Thursday, February 28, 2013

Study: pessimists may find satisfaction more than optimists

Want a longer, happier life? Embrace pessimism, study says

By Sarah Boesveld, National Post, February 28, 2013 A growing body of research has credited the power of positive thinking for contributing to good health and a longer, happier life. But a new study out of Germany suggests people who are pessimistic about their futures — specifically older people — may find greater life satisfaction down the road than their more optimistic peers.

“The optimists are those who basically close their eyes, shut their eyes and don’t really want to know about the truth” about the inevitable costs of aging and death, he said. “That’s how we interpreted this finding — that basically these things [pessimistic expectations] really help people to be aware that they need to be cautious.”
The longitudinal study, published this month in the American Psychological Association’s journal Psychology and Aging, set out to discover how anticipations about future life satisfaction change over time.
More than two-thirds of older Germans, aged 65 to 96, who thought life would only get worse actually had better health outcomes, said lead study author Frieder R. Lang, a professor at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg and the German Institute for Economic Research.

“If you really think about the future in five years, understanding that although things are fine right now they might get worse, this seems to have a positive effect on lower disability risks and lower mortality risks,” he said in an interview Wednesday from Germany.
A pessimistic future forecast is often the more realistic one, he said. Older people, after all, see a narrowing future with physical and mental breakdown as well as death on the horizon. As such, thinking things will probably be bad could motivate people to take advantage of more social services, for example, or make investments that will ease the aging process, he said.
Expecting a less than bright future may even enhance “predictive control,” the study authors write.
The researchers used data collected by the national German Socio-Economic Panel, an annual private households survey of about 40,000 people aged 18 to 96. Respondents, interviewed mostly in person between 1993 and 2003, were asked to rate how satisfied they were with their lives and how satisfied they thought they might be in five years.
Grouping the answers from respondents by age — 18 to 39 were deemed young, 40 to 64 middle aged and 65 to 96 older — researchers saw big differences and changes over time. Younger people had greater life satisfaction and expected to be more satisfied in the future, while middle-aged respondents rated their future life satisfaction about the same as at present — a more realistic bent.

Most older adults — about 43% — underestimated future life satisfaction, 25% made accurate forecasts and 32% overestimated future life satisfaction.
“When holding health and income resources statistically constant, older adults make more accurate forecasts of their future life satisfaction,” the authors write.
While the findings may appear to fly in the face of positive psychology, it actually jives very well with it, Mr. Lang said.
“We think this is very consistent with our findings because five years later you find out that five years earlier you were a little too pessimistic and you are positive again,” he said. “Things may have gotten worse, but then you learn to understand how to interpret them positively. But then if you think about the next five years, things may not stay as good as they are today and so you keep struggling for the good things to keep up but you expect things could get worse.”
Wary that the findings not be misinterpreted, he added this: “There are already a lot of findings that being positive is actually positive,” he said. “In our study, we only add to it that being positive right now may not inform us well about the effects of how you think about the future.”

Editor's note:
Maybe all those nasty jokes about angry old men, "grumpy old men" were more about living longer than about narcissism and irrelevance after all!

Hessel, inspiration for Occupy Mov't dies at 95...urges resistance to financial markets and corporate greed

Drawing on his experience in the Resistance, Hessel called on his readers to remember — and continue to fight for — the Four Freedoms outlined by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in his 1941 State of the Union address: freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear.

He wrote on the importance of indignation and encouraged “our younger generations” to rekindle the spirit of the Resistance in a non-violent battle against injustice.
“It’s time to take over! It’s time to get angry!” he wrote. “Politicians, economists, intellectuals, do not surrender! The true fabric of our society remains strong. Let us not be defeated by the tyranny of the world financial markets that threaten peace and democracy everywhere. I wish all of you to find your reason for indignation. This is a precious thing.” (from "Stephane Hessel, Occupy Wall Street inspiration, dead at 95" by Helene Fouquet, Washington Post, in Toronto Star, February 27, 2013, below)
  • freedom of speech,
  • freedom of worship,
  • freedom from want and
  • freedom from fear.....
These struggles, and for many they are becoming more intense and desperate struggles, are not either rocket science or radical goals. They are simply requisite freedoms for a legitimate and dignified human existence. And the fact that world financial markets are threatening peace and democracy everywhere, and hence access to these legitimate freedoms, as Hessel wrote, must be pointed out again and again if our legitimate freedoms are to be protected and preserved. And, simply by pointing them out again and again, we are not necessarily winning the contest to protect and preserve them.
Even by occupying city parks, and open spaces, and magnetizing hordes of reporters and cameras and twitter and facebook accounts, and even by resisting arrest in some cases, we are not necessarily protecting and preserving our freedoms.
There is a cognitive disconnect between espousing these freedoms, as most do, and then proceeding to pawn off credit default instruments on unsuspecting purchasers as if those instruments had authentic value. There is also an ethical disconnect between espousing these freedoms and then holding crazy-glue-fast to the right to bear weapons of the AR-15 variety designed for military purposes, as a "protection" for one's family.
These is also a political disconnect between espousing these freedoms and blocking tax increases for the most wealthy, thereby failing to protect the very social net that serves to honour our mutual commitment to each other.
In fact, without our mutual commitment to each other not only are these freedoms in peril, but the fabric of the culture begins to unravel.There are a few  Roman Catholic cardinals on their way to Rome to elect a new pontiff, who have been quoted as saying that the greatest problem in the world is the rise of individualism...
And individualism, taken to its extreme, shreds the social compact of mutual care, of mutual compassion, of mutual commitment and of mutual solidarity to protect and preserve what is considered the sine qua non of a reasonably healthy and productive human existence. It is the individualism of the corporation, and their power to control the thoughts, attitudes, beliefs and actions of millions, in pursuit of the bottom line profit and shareholder dividends, at the expense of the dignity of those individual human beings who make it possible for those very same corporations even to exist, both their workers and their clients, that threatens the freedoms that both Roosevelt and Hessel were speaking/writing about. And it is those same corporations who spend billions lobbying for legislation that preserves and protects their unfettered pursuit of those profits and dividends, and also lobbying to block any legislation that would impede their pursuit of those profits and dividends.
A new book, Salt Sugar Fat by Michael Moss, points to the producers of the foods and beverages that we eat as dedicating their efforts to seduce their customers to consume more and more of the three most dangerous commodities, salt, sugar and fat, to which humans can and do become addicted, in the same way that alcoholics become addicted to their dependency on alcoholic beverages.
From the Amazon website, here is a description of the book:
From a Pulitzer Prize–winning investigative reporter at The New York Times comes the explosive story of the rise of the processed food industry and its link to the emerging obesity epidemic. Michael Moss reveals how companies use salt, sugar, and fat to addict us and, more important, how we can fight back.
In the spring of 1999 the heads of the world’s largest processed food companies—from Coca-Cola to Nabisco—gathered at Pillsbury headquarters in Minneapolis for a secret meeting. On the agenda: the emerging epidemic of obesity, and what to do about it.
Increasingly, the salt-, sugar-, and fat-laden foods these companies produced were being linked to obesity, and a concerned Kraft executive took the stage to issue a warning: There would be a day of reckoning unless changes were made. This executive then launched into a damning PowerPoint presentation—114 slides in all—making the case that processed food companies could not afford to sit by, idle, as children grew sick and class-action lawyers lurked. To deny the problem, he said, is to court disaster.
When he was done, the most powerful person in the room—the CEO of General Mills—stood up to speak, clearly annoyed. And by the time he sat down, the meeting was over.
Since that day, with the industry in pursuit of its win-at-all-costs strategy, the situation has only grown more dire. Every year, the average American eats thirty-three pounds of cheese (triple what we ate in 1970) and seventy pounds of sugar (about twenty-two teaspoons a day). We ingest 8,500 milligrams of salt a day, double the recommended amount, and almost none of that comes from the shakers on our table. It comes from processed food. It’s no wonder, then, that one in three adults, and one in five kids, is clinically obese. It’s no wonder that twenty-six million Americans have diabetes, the processed food industry in the U.S. accounts for $1 trillion a year in sales, and the total economic cost of this health crisis is approaching $300 billion a year.
In Salt Sugar Fat, Pulitzer Prize–winning investigative reporter Michael Moss shows how we got here. Featuring examples from some of the most recognizable (and profitable) companies and brands of the last half century—including Kraft, Coca-Cola, Lunchables, Kellogg, Nestlé, Oreos, Cargill, Capri Sun, and many more—Moss’s explosive, empowering narrative is grounded in meticulous, often eye-opening research.
Moss takes us inside the labs where food scientists use cutting-edge technology to calculate the “bliss point” of sugary beverages or enhance the “mouthfeel” of fat by manipulating its chemical structure. He unearths marketing campaigns designed—in a technique adapted from tobacco companies—to redirect concerns about the health risks of their products: Dial back on one ingredient, pump up the other two, and tout the new line as “fat-free” or “low-salt.” He talks to concerned executives who confess that they could never produce truly healthy alternatives to their products even if serious regulation became a reality. Simply put: The industry itself would cease to exist without salt, sugar, and fat. Just as millions of “heavy users”—as the companies refer to their most ardent customers—are addicted to this seductive trio, so too are the companies that peddle them. You will never look at a nutrition label the same way again.
And this from today's National Post:
By Canadian Press, in National Post, February 28, 2013
A hamburger or stir-fry from a chain restaurant may contain the total recommended daily amount of sodium Canadians should consume, a new study shows.

The amount of sodium in some sandwiches and even salads from fast food or sit-down restaurants were also found to go off the chart.
Consume less salt, more potassium to beat heart disease risks: new WHO guidelines
The World Health Organization (WHO) issued new guidelines on Thursday recommending adults consume less salt and include a minimum amount of potassium in their daily diets to help reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.
“Adults should consume less than 2,000 mg of sodium, or (less than) 5 grams of salt, and at least 3,510 mg of potassium per day,” the United Nations agency said in a statement.
Previously the WHO had recommended 2 grams of sodium but the new guidelines added the words “less than,” said WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl.
The University of Toronto study of restaurant foods from 85 chain restaurants found that, on average, a single menu item from a sit-down restaurant, such as a hamburger, sandwich or stir-fry, contained almost 100% of the daily recommended amount of sodium, or an average of 1,455 milligrams of sodium per serving.
Side dishes contained almost half that, an average of 736 milligrams of sodium. The daily recommended amount of sodium is 1,500 milligrams and no more than 2,300 milligrams per day. But study authors found that the average Canadian consumes 3,400 milligrams per day.
Many foods geared toward children were also found to be high in sodium.
So even as we sit at our breakfast tables, our lunch cafes, and our dinner tables, we are being seduced into behaviour that is literally killing us,  robbing us of our health, robbing us of years of healthy and productive life, while those "feeding" us line their individual and collective pockets with profits and dividends. And those same corporations are also spending millions in lobbyists to protect and preserve their "right" to profit from killing their customers "with the bliss point" of salt, sugar and fat.
We have, to be blunt about, become the means to the corporate ends of these companies, and in the process we are literally killing our selves, maiming our national budgets and constricting our freedoms, those same freedoms that Roosevelt and Hessel were championing.
Will the starvation approach of Tibetan monks and First Nations leaders have to become the next political "statement" in order to draw attention to the death sentence we are all complicit in imposing on ourselves, our children and our grandchildren?
Is this "melodramatic rhetoric" as some will label it?
I think not.
It is merely a plea for solidarity against the tsunami of corporate profit and greed gone wild, and in the process running roughshod over the national capacity to pay the bills, something that Hessel would understand, and against which he would urge us all to push back, in whatever ways we deem appropriate.

Stephane Hessel, Occupy Wall Street inspiration, dead at 95

Stephane Hessel, the author of the best-selling book Indignez-vous!, which inspired protests like Occupy Wall Steet, has died.

By Helene Fouquet Washington Post, in Toronto Star, Februaruy 27 2013

PARIS—Stephane Hessel, the author of the best-selling book Indignez-vous!, which inspired protests like Occupy Wall Street in New York and Los Indignados in Spain, has died. He was 95.
The former United Nations diplomat, concentration-camp survivor and hero of the French Resistance, died “during the night,” his wife, Christiane Hessel-Chabry, told Agence France-Presse.
Hessel became famous in 2010 when he published his 32-page protest manifesto, with millions of copies that went into print in 30 languages — including an English version, titled “Time for Outrage.”
Drawing on his experience in the Resistance, Hessel called on his readers to remember — and continue to fight for — the Four Freedoms outlined by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in his 1941 State of the Union address: freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear.
He wrote on the importance of indignation and encouraged “our younger generations” to rekindle the spirit of the Resistance in a non-violent battle against injustice.
“It’s time to take over! It’s time to get angry!” he wrote. “Politicians, economists, intellectuals, do not surrender! The true fabric of our society remains strong. Let us not be defeated by the tyranny of the world financial markets that threaten peace and democracy everywhere. I wish all of you to find your reason for indignation. This is a precious thing.”
Born in Berlin in 1917, Hessel moved to France in his childhood and became a French citizen. He participated in the UN group that drafted the Universal Declaration of Humans Rights, adopted in 1948. He later worked in Vietnam and Algeria and participated in French politics.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Endorsement of publicly funded elder care option in Canada

Private insurance, public insurance, or a combination of public and private to fund elder care, the issue will not go away, nor will it diminish in magnitude or importance over the next several decades. Boomers are a large demographic bubble, and they are going to retire at a rate for which Canada as a nation, and each province individually, is unprepared.
As Ms Goar intimates, people passed by on the street while the speakers delivered their respective arguments, blithely and blindly expecting elder care to be there for them when they need it.
There is no such guarantee.
And while it is easy to predict how national political parties will see the three proposals, private, public, or some combination...(Conservatives for private, NDP for public and Liberal for a combined public-private funding proposal) it is not easy to predict which of the three political parties is prepared to enter the fray on behalf of seniors, who could comprise one of, if not the biggest voter blocs in the next several federal elections.
This space begins the discussion asking readers to seriously contemplate a fully publicly funded elder care program, using a value-added tax to fund it. There are so many advantages to that approach.
First, it would level the playing field for all Canadians, regardless of name, income, political and social status, education or sickness of the applicant. We have already seen that medical doctors, when faced with a choice between welfare recipients and bankers, for their new patients, opt for the latter over the former. The extra costs of not implementing a publicly funded program would necessarily be borne by other social agencies already strapped for cash for the programs they are attempting to provide. The national health care program is based on equal quality and equal access of affordable health care for all. And while there are obvious, sometimes glaring gaps in  service accessibility and quality, as well as affordability, there are at least agents dedicated to monitoring such gaps and exposing them for political embarrassment and potential amendment. Wait times for surgeries is one example demonstrating that when provincial governments address such issues, they can and do make considerable progress in remediating those inadequacies.
If we opt for an exclusively privately funded elder care program, there will inevitably be many who either cannot or will not be able to afford its purchase, leaving them subject to whatever public programs, or indigent programs from places like churches and social activist groups, where neither standards nor accessibility will be assured. There will inevitably be more wealthy seniors who can afford to spend their last years in some sunny clime, probably in privately funded programs, in such places as Arizona or Florida. Few of those candidates would opt for a privately funded program in Yellowknife, for example. Also, under a privately funded elder care program, the insurance companies would have excessive control, no matter what public monitors and investigators are added for oversight. In short, the old adage, that where the private sector controls social programs, only the wealthy have adequate care, for the largest number of clients. They have more choices, so the providers know that failure to provide to the standards they are willing to pay for will result in lost revenue as those clients seek other accommodation.
As a second-best option, typically Canadian, and typically more likely and more readily achievable in the current political climate, is the combined public-private option. Individuals would contribute, as we do now to Canada Pension, as would employers and the national government, generating a program of care that, while much more complex, nevertheless, has some of the benefits of the public proposal, and fewer of the defects of the privately funded  proposal. There would be more enforceable standards, using the leverage of public oversight and there would be fewer cases of extreme poverty and inaccessibility, given a universal contribution to underwrite the program, for all to access.
We strongly endorse the fully funded public proposal as the first place to begin negotiations, thereby establishing some of the main principles to be included in whatever program results from the federal-provincial negotiations that would be required. And we strongly urge both the Prime Minister and the several Premiers to begin formal negotiations on a national care for the elderly program that would accommodate the bubble of boomers still working and still able to contribute, and that window of opportunity is closing rapidly, if it has not already closed.

Canadians close their eyes to the staggering cost of elder care: Goar

No one has to clue how to pay for elder care as the population ages and families stagger under the load.
By Carol Goar, Toronto Star, February 27, 2013
Every table was packed. Graham Fox, president of the Institute for Research on Public Policy, knew the luncheon panel would be a sellout.

He introduced the topic — Paying for Elder Care — and invited the three speakers directly to the podium.
The first was David Baker, assistant vice-president of Sun Life Financial. He made the case for private long-term care insurance.
The gist of his speech was a wake-up call to baby boomers. Too few recognize they are on “declining trajectory” he said. “People need a more realistic expectation of what retirement might look like — it’s not all cruise ships and golf courses.”
When consumers stop deceiving themselves, the market for long-term care insurance will improve, Baker said.
For a knowledgeable audience, his presentation offered little insight.
The second panellist was Michel Grignon, director of the Centre for Health Economics and Policy at McMaster University. He made the case for a universal public insurance plan to cover long-term care.
His address, backed up by a 27-page study, was meticulously researched. He examined all of the options — private, public, a mixture of both — and concluded a new taxpayer-funded plan would be fairest and most efficient way of providing elder care.
The problem with Grignon’s argument was his blithe assumption that Canadians would willingly pay for the program. “You can use sales taxes or value-added taxes, not just income taxes,” he said, as if that somehow made the price tag — an estimated $1.2 trillion over the next 35 years — more palatable.
For those working in the field, a grand scheme without a credible funding mechanism amounts to a pipe dream.
The final speaker was Michael Decter, a Harvard-trained economist who spent half of his career in the public sector, serving as Ontario’s deputy minister of health, chair of the Canadian Institute for Health Information and chair of the Health Council of Canada; and the other half as chief executive officer of an investment management firm.
Sensing the mood in the room, he pulled no punches. “It’s a terrible time to talk about big new spending plans,” he acknowledged. “But we have to retool the programs we’ve put in place. We’re living longer, but we haven’t adjusted our hospital insurance or pension plans.”
The challenge is not insurmountable, he assured the audience. Germany has done it. Several other nations — Japan, Korea, the Netherlands and Luxembourg — are following the same path. But it will require a mix of public and private funding.
He envisages a framework like the Canada Pension Plan into which workers and employers would contribute. Ottawa would administer it and the provinces would ensure that home care and long-term care were there for Canadians as they aged.
He also believes unpaid caregivers should be eligible for cash benefits. “Within family structures, there’s often someone who is dragged into providing care at no cost.”
Not only would this be more equitable than a plan covering only institutionalized care (which 80 per cent of Canadians will never need); it would give contributors a reasonable expectation of getting something back for their money.
The leadership, Decter suggested, would probably have to come from one of the provinces. “Quebec usually plays that role, but it’s financially strapped right now.”
What all three speakers agreed on was that it is critical to get Canadians thinking and talking about this issue. The existing elder care system is breaking under the strain — the waiting list for a spot in a nursing home is approximately 20,000 in Ontario alone — and the baby boom hasn’t even hit its heavy-need years. Home care is severely underfunded. And hospitals, the most expensive option, can’t accommodate an influx of frail, elderly patients.
The red flags were obvious to everyone in the room. Outside, people went about their business, assuming the elder care system would be there when they needed it.

Say "no" to Sun News' application to air on all Canadian TVs

Sun News’ political bias is no surprise -- Stephen Harper’s former Director of Communications leads the channel, and Sun News effectively works as the Conservative party’s propaganda wing. However, news bias is just the beginning, as the channel also has a history of hatemongering.

Sun News’ vitriol is led by Ezra Levant, who has a long track record of offending various ethnic groups. His opinion piece against Roma people was removed after groups complained to the Toronto Police about hate speech, describing the broadcast as “one of the longest and most sustained on-air broadcasts of hate speech against any community in Canada that we’ve witnessed.” Idle No More protesters confronted him for being racist against First Nations, and he stood proud while wearing a niqab on air and called the traditional wear a “body bag” while his crew members giggled audibly.
When not offending Canadians, he leads sustained and factually questionable attacks against environmentalists such as David Suzuki. His partner-in-hate, Krista Erickson, is notorious for bullying a modern dancer about arts funding. That interview so upset Canadians that the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council recorded double its usual complaints.
CRTC has complete discretion to deny new channels to be on basic package. It is currently receiving public comments on whether to grant Sun News mandatory carriage. Let the CRTC know that you do not want Sun News in your living rooms.
Tell CRTC to deny bias and racist Sun News' application to air on all Canadian TVs.
And this...
By Carly Lewis, Ryerson Review of Journalism, Winter 2012
A farce to be reckoned with
“I’m not a fat ninja,” declared Ezra Levant. “It’s just me, Ezra, wearing a niqab.” That was the beginning of a segment of his Sun News Network television show, The Source, last July. He was indeed dressed in a style of burqa worn by women throughout the Arab Peninsula and wore it to make a statement against what he later referred to as “gender apartheid.” The niqab, according to Levant, is “a symbol of the inequality of women in radical Islam.” He dubbed it a “body bag” and Iran, “a hell hole.” Crew members giggled audibly from behind the scenes, suggesting that this was more of a gag than a feminist call to action. Heatedly, Levant detailed the reasoning behind his discomfort toward the niqab and wondered why Canadian feminists, “the bra burners from the 1960s,” hadn’t rallied together in protest over it. With his voice slightly muzzled by the cloth, Levant made his position on the garment painfully clear: “I’m in a one-person prison.”
The segment combined all the qualities that define Sun News Network: stubbornly contrarian, outrageously flippant and lacking in nuance, qualities many Canadians find distasteful. Quebecor Media is betting that the rest can’t wait to tune in for more, but the danger is the channel may exacerbate the growing political polarization in this country.
Quebecor’s announcement that it would launch Sun News generated widespread derision and plenty of angst. Jeffrey Simpson of The Globe and Mail labeled the channel “Fox News North” early on, a comparison that has either plagued or propelled the network since even before its April 2011 launch—depending on who’s talking. An activist organization called Avaaz garnered over 80,000 signatures protesting the channel months before it had even rolled the first clip. Among those signatories was Margaret Atwood, who emailed the Globe to say that the very idea of an unabashedly right-leaning television network was “part of the ‘I make the rules around here,’ Harper-is-a-king thing.” Sun Media’s Ottawa bureau chief, David Akin, host of Sun News’s Daily Briefs, said he was disappointed that Atwood would join what he called an “anti-free speech movement.” But even conservative Tasha Kheiriddin, a member of the National Post’s editorial board, wrote: “Sun TV really isn’t about Hard News and Straight Talk. It’s about Hot Chicks and Sexy Outfits.”
The tide of negative opinion has done nothing to temper the network’s tone and has perhaps even energized it. Sun News is calculated about doing the opposite of what other networks claim to take pride in, which is presenting the news as objectively as possible. Parent company Sun Media regards objectivity suspiciously, either simply as a force that turns every news story grey, bland and monotonous or as a cover for hidden (read: liberal) leanings. The company even withdrew its newspapers from the Ontario Press Council last July, citing incompatibility with the industry group’s “politically correct mentality.”
Antipathy to “political correctness” is the driving force at Sun News, the dark power against which the network heroically struggles—and its Death Star is undoubtedly Canada’s public broadcaster. “The CBC is exceedingly politically correct,” says Levant. “They have an official ‘line’ on everything from niqabs to the oil sands. That’s my chief criticism of the mainstream media in Canada: not that they’re liberal—though they generally are—but that they are so drearily uniform.” Beyond dull, CBC is a “billion-dollar Liberal campaign machine,” according to Levant. “Without a $1.1 billion a year subsidy like the CBC has, we just haven’t been able to afford hundreds and hundreds of middle managers to make our news as bland and politically correct as theirs.”
Quebecor wants to position Sun News as the polar opposite of what it sees as the CBC-Liberal Party establishment—right down to hiring Stephen Harper’s combative former communications director, Kory Teneycke, as vice-president in charge of the channel. That underdog posture—despite the backing of a multibillion dollar parent company, as well as political connections, informal or otherwise—is no coincidence. It’s how Fox News built its status as the number one cable news network in the United States. “Fox News North” is not an insult; it’s a mission statement.
I’m not in the business of deciding who my watchers and listeners should be,” says Luc Lavoie, head of development for Sun News and former deputy chief of staff to Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. “I’m in the business of offering a well-put-together product.” Lavoie, who maintains that he has no lingering connections to the Conservative Party, also points out that one of Sun News Network’s biggest media buys came from the Liberal Party during the last federal election campaign.
“Everyone was sounding the same,” he says of Canada’s media outlets prior to the launch of Sun News. “Everyone was pretending to be objective and reporting along the same lines. Everyone was in ‘do not disturb mode.’ We’re disturbing. We’re blue collar. We are provocative. And that’s what people were waiting for.”
Levant agrees. “Our news and views are circumscribed by a battalion of government regulations, including those enforced by the Canadian Human Rights Commission, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission and the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council,” he says. Of course, the CBSC is an industry organization, not a government one, but Levant is not about to let facts get in the way of a good rant. “Our government doesn’t trust us to listen to or watch as wide a variety of news as Americans are allowed.” Not without hope for a more Americanized style of reportage, Levant perks up when it comes to what the future holds. “Canada is slowly growing up out of its political correctness,” he says. “I think we’re slowly realizing that we’re not part of the European politically correct censorship model; we’re more in sync with the United States first amendment model.”
Though Sun has no formal affiliation with Fox News (in fact, it has a foreign footage agreement with CNN), the American network’s attitude, style and strategy are obvious inspirations. South of the border, Fox has bullied its way to the top of the cable news heap with a potent combination of slick production values, shrill headline-grabbing personalities and reactionary populism. By cannily exploiting—and exacerbating—the country’s deepening political divides, Fox has appointed itself a political rainmaker.
Sun News may have arrived at an opportune time to do the same for Canadian politics, where the middle ground is also eroding. With the Liberals in disarray following the 2011 federal election, the Conservatives sitting on a solid majority and the rise of the NDP to official opposition, Canadians increasingly have to choose between left and right. Sun News is here to capitalize.
Early opposition to Sun News contained a paradox: some critics decried the existence of the network while othersasserted no one would watch it anyway. This is Canada, after all—we’re not supposed to go for this sort of thing. Early ratings were, indeed, laughably low. Last summer, Quebecor announced it would not apply to renew Sun’s over-the-air broadcast licence, apparently content to live in the triple-digit Siberia of the specialty cable channels instead.
A Category 2 status designates the network as a broadcaster of “analysis and interpretation,” as opposed to a Category 1, which broadcasts news. But that doesn’t mean people aren’t watching. In fact, Sun is celebrating ratings that should make its competitors sweat: one month after its launch, figures from independent ratings agency BBM showed that Sun News’s prime time slots were attracting an average nightly audience of 18,900 in their first month. According to Lavoie, ratings are climbing even though he says Sun News reaches half the viewers of its competition. “It looks like there was a window in the market that was waiting for something.”
Kim Lian Khoo was waiting. “All TV channels in Canada up to this point have been Liberal-minded or socialist-biased in their views,” says the retired teacher from Fournier, Ontario, who watches Sun regularly. “This could be the legacy left behind by years of the Liberal government. There are so many issues which most mainstream media will not touch….”
She is not alone. “Unlike the regular Canadian mainstream media news channels, Sun TV pushes aside political correctness and reports on issues as they really are,” insists Orlin Olsen, a retired railroad worker living in Winnipeg, in what might as well be a spontaneous ad for the network. “I believe they look at the issues of the day through the eyes of ordinary Canadians rather than those of the liberal-left academic elites who seem to call the shots in our country. Ordinary Canadians appreciate their honesty and candour.”
Arguing about the definition of bias is nothing new. “At the core of the debates about affirmation journalism and outlets like Sun TV is the question of whom journalism should serve, and how,” says Candis Callison, an assistant journalism professor at the University of British Columbia. “When opinion masquerades as fact, it can be very dangerous.”
For Sun News, concerns about objectivity or political correctness come second to “Grreeeat TV,” which is what Canada Live host Krista Erickson promised viewers before she began an infamous interview with Margie Gillis last summer. The dancer and choreographer sat alone in a Montreal studio last June to do a satellite interview. The show’s producers had told Gillis the discussion would be about the value of funding the arts. When the interview began, however, Erickson, who’d spent 11 years as a CBC reporter before joining Sun, interrogated Gillis with questions about how much government funding she’d received during her 39-year career and why she felt any arts community was deserving of government money at all. Swirling her arms around to mimic the style of modern dance Gillis performs, Erickson didn’t mince words: “Why does this cost $1.2 million over 13 years?”
The interview quickly melted down. Gillis responded, repeatedly, that she thought Sun News’s statistics were inaccurate and that Canadian dance deserves funding. At one point, as the two women spoke over each other, Gillis piped up as the voice of reason. “I’m your guest,” she reminded Erickson. “Perhaps you might let me speak.”
The segment resulted in more than 6,600 citizen complaints against Sun News filed with the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council. It typically receives 2,000 per year.
Such stunts have become Sun’s stock-in-trade. In June, Levant invited an animal rights activist from PETA onto his show to discuss the ethical treatment of zoo animals and then proceeded to eat chicken wings throughout the interview. Such gimmicks follow in the tradition of Glenn Beck, the former Fox host who once poured pretend-gasoline on the head of a guest because he felt “disenfranchised” by Barack Obama. “Most people do not consume news,” says Levant. “So anything that makes the news more entertaining is probably helpful. I do not regard myself as being in the ‘strictly news’ business. I am not a reporter. I’m in the opinion business, which is more suitable for humour and entertainment.”
Because the Sun personalities on prime time don’t consider themselves reporters, that allows them to do and say whatever they want. By not making claims about being fair and balanced, Sun News doesn’t have to make any promises it can’t keep. (When he was at Fox, Glenn Beck preferred the term “opinion guy.”) But doesn’t the blurry line between fact and opinion threaten to misinform viewers, who tune in for news but get commentary instead? “If that were the case,” says Levant, “We would all be drinking New Coke and driving Edsels and we would have voted for the Charlottetown Accord. People are skeptical and they’re smarter than most journalists give them credit for.”
Canada already has news networks and publications whose mandates champion objectivity. It wouldn’t have been in Quebecor’s financial interest to start another, nor would it help polarize Canadian politics and bury the Liberals. So where most networks proclaim fairness and balance, Sun News promises “Hard News and Straight Talk.”
And when its reporters—ahem, commentators and analysts—talk about what exactly this means, they repeat the following like a mantra: “Unbiased reporting is a myth.” Mike Strobel, former editor-in-chief of the Toronto Sun who is now a columnist at the paper and a regular on Sun News, doesn’t hesitate to defend the channel’s overt biases and redirects any pointed fingers in the direction of CBC: “Their claims to objectivity mask the fact that a lot of CBC journalists tend to be kind of left-wing. Biases tend to be more subtle, whereas Sun News, to its credit, is in your face.”
The matter of discerning bias in reporting is a fertile topic, but let’s not forget the fact that Sun’s flagship news anchor is calling Iran “a hell hole” on prime time television. That’s something new in Canadian broadcasting, and while the academics ponder the ethics of “fairness” and “balance,” Sun News Network is barging ahead, ignoring its prudish critics and accumulating viewers in the process. And if anyone doesn’t like it, Lavoie has a simple suggestion: “Switch to another channel.”
Many people will, of course, just as many Americans despise Fox News. Sun doesn’t need to lead in the ratings to have an effect on other channels, on political parties and on the tenor of Canadian political culture. The culture of news reporting in America today is different because of competitive pressures from Fox. With Sun going after the CBC, and the Conservatives holding a majority government, the conversation will surely shift on every channel. Ripples emanating from that outpost in cable Siberia show the signs of things to come.

Human rights abuses abound in North do we protect victims?

North Korea expanding gulag network, satellite images show

By National Post Staff, February 26, 2013 A newly released analysis of satellite imagery paints a bleak picture of North Korea’s growing gulag network.

The North’s Labour Camp No. 25, which makes up part of what campaigners call “one of the worst, but least understood and reported, human rights situations in the world,” appears to be in the midst of a dramatic expansion.
According to the Committee of Human Rights in North Korea, the camp grew at least 72% since 2003. The number of perimeter guard posts jumped from 20 in 2003 to 43 by 2010.
The group believes the gulag network expansion may be a response to purges in the lead up to Kim Jong-un’s succession.
Direct information on North Korea’s forced labour camps is hard to come by, but human rights abuses have been well-documented by defectors.
After escaping, Shin Dong-hyuk equated his experience with surviving a camp in Hitler’s Germany.
“People think the Holocaust is in the past, but it is still very much a reality,” Dong-hyk told Agence France-Presse. “It is still going on in North Korea.”
Gulag prisoners are often victims of forced disappearances. There are between 150,000-200,000 political prisoners in the camps, according to an Economist report.
Hard labour and torture are both commonplace.

While incarcerated, “I was stripped, my legs were cuffed and my hands were tied with rope,” Dong-Hyuk told Amnesty International. “I was then hung by my legs and hands from the ceiling. Someone started a charcoal fire and brought it just under my back. I felt the heat at my waist and shrieked. My torturers pierced me with a steel hook near the groin to stop me writhing; the pain was so much that I fainted.”
With files from Youkyung Lee, Associated Press and Ross Johnston, National Post.

Mali: Can international community produce and execute 'a plan'?

Mali conflict not a short-term issue, UN aid official warns

The Mali conflict could ignite the wider Sahel region, which is already struggling to fight malnutrition, drug trafficking and other issues.

By Olivia Ward, Toronto Star, February 26, 2013 The conflict the West fears most in northern Africa could ignite the region unless action is taken to attack its roots, says a top United Nations aid official.

“The fighting in Mali isn’t a short-term issue,” said David Gressly, the UN’s regional humanitarian co-ordinator for the Sahel.
“There has to be a plan. There are deeper issues in the region, beyond the rebellion. There is malnutrition, drug trafficking, a lack of development, governance problems. Even if this crisis is temporarily resolved, the international community must look at the longer term.”
On Tuesday, France’s defence minister said it was too early to pull out French troops, who are still engaged in “very violent fighting” in the mountains of northern Mali. “We are now at the heart of the conflict,” Jean-Yves Le Drian told RTL radio.
France has spent $133 million to help Mali’s government drive out Islamists who occupied the north of the impoverished country.
Meanwhile, the U.S. denounced Iyad Ag Ghali, head of the militant group Ansar Dine, as a “global terrorist,” and added him to its international sanctions list. Ag Ghali, who is linked with Al Qaeda’s North Africa wing, led a takeover of northern Mali in January 2012, but has retreated to the mountainous area near the Algeria border.
Civilians have suffered most in the conflict in which more than 430,000 people have been displaced, and more than 170,000 have fled to equally poor neighbouring countries.
It’s the second of two rapid-fire crises, Gressly said, with the conflict coming on the heels of a major drought that left people all across the country food-deprived, including 500,000 in the north.
“The harvest was quite good last year, so things have improved — but the situation is very dynamic,” he said in a phone interview, adding that it was crucial to get food and aid to displaced people quickly before there is a resurgence of fighting in areas where the Islamists had been driven out.
“The biggest concern is asymmetrical (guerrilla) warfare, which could disrupt humanitarian assistance. Where access may exist today, it may be gone tomorrow.”
Criminal gangs and militias who make money from the drug trade have a stake in keeping the conflict on the boil. According to the UN and a Ghana-based commission investigating the impact of drug trafficking in West Africa, the situation in Mali is a “wake-up call” that lawlessness could escalate. The commission’s head, former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo, called northern Mali a “den of drug trafficking, extremism and criminality.”
After a coup last year weakened Mali’s central government, and weapons streamed across North Africa from post-Gadhafi Libya, the region has become dangerously vulnerable to criminality and terrorism, analysts warn.
“There are three major elements needed now: a resolution of the issue in the north that is politically inclusive; a broader political solution to the crisis in (the Malian capital) Bamako after the coup; and long-term development,” Gressly said.
“Even in areas of government control, high rates of malnutrition are hampering development, and we could see another crisis developing if there’s a serious food shortfall.”
The UN has called for $373 million to help Mali through its current crisis in 2013, but so far has received only $17 million. Canada has pledged an additional $13 million in aid for Mali, and extended its deployment of a C-17 cargo plane to support French troops until mid-March.
With files from Star wire services

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Horsemeat and horsefeathers...and other lies...

the purpose of a writer is to keep civilization from destroying itself (Camus, quoted by Fay Weldon, in By Heart, The Atlantic, February 26, 2013 below)
It was Camus's compatriot, Jean Paul Sartre, who declared, "Hell is other people!" and from this combined forge the world has gleaned some very white hot 'coals'....of caution and warning!
If it might be possible for civilization to be kept from destroying itself, by any means, including all the writing by all the writers, of all gradations in all countries, in all ages, then each key punched on this keypad is worthy of the effort.
We must do anything and everything we can think of to keep civilization from destroying itself, no matter how pretentious, or how specious or how 'tilting at windmills' is our every tactic and strategy. The new Secretary of State, John Kerry, is quoted in today's front pages, reminding his audience that Americans have a right to be stupid. However, they do not have a right to deploy their stupidity to bring the rest of the world to naught, as they nearly did in 2008 with the financial crisis.
Nuclear weapons, unsecured, lying around some broken silo's in various countries, where the accounting and the accountability leave much to be desired, with terrorists of various stripes, some political, some religious, some merely desperate for whatever reasons, and state governments either unable or unwilling to bring those weapons under even reasonable security, never mind "tight" security...that is only the beginning of a potential nightmare.
Increased risk from cyber-attacks, bringing power systems, military intelligence, and/or national security secrets into the "wrong hands"....added to the already known cyber weapons that can and have disabled nuclear reactors, without 'showing their hand'...these are some of the other potential hazards, with which we all live.
And then there are the bio and chemical weapons, the drug-resistant 'bugs' and the potential for sloppy or non-existent food, water, air, land and both plant and animal inspections to which more of us are being exposed, as budget cutting replaces sound, fact-based budget allocations in countries where such errors of both commission and omission are being documented frequently....and then there is a minuscule anecdote that portrays a kind of carelessness that announces "powerlessness" whether perceived or real on the part of the actor. A story to illustrate:
Ordering a Tim Horton's coffee today, I asked the clerk for a medium double-double in a paper cup, with a doughnut, "for here" and when I turned to pick up the order, I found the coffee in a ceramic mug..."Is that my coffee?" I inquired of the clerk who poured the drink.
"Yes Sir," came her official reply.
"Oh, I would really like it in a paper cup, please," I said.
"I was just following the screen directions, Sir, and she's just learning," came the rather short response.
Leaving the issue as settled, so I thought, I waited for the paper cup and proceeded to find a table.
Just as I was leaving the counter, I heard the cashier say, "Sorry!" to the second clerk.
"It's OK, he ordered improperly!"
Unable to leave it alone after that, I blurted, "I did not order improperly; I asked for a paper cup in the first place," and walked away.
Some people who consider themselves "responsible" to protect a new trainee ought not to have to overlook the trainee's omission on the keypad, and pass the responsibility onto the matter how inexperienced the trainee, or the apparent trainer.
And, someday, I have thought since, that the editorial cartoon in the Toronto Star today, sums up too much of contemporary culture and human existence...two boxes, one from IKEA under which the caption reads, "horsemeat in the meatballs," the second, the boxed DVD of the Oscar-winning best movie for 2012, "Argo," under which the caption reads, "horsefeathers in the plot"....
One has to wonder if there is any authenticity and truth-telling left anywhere...and that makes one wonder about capacity of civilization to resist self-destruction, no matter how many gallons of ink are poured into how many scribes' writings.

Imagine Sisyphus Happy: How Camus Helps Fay Weldon Keep on Writing

By Fay Weldon, By Heart, in The Atlantic, February 26, 2013
"One must imagine Sisyphus happy," wrote Albert Camus in 1942. Well, I do try. But the page is blank. I sit at my desk seized by sudden doubt, conscious of decades of pointless toil behind me and the few years in front in the certain knowledge that I will never get it right. Experience suggests one never writes the book one plans to write. Somewhere along the way it goes astray, some link between the sentences does not quite hold. It is never what one meant. Never will be. So what is the point of beginning the long toil up the hill, pushing and straining sentences along, forcing characters into molds which never quite fit, dragging a chain-gang of second thoughts behind? Olympus will never be reached. Sisyphus is bound to slip. The rock will come tumbling down. Let the blank page stay blank.

As I begin a novel I remind myself as ever of Camus's admonition that the purpose of a writer is to keep civilization from destroying itself.But if we consider, like Camus, Sisyphus at the foot of his mountain, we can see that he is smiling. He is content in his task of defying the Gods, the journey more important than the goal. To achieve a beginning, a middle, an end, a meaning to the chaos of creation—that's more than any deity seems to manage: But it's what writers do. So I tidy the desk, even polish it up a bit, stick some flowers in a vase and start.
As I begin a novel I remind myself as ever of Camus's admonition that the purpose of a writer is to keep civilization from destroying itself. And even while thinking, well, fat chance! I find courage, reach for the heights, and if the rock keeps rolling down again so it does. What the hell, start again. Rewrite. Be of good cheer. Smile on, Sisyphus!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Jimmy Carter: ARGO, "great film, but most credit goes to Canada, not CIA"

From CNN website, February 25, 2013 based on a Piers Morgan interview with former President Jimmy Carter
Seated together in San Diego, the former commander in chief offers his unique insight and perspective on the motion picture "Argo," an Oscar-nominated film that's based on actual events occurring during his presidency:

"Let me say first of all, it’s a great drama, and I hope it gets the Academy Award for best film because I think it deserves it," says Carter.
Citing one key discrepancy in the film, the former United States president makes a point to offer some just praise for America's neighbors to the north:
"The other thing that I would say was that 90 percent of the contributions to the ideas and the consummation of the plan was Canadian," notes the 88-year-old. "The movie gives almost full credit to the American CIA. And with that exception, the movie's very good."
Noting that Tony Mendez, the man portrayed by actor/director Ben Affleck, had a rather minimal role in the in the actual incident, the guest reveals whom he feels was the most important protagonist in the real life story:
"The main hero, in my opinion, was Ken Taylor who was the Canadian ambassador who orchestrated the entire process," reveals Carter. "I was informed about it the first day, and I was very much involved with the Canadian government because the Canadian government would not legally permit six false passports to be issued. So the Canadian parliament had to go into secret session the first time in history, and they voted to let us use six Canadian passports that were false."

Liberals shun existential reflection for slick charisma

Whatever may be the case, nearly two years after that catastrophic election, the party shows no interest in reinventing itself, still less in any healthy existential introspection.(from "Andrew Coyne: Liberal Party would rather be a personality cult than transform itself" by Andrew Coyne, Natinoal Post, February 20, 2013, excerpted below)
The "existential moment" is defined as that moment in which one recognizes one's own meaninglessness and it is the responsibility of that one to focus on one's own meaning and seek to generate and accomplish it. If this is not a moment in which the Liberal Party of Canada does not, or cannot, recognize and acknowledge its own meaninglessness, and begin to take appropriate steps to generate and accomplish something that looks like "meaning" in the existential sense of that word, then when would that moment be?
Introspection, existential reflection, policy alternatives debated and refined, intellectual rigour and leadership discipline....these are not only not the direction of the Liberal Party of Canada, but sadly, they are also not the temper, the culture, or the ethos in which the current political landscape in Canada operates. Individuals who dig deeply into their own misfortunes, seeking honest answers to questions like "What was my role in that debacle?" are considered to be narcissistic and addicted to the past and to its tragic impacts. "Leave the past in the past" is a familiar adage for those determined not to conduct what amount to archaelogic digs into memory, character, motives and a discipline to learn.
In a star-fraught culture, inculcated in a "great-man" archetype, hungry if not avaricious for instant gratification, with visions of electoral power through purchased public manipulation, there is simply no room for deep and profound and existential reflection. And those who engage in such pursuits, individually, or collectively, and certainly corporately, especially ecclesially, are considered anathema to both the 'status quo' (something those accustomed to power seem addicted to preserving) and to a formal denial of the theme of nature, change.
Change simply does not apply to those who know best.
Change is not part of the vocabulary of those steeped in the alchemy of the elite.
Change is not part of the theology, for example, of a Roman Catholic church, whose leaders are paid to protect its many fossils of dogma, tradition, ritual, liturgy and impenetrability, including the preservation of the "great-man" at the top.
And make no mistake, if you have not attended a Liberal Party gathering lately, one of the first comments one hears from long-term members, is that it is the party of Roman Catholics...or at least was! That was my experience, on attending my first party gathering just prior to the last federal election, coming from one who really didn't comprehend fully the impact of his proud observation.
The party may elect some very good candidates, and will, unfortunately, wrap itself in the Trudeau banner once again, hoping against hope, cynical though it is, that Canadians will be seduced by the Trudeau mystique, or charisma, and will throw the Harper government out with the trash.
Yet, this is not 1968!
And Justin Trudeau is not Pierre Trudeau, not even a pale imitation of the deceased Prime Minister.
And the Liberal Party is not the Liberal Party of 1968, and no attempt to paint the mascara of faux excitement and faux energy on its self-inflicted, and potentially fatal wounds, too numerous to list again,
can prevent another electoral mistake when they choose another leader...without having undergone the rigours of a critical public self-reflection, including a disciplined debate of substantive, complex issues and potential solutions, demonstrating a mastery of the many files, so that, when it comes time for the 2015 federal election, Canadians will have the kind of clear policy and philosophy alternatives we deserve.
So far, only the NDP offers the kind of credible alternative to Harper, and in spite of the new book by Ibbitson et al, on the projected long-term political success of Harper's new conservatism, Tom Mulcair and his band of earnest, eager, industrious and even neophyte members, along with seasoned veterans, provides the most promise for a return to sanity and evidence-based policies, for all Canadians, in 2015. And I'm proud to be a member of the federal NDP!

Andrew Coyne: Liberal Party would rather be a personality cult than transform itself

By Andrew Coyne, National Post, February 20, 2013
Perhaps it was an impossible thing to expect. Perhaps it was even unfair. To demand that the Liberal Party of Canada, after a century and more as the party of power, should reinvent itself as a party of ideas; that it should, after a string of ever-worse election results culminating in the worst thumping in its history, ask itself some searching questions, including whether Canada still needed a Liberal Party, and if so on what basis — perhaps it was all too much to ask.

Because, on the evidence, the party isn’t capable of it. Or perhaps it simply doesn’t want to. Either it does not believe such a process is necessary. Or it does, but can’t bear it. Whatever may be the case, nearly two years after that catastrophic election, the party shows no interest in reinventing itself, still less in any healthy existential introspection. The policy conference that was to be the occasion for this came and went; the months that followed were similarly void.
And the leadership race, so long delayed, so eagerly awaited? Not the ideal place for a party to reflect on who it is and what it stands for — that’s why the race was put off for so long, to get all of that out of the way beforehand — but perhaps it was the only realistic shot. As they chose between candidates, Liberals (and “supporters”!) would also be choosing between competing visions of the party, sharpening and forcing issues that until now the party had preferred to avoid. Only that’s not really how it’s turning out, is it?
I don’t mean the candidates, some of them at least, haven’t tried, sort of. At various times, various candidates have issued the odd policy proposal that would set the party apart from its rivals — abolish supply management (Martha Hall Findlay), open telecoms to foreign competition (Marc Garneau), scrap the “net benefit” rule on foreign takeovers (George Takach). Even those candidates offering more traditional Liberal policy fare — increasingly indistinguishable from the NDP’s — have at least set out some sort of a direction for the party. And all of them might as well not have bothered.

Because the party seems determined to give itself to Justin Trudeau, come what may. Now, it is true that Trudeau has himself offered up a policy morsel or two. He favours liberalizing the drug laws and accepting takeovers by foreign state-owned enterprises in the oil sands. He opposes tightening Quebec’s language laws and boutique corporate tax credits. He was for the long-gun registry, but is against bringing it back.
But beyond that? He has his father’s views on the Quebec question, without doubt. But the only broad statement of his economic policy we have is his unswerving devotion to “the middle class.” And while the same criticism could be made of the other candidates — a grab bag of positions does not add up to a philosophy, still less a raison d’etre for the party — only Trudeau has made a virtue of his opacity. To take more forthright positions now, he argues, would prejudge the sorts of grassroots consultations he intends to hold — after he is leader.
It’s tempting to suggest this amounts to asking party members (and “supporters”!) to accept him on faith now, on the promise that he will listen to their views later. Except to most of his followers, it doesn’t matter whether he listens to them or not: he had them at hello. Trudeau may not be wholly uninterested in ideas himself, but he is plainly the candidate of those who are. All many of them know is his name and his face, and all the rest need to know is that, for much of the population, that is enough. He will spare them the hard work of looking within. He will rescue them from doubt, from debate, from having to choose to be this and not that.

For Trudeau’s rivals, this presents something of a conundrum. It’s all very well to point out that Trudeau has not only said little of where he would lead the party, but has next to no qualifications for the job. For anyone even half-way inclined to vote for Trudeau these are irrelevant, if not positive virtues. If you have to point it out, you’ve already lost....

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Siddiqui: Harper courts religious minorities for political purposes

Stephen Harper’s real agenda on religious freedom: Siddiqui

The government is courting specific minorities to help the Conservative party electorally.

By Haroon Siddiqui, Toronto Star, February 24, 2013 But the government has given critics ample ammunition. Its election promise was aimed at garnering support from the Coptic community in the riding of Mississauga-Erindale. At its October 2011 consultative process in Ottawa, four of the six speakers chosen were Christians. Panellists included high-profile right-wingers.

The session was closed to the media and the public. The media dug out that of the 100 participants none was from a major human rights group. Of the 40 who made comments, three-quarters were from Christian groups.
Foreign Minister John Baird later consulted with the Vatican and the head of the Greek Orthodox Church in Turkey. He also met the spiritual leaders of Ismailis and Ahmadis, while snubbing representatives of the far more numerous Sunni and Shiite Muslim communities whose adherents also face persecution in some countries.
The government is catering to more than its Christian constituency. It is courting specific minorities to help the Conservative party electorally. In particular, it’s wooing Coptic Christians from Egypt, Christians and Ahmadis from Pakistan, Baha’is from Iran and Ismaili Muslims. These groups were among those at the Ottawa consultative meeting.
Just as Harper unveiled his election promise at a Mississauga Coptic Church, he announced the new ambassador at the Ahmadiyya mosque in Vaughan.
The government is free to court any group it wants — the more the better. It is also right to incorporate into our foreign policy the concerns of groups worried about their kith and kin abroad.
But it is doing so by exploiting “old country” fault lines among immigrant communities, in the name of religious rights. This becomes clearer when you consider that it shuttered Rights and Democracy, the federally funded agency that advocated for a range of human rights abroad.
The government protests that its sympathies are not selective. It throws in references to other beleaguered minorities — the Falun Gong, Tibetans and Uighurs in China, the Shiites being massacred in Pakistan, etc. But its word won’t be taken seriously unless it tells us what it thinks of the following:
The Rohinga Muslim minority in Myanmar, suffering a systematic pogrom about which even Nobel Laureaute Aung San Suu Kyi has been shamefully silent; the Muslim minority of 175 million in India, whose plight is being addressed by the government of India itself; Kurdish and other minorities persecuted in Iran; the Shiite minority in Saudi Arabia, whose rights are routinely put down by force; and Hindu and Sikh minorities in Malaysia and Indonesia, who are barely tolerated;
The Shiites of Lebanon, who constitute a plurality but are systematically denied proportionate electoral and other representation; the Shiite majority in Bahrain, persecuted for decades by a Sunni monarch who has brutally crushed their pro-democracy demands; and Syria’s Sunni Muslim majority discriminated against by the ruling minority Alawite sect of the dictator Bashar Assad.
A third of the world’s population suffers government or social restrictions because of faith, says the Washington-based Pew Forum on Religion. Restrictions on religious freedom have been rising in the Middle East, China, Russia, Africa, Asia and even Europe.
As Harper acknowledged on Tuesday, “around the world, violations of religious freedom are widespread and they are increasing.”
Which of these would he champion and on what basis?

Friday, February 22, 2013

"Sexual and financial lobbies" influencing Vatican, and Pope's decision to resign.

Sex and money, the two swords on which humans and organizations are often impaled, especially those that espouse moral and ethical purity, at their own peril, are once again surfacing as the conspiracy theories behind the Pope's resignation, the first in more than 600 years.
"Financial and sexual lobbies" allegedly influencing the that's more than an eighty-six-year-old pontiff, formerly Cardinal Ratzinger, then Defender of the Faith, could stomach. And to think that the sexual lobby involves, allegedly, homosexuals inside the Vatican. Who would or could expect anything else?
There is no clear evidence available that could or would bring the church to its knees and, of course, all Vatican public statements will point their audience to matters like the upcoming conclave to elect the next Holy Father in a concerted attempt to divert attention away from the potential scandals within the Holy See. Nevertheless, the church's position on homosexuality, as a sin, is, in a word, is the church's hard line on "adultery".
Only a fool would even think s/he would want to stand in judgement of another's sexual orientation, sexual attitudes, or sexual conduct. Nevertheless, there are those in the church whose standard for both inclusion within and exclusion from entry, into the church is sexual misconduct, parading their own lives, in their entirety, as paragons without blemish....lest they fall on the sword of "casting the first stone"....only that part of the text seems to have gone missing in their religious and theological and spiritual development.
In fact, the church has more to atone for than almost any other organizations, with respect to the influence it has had, mostly negative and tragic, on the formation of attitudes on sexuality, as sinful, dark, harmful, injurious, and dangerous....their's is a sinister, immature, controlling, clinical, and simply out-of-touch-with-reality and the integrity that reality requires stance.
The church's clinging to rules that deny individual human beings either their sexual orientation and/or their sexual behaviour including their need, is unholy, and unsustainable with respect to the depth and force of the human instinct, in both men and women.
And maintaining a strict requirement of celibacy, too, is unsustainable, no matter the age of the candidate for holy orders, the social and cultural background of the candidate, and it is also a denial of the requisite need for parish priests to both experiment with and enter into sexual relationships, in all of their complexity, in order to better appreciate the complexities of the lives of their parishioners. And such nuanced complexities, in all of their many colours, and multiple implications, are at the heart of much of the human drama, both positive and negative...and those latter apply also to the conception and delivery and rearing of human children....those experiences can and do run the gammut from extremely positive to extremely negative, within devout church-going and believing families.
Will this issue, of the church's position on both abstinence/celibacy and homosexuality, be a deal-breaker for current members, and prospective adherents? Doubtful.
However, confronting evil within has never been the church's strong suit, and it is not likely to become so under the current exigency to replace the resigning pope.
As for the  alleged theft of money, from inside the Vatican, that too is a human weakness, especially among those whose lives are allegedly committed to chastity, poverty and obedience....standards to which no human being can legitimately be held, and the fact that intelligent, well-read, widely travelled and healthy spirited men and women, inside the church's faith community, have not been able to either discern the fragility of the church's positions, and to amend the church's teachings, or to reject them out of hand, as any God worthy of both worship and love would do, is more than tragic. It is a blind hubris disease that could indeed prove fatal to the institution.
Pope’s resignation tied to blackmailed gay-lobby within the Vatican: Italian newspaper

From Business Insider, in National Post, February 22, 2013
Following Pope Benedict’s surprise resignation earlier this month, it didn’t take long for conspiracy theories to come out of the woodwork.

To a certain extent, this is expected — a Pope hasn’t resigned in centuries, and certain aspects of Benedict’s time at the top of the Vatican have been controversial — not least the damaging “VatiLeaks” scandal.
Today, Italy’s La Repubblica newspaper added fuel to the fire, alleging that Benedict’s resignation was prompted by a report prepared by three Cardinals on conflict and corruption in the Vatican — including what it says is the “inappropriate influence” of a gay lobby within the Holy See.
The newspaper — which has the largest circulation within Italy — says that Benedict asked three Cardinals, Julian Herranz, Josef Tomko and Salvatore De Giorgi, to conduct an internal report after the VatiLeaks scandal. When the 300 page report was delivered to Benedict in December, it reportedly cemented a decision that he had already been considering — it was time to resign.
What was so damning in the report? While La Repubblica doesn’t quote directly from the report, it contains details reportedly passed on by a senior Vatican source, which points to financial and sexual lobbies that have split the church.

The report allegedly stated that various lobbies in the Vatican were exerting influence on day-to-day-life in the Vatican, and routinely breaking two of the ten commandments — “thou shalt not steal” and “thou shalt not commit adultery.” The former refers to the controversies about the Vatican Bank, one of the key aspects of the VatiLeaks Scandal.
The latter commandment is apparently a reference to a “gay lobby” that reportedly exerts influence within the Vatican, La Repubblica alleges. The report infers that this group was the subject of blackmail attempts, detailing an “external influence” from those with a “worldly nature.”

Reports of financial corruption and homosexuality in the Holy See are far from uncommon, of course — the Vatican became embroiled in a gay prostitution scandal in 2010, for example, which La Repubblica highlights. However, this report is the first sign that these controversies could have played a role in Benedict’s resignation.

UN REPORT: Some good news on global poverty, still much to do

Progress in the fight against global poverty: Editorial

The Human Development Report for 2013 shows the once-benighted ‘South’ is rising, lifting millions out of poverty.

Editorial, Toronto Star, February 19, 2013 The news is better than anyone anticipated. This year’s Human Development Report, which measures how well countries are doing economically and socially, shows a profound global shift. Forty nations – not just economic tigers such China, India and Brazil – are rapidly lifting their people out of poverty.

The United Nations Development Program (UNDP), which has issued 21 of these annual reports, called this year’s edition, which will be officially released on March 14 in Mexico City, “The Rise of the South.” It is the most upbeat report in years. But it also challenges the once-dominant North (Europe, North America and Japan) to cede some its policy-setting power to such nations as Turkey, Mexico and South Africa as well as the emerging superpowers.
“People throughout the developing world are increasingly demanding to be heard,” the agency says. They have the digital technology to raise their voices and the will to foment change.
It had been clear for some time that the world’s economic axis was shifting. What hadn’t come to light was the improvement in people’s lives in dozens of countries once considered backward. The UNDP compiled evidence on everything from income and literacy levels to gender rights and longevity to draw up its 2013 rankings. When researchers looked at the numbers, the theme of this year’s report was obvious.
The UNDP would not disclose individual country rankings in advance of the report’s release. But officials did say that a fifth of the nations they surveyed – all in the developing world – did better than expected. And their success looks sustainable.
Surprisingly, there was no common pathway. China relied on a rising economic tide to lift all boats. Brazil, on the other hand, deliberately put in place in anti-poverty programs to ensure that the gains of growth were shared. Others countries used tools that reflected their values and priorities.
Less surprisingly, and disappointingly, all 10 countries in sub-Saharan Africa were excluded from the “rising” South.” So were Asia’s chronic laggards: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar (Burma) and Yemen. There is plenty of work to do.
While the good news merits applause, the pockets of desperation and disease, incubators for human unrest, leading to outright 'animal preying' by some on others, for a variety of heinous and desperate motives, continue to ooze their toxicity onto the world's headlines, and into the lives of too many human lives.
And, both the notion and the need for 'foreign aid' is also changing, amid the details of this report.
Some respected observers are calling for a less patronizing, less condescending and less "power-over" kind of support and more "accountable, transparent and dignified" assistance, requiring donors and recipients to partner in the development of the marginalized people and nations.
What is not mentioned in the editorial is the degree to which religions are evangelizing, prosletyzing and thereby seeking dominance by numbers on behalf of different faith communities. There are bragging rights for 'converting the greatest numbers' to a particular faith and there are armies of recent and ambitious converts working to "convert" the masses to some of the already dominant faiths, in the belief that their numbers will significantly empower the sustainability and growth of that religion.
And while "God" is marching through the impoverished and the undeveloped and the underdeveloped countries and peoples, there are disturbing signs that some of those converts, as would be expected, adopt a highly rigorous and literal and militaristic and frightening brand of those faiths, including segments of Christianity, Islam, Mormonism, among the more aggressive conversion machines.
And when a faith becomes attached to development, the conflicts between religions and between differing dogmas within faith communities can serve to block not only human development but also national development.
One of the most glaring of divisive schisms within the faith communities, in the developing world, is the attitude to the gay, lesbian and transgender communities. In some countries, people are being killed for being gay. And in the developed world, still, there are pockets of contempt, even bigotry, toward the gay community, while at the same time, there are increasing numbers of jurisdictions that support gay marriage.
It would seem clear that training to bring the margins into the muddy and often confusing middle, on attitudes of religious dogma, social acceptance, economic and intellectual development, gender equality and different forms of power-sharing collaboration will take a dramatic shift in many of the same files in the developed world. And those of us living in the developed world must not leave social and political and intellectual and equality initiatives to either the corporate giants or the religious realots, both of whom consider success in numbers more than in the quality of their relationships.
And any reports that point only to statistics also leaves gaps in the social/political/religious/philosophic narratives, all of which must be considered when accounting for human development.
And only governments can leven the bread, in the landscape where profit-driven or convert-driven
over-achievers control the rules of the game. And only those governments prepared to confront dominating ambitions, ambitions that will do more to divide than to unite different perspectives, will be able to moderate the influence of those feathering their own nests with numerical accomplishments, at the expense of authentic human growth and development, based on the tolerance, respect and dignity that can come from both self and other acceptance.
What will it benefit the world if we leave nations so deeply divided, even if they are able to feed and clothe themselves, because we have ignored the really difficult tasks of growing states of protected people, respected others and especially respected "others from outside"....something many so-called developed countries are struggling with themselves, in their wildly diverse policies and attitudes to immigrants and immigration and the integration of others into the social fabric of those developed nations.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Still Saying "NO" to Office of Religious Freedom in Ottawa

Canada’s ambassador for religious freedom, Andrew Bennett, has work cut out: Editorial

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has just named Andrew Bennett to head Ottawa’s new Office of Religious Freedom, to promote and monitor religious rights. He has his work cut out for him.
Editorial, Toronto Star, February 20, 2013
...Skeptics understandably wonder whether Harper’s initiative plays more to domestic politics than anything else. Certainly, it will resonate with the Conservative base, and with constituencies the party is courting. Christians are under fire in Iraq, Nigeria, Egypt and elsewhere. And Iranian Baha’is are persecuted, along with Saudi and Bahraini Shias, Pakistani Ahmadis, and Chinese Sunni Uighurs and Tibetan Buddhists.

Still, Canada spends $2.5 billion a year on Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird’s department, in which the new office will be housed. If Harper wants to whistle down rights abusers he has an army of diplomats to call upon. It’s hard to see how spending 0.002 per cent more can make much of a difference.
There’s a concern, too, that the focus on religion may distract Ottawa from addressing other notorious abuses, including attacks on free speech, assembly and association. Some wonder whether Ottawa will go as far as the U.S. has in criticizing trading partners or allies such as China, Saudi Arabia and Israel for treating minorities unfairly. And what will Ottawa say when religious beliefs clash with women’s rights, gay rights and so on?
It’s no simple thing to make religion a focus of foreign policy, and to apply it fairly to persecuted minorities around the world. Bennett has his work cut out delivering on the prime minister’s grand promise.
The Canadian "Great White (Christian) Knight" has just been appointed by Harper to shine a spotlight on religious persecutions around the world and, one has to assume, the marching orders for this Roman Catholic appointee, are and will be to call out religious persecutions of whatever religions are targeted in whatever lands they are suffering. First, protecting religious freedom, as part of our foreign policy, signals that religion now occupies a seat in the foreign affairs office, where, presumably, we will also find grants to religious organizations that oppose a woman's right to choose. Whose religious freedom is being protected in such a decision? Certainly not the women seeking therapeutic abortions for their own legitimate, personal and honourable reasons.  The Canadian government's "doling" minister, Fantino, states publicly that grants are based on the effectiveness of the organizations. Talk about mixed messages! If there were an international award for mixed messages, the Harper government would lead the candidates elegible. "We are doing a lot" says Environment Minister Kent, in response the rising tide of protest agaisnt the Keystone Pipeline in the U.S. "No you're not!" echoes in every head of those watching his charade. "We are focused on jobs and a strong economy," the mantra that jumps out of the mouth of every Conservative MP, no matter what question is being asked by what person, reporter, opposition member, or citizen. Meanwhile, the evidence is that there is more left undone than is being done on that file also. "We are keeping our streets safe from crime," another of the mantras, belied by the statistics on crime, that demonstrate falling crime rates even before this gang took power. As for protecting religious freedom, a Canadian voice, buried in the Foreign Affairs department, poking a flashlight into the dark caves of persecution will have about as much positive impact as a Pope who denies child sexual abuse for decades, before assuming the Pontificate, and then resigning without accomplishing a resolution either in fact or in public perception.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

DSM-5 promoting "sick society" by labelling legitimate worry as mental illness

...observers fear the expanded definition will lead to widespread over-diagnosis and inappropriate treatment of people with medical illnesses, including the “worried well.”

“This DSM-5 overreach touches the lives of everyone who is medically ill,” says Dr. Allen Frances, a professor emeritus at Duke University who chaired the task force that wrote the previous edition of the manual, known as DSM-IV.
"The fundamental change is that they’re allowing the diagnosis if a person has just one physical symptom that they worry about (for at least six months), and they’ve eliminated the hierarchies that previously protected against over-diagnosis,” he said. (from "‘The sickening of society’: New psychiatric disorder could label people who worry about their physical health as mentally ill" by Sharon Kirkey, National Post, February 18, 2013, excerpted below)
Under George W. Bush, it was known as "shock and awe" in the then administration's bravado about the manner in which the U.S. would attack Saddam Hussein in Iraq. In Mali, the world again uses the phrase "mission creep" to describe a phenomenon known as snailing into another conflict with non-state terrorists.
In psychiatry, we also are witnessing what can only be described as "mission creep" or better yet, mission gallop, as more and more people, people who should be legitimately worried about a potentially terminal illness, are double-diagnosed as mentally ill to boot.
Somatic Symptom Disorder is the new label included in the soon-to-be-published DSM-5, and some seven million people could fall under both its diagnosis, as well as additional "treatment".
If Coke expanded its reach, we would call it marketing. If the New York Yankees won another World Series, we would call it "buying the pennant". In psychiatry, are we expected to lie down in our angst and "take more pills" prescribed under the rubric of the Diagnostic Statistical Manual, the bible for growing the practice of psychiatry, and thereby covered by most insurance plans?
This is really a time for the public to barricade ourselves in our homes, pour a glass of Volpolicello, put our feet up and talk intimately with our partner, and let the ravages of such professional and intellectual pomposity flow out to sea with the rest of the flotsam and jetsam. I am reminded of the mother who barricaded herself behind the door of her son's hospital room, after he had suffered a serious accident in which both legs were broken and the diagnosis and prescription from the medical staff was to amputate both legs. She screemed that she would not let any doctor near her bed-ridden son, until her country-doctor friend arrived. Upon his arrival, he saved both legs and the young man went on to a successful athletic career on both legs.
If and when we hear a serious, even terminal diagnosis, we can all be reminded that somewhere there is an army of doctors, trained psychiatrists, who will be ready, willing and eager to listen to our legitimate anxiety and treat what has to be one of the most normal, natural and predictable conditions of worry about our mortality...
Isn't there a clause in the Hippocratic Oath that requires doctors to "do no harm"?
What happened to that clause in the deliberations of the DSM-5 committee?

‘The sickening of society’: New psychiatric disorder could label people who worry about their physical health as mentally ill

By Sharon Kirkey, Postmedia News, in National Post, February 18, 2013
A controversial new mental diagnosis could label thousands of people with legitimate medical illnesses as psychiatrically sick and in need of treatment if they worry “excessively” about their symptoms, observers say.

The newest version of psychiatry’s official catalogue of mental disorders, due to be published in May, will contain a newly expanded definition of “somatic symptom disorder,” or SSD.
Under the previous edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders — an influential guidebook used by doctors around the globe — somatoform disorders applied to people with medically unexplained health complaints. The diagnosis required that physical, bodily symptoms couldn’t be traced to any identifiable, underlying medical cause.
In the fifth and latest edition of the manual, known as DSM-5, that proviso has been removed.
The new diagnosis doesn’t distinguish between “medically unexplained” symptoms or symptoms related to an actual underlying medical problem.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, publishers of the DSM, “some patients with illnesses like heart disease or cancer will indeed experience thoughts, feelings or behaviours related to their illness that will be extreme or overwhelming” and that these individuals “may qualify for an SSD diagnosis.”
But observers fear the expanded definition will lead to widespread over-diagnosis and inappropriate treatment of people with medical illnesses, including the “worried well.”
“This DSM-5 overreach touches the lives of everyone who is medically ill,” says Dr. Allen Frances, a professor emeritus at Duke University who chaired the task force that wrote the previous edition of the manual, known as DSM-IV.
"The fundamental change is that they’re allowing the diagnosis if a person has just one physical symptom that they worry about (for at least six months), and they’ve eliminated the hierarchies that previously protected against over-diagnosis,” he said.

“In DSM-IV you wouldn’t pin a mental disorder label on someone with a medical illness until you had first ruled out several different important possibilities,” he said — including that the person is worried about something real.
“If a person has a medical illness that’s worrisome, they should be worried about it,” Frances said.
The American Psychiatric Association says that the new criteria will help doctors better identify people who need treatment.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Siddiqui, a voice of temperate, tolerant civility in a sea of fear

What the Pope and others got all wrong post-9/11: Siddiqui
Pope Benedict never did recover from putting the Holy See’s imprimatur on some very unholy post-Sept. 11 Islamophobia.
By Haroon Siddiqui, Toronto Star, February 14, 2013
The Pope got into trouble with the Muslim world for his bigoted view of Islam. In his infamous 2006 statement about the Qur’an and Muhammad, he drew conclusions from a wrong set of theological and historical facts. In 2005, he lectured Muslim leaders in Cologne over the evil of terrorism, but there had been no such papal hectoring of Irish Catholic leaders for IRA terrorism. Earlier, he objected to Turkey joining the EU — “Turkey should seek its future among Islamic organizations, not in Christian-rooted Europe.”
These pronouncements were all the more shocking coming from an otherwise well-regarded religious scholar.
He later apologized and retracted much of that — either for reasons of politics or because he was genuinely sorry. But he never did recover from putting the Holy See’s imprimatur on some very unholy post-Sept. 11 Islamophobia, especially that Islam is more evil and irrational than other faiths, and that it spawned more violence (a demonstrably false thesis, given Christian European history).
From such suppositions flowed others: that all Muslims everywhere were one and the same; they were all potential terrorists; they were incapable of being integrated in the West (despite evidence to the contrary, especially in the U.S. and Canada); they had a secret plan to outbreed others, overwhelm Europe (“Eurabia”), indeed the entire West, and impose sharia; mosques and madrassahs, even in the West, hatched jihadists — proof being some nonsensical rhetoric by this or that idiotic imam, somewhere; and what the world needed were “moderate Muslims,” ideally “ex-Muslims,” who in return for confirming prevailing prejudices would be given favourable media coverage and other benefits.
The crude anti-Muslim narrative was to be later swathed in sophistry: what was being targeted was not Islam but “radical Islam,” “militant Islam,” “political Islam,” “extremist Islam,” “Islamism” or “Islamicism” (Stephen Harper’s phrase).
All these assumptions drove public policy for years, including the beefing up of borders and spying on law-abiding Muslims, at a cost of tens of billions of dollars.
But a report by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service says we got it all wrong.
“A Study of Radicalization: The Making of Islamist Extremists in Canada Today” — obtained by the Globe and Mail’s Colin Freeze under the Freedom of Information Act — analyzes data on jihadists, a few dozen at best. A plurality were not immigrants or refugees but rather Canadian-born. Most were educated in our schools and universities. A majority were “highly integrated into Canadian society.” Their path to radicalization was “an idiosyncratic, individual process.”
This jibes with other studies, especially in Britain. While some homegrown terrorists did find religion and others used Islamic rhetoric, religion was not their main motivator. Indeed, the religiously observant were less likely to turn violent. Most radicals wanted revenge for western wars in Muslim nations.
Ray Boisvert, retired assistant director of intelligence at CSIS, says that the agency’s report helps “break down a lot of clichés and misconceptions” that took hold in an era of “fear and anxiety” after Sept. 11. The study should lead to more “informed decision-making,” he told me.
Mr. Siddiqui's observations of the Pope's positions, along with many others, regarding the significance of 9/11, and the ensuing "national security" obsession of so many public figures, makes this writer a little sheepish. While not having the public podium of either Siddiqui or the Pope, I certainly felt some angst about the rise of what has become known as radical Islam.
And, whether or not individual Canadians have become members of the terrorist organizations, the public frenzy has spread its negative ethos over many attittudes and political, not to mention military decisions, in this country and elsewhere.
Some european countries have become so radicalized that they have even considered deportation of Muslims, as part of their economic and security policy. Other countries have merely taken police actions against the incidence of terror, when such incidents arose.
Reading the reports from Africa, Europe, and Asia, about radical terrorist movements seeking political control, for the purpose of establishing Islamic law has been somewhat unsettling, given the 'west's' lack of preparedness for these killings, burnings, lootings, rapings and the like.
Non-state actors of violence, under the umbrella of an allegedly shared faith/ideology, have proven they can and do exact profound carnage with very few resources, and highly committed perpetrators.
Of course, the number of such incidents, their size, and their unpredictability, as well as their unbiquity have certainly not assuaged the fears, apprehensions and decisions of many public figures of all political persuasions.
Nevertheless, it is quite true that not all Muslims are terrorists, just as not all Christians are radical fundamentalists shooting doctors and nurses working in clinics that provide therapeutic abortions. And it is also true that people of all faith backgrounds, as well as those without a faith adherence, have to live in some degree of civility, under the law, and resolve their differences without resorting to violence, whether such violence comes in the form of bullets, missiles, or words.
With some contrition for expressing my own angst, an attitude that could easily have been read as painting all Muslims with the same brush, I thank Mr. Siddiqui for his temperate insights, his tolerant and civil tone and his courage in attemping to tame the rampant, and also destructive, fears of many, over the last decade plus.