Friday 17 February 2012


Black History Month

A grateful former slave writes a letter to his former master
30 January 2012 — In August of 1865, a Colonel P.H. Anderson of Big Spring, Tennessee, wrote to his former slave, Jourdon Anderson, and requested that he come back to work on his farm. Jourdon — who, since being emancipated, had moved to Ohio, found paid work, and was now supporting his family — responded spectacularly by way of the letter seen below (a letter which, according to newspapers at the time, he dictated).

Rather than quote the numerous highlights in this letter, I'll simply leave you to enjoy it. Do make sure you read to the end.

UPDATE: Head over to Kottke for a brief but lovely little update about the later years of Jourdon and family.

(Source: The Freedmen's Book; Image: A group of escaped slaves in Virginia in 1862, courtesy of the Library of Congress.)

To My Old Master, Colonel P.H. Anderson, Big Spring, Tennessee

Sir: I got your letter, and was glad to find that you had not forgotten Jourdon, and that you wanted me to come back and live with you again, promising to do better for me than anybody else can. I have often felt uneasy about you. I thought the Yankees would have hung you long before this, for harboring Rebs they found at your house. I suppose they never heard about your going to Colonel Martin's to kill the Union soldier that was left by his company in their stable. Although you shot at me twice before I left you, I did not want to hear of your being hurt, and am glad you are still living. It would do me good to go back to the dear old home again, and see Miss Mary and Miss Martha and Allen, Esther, Green, and Lee. Give my love to them all, and tell them I hope we will meet in the better world, if not in this. I would have gone back to see you all when I was working in the Nashville Hospital, but one of the neighbors told me that Henry intended to shoot me if he ever got a chance. (More)

'When they arrived, we had the land and they had the Bible. And they told us to close our eyes to pray. When we opened our eyes, they had the land and we had the Bible.' — Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

David McLaren is an award-winning writer living at Neyaashiinigamiing on Georgian Bay. He has worked in government, in the private sector, with ENGOs (Environmental Non-Government Organizations) and First Nations. Comments on this and other essays are welcome at 
By David McLaren
Special to True North Perspective

28 January 2012 — At the January 23 summit meeting between First Nations Chiefs and the Prime Minister of the rest of Canada, the two solitudes talked past one another. 

Grand Chief Shawn Atleo spoke of another kind of relationship, one informed by an Aboriginal understanding of things. He even brought the wampum agreements of the 1700s, made long before the Indian Act and residential schools would corrupt the future.

The Prime Minister spoke respectfully and hopefully of “shared goals and principles” and giving Aboriginal people “the tools they need … and allow them to move forward.” These words are rooted in a Western understanding of how things ought to be done. 

They mean different things to people who are different.

As Red Jacket, the Seneca orator and chief, said, to a New England missionary in 1805, “We have a different understanding. To you the Creator has given the Book, to us he has given the land.” (More)

Canadian security company fails in Iraq

has now been kicked out of Afghanistan

Peter Moore: 'I feel guilty I'm the only one alive'
He was one of five men kidnapped in Iraq. Why is he the only one who made it home?
By Kim Sengupta
The Independent
Tuesday 14 February 2012 — The funeral of Alan McMenemy took place in a bitterly cold, rainy day at a parish church near Glasgow last week. His body was the final one of four British hostages in Iraq to be returned. The murdered security guard's distraught father, Dennis, has accused the British Government of "deceit, lies and cover-ups" during the four years and seven months that his son had been missing.
Peter Moore, the only one of the group to be freed, understands the feeling of anger and hopelessness over the deaths. "What happened was terrible," he says now, in an interview with The Independent in which he gives the first full public account of his experiences.

"I am sure that everyone involved in the rescue effort – the Foreign Office, the military – worked extremely hard and did their best. But something went very wrong and questions have to be asked.

"Four out five are dead, that's an 80 per cent failure rate in getting those kidnapped back alive, which is pretty poor by any standards. It would be good to know what lessons have been learned from this by the UK authorities, [for] if something like this happens again. The people the kidnappers wanted released were eventually released, but four people died in the meantime. And the people who the kidnappers wanted released were released anyway." (More)

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True North Perspective
Vol. 7, No. 05 (308)
Friday 17 February 2012
Lies … lies … and more lies
The attack dogs (aka mainstream media) of the Washington war machine would have us believe that the violence in Syria is widespread. In fact the sounds of war may be heard in only three locations, the rebel strongholds of Homs, Hama, and Daraa. The rest of the country is relatively peaceful.
There is a great hue and cry by the so-called oppositionists about government atrocities. One of the silliest pieces of nonsense is the allegation that a government officer shot and killed an eight year old girl saying that he didn't want her to grow up to be an opposition activist.
This kind of accusation is well on the way to matching the whopper that gave the US and NATO the leverage to open the door to saturation bombing of Libya. The lie was that Gadhaffi's air force had attacked rebel Benghazi and killed 6,000 innocent civilians.
It was later proven that such an attack had never taken place. There were no 6,000 civilians, innocent or otherwise, who had been killed in such an attack. But gleefully grasping this falsehood the warmakers plunged on and conned the UN into allowing what amounted to a license to kill. (More)
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-- PBS journalist Bill Moyers.
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Alex Binkley is a foremost political and economic analyst, whose website is Readers will be aware that his columns in True North Perspective have foreseen political and economic developments in Canada. This week in ... 

The Binkley Report

Lots of blame in locomotive plant closure

By Alex Binkley
True North Perspective

3 February 2012 — Back in his minority government days, Prime Minister Harper liked to brag about being a superb political strategist.

So who was the guy that used his moment in the spotlight as the leader of one of the world’s healthier economies at the World Economic Forum in Davos to fire up his critics back home with ill-chosen words about pension reform? Maybe he thought his speech would sound stirring in front of the other leaders.

All it did was energize his political opponents who could cite it as another example of the Conservatives' hidden agenda. It didn’t help that it took so long for his apologists to say he wasn’t targeting the Canada Pension Plan, but Ottawa’s two supplementary offerings — Old Age Security and Guaranteed Income Supplement. (More)
Section 34 gives Orwelling powers to government-appointed inspectors
Even Tory back-benchers are resisting latest attack on liberty
By Terry Milewski
CBC News

17 February 2012 — "There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time." - George Orwell, 1984.

It's often forgotten that, for Orwell, 1984 was far in the future — a distant and imaginary hell. Published 35 years earlier, in 1949, his book conjured up a surveillance state filled with chilling new concepts: "Big Brother," "Thought Police" and "Newspeak."

Today, 1984 has come and gone but Big Brother is real and present in ways Orwell never imagined. In China, the very names of imprisoned dissidents are banned from the internet. In Saudi Arabia, an unholy tweet can bring you a death sentence.

Here in Canada, though, freedom reigns. A sign of that may be that the government's new plan for policing cyberspace is in big trouble. (More.)
From the Desk of Dennis Carr, Sustainable Development Editor
By John Lorinc
The Atlantic Cities
10 February 2012 — It was an $8.4 billion question that had simmered all year, but finally boiled over this week at Toronto City Hall during a no-holds-barred debate that may well determine the future of city's transit expansion.*
For years, Toronto struggled to modernize and expand its transit system, which now carries about 500 million riders annually, making the Toronto Transit Commission one of North America’s most heavily used networks. In 2007, the city’s former mayor David Miller and the Ontario government did a multi-billion dollar deal that would see the construction of an extensive light-rail network serving the city’s post-war suburbs.
But the current mayor, Rob Ford, ran on a subway-building platform in 2010. He vowed to kill Miller’s LRT plan because, he told voters, it would take up valuable road space and exacerbate traffic congestion. Upon taking office, Ford declared that Miller’s LRT strategy was "dead." (More)
Spirit Quest

It's not envy that prompts us to insist on sharing the wealth

By The Rev. Dr. Hanns F. Skoutajan

True North Perspective

17 February 2012 — “Location, Location, Location!” the realtor assured me as we discussed the relative merits and costs of certain properties in our neighbourhood. These words of course have become a cliché in the real estate trade. They came to me again as I leafed through my daily newspaper one Saturday morning. 

A headline grabbed my attention: “Reserve School Can’t Pay Teachers” (Globe and Mail, Feb. 4) The Waterhen First Nation in northern Ssakatchewan, has one of the most successful schools. “But now that progress is threatened. Waterhen Lake School can’t afford to pay its teachers,” the article claims. Accompanying the story is a picture of a teacher, herself a First Nation, with several of her students from the reserve. (More.)

Bits and Bites of Everyday Life

Everlasting Love

By Geneviève Hone
True North Perspective

Geneviève Hone is a grandmother, family therapist and social worker.  With her husband, Julien Mercure (also a family therapist), she has co-authored three books on couples and family life. Her home on the web is

17 February 2012 — "So where are you off to?" asks my husband as he sees me heading for the door.

"To see an old wise man."

My husband chuckles. He knows that on my morning walks I like to conjure up people from my past, present and future life, especially wise people, be they old or young.

"Will you be back for lunch? I’d prepare something."

So I head off, walking stick in one hand, notebook in the other. A casual onlooker would see a respectable older lady walking the streets of her neighborhood, being careful not to slip as hips do not mend easily at her age. But I know that I am travelling to obtain advice from the old wise man on the subject of everlasting love.  (More.)

City of Toronto poster honouring Paul Robeson 

is placed at Parkdale Library for Black History Month

By Frances Sedgwick
True North Perspective

Frances Sedgwick's keen eye and ear for the human condition reveals the heart and soul of Parkdale in southwest Toronto, one of the country's most turbulent urban areas where the best traditions of human kindness prevail against powerful forces that would grind them down. True North Perspective proudly presents a column by writer Frances Sedgwick. Her critical observation combined with a tender sense of humour will provide you with something to think about ... and something to talk about.

17 February 2012 — II went to my Parkdale Library the other day to make an appointment for a friend to use one of the services of the The Parkdale Information Centre, another cherished service in our Library.  

Another reason to save our Library Services! 
While in the Library a display of books reminded me it was Black History month. This in turn reminded of me the material I had at home on Paul Robeson, a great Black American hero of my husband. (More)

Beating the Drum

By Beverly Blanchard
True North Perspective
Beverly Blanchard is an Ojibway First Nation from Northern Ontario.  She holds a degree in Economics. During the last twenty-two years, she has worked as a consultant to First Nation and Inuit organizations in a variety of disciplines including: homelessness, suicide prevention, violence prevention, childcare, HIV/AIDS, women’s issues, business planning, and economic development. She has also designed and delivered Aboriginal awareness and stress management workshops to Federal government employees. Currently, Ms Blanchard is a life strategy coach, author and energy healer in Ottawa.

17 February 2012 — It was quite a shock to see the news headline regarding Whitney Housten’s death last week-end. Dead at forty-eight and it wasn’t pot, cocaine or heroin that killed her. From what we have been told so far, it was prescription drugs. Yes those legal drugs that have been approved by government agencies and are being prescribed at alarming rates by doctors.

From some of the media experts, it would appear that this is only a celebrity issue. We are told it’s the high level of stress in being a celebrity that forces them to turn to illegal and legal drugs. It is only celebrities that get addicted to prescription medications and spend time in rehab. It is only celebrities that die from drug overdoses or the deadly combination of alcohol and prescription drugs.

Everyday there are numerous people who are not celebrities that die from prescription drugs. Last month there was a First Nations community that declared a state of emergency. In this tiny remote community, it is estimated that seven out of ten community residents are addicted to prescription drugs. This problem is not just related to Aboriginal people or celebrities; this problem is widespread in our society. (More)
From the Desk of Darren Jerome

A continuing update on the war against WikiLeaks transparency

Please be advised that the below is not just the same old thing. By clicking on it you'll find the petition in support of Julian Assange and discover fascinating on-going reports and videos related to one of the most important events in modern history, and the desperate attempts to put a lid on information that everyone should know. Don't miss this special opportunity to stay informed.

By Shannon Lee Mannion
Contributing Editor
True North Perspective

17 February 2012 OTTAWA Canada — Kindness Week, Ottawa, 2012. Goes from February 17 to 24 and virtually no one knows about it. Of course, the Internet's a great publicist and a few listservs carried the announcement that Jean Pigott Hall at Ottawa's City Hall would host a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 10:30 a.m. Friday 17 February 2012.

Present were lots of lithe blonde girls in punishing heels, children in lime-green hats and a row of men mainly from the Capital Region Interfaith Council along with the ubiquitous press, caterers and hangers-on. A few reps from the Ottawa District Labour Council were present but none of the service people we might expect to see at an event that champions playing well on the playground, for instance, the police. (More)

to impose ban on shale-gas exploration

Government in Sofia makes U-turn after nationwide protests

Mirel Bran
Guardian Weekly
14 February 2012 — Shukri Hussein was only 23 when he first bought some land, with a friend, to start a farm at Praventsi, a village close to Novi Pazar, in north-east Bulgaria. Ten years later the biology graduate heads a 110-hectare organic farm with a workforce of 35.
He was pleased with what he had achieved and had no intention of letting anyone spoil his dream. At the beginning of January he joined thousands of others to protest against plans to explore the huge shale-gas reserves in his region. Their efforts were crowned with success. In June last year the Bulgarian government had granted a permit to the US firm Chevron to prospect across 4,400 sq km around Novi Pazar. (More)

Republicans undiscover fire

By Mark Sumner
The Daily Kos

Sunday 12 February 2012 — There's a mythology around politics, one that sees the ballot box and the floor of Congress as a battleground of ideas. In this star-spangled arena, progressives and conservatives square off in the competition to prove the worth of their opposing philosophies and the merit of their plans. Of course it's not all high-minded rhetoric and reasoned discourse, there are selfish motives and personal ambitions, angry outbursts and plain old mistakes, but in the end the best ideas win out in the great experiment that is America! Cue the brass section and wave the flag.

The truth is it was probably never that way. It doesn't take much prompting for people to produce examples of nastiness in campaigns back to Jefferson and Adams, or to revisit instances of corruption from decades or centuries gone by. We all know that Mr. Smith is a fictional character.

However, just because it's possible to unearth grizzled examples of ugliness doesn't mean that the current season is not unique. Uniquely dangerous. And what makes it dangerous is the pretense that we're still in that fantasyland were ideas arm wrestle for history's approval. In fact, that time is long past. It's not even that what's now coming from the right consists of 100% emotional, fear-based appeals without a factual basis. In 2012, a campaign of suggestive fear-mongering seems almost quaint. (More)

Will China's next leader show his hand?

Xi Jinping sought to boost relations with 'important high-level
interaction' as he flew to Washington
By Clifford Coonan
The Independent
Tuesday 14 February BEIJING — Xi Jinping, the man widely tipped to become China's next supreme leader, began a visit to the United States and Europe yesterday that will give clues to the future course of the world's most populous nation.

Currently Vice-President, Mr Xi is expected to begin the process of taking over the reins from President Hu Jintao at the 18th Communist Party Congress in October, with his appointment as general secretary of the party.

During his visit, Mr Xi will meet President Barack Obama, and will also head to the Corn Belt to visit Mucatine in Iowa, where he stayed 27 years ago as a junior cadre, and have tea with old friends there. He will then visit Ireland and Turkey.

Vice-Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai said the visit was an "important high-level interaction" that he hoped would develop relations with the US. "Ultimately, the development of bilateral ties is determined by the relationship between the two peoples," he added. (More)
Viet Nam News

16 February 2012, HA NOI, Viet Nam — Teenagers from the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) are being given a chance to express their views at the Inter-Ministerial Meeting (IMM3) on fighting human-trafficking in Ha Noi today.

Their 15-minute presentation at the high-ranking meeting is expected to make a good precedent for future events. Viet Nam is the first country in the region to make youth participation a focus of the issue. Thailand, the host of the next IMM, has promised to include the young voices in similar meetings in their country.

The twelve teenagers from China, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Viet Nam yesterday also held dialogues with GMS senior officials in the eighth regional Senior Official Meeting (SOM), also on human trafficking prevention. (More.)

Canadian government is 'muzzling its scientists'

By Pallab Ghosh
BBC News
17 February 2012, VANCOUVER,  British Columbia — Speakers at a major science meeting being held in Canada said communication of vital research on health and environment issues is being suppressed.
But one Canadian government department approached by the BBC said it held the communication of science as a priority.
Prof Thomas Pedersen, a senior scientist at the University of Victoria, said he believed there was a political motive in some cases.
"The Prime Minister (Stephen Harper) is keen to keep control of the message, I think to ensure that the government won't be embarrassed by scientific findings of its scientists that run counter to sound environmental stewardship," he said.
Follow the money:
By Mike Ludwig

15 February 2012 — The climate-change-denying think tank The Heartland Institute pays monthly stipends to vocal global warming skeptics, received $200,000 from the Charles G. Koch Foundation in 2011 and received a total of $3.4 million from corporations in 2010 and 2011, according to internal documents released last night.

DeSmogBlog released the documents Tuesday night to expose its rival in the global warming debate. The blog received the documents from an anonymous "Heartland Insider." Here's the inside scoop and more on Heartland:

- Craig Idso, chairman of the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change and other think tanks, receives $11,600 per month from Heartland. Idso's study center is funded in part by Exxon Mobile and he recently spoke on the benefits of increased atmospheric carbon dioxide levels at the American Legislative Exchange Council's annual meeting, according to

- Australian global warming skeptic Professor Bob Carter receives $1,667 per month, but denied doing the bidding of Heartland in an Australian newspaper on Wednesday.

- Fred Singer of the climate-change-denying Science and Environmental Policy Project receives $5,000 a month from Heartland. (More.)

After nearly a quarter century, Russian scientists finally visit lake isolated for 20 million years beneath Antarctic ice
By Robert T. Gonzalez
15 February 2012 — On February 5th, more than twenty years after they first started drilling, Russian scientists finally broke through the last remaining layers of an ice sheet that has separated Lake Vostok from the rest of the world for twenty million years.

But when Russian scientists first began boring their way through the ice above Vostok, they had no idea that the Earth's third largest body of water was lurking nearly 4,000 meters beneath their feet. In fact, the research started out as an expedition to recover ice cores for use in climate studies.

By the late nineties, however, scientists had verified that there was, in fact, a massive subglacial lake beneath the borehole; yet fear of contaminating the lake meant that plowing through to its surface was entirely out of the question. So in 1998, less than 200 meters from Vostok's waters, drilling stopped entirely. (More.)

The Old Man's Last Sauna
An eclectic collection of short stories by Carl Dow 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. FlynnSharing LiesFlying HighThe Richest Bitch in the Country or Ginny I Hardly Knows YaOne Lift Too ManyThe 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 Saunaa groundbreaking love story. All stories may also be found in the True North Perspective Archives.

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