Friday 5 November 2010

Quote of the week

'You should never trust experts. If you believe the doctors, nothing is wholesome: if you believe the theologians, nothing is innocent: if you believe the soldiers, nothing is safe. They all require to have their strong wine diluted by a very large admixture of insipid common sense.'

Bad seeds, bad science and fairly black cats

The endless reiteration of the message that DNA tests, targeted drugs, stem cells, or gene therapy have stopped the sky from falling is a menace to research, to the reputation of those who do it, and to the public understanding of what has and has not been achieved

By Steve Jones
The Lancet

23 October 2010 — A couple of weeks ago the press reported, with impressive unanimity, that “Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is genetic”. To the rolling of publicists' drums (and geneticists' eyes) came the news that some children behave outrageously because they inherit damaged DNA. The Daily Mail—the UK equivalent of Fox News—came out with a lengthy and hand-wringing piece entitled “Are some children just born bad?”, which told dreadful tales of uncontrollable teenagers and claimed that “previous thinking was flawed and that some children, through no fault of the parents, are simply bad seeds”.

The behaviour of the media when faced with modern biology is hyperactive with a deficit of attention to fact—but geneticists (or their employers) are often to blame for aggravating the disorder. Journalists are as addicted to press releases as children are to fizzy drinks (themselves sometimes claimed to cause its symptoms). The Wellcome Trust, usually a judicious source of scientific information, helped fund the research. Its publicity circular hailed “the first direct evidence that attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder is a genetic condition”. With a slurp and a belch the papers swallowed it and the headlines were born.
Biology is rarely pure and never simple. The Human Genome Project has turned genetics from a simple repast based on peas to something more like pea soup. The public relations people seem not to have noticed. As a result, and to nobody's surprise, the scientific paper itself, published in these august pages, was less confident about its findings than was the press release (and even less so than The Daily Mail). The Cardiff University group found a two-fold greater incidence of “indels”—DNA insertions and deletions—among a group of 400 or so such children than in more than 1000 matched controls: a result that was statistically significant. The discovery was less simple than it appeared; as the Surrey University biologist Johnjoe McFadden pointed out, the finding could be restated to emphasise that most children with the condition had no detectable inborn abnormality, and that of every 100 children who inherit such a mutation, only a few will show signs of the disease. — Read the full article at The Lancet, 1,555 words.

Cartoon by Keith Knight,, 3 November 2010


No respect: How Obama saved capitalism and paid a terrible political  price for doing so

Interest rates are down, corporate profits are up; the auto companies and banks were saved, not nationalized; and corporate America has done its best to destroy the man who saved it.
By Timothy Egan
The New York Times

2 November 2010 — If I were one of the big corporate donors who bankrolled the Republican tide that carried into office more than 50 new Republicans in the House, I would be wary of what you just bought.

For no matter your view of President Obama, he effectively saved capitalism. And for that, he paid a terrible political price.

Suppose you had $100,000 to invest on the day Barack Obama was inaugurated. Why bet on a liberal Democrat? Here’s why: the presidency of George W. Bush produced the worst stock market decline of any president in history. The net worth of American households collapsed as Bush slipped away. And if you needed a loan to buy a house or stay in business, private sector borrowing was dead when he handed over power. — Read the full article at The New York Times, 1,073 words.
Our readers write
The Great Mother must be pleased!
In her article "What does your Hallowe'en costume say about you?", I loved how Alberte Villeneuve-Sinclair took the opportunity to weave in information about the witch hunts/Catholic manifesto vs paganism and the concept of past lives! The Great Mother must be quite pleased so watch out for some new blessings coming your way!Mirella Zanetti, Ottawa, Ont.
Reader brought to tears by "Spirit of the Saints"

Hanns Skoutajan's message ("The Spirit of the Saints also walks the streets ...") brought tears. I don't believe in the death penalty for anyone ever! Williams is a human being and should be treated with the same dignity as anyone .We can hate the crime but still have compassion. Somewhere deep down inside of me I keep wondering if some day medical science will discover some kind of chemical link in the brain to this strange behaviour and that there will be a treatment such as insulin for diabetics. In the meantime I hope that we as a society will be able use common sense and not hate to treat these people.Williams is broken and needs to be kept away from society and mended, but who am I to make judgement on him as I have not walked in his shoes for the last 45 years.Yes I do have great compassion for the families who have lost their daughters but hate will not bring them back or make anything right. Thanks Hanns for your message. — MC, Creemore, Ont.

Hanns Skoutajan offers the only sensible comment I have seen on Williams - and the only one imbued with a real understanding that we are not asked to "forgive" him but only to recognize his humanity in common with ours - after all it is a question of degree - he happens to have fallen to an extreme." — KH, Athens, Ont.

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Guest editorial

'People rightly want answers, and they are not getting them except from voices that tell tales that have some internal coherence—if you suspend disbelief.'

Outrage, misguided — America's Tea Party movement ignores Capitalism's doomsday cycle

True North Perspective
Vol. 5, No. 47 (251)
Friday, November 5, 2010
By Noam Chomsky
In These Times
4 November 2010 — The U.S. midterm elections register a level of anger, fear and disillusionment in the country like nothing I can recall in my lifetime. Since the Democrats are in power, they bear the brunt of the revulsion over our current socioeconomic and political situation.
More than half the “mainstream Americans” in a Rasmussen poll last month said they view the Tea Party movement favorably—a reflection of the spirit of disenchantment.
The grievances are legitimate. For more than 30 years, real incomes for the majority of the population have stagnated or declined while work hours and insecurity have increased, along with debt. Wealth has accumulated, but in very few pockets, leading to unprecedented inequality. — Read the full article at In These Times, 1,004 words.
From the Desk of Mike (the Hammer) Garvin

Canada's Magna opens new parts plant

in Kaluga, Russia, to serve Volkswagen

By Irina Filatova
The St. Petersburg Times

2 November 2010, KALUGA — Canadian auto parts maker Magna on Thursday launched its new plant in Kaluga, and said this demonstrated its belief in the strong potential of Russia’s automotive market.

The facility, with a total production area of 15,000 square meters, will manufacture bumpers and front-end modules, and assemble radiator grills and instrument panel-beams.

The company said it was against corporate policy to disclose the volume of investment in the project.

Magna, which already has plants in St. Petersburg and Nizhny Novgorod, chose to build the new factory in Kaluga because its major customers — the world’s biggest carmakers — are located in the region, said Hubert Hoedl, the company’s vice president for corporate marketing and business development in Europe. — Read the full article at The St. Petersburg Times, 261 words.

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Auditor General drops military ball
Defense procurement needs to be placed before the public eye
By Alex Binkley
True North Perspective

5 November 2010 — Michael Ignatief says if he becomes prime minister, his government will scrap the deal to buy F-35 jet fighters.
Another Liberal leader made the same promise about new military helicopters. Jean Chretien cost us $500 million in penalty payments and threw military procurement into a tailspin that it’s not really recovered from.
The real fumble both men committed was acting without offering an alternative. What’s Ignatief Plan B for re-equiping the air force? What would he do if there was an open competition and the F35 still came out on top? — Read the full article inside, 631 words.

Dozens of police face discipline over G20 ID badges

CBC News
3 November 2010 — About 90 police officers face disciplinary action for not wearing identification badges during the G20 summit in June, the chief of the Toronto Police Service said Wednesday.

Bill Blair made the comment during an appearance in Ottawa at a meeting of the House of Commons' public safety committee, which is looking into issues surrounding the G8/20 summits that took place in Huntsville and Toronto.

Blair told MPs that failing to wear an ID badge was a violation of his personal rule, and that any officer who chose not to wear ID would be held accountable.

"If an individual officer chose not to wear it, he is breaking a rule," Blair said.

— Read the full article at CBC News, 261 words.

'Another day older and deeper in debt ...'

The bill was long since paid, but the harrassing phone calls and damaging hits to her credit rating never stopped — sound familiar?

25 per cent of Canadian collection agencies said to engage in 'illegal' behaviour

CBC News

31 October 2010 — Canadians are getting deeper and deeper into debt. Since the mid-1980s, the average household debt load has climbed to 146 per cent of disposable income from 50 per cent, according to a recent TD Economics report.

With rising debt comes debt collectors. They buy debt from credit card companies, utilities and other firms, and then try to get consumers to pay it back along with fees and penalties — sometimes using questionable tactics.

Shauna Major's nightmare began with a $140 phone bill.

The Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., woman paid the bill and has the proof. However, her file wound up with a collection agency, which gave it to a law firm. — Read the full article at CBC News, 426 words.
From the Desk of Jean Morrison, Thunder Bay, Ontario

Join international campaign to rescue Iranian woman from medieval execution 

Her son has been imprisoned for trying to help

In July of this year more than 385,000 from around the world signed on to in an effort to stop the Iranian regime from stoning Mohammedi Ashtiani to death.

Thanks to this Sakineh is still alive.  But yesterday news came, following a secret call from the prison where she is held that an execution order by hanging has been delivered to her. Her situation is truly precarious.

Please join hundreds of thousands and use your voice. Sign the petition below so that we can let the Iranian regime know that we have not lost our resolve. 

Know too that almost every single person in Iran who has worked on behalf of Sakineh has either been imprisoned or forced to flee the country. Most sadly, her son Sajaad, who has devoted his life to saving his mother, is now also in jail – guilty only of trying to bring justice to  his mother. Our petition to the Ayatollah Khameini asks for both to be immediately released. 

We must be bold and steadfast. We must make our voices heard. We made a difference this summer. We can again.

Please sign the petition by visiting



Whatever happened to ...

Lakshmi Sundaram ?

Readers have been asking, whatever happened to our rising-star columnist  Lakshmi Sundaram?

Lakshmi, performed strangely during the record-breaking heatwave in Canada's capital, Ottawa.

Like one determined to beard the lion in its den she went 500 kilometres south to Georgia south of the even more sweltering U.S. capital, Washington.

On the way back she was distracted to Montreal where she took shelter and became as busy as the proverbial all-get-out.

Meanwhile both columnists assure me that they'll be back at their keyboards in November. Looking forward.  — Carl Dow.


Bits and Bites of Everyday Life

Leave the monsters behind — you are more beautiful than you think!

'Personality, fire or swagger' — beauty is real, but it is more a state of mind than the state of your skin
'The more upbeat and radiant your inner beauty, the more people are attracted to you because you literally make them feel good'
True North Perspective
Alberte Villeneuve-Sinclair is the author of The Neglected Garden and two French novels. Visit her website to learn more:

5 November 2010 — Halloween Sunday, eighty-one assorted monsters, zombies, heroes and princesses, including lions and a cute little unicorn knocked on my door, looking for treats.

Monsters were scary and princesses were pretty. Snow White reminded me of the eternal quest for beauty. Her wicked step-mother wanted to be the ultimate beauty and I’m sure she went to great lengths to be noticed and admired by all. “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?” And the mirror would respond by saying Snow White was the fairest. What was Snow White’s secret? It wasn’t just her age, her youthful body, fair skin and ruby-red lips… It was much more and the jealous step-mother could not comprehend it. — Read the full article inside, 941 words.

Spirit Quest

The Spirit of Peace seems often wounded and enfeebled but nevertheless, it is alive!

By The Rev. Dr. Hanns F. Skoutajan
True North Perspective

5 November 2010 — Whether we call it “war” or not , the military actions in which Canadians are involved as part of NATO in Afghanistan, has claimed lives and “limbs.” The Highway of Heroes has been a busy thoroughfare.

War, I suppose, is an international conflict while fighting in Afghanistan is against insurgents to pacify the country. We are fighting on the side of that state’s forces. Whether in fact Afghanistan is a democracy or whatever other factors are at play is beyond this topic.

On November 11 Canadians will gather at the National War Memorial in Ottawa as well as at many cenotaphs across the country, to remember and honour the fallen. A Silver Cross Mother chosen by the Royal Canadian Legion will lay a wreath on behalf of all mothers who have lost loved ones in the conflicts of our time.

— Read the full article inside, 692 words.
  The Incredible Seven prepare to neutralize the Wolf Wind  

These intrepid weather watchers are mindful that the Wolf Wind is stirring in its Arctic lair, making ready to charge its snarling way south. So they have gathered at Ray's Rock north of Havelock, Ontario, Canada, to prepare the cottage for winter's worst. Above they have been gathered together for this historic occasion by Ken Jeffries of Campbellford, True North Perspective's star photographer. From left are: David Dauphinee, Randy Ray, (True North Perspective contributing editor) Brian McAndrew, Bill Thompson, Bob LeVoir, and Jimmy Heaney leaning on the car. About to lead the group in prayer is Gord Kent.


Always worth repeating

'Give us the tools and we'll finish the job'

Winston Churchill

Let's say that news throughout human time has been free. Take that time when Ugh Wayne went over to the cave of Mugh Payne with news that the chief of his group had broken a leg while chasing his laughing wife around the fire. That news was given freely and received as such with much knowing smiles and smirks to say nothing of grunts of approval or disapproval. — 688 words.

Rear-view Mirror

Knowing no shame, George W. Bush doesn't admit to being a war criminal, he brags about it

By John Byrne
4 November 2010 — President George W. Bush admits for the first time in his new memoir that he personally approved the use of waterboarding, a technique in which an interrogator simulates drowning on a suspect. The method, which most describe as torture, has since been banned by the Justice Department.
In his book, "Decision Points," Bush asserts that he was asked by the Central Intelligence Agency whether he would support the agency's waterboarding of Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the alleged 9/11 mastermind.
"Damn right," Bush says that he said. — Read the full article at, words.
'Politics in America has become spectacle. It is another form of show business. The crowd in Washington, well trained by television, was conditioned to play its role before the cameras. The signs —“The Rant is Too Damn High,” “Real Patriots Can Handle a Difference of Opinion” or “I Masturbate and I Vote”—reflected the hollowness of current political discourse and television’s perverse epistemology. The rally spoke exclusively in the impoverished iconography and language of television. It was filled with meaningless political pieties, music and jokes. It was like any television variety program. Personalities were being sold, not political platforms. And this is what the society of spectacle is about.'
By Chris Hedges
31 October 2010 — The American left is a phantom. It is conjured up by the right wing to tag Barack Obama as a socialist and used by the liberal class to justify its complacency and lethargy. It diverts attention from corporate power. It perpetuates the myth of a democratic system that is influenced by the votes of citizens, political platforms and the work of legislators. It keeps the world neatly divided into a left and a right. The phantom left functions as a convenient scapegoat. The right wing blames it for moral degeneration and fiscal chaos. The liberal class uses it to call for “moderation.” And while we waste our time talking nonsense, the engines of corporate power—masked, ruthless and unexamined—happily devour the state.
The loss of a radical left in American politics has been catastrophic. The left once harbored militant anarchist and communist labor unions, an independent, alternative press, social movements and politicians not tethered to corporate benefactors. But its disappearance, the result of long witch hunts for communists, post-industrialization and the silencing of those who did not sign on for the utopian vision of globalization, means that there is no counterforce to halt our slide into corporate neofeudalism. — Read the full article at, 1,363 words.

Once imprisoned and tortured by right wing rulers Dilma Roussef is now Brazil's first woman president

By Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey
1 November 2010 — The fact that President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva enters the final three months of his Presidency with a 79 per cent approval rating says it all. It therefore comes as no surprise that the transition within the PT (Workers' Party) from  President Lula to Dilma Roussef, now Brazil's first woman President, has run so smoothly as Lula's popularity overflowed to his Chief of Staff.
Lula's two-term Presidency was a wake-up call for Brazil, which has finally reached its potential and has occupied its rightful place on the center stage of international relations. Subservient to nobody, confident and righteous, in the last decade Brazil has developed externally into a major player on the international scene and internally, social programmes have lifted millions out of poverty and have done much towards implementing social justice in a sustainable development model.
Lula came from the people and governed for the people. In eight years, 30 million Brazilians moved upwards from poverty into the middle class and 19 million moved out of extreme poverty. 40 per cent of the poorest sector of the population increased their wealth by over three per cent. — Read the full article at Pravda, 1,107 words.
A successful tour of 7 countries in three continents made by President Hugo Chavez has produced 69 new agreements that will strengthen national development and consolidate the most powerful defense against imperial aggression: the union of nations and peoples
By Eva Golinger 
29 October 2010 — The most influential ideologue of the twentieth century in the United States, Henry Kissinger, declared during the 1970s regarding the expansion of socialism in the region, “If the US can’t control Latin America, how can it dominate the world?” Today, Kissinger’s concern has returned to torment the US and imperial forces, but this time, their conspiring fist can’t seem to silence the awakening of nations in Revolution.

The US desperation during those years to subordinate countries in its “backyard” led to a series of coup d’etats, brutal dictatorships, sabotages, political assassinations, mass torture and disappearances, and the implementation of neoliberal, capitalist models that caused the worst misery, exclusion, poverty and alienation known in the region throughout history.

Under the limited US vision, strategies and tactics of aggression achieved their goal by the end of the century, and in almost all Latin American nations, with the exception of Revolutionary Cuba, subservient governments were put in place, hailing the US-imposed economic and political model of neoliberal representative democracy.

— Read the full article at, 1,424 words.
By Juan Reardon
3 November 2010 — Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and his Colombian counterpart, Juan Manuel Santos, met on Tuesday for the second time since Santos became president just three months ago.
In Caracas yesterday, the two leaders announced plans to consolidate improved relations, meet every three months, and begin a number of oil, gas and transportation projects along the Venezuela-Colombia border. Venezuelan gasoline shipments to Colombia are to restart on Wednesday. — Read the full article inside, 879 words.
Report from Obama's America

U.S. waives sanctions against four countries that use child soldiers

President Obama grants waivers to Chad, the Congo, Sudan, and Yemen, which use child soldiers but are strategically important to the US. The waivers mean military aid will continue
By Howard LaFranchi
The Christian Science Monitor

29 October 2010, WASHINGTON — As a senator, Barack Obama supported legislation requiring the United States to cut off military aid to countries recruiting and deploying child soldiers.
This week as president, Mr. Obama acted to ensure that four countries found to use child soldiers – but which are also considered key national security interests – do not lose their US military assistance. Obama heeded the recommendation of a State Department review and waived application of a year-old law on child soldiers in the case of Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, and Yemen.
In a Oct. 25 presidential memorandum, Obama said he had “determined that it is in the national interest of the United States” to waive application of the Child Soldiers Prevention Act for the four countries. — Read the full article at The Christian Science Monitor, 575 words.

Notes from the twilight of a Republic

'Why isn't Julian Assange dead?'

The wretched mind of the American authoritarian

By Glenn Greenwald

29 October 2010 — Decadent governments often spawn a decadent citizenry.  A 22-year-old Nebraska resident was arrested yesterday for waterboarding his girlfriend as she was tied to a couch, because he wanted to know if she was cheating on him with another man; I wonder where he learned that?  There are less dramatic though no less nauseating examples of this dynamic.  In The Chicago Tribune today, there is an Op-Ed from Jonah Goldberg -- the supreme, living embodiment of a cowardly war cheerleader -- headlined:  "Why is Assange still alive?"  It begins this way:

I'd like to ask a simple question: Why isn't Julian Assange dead? . . . WikiLeaks is easily among the most significant and well-publicized breaches of American national security since the Rosenbergs gave the Soviets the bomb. . . .

So again, I ask: Why wasn't Assange garroted in his hotel room years ago?

It's a serious question.

He ultimately concludes that "it wouldn't do any good to kill him, given the nature of the Web" -- whatever that means -- and reluctantly acknowledges:  "That's fine. And it's the law. I don't expect the U.S. government to kill Assange, but I do expect them to try to stop him."  What he wants the Government to do to "stop" Assange is left unsaid -- tough-guy neocons love to beat their chest and demand action without having the courage to specify what they mean -- but his question ("Why isn't Julian Assange dead?") was published in multiple newspapers around the country today. — Read the full article at, 878 words.
By Martin Robbins
The Guardian
4 November 2010 — I'm a pragmatic humanist , and so I don't really believe in absolutes when it comes to morals. Could I support the use of torture in some contrived situation? Yes, definitely, and it would be irrational to say otherwise. If mutilating John Doe's balls is going to stop a nuclear bomb going off in my favourite London pub then hand me the curling tongs.
But what if it doesn't work? Much of the discussion about torture concentrates on the moral and ethical dilemmas involved, but in fact these arguments and make-believe situations are irrelevant if torture doesn't work in the first place. If those who advocate it can't prove that it works, then they have already lost the debate. — Read the full article at The Guardian, 1,077 words.
Open Letter

Kentucky stomping victim offers an olive branch to her attacker — but no absolution

By Lauren Vallen

Editor's Note: Last week, a 23 year-old political activist named Lauren Valle was assaulted during a protest at a Rand Paul campaign event in  (see "A boot to the head ... from Michael Moore" in last week's edition of True North Perspective, or click here for a video of the incident). The man who kicked Ms Valle in the head, someone called Tim Profitt, subsequently asked her for an apology. For the record, Ms Valle's response is as follows. — Geoffrey Dow, Managing Editor. Click here fto read the full article inside, 384 words.
Report from Obama's billionaires' America

Near-infinite money + absolute secrecy = eternal campaigning and a get-out-of-jail-free card for corporate criminals

By Zach Carter
3 November 2010 — The votes are in, and while some close races are still being tallied, there is a clear winner from the 2010 elections: Secret corporate cash.

Such unaccounted for political donations may end up allowing those accused of wrongdoing to go free. As Joshua Holland details for AlterNet, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission may have provided a lifetime supply of get-out-of-jail-free cards to corporate criminals.

The Kentucky senate race serves as a prime example. The Democratic candidate, Jack Conway, is currently Kentucky’s attorney general. Conway is also currently prosecuting a nursing home for allegedly covering up the sexual abuse of one of its residents.

But that nursing home is owned by Terry Forcht, a millionaire who gives prodigiously to right-wing causes. He poured money into Karl Rove’s organization, American Crossroads GPS, which ran ads backing Conway’s Republican opponent, Rand Paul. Guess who came away with the victory last night? — Read the full article inside, 829 words.

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Third Ways

Microlending in a war zone

By David Smith-Ferri

3 November 2010 — In a small storage shed at the edge of town, we watched as 14-year-old Sayed Qarim signed a simple contract agreeing to borrow and repay a no-interest, 25,000 Afghani loan (roughly $555). Daniel from the Zenda Company, the loan originator, counted out the crisp bills and handed them to Qarim, who smiled broadly and shook hands. Qarim, whose family farms potatoes and wheat, plans to use the funds to purchase a cow and her calf. "There are great benefits of owning a cow," Qarim explains. "Our family gets to use the milk and we can sell the calf for a good profit."

No one walking by outside on the narrow dirt road would have known an important business transaction had just occurred, one that could in fact help a young man and his family gain economic traction and greater security. The transaction didn't take place in a bank. No village leaders were present. Only a 14-year-old boy, the representative of a private business company and a witness. And while the signed agreement constitutes a business relationship, the Zenda Company sees it as primarily personal. Read the full article inside, 1,230 words.
The daily shower may soon be an artifact of America's past
By Catherine Saint Louis
The New York Times
29 October 2010 — A daily shower is a deeply ingrained American habit. Most people would no sooner disclose they had not showered in days than admit infidelity. But Jenefer Palmer, 55, of Malibu, Calif., cheerfully acknowledged recently that she doesn’t shower or shampoo daily and doesn’t use deodorant. Ever.
No, she does not work from home in pajamas. In fact, Ms. Palmer, the chief executive of Osea, an organic skin-care line, often travels to meet business contacts at the five-star luxury hotels where her line is sold. They might be surprised to read that Ms. Palmer, a petite, put-together brunette, showers “no more than three times a week,” she said, and less if she hasn’t been “working out vigorously.”
She contends that a soapy washcloth under her arms, between her legs and under her feet is all she needs to get “really clean.” On the go, underarm odor is wiped away with a sliced lemon. — Read the full article at The New York Times, 1,781 words.
From the Desk of Dennis Carr, Sustainable Development Editor

Young Chinese farmers sowing seeds for organic revolution

By William Wan
Washington Post

1 November 1, 2010, CHONGMING ISLAND, China — The small-scale farmer is a dying breed in China, made up mostly of the elderly left behind in the mass exodus of migrant workers to much higher-paying jobs in industrial cities.

But on an island called Chongming, a two-hour drive east of Shanghai, a group of young urban professionals has begun to buck the trend. They are giving up high-paying salaries in the city and applying their business and Internet savvy to once-abandoned properties. They are trying to teach customers concepts such as eating local and sustainability. And they are spearheading a fledgling movement that has long existed in the Western world but is only beginning to emerge in modern China: green living.

"What we are trying to create is like a dream for us," said Chen Shuaijun, a young banker who, with his wife, has rented eight acres on Chongming.

"But it is simply bizarre to everyone else," he added, with a sigh. — Read the full article at the Washington Post, 1,433 words.

Agence France-Presse

3 November 2010, LOS ANGELES — Fast food giant McDonald's said Wednesday it was "extremely disappointed" at a ruling by San Francisco authorities banning high-calorie Happy Meals, which entice children to eat with free toys.
The response came after the Californian city's board of supervisors voted to forbid restaurants from giving gifts with meals that contain too much fat and sugar.
"We are extremely disappointed with this decision. It?s not what our customers want, nor is it something they asked for," said McDonald's spokeswoman Danya Proud. — Read the full article at, 317 words.

Money and Markets

By Robert Reich
3 November 2010 — The real message from voters was “Fix this stinking economy.” But Republicans have no intention of doing so.

With Republicans in control of the House, forget spending increases or tax cuts to stimulate the economy.

Republicans don’t believe in stimulating economies. They think markets eventually clear — once the pain is sufficient. Or in the immortal words of Herbert Hoover’s treasury secretary, millionaire industrialist Andrew Mellon: “Liquidate labor, liquidate stocks, liquidate the farmer, liquidate real estate. It will purge the rottenness out of the system. People will work harder, lead a more moral life.”

Of course, Mellon was dead wrong. Nothing was purged. Instead, the economy sunk into deeper and deeper depression.

So how do we get out of this bog? — Read the full article at, 475 words.
By Steven Musil

3 November 2010 — Jammie Thomas-Rasset, the Minnesota woman who has been fighting the recording industry over 24 songs she illegally downloaded and shared online four years ago, has lost another round in court.

A jury in Minneapolis decided today that she was liable for $1.5 million in copyright infringement damages to Capitol Records, or $62,500 for each song she illegally shared in April 2006.

The Recording Industry Association of America--the trade group that represents the four major music labels — applauded the verdict.

"We are again thankful to the jury for its service in this matter and that they recognized the severity of the defendant's misconduct," the RIAA said in a statement. "Now with three jury decisions behind us along with a clear affirmation of Ms. Thomas-Rasset's willful liability, it is our hope that she finally accepts responsibility for her actions." — Read the full article at, 380 words.
The Associated Press

2 November 2010, KABUL, Afghanistan — Russian counternarcotics agents participated in a NATO-led drug raid that netted $56 million worth of heroin and morphine, but Afghanistan’s president complained that he had not been informed in advance of the Russian involvement, and his administration demanded a formal apology.

Nine helicopters and 70 men were involved in the raid, Viktor Ivanov, head of the Federal Drug Control Service, said Friday, adding that his agency told the United States where the labs were located.

Just a week earlier during a trip to Washington, Ivanov accused the United States of failing to dismantle such labs and slow down the flow of heroin into Russia.

— Read the full article at The St. Petersburg Times, 556 words.
From the Desk of Dennis Carr, Sustainable Development Editor

U.S. Tea Party's Deep Ties to Oil Sands Giant

Owners of Koch Industries, a major processor of Alberta crude, spent millions to foment and support a movement against Obama's climate change policies

By Geoff Dembicki
Laughing all the way to the tar sands: Billionaire oil barons David and Charles Koch  
1 November 2010 — The Tea Party movement, poised to help shift the U.S. legislature to the right and stymie President Obama's green agenda, has financial and organizational ties to Koch Industries, one of America's biggest processors of Alberta oil sands crude.
Congressional midterm elections on Tuesday could create a U.S. government less amenable to climate change action, partly a result of Tea Party influence.
That would likely bode well for Alberta's carbon-intensive oil sands industry, which has long worried that national greenhouse gas standards south of the border will reduce profits and restrict future growth. — Read the full article at, 1,025 words.
Health Watch Reality Check

Do bans on smoking in bars and restaurants really work? Sometimes

The advertisers know what they're doing; smoking in movies leads to kids smoking  later in life

By Dave Munger
SEED Magazine
27 October 2010 — The barkeep and blogger who writes as “Scribbler50” was outraged when, in 2003, New York City enacted one of the first comprehensive smoking bans in bars and restaurants: “How can a guy and some board just kick us in the teeth like this? This smacks of fascism.” If people are aware of the consequences of smoking (or visiting places with lots of secondhand smoke), should the government really have to tell us what to do? Won’t people just vote with their feet and smoke even more when they’re at home and away from restrictions?
Scribbler50’s post inspired the physician who blogs as PalMD last week to look up the research on the effectiveness of smoking bans. He found several studies showing that not only did workers in restaurants and bars show improved health shortly after the bans were put in place, but smokers themselves also reduced the number of cigarettes they smoked. While long-time smokers’ risk of lung cancer probably isn’t diminished after quitting smoking, their risk of heart disease death does decline rapidly—and heart disease is a greater danger to smokers than cancer. — Read the full article at Seed Magazine, 856 words.
Health Watch

Can exercise cure the common cold? No — but regular exercise might keep you from catching one in the first place

CBC News

1 November 2010 — Keeping physically fit helps reduce the likelihood of falling sick with a cold, a new study suggests.

The U.S. study, published in Tuesday's issue of the British Journal of Sports Medicine, was based on 1,002 adults up to age 85.

Participants at Appalachian State University in Kannapolis, N.C., reported on how often they got aerobic exercise equivalent to a brisk walk.

People who got aerobic exercise five days a week or more for at least 20 minutes had more than a 40 per cent reduction in illness days compared with those who averaged one day of exercise per week or less. — Read the full article at, 394 words.


No sex please, we're serpents!

At least one boa constrictor produces fatherless children

CBC News

3 November 2010 — Researchers have discovered a female boa constrictor that can produce offspring without mating — so-called virgin births — a rare phenomenon among vertebrates.
A female boa produced two large litters of female babies with no help from any male. More significant, however, was a finding that the offspring all had a genetic makeup never before recorded naturally in the vertebrate world.
Normally, female boa constrictors have a Z and a W chromosome, while male boas have two Z chromosomes.
What was so extraordinary in the case of this boa super-mom is that all of her female offspring had two W chromosomes — something that was thought to be impossible. The 22 babies all had the mother's rare colour mutation.
In effect, the babies are all half clones of their mother. — Read the full article at CBC News, 408 words.
Annals of Education
His answer may surprise you
By G.V. Ramanathan
The Washington Post
23 October 2010 — Twenty-seven years have passed since the publication of the report "A Nation at Risk," which warned of dire consequences if we did not reform our educational system. This report, not unlike the Sputnik scare of the 1950s, offered tremendous opportunities to universities and colleges to create and sell mathematics education programs.
Unfortunately, the marketing of math has become similar to the marketing of creams to whiten teeth, gels to grow hair and regimens to build a beautiful body.
There are three steps to this kind of aggressive marketing. The first is to convince people that white teeth, a full head of hair and a sculpted physique are essential to a good life. The second is to embarrass those who do not possess them. The third is to make people think that, since a good life is their right, they must buy these products. — Read the full article at The Washington Post, 653 words.

Book Review

Please allow me to correct yourself ...

'Mick Jagger' responds to Kieth Richards' new autobiography (and how!)

By Bill Wyman
Editor's note: On a recent morning, the journalist Bill Wyman received a UPS package containing a typed manuscript. On reading it, he saw that it seemed to be the thoughts, at some length, of singer Mick Jagger on the recently published autobiography of his longtime songwriting partner in the Rolling Stones, Keith Richards. A handwritten note on an old piece of Munro Sounds stationery read: "Bill: For the vault. M."

From this, Wyman surmised that the package was intended for Jagger and Richards' former bandmate, the bassist Bill Wyman, who has assiduously overseen the band's archives over the past five decades and with whom Wyman the journalist coincidentally shares the same name. Wyman the journalist, a longtime rock critic, was once threatened with a cease-and-desist letter from Wyman the bassist's Park Avenue attorneys and felt no compunction about perusing the contents of the package. The manuscript he received is reprinted below.

5 November 2010 — I am, I see here, marginally endowed, if I read Keith's sniggering aright. I do not sing well, either. I am not polite to employees; indeed, I have even been known to say, "Oh, shut up, Keith," in band meetings. I do not appreciate the authenticity of the music or the importance of what we do. I want to "lord it over" the band, like James Brown. I am "insufferable." I slept with Anita.

Most of that is in just the first quarter of this overlong book, but a tattoo of my failings sounds all through it and culminates in almost 20 full pages of rambling invective near the end.

I don't mind this, really, for reasons I hope are understandable and will get into later. This is all from a guy pushing 70 for whom gays are still "poofters" and women "bitches." — Read the full article at, 5,145 words.


In case you missed it ...

The Old Man's Last Sauna
A collection of short stories by Carl Dow

An eclectic collection of short stories that will stir your sense of humour, warm your heart, outrage your sense of justice, and chill your extra sensory faculties in the spirit of Stephen King. The final short story, the collection's namesake, The Old Man's Last Sauna is a ground-breaking love story.

The series begins with Deo Volente (God Willing). Followed by The Quintessence of Mr. Flynn, Sharing Lies, Flying High, The Richest Bitch in the Country or Ginny I Hardly Knows Ya, One Lift Too Many, The Model A Ford, the out-of-body chiller, Room For One Only and O Ernie! ... What Have They Done To You! The series closes with the collection's namesake, The Old Man's Last Sauna, a groundbreaking love story. All stories may also be found in the True North Perspective Archives.