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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Chantal Hébert: Shifting political landscape holds major consequences for all parties (in the Toronto Star)

"If the Layton-related political testimonies of the past week have demonstrated anything, it is that where there are five federal parties, there are really only two political tribes in the larger ideological sense of the word.

"In the recent past, many in the Liberal and NDP establishments have been wilfully blind to that reality.

"Former Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff was one of those. But on his Facebook page on the day of Layton’s funeral, he wrote about his party and the NDP: “The words we care about — generosity, justice, hope — they care about them, too. We don’t own these words and they don’t own them either. These values are bigger than all of us, bigger than our divisions and our arguments. It was good to put the past behind us for an afternoon and imagine what the future of our country might look like if we put those values first.”

"Harper has more cause to worry about such thoughts gelling into action than about the advent of an improbable new champion of the Canadian left."

Full article: Canada News: Hébert: Shifting political landscape holds major consequences for all parties.

Linda McQuaig: Eulogy becomes rallying cry for the left (in the Toronto Star)

"... one of Harper’s first acts upon taking power in 2006 was cancelling the fledgling early childhood education program finally put in place by the Liberals. The savings now help finance the Conservatives’ expanded prison program, which may prove necessary as neglected kids from the Harper era reach adolescence. ...

"The events of the past week remind us that the social democratic vision remains potent in the land.

"Harper, who once dissed Canada as “second-tier socialistic country,” desperately wants to replace that vision with a different national vision — one based on military fighting power, loyalty to the British crown and an economic system where the strongest survive while the rest (even in nursery school) are on their own.

"The well-financed Conservative machine appears increasingly dominant at all levels of government in Canada. Still, Lewis’s masterful eulogy was a stirring reminder that Canada’s social democratic forces may be on the ropes but — like Layton brandishing his cane — are not willing to go gentle into that good night."

Full article: McQuaig: Eulogy becomes rallying cry for the left.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Elizabeth Kolbert: Hurricane Irene and Global Warming: A Glimpse of the Future? (in the The New Yorker)

There has been a surprising lack of commentary in the media linking Hurricane Irene to global warming, so it is good to see a sensible article on this appearing in a (hopefully) widely read magazine.

News Desk: Hurricane Irene and Global Warming: A Glimpse of the Future? : The New Yorker.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Chantal Hébert: NDP will need growth outside its Quebec base (in the Toronto Star)

"Even under Layton’s leadership, the NDP could not have presumed that in the event of a war-to-the-finish with the Liberals, Quebec would automatically line up behind it. There is no appetite for that particular contest in the province.

"In the last election, the fact that Layton was the biggest cheerleader of the aborted 2008 Liberal-NDP coalition — a concept whose popularity endures to this day — gave him a lift in Quebec.

"A majority of Quebecers also support a rapprochement between the Liberals and the NDP.

"The notion of a coming-together of their two parties is heresy to many Liberal and New Democrat activists in the rest of the country. Whenever the issue is raised, they point to their strikingly different pasts to foreclose the option of a common future.

"But against the seismic realignment that is ongoing in Quebec, that argument comes across as empty.

"These days, some of the Liberals and Bloc Québécois incumbents who were defeated in the last federal election are considering running provincially under the banner of the new party former PQ minister François Legault is trying to get off the ground.

"If a Quebec tent is large enough to shelter people who hail from such irreconcilable sides in the so-called national debate, the thinking — at least in Quebec — is that there should be a progressive tent sturdy enough to accommodate the NDP and the Liberals federally."

Full article: Canada News: NDP will need growth outside its Quebec base.

Scientists discover new cause for ALS (in the Toronto Star)

"Researchers at Northwestern University in Chicago have identified a breakdown in the protein-processing system of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord of people with the neurodegenerative disease, according to a study published this week in the journal Nature. These neurons are unable to remove or repair damaged proteins. The damaged proteins then accumulate, impairing the ability of the cells to repair or maintain themselves.

"“This is the first time we have some evidence about a neurodegenerative condition where we have an idea about mechanism. When you have some idea about mechanism of disease, then you can start to straighten that pathway out and find drugs that would affect or normalize that pathway,” lead author Teepu Siddique, a professor of neurology, said in an interview."

Full article: Scientists discover new cause for ALS.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Global warming could deliver a jolt to coffee lovers (in the Toronto Star)

"“I’m not prone to hyperbole, but climate change is going to be the biggest financial issue for the next generation,” said [Trillium Asset Management researcher Jonas] Kron, adding that Smucker’s got 40 per cent of its revenues and 48 per cent of its earnings from coffee last year.

"Calling for that kind of detailed disclosure is one sign among many that concern over global warming has shifted from protesters and activists to the board room. ...

"Canada’s wine industry is affected by global warming in a somewhat counterintuitive way, said [Barry] Smit [Canada Research Chair in Global Environmental Change]. In some recent years, wineries in the Niagara Region have suffered from so-called winter kill, where roots are damaged because of severe cold. The reason? There was no ice on Lake Ontario, meaning air swept across the lake and towards the vineyards picked up a chill from the water; normally, the ice acts as an insulator.

"“People would say ‘I hear about global warming, and my vines are freezing.’ It’s not always going to affect people in the way they think, but it’s real,” said Smit."

Full article: Global warming could deliver a jolt to coffee lovers.

Andrew Potter: The trouble with too much democracy (in Macleans)

"The American constitutional order rests on the belief that the biggest threat to liberty is the concentration of political power in one person or office....

"That’s fine if your big worry is the return of a tyrannical monarch. But despotism comes in many forms, and there is more to political liberty than simply wrapping the government in a straitjacket of constitutional restraints. Sometimes true self-government involves giving the state a free hand to push through an agenda that might be deeply unpopular in the short term, but is vital to the long-term flourishing of the society."

Full article: The trouble with too much democracy.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Edmund Pries: Apocalyptic crisis budgeting (in the Toronto Star)

Edmund Pries teaches in the department of global studies at Wilfrid Laurier University.

"Some have pretended that the budgetary crisis is real and not manufactured. Let us be clear: our relative wealth is greater than at any time in our history. Our collective ability to build a strong, caring and inclusive society in which everyone can participate has never been greater. This also holds true for the community of nations: we have the capacity to build a just global society.

"Our preparedness to do so, however, seems utterly lacking..."

Apocalyptic crisis budgeting.

Why can't our citizens see this?! Why else would Harper have given up billions in GST income to put a few hundred bucks in the pockets of each Canadian?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Rick Salutin: The Ramadan kids go to the cottage (in the Toronto Star)

Salutin: The Ramadan kids go to the cottage.

Thanks, Rick, for reminding us that "you can have religion without fanaticism and dogma, and you can have fanaticism and dogma without a religion in sight. The ability to hold a deep, irrational certainty is a basic human — not a religious — trait."

Thursday, August 11, 2011

‘Breakthrough’ method rids patients of advanced cancer (in the Toronto Star)

"“Within three weeks the tumours had been blown away, in a way that was much more violent than we ever expected,” Dr. Carl June, a senior study author, said in a statement. ...

"After a year, microscopic analysis of their blood could find no trace of cancerous cells, [University of Pennsylvania pathologist Michael] Kalos says."

Full article: ‘Breakthrough’ method rids patients of advanced cancer.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Scientists find evidence of running water on Mars (in the Toronto Star)

"Scientists announced Thursday that they had detected dozens of slopes across the southern hemisphere of the planet where previously undetected dark streaks come and go with the seasons. When the planet heats up, the streaks appear and expand downhill. When it gets cold, the streaks disappear.

"The best explanation they have so far is that those dark fingerlike streaks are a kind of salty water that is running on or just below the Martian surface."

Full article: Scientists find evidence of running water on Mars.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Heather Mallick: Let Utoya — and books — help us fight racism (in the Toronto Star)

"We also have to think hard about the revival of racism, how it is expressed and how it spreads like a virus. We have to fight it politically and domestically, as well as personally in our daily lives.

"... Racism is intolerable. Understanding people who are different from us, that’s what we need.

"To that purpose, I keep rereading a marvelous book, Kate Clanchy’s 2008 memoir, Antigona and Me. Clanchy, a London writer with a comfortable life, hired a poor Kosovan refugee named Antigona. She is astonishing, certainly the hardest-working human Kate has ever met, waitressing, nannying, cleaning, mothering, hardly ever sleeping. For five years, Kate and Antigona, so different they might as well be woodchuck and wildebeest, talk about their lives over cups of coffee.

"And yet they are friends..."

Full article: Mallick: Let Utoya — and books — help us fight racism.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Linda McQuaig: Tycoons laughing all the way to the bank (in the Toronto Star)

"... while programs helping students, the elderly and the poor have been picked over with surgical precision, hedge fund managers can get back to work destabilizing financial markets with full peace of mind, knowing they’ll continue to enjoy a tax rate lower than the mechanics who service their private jets."

Full article: McQuaig: Tycoons laughing all the way to the bank.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Christopher Hume: After the rhetoric, a conversation? (in the Toronto Star)

"Around the globe, populations and their governments agonize and blame each other as the bills come due. But if those bills seem so much larger than expected, it’s because of our collective failure to understand the basic arithmetic of getting what you pay for."

Toronto News: Hume: After the rhetoric, a conversation?.