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Friday, December 31, 2010

Catherine Porter: "Haitian universities are a lesson in hard knocks" (Toronto Star article)

Good article by Catherine Porter on the state of Haiti's educational system.

"The state university runs on $10 million a year — about $384 per student. By comparison, York University had a 2009/10 budget of $895 million for 47,000 full-time students — more than $19,000 per student."

Full article: Haitian universities are a lesson in hard knocks:

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

David Goutor on the "great opportunity staring the NDP in the face" (in the Toronto Star)

David Goutor is a Canadian historian and assistant professor of labour studies at McMaster University.

"Countries that have embraced right-wing economic policies, led of course by the United States, are generally the ones in the biggest trouble. Ireland, to cite another case, used to be the darling of free-marketeers everywhere, including Tory Finance Minister Jim Flaherty; it now stands as an example of not only the catastrophic results of unrestrained financial recklessness, but also the failure of austerity measures to reassure financial markets.

"Countries that have followed the social democratic models favoured by the NDP have fared much better. Northern Europe and especially Germany have proven more stable — and crucially, their people have felt a lot less pain. What’s stopping the NDP from making a simple, compelling comparison: Germany or the U.S., which model seems to be working? ...

"The fact is, social democratic parties like the NDP still have a great opportunity staring them right in the face — all they need is faith in their principles and, above all, the political will to seize the moment."

Full article: The NDP: Keep the faith and turn left.

Linda McQuaig on "trickle-up" economics (in the Toronto Star)

Another great article by Linda McQuaig.

"Recent research — particularly the work of British epidemiologists Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett — shows that less equal societies almost always have more violence, more disease, more mental health problems, higher infant mortality rates, reduced life expectancies, as well as less social cohesion. ...

"Those wanting to give their children a chance to actually live the American Dream are better off moving to Sweden."

Full article: Canada discovers trickle-up economics

Friday, December 24, 2010

Solar-powered plane lands safely after 26-hour flight (BBC News)

BBC News - Solar-powered plane lands safely after 26-hour flight.

Catherine Porter: Tugged between two girls in two different worlds (article in the Toronto Star)

Another moving article by the Star's Catherine Porter, on the very different lives of two little girls, Lyla (Porter's daughter) and Lovely (the little Haitian girl who survived being trapped under rubble for 6 days).

"But does Lovely know about Lyla? I’ve shown her photos on my iPhone, only to get a blank stare. Perhaps it has registered that this strange white woman who shows up every other month has a little girl of her own. But how could she imagine our lives — a place with lots of food and buildings that don’t break, and schools that are free, and hospitals that don’t charge and dentists that give out stickers?

"I wouldn’t believe in such a world, if I was her. It would sound like a cruel joke."

Full article: Porter: Tugged between two girls in two different worlds.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Medical association president gives care to homeless (article in the Toronto Star)

Article about Dr. Jeff Turnbull, president of the Canadian Medical Association.

"A couple of days every week ... Turnbull checks up on patients in his volunteer role as medical director of Ottawa Inner City Health. The project, which he co-founded in March 2001, led to him receiving the Order of Canada in 2007....

"'Obviously, I feel strongly about equity in health care and this has given me the opportunity to talk about that,' Turnbull says of heading up the CMA.

"But he also argues that providing better health care to the homeless is also just cost-saving common sense.

"'I would see people coming back to my emergency department time and time again,' Turnbull says, ..."

Full article: Medical association president gives care to homeless.

Patrick Corrigan: Christmas gift of F35 fighters (cartoon)

Cartoon by the Toronto Star's Patrick Corrigan, Dec. 19,2010)

Carol Goar: Christmas destination: Haiti to fight cholera (in the Toronto Star)

"On Dec. 2, Médicins Sans Frontières put out the call for health-care professionals who could leave on short notice and stay for a minimum of a month. They would be sent to one of MSF’s 31 cholera treatment centres, some of which are in remote areas still devastated by last January’s earthquake. They’d be part of a team of 150 MSF recruits and 1,000 Haitians, meaning they might not be working in their own language or practising alongside anyone they knew.

"The bulletin didn’t mention they’d be living in tents, but most will. It didn’t say the workload would be onerous, but with 135,000 Haitians already infected, they’ll have to treat hundreds of cholera victims a day. It didn’t allude to the anger and violence festering in the wake of last month’s election, but they’ll be working in an atmosphere of tension and instability. ...

"It took less than two weeks to come up with enough volunteers. ...

"With a full complement of recruits, MSF can now start bringing home the 25 exhausted Canadians who’ve been in Haiti since October setting up cholera treatment centres and rehydrating victims of the disease."

Full article: Goar: Christmas destination: Haiti to fight cholera.

Pervez Hoodbhoy on the history of Pakistan and the role of the Left in it

Pervez Hoodbhoy teaches at Quaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad. Some of his talks can be obtained from Alternative Radio, in particular a fascinating talk called "The War within Pakistan".

Article by Pervez Hoodbhoy, in NewPolitics, Summer 2010, on the history of Pakistan and the role of the Left in it.

Quote: "Instead of chasing demons, Pakistan’s leftists need to reaffirm their allegiance to what truly matters: the ideals of economic justice, secularism, universalistic ideas of human rights, good governance, women’s rights, and rationality in human affairs."

Required reading for anyone interested in Pakistan!

The real reason for the war in Afghanistan?

Article by Canadian energy economist John Foster in the Toronto Star, dated Dec. 23 2010.

"On Dec. 11, President Hamid Karzai signed formal agreements for a natural gas pipeline to be built through Afghanistan. Leaders of Turkmenistan, Pakistan and India signed, too. Three weeks earlier, at the NATO summit in Lisbon, Afghanistan became an “enduring partner” of NATO. Neither event captured much attention here, yet both have consequences for Canada’s role in Afghanistan."

Full article: Canada’s ‘enduring’ Afghan role.

Could the US and Canada please explain how they expect to guard a gas pipeline through territory controlled by hostile tribal warriors, who have successfully fought off all invaders since Alexander the Great - and maybe before?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

WikiLeaks: Mauritius Contests Legality of Marine Reserve Near Diego Garcia

From Democracy Now! Headlines for Dec. 22, 2010:

"There has been political fallout from a WikiLeaks cable related to the U.S. military base on Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. The nation of Mauritius announced plans on Tuesday to contest the legality of a new maritime reserve park around the disputed Chagos Islands after a leaked U.S. cable suggested the park was a ploy to stop uprooted islanders returning home. Britain leased the archipelago’s biggest island, Diego Garcia, to the United States in 1966, paving the way for the construction of a huge airbase which required the forced removal of some 2,000 Chagossians. Publicly, the British portrayed the establishment of the marine park as a move to save the environment. But a U.S. diplomatic cable dated May 2009, disclosed by WikiLeaks, revealed that a British Foreign Office official had privately told the Americans that the decision to set up a marine protected area would 'effectively end the islanders’ resettlement claims.'"

Democracy Now! | Headlines for December 22, 2010.

This hopefully will help to shed light on a major human rights violation on the part of the US and UK, described as fitting the criteria for a true "crime against humanity" in the 2005 paper "Deception and Dispossession: The British Government and the Chagossians" by Mary Nazzal for

Joseph Stiglitz: "Full speed into the sinkhole of austerity" (in the Toronto Star)

Article by Joseph Stiglitz in the Toronto Star.

"Both the United States and Europe, for instance, must retrofit their economies to address the challenges of global warming. There are feasible policies that would work within long-term budget constraints. The problem is politics: in the U.S., the Republican party would rather see President Barack Obama fail than the economy succeed. In Europe, 27 countries with different interests and perspectives are pulling in different directions, without enough solidarity to compensate. The bailout packages are, in this light, impressive achievements.

In both Europe and America, the free-market ideology that allowed asset bubbles to grow unfettered — markets always know best, so government must not intervene — now ties policy-makers' hands in designing effective responses to the crisis. One might have thought that the crisis itself would undermine confidence in that ideology. Instead, it has resurfaced to drag governments and economies down the sinkhole of austerity."

Full article:Full speed into the sinkhole of austerity.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Missing unicorn in Manhattan (LA Times)

Article in the LA Times, Nov. 19, 2010.

The history of unicorns and the case of one gone missing in New York City .

Grist: From Motown to Growtown: The greening of Detroit

Article by Tom Philpott, 24 Aug., 2010

From Motown to Growtown: The greening of Detroit.

Large areas constitute a "food desert", where residents find it more difficult to access healthy food than junk food (comparing distance to supermarkets vs. distance to convenience and liquor stores). However, there are so many empty lots that Detroit is a promising area for local, in-city farming. Also, there are many abandoned warehouses that can be repurposed for food processing.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Carol Goar describes a win-win way for Harper to cut costs

Carol Goar of the Toronto Star:

"Prime Minister Stephen Harper has a small problem on his hands. The efficiency expert he appointed to scrutinize government spending in search of waste, duplication and red tape has come up with an awkward recommendation."

Sensible advice for waste-cutting Prime Minister.

Gwynne Dyer: Who told Barack Obama that the United States is fighting al-Qaeda in Afghanistan?

Typically clear-sighted analysis by Gwynne Dyer: Who told Barack Obama that the United States is fighting al-Qaeda in Afghanistan?

So maybe icecap melting is not technically irreversible...

But you have to read the small print! The cited article appeared under the byline Marlowe Hood, Agence France-Presse, Dec. 16, 2010. An acquaintance of mine seems to think (presumably based on the very misleading headline) that this means that climate change is no longer a concern. However, if you read the whole thing, you will find this paragraph (way down near the end of the article):

"But the study, based on computer models, indicates that if annual emissions of greenhouse gases are substantially reduced over the next two decades, an initial phase of rapid ice loss would be followed by a period of stability and, eventually, partial recovery." (my italics)

Since there seems to be an emerging consensus that there isn't a snowball's chance in h*** of substantially reducing GHGs ever (or at least while our species is still around in anything like our current numbers), let alone in the next few decades, the article is at best useless, and at worst positively misleading (especially if, like my acquaintance probably did, its readers saw the headline and stopped there).

"'But it's also an incentive for mitigating greenhouse gas emissions,' [University of Washington professor Cecilia Blitz, coauthor of the study] said in a statement." This at least is not actively misleading - even though it's basically whistling in the dark!

Full article (much copied over the last few days): "Arctic icecap safe from runaway melting: study".

I Hate Math! (Not After This, You Won't)

On the NPR blog called "Krulwich Wonders" (Dec. 16, 2010).

Vi Hart's joyful mathematical doodles - plus a reference to Paul Lockhart's essay called "A Mathematicians' Lament", describing the sad state of mathematics education in N. America (and probably the world).

I Hate Math! (Not After This, You Won't) : Krulwich Wonders… : NPR

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Insights Give Hope for New Attack on Alzheimer’s (NYTimes report)

Report in the New York Times (Dec. 13, 2010), sent to me by Richard LeWars - thanks Richard!

Insights Give Hope for New Attack on Alzheimer’s.

Mona Eltahawy: Mideast women log on, speak out (Special to the Toronto Star)

"Her [Salma, 17] message and others like it, each reporting incidents of groping, catcalling and other forms of street sexual harassment in Egypt, have been plotted as dots on a map of the country — part of the appropriately named HarassMap website. The site, which debuted this month, encourages women to send in their reports of harassment via email, text message, Twitter or Facebook.

"The goal: to chip away at complacency about sexual harassment in Egypt, one dot at a time."

Full article: HerSpace: Mideast women log on, speak out.

Haroon Siddiqui on why Obama went to India (in the Toronto Star)

"While the president was sending two public messages — one to Americans that he was increasing trade and jobs, and another to Indians that he wants India on the Security Council — he was lobbying Singh on the need to address India’s relations with Pakistan. Singh is already predisposed to doing so, if Pakistan would control cross-border terrorism.

"Obama’s mission was to break that logjam — in order to break the bigger one in Afghanistan to find an honourable way out."

Full article: Siddiqui: Obama plays Indian wild card on Afghanistan.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Thomas Walkom on why he's rooting for Assange (in the Toronto Star)

"In such a world [the world of widespread surveillance, no-fly lists, etc.] it’s refreshing — if perhaps mean-spirited — to see governments suffer the embarrassment of having their tawdry little secrets revealed.

"So here’s to you, Julian Assange. You may be a rat in your sex life. Yet for those of us who don’t have to sleep with you, but do have to live in this Big Brother world, you’re doing something to even the score."

Walkom: Assange may be a cad but he's evening the score.

Moved to tears, former GG reveals her plans to save Haiti (interview in the Toronto Star)

Michaëlle Jean, born in Haiti and former Governor-General of Canada, now UNESCO’s special envoy to Haiti, being interviewed by the Toronto Star's Catherine Porter.

Talking about her adopted daughter, Marie-Eden, "She could have been illiterate. Dead.

"What about Lovely [the little girl found under the rubble after 6 days] and the many, many, many, many other Lovelys? Two little girls with the same potential and not the same opportunities. That is terrible. That, I cannot live with. ...

"The world owes this [financial help] to Haiti. Haiti has achieved something for humanity we can’t forget. It is the place in which slaves fought and triumphed over . . . slavery. When Haiti did that, they didn’t do it just for themselves. It was a legacy to humanity. But they paid a high price for that."

Catherine Porter: The price: first an embargo by its major trading partners worried the Haitian success would inspire their own slaves to revolt; then a crippling retribution fee for “lost property” to its former slave owner, France. That fee — set in 1825 at 90 million gold francs — took more than a century to be paid.

"We the world, we humanity, owe to this little country that really left us the legacy of fraternity, freedom, liberation, equality, human dignity," Jean says. "It means something. It’s about values."

Moved to tears, former GG reveals her plans to save Haiti.

It is often forgotten that in 1779 Haiti sent more than 500 volunteer soldiers to help America with its revolution. They now have a monument in Savannah, GA, but the world, especially the US, owes them much more than that.

James Travers analyzes the "Angry Birds" phenomenon (in the Toronto Star)

"What are Sarah Palin, Rob Ford, Don Cherry or Julian Assange if not angry birds? What are political leaders, investment bankers, coddled bureaucrats and other grasping elites if not egg-stealing pigs? What are parliaments, banks and multinational corporations if not soaring stone, glass and steel strongholds protecting the privileged? ...

"Like most overnight phenomena, this one has been a long time coming. Little by little, by stealth and increment, the command-and-control that we-the-people took centuries to strip from kings, queens and courtiers has been retaken by the new overlords. ...

"Now at the very pinnacle of political success, the Prime Minister, his ministers and acolytes make a point of looking down their noses at the privileged 'elites' they hope no one will notice that they have become."

Full article: Travers: False politicians are birds of a feather

Friday, December 17, 2010

Google Book Tool Tracks Cultural Change With Words

This appeared on the NPR web site (Dec. 16, 2010), and was sent to me by Richard LeWars - thanks Richard! Fascinating stuff - especially for an anthropologist/linguist like me!

Google Book Tool Tracks Cultural Change With Words : NPR.

Chantal Hébert: After five years, Harper’s legacy a blank slate (in the Toronto Star)

"If the Prime Minister were to quit tomorrow, the government bills passed on his watch might not take more than a page — and none would be deemed significant enough to grace his political gravestone. ...

"A legislative machine that is essentially reprocessing the same old material over a period of years is not a normal feature of minority rule. In the past, some of the most activist federal and provincial governments have been minority ones.

"But a paucity of significant legislation is not synonymous with the absence of an agenda. ...

"To maximize his control over the government, the minority Parliament and the civil service, the Prime Minister has recurrently ventured where none of his predecessors had dared to tread."

Full article: Hébert: After five years, Harper’s legacy a blank slate.

"30 years on the beat and I still like politicians" (Jim Coyle in the Toronto Star)

The Toronto Star's Jim Coyle is leaving Queen's Park (the home of the Government of Ontario) to join the Star's features team.

Jim provides a characteristically warm-hearted evaluation of politicians and his 30 years covering them, and a nice counterbalance to all the negative press they get normally!

Coyle: 30 years on the beat and I still like politicians.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Patrick Corrigan: The WikiLeaks Genie (cartoon)

Cartoon by the Toronto Star's Patrick Corrigan - Dec. 12, 2010.

TechNewsDaily: The Ubiquitous Computing Revolution is Here

Stuart Fox in TechNewsDaily (, 13 Dec., 2010.

Quote: "Your computer is disappearing. And when it goes, you won’t even notice it's gone."

The Ubiquitous Computing Revolution is Here | Personal Computing Revolution, Mobile Devices & Tablet Computers | Tech News Daily.

In fact I wrote about "ubicomp" in my 1994 book "Flow-Based Programming", citing an article in Communications of the ACM (Wellner et al., 1993). I guess it's finally arrived!

The Cookie That Doesn’t Crumble: A Browser Cookie That Won't Go Away? - PCWorld

Article by Alessondra Springmann, PCWorld, cited in Sunbelt Software Security News, Vol. 3, #93 - December 15, 2010 - Issue #93.

The Cookie That Doesn’t Crumble: A Browser Cookie That Won't Go Away? - PCWorld

By the way, Sunbelt offers a free resource called VIPRE Rescue that will scan and clean an infected computer that is so infected that programs cannot be easily run. VIPRE Rescue is updated regularly with the latest virus definitions, so always download the latest version from their site.

Haroon Siddiqui: A unique Ukrainian-Tatar partnership against Russia (in the Toronto Star)

Haroon Siddiqui talks about a little-known community in the Ukraine, and their soft-spoken hero, Mustafa Dzhemiliev.

A unique Ukrainian-Tatar partnership against Russia

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

U.S. recruited former Nazis, declassified papers show (reported in NY Times)

U.S. recruited former Nazis, declassified papers show

Governments seem to keep forgetting the proverb that says, "He who sups with the devil should have a long spoon". Apparently it goes back at least to 1390 (Chaucer, The Squire's Tale)!

How the Conservatives mislead Canadians about our parliamentary system (Toronto Star)

James Travers of the Toronto Star explains how Harper uses the politics of fear, and deliberately takes advantage of Canadians' ignorance about how our parliamentary system works.

Consensus? No thanks, we’re Conservatives

Monday, December 13, 2010

New theory for origins of Saturn’s rings: Icy remnants from a moon (reported in the Toronto Star)

New theory for origins of Saturn’s rings: Icy remnants from a moon

David Suzuki on Canada and UN climate talks (in the Toronto Star)

"In a recent article on CBC’s website, political commentator Scott Reid wrote that I don’t 'give a damn' about the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Cancun, Mexico.

"Reid, who was former prime minister Paul Martin’s communications director, is correct that I was 'fed up and had little time for Cancun, assuming the political will to respond to the pressing threat of climate change at this forum was all but nil.'

"But there’s nothing that concerns me more than the threat of climate change and the necessity of world leaders to deal with the crisis. I’ve just seen the futility of trying to get our current government to act in any meaningful way at the UN talks, and I agree with David Suzuki Foundation staff that our efforts are better placed elsewhere.


"What can you do about a government that fails to live up to its international obligations and that cares more about protecting and subsidizing the wealthiest industry in history than about protecting its own citizens from the impacts of pollution and climate change?

"International negotiations are crucial, and through our alliance with organizations such as the Climate Action Network, we will continue to support efforts to get a fair, ambitious and binding international agreement on climate change. We hope that the current talks will at least form the basis for movement at next year’s negotiations in South Africa.

"In Canada, though, we can accomplish more by working with municipal and provincial governments, and with thousands of concerned citizens, than trying to get the federal government to act on global warming. ...

"Of course, that’s not enough to confront a global problem like climate change, but if leadership is lacking at the top, we must build from the ground up.

"I do give a damn about the UN climate talks. I only wish our government did."

Full article: UN climate talks: Who gives a damn?

Craig and Marc Kielburger: Canada’s global reputation needs restoration (in the Toronto Star)

"In the end, there’s much blame to be shared for Canada’s wavering reputation. And therein lies the problem.

"After six years of minority government, the country that’s home to the father of modern-day peacekeeping hasn’t seen much of it in Parliament. ...

"The government and the opposition need to put Canada’s international reputation back on the agenda rather than burying it under bad decisions for some archaeologist to dig up."

Full article: Global Voices: Canada’s global reputation needs restoration

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Patrick Corrigan: Harper and Karzai (cartoon)

Cartoon by the Toronto Star's Patrick Corrigan - Dec. 3, 2010

Catherine Porter in Haiti: Death and decay in Haiti's hospitals

Powerful article by the Toronto Star's Catherine Porter in Fermathe, Haiti.

"'I remember one lady suffering from heart failure,' recounts Dr. Louine Martineau, a doctor with Partners in Health who interned at HUEH [Hopital de l’Universite d’Etat d’Haiti]. 'The medication was only 25 gourdes (62 cents) for a bottle, but she couldn’t afford it and she died.'"

Death and decay in Haiti's hospitals

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Thomas Walkom: "Why Ottawa’s new border scheme is such a loser" (in the Toronto Star)

"So the upshot of any perimeter deal will be to give the U.S two borders — an outer one around North America and an inner one at the 49th parallel.

"Security won’t be relaxed noticeably for trucks travelling between Canada and the U.S. because — until memories of 9/11 fade — the American public won’t allow it.

"In short, another lose-lose deal. We give up much; we gain nothing."

Full article: Walkom: Why Ottawa’s new border scheme is such a loser

Why are Canadian politicians and business types in such a hurry to give up what little autonomy we have left?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Canadians and Climate Change (cartoon)

Cartoon by the Toronto Star's Ed Moudakis (Dec. 6, 2010)

Liberals need a new leader, poll suggests (reported in the Toronto Star)

Toronto Star article: Liberals need a new leader, poll suggests

Isn't this what many of us have been saying since the time the Libs dragged him back from the US? And it has always bugged me that Jean Augustine, who became the first African Canadian woman elected to the Parliament of Canada and subsequently the first black woman in a Canadian federal Cabinet, and is now a Member of the Order of Canada, graciously stepped aside to make way for this intellectual weathervane.

Lest anyone forget, previously he had argued in favour of the Bush incursion into Iraq, and in favour of torture-lite, to the delight of the Bushies. The Libs who thought he would be a saviour must have been living in caves for the last few decades.

Please, Iggy, for the good of our country, step down sooner rather than later!

Jim Coyle: "Political contempt paves way for public disgust" (Toronto Star column)

Good summary of the mess that is Toronto these days...

"In releasing his report, 'Caught in the Act,' [Ombudsman André] Marin’s closing comment to reporters was so breathtakingly unsparing in its characterization of civil rights abuses enabled by the province it is hard to believe it referred to Toronto in the summer of 2010 rather than the 1968 crushing of the Prague Spring.

"'For the citizens of Toronto, the days up to and including the (June 26-27) weekend of the G20 will live in infamy as a time period where martial law set in the City of Toronto, leading to the most massive compromise of civil liberties in Canadian history.' ...

"Although it was also rather fortunate for the provincial government that the cartoonish Don Cherry [surely one of Canada's more bizarre public figures] managed to provide partial cover from the G20 debacle with his egregious introduction of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford at the latter’s inauguration at city hall. ...

"In all, the presence of Cherry — raving on like some latter-day McCarthyite about 'left-wing kooks' — ensured the event had all the uplifting dignity of a Jerry Springer episode."

Full article: Coyle: Political contempt paves way for public disgust

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Bill McKibben: Climate Talks So Weakened by U.S., Major Polluters that Walkout Could Be Good News for Planet (interview with Democracy Now!)

Bill McKibben being interviewed by Amy Goodman of Democracy Now!:

"It’s as if they’re saying—I mean, literally as if they’re saying, 'We’re going to stick our fingers in our ears, and the problem will go away. We’ll never have another hearing on it, so therefore it won’t be happening.' I’m afraid that’s about as unlikely a proposition—I mean, more power to them if you could make global warming disappear by simply not talking about it. It would be a hell of a good strategy. But my guess is that physics and chemistry will be remarkably unimpressed by this position, you know?

"[asked what 350 (as in means] Three-fifty is the most important number in the world. Three years ago, our best scientists at NASA said any amount of carbon in the atmosphere greater than 350 parts per million is not compatible with the planet on which civilization developed or to which life on earth is adapted. OK? The trouble is, because we’ve burned so much coal and gas and oil already, the atmosphere here in Cancún and every place else in the world is 390 parts per million CO2. That’s why the Arctic is melting. It’s why Russia is on fire. It’s why Pakistan is drowning."

Rush transcript: Bill McKibben: Climate Talks So Weakened by U.S., Major Polluters that Walkout Could Be Good News for Planet.

Maude Barlow: With Only Market-Based Solutions on the Table "The Continued Destruction of the Earth...Can Go on Quite Happily" (interview with Democracy Now!)

Maude Barlow (author, activist, and the former senior adviser on water to the United Nations - also the national chairperson for the Council of Canadians), being interviewed by John Hamilton of Democracy Now!:

" my shame, my government has held the knife, that looks like it’s going to kill the Kyoto Protocol, and not only that, but deeply, deeply split the world community between countries of the Global South, who are the victims of climate change, and the countries of the North that are the perpetuators, perpetrators.

"...we have this appalling, destructive oil sands or tar sands in northern Alberta, and this is a huge and growing area of greenhouse gas emissions. Right now they’ve taken down a boreal forest the size of Greece. They are holding water, poisoned water, in tanks and in holding dams. Some of them are almost as big as the Three Gorges Dam in China. It is the most destructive project on earth and getting worse."

Rush transcript: Maude Barlow: With Only Market-Based Solutions on the Table "The Continued Destruction of the Earth...Can Go on Quite Happily".

Ombudsman charges G20 secret law was ‘illegal’ (reported in the Toronto Star)

"[Ombudsman André Marin stated,] 'The ministry simply handed over to the Toronto Police Service inordinate powers, without any efforts made to ensure those powers would not be misunderstood,'."

Full article: Ombudsman charges G20 secret law was ‘illegal’.

Toronto has been shamed before the world, but it is the federal government who made the original mistake in holding the G20 meeting in the heart of Canada's biggest city. Following from that we have seen a sort of chain reaction of foul-ups, big and small, including making use of a 1939 law (the Public Works Protection Act) in a totally inappropriate way.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

"An American Goes to Europe and Discovers America"

Powerful article by the Disaffected Lib: The Disaffected Lib: An American Goes to Europe and Discovers America.

"The Melbourne supremacy and the livable city"

Christopher Hume in the Toronto Star:

"If Rob Adams is right, Rob Ford [newly elected mayor of Toronto on a platform of cost cutting and car-friendliness - go figure!] must be wrong.

"According to the former, streets are nothing less than the key to a livable city. According to the latter, they are nothing more than a way for cars to get from one place to another.

"The difference is that Adams knows what he’s talking about."

Full article: Hume: The Melbourne supremacy and the livable city.

Monday, December 6, 2010

"Choking on the fetid air of Planet Anonymous"

Heather Mallick in the Toronto Star:

"This is why I love WikiLeaks. It’s the opposite of anonymity. Julian Assange names the guilty and defends the guiltless, free and clear in the big blue online air."

Mallick: Choking on the fetid air of Planet Anonymous.

This seems to be one of the fundamental dichotomies: closedness vs. openness, secrecy vs. forthrightness, the verkrampte (cramped) vs. the verligte of the S. African apartheid era. People who are insecure lean one way - people who are emotionally secure lean the other way...

YouTube - Sen. Bernie Sanders' Amazing Speech!

YouTube - Sen. Bernie Sanders' Amazing Speech!

Listen to the Senator strike a blow for common sense - something that seems all too rare these days!

"The 24/7 information beast favours bite-size news"

Chantal Hébert in the Toronto Star:

"As counterintuitive as it may seem, a 24/7 news environment offers less rather than more space and time for the extensive parliamentary reporting of the past.

"The demands of feeding a round-the-clock information beast usually favour bite-size news to the detriment of meaty debates that need more time-consuming media ministrations to be properly digested."

Full article: Hébert: The 24/7 information beast favours bite-size news

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Does anyone still believe in the rule of law? How can these people talk so casually about assassination?

The Georgia Straight, Vancouver, Canada: Police complaint filed after Tom Flanagan calls for assassination of Wikileaks' Julian Assange .

Oakland Ross in the Toronto Star: Senior fellow at the august Brookings Institution, [Michael] O’Hanlon has just been asked what he would do if he were to find himself seated across a table from one Julian Assange... His rejoinder — 'BLAM!'.

While these comments may be passed off as rough and ready, frontier-style, humour, I believe people in our two countries are still considered innocent until proven guilty. My feeling is that, if Wikileaks makes one politician think twice before telling a bare-faced lie, they should put up a statue to Julian Assange, not talk glibly about blowing him away.

Michael Geist on Canada's advantages for hosting the cloud (Toronto Star)

"Canadian leadership in this area [privacy and security] is evident in several respects. Privacy Commissioner of Canada Jennifer Stoddart and Ontario Privacy Commissioner Ann Cavoukian have been ahead of the curve on the issue with reports on the privacy implications of cloud computing. ...

"Canada’s cloud computing advantage may extend beyond its privacy laws. There are also important environmental advantages that come with basing cloud computing server farms in the Canadian north. These include easy access to clean energy sources such as wind and geo-thermal energy and, given the colder climate, decreased energy requirements to cool the computer server farms.

"Once high-speed, optical networks that run north-south between the Canadian arctic and the major Canadian urban centres are added to the mix, there is the potential to run large networks that use minimal energy and have the power to instantly transfer huge amounts of data.

Full article: Geist: Location matters up in the cloud

"Transition Towns" (retrieved from Wikipedia)

"The Transition Network website contains a listing of the initiatives that have registered there.

"While the focus and aims remain the same, the methods used to achieve these vary. For example, Totnes [Devon, England] has introduced its own local currency, the Totnes pound, which is redeemable in local shops and businesses, helping to reduce 'food miles' while also supporting local firms. This idea is also planned to be introduced in three Welsh transition towns and in Maleny, Australia, the Baroon Dollar as a part of a regional transition towns project.

"Central to the transition town movement is the idea that a life without oil could in fact be far more enjoyable and fulfilling than the present: 'by shifting our mind-set we can actually recognise the coming post-cheap oil era as an opportunity rather than a threat, and design the future low carbon age to be thriving, resilient and abundant — somewhere much better to live than our current alienated consumer culture based on greed, war and the myth of perpetual growth.'

"An essential aspect of transition in many places, is that the outer work of transition needs to be matched by inner transition. That is in order to move down the energy descent pathways effectively we need to rebuild our relations with our selves, with each other and with the 'natural' worlds. That requires focusing on the heart and soul of transition."

Full article: Transition Towns - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (retrieved Dec. 5, 2010)

‘Secret Santas’ hand out money to those in need in U.S. (reported in the Toronto Star)

And now for some positive news for a change - from Charlotte, N.C.: ‘Secret Santas’ hand out money to those in need in U.S.

Hope this idea catches on!

Blondie (Cartoon) - The future of Christmas

Blondie (Cartoon) - The future of Christmas

Anyone who has a computer-savvy 8-year-old child or grandchild will relate to this! I can foresee a day soon when there will be no presents around the tree at all - just a voucher for x dollars' worth of online services! And maybe the tree will be virtual too!

Haroon Siddiqui: "Harper has ruined healthy partnership"

Haroon Siddiqui in the Toronto Star:

"[Liberal foreign affairs critic Bob Rae] and [NDP’s Paul] Dewar also noted that [Foreign Minister Lawrence] Cannon has refused to meet Mohammed Abdullah Al-Ghafli, the UAE’s ambassador in Ottawa, for two years.

"Such disdain suggests that the Harperites 'do have a problem dealing with Arabs, even with an Arab country that’s been open to the world,' Dewar told me.

"This thing is 'a complete cock-up. . . . It can be taught in diplomatic and business schools how not to do things.'"

Full article: Siddiqui: Harper has ruined healthy partnership

Saturday, December 4, 2010

"Why Haiti doesn't work" (Kenneth Kidd in the Toronto Star)

Kenneth Kidd in the Toronto Star:

"Welcome to Haiti, where even the most basic forms of state governance can sometimes subside into Pythonesque parody, where aid shipments can be held up for weeks at Customs and elections dance through chaos."

Full article: Why Haiti doesn't work. (Part of the Toronto Star series, Lovely's Haiti)

Russian accused of running vast spamming network pleads not guilty

Reported by Dinesh Ramde in the Toronto Star...

Russian accused of running vast spamming network pleads not guilty.

If this guy turns out to really be a top spammer, maybe we'll get some insight into the motivation of people who do this kind of thing... What's the Russian for "spam"?

The Grist: "Cancun: politics vs. science"

The Climate Desk in The Grist: Cancun: politics vs. science

You have to read the impassioned letter from Steven Earl Salmony, dated 2 Dec., 2010!

Quotes: "In the course of a single lifetime, human beings will have done so much irreparable damage to something millions of years in the making, something we believe we are preserving."

"For me, it is impossible to believe that a species so wondrous as Homo sapiens will not find a way to continue rather than to induce its own extinction as we appear to be doing now. Somehow the miracle of life as we know it, with all its beauty and biodiversity, has to be preserved. At least we have to try, whatever the odds."

Richard Gwyn: WikiLeaks offer glimpse of new G2 (Toronto Star article)

" least one very important new item in the 250,000 private comments, mostly by American diplomats, that WikiLeaks has made public. This was the report by the U.S. ambassador to South Korea that a senior Chinese official confided to her that China regards North Korea as a hopeless case and is prepared to see it absorbed into South Korea to avoid a potential nuclear war.

"Assuming the report was correct, even if only as a feeler Beijing can dismiss whenever it wants, this represents an intriguing example of a phenomenon known as the 'G2' — the group of two, just the United States and China. ...

"The WikiLeaks affair complicates matters a bit. All that really matters is the two sides of the G2 are, apparently, able in the back rooms to discuss political realities....

"And the G2 does have one great advantage. It’s a lot better than an American-run unipolar world."

Full article: Gwyn: WikiLeaks offer glimpse of new G2.

Thomas Walkom: The curious economics of Harper’s stimulus spending (the Toronto Star)

[Parliamentary budget officer Kevin Page] surveyed those who received $4 billion in federal money from the largest of Ottawa’s four infrastructure programs and asked whether that money created jobs.

"About 42 per cent of respondents said it had no effect on employment. More surprisingly, 21 per cent said the stimulus spending had destroyed jobs...

"...if one-fifth of those at the sharp end found that the government money they spent reduced employment in their communities, alarm bells should ring.

"Perhaps it was the wrong kind of spending. Perhaps it wasn’t enough. Whatever the problem, something is clearly not right."

Full article: Walkom: The curious economics of Harper’s stimulus spending.

Global warming's silver lining? Northern countries will thrive and grow, researcher predicts (Science Daily)

Full article: Global warming's silver lining? Northern countries will thrive and grow, researcher predicts

Nice to see a positive view for a change! Laurence C. Smith, a UCLA professor of geography and of earth and space sciences, says the Canadian population will increase significantly, but doesn't say that a lot of that will be American refugees, due mostly to water shortages. Canada had better figure out how it is going to manage the influx!

"Mission impossible: Standing up to Afghanistan" (the Toronto Star)

"Canada’s mission to stand up the wobbly Afghan nation could turn out to be mission impossible, bleak diplomatic assessments suggest.

"Leaked memos from U.S. diplomats paint a grim picture of a frustrated international community, backroom divisions over how the country is being run and Afghan officials getting rich from corruption."

Full article by Bruce Campion-Smith and Allan Woods for the Star: Mission impossible: Standing up to Afghanistan

Friday, December 3, 2010

Reuters: Arsenic-munching germ redefines 'life as we know it'

Reuters report: Arsenic-munching germ redefines 'life as we know it' .

I really don't understand why scientists keep getting "amazed" by what life can do! cf. Prof. Gordon Pask's early work on the inevitability of life in the universe.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Dr. Vandana Shiva's "Navdanya"

Dr. Vandana Shiva's Navdanya.

"Navdanya is a network of seed keepers and organic producers spread across 16 states in India.

"Navdanya has helped set up 54 community seed banks across the country, trained over 500,000 farmers in seed sovereignty, food sovereignty and sustainable agriculture over the past two decades, and helped setup the largest direct marketing, fair trade organic network in the country.

"Navdanya has also set up a learning center, Bija Vidyapeeth (School of the Seed) on its biodiversity conservation and organic farm in Doon Valley, Uttranchal, north India.

"Navdanya is actively involved in the rejuvenation of indigenous knowledge and culture. It has created awareness on the hazards of genetic engineering, defended people's knowledge from biopiracy and food rights in the face of globalisation and climate change.

"Navdanya is a women centred movement for the protection of biological and cultural diversity."

Gwynne Dyer in the Georgia Straight: "The WikiLeaks controversy is the inevitable product of the digital age"

Secrecy in our modern digital age...!

"All you needed to access the Siprnet was a “Secret” security clearance. When the number of people with a “Secret” clearance or above was last counted by the General Accounting Office in 1993, there were more than three million of them. There are probably twice as many today. And all it takes is one of them to send the data to WikiLeaks, and the whole system is compromised."

Full article: Gwynne Dyer: The WikiLeaks controversy is the inevitable product of the digital age.

Haroon Siddiqui: What the WikiLeaks documents fail to tell (Toronto Star article)

"... the U.S. keeps trying to do what it has been for 30 years — cobbling together an anti-Iranian regional security pact. But 'it will continue to fail,' as Lamis Andoni, a commentator on the Al Jazeera-English website, writes.

"It fails for the same reason that the Arab leaders dare not say in public what they say in private about Iran. The monarchs and dictators know that their people do not consider Iran a threat."

Full article: Siddiqui: What the WikiLeaks documents fail to tell.

Avon plans to avoid oilsands-derived fuel (reported in the Toronto Star)

"Three more companies, including American cosmetics giant Avon, have announced they will avoid using fuel derived from the oilsands to distribute their products."

Full article: Avon plans to avoid oilsands-derived fuel

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Movie: "The Other City" (HIV/AIDS in Washington, D.C.)

"The very city that is home to the capitol of the most powerful country in the world has an HIV/AIDS rate that is not only the nation’s highest, but rivals some African countries."

Movie: The Other City

Sheila Johnson was being interviewed on CNN this morning - and the situation in Washington, D.C., is absolutely shocking. There may be understandable historical reasons for this, but it is inexcusable in a First World country - actually, it's inexcusable anywhere..

Heather Mallick: "WikiLeaks sends U.S. to its room with no dinner" (Toronto Star article)

Entertaining (and insightful) article by the Star's Heather Mallick.

Quote: "You cannot understand others until you understand yourself. The process of the U.S. coming to understand why they irritate the hell out of their supposed allies is part of growing up, something Alexis de Tocqueville pointed out 165 years ago. But we mustn’t rush things. ...

"Many simple minds are blaming WikiLeaks for the destruction of the world, when what it has mostly revealed is the timidity of modern journalism."

Full article: Mallick: WikiLeaks sends U.S. to its room with no dinner

One of the interesting things (for Canadians) that has come out is the contempt that Jim Judd, former head of CSIS, has for his fellow Canadians. With friends like this, who needs enemies?