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Friday, September 30, 2005

Schwarzenegger vetoes gay marriage bill

The Terminator has terminated a piece of law passed by the California legislature. This is another interesting example of diverging values at the 49th parallel. While the issue of same sex marriage is contentious on both side of the border - in Canada the majority have little or no trouble with it (and it's legal across Canada now) - in the US the majority are opposed and the religious right have made it one of the key issues of our times. Too bad they aren't on the tolerance, love, sharing of wealth, or swords-to-plowshares bandwagons...

Here's some background on the Canadian legislation.


Saturday, September 24, 2005

Peace protests around the world - huge turnout in Washington

It's really not about numbers, but lots of people turned out around the world today to protest the war in Iraq. They also seemed to be protesting dishonesty, lies, damned lies, untruths and bullshit. Will it make a difference? Of course! It always makes a difference to stand up for what one believes in... (It makes a difference to do nothing also.)

The Saddest Story Today

This story is sad on every level. It reports on Sania Khatun, a 12 year old girl who lived with her mother in a village in India. Sania committed suicide after being told her mother did one have one rupee for her to buy food at school.

Along with the tragedy for this family, it's an example of the immense disparity that still exists in India - which is a powerhouse economy today, with a burgeoning middle class. (Child poverty has increased in many industrialised countries as well, including the US.)

There is no need for any child in this world to not have an abundance of food and until that is the case, we have done nothing to justify being called modern, civilized or advanced...

For a look at the state children in the world today, look here.


Friday, September 23, 2005

Chávez gets a Bronx Cheer

President Chavez, of Venezuela, might be considered an enemy of the state by the White House, but they love him in the Bronx. During a speech there, he explained how Venezuela was donating gasoline, through its state-owned Citgo stations, at a cut rate or free in American areas hurt by Hurricane Katrina.

As far as I know, Pat Robertson was nowhere to be seen.


On a lighter note - here's next week's LIVE WRITE column (goes to 10 papers in BC) - feedback welcome.

The first week of October is International Walk to School Week. This annual event gives children, parents, teachers and community leaders an opportunity to be part of a global effort as they celebrate the benefits of walking. In 2004, three million walkers from 36 countries participated. Walking to school together is an easy way to encourage physical activity, reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality. Children also learn safe routes to school and safe pedestrian and cycling skills.

These goals make sense, especially in a time when the hours children spend in physical education in schools have waned and the hours they log in front of TVs, computer screens and electronic games have soared. Every week there seems to be new information on the trend toward overweight and obesity among Canadian children.

A landmark study on this found that in the 15 years leading to 2000, the percentage of the population that is overweight in Canada increased by 92% in boys and 57% in girls. The prevalence of obesity more than tripled in some age groups during the same period. Obese children tend to become obese adults with an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease and other chronic illnesses. While this is a complex societal issue, the prescription for health certainly includes a good diet and more exercise, such as walking to school.

Walk to School Week led me to reflect on my own walk-to-school history. It’s a Canadian tradition that each generation must describe to the next just how tough walking to school really used to be. I remember my father describing his walk to school in 1930’s Edmonton and I recall phrases such as, “wind that blew me backwards”, “newspapers stuffed into my jacket for warmth” and “so cold we saw dogs attached to trees” (use your imagination).

I didn’t ride a school bus until Grade 7. Before that, I walked with my three brothers to a small rural school in Gull Lake, Michigan. We climbed up a steep bank from our lakeside cottage, marched along a winding tree-lined country road and then huffed up another steep hill to our school. My recollection was that it was at least half an hour in duration - fraught at times with bad weather, bad boys and deep dark woods on both sides of the narrow lane.

This summer I travelled to Ontario and Michigan, visiting childhood homes to dig up memories and the rare friend I was still able to locate. I was thrilled to find that the rural nature of Gull Lake was unchanged after several decades. I toured our former house, courtesy of the current homeowners. Then I decided to walk my old school route, to enjoy the sights and to stimulate memories of the young boy I once was.

It was a delightful walk and each curve brought new recollections - from a nasty prank involving a brown bag, something left by a dog and a pack of matches - to recalling an elaborate tree fort my pals and I built. As I strolled, I paused to take a few photos. When I reached the school, I glanced at my watch, curious to know how long I had walked. To my astonishment... it was eight minutes, door to door. Please don’t tell my children.

Whether you walked 10 miles to school (uphill both ways) or meandered a mere eight minutes as I did, it’s not too late to get out of the car or truck and begin to walk more now. A good start might be to join several million others for International Walk to School Week.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Don't forget Darfur

I worked for the international Red Cross in Sudan about 20 years ago. Some of this work included famine relief in Darfur. It was a humbling experience to be with people who had suffered from 2 or more years of drought, loss of life (infants and the elderly were almost extinguished) ... and yet to find the people so gracious, dignified and generous. Wherever we went, people kept their pride, their hope and worked hard to feed us the best food they could rustle up.

It's so hard to learn again and again of the rape, the murder, the burnings, the devastation that is taking place today. Can we imagine a disaster where 50% of the population of New Orleans is dead - from violence? Act if you can -
here's one link.


Monday, September 19, 2005


Fiji has made its first bid to win an Academy Award by submitting The Land Has Eyes in the best foreign language film category, according to Screen International. In order to qualify, it was opened at the only multiplex in the Fijian capital Suva by Australian distributor Ronin Films. The film took a respectable $13,600 (£7,390) in its first week there.

This article also shows you how to put your name into a draw to be one of 300 fans who will win ringside seats for the Academy Award arrivals. 21,000 fans applied last year, so get your name in. You may be one of the first people in history to see a Fiji movie star in Hollywood. Sure beats the same old line up...


10,000 Voices to stop violence against women

Amnesty International is in the 3rd year of a worldwide campaign to stop violence against women. This link leads you to the 10,000 voices campaign. It's a movement to speak out and speak out loudly against the violence. Feel free to have a look and sign on if you would like to.

I have a personal commitment to encourage men to sign up for this campaign. That's where most of the violence comes from - come on gents, let's speak out.


Saturday, September 17, 2005

A Zinger

A Memphis, TN comedian, unknown, said this.

Someone asked Bush what his thoughts were on Roe vs. Wade. Bush replied 'I don't care how they get out of New Orleans.'"

Thanks to Karena's blog

US and Canada have divergent values...take the survey!

Been away for a few days - hard work and some beautiful driving in Canada's wine country.


We often hear about the Americanization of Canadian culture - McFood, Starbucks on every corner, Hollywood movies defining us etc... While on the level of consumer goods and entertainment there is some evidence of this, the evidence about our peoples' values is that they are different and growing more different.

Some examples of Canadian behaviour that would puzzle many American cousins:
  1. Socialized medicine - in Canada it's not about "if" - it's always about how to ensure every single person is covered properly and is cared for - and yes, we will pay for it.
  2. Human rights - Canada has passed legislation making same-sex marriage legal across the land (not just the contractual rights). Even California can't seem to pull that off.
  3. War on Drugs - the US has spent billions fighting a war that most Canadians consider a health issue. In fact, decriminalization of marijauna is on track in Canada.
  4. Religion - while the religious right in Canada might love to have the power of their American pals-in-prayer - it will not happen. All the surveys in Canada indicate growing strength in support for a secular state based on rights and freedoms (including of course the freedom to believe in what you want)
In book Fire and Ice, Michael Adams uses decades of value surveys to make a compelling case that Canadians and Americans are moving apart on most values issues, not together.

You can take the survey and see where you fit on the values map (
here). Post your mapping here if you want. I fell into the Idealism & Autonomy quadrant.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Best country in the world moves even further left

Norway has again won the award as the best county in which to live. The list ranks nations by an index combining wealth, education and life expectancy. Norway was already a very social democracy. After this week's election, Norwegians continue to move left and to choose a country where wealth benefits all... no one is left behind. The winning party is called the Red-Green Alliance for heaven's sake (Possum Lodge fans should know the joke here - I'd vote Red Green anytime - a little duct tape could save this country...)

Just in case anyone thought it's free-market neo-cons or nothing...


Family Vacation

Nasty but fun (Thanks for this Michael K)

Ontario Joins Quebec in saying no to Sharia Law

On Sunday, September 11, the Ontario (Canada) government announced that it will revise the Ontario Arbitration Act so that it does not require Ontario to enforce decisions reached by religious arbitration. There was recently a move to support the use of Sharia law to serve as legally binding arbitration for family matters (for those who choose it). A similar ruling was made earlier this year in Quebec.

This is a clear message that all Ontarians will be under one law, regardless of ethnicity, religion or race as is stated in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. - Alia Hogmen, Canadian Council of Muslim Women
For short series of articles on this decision go to this Straight Goods compilation.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Gandhi's grandson to participate in peace event

The Our Way Home Reunion being held in Nelson, British Columbia in July 2006 will bring together men and women who came to Canada during the Vietnam War years. It will celebrate the richness they brought to Canada, link them to people who assisted them in their move and will focus on war resistance and people of conscience in today's world.

Some of the guest speakers are Tom Hayden, Naomi Klein, Rabbi Michael Lerner and now Arun Gandhi - the grandson of Mahatma Ghandi (see little boy in photo). Arun is the founder of the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence.

Some surprising guest and performer announcements coming in next couple of weeks...

Time for a little playtime?

Go to this link, then click on the LEADER OF THE FREEWORLD box (scroll over them). Mindless entertainment, but you need a little break right now, right?


'Israel's presence of 38 years has come to an end.'

The Gaza pullout is complete. Understandably, Palestinians are overjoyed. This is one step in a complex dance that now involves keeping a lid on violence, more negotiation and much more international money and time. Big priority: get the Gaza economy going, I say...young men need jobs and families need dignity.


Saturday, September 10, 2005

China, Canada and Human Rights

China is an economic powerhouse. It owns huges amounts of US debt and is currently shopping the world to buy energy and other major companies. (By it, I mean the Chinese government and its agencies, not private enterprise). We know that and we know that Canada and other nations are lining up and excited about the gravy train (rice train?). The Chinese President is in Canada this week.

China's human rights record continues to be appalling by any standards. Want some examples from 2004 via Amnesty International:
"Given the different national conditions of China and Canada and given our different history and cultural traditions, it is quite normal for our two countries to have different views about human rights." - Chinese President Hu Jintao
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is an international standard to work to for all human beings, including in China. Different views or not... Prime Minister Martin - go to it with your private chats and why not be more public with what you're passing along? Private chats have a way of well... not meaning anything.


First Katrina recovery contracts go to Bush friends

Estimates today for the costs related to Hurricane Katrina are in the $200 to $300 billion range. The US Congress has already earmarked $60 billion for relief. The administration and emergency system may have been slow to arrive for the victims, but the rebuilding contracts are ramping up nicely. Some of the recipients: Bechtel, Haliburton, Kellogg Brown and Root...

Isn't it wonderful that the administration has good friends in each of these companies? It will certainly make the recovery effort smoother. (As for Halliburton's $billion plus in 'questioned costs' in Iraq, well that's probably just their tip.)


Friday, September 09, 2005

Not a red cent to Malawi food appeal

The UN launched an appeal last month for $88 million for the more than 4m Malawians who are facing hunger after the worst harvest in a decade. There are about 11 million people in Malawi.

Money received to date: a whopping $0,000,000.00 Nada, zilch, nuffink, a big fat goose egg.

Apparently $1 a day saves a life. Cup of good java = 3 days life...


Thursday, September 08, 2005

Breaking news!

Originated on Sky News in Ireland and picked up from Just Ain't Right

The Unfeeling President - by E.L. Doctorow

This is a fantastic essay, written by one of the greatest writers today in America, E.L. Doctorow.

Enjoy this articulate piece...then turn your sadness into action. (THANKS NORMA!)

I fault this president for not knowing what death is. He does not suffer the death of our 21-year-olds who wanted to be what they could be. On the eve of D-Day in 1944 General Eisenhower prayed to God for the lives of the young soldiers he knew were going to die. He knew what death was. Even in a justifiable war, a war not of choice but of necessity, a war of survival, the cost was almost more than Eisenhower could bear... and more


Amnesty youth in Holland light up for world record

On September 7, 2005 a group of students on the Vredenburg in Utrecht, Holland lit 10,000 candles in the form of the Amnesty International symbol. When all the candles were lit and burning, the world record had been broken. With the record Youngamnesty.nl wants to draw attention for human rights activism worldwide.

Human Rights for All! For youth activism in Canada, check this out.

Louisiana senator: Thank you Canada

A Louisiana state senator has praised a Canadian search and rescue team. Senator Walter Boasso said a Vancouver-based team reached St. Bernard parish five days before the U.S. army got there.
There are two messages in this story for me...

The first is I feel kind of proud of these men and women (all from the Vancouver area) who got down there quickly and did themselves proud (in awful circumstances).

The second is: FIVE days before the US Army got there!!! Someone was sleeping on the job. Castro could have got troops there to help sooner than that.

Here's an earlier link to some of the Canadians at work.


Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Secular State 1 - Christian Misogynists 0

The Dutch courts aren't struggling over church and state it seems. The Reformed Political Party sounds like a fun bunch of guys! "Hey let's work for a Holland run entirely on the Bible! But whatever we do, we have to keep the gals out of it..."

Glad George II doesn't appoint their judges.

BBC NEWS | Europe | Party penalised for woman snub: A Dutch court has ruled that the state must stop funding a fundamentalist Calvinist party, because it refuses to allow women to be full members.

Judges in The Hague said that funding the party was a violation of the UN Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

The Reformed Political Party (SGP), which was founded in 1918, will lose about one million euros per year.

The party says it wants government based entirely on Biblical teachings. Full article

UN Convention on Discrimination Against Women


The Challenge of Authentic Leadership

quote of the week (makes good sense to me...)

In order to address the overwhelming global problems that are affecting all of us, we need to get to a point where we all feel compelled to assume a much bigger, more all-embracing emotional, philosophical, moral, and ultimately spiritual relationship to being a human being and living in this world. And of course, if change is going to happen on a scale that can truly make a difference, the individuals who are in positions of leadership are going to have to become nothing less than heroes—moral, ethical, and spiritual heroes—who are willing to take big risks for all of our sake.

If our leaders were to become
real leaders in this way, to evolve at the level of consciousness and conscience, they would truly be able to come together in new ways. This is the challenge of authentic leadership and, from a certain point of view, nothing is more important. No matter how many individuals awaken, unless those who are really in positions of power—which means politicians and corporate leaders—evolve and awaken in dramatic ways, nothing is really going to change.

- Andrew Cohen

... and if our leaders aren't going there - throw the bums out and find some who can (- Gary)

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Tip for CBC fans

As most Canucks and some US brothers and sisters will know, CBC employees are currently locked out across Canada. The issue is around contracting out work, not wages. Shelagh Rogers, one of our most-loved (okay, she's been accused of being far to nice and laughing too much, but I love her) broadcasters is driving across the country boosting morale on the picket lines and blogging away at this link .

It seems like dark days are upon us in many ways (from Katrina to Darfur to the US Supreme Court tilt...) What do we need to get through these days? Humour (see post below). Information and insight (see CBC and blogs). Solidarity and dignity...see the mirror and act on your convictions.


A Pope and President go into a bar...

Okay, this is old news now, but it sort of ties a lot of things together. Bush I & II, the former Pope, Santa, middle-of- the-pew Clinton.

To learn the latest from the current Papa, click here...

Monday, September 05, 2005

Got any spare change?

I am about to start publishing a bi-weekly column in a number of small newspapers. The column is called Live Write and the post below is a draft of the first submission. Comments and critique welcome... (Judy is the previous columnist).

Judy is now off on her well-deserved retirement path and I’m nervously submitting my first Live Write column. This an apt time for me to think about change. Is it my imagination or is the pace of change increasing? I don’t simply mean in terms of technology, politics or the types of toothpaste I can buy at the local market. I mean the pace of change in my life and in the lives of those I know. I am certain of one thing, how I adapt to and handle the stress of life’s transitions has a lot to do with my state of well-being.

Some years ago, while killing time in a dentist’s waiting room, I completed a Reader’s Digest Stress Test. I was feeling pretty good about life at that point, although there was certainly lots of change in the air. In the previous twelve months I had experienced a number of significant life events - including starting a new job, buying our first house (in a new city) and the birth of our first child. I found a pen, ticked off all the boxes that related to me, including those I just mentioned, then added my score up and turned to the interpretation page.

To my surprise, I was ranked high enough on the stress scale to be at risk for serious illness. How could that be? I looked over the list of scores and learned that whether a change is good or bad – it still increased the overall stress result. I expected divorce to be stressful, but marriage wasn’t many points behind. Of course the death of a loved one is a tremendous strain, but a newborn in the family racks up points too. I’d choose a major increase in income over a major loss, wouldn’t you? Once again, both bring stress.

I recently searched online and learned that Reader’s Digest offers an internet version of what is now Dr. Rahe’s Life Changes Stress Test. You can find it at: www.rd.com/content/openContent.do?contentId=10766 . If you don’t have internet, call me and leave your mailing address, for a paper version.

There are some things I can do to glide through life’s transitions with grace and health. The first is to accept that change is going to happen and that whether I perceive it to be positive or negative, it will have an impact on me. When changes are coming fast and furious, I can also deliberately not plan for more.

When I feel stress creeping up on me, it usually reveals itself through tension in my shoulders, disturbed sleep patterns and uncharacteristic crankiness. I’m tempted to address it with red wine, rich foods and staying up late watching movies or television. When I’m wise, I instead find time for more sleep, take long walks and put my date book on a diet – creating space in my life.

Dr. Rahe lists 37 tips for stress relief on the Reader’s Digest web site. These range from switching to decaf coffee to deep breathing to increasing your sexual activity (now I’ve got your attention…). Other advice is available from the bookstore or library, your physician, other health practitioners… and probably your mother.

I plan to enjoy writing this column and to take care not to let it create tension for me. Getting the writing done well ahead of the deadline is my strategy. When changes are weighing on you, whether positive or negative - do whatever works for you, but don’t ignore the effects on your overall well-being. Step back, take some deep breaths, understand what’s happening and be kind to yourself and those around you. It will help you live a long (and change-filled) life.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Had to post this

A good social comment by Patriot Boy

Happy New Year blogsters!

I'm sure it's not the same for everyone, but for me and so many others I know, the New Year seems to begin the first Tuesday of September. It's obvious for students and involved parents, but it seems to be the case for people in lots of other sectors too, including health, social services, investment, administration and more. I suppose the exceptions are farming, tourism, construction and some retail.

Anyhow, I spend the last bit of summer trying to soak up the season - late nights, too much red wine, books at the beach, walks with kids... It's like rushing back to a great buffet, before it's removed and taken back to the kitchen.

I'm feeling the stress of a busy fall already - awake early today imagining how some contracts will work out, what weekends I'm already booked to work and so on.

No big message here - unless you want to join me to call for official recognition of a new New Year. Maybe we could name it something else... ideas?

Hey - quick GOOGLE and here's someone who agrees.

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