Search This Blog/Linked Pages

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Investment is win-win for global economy and climate, Stiglitz argues (commented on in the Grist)

Jon Rynn writing in the Grist about Nobel prize-winner Joseph Stiglitz's win-win suggestion for reversing global warming and the global downturn.

Full article: Investment is win-win for global economy and climate, Stiglitz argues.

The Star's Sandro Contenta in Egypt

"Mohammed Abdel Latif, 52... had a message for Western governments, which for decades have backed a president who outlawed opposition parties and manipulated elections: 'If you want true friends in the Middle East, befriend the people, not the rulers. If the United States, Europe and Canada decide that Mubarak is no longer their man, he is finished.'"

Full article: Egypt: 'This is a massacre'.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Fight to get cheap drugs to Africa at critical stage (Tanya Talaga in the Toronto Star)

"'It would be beyond irresponsible that a bill addressing a critical issue – the global AIDS crisis – and one of great importance to many Canadians, be allowed to die because of a procedural technicality,' Elliott [Richard Elliott, executive director of the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network] said."

Fight to get cheap drugs to Africa at critical stage.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Humans left Africa earlier, took detour: Archeologists (in the Toronto Star)

"Stone tools found buried in the baking Arabian Desert show that our early forebears may well have left the natal continent 125,000 years ago and in an eastward direction, before turning north and moving up into Europe and Asia, a groundbreaking new study says."

Full article: Humans left Africa earlier, took detour: Archeologists.

Toronto researchers discover key player in cancer (in the Toronto Star)

Blocking a particular enzyme that proliferates in cancer cells can create tumour-killing chemicals from within, Toronto researchers have discovered.

Full article: Toronto researchers discover key player in cancer.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Kelly Rigg, highlighting the real "climategate" (in the Huffington Post)

Kelly Rigg: Skepticgate: Revealing Climate Denialists for What They Are.

Haroon Siddiqui: Middle East uprisings caught all by surprise (in the Toronto Star)

"... the American and Western model of dealing with the Arab Middle East is teetering. The support of military or monarchical regimes has been based on two pillars: keep oil in friendly and pliant hands, and back governments friendly to Israel.

"So, it’s not surprising that after having played cheerleaders to the Orange Revolution (Ukraine), the Cedar Revolution (Lebanon) and the Green Revolution (Iran), Washington and other Western capitals have not known how to react to the eruption of people power in Arab lands. ...

"In the case of Egypt, we’ve seen Washington wobble in the last 48 hours — one moment lauding the Mubarak regime as 'stable'; at another upholding the right of demonstrators to demonstrate against the aging and corrupt autocrat; and constantly calling on both sides to refrain from violence, as though the protesters in Cairo and other cities are equal to the brutal security forces armed and trained by the Americans.

"What the people want is Mubarak and his regime gone. That’s not what the U.S. wants."

Full article: Siddiqui: Middle East uprisings caught all by surprise.

Catherine Porter: ‘Gravy train’ cuts mean more lead in our water (in the Toronto Star)

Catherine Porter talks about how funding cuts could be endangering our children.

"'Evidence shows there is no safe level of lead,' says Kathleen Cooper, senior researcher and lead expert with the Canadian Environmental Legal Association.

"Here’s an idea: The money the city is saving by not ripping up as many pipes should be spent on advertising the health dangers of lead in our water and handing out more free filters.

"I’m heading out today to buy a new filter for my kitchen tap. You should too."

Full article: Porter: ‘Gravy train’ cuts mean more lead in our water.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Paul Watson: Kandahar struggles for reliable electricity (in the Toronto Star)

Great article showing why a military solution is not enough in Afghanistan.

Kandahar struggles for reliable electricity.

This is a beautiful illustration of how the "big energy" approach doesn't work in places like Afghanistan... and is eventually going to run out of steam (pun intended) in the developed world as well.

Jonathan Power: Good news about the developing world (in the Toronto Star)

Jonathan Power writes on international affairs and is author of Conundrums of Humanity: The Quest for Global Justice.

Good news about the developing world.

Thomas Walkom: Ottawa’s concern for Haiti not just humanitarian (in the Toronto Star)

"Perversely, Duvalier’s presence makes it more difficult for Aristide to return. That’s because Washington and its allies argue that both are equally divisive, even though Duvalier was a terrorist dictator and Aristide an elected leader.

"The return of Aristide, the U.S. State Department says in language echoed by much of the North American press, would be unhelpful.

"And indeed it might — to the U.S. That’s the thing about populists. They often do what the people they represent want done. They can be very unmanageable."

Full article: Walkom: Ottawa’s concern for Haiti not just humanitarian.

Why was the country’s largest party, Fanmi Lavalas ("Avalanche Family" or "Waterfall Family"), not allowed to take part in the election?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Linda McQuaig: Harper’s strange victory (in the Toronto Star)

"Harper should be getting pummeled for his pro-corporate, anti-people agenda. Instead, he’s strutting about arrogantly accusing his opponents of being disrespectful, even as he heads a government that is the most disrespectful — to the vast majority of Canadians — in our history."

Full article: McQuaig: Harper’s strange victory.

Catherine Porter: Lessons from happiness central (in the Toronto Star)

"[Helena Norberg-Hodge and her husband John Page] are in town promoting their new film, The Economics of Happiness.

"'In the last decade, people have woken up to the fact that both the left and right are pursuing the same economic policies, and many feel discouraged and depressed,' Norberg-Hodge, who’s now based in Australia but spends summers in Ladakh, tells me over lunch. 'Now the roles have reversed. I’m saying, ‘Don’t despair. Don’t give up.’ '"

Full article: Porter: Lessons from happiness central.

Dr. Stephen Smith on Canada's Tar Sands ("Canada's dirty oil")

Dr. Stephen A. Smith writing in

"The environmental destruction aside, the use of tar sands by the U.S. government is technically against the law. Our organization [Southern Alliance for Clean Energy], along with the Sierra Club, filed suit in 2010 against the U.S. Department of Defense for violating Section 526 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 which prohibits federal use of fuels that have a higher greenhouse gas life cycle than conventional petroleum. This law hasn’t stopped Canada’s tar sands from becoming our largest single source of imported crude oil, and we [the U.S.] import approximately 2/3 of Canada’s nearly 1.5 million barrels/day."

Full article: CleanEnergy Footprints � Archive � Northern Exposure - shining a light on Canada's dirty tar sands oil.

Mitch Potter: Untold story of U.S. slave rebellion retold centuries later (in the Toronto Star)

A consensus is forming around just how close New Orleans came to becoming a free black colony 200 years ago.

Full article: Untold story of U.S. slave rebellion retold centuries later.

Interesting that this was only 20 years after the successful revolution in Haiti.

Jim Travers: Attack ads expose deepest Harper fears (in the Toronto Star)

"Voters have good reasons to be skeptical of Michael Ignatieff. They’re just not the same reasons Stephen Harper is rolling out in ads savaging the Liberal leader as a grasping prodigal son home to seize power in an illegitimate coalition with socialists and separatists. ...

"Conservative ads nastily argue that those who lug success home in their luggage can’t be trusted and that co-operation is punishable democratic behavior.

"If voters are to reject Ignatieff it should be for better reasons."

Full article: Travers: Attack ads expose deepest Harper fears.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Fernando Henrique Cardoso: The war on drugs is lost (in the Toronto Star)

Fernando Henrique Cardoso, a former president of Brazil (1995-2002), and co-chair of the Latin American Commission on Drugs and Democracy, on the failure of the prohibitionist approach to controlling drugs.

"Yes, drugs erode people’s freedom. But it is time to recognize that repressive policies toward drug users, rooted as they are in prejudice, fear and ideology, may be no less a threat to liberty."

Full article: The war on drugs is lost.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Les Whittington: Tax cuts drive Harper’s right-wing agenda (in the Toronto Star)

Les Whittington in the Toronto Star on Harper's right-wing agenda.

"In the spring of 1987, at a conference of western Canadian activists in Vancouver, Stephen Harper ... called for the implementation of a “new economics” of smaller, leaner government.

"More than two decades later, Harper is still pursuing the goal of transforming Canada into a more right-wing nation along the lines envisioned by the likes of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. ...

"The overall impact of the Conservative tax reductions in Canada has been to intensify the inequalities in wealth across society....

"In a study entitled The Rise of Canada’s Richest 1%, economist Armine Yalnizyan concluded, 'Reductions in personal income taxes, tax exemptions for savings and cuts to consumption taxes disproportionately helped the most affluent and actually made life harder for most Canadians, particularly those with the lowest incomes.'"

Full article: Tax cuts drive Harper’s right-wing agenda.

This is not a recipe for a stable country.

Laser beam uses heated gas to move particles 100 times larger than optical tweezers can (in

Laser beam uses heated gas to move particles 100 times larger than optical tweezers.

This could be used when it's important not to contaminate materials, when the material is inside a sealed glass container, or for sample taking and biomedical research. Star Trek tractor beam - here we come!

Carol Goar: Canadian engineers test problem-solving skills in Africa (in the Toronto Star)

The Star's Carol Goar on Engineers Without Borders (EWB).

"They go into rural villages, learn the language and get to know the people. Once they’ve earned the villagers’ trust, they work with them to build wells, increase their crop yields, sell their surplus and use the money to expand their farms. They fix broken equipment and show the villagers how to keep it running. They invent low-tech labour-saving devices. And they leave their African partners to do the rest for themselves."

Full article: Goar: Canadian engineers test problem-solving skills in Africa.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Haroon Siddiqui: Harper’s temper tantrums costly for Canada (in the Toronto Star)

"U.A.E. has emerged as the financial and transportation hub for a vast region, from the Middle East to Africa to China and India. It is leading a shift in transportation from the West to the East, in sync with the economic centre of gravity moving east.

"Canada’s response cannot be crass protectionism and holding Canadian consumers hostage, but rather a confident foray into the bigger world, as suggested by Ottawa’s own Competition Policy Review Panel.

"What we have instead from Harper is petulance and demagoguery that will cost Canada dearly."

Full article: Siddiqui: Harper’s temper tantrums costly for Canada.

Linda Diebel: Fear and loathing in Ottawa (in the Toronto Star)

Linda Diebel on the sad state of affairs in our nation's capital. Required reading for anyone interested in Canadian politics in general, and Stephen Harper's managing of it in particular. Great cartoon too!

Full article: Fear and loathing in Ottawa.

Thomas Walkom discussing concerns about wind power in Ontario (in the Toronto Star)

Walkom: How McGuinty’s windmill dreams became a nightmare.

There seem to be valid concerns - for some discussion see

Friday, January 14, 2011

Tyler Hamilton: Innovations in energy storage could play important role (in the Toronto Star)

Tyler Hamilton describing the Hydrostor technology, in his Clean Break column in the Toronto Star.

"At the heart of the system is a grid of ruggedized inflatable bags – called accumulators –anchored along the lakebed at least 80-meters deep. The accumulators are filled with compressed air during off-peak times, which is when the electricity used to compress the air is least expensive. ...

"Energy storage is considered a crucial component of a future smart grid that over time will see more wind, solar and other forms of intermittent renewable energy contributing to the power system. Storage helps to 'firm up' renewables, meaning we can store power when the wind blows or sun shines and dispatch it later when we need it, as we do with power plants that burn coal and natural gas."

Full article: Hamilton: Innovations in energy storage could play important role.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Clare Demerse: Can Peter Kent be our Captain Canuck? (in the Toronto Star)

Good article by Clare Demerse, associate director of climate change at the Pembina Institute, detailing three climate change directions that could be taken by Peter Kent, Canada's new environment minister: "Captain Canuck", "Copycat", or "Foot-Dragger".

FYI Captain Canuck is the star of the world's first independent, full colour, superhero comic book series, started by Richard Comely in 1975.

Full article: Can Peter Kent be our Captain Canuck?.

Bob Hepburn: Liberals see a way to beat Harper (in the Toronto Star)

Some signs that Harper could be vulnerable in the next election. However, as Bob Hepburn says, Ignatieff’s performance in the lead-up to voting day is critical.

Hepburn: Liberals see a way to beat Harper.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Gwynne Dyer: The future of food riots (in the Georgia Straight)

Gwynne Dyer: The future of food riots.

Thomas Walkom: Blame gun laws, not Palin, for Tucson massacre (in the Toronto Star)

Thomas Walkom of the Toronto Star, with a different view on the Tucson massacre.

"The shooter may have been influenced by pre-election political ads from Tea Party darling Sarah Palin, ads that showed Gifford’s Democratic constituency framed in the crosshairs of a rifle.

"But it’s equally possible that he was not, that this particular shooting was not a political crime inspired by misguided principle but one — like the 1981 attempt against Ronald Reagan — based on a mad desire to gain attention. ...

"Certainly, Giffords would have been a curious target for an assassin fixated on left-liberals — for the simple reason that she isn’t one.

"A so-called Blue Dog — that is, right-wing — Democrat, she is hardly a radical. In Canada, she would probably be a Conservative. ...

"If there’s any meaning to be drawn from Saturday’s sad business, it is this: Don’t fret overly about civility. Nasty politics do not necessarily lead to Nazi politics. But do severely restrict guns. That won’t stop the dedicated assassin. It will curtail the nuts."

Full article: Walkom: Blame gun laws, not Palin, for Tucson massacre.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff: From Imprisoned Guerrilla Fighter to "The Most Powerful Woman in the World"

Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! interviewing Greg Grandin, professor of Latin American history at New York University, about newly appointed Brazilian president, Dilma Rousseff.

Rush transcript: Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff: From Imprisoned Guerrilla Fighter to "The Most Powerful Woman in the World".

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Earth's thunderstorms hurl antimatter into space - Technology & science - MSNBC

"'These signals are the first direct evidence that thunderstorms make antimatter particle beams,' study lead author Michael Briggs, of the University of Alabama in Huntsville, said in a statement. Briggs presented his team's results Jan. 10 at the 217th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Seattle.

"'I think this is one of the most exciting discoveries in geoscience in a very long time,' Duke University's Steven Cummer, who was not involved in the research, in a press conference. It 'seems like something straight out of science fiction.'"

Full article: Earth's thunderstorms hurl antimatter into space - Technology & science - Science - LiveScience - MSNBC.

James Travers: Arizona shooting echoes through our politics (in the Toronto Star)

James Travers on the American "canary in the coal mine":

"Personal attacks have long been a staple of politics and no party, leader or ideology bears sole responsibility for this 21st century rancour. But it’s also true that what was once exceptional is now commonplace.

"Here as in the U.S., politicians routinely accuse each other of the basest motivation. Allegations of hidden agendas, crooked schemes and Taliban sympathies roll off Canadian lips as easily and often as promises made to be broken.

"Not much would be easier than cataloguing those smears. Nothing would be less productive than attempting to pillory the most frequent or worst offenders. ...

"In contrast to our southern cousins, Canadians are known for taking moderation to an extreme. The U.S. national narrative pursues the individual rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; ours threads together the collective benefits of peace, order and good government.

"Watching the U.S. story unfold makes it easier to spot when continental trends are rewriting our story. The shocking chapter penned in American blood last weekend serves that Canadian purpose in the same way as a coal mine canary."

Full article: Travers: Arizona shooting echoes through our politics

Asthmatic Earth denied remedy - News - Mail & Guardian Online (S. Africa)

Good article by Robin McKie, science and technology editor of the Observer.

"[Climate scientist David] Keeling started [in 1958] when overall levels [of CO2] were 315ppm. Today they stand at 390 and will touch 400 around 2015.

"This discovery is probably the most important ever made in climate science, say Robert Kunzig and Wallace Broecker in their book, Fixing Climate. 'If Keeling had not been so devoted to measuring carbon dioxide, the debate on global warming would be even more mired in polemics than it is now. Instead, the ‘Keeling curve’ of carbon dioxide at Mauna Loa has become one of the debate’s few universally acknowledged truths.' ...

"Some sceptics deny such changes will occur. Others say it is too costly to abandon the burning of fossil fuels even if this does dump billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. They say we should just put up with those spreading deserts and flooded coastlines -- a notion of staggering immorality, according to Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway in their book, Merchants of Doubt. 'This is the equivalent of medical researchers arguing that they shouldn’t try to cure cancer because it is too expensive and that, in any case, people in the future might decide that dying from cancer is not really that bad.'

"After a year in which climate talks have stalled and the 'climategate' affair has induced near paralysis in dealing with the discussion of global warming issues, we can see we are in a bad shape. Nothing new there. We have been doing nothing about global warming for 50 years, despite the warnings."

Full article: Asthmatic Earth denied remedy - News - Mail & Guardian Online

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Conservatives relied on a few complaints to scrap the census (reported in the Toronto Star)

Richard J. Brennan, Ottawa Bureau, Toronto Star.

"The Conservative government listened to only a relative handful of Canadians — including conspiracy theorists afraid the government was going to round them up — before scrapping the mandatory long-form census, according to documents obtained by the Toronto Star."

Conservatives relied on a few complaints to scrap the census

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Peak coal - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

I thought I would blog this because, at a get-together of friends recently, nobody had even heard of "peak coal". Most people seem to feel that supplies of coal in N. America are unlimited. However, concerns about the supply were raised as far back as 1865, by William Stanley Jevons, the originator of the economic theory of marginal utility.

Quote from the Wikipedia article, retrieved Jan. 8, 2011 (references are provided).

"Research in 2009 by the University of Newcastle in Australia concluded that global coal production could peak sometime between 2010 and 2048. Global coal reserve data is generally of poor quality and is often biased towards the high side. Collective projections generally predict that global peak coal production may occur sometime around 2025 at 30 percent above current production in the worst case scenario, depending on future coal production rates."

Peak coal - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - as of 11 Nov., 2010.

Jim Travers: That vision thing is Harper’s strength and weakness

Jim Travers in the Toronto Star on our "30-something Prime Minister, the leader of a party less than four of 10 Canadians support", and the sorry state Canadian politics has come to.

"Roll the calendar back two winters to the coalition crisis and witness political leaders recklessly putting national unity at risk to hold or seize power.

"Lingering from that ugly confrontation is a threatening sense of skewed priorities. Even if winning was always the main thing for many politicians, it was rarely the only thing for most prime ministers. Holding together a diverse country, advancing public interests and making tough choices without hope of partisan reward were part and parcel of national stewardship."

Full article:Travers: That vision thing is Harper’s strength and weakness.

And an excellent article on basically the same topic by Thomas Walkom: "Don’t worry. He’s the same old Harper". Great quote: "Harper can thank his stars. With enemies like the Liberals, who needs friends?".

Friday, January 7, 2011

Carol Goar: Why you should care about inequality (in the Toronto Star)

"• Unless you think it is coincidence that nations with a relatively equitable distribution of wealth — the Nordic countries, Denmark, Poland, France — fared better in the 2008-09 recession than those with largest disparities — the United States, Britain, Ireland, Spain, Russia — you have a reason to worry about an unbridgeable gap between the executive class and everyone else.

"• Unless you think Canada is smart enough to defy the pattern of history, you and your 34.3 million fellow citizens are on a risky path. Every society in which a tiny elite has amassed a vastly disproportionate share of the wealth — from 16-century Spain to America in the 1920s — has lost its footing, leading to a either traumatic collapse or an attenuated decline. ...

"There is another option of course: hanging on fiercely to your shrinking piece of the national pie. But it will keep shrinking."

Full article: Goar: Why you should care about inequality.

In this article, Carol Goar suggests some things we can and should do, including giving more to charity, talking to friends and neighbours, speaking up to our elected representatives on this important topic, or joining a global network such as the Equality Trust.

Border Collie knows over 1,000 words (reported in the Toronto Star)

Article: Border Collie knows over 1,000 words.

This opens up all sorts of possibilities for research into the language capabilities of dogs. Humans' belief in the uniqueness of their language skills feeds into their sense of superiority over other animals. However, many primates share these skills to some degree, and recent research strongly suggests Neanderthals had it too.

Thursday, January 6, 2011 Study linking measles vaccine to autism was a fraud

"... the suggestion the MMR shot was connected to autism spooked parents worldwide and immunization rates for measles, mumps and rubella have never fully recovered.

"A new examination found, by comparing the reported diagnoses in the paper to hospital records, that Wakefield and colleagues altered facts about patients in their study. ...

"Last May, Wakefield was stripped of his right to practise medicine in Britain. Many other published studies have shown no connection between the MMR vaccination and autism.

"But measles has surged since Wakefield’s paper was published and there are sporadic outbreaks in Europe and the U.S. In 2008, measles was deemed endemic in England and Wales."

Full article: Study linking measles vaccine to autism was a fraud

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Jim Travers: Being Canadian means taking ownership of Canada

Jim Travers in the Toronto Star.

"What’s astonishing is how much is being sacrificed for so little political advantage. Information essential to planning everything from national services to local transportation were tossed away to please a splinter minority encouraged to mistake its collection as yet another threatening manifestation of big government’s Big Brother curiosity.

"So it is that we plunge into a new year in politics full of hope. Escaping shackling deficits requires no painful collective choices, just a tug or two on fat-cat bureaucrat belts. Cutting corporate taxes will somehow trickle down into jobs and productivity. Building super-prisons will make safe streets safer as surely as the threat of merciless retribution will end crimes of passion and desperation."

Full article: Travers: Being Canadian means taking ownership of Canada.

Jim Travers is talking about Canada, but this is a general Western problem: I cannot understand why people in this country and the one to the south of us expect to keep on getting the same services when they also want tax cuts - or, like the rich, at least tax cuts for themselves.

Thomas Walkom: Harper’s coalition jibes might just create one

Thomas Walkom in the Toronto Star, giving a timely lesson on how the Canadian governmental system actually works - not the way Harper would have Canadians believe.

"Conservatives now rarely speak of Liberals. In their parlance, Ignatieff is not Liberal leader. He is coalition leader — the man whose secret agenda is to form a government with socialists and traitors.

"The difficulty the Liberals have is that, in one way or another, this is exactly what they would do should they win a plurality — but not a majority — of Commons seats." (my italics)

Full article: Walkom: Harper’s coalition jibes might just create one.

Monday, January 3, 2011

New Year's resolution to reduce our dependency on plastic bags

We use more than 500,000,000,000 plastic bags a year worldwide. We use irreplaceable oil and turn it into garbage. Make it your New Year's resolution to use fewer plastic bags - you will be saving lives all over the planet.

YouTube by ForTheSea: YouTube - New Year's Resolution ForTheSea.

This "mockumentary", narrated by Jeremy Irons, is great too: The Majestic Plastic Bag.

And now, Toronto's new mayor, in his wisdom, is going on about how Torontonians don't like paying 5 cents per plastic bag, and talking about killing the fee. As usual, one step forward, two steps backward...

Alex Neve: Is Canada a human rights good guy?

Alex Neve is secretary general of Amnesty Canada. He is also the chairman of the board of directors of the Canadian Centre for International Justice, and a member of the board of directors of Partnership Africa Canada and the Centre for Law and Democracy.

"Struggles go on. Victories are possible. Human rights good guys are in short supply. Canada needs to get back in that game."

Full article: Is Canada a human rights good guy?

Sunday, January 2, 2011

"Rumours of U.S. decline are greatly exaggerated" (printed in the Toronto Star)

Very strange article by a US professor, published in the Toronto Star. To misquote Shakespeare, "Methinks he doth protest too much".

His capsule bio should tell you something (Professor of national security affairs at the U.S. Naval War College and a fellow of the International Security Program and the Project on Managing the Atom at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University).

I guess if you see everything in terms of weaponry, the US is still powerful (at least more powerful than anyone else). The world may be going to h*** in a handbasket (global warming, peak oil, etc., etc.), but there are no mentions of those here. The US still has enough nukes, I guess.

Full article: Rumours of U.S. decline are greatly exaggerated.

Joe Fiorito on multicultural food, Toronto-style (in the Toronto Star)

Some neat ideas here for cross-cultural food sensations, including one that they actually tried - and it was apparently pretty good!

Full article: Fiorito: Ou sont les tacos Chinois d’Antan?