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June 28, 2011

Is Canada Post becoming obsolete?

CANADA - So long as people keep using Canada Post, no, they won't be obsolete.

But by 2030 they could be close to being shut down due to a shortage of people using Canada Post.

The reasoning is as follows...

#1. Canada Post workers are overpaid in comparison to other delivery services (everything from Fedex/UPS style couriers to bicycle couriers). Price wise it just doesn't make sense to send any large packages via Canada Post when other couriers are cheaper.

#2. As the internet continues to surge in popularity most Canadians are choosing not to use traditional snail mail any more. Some day in the future the idea of having a conventional "mail box" will be seen as antiquated. Some people already believe it is.

Snail mail has been in a decline in Canada, falling to 5.08 billion in 2009 from 5.45 billion in 2005. Canada Post says volumes have declined 17% over the last five years.

#3. Canada Post isn't learning to adapt in this changing world. While the postal service in other countries are adapting, Canada Post is still stuck in the postal dark ages.

#4. What happens when a courier service offers to start handling letters too? But does it at a rate cheaper than Canada Post AND offers speedier delivery to a local depot where people can pick up their letter (hand delivery to homes is a ridiculous waste of money/time)? Well then the final nail in the coffin will be complete.

In Canada the mail is moving again after a long labour dispute at Canada Post. The strike has raised many questions about how Canada Post operates. Rural and remote communities are dependent on Canada Post for everything from medicine to food... but those things could be delivered via a courier service instead.

And a courier service wouldn't be delivering bills or junk mail. All that nonsense could be done online, sending notices to your bank account / email account and spam (which thankfully most people now filter out).

Small and medium-sized businesses use the postal service for invoices, payments and shipping, etc. found alternatives after the Canada Post lockout and have switched to scanning invoices / electronic payments / couriers. Assuming the new way is cheaper or more efficient, why would you switch back to something which is obsolete?

Dan Kelly of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business says while many companies will need Canada Post for deliveries, since it is mandate is to deliver to every address in the country, companies which have switched to electronic invoicing will probably stick with it because they've discovered how easy and cheap it is.

“The bad news for the union and Canada Post is they have hastened a negative trend for themselves,” says Kelly.

“We are extremely worried that people have found alternatives,” says Canada Post spokeswoman Anick Losier. “The digital age is here and we need to make changes instead of relying on a product in decline.”

Canada Post currently offers police background checks (to prevent mail scams) and PIN management for American Express. But that is just the tip of the iceberg compared to what other countries are doing to make the postal service better.

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers says Canada Post should offer other services such as banking, especially in remote parts of Canada. The Canada Post Bank? Doesn't sound too bad. More likely they would just make a contract deal with one of Canada's big banks.

“While Canada has simply talked about postal banking, most of the rest of the world has been doing it,” says a 2010 union report submitted to Canada Post. “Each year, 1.5 billion people use the services of postal banks and more than 400 million have postal bank accounts.”

Canada Post could also offer internet service or even "email to mailbox" service, a faster way to deliver the mail by sending an email across the country to another post office where it is printed out and hand delivered. Saves on travel costs and delivery time.

Some people even suggest Canada Post should be sold and privatized.

“If you look at what’s happened to Canada Post, it’s a miracle that it’s still around today,” says Harvey Schwartz, an emeritus professor of economics at York University.. “It’s barely profitable.”

Canada Post hasn’t been subsidized by the taxpayer in 15 years and has maintained a profit during that time by raising postage stamp prices and package rates whenever costs go up. In the 2009 annual report Canada Post's profit was $319 million before taxes. Adjusting for unplanned pension and benefit costs, pre-tax profit would have been $48 million.

No wonder Canada Post workers were striking. They do all the work while the government corporation reaps the profits. $48 million isn't a lot, but spread it among their staff and it will make them happier.

In contrast the United States Postal Service last week announced it is suspending pension contributions to its employees’ pension fund. The U. S. post office was $8 billion U.S. in the red last year and is continuing to lose money. They will be asking for a government bailout in September or raising the cost of postage stamps / package rates.

In Germany, Deutsche Bundespost was privatized and it eventually became Deutsche Post DHL, delivering letter and parcels across Germany. It has about 470,000 employees worldwide and generated revenues of 51 billion euros in 2010.

So is Canada Post obsolete? When in doubt, check Google.

Search Canada Post obsolete.

June 27, 2011

Mobile visitors growing rapidly

TECHNOLOGY - Looking at your own website statistics is a bit like Googling your name to see what comes up.

In the case of Lilith News we've learned something of interest...

Historically less than 5% of visitors to Lilith News have visited our site using a wireless device (SmartPhone, tablet, etc).

However in the last month we've seen a spike in SmartPhone / tablet visitors. Its now up to 8%.

And to be clear, we're not getting "Ma and Pa visitors" either. We're getting approx. 1,300 hits per day (although we have over 1,100 posts so that is really not that surprising).

Just a hunch, but we think a chunk of the people visiting via wireless devices are going to our post titled "Funny Sex Cartoon" which has received 8,600 hits in the last month. That is 287 people per day (12 people per hour) just for that cartoon.

And is it really that funny?

Maybe. You decide.

But whatever, time will tell if this is just a mobile visitors blip... or maybe because its summer people just like to use mobile gadgets more often when the weather is nice outside. We shall see...

NOTE:

To give proper credit to the maker of the cartoon (XKCD) we must admit we didn't know who the maker was when we originally posted it. Kudos to XKCD! You guys rock! (We shall be updating the older post to give credit where credit is due.)

NDP stands their ground

CANADA - Canada Post will be going back to work tomorrow and its about freaking time.

But we must admit mixed feelings on the matter. #1. We support the right of workers to strike. #2. However some of us are waiting for money in the mail. The mail is often one of the economic cogs. Stop it and the whole economy slows down. (Be thankful some of you, it means you aren't getting bills during the strike.)

Who do we thank for sending the Canada Post workers back to work? The Conservative government did that one. Not sure if should cheer or boo them.

And who do we thank for slowing down the process a wee bit? The NDP, led by Jack Layton, who used a political filibuster to debate the reasoning behind forcing Canada Post workers back to work.

A political filibuster is democracy in action. Actual democratic debate on the topic. It doesn't matter that it was a foregone conclusion that Harper's majority government would win the debate, its the idea that democracy is at least being done. Real debate in an effort to the message across that unions still matter, even when they annoy the bejesus out of us.

The 58 hours long debate made Stephen Harper and his cronies dead tired too. Its the longest filibuster debate about union rights in Canadian history.

And there is no winners or losers in such a debate. Just really tired MPs forced to listen to the other side speak eloquently on the rights of workers.

And yet in the end the point was made.

The majority Conservatives have made it clear what they think of unionized workers in this country. Every unionized worker in Canada will have sat up and taken notice. The Conservatives have left no doubt that they will use legislative muscle to force workers back to work, sometimes with pay cuts.

The NDP could have just rolled over on this issue. But instead they stood their ground and stood up for workers rights in Canada. Without those rights the people working such jobs would be de facto slaves and easily replaced.

And really for what cause are we demolishing the rights of workers? So people can get their mail? Mostly bills and junk mail?

To some extent it would be nice if we scrapped Canada Post entirely. No more bills by mail. No more junk mail. If someone really wants to send something important they can use email or a courier (which should have their prices regulated).

Will Mars be explored by space tourists?

TECHNOLOGY - A Canadian teen will become the youngest person ever to go into space. The boy, currently 17, is from Calgary, Canada, and was signed up for a reserve seat aboard one of Virgin Galactic's orbital spaceships.

So far 440 people have paid deposits for trips aboard billionaire Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic spaceships. Each person has pass a test and training practices, and be at least 18, to go. Nobody else under 18 has paid a deposit so far.

Russian cosmonaut Gherman Titov was the youngest person ever to go to orbit. He orbited the earth in August 1961 at the age of 25.

So far 23 Canadians — 17 men and 6 women — have signed up, paying $200,000 USD each. (People interested in going into space should contact the Vision 2000 Travel Group, which books all the Virgin Galactic flights in Canada.) Most of the Canadians who have signed up are from Alberta (10) and Ontario (6). The people from Alberta include 2 oil tycoons, a dentist and business entrepreneurs.

People interested in going are recommended they try weightlessness first (inside a plane diving at a speed that matches the speed of gravity).

The $55 million in deposits from 440 people worldwide has been put towards building ships capable of making sub-orbital flights and eventually orbital flights as they perfect the technology.

After being launched from a mother ship, a two-piloted rocket plane would take six tourists per flight about 110 kilometres above Earth — where they will experience weightlessness and be able to look down at the Earth from space.

The first spaceship is currently undergoing safety testing and is expected to start taking tourists up in approx. June 2012.

“Obviously we want to be 100 per cent sure that we got every single little safety detail right,” says Richard Branson. “But the moment we’re ready to go, we’ll be going.”

“I’d rather not forecast, but I mean 10 to 15 years from now, we should have got it down below $50,000,” he said. “Once the ball really starts rolling and we get large numbers, then the price could come down even further.”

Which brings us to the topic of Mars...

If by 2025 they're offering space flights for a mere $50,000, how much would it cost to become a Mars colonist / pioneer?

Lets say for example by 2050 a corporation was offering people a chance to become a Mars colonist for $1 million each? And being colonists, most people who make the choice to go there would probably not want to go alone. So think $2 million for each young couple looking to go. (Not to be ageist, but anybody under the age of 30 should be rejected because of lack of stamina / ability to rear children.)

Its been previously stated my many scientists that it would be cheaper to build a colony ship to go to Mars than to attempt to make a ship which could land on the surface and take off from the surface / return to the Mars' orbit. If anything it might be impossible to build such a shuttle because Mars lacks the infrastructure to boost the shuttle back into space.

Thus a colony ship solves the problem. Anyone who goes there is becoming a "permanent tourist" on Mars. A pioneer. An explorer. People who have gone where no man has gone before.

And honestly, at the rate NASA is going, they won't be doing a mission to Mars until 2100. Its entirely possible that space tourists could be the first to colonize Mars simply because NASA is so underfunded.

June 24, 2011

Woman suing the Toronto police for $100,000

CANADA - Remember the Officer Bubbles incident from the G20 last year?



The woman who made Officer Bubbles famous is suing the Toronto police for $100,000 for false arrest and a violation of her Charter rights. Courtney Winkels, then a 20-year-old social worker volunteering as a street medic during the G20, was arrested after the incident on camera. The scene later became a viral video and made Officer Bubbles (Constable Adam Josephs) into a cartoon character and eventually a comic book character.

All this just because a girl was blowing bubbles.

Constable Adam Josephs is still kicking himself over that one.

Courtney Winkels isn't suing the Toronto Police over that incident however. The charges against her were immediately thrown out during her first court appearance. Her lawsuit is pending from the 50+ hours she spent in police custody where Winkels suffered “cruel and unusual” punishment, was sleep deprived and allegedly subjected to inhumane treatment at the temporary detention centre on Eastern Ave.

Winkels called the conditions at the Eastern Ave. jail “absolutely disgusting.” According to descriptions by other people wrongfully imprisoned during 2010's G20 the rooms they were kept in were better described as filthy sewers. Filthy even by sewer standards. Many of the people wrongfully arrested were also beaten, subjected to intimidation and threats by Toronto Police.

See Also
Officer Bubbles suing YouTube
Officer Bubbles suing random people
G20 Police Savagery

Google bids $900 million USD for Nortel patents

TECHNOLOGY - The juggernauts of the tech industry are set to rumble over the final remains of Nortel Networks Corp. At stake is the liquidation of over 6,0000 of Nortel's wireless-related patents, a veritable treasure trove would allow the owners of those patents control specific key markets and shift the balance of power in the mobile communications market.

The auction is set to begin Monday in New York, and everyone is invited. Foreigners are packing in for a chance to snap up patents that could be very valuable in North America and world wide.

Companies bidding include Google Inc., Apple Inc., RPX Corp. (which is fronting 80 smaller corporations which are interested in a share of the patents), Sweden’s Ericsson AB, and many others. Intel Corp. and Research In Motion Ltd. are also expected to make some bids

Google has already filed a “stalking horse” opening bid of $900 million USD for all the patents. That sets the opening bids at $150,000 per patent.

Nortel Networks filed for bankruptcy protection in early 2009, a day before Nortel was to repay an interest obligation on bonds, which would have amounted to a fraction of its cash reserves. Instead the company decided to take its money and run, vowing to sell off much of its property, patents and reorganize as a smaller company. The latter of which never happened. Its questionable whether bond holders will ever get any of their money back. Its possible now that Nortel is selling off their patents.

Depending on how much money is raised from the auction it increases the likelihood that Nortel will be repaying bond holders. Nortel creditors and former employees/pensioners also have their hands out for more of Nortel's money.

Mike Zafirovski took over as Nortel's CEO in 2005 and promptly ran the company into the ground, losing nearly $7 billion.

Nortel’s horde of wireless patents and pending patents include wireless video communication, Wi-Fi, Internet search technology, social networking, and its next generation mobile data technology.

“The winner of this auction will have what amounts to a nuclear arsenal in the war for mobile market share,” says Alexander Poltorak, chief executive of patent licensing firm General Patent Corp.

Patent licensing is a very lucrative business, often including lawsuits against rival companies who infringe upon patents.

Chinese journalist about to be released resentenced for another 8 years

POLITICS - Think you live in a free country? Be thankful you don't live in China.

A Chinese journalist who was jailed after he wrote about suspected wrongdoing by local officials has been sentenced to another eight years behind bars. The imprisoned journalist Qi Chonghuai (齐崇淮) was only two weeks away from being released from a prison in eastern China’s Shandong province when a court put him on trial again on June 9th.

The new trial convicted Qi Chonghuai on a new charge of embezzlement but also tried him again for extortion and blackmail — the same charges he faced in 2008 when he was first sentenced.

Qi Chonghuai was arrested in 2007 after he wrote about a local official who had beaten a woman for coming late to work. According to various lawyers in China (who wish to remain anonymous for obvious reasons) there was no proof Qi Chonghuai did any of the things he was accused of, and this is simply the work of a corrupt Chinese official with too much power.

Qi is a long-time journalist known for his exposes of official corruption and social injustices. Its likely he has more than one enemy in high places.

So much for feminism and women's rights in China!

In related news...

On June 10th, Sichuan earthquake activist Huang Qi (黄琦) was released from a prison in Chengdu, after completing a three-year term on the conviction of “illegal possession of state secrets.” All he did was criticize the local government for their failure to enforce proper building methods and their lack of effort on helping people after the earthquake.

China routinely arrests environmental activists, AIDS/HIV activists, feminists and basically anyone who gets in their way.

"In China Life is Cheap."


See Also
Fukushima Meltdown
Earthquake in Haiti

June 20, 2011

The Era of Continuous Bailouts

POLITICS - The North American and European economy has entered an interesting stage... Greece is now in talks for a 2nd bailout package, the US economic recovery has been sloooooooow and Sarah Palin (who is foaming at the mouth at the possibility she might become president if Barack Obama doesn't get re-elected) won't commit on the question of whether she would do more stimulus money, a bailout if anything happens to the United States financial sector, or whether she would follow George W. Bush's example... and don't do anything about the economy, leave everything to the last minute and leave the crashed economy to the next guy.

When you consider that US banks basically ripped off taxpayers with a bailout (which in retrospect was unnecessary and only fuelled corporate bonuses) and ended up costing other industries hundreds of billions of dollars due to a crashed stock market (a crash based purely on wild speculation / fear tactics on the part of greedy bankers).

Forget about the sub prime mortgage crisis. That money evaporated and went to the people who sold their houses before the housing market collapsed. It was the foolish banks who were left on the hook and it was the foolish banks who should have paid the price. Not American taxpayers.

Instead the resulting bailout by George W. Bush at the end of his presidency was rushed into place using fear tactics that if the US Senate didn't approve the bailout the economy would collapse, there would be anarchy in the streets and the national guard would be called out to enforce the rule of law.

So the question becomes... when will the US government (and the taxpayers) get their money back???

Or will the US financial sector be back sometime in 2012 to ask for MORE money? Just in time for Barack Obama's re-election campaign.

At which point will Barack Obama refuse to play ball with greedy bankers who took America for a wild ride and ended up paying themselves huge bonuses? Or will he refuse, stand up for the American people and refuse to be swindled like Bush was?

Outside of the USA there are other countries which might also be looking at a 2nd bailout / stimulus packages for their failing economies... and there is a growing argument of...

WHY ARE WE BAILING OUT WELFARE COUNTRIES?

If their economy is so bad they are basically on "international welfare", and they got there because of greedy bankers gambling with the local economy, then why should the international community bailout what is essentially a 'welfare country' and keep sending them money?

To use a metaphor, its like your cousin who is university... he is supposed to be studying hard, working a part time job, making ends meet. If he runs into trouble, okay, we send him some extra money to help him out.

But what happens when it turns out your cousin has been fuelling his gambling addiction the entire time, partying, spending all his money on booze, drugs and gambling... and he's slacking off on his studies and his job. Do you still keep sending him money?

Or do you refuse and say "Hey, maybe its time you smartened up and stopped gambling with your money? Because you won't get any more from me."?

Another metaphor would be a town which is becoming a Ghost Town, ie. Teeswater, Ontario. The local economy has collapsed. Most of the stores on main street are closed and boarded up. Nobody will buy the properties. Everyone is shopping in other towns with better stores. Should other nearby towns send Teeswater money to prop up its failing economy? No. Don't be ridiculous. The town is dead. Just let it die. Maybe it will become a tourist attraction in the future when its officially a ghost town.

Such is the case with the city of Detroit in Michigan. Its effectively become a "Ghost City". Many people have burnt their homes in attempts to collect the insurance money because nobody is buying. The local economy has completely collapsed. Even the drug dealers have left because there is no money to be had there.

June 16, 2011

Vancouver riots after hockey loss

CANADA/ENTERTAINMENT - The Vancouver Canucks lost last night 4-0 to the Boston Bruins.

It was shameful for Vancouver to lose, but what is truly shameful is what happened after wards.

The burning cars, looting, violent street fighting, tear gas and general mayhem. Words cannot fully describe the chaos and destruction that resulted from this loss, from a mere hockey game. Guaranteed that if Boston had lost they wouldn't have even made a fuss about it. But in Vancouver, where the media had put too much stress on the possibility of winning, hockey fans are so neurotic that they're one shotgun away from becoming mass murderers.

Okay, we're exaggerating the last bit... but the metaphor speaks for itself. As does the photos and videos of the destruction.
















How to meet IT people in Canada, and other stuff

TECHNOLOGY - Don't know why it is, but the best place to meet people in the IT business is the local archery range.

Seriously, archery.

Its like golf for nerds... I don't know how else to explain it.

Of course at the archery range they are probably already gainfully employed and not looking for work, so I suppose if you were looking to hire IT staff you would be better off looking for companies which handle IT staffing...

I think it would be significantly easier to find Toronto accountants, lawyers, ESL tutors, etc.

Its become a complicated thing these days to find something or someone. There is so much information these days it has become difficult to navigate through the maze of information.

Its one of the reasons I created my new blog: "Product Reviews Canada", which specializes in me just ranting about products I hate, services I like, things I would like to see...

For example I have this awesome idea for a company called "The Workshop", which operates on a monthly fee like a gym membership, but instead of gym equipment on the inside there is a carpentry, welding and construction workshop where people can build things using the tools available to them. They can also take classes, buy materials, tools and safety equipment, ask advice from staff technicians, get private lessons... and to join they of course have to pass a safety seminar.

The problem however is that I don't have a huge wad of cash to start such a business. (Any investors out there wanting to start a business with me?)

The beauty of such a business is that it could be built as a franchise and the next thing you know we have The Workshop in Montreal, Ottawa, Vancouver and other locations.

Sure, there are professionals out who could do your construction/carpentry stuff for you... ie. If you are looking for sunrooms its probably best to hire someone in the business right? Or lets say you have a home in Ottawa, the roof is leaking and the windows are drafty... and worse, you're afraid of heights. Probably a good idea to hire someone who does Ottawa roofing and windows.

But lets say you're a sculptor and you want to do it yourself, but you need all the machinery and equipment. Or likewise you're a carpenter and like building chairs for fun... but you live in an apartment building and don't have room for all the machinery. It makes sense that a place like The Workshop would be quite popular in major cities where there is abundance of people living in apartment buildings or condos.

Anywho, back to the main topic, how to find specific people and things...

I suppose you could post on craigslist, scour websites like LinkedIn or even Facebook... but the best way is to actually go out to places and meet people in person, and really TALK to them. Stake out locations (ie. the archery range, comic book stores, Dungeons & Dragons conventions, etc.) where that type of person is likely to hang out. This may be trickier depending on the type you are looking for.

And take some business cards and a pen with you so you can exchange information with the people you meet.

June 14, 2011

Young Canadians racking up debt faster

CANADA - Young Canadians are racking up debt faster than any other age groups, according to an extensive study released today.

The annual study by the Certified General Accountants Association of Canada also found that household debt in Canada has hit a record high of $1.5 trillion. Divided evenly, a family with 2 children has an estimated $176,461 in debt, possibly including their mortgage.

"Despite the recession and very sensitive recovery, total household debt has continued to increase," says Rock Lefebvre, co-author and vice-president of research and standards for CGA-Canada.

49% of lower income respondents, those with incomes under $35,000, reported their debt increasing, compared to 33% of higher income respondents, the study found.

40% of respondents ages 35 or younger also said their debt increased.

Also more seniors, ages 55 or over, are carrying debt into retirement, according to the study. 33% of seniors are retiring with an average debt of $60,000.

“Seniors don’t have time to make it up and young people can get into such a debt spiral that it takes a lifetime to get out of it,” Lefebvre said. “It’s not only a financial matter. It’s a societal issue.”

59% of Canadians say day-to-day living expenses are the main cause of their increasing debt.

Canadian homeowners now owe an average of 66% of the value of their homes, up from 57% in 2009.

“People find comfort in the fact that at least a mortgage is backed by a major asset, but we actually hold less equity in our homes than we used to,” Lefebvre said. “We may be lulling ourselves into a sense of comfort that really isn’t there.”

Other Tidbits:

Debt-to-income ratio reached a new record high of 146.9% in the first quarter of 2011, up from 144% in late 2009.

Personal lines of credit of chartered banks grew by 2.6% over 2010 and the first quarter of 2011 – more than 6-fold the rate registered in 2008 and 2009.

25% of Canadians do not save at all, not even for retirement.

20% of Canadians would not be able to handle a sudden expense of $5,000. 10% would have trouble dealing with an unexpected expense of $500.

All it would take is a sudden economic downturn and many Canadians would be either homeless or paying their rent with credit cards.

June 9, 2011

British scientists discover new way to heal heart tissue

HEALTH - For decades scientists and doctors have thought damage to the human heart was irreparable, beyond repairing. Minor damage to the heart would heal over time but major damage to the heart was considered absolutely permanent.

British scientists however are now reporting the discovery of a protein molecule that helps regenerate heart tissue, including damage once thought to be permanent.

Dr Peter Weissberg, medical director of the British Heart Foundation, spoke at a press conference 2 days ago to reveal that while the heart has no capacity to heal itself, the protein they discovered can fix the heart... as a metaphor it is similar to a team of mechanics fixing a car.

"We have always believed that, but this research suggests that this is not the case. We think we have discovered a natural process that brings about repair of the heart. Until now, this has been science fiction. We are trying to understand what the triggers are for this process. The cells that are capable of this healing are already there in the epicardium. They just need to be tweaked and primed and the effect scaled up. If this works, we might be able to heal cardiac injury caused by heart attacks without resorting to stem cells."

Epicardial cells become cardiomyocytes, so says the research published online June 8th, 2011 in Nature. The team of scientists decided to investigate progenitor cells from the epicardium, as it is these cells in the embryo that become cardiomyocytes. "During pregnancy, these cells contribute to heart muscle and coronary blood vessels. In the adult, these cells sit in a dormant state. We think there is a possibility that these cells might be able to be activated to switch on the embryonic gene that causes them to make new myocardial cells."

In the lab the researchers restored the embryonic potential of these cells in mice by treating them with a peptide molecule called thymosin 4. When damage to the heart occurred, a booster dose of T4 was given. After treatment with T4, the epicardial progenitor cells transformed into new cardiomyocytes and integrated with existing healthy muscle... thus healing the damaged tissue.

"After treatment, the cells home to the site of injury and can couple and contract in the same way as normal cardiac myocytes, so structurally and functionally they represent a bone fide source of new heart-muscle cells."

The cells also reduced scarring, remodeling and showed a 25% improvement in ejection fraction. The researchers are now testing T4 in human cells to see if they can replicate these results.

"But even if we could achieve a 10% improvement, that would make a major difference to quality of life," says Weissberg.

If you like heart / cardiology related news check out theheart.org.

June 6, 2011

Yoga Lifestyle Festival in Toronto

CANADA/RELIGION - How can one maintain sanity in a world overloaded with consumerism? Let alone with wars, corruption and crime?

Starting today, Monday Jun 6th, Vaisesika Dasa, a renowned Bhakti Yoga monk, will share with Torontonians the art of yoga for body and self control.

People interested can RSVP at urbanedgeyoga.com

Coming up is a Yoga Lifestyle Festival, a ten day "spiritual adventure", the Annual Yoga Festival - InSpirit from June 16th to 26th. Go and hear from Monks like Devamrita Swami and Badahari Das who have been practicing Bhakti Yoga for over 40 years, inspiring people and sharing their experiences. Enjoy "soul stirring" musical meditations, insightful presentations and delicious Vegan cuisines.

The titles of some of the individual presentations/discussions are quite amusing...

16th: Reincarnation – Womb after Womb, Fact or Fiction?
17th: The Gita Unpacked - Crucial Wisdom for the Urban Mystic
18th: Why Life and Death – The story of Karma
20th: Longing for Love in the Land of Dreams
21st: Intelligent Life on Earth and Other Planets? What the Yoga Texts Say
23rd: The Vegan Revolution and Beyond – Consciousness Cooking
24th-26th: Bhakti retreat


See Also
Yoga
Yoga Tips for Beginners
The History and Benefits of Yoga
Jock Yoga

June 4, 2011

Stop Harper rogue page Brigette DePape fired

CANADA - A young woman working as a parliamentary page in the House of Commons has been fired for carrying a STOP HARPER! sign during the Governor General David Johnston's throne speech. The young woman was expressing her disillusionment with Stephen Harper's government.

Brigette DePape, 21, wearing the black bow tie and white gloves which are part of the page's uniform, was escorted from the House of Commons during the speech and promptly fired.

“I was kind of nervous as I was walking down that I would trip or something like that, but everything went smoothly,” says DePape.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper looked on as DePape stood silently with her sign, long brown braid thrown over her shoulder. The parliamentary sergeant-at-arms escorted her out of the chamber for "contempt of parliament". (Ironically Stephen Harper's government was not so long ago thrown out of the House of Commons for contempt of parliament and later 'rewarded' with a majority government.)

Within moments DePape issued an emailed news release explaining her civil disobedience and “Stop Harper!” message.

“Harper's agenda is disastrous for this country and for my generation,” DePape writes. “This country needs a Canadian version of an Arab spring, a flowering of popular movements that demonstrate that real power to change things lies not with Harper but in the hands of the people, when we act together in our streets, neighbourhoods and workplaces.”

A graduate from the University of Ottawa, where Brigette DePape studied international development and globalization, the Winnipeg-raised activist is now fielding questions from the curious media.

DePape's former boss at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives said DePape was opinionated but easy to work with. “She's just very passionate about the issues that are important to her and we certainly saw that in her last summer, so I guess it doesn't entirely surprise me,” said the executive director at the Manitoba office.

“She's just very gutsy and very passionate and has a very different vision than the Stephen Harper vision and also someone who's probably disillusioned by the political process and so I guess she felt that this was something she needed to do.”

DePape dismissed the suggestion that she had been disrespectful in her act of civil disobedience.

“I think what is more disrespectful and dangerous are Harper's policies,” DePape said.

During the throne speech it was revealed Stephen Harper's agenda includes the following:

Economic Reforms

Immigration Reform, making it harder for people to immigrate to Canada and making it more difficult for "marriages of convenience" to speed up citizenship status.

A Crackdown on Human Smuggling of illegal immigrants.

Prison Expansion and GPS tracking for sex criminals.

Senate Reform

New Free Trade Agreements with the European Union by 2012 and India by 2013.

Copyright Laws

A Border Security deal with the USA

A series of broad cuts across the board in an effort to balance the budget by 2014.

Scrapping of the Long-Gun registry

Privatization of wheat and barley boards

Elimination of mandatory retirement

Extending the mission in Afghanistan

Attacking Libya

A new office of Religious Freedom (a vague concept which hasn't been explained yet).

Demanding Native band chiefs and councils report salaries and expenses.

Alcoholics Anonymous split over God usage

HEALTH/RELIGION - Do alcoholics need god?

In Toronto the Alcoholics Anonymous organization has split into two rival groups... the groups are split over the usage of god in the Twelve Step Program and the introduction of new wording of the Twelve Steps.

The Old Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous:
2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, prayer only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

The New Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous:
2. Came to accept and to understand that we needed strengths beyond our awareness and resources to restore us to sanity.

3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of the AA program.

5. Admitted to ourselves without reservation, and to another human being, the exact nature of our wrongs.

6. Were ready to accept help in letting go of all our defects of character.

7. Humbly sought to have our shortcomings removed.

11. Sought through mindful inquiry and meditation to improve our spiritual awareness, seeking only for knowledge of our rightful path in life and the power to carry that out.

The old steps were written in the 1930s and are really outdated. It is past time it was updated.

Sadly Alcoholics Anonymous has become a very religious group, using techniques similar to cults, and is opposed to new versions of AA which is more democratic and leaves it open to interpretation with respect to god.

In the early days of AA meetings they would end with the Lord's Prayer, but that was later scrapped. A few hardcore Christian AA groups still use the Lord's Prayer.

World wide there are 113,000 AA groups. In Toronto alone there are 500+ AA meetings per week. Atheist, agnostic and more democratic versions of Alcoholics Anonymous are increasingly common because many alcoholics are turned off by the too religious groups which feel more like a sermon.
“I’ve tried AA meetings and I couldn’t get past the influence of right-wing Christianity,” says one man at a recent AA meeting, known only by his first name (by AA tradition only first names are used.

“Last night I went to a meeting and it was like a sermon again,” he says. “I felt I should quit."

“But someone told me, ‘hey, go downtown, there’s an atheist/agnostic meeting.’ So I thought I thought I’d give AA one last chance and I came here.”

June 3, 2011

Dr Kevorkian is dead

HEALTH - Doctor Jack Kevorkian, the famed euthanasia doctor and activist who believed deathly ill people have the right to choose the time of their own death, has died at the age of 83 after a short illness.

Kevorkian spurred on the international right-to-die debate with a homemade suicide machine that helped end the lives of dozens of deathly-sick people.

Kevorkian died at approx. 2:30 AM this morning at William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak. He had been hospitalized since May with pneumonia and kidney problems. He did NOT use assisted suicide.

The retired pathologist and doctor, who claimed to have helped 130 people commit suicide using lethal injections during the 1990s, was both revered and reviled. You either loved him or hated him.

Likened to Martin Luther King, Mahandas Gandhi, Adolf Hitler and other famous people of both good and ill repute, Kevorkian was a crusader for his cause. He called prosecutors Nazis and his critics religious fanatics, burned state orders against him, called doctors who didn’t support him “hypocritic oafs” and challenged authorities to stop him or make his actions legal.

During the past 20 years Kevorkian has spend much of life trying to convince people that the "right to die" when deathly ill is a moral cause because it puts an end to the suffering and is a merciful death.

Nicknamed “Dr. Death” Kevorkian catapulted into public consciousness in 1990 when he used his homemade “suicide machine” in his rusted Volkswagen van to inject lethal drugs into an Alzheimer’s patient who sought Kevorkian's help.

For 9 years Kevorkian escaped authorities’ attempts to stop him. His first four trials resulted in three acquittals and one mistrial. Murder charges were thrown out because Michigan at the time had no law against assisted suicide. The laws were later changed just so they could charge and convict Kevorkian.

Kevorkian’s final goal was to establish “obitoriums” where people would go to die, similar to the one in the film "Soylent Green" (but without the cannibalism). Doctors there could harvest organs which could then be used to help save the lives of others. Kevorkian called this the “entirely ethical spinoffs” of suicide, something he wrote in his 1991 book “Prescription: Medicide — The Goodness of Planned Death.”

In September 1998, Kevorkian videotaped himself injecting Thomas Youk, a 52-year-old with Lou Gehrig’s disease, with lethal drugs. The tape was sent to “60 Minutes” and was later a key piece of evidence in convicting Kevorkian.

Kevorkian had hoped to show the world that its time to make euthanasia legal, but instead prosecutors quickly responded with a first-degree murder charge. Defending himself, Kevorkian told the court his actions were “a medical service for an agonized human being.”

In his closing argument, Kevorkian told jurors that some acts “by sheer common sense are not crimes.”

“Just look at me,” Kevorkian said. “Honestly now, do you see a criminal? Do you see a murderer?”

He later appealed his murder conviction twice but was rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court twice. In 2002 Kevorkian argued that his prosecution was unconstitutional, and in 2004 Kevorkian claimed he had ineffective representation.

Kevorkian was freed in June 2007 after serving eight years of a 10-to-25-year sentence. He was suffering from hepatitis C, diabetes and other problems, and he promised in affidavits that he would not assist in a suicide if he was released.

Family members of people Kevorkian helped to euthanize say they continue to support him and his work. For those who supported him he will be dearly missed. For those that did not, they seem to be hypocritically happy that he is dead.

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