cause of bringing enlightenment to Islamic rituals and values and customs to embrace the modern world and to deny those anachronistic elements of Islam that have no place in a modern world of community and mutual respect.

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