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May 29, 2010

George Smitherman's Transit Vision for Toronto

CANADA - Mayoral hopeful George Smitherman has finally released his vision of the future of the TTC. The plan was released yesterday. A 17 billion ramped up transit plan which includes:

#1. Extending the subway east to Sherway Gardens, replacing the Scarborough RT with an above-ground subway.

#2. The Sheppard subway would also be extended west from Yonge St. to Downsview station.

#3. Extending the Spadina line to York University.

#4. A waterfront streetcar to the West Donlands.

#5. Limited free midday TTC service for seniors.

#6. Curb-separated bike lanes in the city and "cycle superhighways" through Toronto’s parks and trails.

And he would do all this without new taxes or road tolls, all built in time for the 2015 Pan Am Games.

“It is a shameful lack of leadership that has put Toronto in the position that our transit system is a throwback to decades ago,” says Smitherman, referring to the fact that the TTC is 30 years behind schedule in terms of infrastructure building.

Smitherman has yet to unveil his platform for reorganizing the city's budget to pay for these expenses. $10 billion has already been set aside for future TTC infrastructure. Smitherman says he will be looking to private companies to make up the difference.

Does that mean Toronto will finally start renovating and renting out space inside subways to be used as cafes, stores, offices, etc? It has been done before in some subway stations with limited success. Overseas other subway systems seem to have no trouble coming up with private investment and stores willing to setup shop in high traffic zones.

China will not protect North Korea

POLITICS - Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao says China will not protect those who sank a South Korean warship, even if its North Korea. China is currently doing its own study to determine who sunk the South Korean warship the Cheonan in South Korean waters. Wen Jiabao said that China "rejects any acts that harm peace and stability" on the Korean peninsula and "will review the results of international probes closely."

According to an international study released last week a North Korean torpedo sunk the Cheonan frigate back on March 26th, but China has chosen to withhold judgment until it conducts its own study.

The United States, Japan and South Korea are pushing to China to punish North Korea for the attack. The three leaders of China, South Korea and Japan are meeting today in a three-way summit to discuss the problem of North Korea.

Its expected that North Korea will be a topic of discussion in the upcoming G8 and G20 meetings in Toronto.

May 28, 2010

Should Mexico assassinate its Drug Lords?

POLITICS - This is doomed to be a controversial topic. Assassinating people usually is.

Mexico is fighting a war against drug cartels which is becoming increasingly violent and out of control. Its so bad that some Mexicans are fleeing the country and coming to the USA and Canada to make refugee claims.

The drug violence is so bad that when Felipe Calderon became the Mexican President on the promise of putting a stop to the drug cartels he declared war on them, devoting significant government resources to rounding up and arresting the gangs, their leaders and the powerful drug cartels who control them all. In the last three years over 23,000 Mexicans have died in a drug war that makes the USA's contribution to the war in Iraq look small (less than 4,400 Americans have been killed in the Iraq War).

In response to the government action the drug cartels declared war on each other. Gang vs gang violence in the streets and by the time the police or military gets there all the survivors have fled.

The drug cartels routinely murder people for so much of a whisper that they might be helping the Mexican military/police... or worse, rival gang members. Some of the murders are out right macabre as bloody corpses are hung up in the streets to warn other Mexicans not to talk to the police. Beheadings, bodies strewn in streets, dismemberments, mass killings... its sickening.

At one point 15 teenagers celebrating a birthday were killed in a mass shooting simply because gunmen mistook them for rival gang members.

That incident which should rightly be blamed on the drug cartels instead has caused public anger at Mexican President Felipe Calderon for his failure to stop the violence.

Frankly there isn't a lot Felipe Calderon can do... unless he declares a national emergency and culls the drug cartels in a massive military operation.


#1. Declare martial law for 3 days and tell the Mexican people to stay at home where it is safe. Violence in the streets is to be expected.

#2. Use all of Mexico's military and police power to round up every drug gang, drug cartel and their leaders in one massive three day operation. Any who resist will be shot with rubber bullets, tasered or otherwise subdued. Live ammo will be necessary in violent confrontations.

#3. Due to the backlog of legal cases that would need to be dealt with the people captured in this massive 3-day raid on drug cartels these people would have to be held indefinitely until they can be given a proper trial. This means a suspension of the right to a speedy trial.

#4. Assassinate or execute the drug cartel leaders. Obviously this means a suspension of civil liberties that we normally take for granted. Due process, trials, convictions and hopefully prison sentences. The problem however is that the drug lords of Mexico have this remarkable habit of either bribing all the necessary judges or escaping during the legal process.

So far to his credit Felipe Calderon is the first Mexican President to fight the drug cartels. Every president prior to him either ignored them or was secretly receiving bribes from the drug cartels for leaving them alone. He's the only Mexican President thus far who hasn't been corrupt or too frightened to fight the cartels.

Nobody expects Felipe Calderon or even the above mentioned 3-day operation to solve Mexico's organized crime problem permanently. The above operation is meant as a way to round up all the drug cartels and their gangs in a single blow. Doubtless some will hide and manage to escape notice.

The real danger of the above plan is how will those who escape notice respond? More kidnappings and assassinations of government people? Such things are already rampant so its hard to imagine how it could get worse.

May 27, 2010

North Korean timeline towards Inevitable War

POLITICS - The following is timeline of events that have occurred on the Korean Peninsula.

1945 - Japan surrenders to the United States and its allies. Japan's colonies are divided up, including the Korea Peninsula which it had annexed in the late 19th century. Korea was divided between the Soviet Union and the United States, ignoring the wishes of Koreans to stay unified.

1950 to 1953 - Unable to reach an agreement over who should control Korea the northern half of Korea and the southern half of Korea (roughly divided down the 38th parallel) went to war, but nobody really won and eventually a ceasefire was called and a DMZ constructed between North and South Korea.

January 17th 1968 - 31 North Korean commandos crossed the border disguised as South Korean soldiers in an attempt to assassinate South Korean President Park Chung Hee. 29 of the commandos were killed, one committed suicide, and the last captured. Reports vary but its believed 68 South Koreans and 3 Americans were killed in the assassination attempt.

October 1968 - 130 North Korean commandos entered the Ulchin and Samcheok areas in Gangwon-do. 110 of them were killed, 7 were captured and 13 escaped.

October 1969 - North Korean infiltrators killed four American soldiers near the DMZ.

November 1974 - The first of 17 North Korean infiltration tunnels under the DMZ is discovered.

June 1976 - Three North Korean infiltrators and six South Korean soldiers were killed near the DMZ.

August 18th 1976 - The Axe Murder Incident resulted in the death of two American soldiers in the Joint Security Area.

May 29th/30th 1993 - North Korea tests a series of medium range missiles capable of reaching Japan. North Korea later trades this missile technology with Iran in exchange for oil.

May and June 1996 - Five North Korean naval ships entered South Korean waters on the west coast and withdrew after a four-hour confrontation with Southern forces. In June 1996 three North Korean naval ships did the same thing three-hours in the same area.

September 17th 1996: - 26 North Koreans beach their submarine on the eastern coast near Jeongdongjin. 11 were killed by North Korean commandos. 13 were killed by South Korean soldiers as they tried to escape back across the DMZ over the next 49 days, one was captured and one escaped. 13 South Korean soldiers and 4 civilians were killed. South Korean diplomat, Choi Duk Keun, was found poisoned by a substance similar to that found on the submarine. A South Korean taxi driver who first spotted the intruders and alerted the authorities was given a hefty reward.

April and July 1997 - In two separate incidents North Korean soldiers crossed the DMZ and fired at South Korean positions. The July incident resulted in a 23-minute exchange of heavy gunfire.

June 1997 - Three North Korean naval ships entered South Korean waters in the Yellow Sea and fired at South Korean naval ships.

1998 - North Korea did two long range missile tests disguised as attempts to enter satellites into space. The first missile burnt up over the Pacific Ocean while the 2nd missile failed after only 42 seconds.

June 22nd 1998 - A North Korean midget submarine was caught in South Korean fishing nets in South Korean waters. All nine submarine crew were found dead in an apparent group suicide. North Korea blamed the South for causing the death of the crew.

June 1999 - A nine-day confrontation started when North Korean ships intruded into disputed waters near the Northern Limit Line on the Yellow Sea resulting in a battle that sunk a North Korean torpedo boat and damaging five others.

February, March and April 2001 - On three separate occasions North Korean naval ships boats entered South Korean waters briefly over the Northern Limit Line but retreated when challenged by the South Korean Navy. 12 maritime intrusions were reported in 2001.

June 29th 2002: North Korean naval ships cross into South Korean waters, provoked a gun battle and killed 4 South Korean military personnel. Its unknown how many North Koreans died in the battle.

February 19th 2003 - A North Korean fighter jet entered South Korean airspace over the Yellow Sea, the first since 1983. Six South Korean fighter planes responded, and the North Korean plane retreated after two minutes.

January 17th 2006 - Iran tested a North Korean designed Nodong-B missile.

October 9th 2006 - North Korea successfully test detonates a small nuclear bomb underground. Shortly after North Korea conducted several medium and long range missile tests.

April 2009 - North Korea’s Taepodong-2 splashes down in the Pacific Ocean, the first successful long range missile test by the North. Its capable of reaching Alaska or Hawaii. North Korea pretended it was just an attempt to launch a satellite.

May 25th 2009 - North Korea successfully test detonates a second nuclear bomb underground, this time it is much bigger than the last one. The United Nations responds with more economic sanctions.

November 11th 2009 - North Korean naval ship attacks a South Korean ship in the Yellow Sea, but is set on fire during the incident.

March 26th 2010 - A North Korean submarine sank South Korea's Cheonan warship using a torpedo. 46 South Korean sailors were killed in the attack.

Okay so here's why war with North Korea is likely inevitable: The skirmishes and technological upgrades are increasing. Its only a matter of time before North Korea does a test or attack which is so big it can only lead to war.

That and the fact that North Korea has withdrawn from peace talks altogether suggests they're getting ready for something. Combine that with the fact their leader Kim Jong Il is dwindling in power while his 26-year-old son Kimg Jong Un exerts more and more power suggests the younger generation in North Korea may be spoiling for a fight.

It would be nice if North and South Korea could just get along and have a peaceful reunification but it doesn't seem to be heading that way.

The good news is the USA years ago deployed a series of missile destroying Patriot PAC-3 missiles and also the USS Mustin, a guided missile destroyer, in cooperation with the South Korean and Japanese governments which are both increasingly paranoid of a North Korean attack. How accurate their ability to shoot down enemy missiles is not publicly known.

The bad news is that South Korea's capitol Seoul is a mere 25 km from the DMZ and has a population of 24.5 million. A nuclear strike on Seoul would be devastating.

Jamaican gangster still at large

POLITICS - It is now day 5 of a Jamaica wide manhunt for the infamous drug lord aptly named Christopher Coke, also known as "Dudus". He is considered to be one of the biggest drug lords in the world with a massive following of people who consider him both a saint and a sinner.

On the streets of the Jamaican capitol of Kingston he's also known as "the President" due to his sheer wealth. His drug consortium provides a large chunk of cocaine and marijuana to the United States and the USA has been trying to capture or extradite him for years now.

The problem however is that Christopher Coke is stretching his muscles and showing he won't be caught so easily. Armed gangs loyal to him have been waging a miniature civil war on the streets of Kingston for 5 days now and casualties reached 44 people dead last night.

The civilian population blames the government, saying what they're doing is illegal, but police and military forces involved insist everyone they've killed was shooting back at them.

Three days ago masked men torched a police station and Coke's army of fighters have been staging hit and run ambushes against the police and military ever since, forcing Jamaica to declare a state of emergency.

The Jamaican government has asked publicly for Christopher Coke to surrender himself to police, but Coke's leadership of a group known as "the Shower Posse" (so called for showering their victims with bullets) suggests that he would sooner go out in a hail of bullets than surrender.

A short, educated man and father of four Christopher Coke is now believed to be hiding somewhere outside of Kingston, far away from fighting which has reduced Kingston's normally bustling streets to the decibel level of a library... with the exception of the sporadic sounds of distant gunfire and explosions.

The Shower Posse reputedly is resorting to propaganda tactics to encourage normal Jamaicans to oppose the police. Two days ago a group of them went to a house while masquerading in police uniforms, ordered the five people outside, burned down the house and showered all five residents with bullets in a crude attempt to turn the public against the government.

Sadly it might be working. There is a lot of support amongst the poor in Kingston for a man promoted to be a type of Robin Hood. The botched attempt to capture him and the 50+ deaths so far have only strengthened the Jamaican government's resolve to capture him and put an end to the gang violence.

Canada's Babyboomer Crunch

CANADA - The Babyboomer Crunch is Coming! Run for your lives!

For reference a Babyboomer is anyone born between 1946 and 1964, a period of intense post-war fornication (Laugh) during which approx. 72% extra babies were born in the USA and Canada. Because it also lasted 19 years it was a blip so big its been described as a the Pig in the Python due to the sheer size and volume, a demographic group so big it resulted in society following suit with whatever the Babyboomers were doing.

Babyboomers are now entering their 60s and starting to retire. You probably know a few who are already retired, choosing to do so early. But what is of note is that the number of seniors will outnumber the number of children (age 14 or under) in Canada by 2015 and that means changing priorities as Canada's government will shift its focus to keeping the old Babyboomers happy while ignoring education for our children.

Blame our wonderful health care system for keeping them alive so long.

Indeed Canada’s population is expected to exceed 40 million by 2036. According to Statistics Canada it could be as high as 47.7 million if our health care system and quality of life continues to get better and better at the rate it currently is doing so. Population growth is expected to explode in Ontario and British Columbia whereas Newfoundland and Labrador is expected to see only marginal population growth.

The problem with so many Babyboomers is that it will create a plethora of problems but also create a crunch time for jobs. The Babyboomers have saved up a sizable nest egg and will no doubt want to enjoy some of it, which will mean economic good times for industries that cater to the elderly (ie. Tourism, entertainment, sports, pharmaceuticals, etc) and eventually good times for the funeral industry. The problem will be Canada's shortage of skilled labour. There will be no shortage of jobs available and Canada will need to bring in foreign workers to help with all the work keeping the darn Babyboomers happy.

In other news if you're a Babyboomer and looking for a good city to retire to, well then 4 Canadian cities were recently ranked in the top 25 cities in the world to live in, according to the Mercer Quality of Living Survey.

#4. Vancouver.
#14. Ottawa.
#16. Toronto.
#21. Montreal.
#28. Calgary.

Its interesting to note that no American cities made it into the top 30. The best was Honolulu at 31.

See Also:
The Babyboomers' Tab

Toronto G20 to use Sonic Stun Guns

POLITICS/TECHNOLOGY - When the 20 heads of state from the G20 nations (and 5 guests from 5 additional countries) arrive in Toronto on June 26th they will be protected by a new weapon in the police arsenal. The LRAD (Long Range Accoustic Device) Sonic Stun Gun causes people to involuntarily reach for their ears as its decibels reach a range which becomes painful to human hearing.

Indeed long term use can cause permanent hearing damage. The weapon was originally developed and designed by the U.S. Navy to be used against submarines and similar threats but has found new uses in crowd control because it can be aimed to deliver a cone of sound at specific targets in the crowd.

Toronto has purchased a total of four such devices. Three handheld LRADs capable of reaching 135 decibels, which surpasses the pain threshold of 110 to 120. Plus one larger van mounted LRAD that can generate 143 decibels. (For reference conversation is 60 decibels, a 737 Airliner is 80, a power mower is 100, 120 is a nearby lightning crack, 140 is a shotgun blast going by your ear and causes permanent damage.)

Toronto police say they will only be using it for short bursts of sound, unlike Pittsburgh police who last year used the weapons continuously during the 2009 G20 summit.

Remember Toronto police are the same police who continue to use Tasers improperly, despite their own omission that Tasers can kill when used improperly. They have a history of saying they won't do something and then go ahead and do it anyway.

(I pity the poor protestors who are too dumb to bring something to protect their ears. If they're planning on confronting police a quality set of ear muffs would be wise.)

The legality of a device that can cause permanent hearing damage being used on crowds of people including children and babies has yet to be determined. Even against a rowdy crowd of young men it seems unethical.

And what about the poor people who happen to live or work nearby? Who wants their baby woken up by that annoying high pitched sound and then having to get the baby back to sleep. Or the poor guy in his office just trying to make a living down the street? Seeing as even the small hand held LRADs are louder than a lightning strike that annoying sound will be heard miles and miles away.

Boycotting State Farm / Driver kills dog but not held responsible

CANADA - The Flemming family of Aurora, Ontario lost their dog Jake two months ago when it was struck and killed by a woman driver in a hit-and-run. According to witnesses she hit the golden Labrador Retriever and kept on driving.

A Good Samaritan man went to the dog as he lay dying on the road and then went to inform Flemming that their dog had been hit. Jake died in Kim Flemming's arms.

Approx. two months later, on May 17th, Flemming received a bill for $1,732.80 from State Farm Insurance claiming that she is 100% responsible for the damages to the car because the dog wasn't on a leash.

Okay, so what about the emotional suffering of the dog owner? If anything the driver should be paying her money, not the other way around.

Also given that it was a hit and run and the driver didn't even have the common decency to stop and instead fled the scene of the crime I am highly suspicious of who was really at fault.

If I (or anyone else) gets hit by a car in a hit-and-run I really don't think its reasonable for the insurance company to be blaming the person who was struck by the car when the driver didn't even stick around.

The Flemming family should not be held responsible for such an accident. Especially if it truly was an accident and not the result of flagrant speeding / lack of attention on the part of the driver.

Using Google street view we can see the approx. location of where the dog was killed. Its a straight strip of road with no curves or major hills with very little traffic. Quite safe for a dog, just so long as drivers are paying attention.

Here's what may have happened... just a guess. The driver was on her cell phone, not paying attention, swerved a little on the road and then hit the dog. She kept driving because she didn't want the police to know she had been talking on her cellphone and driving at the same time. She reported the damage to the insurance company and let them sort it out.

The Flemming family has informed State Farm they do not plan to pay the bill, and are considering their options.

“I think going to this level is insulting,” says daughter Katherine Flemming, her voice breaking. “We’ve lost a member of our family but we’re supposed to pay for the damage to her bumper? That’s just wrong.”

While I do agree dogs should be leashed in towns because of the number of cars going by, in the countryside it is far more a tradition to let farm dogs roam so they can scare away predators. Its common sense that farm pets ROAM. Cats catch mice, dogs protect their owners and the cattle/chickens by scaring off predators like foxes, coyotes and raccoons. Its a necessity of farming.

As such I'd argue they aren't just pets. They're dual-purpose as farm animals.

Remember Lassie? Where would Timmy be if Lassie couldn't roam? How could Lassie find Timmy trapped down a well and then fetch help? If some inept person can't drive a car well enough to avoid a dog then they don't deserve a driver's license. Looking at that plain strip of road the only excuse for hitting a dog is lack of attention to the road.

The driver should be paying damages for killing the dog and not sticking around at the scene of the crime.

And as for State Farm? I recommend they learn some manners and common sense. Companies with a lack of common sense (ie. British Petroleum, Halliburton, Enron, etc.) don't deserve to be in business and should be boycotted.

May 25, 2010

Gulf oil spill just a taste of things to come

ENVIRONMENT - There is a saying I heard years ago:
"You don't shit in your drinking water."
The concept is simple. You don't pollute or ruin something that you need. So for example when your economy is based off the fish that you catch, you don't go poisoning your supply of fish by releasing billions of gallons of oil into the fish's habitat.

Right now 800,000 litres of oil /day continues to spill into the Gulf of Mexico due to the bungled clean up process following the British Petroleum / Halliburton oil rig explosion on April 20th.

BP hired a bunch of inept idiots from Halliburton (Dick Cheney's old company) to properly seal a well deep under water. So deep that when the oil rig exploded its now very difficult to plug.

Worse, BP, instead of just plugging the hole is trying salvage it because they want the oil well. They could have easily filled the hole with cement or blown up the broken underwater pipe with explosives, but instead they're letting 800,000 litres of oil to spill into the water every day while they try to come up with a way to cap the oil and keep it flowing.

Five weeks later they're still scratching their heads and trying to think of a way to cap it.

Stupid. Utterly stupid.

Meanwhile the oil spill is killing the Gulf of Mexico fishing industry and the oil spill has spread to the Florida Keys and eventually will get sucked into the Gulf Stream, which means the eastern seaboard will also be effected. So far 21 million litres of crude oil has been released. The oil spill is now bigger than West Virginia.

To put that in perspective the Earth has 361 million square km of ocean (surface space). If that oil continues to flow into the Gulf Coast for another year we will be looking at a global catastrophe. It only takes a small amount of oil to poison local fish stocks. It gets into their system and messes with their reproductive abilities so only females are born and the few males that are born are less fertile or infertile.

What is also mindboggling is why the oil industry never bothered to equip oil tankers with a vacuum filtration system which could be used to suck in surface water/oil, filter it and then keep the crude oil safely in the belly of the oil tanker. Perfectly common sense that there are going to be spills, it makes logical sense to equip oil tankers with a fast way to clean it up. The technology is no different from that used to clean a public pool, only on a larger scale.

Gee, why don't we all shoot ourselves in the foot while we're at it.

May 23, 2010

Harry Brown makes revenge look easy

ENTERTAINMENT - Ever watched a movie about revenge? You know, films like Gran Torino, Pay Back or The Brave One? Well Harry Brown takes it to a whole new level.

PLOT: Harry Brown (Michael Caine) is a modest law-abiding citizen, but he is also a retired Marine and a widower who lives alone on a depressed housing estate. His only company is his best friend Leonard (David Bradley). When Leonard is murdered by a gang of thugs, Harry feels compelled to act and is forced to dispense his own brand of justice. As he bids to clean up the run-down estate where he lives, his actions bring him into conflict with the police.

Plot wise it feels a lot like a remake of Gran Torino, except with a lot more explosions, guns and revenge.

Flooding in Warsaw kills 12

ENVIRONMENT - Twelve people are dead and many others are missing as floods flowed through the Polish capitol of Warsaw yesterday, destroying billions of euros of property on the way.

To make matters worse the Vistula river has burst it banks in a non-residential region of the city where local residents were attempting to keep the flood at bay with sandbags. All along the Vistula river many other towns and smaller cities are experiencing flooding.

City officials are telling citizens to be ready to evacuate on short notice if necessary. Many Polish people have refused to evacuate their homes out of fear of looting.

Poland's Prime Minister Donald Tusk says the ongoing flooding is "the worst natural disaster in the nation's history ... without precedent in the past 160 years."

Poland is the worst effected in recent flooding. Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Slovakia, Serbia and Ukraine have all been affected when two months worth of rain poured down over one 24 hour period.

Normally central Europe doesn't get that much rain. Recent climate change and changing weather patterns however are creating havoc for countries not used to large amounts of sudden rainfall.

May 22, 2010

Toyota invests in Tesla

CARS - Toyota has made a $50 million USD investment in electric sportscar Tesla Motors Inc. The automaker is not alone in the investment in the car. Daimler, the Abu Dhabi government, venture capitalist Elon Musk are also investing in the electric sportscar known for its speed and its design based off the Lotus Elise.

"This is supposed to be the wave of the future and it never happened," says John Fitzgibbon of "But Tesla has larger revenue than past electric-car startups and now it has a $50 million infusion from one of the leading auto competitors. So that certainly tells you that somebody has confidence in this thing."

"You have the ecology thing behind it and the appeal of not relying on oil from Saudi Arabia or oil squirting into the Gulf of Mexico."

Tesla Motors already ranks among the most visible-initial public offerings on the plate for 2010 because of its appeal as a low emission product. Green tech is considered to be the future and "blue chip companies are so turn of the millenium."

Tesla filed plans to go public back in late January as part of its push to raise money to mass produce electric cars for the mainstream market. The company said it planned to raise up to $100 million, at the time.

IPO nonsense aside, the Tesla is a great car. It relies on the Lotus Elise's already amazing power to weight ratio, allowing the car to stay very lightweight despite packing battery power and an electric motor.

In 2009, Tesla reported $112 million USD in revenue and has sold a total of 937 Tesla Roadster electric cars as of Dec. 31, 2009.

Tesla is planning mass production of its Model S sedan with a target yearly production of up to 20,000 cars per year, priced under $50,000. It will be the first electric car built for families which can actually go like stink... and travel long distances between trips to the plug.

Israeli apartheid banned at Gay Pride

By Zehavi Abramsky - May 2010.

CANADA - The group Queers Against Israeli Apartheid has been banned from joining in with the Gay Pride celebrations in Toronto. Members of the group can still attend the Gay Pride Parade, etc., but they won't be allowed to enter a float in the parade.

The group promotes peace between Israel and Palestine, but the use of the word "apartheid" has upset Jewish groups because it implies that Israel doesn't treat Palestinians equally.

Which is quite accurate. Palestinians aren't allowed to vote and are basically treated like second class citizens... or more specifically, they're treated as dangerous foreigners who happen to be sharing the same ancestral land.

APARTHEID: A social policy or racial segregation involving political and economic and legal discrimination against people who are not White or Caucasian.

Historically the term is most often used to describe the policy of racial separation used in South Africa from 1948 to 1990. Whites had all the rights to vote, could go anywhere they pleased, etc. Mixed race people had less rights and basically the blacker you were the less rights and freedoms you had.

In Israel and Palestine however its more complicated. The government of Israel has built walls separating Israeli and Palestinian communities, essentially fencing in Palestinians in what is arguably the world's largest concentration camp. The walls are also used to cut Palestinians off from sources of employment, farms, land they own, food, etc. All in the name of protecting Israel.

And we're not talking little walls either. As you can see in the photo here these walls are made so tall that they make the Berlin Wall look small.

These walls are then guarded by Israeli troops. Entrance points to Palestinian towns are well guarded, making it very difficult for Palestinians to leave. There's even been incidents of tunnels (like in the film The Great Escape) dug under the wall so people can get out of there, find food and bring it back to their families.

Sounds familiar doesn't it?

During WWII the Nazis established ghettos to confine Jews and sometimes Romas into tightly packed areas of the cities of Eastern Europe, turning them into de-facto concentration camps. The Warsaw Ghetto was the largest of these ghettos, with 400,000 people. The Ghetto Litzmannstadt was the second largest, holding about 160,000. By keeping them penned in the Nazis were able to control them, starve them of food, refuse them medical treatment, allow them to die of disease and famine... and then photographed them and used the photographs of their deplorable conditions as propaganda to prove to the German people that Jews and Gypsies were sub-human. And they did it all in the name of protecting Germany from the threat of Jewish diseases, Jewish criminals, etc.

The Nazis also rounded up Poles, Ukrainians, other ethnic groups, homosexuals and people with mental problems. Anyone considered a traitor to Germany was either rounded up or shot.

So while the time and place may have changed, and the methods and motivations are also different, we can all see the similarities.

Nazi Germany, Apartheid South Africa, Israel and Palestine. The ugly face of segregation.

The big trick here is that people who support Israel's occupation of Palestinian land get really upset when you compare Israel to Germany or South Africa. I don't mean Jews, because not all Jews support Israel's military or government. I am just referring to "supporters".

Now some people might accuse me of being a self-hating Jew because I don't support Israel. Boohoo. Do you really think I care about that? My grandparents left Poland in 1939. They saw segregation first hand and the way it demoralizes and humiliates people. I'd argue its a war crime.

I think that some people in Israel have reacted to the segregation they felt during WWII and then instead of recognizing it as a bad thing they've gone and used it instead on Palestinians. I am probably not alone in thinking this. There's even a psychological term for this (although I forget the word for it), when someone does something traumatizing to you and you do the same thing to another person.

Its also a form of displacement revenge. They can't get revenge against the Nazis, so instead they take out their revenge on someone else. This displaced aggression isn't very therapeutic however because then the receiving party tends to retaliate and a deadly cycle of violence ensues.

And failing to admit that its all about revenge is another issue. Denialism in this case, denying that there are similarities to Nazi Germany and South African Apartheid, denying that what the Israeli military is doing is wrong, only furthers the problem. It has absolutely nothing to do with protecting Israel. Its all about revenge, paranoia and prejudice.

And trying to censor people and denying that Israel is using apartheid methods to control the Palestinian people isn't going to solve anything. Only discussion and open understanding will solve these problems.

Eventually the walls must come down.

May 20, 2010

North Korean torpedo sunk South Korean ship

POLITICS - International investigators have finished studying the wreckage of the 1,200-ton frigate named Cheonan that sank on March 26th after an explosion ripped through its hull. Fifty-eight sailors survived, but 46 were killed in the explosion or drowned soon after. The investigators have concluded it was a North Korean torpedo that sunk the ship.

Last night the inquiry announced they had found “clear and definitive material evidence” that North Korea was behind the attack. As evidence they presented a pair of propellers, a propulsion shaft and four rudders of a torpedo. The explosive chemical RDX was found around the blast area. The serial numbers on the torpedo were similar to those found on another North Korean torpedo 7 years ago. Navigational hardware found also matched those used by North Korea.

South Korean president Lee Myung-bak earlier this month threatened “stern action” if allegations of North Korean involvement prove true. Now they have been proven.

North Korea immediately branded the report a “fabrication” and threatened war if retaliatory measures were taken.

China is urging calm as it does its own investigation of the attack. China is North Korea's only remaining ally and trading partner, but is under enormous pressure because it now considers South Korea, Japan and the USA allies as well.

North Korea has nuclear weapon technology, as previously demonstrated, and also has missile technology capable of reaching as far away as Hawaii. A North Korean sub armed with nuclear missiles could hit mainland United States. Japan is also considered a major target and long time enemy.

Oil prices down, but gas prices up?

POLITICS - The price of crude oil has dropped almost 20% in the last 3 weeks, but the price of gasoline has barely budged. This isn't the first time this has happened either. When consumers aren't paying attention the oil industry frequently gouges consumers on the listed price.

6 years ago the price of gasoline in Canada stayed pretty relative to whatever the price of crude oil per barrel was doing. If oil was trading at $60 / barrel then the price of gasoline would be about 65 cents per litre. If it was $80 / barrel, the gasoline price would be roughly 85 cents per litre... etc.

But right now the price of oil is roughly $69... which means the price of gasoline should be about 74 cents per litre. Except it isn't, instead its hovering around 98 cents per litre in Canada... a full 24 cents higher than it should be.

The gasoline/oil industry can come up with any number of excuses for this, but the one reason they neglect to mention is that Canadians have become used to the price of gasoline being roughly $1 / litre.

(For any Americans reading this, that would be roughly $3.80 per gallon. Americans should be thankful their government subsidizes gasoline prices more than the Canadian government does.)

Thus Canadians have simply become used to the higher prices... and the gasoline sales industry is basically gouging customers because we've become so used to the higher price.

So even though the price of oil has dropped almost 20%, the gasoline price has barely budged downwards. You could argue the industry is guilty of price fixing, which is ILLEGAL because its considered a form of hoarding, extortion and conspiracy.

But good luck proving that in court.

Environmentalists will be happy however. Higher gas prices means the general public thinks more about alternative energy sources like electric cars or hydrogen cars... as well as public transit and bicycles.

Gas price watcher Dan McTeague says Canada’s oil industry is poorly regulated and tends to “tack on” what he calls “extra mystery cents” to the wholesale price. “That’s why I’m getting a lot of letters from the public. How is crude going down and the price at the pumps not falling as much as they should?”

Oil execs blame the prices on everything from "summer gas", the summer driving season, more fuel efficient cars, more ethanol added, and the Canadian dollar has lost 2.5% of its value recently (as oil prices go down the Canadian dollar usually goes down).

Except what they fail to mention is that oil stockpiles are up, the debt crisis in Greece has put a damper on oil prices, there's no shortage of oil or gasoline right now and the wholesale price of gasoline has dropped significantly.

All things considered the price of gasoline should be a good 20 cents per litre cheaper than it currently is.

After all why should our governments subsidize oil prices billions of dollars per year to keep the prices low when the industry just raises the prices and gouges consumers anyway?

12 Ways to Shed 100 Calories / Day

HEALTH - Looking to shed a few extra pounds?

#1. Select nonfat or 1% milk instead of whole milk.

#2. Use smaller plates and eat less food.

#3. Flavour your coffee with cinnamon and nutmeg instead of sugar.

#4. Use a non-stick skillet and cooking spray or olive oil instead of butter or margarine.

#5. Put lettuce, tomato, onions, and pickles on your burger or sandwich instead of cheese.

#6. Try raw vegetables instead of tortilla chips with salsa.

#7. Munch on a small bag of microwave popcorn with no added butter.

#8. When eating out, ask for the breadbasket to be removed from the table as you sit down.

#9. Ask for sauce and salad dressing on the side; eat enough to enjoy the flavor, but leave most of it behind.

#10. Swap regular soda for mineral water or ice water with a squeeze of lemon or orange.

#11. Walk the dog for 45 minutes.

#12. Lift a 25 lb weight above your head 100 times. Repeat for each arm.

For reference: A pound of fat = 3,500 calories. You can do the math.

May 19, 2010

The Call Centre of the Future... on your SmartPhone

TECHNOLOGY - Imagine a job where you can go for a walk, go to the gym, go shopping, etc. and get paid every time your SmartPhone rings and you help out a customer?

In the very near future there will be an app for that.

Customer service will be quantified and measured so that personal service (as opposed to talking to those damn automated machines) will be paid on both the quantity of the calls and the quality of customer service, helping customers to reach a satisfactory conclusion with everything from billing errors to tech support.

But its the fact these customer service reps won't need to be in a call centre any more that is interesting to me. They will be able to answer calls from wherever they are located... just so as long as there's no distracting background noise and there is a good strong wireless connection.

Whenever the CSR knows they are ready to receive calls they turn on the application on their SmartPhone and are connected to the Call Centre's mobile network, allowing them to receive calls. A built in program can terminate the call if there is too much static or background noise, switching the caller to another CSR with better reception.

The advantage here is that it allows people to work from home, but maintain mobility so they're not just sitting all day as their body goes waste. The company in turn saves money on building costs, less offices to buy/rent, less computers to buy and the SmartPhone application network keeps track of everything with rare need for managerial interference.

If customers ask to speak to a manager the CSR just has to press a button, briefly describe the problem and leave a voice message for the manager or higher ranker CSR who will be waiting on the following line... likely out walking their dog or playing golf.

I am not saying its an improvement, but its definitely the future.

See Also: The Future of Phones

Facebook banned in Pakistan

By Ai Lung Nguyen - May 2010.

RELIGION - The popular social media website Facebook has been banned in Pakistan for images of the Prophet Muhammad on various Facebook groups.

Today Pakistan’s government has ordered internet service providers to block Facebook because Islam prohibits any images of the prophet. A group of Islamic lawyers won a court order earlier today requiring the shutdown. Earlier protests against the website were becoming increasingly violent.

At the centre of the dispute — “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day!” — encourages users to post images of the prophet on May 20th to protest threats made against the creators of “South Park” for depicting Muhammad in a bear suit during an episode earlier this year. The group has over 46,000 users and will likely grow now that its receiving more media attention.

Technically it was Santa Claus dressed up in the bear suit, as later revealed in the episode... but whatever.

"We're not Muslim. We don't have to follow Islamic rules about depicting Muhammad. If people want to get upset about it, fine. But as non-Muslims we have the right to depict whoever we want," says one Facebook user.

“We are not trying to slander the average Muslim,” said the information section of the Facebook page. “We simply want to show the extremists that threaten to harm people because of their Mohammad depictions that we’re not afraid of them. That they can’t take away our right to freedom of speech by trying to scare us into silence.”

Pakistan's ban against Facebook will only last until the end of May.

Other countries however, including China, have a permanent ban against Facebook because of the Tianenmen Square Massacre.

There are plenty of Muhammad images available on the internet, easily found with a Google image search for Prophet Muhammad. So why aren't they protesting and banning Google too?

What I don't understand is why they didn't just submit a complaint to remove the page?

I mean if billionaire Peter Nygard can have Facebook groups boycotting him removed using phony nonsense about intellectual property infringement, why can't Muslim groups do the same thing?

After all if a billionaire can censor any pages he doesn't like, why can't a religious group? (I am not actually endorsing this idea, I am just pointing out the fact that Peter Nygard gets away with this bullshit.)

See Also:
Follow the Lilith eZine on Facebook

UPDATE! The Facebook page “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day!” was deleted yesterday. A new group was started to replace it and is already up to 15,000 members.

Obviously many of the images on the page are meant to provoke humour.

Bangkok burning as protestors scatter

POLITICS - The Thai military overran the Red Shirt protestors, arresting hundreds but scattering an unknown number across the city of Bangkok last night. The military used armoured personnel carriers and bulldozers to crush the barricades and shelters. Many of those protestors resorted to arson as they fled, resulting in 20+ fires that now continue to burn across the city.

The Bangkok Stock Exchange, the electrical grid, a ritzy shopping complex and a cinema are just a few of the locations set ablaze as the protestors fled.

The Red Shirts want new and fair elections, and hopefully the return of a deposed leader who was removed from power in 2006's military coup.

The main leaders of the Red Shirts are now in custody and were preaching restraint and peaceful surrender even before they were captured, but such self control has fallen on the deaf ears of the desperate young men who believe the corrupt military must be overthrown by any means necessary.

And so Bangkok burns today.

Post Offices and government buildings are under attack, reports of violence and rioting have spread to other parts of Thailand. The military continues to crackdown on the protestors, using snipers, tear gas and firing into crowds. Four more people were killed last night, including an Italian photojournalist. Over 60 others were injured, including a Canadian freelance journalist and filmaker.

After months of bloody street battles this is surely not the end of the conflict. The sound of gunfire in the city is constant and thick clouds of black smoke now hangs over many parts of the city.

The Red Shirts, formally called the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship, had 4,000 to 5,000 people at the protest sites before the bulldozers came, including women and children.

“I have no plan to flee. I am here to fight for better Thailand. I don’t mind dying for my country,” said 54-year-old protester Saman Niyakul as he prepared a homemade rocket. “There are too many double-standards and that’s what I cannot stand. We have to fight that.”

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejiajiva favours the country’s rich and well-connected elites, especially those connected with the country’s royalty. The protestors say this is unfair and want equality for all.

The government has offered peace talks with the protest leaders and the leaders have complied to do so peacefully, but not all their followers trust the offer of peace and worry it will be a massacre.

"How can we trust a government that shoots civilians with snipers?" said one protestor.

Anarchists vow vengeance against G20 Summit

CANADA - An anarchist group called the FFFC has posted a video and a message on YouTube claiming responsibility for firebombing a Royal Bank of Canada branch in Ottawa on Tuesday and is now ramping up to do more attacks on the G20 Summit in Toronto. No one was hurt in the firebombing.

The group denounced the Royal Bank for a “major financier” of Alberta’s tarsands while calling itself one of the greenest companies in Canada and criticized the bank for being involved in the 2010 Winter Olympics held on Native Canadian land.

It also says: "The G8/G20 ‘leaders’ and bankers are meeting in Huntsville and Toronto to make decisions that will further their policies of exploitation of people and the environment." and is promising to be there

Note: This seems more like an environmentally minded arsonist group than an anarchist one. Anarchists believe in the removal of government, resulting in a might is right / mob rule. The concept is that mob rule is in theory more democratic, but it ignores the fact the foreign governments, corportations, etc will just exploit the lack of government even more. Thus anarchy doesn't really work as a system of government (or lack thereof) because it allows corporations/outsiders to do whatever they please.

ie. Somalia is currently in a state of anarchy. Outside governments have used the country as a dumping ground for toxic and nuclear waste, the people there are desperate and quite a few have resorted to piracy. Proof that anarchy doesn't work.

The FFFC probably is not a true anarchist group. They're just resorting to extreme measures to draw attention to issues.

May 18, 2010

Canada dead last in Geothermal

CANADA/ENVIRONMENT - Canada has some of the biggest geothermal companies in the Pacific Rim, but none of them have a geothermal facility inside of Canada. They're all built in other countries as far south as Chile.

According to a new study in the 'Journal of Geophysics and Geoengineering' Canada could meet all of its energy needs, completely replacing coal and nuclear power, by drilling into the earth's crust and using steam to move turbines... but provincial and federal governments have been lagging behind on the geothermal capabilities despite Canada being a world leader in geothermal technology.

The study says that Canada has many promising locations where it could drill 3.5 to 6.5 km into the earth's crust, to depths where the surrounding rock has temperatures reaching 150 to 200 degrees C, pipe in water and then reap the benefits from high pressure steam turbines.

“Given the widespread distribution of geothermal energy, and the high energy content, the potential geothermal resource in Canada is significant,” concludes the study.

FACT: Canada is the only Pacific Rim country that doesn't have a conventional geothermal power plant. It has the leading geothermal developers... but they all build in Nevada, California, Nicaragua, Iceland, Chile, etc. because the local governments in those regions have realized the potential for geothermal to provide worry-free cheap energy which is constant, and unlike solar and wind, operates at full capacity 24/7 regardless of weather conditions.

Three years ago a different study concluded that geothermal projects could easily supply 100,000 megawatts of constant power, enough to fulfill 80% of Canada's current electricity needs.

Except Canada doesn't even have a single geothermal development program. Zilch. Nada. Nothing.

Canada's Environment Minister Jim Prentice can be reached here:

Tel.: 819-997-1441
Fax: 819-953-0279

Environment Minister Jim Prentice
Les Terrasses de la Chaudière
10 Wellington Street, 28th Floor
Gatineau, Quebec
K1A 0H3

May 17, 2010

GM & Chrysler aiming for huge profits

CARS - Chrysler and General Motors are already predicting huge profits due to the market rebound in automotive sales which are up 16.7% in the last 4 months.

That should do well for General Motors which still owes another $40 billion to the American and Canadian governments for its buyout one year ago this week.

There are a variety of reasons for the sudden profitability of the two companies.
#1. More credit available to car buyers.

#2. More focus on catering to younger buyers with SAT Nav and DVD players for family cars.

#3. Scrapping of brands that don't sell as much. ie. Pontiac, Saturn, Saab and Hummer are all gone.

#4. No more marketing to golf fans and the older generation. Few Americans play golf anyway.

#5. No more building excess capacity of cars that aren't selling fast enough, resulting in those cars later being sold at a loss.

#6. Scrapping car models that are too slow at selling.

#7. More focus on small cars in order to compete with small cheap imports.

#8. More focus on gasoline efficiency, considering the recent shift in the market towards greener cars and the worry about gas prices.
But Chrysler and General Motors aren't out of the woods yet. This summer a whole slew of new cheap cars imported from China and India are coming to North America. If you think Japanese and Korean cars are cheap... Pfff! You haven't seen anything yet.

May 15, 2010

Thai snipers shooting protestors in Bangkok

POLITICS - In what can only be described as a war crime the Thai military has begun shooting protestors using snipers on rooftops in an effort to quell dissent in the capitol of Bangkok.

The country of 64 million people is one of the poorest and most desperate countries in Asia, led by a military regime already known for its brutality. Around government buildings in Bangkok the military has pinned up notices which say “Live Firing Zone.”, basically allowing the snipers to shoot anyone spotted protesting or speaking to the media.

In one incident a protestor was shot in mid conversation while speaking to a reporter.

A Canadian journalist was also shot and injured, one of three journalists wounded in the fighting so far.

The soldiers claim they only fire in self defense, but this does not explain the wounded journalists and civilians who are shot by snipers without warning.

So far at least 42 people have been shot and killed and another 1400+ people have been injured since the stand off began 2 months ago. Protestors have erected barricades across streets and are demanding the resignation of the government. In the last 2 days alone 24 people have been killed and another 200+ injured.

So far the army has used snipers, tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition against the protesters, who throw Molotov cocktails and rocks in response. Some have armed themselves with slingshots and also set cars on fire and roll burning tires at the soldiers.

Central to the fighting in the corrupt ruling class elite who control Thailand's government and military. Protestors, often known as Red Shirts, want the return of exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a military coup in 2006 but is rumoured to be corrupt.

What Thailand needs is a new election and new leaders to choose from, but since this is also a struggle being the rich elite and the poor (in a country that is very poor) it is difficult to find leaders who are wealthy enough to run in an election who aren't corrupt.

In 2006 the military junta overthrew the government, dissolved Parliament, got rid of the constitution and declared martial law.

Thailand's tourism industry promotes itself as the “Land of Smiles.”

May 14, 2010

Ottawa refuses to share MPs expenses

CANADA - Spending irregularities in MPs expense accounts caused Auditor General Sheila Fraser a year ago to request to see their receipts for $533 million and exactly what they're spending their money on.

The proposed audit however has been rejected, a resounding no from Conservative MPs who don't want the public to know what they're spending taxpayer dollars on. The statement they released said the audit "would go beyond the scope of the auditor general's mandate."

Its the Auditor General of Canada! Its her job to audit things!

The only conclusion left here is that the MPs have been overspending and misusing taxpayer dollars on things they shouldn't be buying. This is hardly the first time this has happened. Very few MPs in the past have been squeeky clean and accountable on this issue. Some have just plain been outright fraudulent.

And why did the Auditor General have to wait a year before getting an answer?

In 2004 Sheila Fraser uncovered the Liberal sponsorship scandal, a scandal so big it ended up costing the Liberals the following election and Prime Minister Paul Martin was sent packing.

The obvious conclusion here is that the Conservative Party has something to hide and is worried about a similar scandal destroying their already horrible reputation.

Access-to-information laws don't apply to MP budgets and their expenses are subject to financial audits that don't show exactly where the money goes. Its kept deliberately vague.

So are MPs defrauding Canadians? Probably. We will never know since they refuse to be audited.

When you have five children and all the cookies in the cookie jar are missing you can be pretty sure more than one of them was stealing cookies.

May 12, 2010

Fat Robin Hood

By Suzanne MacNevin - May 12th 2010.

ENTERTAINMENT - I apologize for using the F word and I am very sorry for it.

Russell Crowe is an out of shape action hero. A has been. His time has come and gone and this historically AND mythologically inaccurate film will no doubt be a flop. This film should have been cancelled the moment Russell Crowe failed to lose the required weight as dictated in his contract. Instead he squandered studio money to make a blockbuster style film in a last ditch attempt to save his beleaguered career. The plot is basically a rip off of Braveheart, is badly done and has nothing to do with either the historical Robin Hood or the mythological stories that sprung up about him since then.

I am not alone in this belief either. Robin Hood fans around the world are outraged by this horrid film. Remember that horrible Catwoman film starring Halle Berry? It got a freshness rating of 10% and is ranked as one of the worst 100 films ever filmed. Well this is worse.

In the words of the Simpson's Comic Book Guy: "WORST. FILM. EVER."

We're not going to bother showing the trailer here. Please. PLEASE! Don't go see Robin Hood starring Russell Crowe. Boycott the film. The producers should be ashamed to have their names attached to this travesty.

My recommendations... go watch the following films instead:

1938: The Adventures of Robin Hood, starring Errol Flynn.

1973: Walt Disney's Robin Hood, starring anthropomorphic foxes as Robin Hood and Maid Marian.

1991: Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, starring Kevin Costner.

1993: Robin Hood: Men in Tights, starring Cary Elwes of 'The Princess Bride' fame.

The Armegeddon Factor

CANADA/RELIGION - Is the Conservative Party of Canada getting too cozy with a right wing Christian cult? According to a new book out called "The Armagedden Factor" there are scary new elements in Canadian politics which are looking forward to a doomsday reckoning of biblical proportions.

Have you noticed lately the increased attention of the Conservative Party on pleasing the Christian right wing? They've cut information about gays/lesbians from official government documents, tried to ban same-sex marriages, cut funding to Toronto's Gay Pride Parade, cut funding to women's groups and women's shelters, cut funding to Planned Parenthood / safe abortions overseas... well its all part of a trend to keep the Christian right wing happy.

There are now over 1500 private evangelical schools in Canada promoting their version of history, their sense of morality and their beliefs. Some of them are even special colleges training students to enter politics.

Over a dozen right wing think tanks and advocacy groups have appeared too, all promoting hatred of gays, immigrants, other religions and of course... Armegeddon.

According to journalist and author Marci McDonald these groups are becoming increasingly militant and their involvement with the Conservative Party of Canada has some disturbing consequences. According to her Prime Minister Stephen Harper likely doesn't agree with these group and is just using them in an attempt to win a majority government, but we just don't know what Harper really believes in these matters because he's so secretive about his policies.

According to McDonald it doesn't stop there. These born-again Christian evangelicals have become the core driving force behind the Conservative Party and are determined to eventually make Canada a Christians only country.

It used to be that economic conservatives was the meat and potatoes of the Conservative Party but in recent years the Reform Party turned Canadian Alliance Party turned Conservative Party has become increasingly reliant on right wing Christians for their votes. Other conservative religious folks also vote for the party, but the disturbing commonality between them all is the fact they all believe in Doomsday.

According to a misreading of Mayan calendar Doomsday is supposed to happen on December 21st 2012. This rumour has been perpetuated by ill-informed religious folks, self-proclaimed messiahs and cult leaders for years now who try to fit it into the Christian myth of the second coming of Jesus Christ as foretold in the Book of Revelations from the Christian Bible.

It is utter hogwash from an atheist perspective. And if you're Christian then its also complete blasphemy to be mixing the Mayan calendar with the Bible. Science and Religion usually don't mix and in this case its a big no-no.

But try telling that to any number of conservative Christians who are now heavy hitters in Canada's political game. Not just Canada either. These groups also have strong ties to similar groups in the USA, especially in the Republican Party and the Tea Party demonstrators who want to overthrow the White House and turn America into a purely Christian country.

Marci McDonald believes Canadians need to be more concerned and alarmed by this growing Christian movement and the dangers of letting people who believe in Armegeddon into power. She worries that Canada is becoming polarized because of conservative radicals.

Here's a short list of some of radical right wing Christians involved:

Reverend Charles McVety, the evangelical president of Canada Christian College in Toronto since 1993. He's actively promoting the banning of same-sex marriages. He's basically a Canadian version of Jerry Falwell. During the 2006 election, McVety registered several domains which bore the names of Liberal candidates, such as "" (a reference to Joe Volpe), and published pro-Conservative material there. He also attempted to sway a number of Conservative nomination candidates in favour of evangelical candidates. After the Conservative victory, McVety and evangelical colleagues were asked by Prime Minister Stephen Harper's office to help popularize his child-care plan. McVety also helped in the making of Bill C-10 which bans government money to be used to help produce films in Canada which contain too much sex and violence. McVety has also organized anti-Darwin protests, believes climate change is a myth and believes NATO should use nuclear weapons against Iran and North Korea.

Faytene Kryskow, anti-abortionist who organizes protests against abortion clinics and the leader of a 4,000 member lobby group which is pushing for the illegalization of abortion and "more God in government". She also hosts prayer rallies and frequently meets with Conservative MPs and senators in an effort to push them towards pushing a Christian agenda.

James Lunney, a Conservative MP from British Columbia and a Christian Zionist who believes the return of Jews to Israel which cause a chain of events to occur that will lead to Armegeddon.

Brad Trost, a Conservative MP from Saskatoon who publicly opposes gay rights and was the first person to promote the idea of cutting funding to safe abortions, condoms and Planned Parenthood programs overseas.

Stockwell Day, Conservative MP and President of Canada's Treasury Board. He has access to a lot of money, is a former Christian minister and believes that Adam and Eve walked with the dinosaurs, and is widely considered the leader of the religious right in Ottawa. He's also involved with "Watchmen for the Nations", a group which believes that "God means Canada to play a role in preparing end time."

Wait... so Stockwell Day is involved a group which wants Canada to help plan the Apocalypse?

That is really taking the phrase "If you build it they will come." too seriously. Planning the Apocalypse sounds like a really bad idea.

Marci McDonald says if the government is making changes they will be made slowly and incrementally and that Canadians should be worried and stand up for their rights as Canadians as they are being stripped away slowly.

Lets try to keep things in perspective however... 77% of Canadians are Christian, but only 22.25% of adult Canadians voted for the Conservative Party during the last election. Only 59.1% of adult Canadians voted in the last election (2008).

Thanks to lack of people voting and vote splitting from NDP/Green Parties the Conservatives nearly won a majority government despite only 22.25% of Canadians voting Conservative.

Dutch boy only survivor in Libyan air crash

HEALTH - 96 bodies have been recovered from the wreckage of a plane crash at an airport outside the Libyan capital of Tripoli. The only survivor of the crash is an 8-year-old Dutch boy. The majority of the plane's passengers were from the Netherlands.

The boy is now in a hospital in Tripoli where he has undergone surgery for multiple severe injuries. Libyan and Dutch authorities are trying to identify the boy.

The plane's company, Afriqiyah Airways, is known for its cheapness and poor safety measures. Tripoli was a refuelling stop for a flight from Johannesburg to Brussels.

7 Children + 2 Adults Hacked to Death in China

HEALTH - A total of seven kindergarten children, the school's manager and their teacher were hacked to death in the city of Hanzhong in central China today in the latest in a series of bizarre attacks. It was the fifth time someone had attacked school children since late March.

At 8 AM this morning a 48-year-old man with a meat cleaver attacked a class of 20 children, killing the teacher and the school's manager, seven children and injuring 11 more. Two of the injured children are critically injured and might die.

The man then killed himself with the meat cleaver.

Wu owned the property used by the school and had argued with the school's manager before embarking on the killing spree. The school was being illegally run on Wu's property without government permission and he wanted the land back before the government found out.

The Chinese government has been increasing security in recent months, adding security cameras and sometimes even guards, but the guards are rarely used and security cameras really just record the incident on tape.

The recent attacks have killed 17 and injured over 60 people. Some people point to China's shortage of mental health clinics and the social stigma in China associated wih mental health where its considered very shameful to have a mental illness and not discussed often.

Zhou Xiaozheng of Beijing's Renmin University claims that these men have contracted an infectious disease that affects the mind. "They pick children as targets because they are the weakest and most vulnerable," says Zhou.

Nonsense. More likely these are just copycat crimes wherein they've seen the coverage in the media.

The Chinese government is downplaying the incidents and refusing to connect the dots, worried about more copycat killers.

The first incident began with an attack on a primary school in late March in the city of Nanping in Fujian province where eight children were slashed to death by a former community clinic doctor with a history of mental health problems. Dozens have been wounded in similar attacks since then.

Recent scandals in which children have been the main victims have sparked public anger and occasional protests, such as when 3,000+ children around the country were found to have lead poisoning from polluting factories built too close to villages, and when 300,000+ infants were sickened by tainted baby milk powder.

Because the new government security measures are largely for show and many private kindergarten classes (essentially daycares) are run illegally these attacks could easily continue since illegal kindergarten facilities won't have much security. Such daycare locations are all too common in China.

May 11, 2010

80% of Canadians Online

CANADA/TECHNOLOGY - According to a new study by Statistics Canada 80% of Canadians aged 16 and older (21.7 million people) used the Internet in 2009. That is up from 73% in 2007.

Internet use increased in every province, with New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador recording the highest increases, at 15%.

Internet use was highest at 85% in both British Columbia and Alberta, followed by 81% in Ontario.

The most online-savvy cities were Calgary and Saskatoon at 89% each. Cities ranked the highest usually, averaging 83% compared to small communities of under 10,000 which only had 73%. That is up from 76% and 65% respectively in 2007 showing the digital divide between rich/poor, urban/rural, educated/uneducated continues to grow.

94% = wealthy people (incomes of $85,000) use the Internet. (90% in 2007).
56% = poor people (incomes of $30,000 or less) use the Internet (48% in 2007).

89% = at least some post-secondary education (84% in 2007).
66% = no post-secondary education (58% in 2007).

In contrast the divide between age groups is shrinking.

98% = people aged 16 to 24 (96% in 2007).
66% = people 45 or older (56% in 2007).

Frank Frazetta dies, age 82

ART HISTORY - Arguably the greatest fantasy artist to ever live died yesterday. Frank Frazetta was a fantasy art legend famous for his images of Conan the Barbarian, Tarzan, the Death Dealer and other heroic figures of fantasy fiction.

Frazetta suffered a stroke on May 9th and died May 10th in Lee Memorial Hospital in Fort Myers, Florida. He was 82 years old.

Frank Frazetta's artwork is famous in the fantasy art world. To draw comparisons he is like Andy Warhol to Pop Art, Pablo Picasso to Cubism or the Group of Seven to Canadian Art.

Frazetta’s paintings were mostly in oil, but his canvases were rarely seen in museums because fantasy art is considered too low brow by some art critics. His fans however were the millions of readers who enjoyed all variety of fantasy books, comic books and a simple pleasure in the heroic art form.

As an art historian fantasy art in its purest sense is about hero worship. Man Vs. Beast. Man rescuing Woman. Man vanguishing evil. All the simplicity of Bruce Willis in a Die Hard movie, but with all the swords and sorcery of The Lord of the Rings.

Right: In November 2009, a berserk battlefield image that graced a Conan the Conqueror paperback (painted in 1967) sold for $1 million to a private collector.

Frank Frazetta's long, restless career started in the 1940s and took him into Hollywood work, posters, animation, commercial art and almost every corner of American illustration. He was still painting in the late 1990s when his health began to dwindle.

John Milius, the director and co-writer of Conan the Barbarian, the 1982 film that was based on the warrior character created by pulp writer Robert E. Howard in 1932. Milius said Monday that it was Frazetta’s muscular paintings of Conan that defined the character for him and modern generations of fans. "Not that I could ever redo Frazetta on film—he created a world and a mood that are impossible to simulate—but my goal in Conan the Barbarian was to tell a story that was shaped by Frazetta and Wagner," says Milius.

In July 2009 Frank Frazetta’s wife Eleanor or Ellie died. Frank's health was deteriorating and his children began to squabble over his custody and his art collection, which is estimated to be worth $20 to $50 million.

Frank Frazetta is survived by two sons, two daughters and 11 grandchildren.

See Also
Conan the Berserker

May 10, 2010

Why you should NEVER buy things over the phone

TECHNOLOGY - My mother has a policy when it comes to the phone. She never EVER buys anything over the phone. If it can't be bought in person or over the internet, then its not worth having.

Its also a quick way of getting rid of annoying telemarketers. All you have to do is say: "I'm sorry I don't buy things over the phone."

Arguably "I don't have a credit card." would also work quite well.

But in the event you do get stuck on the phone with someone you might be surprised by the amount of trickery they will use to make the sale.

Lets pretend you live in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan in Canada? With one click the guy in the call centre has the local weather report for Regina which is a mere 80 km away.

It doesn't matter what "Dave" is trying to sell you. It doesn't even matter whether he really lives in Regina or India (which is increasingly a statistical likelihood). It doesn't even matter if his accent sounds Canadian.

Foreign call centres are increasingly resorting to trickery to make the sale and that means pulling out of every trick in the book. They will look up local weather reports, the local time, movie theatre times, hone their Canadian sounding accent all with the primary goal of getting your credit card number and making a sale.

India's call centres is a trillion dollar annual business. They've been going through hard times in recent years as increasing numbers of people in Canada and the USA now use cell phones and don't want to talk to telemarketers. Their solution has to become more aggressive and sale savvy.

There's also the issue of companies outsourcing call centres to India, but that issue is now being dealt with by pretending to be Canadian. Add a Canadian accent, talk about their love of Tim Hortons coffee, bitch about the Toronto Maple Leafs' latest losing streak and add an "eh?" and you've got a convincing act.

And the trickery doesn't end there. Some companies also keep track of holidays, storms, earthquakes, etc. which may have caused people to miss credit card payments, etc. and then pretend to be all understanding.

Its not just Canadians they're tricking either. Americans are just as likely to fall for the Canadian accent. Mostly because they don't think Canadians are much a threat. An out of work auto worker in Michigan won't be as upset at a Canadian accent than they would at an Indian accent trying to sell them something.

It’s also easier to trick an American to provide credit card information for a purchase if they think they’re dealing with someone “next door” in Canada.

And this is not an isolated incidents says industry specialists. Its widespread and even big name companies like Bell Canada, Rogers and credit card companies are involved. You may think you're talking to someone from Halifax working for Bell Canada... but there's no guarantee.

It’s now considered standard practice in so-called “accent neutralization” classes to teach new employees how to sound North American. Instructors gives new employees tips for pronouncing words like “turtle” and “bucket” as westerners do and correct their mistakes until they sound "normal".

Its not easy to disguise an accent. The Indian accent is a bit of a challenge to disguise.

India is not the only country doing this either. The Philippines is the new kid on the block and have a significant advantage. The Filipino accent sounds almost identical to an American accent. That means less training is required to make their accent passable.

Already the Philippines’ share of the call centre industry has climbed from zero to 15% in only 10 years. In 2010, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, president of the Philippines, boasted that her nation “with 90 million people has challenged India’s one billion population for (call centre) supremacy.”

And they're not the only competition. Since 2004 India's share of the market has fallen from 80% to 40%.

One last tidbit that they're now using: Twitter and Facebook accounts. They look up your info online so they can stick a face and your hobbies on the screen and market to you more directly. Scared yet?

They even setup fake Facebook accounts in the event you get into a "real" conversation and trick you into befriending them. After all if they can see more of your details they can market to you more effectively.

Makes you think twice about talking to telemarketers? Good.

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