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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Stephen Bede Scharper: Environmentalists have reason for hope in 2014 (in The Toronto Star)

"As we progress toward the New Year, three ... signs of hope ... come to mind.

"First, Bolivia is on the verge of passing one of the most far-reaching environmental bills in history. The “Mother Earth” or Pachamama law, approved by Bolivia’s majority governing party, draws deeply on indigenous concepts that view nature as a sacred home. ...

"A second beacon of hope can be seen emanating from Vatican City in the humble, pastoral and compassionate smile of Pope Francis...

"A third source of hope is the creative, dynamic youth who are embracing the environment as a focus of their studies, avocation and chosen careers."

Environmentalists have reason for hope in 2014: Scharper | Toronto Star

Stephen Bede Scharper is associate professor of environment and religious studies at the University of Toronto. 

Joe Fiorito: The apology at the front door (in The Toronto Star)

"He said, “I cut taxes. I built the subway.” I said, “You’ve raised taxes. You blew millions cancelling the LRT agreement. You built nothing, and you cut services to the poor.”

"“I stopped the gravy train.”

"“There was no gravy train.”"

The apology at the front door: Fiorito | Toronto Star

Wonderful piece by Toronto Star columnist Joe Fiorito - Toronto readers will know exactly who he's talking about!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Rick Salutin: Harper, Hudak and the dangers of an education (in The Toronto Star)

"Tim Hudak is a great example of the damage a good education can do. So is Stephen Harper. Both are products of university economics departments in the late 20th century. Each has a proud M.A. in the field. Like their American cognate — Paul Ryan — they’ve chosen to implement economic policy with no or little experience in the work world....

"...Yves Smith of, ... notes the special delusion of economists: “Every social science save economics rests on the assumption of human irrationality.”"

Rick Salutin: Harper, Hudak and the dangers of an education.

Great article - only slightly tongue-in-cheek! It's good to read someone drawing people's attention to the dangers of the non-science called "economics".

Monday, November 11, 2013

Christopher Hume: Climate change vs. Rob Ford and Stephen Harper (in The Toronto Star)

"Toronto Mayor Rob Ford isn’t this country’s only global embarrassment; Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s appalling record on the environment and contempt for international diplomacy has also shamed Canada around the world.

"Harper’s ... abject servitude to business, especially the oil industry, knows no bounds....

"The meltdown happening in Canada’s leadership is much more immediately gripping than that unfolding in the Far North. It has a beginning, a middle and at some point, an end. Besides, it makes for better TV.

"And though these dual disasters leave Canadians feeling frustrated and impotent, we are responsible for both. The difference is that one will go away; the other will be around forever."

Climate change vs. Rob Ford and Stephen Harper (in The Toronto Star)

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Economists deserve the battering they're getting (in The Toronto Star)

"It’s been a rough patch lately for economists, no question about it.

"You might even say it’s been a tough millennium.

"Generally unloved at the best of times, practitioners of the dismal science have come in for a pummelling at home and abroad for a range of sins.

"A recent Bank of Canada internal audit found, according to media reports, that its economists had difficulty “being succinct, grammatically correct and prioritizing the data into useful information.”

"Now, the fact that some number-crunchers routinely take cover in the hazy vagueness of jargon and bafflegab hardly comes as a surprise, not in an age when bombs are referred to with straight face as improvised explosive devices...

"Hard on the heels of the Bank of Canada report came word of American research that finds economists are not merely incoherent but are more apt than others to be greedy, selfish weasels...

"[The study by three Cornell University professors] said economics majors were more likely than others to fleece colleagues and that they, and students who had taken at least three economics courses, were more likely than their peers to rate greed as good.

Economists deserve the battering they're getting (Jim Coyle in The Toronto Star)

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Michael Byers: Stephen Harper should make like a Viking (in The Toronto Star)

"Climate change poses enormous challenges for Iceland, a country of 320,000 people located just south of the Arctic Circle. Melting permafrost is destabilizing buildings, roads and precious farmland. Rising sea temperatures and acidity levels, caused by heat and carbon dioxide being absorbed into the ocean, are threatening the fishing industry, the cornerstone of Iceland’s economy.

"Icelanders are doing their part to mitigate the damage. By harnessing the volcanic power of the earth and the gravitational power of glacier-fed rivers, they already produce the most renewable energy, per capita, of any country in the world. Now, their focus is on helping other countries reduce their greenhouse gas emissions — and on making money in the process....

"Canada, with a land mass 100 times larger than Iceland’s, is endowed with large rivers, strong tides, persistent winds, sunny regions and promising geothermal sources. It too has massive potential for renewable energy production and an almost insatiable market next door.

"But with the exception of hydroelectricity, renewables have never been given a chance in Canada. Instead, governments subsidize the production and export of oil, gas and coal, either directly, or indirectly through royalty rates significantly lower than those charged elsewhere in the world. It is these subsidies that could soon attract trade sanctions from other countries."

Stephen Harper should make like a Viking (in The Toronto Star)

Michael Byers holds the Canada Research Chair in Global Politics and International Law at the University of British Columbia. He is the author of International Law and the Arctic, recently published by Cambridge University Press.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Global warming study pinpoints dates when cities will be off-the-charts hot (in The Toronto Star)

"A new study on global warming pinpoints the probable dates for when cities and ecosystems around the world will regularly experience hotter environments the likes of which they have never seen before.

"And for dozens of cities, mostly in the tropics, those dates are a generation or less away. ...

"[Study author Camilo] Mora [a biological geographer at the University of Hawaii] forecasts that the unprecedented heat starts in 2020 with Manokwa, Indonesia. Then Kingston, Jamaica. Within the next two decades, 59 cities will be living in what is essentially a new climate, including Singapore, Havana, Kuala Lumpur and Mexico City.

"By 2043, 147 cities — more than half of those studied — will have shifted to a hotter temperature regime that is beyond historical records."

Global warming study pinpoints dates when cities will be off-the-charts hot.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Disaffected Lib: It's Here - Earth Overshoot Day, This Year 20 August, 2013

The Disaffected Lib: It's Here - Earth Overshoot Day, This Year 20 August, 2013: Tuesday, August 20, marks Earth Overshoot Day for 2013.  This is not a record to celebrate.  It tells us that, in under eight months, mankind exhausts an entire annual supply of renewable resources.  After that, we're eating our seed corn.   Another way of looking at it is that, at current rates of biomass consumption we need 1.5 planet Earths.

Brian Doucet: Toronto has to think outside the box on transit (in TheToronto Star)

"If Toronto is to truly have a transportation system that will meet the needs of its current and future residents, two key things will need to be done. First, it will need to ditch the streetcars versus subways debate and start to think outside the box. Second, it will need to leave the planning of its future transit infrastructure to the experts rather than politicians. Streetcars versus subways has defined the last two mayors and these benign words have become toxic. They inhibit thinking up more innovative solutions practised elsewhere."

Full article: Toronto has to think outside the box on transit.

Brian Doucet is a lecturer in urban geography at Utrecht University in the Netherlands.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Gwynne Dyer: The world’s most important hamburger (in The Toronto Star)

"“Right now, we are using 70 per cent of all our agricultural capacity to grow meat through livestock,” Professor Mark Post, the lead researcher, told the Independent at a conference in Vancouver last year. “You are going to need alternatives. If we don’t do anything, meat will become a luxury food and will become very expensive . . . ”

"“Livestock also contributes a lot to greenhouse gas emissions, more so than our entire transport system,” explained Post, a medical physiologist at Maastricht University in the Netherlands. “Livestock produces 39 per cent of global methane, 5 per cent of the CO2, and 40 per cent of the nitrous oxide. Eventually, we will have an eco-tax on meat.” On meat raised in the open air, that is."

Full article: The world’s most important hamburger.

Monday, August 5, 2013

George Saunders' commencement address: Try to be kinder (in The Toronto Star)

"Do all the other things, the ambitious things — travel, get rich, get famous, innovate, lead, fall in love, make and lose fortunes, swim naked in wild jungle rivers (after first having it tested for monkey poop) — but as you do, to the extent that you can, err in the direction of kindness.

"Do those things that incline you toward the big questions, and avoid the things that would reduce you and make you trivial. That luminous part of you that exists beyond personality — your soul, if you will — is as bright and shining as any that has ever been. Bright as Shakespeare’s, bright as Gandhi’s, bright as Mother Theresa’s. Clear away everything that keeps you separate from this secret luminous place. Believe it exists, come to know it better, nurture it, share its fruits tirelessly."

Full address: George Saunders' commencement address: Try to be kinder.

George Saunders’ address to Syracuse grads has gone viral.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Rick Salutin: The diplomats hit the bricks (in The Toronto Star)

"Unions could pay a vital role in today’s political debates but are strangely absent. ...

"Why doesn’t the union protest loudly that they’re taxpayers, too? Or that fairness in pay is something anyone who has a job can identify with and support. Plus: higher wages lead to more demand in the economy, therefore more jobs and taxes paid, lowering deficits, etc.

"In other words, why don’t they contest the battle for the public mind? I don’t know why but they don’t, or rarely do."

Full article: The diplomats hit the bricks: Rick Salutin.

Derecho, atmospheric river: new weather terms demystified (in The Toronto Star)

"Atmospheric rivers, or ARs, are described as “narrow regions of intense moisture flows in the lower troposphere of the atmosphere that deliver sustained and heavy rainfall to mid-latitude regions.”

"They can be up to 300 kilometres wide and up to 2,000 kilometres long. They flow, invisibly, about one to 2.5 kilometres above the surface of the ocean. There can be multiple atmospheric rivers at any time covering the hemisphere.

"Known to bring heavy rainfall, they have been blamed for severe flooding in California and in England."

Full article: Derecho, atmospheric river: new weather terms demystified.

Rising sea levels will seal fate of 316 U.S. cities, study warns (in The Toronto Star)

"A rise in sea levels has already sealed the fate of at least 316 American cities, including Miami and Jacksonville, but if global warming keeps up its current rate through 2100, the number of towns and cities doomed by water could easily go up to 1,400, a chilling new study says.

"Prior greenhouse gas emissions “have already locked in four feet of future sea-level rise that will submerge parts of 316 municipalities,” says the paper that was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. ...

"An interactive map on the website of Climate Central shows the cities and towns that are under threat."

Full article: Rising sea levels will seal fate of 316 U.S. cities, study warns.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Ann Cavoukian: Metadata: Separating fact from fiction (in The Toronto Star)

Full article: Metadata: Separating fact from fiction.

Ann Cavoukian is Ontario’s information and privacy commissioner. Her new paper, “A Primer on Metadata: Separating Fact from Fiction,” is now available at

Friday, July 12, 2013

Malala Yousafzai, schoolgirl shot by Taliban, to speak at UN (in The Toronto Star)

"To the world, Malala is the girl who stood up to the Taliban.

"At home in Pakistan, she has also shown that a child from the Pashtun ethnic group, hailing from a rural town, can breach the boundaries of class, age and ethnicity to change her world.

"“Malala can become a leader and tell us that is not just the case that elders should have the right to speak,” [Syed Irfan Ashraf, a columnist for Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper and an anti-Taliban activist] said. “It is not the case that a lady should stay home, or a girl should be married at 14, no. Even if she changes two people, for me she has justified her struggle.”"

Full article: Malala Yousafzai, schoolgirl shot by Taliban, to speak at UN | Toronto Star

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Heather Mallick: Lac-Mégantic train crash proves engineers shouldn’t work alone (in The Toronto Star)

"Every stage of profit is shaved to the bone now in our effort to compete with a Chinese level of efficiency. But Canada doesn’t have a peasant army moving to cities to work for dimes and live in dormitories. If we did, worshipping the god of cheap — shopping at Walmart, working alone, expecting subways without paying the taxes to fund them, living a Mayor [of Toronto] [Rob] Ford way of life — would be plausible.

"Instead we clean up the muck. It’s composed of oil, human bodies and black rubble. The god of cheap accepts our offerings and rejoices."

Full article: Lac-Mégantic train crash proves engineers shouldn’t work alone.

The headline for this article in my morning (dead tree) Toronto Star was punchier: "Cheap-obsessed world is being run by a staff of one".

Friday, July 5, 2013

Rick Salutin: If Egypt had a coup, is that bad? (in The Toronto Star)

"[we shouldn't] assume the definition of democracy or human progress has reached any fixed end points. Most cultural activity only really began 8,000 to 12,000 years ago, as a teenager recently told me; it would be odd to assume anything is complete.

"In that light, it’s we who should uncouple from fixed definitions and learn something from [Egypt's] openness. Even western critics of the coup, for instance, say that Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi got only 51 per cent of the votes but acted as if he could ignore the rest. Yet Stephen Harper got under 40 per cent last election and has proceeded with much of his agenda anyway."

Full article: If Egypt had a coup, is that bad?

It's interesting that we in the West tend to talk as though we alone know what democracy is and how to make it work...

Thursday, July 4, 2013

UN report shows Earth warming faster in past decade (in The Toronto Star)

"A comprehensive new report released by the United Nations’ World Meteorological Organization says the Earth has warmed faster since the turn of the century than any other time on record, almost doubling the pace of sea-level increase and causing a staggering jump in heat-related deaths around the world."

Full article: UN report shows Earth warming faster in past decade.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Linda McQuaig: Is environmental action impossible in corporate-dominated age? (in The Toronto Star)

"Perhaps the only thing more stunning than Alberta’s ruinous flooding has been the realization that not even a disaster of this magnitude, right in the heart of oil country, seems sufficient to break the torpor surrounding climate change....

"Fortunately, Albertans, while steeped in the mantra of “survival of the fittest” and “greed is good,” seem to have set aside that training and pitched in selflessly to help each other through the crisis.

"As we move deeper into the age of climate disaster, these traits of empathy and social solidarity — so belittled in our ultracompetitive, winner-take-all culture — may come to be appreciated again, even regarded as signs of sanity.

"British writer George Monbiot nicely captured the warped nature of this culture, noting that it tends to result in psychopaths from poor backgrounds going to prison, while psychopaths from rich backgrounds go to business school."

Full article: Is environmental action impossible in corporate-dominated age?

Friday, June 21, 2013

Cancer breakthrough: New drug shown to prevent cancer growth ready for human testing (in The Toronto Star)

"Two of the world’s foremost cancer researchers announced Tuesday the creation of a new drug aimed at preventing the growth of an array of cancers.

"Tak Mak, director of the Campbell Family Institute for Breast Cancer Research at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, and Dr. Dennis Slamon, of the University of California, Los Angeles, are part of the 100-person team that developed the drug, which has been tested on human ovarian, breast, pancreas, lung and colon cancer in mice."

Full article: Cancer breakthrough: New drug shown to prevent cancer growth ready for human testing.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Democracy Now!: Breast Cancer Patients Declare Victory as Supreme Court Bars Patenting of Human Genes

"In a major victory for women’s health, the [US] Supreme Court has ruled 9-0 that isolated human genes may not be patented. The case concerned the firm Myriad Genetics’ patent on genes linked to higher risks of hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. The firm claimed it had the authority to stop all research on genes it owned patents to..."

Full article: Breast Cancer Patients Declare Victory as Supreme Court Bars Patenting of Human Genes.

Rick Salutin: In praise of Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden (in The Toronto Star)

"They weren’t motivated to release secret material by any ideology or mentor. Their motives were naive, moral and direct. ...

"[Quoting Manning] “For me it’s all a big mess, and I am left wondering what these things mean . . . I hoped that the public would be as alarmed as me . . . to know that not everyone in Iraq and Afghanistan are targets that needed to be neutralized, but rather people who were struggling to live . . . As I hoped, others were just as troubled — if not more. . .”

"This isn’t a traitor or ideologue, his simple good citizen quality couldn’t be starker. He also used his own judgment on the risks of releasing the material. That’s extraordinary in the sense that he just thought for himself, as a citizen in a truly democratic society would; he didn’t want to do damage but felt he could make those difficult choices based on his own good sense and intentions."

Full article: In praise of Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Canadians not safe from U.S. online surveillance, expert says (in The Toronto Star)

"At least 90 per cent of Canada’s digital activity, from Facebook to Foursquare to basic email and beyond, is routed through exchange points in the United States, says Ronald Deibert, director of University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab....

"Obama’s assurances do not extend to Canadians, Deibert said, because they simply hold the wrong passports.

"“Let’s not forget, Canadians are ‘foreign citizens’ by the American definition. So we’re fair game when it comes to eavesdropping, should they want to do so,” he said."

Full article:
Canadians not safe from U.S. online surveillance, expert says

Monday, June 3, 2013

Trevor Greene: Prime Minister Harper ignores link between climate change and conflict (in The Toronto Star)

"At this point in history, our prime minister is not only ignoring the security risks posed by climate change, but he is actively making them worse by promoting the spewing of ever more carbon in our atmosphere.

"A strong leader today is a climate hawk, one who embraces the challenge of dramatically reducing fossil fuel use and aggressively shifting to renewable energy sources.

"A climate dove may be popular in the backrooms of Calgary, but he does our children no favours."

Full article: Prime Minister Harper ignores link between climate change and conflict.

Captain Trevor Greene (retired) is a real, bona fide, Canadian hero - and war hawk Harper would do well to listen to this sound advice about security from someone who nearly lost his life in Afghanistan while doing what he believed in.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Thomas Walkom: Why Stephen Harper should appoint Mike Duffy to cabinet (in The Toronto Star)

"...he [Duffy] appears to be a firm believer in the principles of Adam Smith — particularly the principle which holds that an individual’s single-minded pursuit of personal gain is the best way to benefit society."

Full article: Why Stephen Harper should appoint Mike Duffy to cabinet.

Didn't know Walkom was such a master of sarcasm - very funny!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Heather Mallick: Fight the Power! Senator attacks the elite (in The Toronto Star)

"The Conservatives generally still feel like rubes. Their MPs went to Bible colleges or no colleges. They’re from out west but not from Vancouver. They are socially hard-right — anti-abortion and pro-religion — which doesn’t play well in the rest of Canada. The fact that Ottawa Inc. throws money at them doesn’t ease their status anxiety."

Full article: Fight the Power! Senator attacks the elite.

The bit about Britain is interesting, too! As an Eton scholar myself, I don't remember having to answer questions as silly as the ones Heather quotes... but that was 60 years ago!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Carol Goar: Ryerson allows aboriginal students to learn their own way (in The Toronto Star)

"Ryerson allows aboriginal students to learn their own way....

"... the course is delivered in intensive chunks in rented facilities on the campus of the University of Western Ontario in London [Ontario]. Students use their holidays or unpaid leave to attend, some coming from as far as James Bay. Each segment begins with a culture camp in a First Nations community, led by native elders. “We’re a social people and ceremony and clans are intrinsic to our life,” Brant [Suzanne Brant, academic vice-president of First Nations Technical Institute (FNTI)] said.

"Three-quarters of the professors are indigenous, including Lynne Lavallee, associate director of the Ryerson School of Social Work."

Full article: Ryerson allows aboriginal students to learn their own way.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Pat Steenberg: Canadian deficits are a distribution problem, not a wealth problem (in The Toronto Star)

"Each percentage point of GST is estimated to return around $5 billion, annually. In 2006, the government reduced the rate from 7 per cent to 6 per cent and, in 2008, from 6 per cent to 5 per cent. This translates into a revenue loss of $5 billion in each of 2007 and 2008, and $10 billion in each of 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012. So what did you and I get out of this $50 billion in “savings”?

"At roughly 33 million to 34 million, that meant every Canadian realized, on average, about $150 in GST savings in 2007 and 2008 — roughly 41 cents a day, or the HST levy on a $3 chocolate bar. Since 2009, those savings have increased to 82 cents a day, or the HST on two chocolate bars. ...

"... in 2011 Canada spent $24.7 billion on defence. That was an increase of about $8 billion since 2006 and more than $10 billion since the start of 2001. An annual expenditure of $24 billion amounts to an expenditure in excess of $700 million for each and every Canadian in a single 12-month period. ...

"Federal corporate income tax brought in $30 billion dollars in 2012. At the 2004 rate, that would have been $42 billion. Repatriating the lost corporate tax revenues from the dead money reserves, brings us $12 billion. Restoring the GST to 7 per cent (at a cost of 84 cents each, a day) — $10 billion. Rolling back defence spending to 2006 levels — $8 billion. Altogether, that gives us an annual revenue increase of $30 billion. Given that the deficit for 2012 is estimated to be $26 billion, we cannot only balance the books this year, but do so with $4 billion to spare.

"Yes, Virginia, we can afford what we need. And if we can afford it, so can our government."

Full article: Canadian deficits are a distribution problem, not a wealth problem (Toronto Star).

Pat Steenberg is a former executive director of KAIROS, and a former vice-president of the Canadian Council on Social Development.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Garth Frazer: Punishing Bangladesh over factory disaster will only add to workers’ woes (in The Toronto Star)

"... not buying Bangladeshi apparel will not help the workers in Bangladesh. Buying from a company with stronger worker protections operating in Bangladesh will help Bangladeshi workers more than buying from a company with weak worker protections, but buying from any company operating in Bangladesh will help Bangladeshi workers more than not buying Bangladeshi clothing."

Full article: Punishing Bangladesh over factory disaster will only add to workers’ woes (in The Toronto Star).

Haroon Siddiqui: Canada’s flawed national census (in TheToronto Star)

"The voluntary survey drew a response rate of only 68 per cent, not the 95 per cent and more that the mandatory form routinely elicited. Those who did not respond were most likely those about whom Ottawa most needs the information — aboriginals, low-income people, etc. — to fashion informed public policy. Perhaps Harper is happy not to know much about them.

"The latest data, released Wednesday, is good enough to capture national trends but it becomes less reliable as you drill it down. That’s why StatsCan has refused to release data from as many as 1,100 smaller communities — ironically, the bedrock of Conservative support in many parts of the country.

"More egregiously, the new information cannot be compared to previous census data. That’s why the agency is warning against comparing apples and oranges. This is nothing short of tragic. A treasure trove of past knowledge can no longer be put to continuous comparative use."

Full article: Canada’s flawed national census (in The Toronto Star).

Friday, April 26, 2013

Rick Salutin: Let’s not be stupid together (in The Toronto Star)

"... we lack any self-interest in policies for which U.S. leaders are clearly willing to pay a price. We simply pay the price, with no benefits. That makes us double stupid, in Sontag’s sense.

"Causes are weird. Root or not, they’re easier to see in others than oneself. The National Post’s Andrew Coyne, defending Justin Trudeau’s query about root causes in Boston, asked why “extreme ideologies . . . take root in some people but not others.” But you could ask the same about the extreme free market ideologies that have taken root in Coyne and his colleagues at the Post. Were they “self-radicalized” — or seduced by devious outsiders? ..."

Full article: Let’s not be stupid together.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Heather Mallick: Justin Trudeau digs deep on terrorism, Harper draws a cartoon (in The Toronto Star)

"Hardline conservatives are hostile to science, art, literature, history, foreign cultures, courtroom trials, criminal rehabilitation, spending on preparation for the future, and most of all, root causes, the things that one has to dig very deep to comprehend. It’s like a surgeon removing metastasized tumours without checking the site of the original cancer.

"Terrorism is the most complicated of tangles but trying to untangle it is a potential lifesaver."

Heather Mallick: Justin Trudeau digs deep on terrorism, Harper draws a cartoon (Toronto Star).

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Haroon Siddiqui: Stop importing temporary workers into Canada (in The Toronto Star)

"The arrangement [temporary workers] suits both the workers and the host society, in the short term. But it is exploitative of the former and debilitating to the latter, in that it creates a two-tier society, of varying severity and duration. ...

"... given the extent of the problem here, Ottawa should end the temporary worker program — forthwith — and forbid businesses from paying 15 per cent less to those already here.

"That would force employers to pay what they must to attract Canadians to unattractive jobs, and also invest time and money in developing high-end skills among Canadians, especially the young."

Full article: Stop importing temporary workers into Canada.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Wormwood tea to treat malaria: The WHO is opposed to an effective preventive medicine (Slate Magazine)

"The tea comes from sweet wormwood (Artemisia annua), the Chinese plant that is a source for the world's most powerful anti-malarial treatments, which combine artemisinin derivatives with an older class of drugs. It can also be grown in wetter parts of Africa, and a year’s supply costs no more than a few dollars. Although the tea itself has traditionally been used in treatment, not prevention, in China, a randomized controlled trial on this farm showed that workers who drank it regularly reduced their risk of suffering from multiple episodes of malaria by one-third."

Full article: Wormwood tea to treat malaria: The WHO is opposed to an effective preventive medicine.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Monday, April 8, 2013

Margaret Thatcher dies: latest reaction - Telegraph

Margaret Thatcher dies: latest reaction - Telegraph: Baroness Thatcher's politics polarised the nation. Tony Benn, the former Labour minister, said on hearing of her death:

"She did make war on a lot of people in Britain and I don't think it helped our society."

Study Points to New Culprit in Heart Disease -

"Dr. Stanley Hazen of the Cleveland Clinic, who led the study, and his colleagues ... had come to believe that what damaged hearts was not just the thick edge of fat on steaks, or the delectable marbling of their tender interiors. In fact, these scientists suspected that saturated fat and cholesterol made only a minor contribution to the increased amount of heart disease seen in red-meat eaters. The real culprit, they proposed, was a little-studied chemical that is burped out by bacteria in the intestines after people eat red meat."

Full article: Study Points to New Culprit in Heart Disease.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Invention based on clay pot could save newborns from cerebral palsy (in The Toronto Star)

"Using simple, relatively cheap items, including a clay pot, a burlap basket, sand and triple-A batteries, biomedical engineering students at Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins University invented a low-tech, $40 device to cool oxygen-deprived babies at birth, potentially sparing them from cerebral palsy or even death."

Full article: Invention based on clay pot could save newborns from cerebral palsy.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Ian Gill: Who will protect the land from reckless development? (in The Toronto Star)

"...if we can’t find investors here at home, we can always sell off nationally crucial energy assets to countries like China, who will be happy to extract resources in a foreign country when it can exploit that country’s weak environmental laws.

"That irony alone should give serious pause to Canadians. Certainly, it adds more fuel to Idle No More, given that First Nations are at the front lines of just about every attempt — large or small — to develop Canada’s natural resources in this, our climate change century. ...

"On a trip to Toronto: decidedly unradical, un-environmental Canadians telling me that they are ashamed of the country’s addiction to oil and its treatment of aboriginal people and, unprompted, making a causal link between the two.

"I’m asked about Australia, where I lived and worked most recently, and the news from there isn’t really any better. Canada is not alone in suffering from a split personality when it comes to managing the demands of a growing and greedy society in an era of fiscal austerity and rapidly accelerating environmental stress — let alone dealing fairly with its Indigenous people."

Full article: Who will protect the land from reckless development?.

Ian Gill, who served as president of Ecotrust in Canada, the U.S. and most recently in Australia, is a former newspaper and CBC Television journalist, and the author of All That We Say Is Ours: Guujaaw and the Reawakening of the Haida Nation. He is an Australian and Canadian citizen. He lives in Vancouver.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Thomas Walkom: It’s time to end the Korean War (in The Toronto Star)

"The great secret of the Korean War is that it has never ended. An armistice was signed in 1953 to halt the fighting and let belligerents begin talks on a final peace treaty.

"But those talks never occurred. ...

"North Korea has long insisted it wants normal relations with the U.S. and others. Why not call Pyongyang’s bluff?"

Full article: It’s time to end the Korean War.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Tyler Hamilton: Ontario drags its feet on offshore wind opportunity (in The Toronto Star)

"two years ago Ontario was in a strong position to lead the world on freshwater offshore wind development, attract a major turbine manufacturer, establish a compelling local supply chain, and create many thousands of jobs. Today, the government is being sued for billions of dollars for turning its back on this potential, not to mention the investors it originally wooed.

"Meanwhile, Ohio has picked up the slack. The non-profit Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation (LEEDco) received $4 million (U.S.) last month from the U.S. Department of Energy that will go toward engineering, design and permitting work for its “Icebreaker” offshore wind project. ...

"The power crunch will come. Offshore wind, responsibly developed and set back far enough from the shore, could be an important part of Ontario’s clean energy mix. If we need more research, maybe it’s time we actually dipped our feet in the water and actually built something we can properly study.

"Or we can just look over our neighbour’s shoulder."

Full article: Ontario drags its feet on offshore wind opportunity.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Tony Burman: Hugo Chavez legacy will reverberate beyond Venezuela (in The Toronto Star)

"We need to remember the past to better assess the future, and we can be certain that most Latin Americans do.

"The legacy of Latin America’s most dominant leader since Fidel Castro will undoubtedly reverberate beyond the borders of Venezuela. ...

"I made my first visit to South America in the mid-1970s, travelling by bus for more than a year from one country to another. ...

"I recall so many people remarking to me that the Canadian government, above all, was promoting a foreign policy that was independent of the United States. As we try to assess the legacy of Chavez, it is striking to realize that, since that period, Latin America and Canada seem to have switched places."

Full article: Hugo Chavez legacy will reverberate beyond Venezuela.

Thomas Walkom: Alberta’s oil woes mean trouble ahead for Canada (in The Toronto Star)

"Curiously, Alberta has much in common with the Venezuela that Hugo Chavez bequeathed to the world. Both rely on heavy oil exports to the U.S. Both are one-party states (Alberta more so than Venezuela). Both are utterly dependent on the price of oil and both have economies that, in different ways, have been deformed as a result of this dependence.

"Venezuela faces a reckoning and so does Alberta. So, indeed, does Canada as a whole.

"We are already seeing a decline in the Canadian dollar as a result of the resource slowdown. In the long run, this should be good news for Canadian manufacturers who export their goods. In the short run, it means all of us are a little poorer.

"Where we don’t see any change is in the federal government’s approach to the economy. The Harper Conservatives remain dazzled by resources. They believe that if the markets want Canadians to hew wood and draw water, that’s what we should do.

"But markets are notoriously fickle. This is a fact the entire country will have to face. Alberta is just getting there first."

Full article: Alberta’s oil woes mean trouble ahead for Canada.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

NDP bill would free Toronto from the OMB (in The Toronto Star)

"Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Linda Jeffrey said the minority Liberal government is “keeping an open mind” about the NDP proposal.

"“It’s a very interesting private member’s bill. I’m always receptive to hearing ideas about how we can make our institutions stronger,” Jeffrey told the Star.


"Last year, when she was municipal affairs and housing minister in former premier Dalton McGuinty’s government, Premier Kathleen Wynne expressed the need for changes to the OMB."

Full article: NDP bill would free Toronto from the OMB.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Haroon Siddiqui: Stephen Harper’s real agenda on religious freedom (in The Toronto Star)

"The government protests that its sympathies are not selective. It throws in references to other beleaguered minorities — the Falun Gong, Tibetans and Uighurs in China, the Shiites being massacred in Pakistan, etc. But its word won’t be taken seriously unless it tells us what it thinks of the following:

"The Rohinga Muslim minority in Myanmar, suffering a systematic pogrom about which even Nobel Laureaute Aung San Suu Kyi has been shamefully silent; the Muslim minority of 175 million in India, whose plight is being addressed by the government of India itself; Kurdish and other minorities persecuted in Iran; the Shiite minority in Saudi Arabia, whose rights are routinely put down by force; and Hindu and Sikh minorities in Malaysia and Indonesia, who are barely tolerated;

"The Shiites of Lebanon, who constitute a plurality but are systematically denied proportionate electoral and other representation; the Shiite majority in Bahrain, persecuted for decades by a Sunni monarch who has brutally crushed their pro-democracy demands; and Syria’s Sunni Muslim majority discriminated against by the ruling minority Alawite sect of the dictator Bashar Assad.

"A third of the world’s population suffers government or social restrictions because of faith, says the Washington-based Pew Forum on Religion. Restrictions on religious freedom have been rising in the Middle East, China, Russia, Africa, Asia and even Europe.

"As Harper acknowledged on Tuesday, “around the world, violations of religious freedom are widespread and they are increasing.”

"Which of these would he champion and on what basis?"

Full article: Stephen Harper’s real agenda on religious freedom.

Alex Himefarb: The trouble with austerity: Cutting is more about ideology than economics (in The Toronto Star)

" If there are inexorable laws of economics that yield jobs and growth from cuts to taxes and government, it seems somebody forgot to tell business."

Full article: The trouble with austerity: Cutting is more about ideology than economics.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

David Olive: Fracking’s future an illusion at best (in The Toronto Star)

"The gas glut has contributed to the lack of urgency in developing alternative energy sources, a transition from environmentally harmful fossil-fuel use that experts say will take a generation to pull off. No surprise there, given the absurdity that the world’s renewable energy industry receives about $88 billion a year in state subsidies, according to the United Nations, while the lucrative fossil-fuel industry has a stupendous $523 billion in government assistance shoved at it.

"It’s not that we lack the ingenuity for a widespread rollout of wind, solar and other energy alternatives. What’s missing is the willpower to mount a revolution in alternative energy.

"The Manhattan Project and putting a man on the moon each took less than a decade to accomplish. Oddly, the threat of human extinction from climate change can’t seem to match the spur to action that 1940s-era fascism and the subsequent Cold War offered."

Full article: Fracking’s future an illusion at best.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Thomas Walkom:The false gods that are Alberta’s oilsands (in The Toronto Star)

"Vast quantities of money would be spent (usually by government) on infrastructure needed to extract whatever resource was in demand. And then, suddenly, things would change.

"Maybe the commodity would fall out of fashion — as did felt hats made from Canadian beaver pelts. Or maybe technology would make the staple irrelevant, as the steamship did to masts made from Canadian white pine.

"In all instances, Canadians would be left paying the costs."

Full article: The false gods that are Alberta’s oilsands.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Ethiopian kids teach themselves using only tablet computers (SmartPlanet)

"The results of the non-profit’s experiment were more than encouraging, OLPC [One Laptop Per Child]’s founder, Nicholas Negroponte told audience members at MIT Technology Review’s EmTech conference last week.

"“I thought the kids would play with the boxes. Within four minutes, one kid not only opened the box, found the on-off switch…powered it up,” he said. “Within five days, they were using 47 apps per child, per day. Within two weeks, they were singing ABC songs in the village, and within five months, they had hacked Android.”"

Full article: Ethiopian kids teach themselves using only tablet computers

Will 3D printing revolutionize the way we live? (in The Toronto Star)

Will 3D printing revolutionize the way we live?

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Toronto’s environment chair again expresses doubt about global warming (in The Toronto Star)

"Franz Hartmann, executive director of the Toronto Environmental Alliance, was ... perturbed.

"“It’s really unfortunate that Councillor Kelly is not paying attention to the vast amount of science that makes it clear climate change is happening and that it’s human-caused, and most importantly that it’s beginning to have an impact on the livability of our cities,” Hartmann said."

Full article: Toronto’s environment chair again expresses doubt about global warming.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Thomas Walkom: Canadian troops drawn into Mali’s war, despite what Prime Minister Stephen Harper says (in The Toronto Star)

"There are at least four different armed rebel groups operating in the country’s north. The National Movement for the Liberation of Azwad, a Tuareg separatist group, claims it holds the town of Kidal. It used to be allied with the Islamist Ansar Dine.

"Now, according to AP, the separatists say they want to work with the French against some (but not all) Islamists. But they say they will still fight Mali’s army which, according to reports from Reuters, is said to be busy executing those who look Tuareg in towns liberated by the French. ...

"In November, [Niger’s Foreign Minister Mohamed] Bazoum told the foreign affairs commission of France’s National Assembly that Mali’s former president, deposed last year by the army, had given AQIM [Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb] free rein in the north in exchange for a share of the terror group’s lucrative kidnapping revenues.

"There. I hope all of this explains why we’re militarily involved (or, as the Harper government would say, not militarily involved) in this war."

Full article: Canadian troops drawn into Mali’s war, despite what Prime Minister Stephen Harper says.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Haroon Siddiqui: Nightmare scenario for Sandra Pupatello (in The Toronto Star)

"The first priority for the new premier should be to recall the legislature and try to make it work.

"Kathleen Wynne is best positioned to do so. She has a seat, unlike Pupatello, who has to engineer a byelection and win it.

"Finance Minister Dwight Duncan is ready to resign his Windsor seat for her. But there is no guarantee that this cynical political ploy by the party establishment would not engender voter backlash.

"The nightmare scenario for the Liberals would be that they would have sacrificed their ace finance minister for a leader who failed to win a seat."

Full article: Siddiqui: Nightmare scenario for Sandra Pupatello.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Benjamin Gillies: Finland offers lessons in equality for educators (in The Toronto Star)

"... Canadians should be proud of their own education system, which also holds up well when ranked internationally. Still, Finland continues to outperform us, and does so while actually spending about 13 per cent less per student than Canada does. As such, though we are different countries with separate cultures, perhaps there are lessons for Canada to learn from this successful Nordic state and its approach to education — that focused on equity, but ended up with excellence."

Full article: Finland offers lessons in equality for educators.

Benjamin Gillies is a political economy graduate from the University of Manitoba, where he focused on urban development and energy policy. He works as a consultant in Winnipeg.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Tom Mulcair: It is not too late for the prime minister to ... begin a new dialogue with First Nation, Inuit and Métis peoples (in The Toronto Star)

"When Europeans came to this land and interacted with the indigenous people living here, they made treaties on a nation-to-nation basis. While Canada was still a colony, the Royal Proclamation of 1763, exactly 250 years ago, actually used the word “nations” to describe the indigenous peoples.

"But this relationship has suffered from years of federal government policies based on segregation, and then assimilation. Policies that led to tragic social injustices and denied indigenous communities a full seat at the table where consensus could be built and where the rights of consent and consultation could be respected. ...

"The Canadian family shares a tremendous inheritance, but the Government of Canada has been a poor trustee.

"It is not too late for the prime minister to rise above the petty partisanship that too often drives his government and change course. To begin a new dialogue with First Nation, Inuit and Métis peoples to replace the broken relationship he has helped create."

Tom Mulcair calls for respectful, nation-to-nation relations with aboriginal peoples.

Tom Mulcair is Leader of the Official Opposition in the Parliament of Canada.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Thomas Walkom: Mali crisis sees Canada being drawn into another war (in The Toronto Star)

"Slowly, inexorably, Canada and the world are being drawn into Mali.

"The wise people say intervention is necessary. They say we must prevent the West African nation from becoming a springboard for terrorist attacks on Europe.

"The wise people almost always say intervention is necessary. Fifty years ago, equally wise people urged intervention in Vietnam to prevent what was then called the “domino effect” — the fall of Southeast Asia to Communism.

"We all know where that went. ...

"The rest of us can be forgiven for being confused. Until last week, a significant number of Canadians would have had trouble locating Mali on a map. Now we are being told its fall to these rebels — whoever they are — would threaten Western civilization.

"And perhaps it would. But forgive us if we are ever so slightly skeptical. We have heard these stories before."

Full article: Mali crisis sees Canada being drawn into another war.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Rick Salutin: Whose country is it, anyways (in The Toronto Star)

"In the National Post, columnist George Jonas writes that the “ultimate solution” — a poor choice of phrase — for native peoples is to “end special status” by “fashioning an entry for native Canadians into the mainstream of society” because “people must join the century in which they live.” In this respect he says residential schools were based on the right “model” even though their effects were “abominable.”

"So there’s Jonas, who immigrated in the 1950s as a young Hungarian who was also Jewish, telling aboriginal Canadians, whose ancestors trekked across the land bridge in the Bering Strait, oh, 12,000 to 14,000 years ago by recent guesstimates and have been “here” ever since, a while before there was a thing called Canada — that they must discard their sense of self and join the “mainstream” as he decrees it is. With no hint of irony. ...

"I live for the happy day when Canadians don’t tell each other what the mainstream is and what they’re obliged to do to gain “entry” to it."

Full article: Salutin: Whose country is it, anyways.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Martin Papillon: Provinces need to be at negotiating table with natives (in The Toronto Star)

"Real substantive change in the relationship between First Nations and Canada will have to involve provincial governments.

"Provinces, not the federal government, are responsible for the management of public lands, natural resources, education, health care and many other key policy areas at the core of First Nations demands.

"This won’t be easy. First Nations, many of whom have signed treaties with the Crown, are reluctant to engage in formal relations with provinces.

"Treaties, they argue, established a nation-to-nation relationship with the Crown in Right of Canada, not the provinces. ...

"It may be time for everyone to take a deep breath, sit down and talk. The federal-provincial division in responsibilities over First Nations made sense from a colonial perspective 100 years ago. In the era of aboriginal rights and self-determination, it doesn’t anymore."

Full article: Provinces need to be at negotiating table with natives.

Martin Papillon is an associate professor of political studies at the University of Ottawa.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Linda McQuaig: Canada’s energy juggernaut hits a native roadblock (in The Toronto Star)

"Canadians have reason to be ashamed of our treatment of aboriginals — from residential schools to the continuing failure to provide basic necessities like water, housing and education to people whose ancestors were here long before ours arrived.

"Ironically, their insistence on their constitutional rights, as Palmater [Pam Palmater, a Mi’kmaq and spokesperson for Idle No More] notes, may be the last best hope of Canadians to reverse our own culture’s reckless disregard for the dictates of Mother Earth, who ultimately is more demanding and unforgiving even than the global economy. Rising GDP levels won’t mean much if we’re swamped by rising sea levels.

"The very least we can do is to get behind this ragtag group that has, in a few short weeks, shown more wisdom than our “advanced” society has mustered in decades."

Full article: McQuaig: Canada’s energy juggernaut hits a native roadblock.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Tim Harper: A year of extreme weather could put the heat on Ottawa’s environmental indifference (in The Toronto Star)

"Sometimes a scientific study so exhaustive, so authoritative and so alarming arrives in the public discourse that it simply cannot be ignored.

"And sometimes the timing and content of such a study merely confirms what should be evident to any thinking person anywhere on this planet.

"Such is the case with The National Climate Assessment, a draft of which was released in Washington Friday and is open for public comment beginning Monday, 1,000 dispiriting pages distilling the work of more than 300 scientists and experts. ...

"The White House Office of Science and Technology twice stressed in a Friday response that the climate assessment report is a scientific study, not a policy document.

"But the study is loaded with warnings of sweltering heat, hotter nights taking a toll on livestock, huge ocean swells, blackouts, health risks and mass transit failures.

"When the Conservatives killed the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy last year, Environment Minister Peter Kent said it was no longer needed because there was plenty of independent climate change information on the Internet.

"If that’s the case, Kent should go to the website."

Full article: Tim Harper: A year of extreme weather could put the heat on Ottawa’s environmental indifference.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Chantal Hébert: Harper squanders chance to set new course with First Nations (in The Toronto Star)

"Canadians are quick to cast judgment on the Americans and the entrenched societal reflexes that prevent them from arriving at consensual outcomes on health care or on the place of guns in their society.

But some similar blockages have long crippled our national conversation and reduced the capacity of those who govern Canada to recast some fundamental relationships.

Political will — as was shown at the time of the Meech and Charlottetown debates — has obvious limitations when it does not intersect with the popular will. ...

"Does not anyone remember the quasi-hysterical reaction and the over-the-top language that attended the adoption of a mere House of Commons resolution dealing with Quebec’s national status in 2006 in some otherwise mainstream quarters?

"Or what about the vitriolic comments that so routinely make their way below media stories related to Quebec these days that many no longer take notice of them?

"There are many admirable features to Canada’s attachment to a civic form of nationalism but the tendency to use it to refuse to come to terms with the distinctive elements that are at the root of the country’s identity is not one of them."

Full article: Hébert: Harper squanders chance to set new course with First Nations.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Joe Fiorito: Feds should be idle no more (in The Toronto Star)

"In my opinion, people thrive when they are in control of their own lives and in charge of their own resources.

"The federal government should be idle no more in these matters."

Full article: Fiorito: Feds should be idle no more.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Kai Nagata: Progressives need a say in federal Liberal leadership race (in The Toronto Star)

"The larger our voting bloc, the more powerful our ability to shape internal policy conversations. The more focused we are on co-operation, the more the candidates will have to acknowledge our concerns and articulate where they stand. Some have already.

"I’ve spoken to people high up in the NDP, the Greens and Liberals who really do want to work together — and think this strategy has potential. There are many people in these parties capable of basic arithmetic, and they harbour a very reasonable fear of losing again. ...

"If the NDP, Liberals and Greens can’t find a way not to cancel out each other’s efforts, Harper will cruise straight to another victory. Electing a Liberal leader who understands this is our first, best chance of stopping it."

Full article: Progressives need a say in federal Liberal leadership race.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Alex Himelfarb: The mean test: Have we stopped caring about Canada’s most vulnerable? (in The Toronto Star)

"When governing is all short-term economic growth, then aboriginal rights and environmental protections become inconveniences to be ignored or managed. Refugees, the unemployed and the poor come to be seen and treated as freeloaders, a drag on the economy, rather than fellow citizens, often victims of an increasingly mean version of capitalism. And criminals are turned into convenient scapegoats for our fears and discontents, the most heinous offences and frightening offenders used to blind us to the reality that those are people in our prisons, most of whose lives could be repaired.

"Our leaders try to convince us that the health of the so-called job creators is more important than that of the weakest among us....

"On measures of equality, we are slipping to the bottom relative to other rich countries.

"The debate brewing about how to measure success is not just about measurement."

Full article: The mean test: Have we stopped caring about Canada’s most vulnerable?.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Michael Valpy: Canada’s new politics of discord could carry a heavy price (in The Toronto Star)

"... in a society where the well-educated are seen as possessing an unequal hold on power and an unequal share of the country’s socio-economic fruits, Harper and his Conservatives have been successful at presenting themselves as the voice of Canadians who incongruously have the short end of the inequality stick that government policies have allowed to grow. ...

"Is Harper aware that his government’s policies are not in step with the country’s default values? One of Canada’s most astute political scientists, McGill University’s Antonia Maioni, suggests that he is, and that by employing what she calls a calibrated move to the right, he’s creating what Canadians in time will come to see as a new normal.

"A big gamble. A dangerous gamble."

Full article: Canada’s new politics of discord could carry a heavy price.