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

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

How To React?

"He used to intimidate people whenever he needed them, like bringing people out for street marches in support of the lawmaker. Neighbours would avoid him ... No one wanted to upset him.
"He doesn't belong to any particular political party. Whatever party is in power, he is there."
Ashrafuddin Khan Imu, Awami League leader

"The building has minor damages. There is nothing serious."
Mohammed Sohel Rana
Mohammed Sohel Rana, an uneducated oaf who just happens to have political connections -- in either of Bangladesh's two major political parties capable of holding government office, a local enforcer, and a fairly wealthy landowner has been arrested. He will doubtless be made to stand trial; after all, the world is looking on. Almost 400 impoverished Bangladeshi workers died horribly in the mangled collapse of the eight-story building he had built to house apparel factories.

There are still hundreds of people missing. Authorities have moved in, however, informing the rescuers that their job is finished. After the passage of a week since the collapse of the Rana Plaza building it is hugely unlikely that anyone would be left alive, yet to be rescued. The one lone voice still calling for rescue was stilled when a fire broke out and the rescuers were forced to leave. Once the fire was put out there was not another sound heard from within the wreckage.

It is a scene of utter devastation and horror, with the nauseating odour of death and decay, a visual nightmare signifying a society's failure at protecting the vulnerable among them, in its corrupt rush to further its reputation as the cheapest place on Earth to produce mass-market clothing, so much so that even China recognizes the profit-effectiveness of sub-contracting out to Bangladesh whose factory-worker wages are lower even than China's own.

The building was a massive complex within which an assortment of factories operated on its various floors, with shops and a bank co-located below. It was said that over 3,200 people worked there. None of them would have known that the top three floors of the building had been erected without permit, illegally and with substandard engineering and materials. Had they known, it would have meant little to them.

They depended upon the pittance they earned -- the average wage in the garment-producing industry in Bangladesh is said to be $40 a month -- to feed their families. And that, precisely, is the problem. The international community can shrink in disgust and dismay that their shopping habits helped produce this calamity. And that is true. But withdraw custom from the factories that employ the impoverished workers and they have nothing.

Rana Plaza had been built in 2010  by Mohammed Rana on land he owned that was once a swamp. He amassed his wealth through his political connections, built on a number of government-owned properties that he bought at reduced prices. He obtained a municipal building permit for a five-story building, and then simply added on another three floors. When those warning cracks appeared, he along with factory managers ordered fearful workers to enter the building and resume work as usual.

"I was too afraid to go inside the building. But the factory officials assured us they would also be in the factory, so there should not be any problem", explained a surviving factory worker. The factory owners were in the business of manufacturing items for export at prices that would guarantee them a profit. Wages for workers are set at a level that is hardly reflective of subsistence, but is evidently higher than wages earned elsewhere in the country's economy.

Because of a human rights campaign undertaken by the West in the 1990s against the use of child labour, Bangladeshi factories laid off 30,000 child workers. Later follow-up by Oxfam determined that the children who were released did not return to school, did not manage to live better lives; they took worse jobs or ended up begging in the streets and sometimes turning to prostitution to survive.

The country has a per-capita GDP income of $2,000, one of the lowest in the world. If irate consumer groups agitate against buying products from Bangladesh is it those workers who will suffer. Without even the meager wages that they earn, they and they families will have no income whatever. It is, of course, the government and its bureaucracies that are at fault, corrupt and uncaring.

Which is where the pressure of international public opinion should focus.

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The motion of the Sun in the sky is complicated.

Sure, you might think it’s simple: it rises in the east, gets up high in the sky, and sets in the west. That’s kinda sorta true overall, but if you pay closer attention you’ll notice that that’s only mostly true. It rises earlier every day until the summer, then starts rising later. It gets higher in the summer, and doesn’t rise exactly due east. And it gets to its highest point in the sky at a different time each day.

The Sun's figure-8 annual motion in the sky: the analemma. Click to ensolernate.
Photo by Tunc Tezel, used by permission.

Surprise! I bet you weren’t expecting that!

This figure-8 shape is called an analemma, and it may look familiar to you; it’s sometimes printed in atlases and Earth globes. Tunc went out every day at 12:40 local time (13:40 summer time, to compensate for humans artificially changing our clocks) in Baku, Azerbaijan, on the shores of the Caspian Sea. He then took several pictures using a wide-angle lens, combining them into a mosaic for each day. After a year, he took all the mosaics and combined them showing this 360° view of the ground, and the analemma in the sky. Tunc also put together an animation showing each image one at a time, and it’s fun to watch; you can see how a few cloudy days affect the shot, and watch as construction in Baku changes the landscape, too.

So what causes this weird solar motion? The fault lies not in the stars, but in the Earth. There is a great website called, surprisingly,, which has explanations of all this in detail. But let me give you the overview.
The Earth's tilt
The Earths orbital axis is tilted with respect to its orbit. Note: not to scale! The Sun is over 100 times the size of the Earth, for example.
Illustration by Phil Plait

If the Earth orbited the Sun in a perfect circle, and the Earth’s axis weren’t tilted (in other words, the Earth’s axis were straight up-and-down, at a 90° angle to the plane of its orbit), the Sun would still rise and set, but it would take the same path across the sky at the same time, every day, all year. If you went outside at noon in January, and noon in June, the Sun would be in the same place. It would also rise due east, and set due west, always at the same time, every day.

But this isn’t the case. The Earth’s orbit is slightly elliptical, and the Earth’s axis is tilted by roughly 23.5° to the orbit. These two factors combine to make the analemma. In principle, it’s not too hard to understand.

First, let’s look at the Earth’s tilt.
On the summer solstice, the Earth’s north pole is tipped toward the Sun. In the northern hemisphere, this means the Sun gets high in the sky at noon. But in the winter, when the Earth is on the other side of its orbit, the Earth’s north pole is tipped away from the Sun, so at noon the Sun doesn’t get as high. The difference between highest and lowest point in the sky at noon is twice the Earth’s tilt, or roughly 47°. If at noon on June 22 the Sun were straight over your head, six months later at noon it would be 47° from overhead, or 90° - 47° = 43° above the horizon*.
Earth's elliptical orbit
The Earth orbits the Sun on an ellipse. The scale here is greatly exaggerated for clarity.
Illustration by Phil Plait

So if you measure the Sun’s height above the southern horizon every day at the same time, that height changes. In summer it’s high, in winter it’s low. And that’s why the analemma is extended in the north-south direction.

Now let’s look at the orbit being an ellipse. That means that sometimes (in January) we’re a bit closer to the Sun, and sometimes (in July) we’re farther away. When the Earth is closer to the Sun, it orbits faster, and when it’s farther, it orbits more slowly.

Imagine for a second the Earth didn’t spin on its axis. If that were the case, it would take the Sun an entire year to go around the sky once, and our day would be as long as a year. But, in January the Sun would move across the sky a little faster, and in July it would move a little slower, reflecting the change in the Earth’s speed around the Sun.

But the Earth does spin, at a constant rate. We see the Sun rise in the east and set in the west once every 24 hours or so. But that east-to-west motion is not constant during the year due to our elliptical orbit. Half the year the Sun is moving a bit more quickly to the west, and half the year it’s moving more slowly. So if you go outside at the same time every day and take a picture of the Sun, you’ll see it drift to the west half the year, and to the east the other half. And that’s why the analemma is extended in the east-west direction.

The Earth’s axial tilt moves the Sun north/south over the year, and the elliptical orbit moves it east/west. Combine the two, and you get that crazy figure-8 in the sky.

There are details that confuse this, too, like the fact that the two motions aren’t aligned; the axial tilt contribution is maximized on the solstices, but the elliptical orbit contribution is at a maximum in April and July (near the equinoctes, coincidentally—that’s the correct plural of equinox, by the way). That skews the analemma a bit, making the two loops different sizes.

Not only that, but other planets have analemmae, too! Those shapes depend on their own axial tilts and ellipticities, so the shapes vary quite a bit. It’s interesting to see how tings change planet to planet.

I find the analemma fascinating, and not just because of the science. It’s an amazing reminder that we take a lot of things we see every day for granted, and miss a lot of the cool details when we focus on the here-and-now. The entire Universe is wheeling and careening around over our heads and beneath our feet. If we don’t pay attention, we’ll miss all the fun.

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Virgin Galactic Successfully Tests SpaceShipTwo in Powered Flight

Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo test flight
The first powered test flight of Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo was a success.
Photo by and Clay Center Observatory

Humanity took another small step forward yesterday: Virgin Galactic performed a successful powered test flight of its space plane, SpaceShipTwo (or SS2).

The rocketplane was lofted to a height of 14,600 meters (48,000 feet) by its mothership (White Knight Two), released, and then the rocket motor kicked in. The rocketplane then went to an altitude of about 17,000 meters (56,000 feet), breaking the speed of sound to achieve a velocity of Mach 1.22. The flight lasted 13 minutes, with SS2 gliding back to the spaceport in New Mexico from where it was launched.

This was a critical test, the first powered flight using the rocket motor, and it apparently went quite well.
Virgin Galactic test flight of SS2
View taken from a camera mounted on a boom showing SpaceShipTwo during the powered test flight.
Photo by Virgin Galactic

Virgin Galactic plans on taking paying customers to space using SS2 (and four other rocketplanes based on it built by the same company, Scaled Composites). Like this test flight, they’ll be carried aloft by a plane, released, and then launched into a ballistic parabola, reaching a height of over 100 kilometers—by definition, the boundary of space. The spaceplane will then arc back down, and when it’s low enough it will simply glide back to the spaceport.

Like what you saw? Wanna take a ride? Tickets are $200,000 each, so there you go. Still, Virgin Galactic has sold a lot of seats, including several to researchers. 100 km is high enough, and three to four minutes of weightlessness long enough, to get some good science done. And it’s a lot cheaper than a standard rocket flight.

I’ve heard some grumbling about this, mostly from people who think it’s just a toy for the rich. I don’t see that. First, as I pointed out, there is good science to be done here. Second, everything starts off expensive! The first passenger airplanes cost a fortune and tickets weren’t cheap. Eventually, as tech gets better and flights more routine, prices drop. Certainly there is a minimum cost to a flight like this, and it’ll be dear, but it will be within reach of a lot of people.

And remember, we’re just starting out here. Eventually, this tech can lead to better rockets, easier access to space, and other benefits we don’t see just yet. That’s usually the case when it comes to space exploration.

There isn’t enough money in the world to strap me into one of those planes—I get sick on a kid’s swing set—but I am 100 percent behind this sort of thing. Let Virgin, let SpaceX, let Orbital, let Sierra Nevada, and let all the others blaze this trail to space. Humans may have evolved on this planet, but that doesn’t mean we have to stick around here forever.

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Saturn hurricane snapped by Cassini craft

BBC News online - 30 April 2013
Cassini image of Saturn hurricane In the image, red indicates clouds at lower altitudes, with green representing higher altitude
An enormous hurricane raging at Saturn's north pole has an eye 2,000km (1,250mi) across - big enough to cover the UK 12 times over.

The striking images of the storm were snapped from a height of 420.000km (260,000mi) by the Cassini spacecraft, which arrived at Saturn in 2004.

They were captured in red and infrared wavelengths and have been false-coloured to show detail.
Scientists say the hurricane's winds reach a staggering 150m/s (330mph).
But they do not know just how long the storm has been brewing.

When Cassini first arrived, the north pole was in darkness; it was winter in the planet's 29-Earth-year annual cycle.

Now it has taken some of its first sunlit images of the pole, which has not been seen since the Voyager 2 craft last sent pictures on its fly-by in 1981.

Andrew Ingersoll, a member of the Cassini team based at the California Institute of Technology in California, US, said: "We did a double take when we saw this vortex because it looks so much like a hurricane on Earth."

"But there it is at Saturn, on a much larger scale, and it is somehow getting by on the small amounts of water vapour in Saturn's hydrogen atmosphere."

The team believes the hurricane to be "stuck" at the pole, forced northward by winds in the same way hurricanes tend to move north on Earth.

Cassini caught sight of an even larger storm in 2006 - the first time a hurricane had been seen on another planet.
Cassini image of Saturn hurricane The polar view has become possible because Cassini has changed the angle of its orbit

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Monday, April 29, 2013

Cheating Death

"He was a vegetarian. He never ate any meat during the entire time I was there. And Hitler was so paranoid that the British would poison him -- that's why he had 15 girls taste the food before he ate it himself.
"The food was delicious, only the best vegetables, asparagus, bell peppers, everything you can imagine. And always with a side of rice or pasta. But this constant fear -- we knew of all those poisoning rumours and could never enjoy the food. Every day we feared it was going to be our last meal."
Margot Woelk, 95, formerly a food-taster, employed at the Wolf's Lair, Rastenburg

One of the food testers of Adolf Hitler, Margot Woelk speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in Berlin, Thursday, April 25, 2013. Margot Woelk was one of 15 young women who sampled Hitler's food to make sure it wasn't poisoned before it was served to the Nazi leader in his 'Wolf's Lair,' the heavily guarded command center in what is now Poland, where he spent much of his time in the final years of World War II. Margot Woelk kept her secret hidden from the world, even from her husband then, a few months after her 95th birthday, she revealed the truth about her wartime role. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
One of the food testers of Adolf Hitler, Margot Woelk speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in Berlin, Thursday, April 25, 2013. Margot Woelk was one of 15 young women who sampled Hitler's food to make sure it wasn't poisoned before it was served to the Nazi leader in his "Wolf's Lair," the heavily guarded command center in what is now Poland, where he spent much of his time in the final years of World War II. Margot Woelk kept her secret hidden from the world, even from her husband then, a few months after her 95th birthday, she revealed the truth about her wartime role. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

She did survive, however, even while she had spent two and a half years of her early 20s as a food-tester-taster to ensure that whatever was served up to Adolf Hitler was clear of any additive that might prove inimical to his health and well-being. He did have enemies, external and internal. Unsurprisingly, since he led an Axis political-military movement of governments dedicated to fascism, at war with democratic countries of the world.

He was an ardent vegetarian, he had his scruples, after all. A man for whom the very idea of consuming animals, dead animals, prepared as 'meat' to foul the temple of his body was abhorrent. A fastidious vegetarian with that famous compassion for the welfare of animals common among many Europeans who haven't an iota of care for other humans. So compassionate in fact that there was little left over for other creatures, particularly none for Jews, for Roma, for homosexuals or the elderly or those with compromised health.

They could moulder -- and they did, those that managed to survive the concentration camps -- until liberation. If they were only political prisoners, prisoners of conscience, Christians, survival of their ordeal would be simply a lesson learned. If they were in the sub-human category of Jews, Romas or homosexuals, well the world would be a better place without their contaminating presence. Although more than plenty of those in the former categories also perished.

The Fuhrer was also concerned with the future of his Aryan race. They were to be strong, healthy, the ideal human specimens, hearking back to the days of Greeks taking on the physical attributes of the gods. He thoroughly approved of the Olympic Games, and felt that by hosting them in Berlin, German prowess and skill would have a high-profile presentation. And smoking tobacco and alcohol consumption were frowned upon. Sedentary lifestyles were to be transformed into active, energetic lifestyles. He would transform a culture of indolence and neglectful habits to one that would stand out as a model to the world.

And Margot Woelk and the other fourteen young girls who were tasked to ensuring that the food served up to this supreme commander of the world's potential
The Olympic Torch is carried along a German avenue toward the stadium in Berlin. Below: Aerial view of the massive Olympic Stadium.
future did their part in the total scheme of things. Drafted, like them into civilian service, assigned to her task as food taster. After all those years her memories of what she kept hidden even after her marriage, remained clear enough, though she never had the occasion to see the great man in person.

There was a precedent that made his concerns that he might be poisoned drawn into sharp focus. An assassination attempt that went awry when a trusted German military member detonated a bomb in the Wolf's Lair that failed to kill its target. But which led the target to commit to an example by executing almost five thousand people in a paroxysm of penalizing any who might have dreamed of such a release from hell.

One of her SS friends, she related later, advised her to leave the Wolf's Lair for the good of her own health. One wonders why, if she was able to do so, she hadn't left much earlier, or simply made herself unavailable to act as a food taster for a monster. She returned by train to Berlin and went into hiding.

"Later, I found out that the Russians shot all of the 14 other girls", he explained, after Soviet troops had overrun the headquarters in January 1945. "For decades, I tried to shake off those memories. But they always came back to haunt me at night."

One would imagine so.

Margot Woelk Tells Her Story as Hitler’s Food Taster

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Dhaka building collapse: Hopes for rescue fade 

BBC News online - 29 April 2013
The BBC's Anbarasan Ethirajan in Dhaka: "Rescue teams went inside last night and there was a fire... they had to pull out and they could not save a young woman"
Rescue work on a collapsed building in Bangladesh has entered a sixth day, but officials say they no longer expect to find any survivors. 

Heavy lifting gear is now being used to raise slabs of concrete at the Rana Plaza garment factory, where at least 380 died after Wednesday's collapse.

PM Sheikh Hasina visited the site and some of the victims on Monday.
The owner of the building appeared in court on Monday and was remanded in police custody for 15 days.

Mohammed Sohel Rana - who is one of eight people, including his father, arrested in connection with the disaster - entered court wearing a bullet-proof vest and helmet, and faced angry crowds chanting "hang him, hang him".

An editorial in the Daily Star says Bangladeshi garment manufacturers "have convoluted the idea of 'competitive' and 'cheap'," and workers are "bearing the brunt of this".

Also in the Daily Star, Hameeda Hossain writes: "Even as we mourn the dead... it is time to question why the state has repeatedly ignored violation of laws, why regulatory mechanisms fail to monitor systemic failures, why political patronage confers impunity for corporate crimes."

Muhammad Q Islam writes for bdnews24: "We still have a 47 million strong army of very poor people who will be willing to take all the risks that culminate in injury and death... Our economic policies explicitly rely on continued availability of this work force to fuel our economic growth."

Fariha Sarawat says in the Dhaka Tribune that while buyers should take some moral responsibility for such disasters "the state aids and abates this hostile environment by repeatedly siding with the interests of the manufacturers, instead of the workers."

He is due to be questioned over allegations of negligence, illegal construction and persuading workers to enter a dangerous building.

At least 3,000 are estimated to have been in the Rana Plaza building when it collapsed. About 2,430 are now known to have survived but hundreds are dead or missing.

Some relatives of those missing complained that the prime minister had not spoken to them during her visit to the site.

"We could have talked to her, and she also could have listened to us," said Monowara Begum, the mother of one missing worker.

Sheikh Hasina also visited some of the survivors in hospital. Bangladesh news site BDNews24 said she had assured them they would receive help from the government.
Bangladesh, it has emerged, refused international help with the disaster.

The UN's search and rescue unit, INSARAG, offered its help soon after the building collapsed but was told Bangladesh would manage the situation with its own well-equipped emergency services, reports the BBC's Mark Doyle.


It's unusual for countries to decline help when disaster strikes - whether they are rich or poor.
Hundreds of rescuers converged on Haiti after the 2010 earthquake, for example. They performed similar work to that needed in Bangladesh.
Japan, a far richer country, also accepted lots of help following its earthquake and tsunami in 2011.
Bangladesh's Home Minister Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir said no help was needed because the local emergency services were well equipped.
This would appear to have been contradicted by the sometimes poorly-equipped volunteers scrabbling through the rubble and the apparent starting of a fire by people trying to cut their way through the building.
A senior diplomat with the United Nations' International Search and Rescue Advisory Group said an offer of help was made to Bangladesh very early on "because the lifesaving window of opportunity is in the first few days".
But, according to the diplomat, the Bangladesh government said it would manage the situation through domestic means.
On Sunday night, rescuers working deep inside the rubble were told to leave, as cranes were brought in to begin lifting the heavy blocks of fallen concrete.

"We are proceeding cautiously. If there is still a soul alive, we will try to rescue that person,'' army spokesman Shahinul Islam told reporters.

"We are giving the highest priority to saving people, but there is little hope of finding anyone alive."
Fire brigade chief Brig Gen Ali Ahmed Khan said crews had seen bodies lying on the ground inside, but that "no-one was seen alive".

Rescue co-ordinators said that work with heavy-lifting gear would be done carefully to avoid further collapses and to protect bodies trapped under the debris as much as possible.

On Sunday afternoon, the operation was halted when a fire broke out as sparks from a metal-cutter ignited scraps of fabric in the rubble.
Four firefighters were taken to hospital.

The BBC's Anbarasan Ethirajan says rescuers had been trying to free a trapped woman for a number of hours when the fire began, but they later reported she had not survived the fire.

Mohammed Sohel Rana went on the run following the collapse of his eight-storey building, but was arrested on Sunday close to the Indian border.

Bangladeshi TV later showed Mr Rana - a local leader of the youth wing of the prime minister's Awami League party - in handcuffs after being flown back to Dhaka by helicopter.

Bangladesh's economy

  • A total population of some 150.4m, 88% under the age of 55.
  • GDP in 2012 was around $110bn - the ready-made garment (RMG) industry makes up 80% of all exports, totalling more than $15bn in 2012-13 financial year.
  • About four million people are directly employed in the RMG industry, most of them women, earning an average monthly salary of roughly $40.
Anger at the building's collapse has triggered days of violent protests in Dhaka demanding those responsible be punished and for an improvement in factory conditions.

Garment industry workers across the country were given the weekend off, in the hope that the anger would fade.

But on Monday, thousands of workers walked out of factories in the Ashulia and Gazipur industrial districts shortly after they opened, and staged a protest march, reportedly setting fire to an ambulance.
Bangladesh has one of the largest garment industries in the world, providing cheap clothing for major Western retailers that benefit from its widespread low-cost labour.

But the industry has been widely criticised for its low pay and limited rights given to workers and for the often dangerous working conditions in garment factories.

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Everest: Climbers Steck and Moro in fight with Sherpas

BBC News online - 29 April 2013
File photo of Mount Everest (4 December 2009) The drama is said to have begun at 24,500 feet
Police in Nepal are investigating an alleged fight between two famous European climbers and their Nepalese mountain guides on Mount Everest. 

Switzerland's Ueli Steck and Simone Moro from Italy were nearing Camp Three at 7,470m (24,500ft) when the incident occurred.

The fight allegedly broke out after the pair ignored orders to hold their climb while the Sherpas were rigging ropes.

The guides reportedly attacked the pair after they returned to their tents.

Following the incident, the climbers packed "bare essentials" and made their way back down to Mount Everest base camp, "feeling that this was the safest place to be", said Mr Moro, an experienced Everest climber.

One version of events is that the guides asked the climbers to wait while they went ahead and secured ropes, but the climbers continued and dislodged ice which fell on the guides.

Mr Moro said in a statement that "getting hit by chunks of ice is a very natural occurrence" on an ice face. "As it stands, no Sherpa has come forward to show any injury."

"The climbers believe that the lead Sherpa felt that his pride had been damaged as the climbers were moving unroped and much faster," the statement added.

When they returned to their tents, Mr Moro said a large mob of guides had grouped together to attack him, Mr Steck and a third climber in their expedition, Briton Jonathan Griffith.

"[The guides] became instantly aggressive and not only punched and kicked the climbers, but threw many rocks as well," said Mr Moro.

An unnamed eyewitness told the AFP news agency the incident had been "terrifying to watch - they nearly got killed".

More than 3,000 people have scaled Mount Everest since it was first conquered by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay in 1953.

Straddling Nepal and China, the world's highest mountain has an altitude of 8,848m (29,029ft).

Related Stories

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Sunday, April 28, 2013

Child Abduction

"The government is jut not ready to confront the issue of trafficking or missing children. And this gets reflected in the apathy of the police in dealing with cases of missing children."
Bhuwan Ribhu, lawyer, Bachpan Bachao Andolan (Save the Children Movement), India
Kunwar Pal still looks for his son Ravi Kumar, 12, when he disappeared three years ago. Kunwar Pal has cycled across New Delhi, desperately searching for his son's whereabouts, for clues to his disappearance, to find reassurance that he is well. He visits police and railway stations, children's homes and hospitals. He hands out posters and photographs. The 45-year-old construction worker hopes his son was taken by a couple without children of their own; it is what he prefers to think.

"If they were to let me know somehow that my son is alive, I would be happy. They can keep him. Just let me see his shadow. Just let me know he's safe. If I were rich, my son would have been found by now. If I had money, the police would have taken the case more seriously", he said, wracked with weeping.

India's National Crime Records Bureau has reported 34,406 missing children that were never found in 2011 alone, an increase from the 2009 figure of 18,166. Those involved in trying to understand, attempting to track the problem feel the children are trafficked, forced to beg on the streets, to work on farms or factories as forced labourors. Even having their internal organs harvested and sold. And as for young girls, entered into the sex trade, or sold for marriage.

There is a shortage of marriagable girls in India, thanks to the culture of feticide that takes place so commonly among families preferring a male child over a female child. India has that in common with China, as a result of its one-child official policy and the cultural preference for male children. In both countries young males discover there is a paucity of women their age. Representing a social anomaly and a personal catastrophe.

Formal police complaints are registered in one-sixth of missing child cases. Police prefer not to register such cases, eager to maintain low crime figures. If bribes could be brought to bear police might react as they should, but most parents of missing and abducted children are too poverty-stricken to raise the funds to bribe officials in an overwhelmingly corrupt society.

The first few hours after an abduction, with the parents anxiously attempting to alert police, are the most critical. "The police can cordon off nearby areas, issue alerts at railway and bus stations, and step up vigilance to catch the kidnappers", explained Mr. Ribhu. Delays allow traffickers to move children far away where police have no jurisdiction. And there is no national database of missing children for reference.

In 2006 the Central Bureau of Investigation advised that there existed 815 criminal gangs whose specialty was kidnapping children to induct them into a begging enterprise, for prostitution purposes, or to claim ransom. "Despite our providing the police with all the details of where a child was picked up from, where he was taken, the police are simply not willing to act", said Mr. Ribhu.

When a five-year-old girl had vanished and her parents went in alarm to police, their pleas for action were ignored. Days later neighbours found the little girl in a locked room, dreadfully injured; she had been repeatedly raped, beaten and left for dead; her anguished cries had alerted neighbours to her presence in the very building in which her parents live.

The parents have said the police offered them $37 to say nothing. "They just wanted us to go away. They didn't want to register a case even after they saw how badly our daughter was injured", the father complained. "There have been shortfalls, so the station house officer and his deputy have been suspended", explained New Delhi's police commissioner.

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Truth To Tell....

Those who believe they speak the truth are a rare lot. Believing in their supreme confidence that they know an urban legend from a startlingly, very real, most serious, exceedingly important fact, are patient and abide confidently in their belief that the truth will eventually be more widely recognized.
"Because this is the third-most important issue facing humankind after global warming and changing the monetary system.
"There has been collaboration between one or more of them with the U.S. government and the U.S. Defense Department. They've been sharing technology, some of which they wouldn't want the public to know about. Not only anti-gravity machines, but also diabolical weapons -- so many things that will affect the future of humankind."
Alien intelligence "is like a scroll that opens up in both directions; it has no end, it goes on and on. There are people from other dimensions, too, and a lot of them have visited Earth and they still do. Some of them look very much like us. The species we call the 'Tall Whites' have been seen shopping in Las Vegas.
"The ramifications are just enormous. The question is, what's the end game as far as the people are concerned who have the knowledge and are doing the engineering and building the machines that the aliens showed them that will blow your mind away? If the United States is doing these things, then Russia and China know about it, and are doing the same thing. These are big issues, especially when people are starving.
"Some of the species live 900 years. If you read about Methuselah in the Bible, there might have been some around then. Personally, I have no desire to live 900 years. I have no desire to even live 100."
Paul Hellyer, formerly Minister of National Defence, Canada

Now 89 years of age, the man was always controversial, but not for his belief that extra-terrestrials not only exist, but move freely among us. That eccentric who lives down the street and seems so odd looking may be one, but don't act on it. During his stint as Minister of National Defence, under Prime Minister Lester Pearson, Canada's Nobel Laureate of Peace, Mr. Hellyer dismantled the Canadian Forces as they were traditionally; he controversially integrated the Royal Canadian Navy, the Canadian Army and the Royal Canadian Airforce, and all were similarly uniformed.

A different era, another story altogether, one that is only now, all those 50-plus years later being rectified. Mr. Hellyer is hell bent on changing and charging up public awareness and official recognition of two pet projects of his; the monetary system alterations he envisions are as disparate from the issue of insisting that governments come clean about their activities in keeping mum about the presence of advanced life forms among us, as could possibly be envisioned.

Presumably, because he and those like him find that human intelligence as we know it is deplorable in its lack of superior function in that grey cerebral matter, he has focused on the saving grace of communing with alien intelligence that is presumably infinitely superior to our own. After all, they are time-and-distance travellers; they have parlayed their supreme cerebral functioning to solutions, inventions and conventions that mere humans can only dream of discovering. And with their kindly assistance, we are meant to go forward in this world and on to the next.

Oh, some may believe him to be rather tetched, but on the other hand, he has plenty of company. Roughly 21% of a sampling of Americans appear to agree that a UFO crash at Roswell, New Mexico back in 19847 was suppressed by the U.S. government. Aliens "exist" according to 29 percent who responded to the query: 'Do you believe that shape-shifting reptilian people control our world by taking on human form and gaining political power to manipulate our societies or not?' Hell, I'm halfway to agreeing with them.

Mr. Hellyer and others disposed as he is, intent on uncovering the truth and forcing government to admit to a coverup, plan to attend the Citizen Hearing on Disclosure at the National Press Club in Washington. Witnesses will render opinions and the evidence they have amassed to five former members of the House of Representatives, along with ex-Senator Mike Gravel of Alaska. "When they invited me to take part in this hearing, I told them very candidly that I'm somewhat skeptical about some of the areas that are involved in this."
"From my point of view, the number of UFO sightings would indicate that, even if the numbers are exaggerated, they should be examined and reported to the public. France, Canada, and a few of the others have revealed all the information that they have -- the exception to this rule is the U.S. government. This canard that the American public would panic if there was anything proven is ridiculous. The people ... understand there are many facets of life that are unexplainable, and this is one of them. Are there Little Green Men? I don't know. We'll see what the testimony is."

And to think that planetary observers, astronomers, physicists, brilliant scientists who have made the study of the heavens their life's work have no idea about all of this.  Stunning. And to think of the intellectual and technical resources being wasted by SETI, looking for radio signals from Outer Space in an effort to discover whether or not alien life actually does exist, that extra-terrestrials are out there...  We have known there has been speculation that it does, but they're giving us barbarians wide berth. Mr. Hellyer believes that not to be the case.

He may be right. A few years back during the federal election in Canada, the Natural Law Party was making headlines, demonstrating for those of little patience that Yogic Flying was one of their aptitudes and if they could levitate so entertainingly surely they were ready to govern? Who knows which governments of the world at the present time have been comprised of extra terrestrials? We often enough feel many of them are out of this world; perhaps we just don't recognize their abilities enough to admire them from our earth-bound perspective?

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Dhaka building collapse: Fire breaks out in wreckage

BBC News online -- 28 April 2013
A rescuer injured in the fire is taken from the scene in Savar, Dhaka, Bangladesh A rescuer injured in the fire is taken from the scene
A fire has broken out in a collapsed factory building in Bangladesh's capital Dhaka, hampering efforts to reach remaining survivors of a disaster that has killed at least 377 people.

The fire was started by sparks from cutters being used in a failed attempt to free a female survivor. Four fire-fighters have been taken to hospital.

The owner of the Rana Plaza factory, Mohammed Sohel Rana, was earlier arrested near the Indian border.
He has been flown back to Dhaka.

Mr Rana was said to have been in hiding since the building collapsed on Wednesday.

Smoke was seen pouring from a section of the third floor of the building, stopping rescue work in that area, although efforts continued in other parts.

The eight-storey building in Savar, on the outskirts of Dhaka, was a garment factory and the presence of clothing may have worsened the blaze, correspondents say.

The BBC's Anbarasan Ethirajan, at the scene, says the fire has now been brought under control.
He says rescuers had been trying to free the trapped woman for a number of hours but they later reported she had not survived.

Cutters and heavy lifting equipment had been brought in after officials determined that light equipment could no longer do the job.
Mohammed Sohel Rana Factory owner Mohammed Sohel Rana was arrested near the Indian border
Earlier on Sunday, two people were pulled out alive but hopes are fading that many more survivors will be found.

Thousands of relatives of missing workers are still waiting at the site as survivors and the dead are pulled from the rubble.

At least 3,000 are estimated to have been in the building when it collapsed. About 2,430 are now known to have survived.

There is no official figure on the number of people still missing, but Akram Hossain, a deputy director of the fire service, said their chances of survival were "diminishing by the minute".

Earlier, local government minister Jahangir Kabir Nanak announced the arrest of Mohammed Sohel Rana by loudspeaker at the site of the collapse, to cheers from rescue workers.
The factory owner was detained near the land-crossing in Benapole along the border with India's West Bengal state by Rapid Action Battalion soldiers.

Bangladeshi TV later showed Mr Rana in handcuffs after being flown back to Dhaka by helicopter.
The building housed several garment factories.

Six people, including three factory owners and two engineers, have now been arrested.
Anger at the building collapse has triggered days of violent protests in Dhaka.

On Sunday, garment workers blockaded a main road in a nearby industrial zone of Gazipur demanding capital punishment for those responsible.

Bangladesh has one of the largest garment industries in the world, providing cheap clothing for major Western retailers that benefit from its widespread low-cost labour.

But the industry has been widely criticised for its low pay and limited rights given to workers and for the often dangerous working conditions in garment factories.

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Climate Change or Global Warming? Both.

I haven’t mocked Fox News in a while—it’s so easy it seems almost cruel—but this compendium of dumbosity spewed by that channel needs to be seen to be disbelieved.

The moment I saw the first few seconds I was chuckling ruefully. I’ve known for years that the term “climate change” was in fact promoted by Republican strategist Frank Luntz, who suggested using it because it’s less “frightening” then saying “global warming”*. But as usual, facts won’t stop the talking heads at Fox News, who claim it’s a liberal term. I like how Media Matters (who created the video) put the actual clip with Luntz in at the end.

Earth on fire
Some news channels just want to watch the world burn.
Fire image courtesy peasap's Flickr photostream; Earth image from NASA; composite by Phil Plait.

Ironically, Luntz has a point, though not the one he meant to make. The increase in heat trapped by greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere doesn’t just make things hotter. It changes weather patterns, and can create droughts in one place and flooding in another. Over a long enough time, it will in fact change the climate, so the term is actually correct.

The cavalcade of nonsense continues in that video, with several claims that the Earth is cooling—errr, no, it’s not—and more. The one that always gets me is how deniers somehow think that global warming means no more cold weather and no more snow. Ironically, global warming can increase snowfall, because warmer air can hold more moisture. The average temperatures are increasing, but it still gets cold in winter, so we still get snow, and in some places there’s more snow to fall.

This whole thing with Fox would be funny if it weren’t so damaging. A lot of people only watch Fox News, and while it’s easy to mock Fox for being so reality-deficient, so clearly wrong so often, the fact is for millions of people Fox is their sole news source.

There’s not much that can be done to stop the stream of falsehoods from Fox News, but at least we can try to raise awareness on the side of reality. The more folks who know the truth, the better.

Tip o’ the (rapidly rising) thermometer to DeSmogBlog.

*Correction (Apr. 28 at 16:45 UTC): I originally wrote that Luntz coined the term "climate change", but the term was apparently first used in a 1975 paper by geochemist Wallace Broecker. Luntz heavily promoted the term for the reasons given above. My thanks to Ceth Eslick on Twitter for the correction.

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Saturday, April 27, 2013

Causative Affect

In her column, Christie Blatchford explores why there might not be a case against Rehtaeh Parsons' alleged rapists, who are also accused of passing around a cell phone picture of Rehtaeh, then 15, having sex as she vomits out a window.
A  young girl is dead. That is the final paragraph of a story that has shocked Canada. Not for the first time, nor the last. Each time brings its own shock of disbelief. That a young boy, a young girl, hovering on the brink of maturity acts on the impulse to end what has only just begun. There should be a much, much longer space between birth and death. There should be episodes enough of happiness and inspiration, expectations and satisfaction reached to expunge the bitterness of episodic disappointment and regret.

Someone in their teens deciding that they cannot wait for deliverance from the anguish they find themselves in has made that precipitate determination that theirs is a future without value for them. In depriving themselves they deprive those who love them who will bear the burden of sorrow. They have left behind their legacy to the world, a truncated life of imagined triumphs that will never be realized. Their future is surrendered.

From the perspective of a mature mind the puzzle will always be what could possibly have been seen as so horribly painful that a young person would prefer death over life? The silent, blank and very dark finality of it is so irretrievably and unmercifully final. From death there is no return, no lingering uncertainty whether after all one regrets the decision and prefers to turn time back, a rescue from the finality of non-existence.

It is the depth of that despair that should be remembered in the case of Rehtaeh Parsons, who committed herself to the unforgiving forever of death. Her belief that life no longer held any value for her, that the pain she was suffering was so intolerable that death was preferable. Leaving behind everything that ever might have held her to life in favour of abandoning it all.

A brief time of abandonment to a hedonistic pleasure that held consequences she was not prepared to face. Hormone- and youth-culture, thrill-seeking abandonment, an innocently guilty foray into the forbidden territory of adult yet teen-centric sexual activities. And then, the dreadful pangs of regret, of concern for reputation, of pain that accompanies peer contempt and derision.

Rejtaeh Parson was not as resilient as many other young girls. She hadn't the self-confidence that would carry her over the demeaning period of regret, conscience and confusion that alienated her from her decision to defy convention for a brief foray into the complete relaxation of acceptable behavioural standards. She was unwilling to pay the price for liberating herself however briefly from the social contract.

Not when that liberation came complete with the social judgement that so swiftly followed. She was a more than willing participant in the partying event that sullied her reputation as a slut. It was freedom from convention and caution, and it was light-headed fun. It was without doubt all of that for the boys whose adventure it represented to take advantage of an opportunity while they and she were both under the influence of alcohol.

That those boys chose to display evidence of her having succumbed to that reckless behaviour that bespoke a certain amount of self-abuse, speaks hugely of their lack of compassion for another young person living in a world where males are excused rudely abusive behaviour and females are not. Rehtaeh's girlfriend was clearly invested with a greater sense of self-awareness and self-respect.

She anxiously attempted to guide her friend, but was rebuffed. Which did not stop her from trying again, returning with her mother to attempt to convince Rehtaeh to remove herself from her dangerously compromising activities. That they both failed represented a complication in the ability of others to influence the behaviour of those other than themselves absent common values and perceptions.

The episode in juvenile exploration of freedoms for which they are unprepared and as yet unfit, ended horribly for one participant. If there is any guilty party it is perhaps the blatant culture that has evolved of youth entitlement to shun adult advice while taking on adult behaviour as practised by children incapable of understanding the realities of consequences.

The stupidity of young boys parading and celebrating a conquest emulates the behaviour of many adult men whose emotional level of maturity has never been satisfactorily attained. But the fault lies also in a teen culture that seeks to find victims to deride, to make examples of, to hold in contempt, while secretly being grateful that they are not themselves like those losers.

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Dhaka building collapse: Factory owners arrested

BBC News online - 27 April 2013
The BBC's Andrew North in Dhaka: "This is really now a race against time"
Two owners of garment factories in the building that collapsed on the outskirts of the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka have been arrested. 

Mahbubur Rahman Tapas and Balzul Samad Adnan are suspected of forcing staff to work in the eight-storey building, ignoring warnings about cracks.

At least 336 people are known to have died after the Rana Plaza in the suburb of Savar collapsed on Wednesday.

On Saturday morning, at least 24 more people were rescued from the rubble.
Rescuers and volunteers, who worked through the night, cheered as they were brought to safety.

I have just seen a woman pulled alive from deep inside the rubble of the Rana Plaza, four days since this huge garment factory complex collapsed.
She was crying as she emerged into the light on what was once the roof of the building. Rescuers shouted Allahu Akbar (God is great) as she was brought up on a rope and then carried away on a stretcher.
Emergency personnel say up to 14 more people are still trapped on what was the fifth floor of the building and work is under way to free them.
Hundreds of volunteers are still helping army and emergency services. Bodies are also still being retrieved from this massive tangle of concrete and metal.
There have been more clashes with police and protesters near the site as anger simmers over the disaster.
We passed dozens of riot police on the drive here, some were guarding other nearby garment factories following attacks on several others.
Earlier, rescue teams said they had located about 40 survivors on the collapsed third and fifth floors of the building.

Officials said they were working to extricate the remaining survivors and had passed oxygen cylinders and water to those still trapped.

Among those pulled out alive after three days in the rubble was Marina Begum, 22, now recovering in hospital.
"It felt like I was in hell," she said.
"It was so hot, I could hardly breathe, there was no food or water. When I regained my senses I found myself in this hospital bed."

More bodies of victims were also retrieved overnight and on Saturday morning.
Some 3,000 people are believed to have been working in the building at the time of the collapse and about 600 are still missing. Rana Plaza housed three garment factories, a bank and a number of shops.
Watching the operation are hundreds of relatives of those still missing, many clutching photographs of their loved ones.

Abul Basar wept as he awaited news of his wife who worked in one of the garment factories.
"My son says that his mother will come back some day, she must return," he cried.

Mr Tapas and Mr Adnan, the owners of the New Wave Bottoms and New Wave Style factories, were remanded in custody for 12 days by a court on Saturday. They were arrested earlier in the day after turning themselves in.

Deputy chief of Dhaka police Shyami Mukherjee said the two were accused of causing "death due to negligence".

The owners reportedly told their employees to return to work on Wednesday, even though cracks were visible in the building a day earlier.
Three other clothing factories were reportedly operating in the building.

Police are also questioning two municipal engineers who are reported to have approved the safety of the building a day before it collapsed.

The owner of Rana Plaza, Mohammed Sohel Rana, is said to have gone into hiding.
"Those who're involved, especially the owner who forced the workers to work there, will be punished," Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina told lawmakers on Friday.

"Wherever he is, he will be found and brought to justice," the prime minister added.
There is widespread anger in Bangladesh over the disaster and fresh clashes between police and protesters erupted again on Saturday.

Rescuers at scene of building collapse, Dhaka. 27 April 2013 Rescuers say many people are still trapped. Picture: Andrew North
On Friday, police used tear-gas and rubber bullets to break up crowds that had blocked roads, set fire to buses and attacked textile factories.

Protesters are demanding that the government arrests all those responsible for the disaster and improves conditions for garment workers.
Police are guarding other garment factories in the area.

Bangladesh has one of the largest garment industries in the world, providing cheap clothing for major Western retailers that benefit from its widespread low-cost labour.

But the industry has been widely criticised for its low pay and limited rights given to workers and for the often dangerous working conditions in garment factories.

Primark, a clothes retailer with a large presence in Britain, confirmed that one of its suppliers was on the second floor of the Rana Plaza, and said it would work with other retailers to review standards.
Labour rights groups say the companies have a moral duty to ensure their suppliers are providing safe conditions for their employees.

UK fashion designer Katharine Hamnett has called on fashion brands to insist on safer working conditions for garment workers internationally.

"The price of clothes may be low but they are paid for with human lives," she is reported to have said at the Vogue Festival in London on Saturday.

"We should demand credible, certifiable inspections on building structures and industry standards."
She added: "This is a very dark day for the clothing industry."

Meanwhile, the Bangladesh Communist Party and left-leaning Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal party have called a general strike on 2 May to demand punishment for those found responsible for the deaths.

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Thursday, April 25, 2013

Corn and Soy are Very Bad for Your Dog’s (Cat’s) Short and Long Term Health

In this article - the importance of eliminating Corn and Soy from your dog's and cat's diet, failure to do so can cost your dog and cat it's health and shorten its life-span.

Corn and Soy are NOT species appropriate foods for dogs and cats;
  • Corn and Soy (in North America) are grown from genetically modified, round-up ready 'agent orange' seeds:
  • Remember agent orange and the Vietnam War?
Large Factory Farm corn and soy: 
    • Are a source of carcinogens and toxins;
    • Contain endocrine disruptors;
    • Contain very high levels of pesticides.

Species Inappropriate

Grains are not part of a dog’s (or cat’s) natural diet - you can read more about that here. When a dog or cat is fed a diet that includes corn and/or soy and related derivatives the dog’s health is placed at grave risk.

Genetically Modified

Corn and soybeans in the USA and Canada are almost all grown from Genetically Modified (GM) seeds (shame on Monsanto!).
The long term affect of ingesting GM food is not known. 

Genetically modified corn has now been proven to cause the growth of tumors.

High Levels of Photoestrogens and Phytates

Large factory farms use a method to process soy that:
  • Creates very high levels of photoestrogens in the processed soy; 
  • Creates very high levels of phytates in the processed soy; 


Photoestrogens mimic the body's natural estrogen hormones;
  • For males this can lead to increased of cancer and reproductive issues;
  • For females this can lead to cancer and reproductive issues;
  • Photoestrogens are so powerful that a baby that consumes soy formula can end-up consuming the equivalent of 4 birth control pills a day;
  • Now compare the weight of a baby to that of many smaller dogs and to cats - and consider that many dog and cat foods have a high content of soy;
  • In addition it is important to note that any system in the body that is controlled by hormones, can be severely adversely effected by endocrine (hormone) disruptors; 
    •  Hormone disruptors are known to cause:
      • Learning disabilities;
      • Severe attention deficit disorders, hyper activity;
      • Cognitive and brain development problems;
      • Cancer.;
Goitrogens - a potent anti-thyroid photoestrogent present in soy, can cause thyroid disorders...
  • An ever increasing number of dogs are afflicted by thyroid problems - the source of the problem - soy in commercial dog and cat food and treats;
    • A mal-functioning thyroid can effect a dog's (cat's) physical well being and mental well being; 
    • A malfunctioning thryoid can be a contributing factor to aggressive-reactive behaviour in dogs.
  • Prevent the absorption of minerals;
  • Prevent the digestion of protein by interfering with the proper functioning of enzymes that digest protein.
    • This is serious trouble when you consider that the dog is already consuming a product that is low in nutritional value.  
    • Traditional methods of processing soy by fermentation (as used in Japan and China) greatly reduces photoestrogens, and phytates, thus making consumption of the resulting soy, safe and nutritional.

High Levels of Pesticides

Large factory farm soybean crops receive heavy applications of the potent herbicide glyphosate a powerful toxin and carcinogen. 
As a result, the vast majority of soy derivatives  used in both feedstock and human food is contaminated with high levels of glyphosate, i.e.:
  • Soybean oil;
  • Soy meal;
  • Soy milk;
  • Tofu, etc.;
Soy has one of the highest concentrations of pesticides in North American crops;

Consider that a dog that is on a grain-in diet:
  • Is already dealing with strain on its system as the diet it is on cannot meet its nutritional needs;
  • The dog's, cat's kidneys and liver are forced to work overtime to process the build-up of toxins ingested with the soy and corn;
  • The dog is also forced to ingest pesticide which will further grow the toxic loading on its system.


Presence of Aflatoxins

Aflatoxins grow mainly on grains but they also grow on legumes - like peanuts, walnuts and pecans. This is one reason why you will hear some people say do not give your dogs nuts! Actually it is fine to give your dog peanuts or peanut butter - they are a good source of nutrition - just make sure you are giving them human grade. 

Aflatoxins can also be found in cottonseed oil, fish meal and peanut oil. 
  • Human grade foods are monitored for aflatoxins;
    • If aflatoxins are identified as being present, the product (such as grain) is not allowed to be sold for use in human food;
  • There are no such regulations for animal grade foods so aflatoxins are present in most commercial grade dog, cat and bird food;
  • A dog's or cat's body can usually detoxify small amounts of aflatoxins, however;
    • When aflatoxins are constantly present in the diet the liver and kidney cannot keep-up and as a result toxic loading on the dog's/cat's system increases.
    • The toxic load increases exponentially when the body is already struggling to process a host of other toxins. 
Aflatoxins cause liver cancer.

So, to Protect the Health of your Companion Animal...

Check the ingredient list on your dog's, cat's
dry and wet food and treats and make sure that there is no corn and no soy  in your dog's / cat's food.

the Ottawa Valley Dog Whisperer Services
  • Training;
  • Behaviour Modification;
  • Rehabilitation;
  • Nutrition;
  • Health
Whether you are experiencing dog behavior problems and would like assistance, or just want to bring your dog up to be a well-balanced canine -  I offer both a local and international service for people with one or multiple dogs. 
I work with all breeds - from small (i.e. Yorkie, Pomeranian, Chihuahua, etc.), medium breeds size (including Pit Bulls) and large breed dogs...
International e-Consultation 
Contact me at
Office 613-622-7958
Cell 613-293-3707

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