Thursday, 25 June 2009

Garbage, Yee Haa!

Up, Down.

Bill & Bobby Hennessey www.strikegarbage.comSpiralsqueeze 'em till they shriek!

if you can bear the ridiculous ad prefix you can watch the Toronto Thought Police catch some wobegone old fart ditching a bag of garbage in a park, there you go, the guy looks like he can hardly walk, if that is a function of his owning a car or not I can't say ...

but it is a problem that must be dealt with, the Mayor and the Premier call it an "inconvenience" but speaking as an old fart, who does not have a car, living in a small apartment, sometime later next week I will have to do something about the garbage piling up in my tiny freezer, either sneak out late at night to the park next door, or call these guys:, couple'a maritimers, Bill & Bobby Hennessey, probably have to pay 'em 50$, for one bag, oh well

the reason I am posting this is to put a bit of energy behind the Hennessey brothers (1), and vent some spleen of course, some kind of balance has to be maintained ... Rick Salutin has another take on it

meanwhile, these 'entitled' union workers, and others for that matter, might want to consider that 800 British Airways workers set to work unpaid, and something I don't want to forget ... but which I probably should - Somali Sharia amputations.

Backbench, John Baird Federal Transport Ministerthis is our "government": we have the braggart & bully ex-Environment Minister, John Baird, trashing (2) public transport in the name of consistent bureaucracy

AND we have the good-old-oil-bum-boy & weasel current Environment Minster, Jim Prentice, diverting funds from renewables to the Tar Sands of Fort McMurray (3), and Little Bo Peep Lisa Raitt worries about being blamed for the leak, she should be PROUD OF BEING THE LEAK GODDAMMIT!!!

AND we have Health Canada running John O'Connor out of Fort Chipewyan (4), these maggots have the eternal gall to claim he was incompetent? question his credentials at the CMA?

Dr. John O'Connor Fort ChipewyanDr. John O'Connor Fort ChipewyanDr. John O'Connor Fort ChipewyanDr. John O'Connor Fort Chipewyan

it beggars the imagination ...

a big ol' thunder storm just came along to give Toronto a bit of a wash, I love thunderstorms, always have ... my father used to wake us up in the middle of the night and carry us to the front porch to sit and watch them from under the safety of a huge army-surplus rain poncho he had, and then he would carry us back up and tuck us in, ai ai ai

my good friend comes for a visit now and then, he was over the other night and tells me I have to cool it or the anger is going to undo me, and of course he is right ... times like these my mind turns to beautiful brown skinned beauties with their tits out ('peitos de fora'), if anyone reads this nonsense regularly they may very well think that I am a 'viejo verde' a 'green old man' in Spanish (which is all the Spanish I ever learned), it is not the same idiom in Portuguese, 'safado' is about the equivalent, and, fair enough, maybe I am a dirty old man, in that case I guess you could do worse

SpiralI wonder if 'nubile' comes from Leni Riefenstahl's pictures of naked Nuba girls in Sudan? ... nope, OED tells me latin nubilis ready to marry, and nubere to marry

but, believe it or not, it is evidence of character that catches my attention, or what little evidence could be said to be found in a photograph of a person you do not know ... whatever ... here are some portraits of women from Rita Willaert at Flickr, the Nuba people of Sudan:

Nuba Woman Nyaro SudanNuba Woman Nyaro SudanNuba Woman Nyaro SudanNuba Woman Kau SudanNuba Woman Kau SudanNuba Woman Kau SudanNuba Woman Kau SudanNuba Woman Kau Sudan

1. 'Garbaneurs' Garbage strike doesn't stink for everyone, Brodie Fenlon, Wednesday June 24 2009.
2. City scrambles to save $1.2-billion streetcar project, Jennifer Lewington, Thursday June 25 2009.
3. Prentice moved wind power funds to oil sands projects: Raitt tape, CBC, Thursday June 11 2009.
4. In Depth: Fort Chipewyan, CBC, November (?) 2008.
5. 800 BA workers set to work unpaid, BBC, Thursday 25 June 2009.
6. Somalis watch double amputations, BBC, Thursday June 25 2009.
7. Swallow self-respect? Er, no thanks, Rick Salutin, Friday June 26 2009.
'Garbaneurs' Garbage strike doesn't stink for everyone, Brodie Fenlon, Wednesday June 24 2009.

For enterprising Torontonians, one man's trash is another man's profit

Bill Hennessey sees gold in them hills of trash.

The 25-year-old live lobster salesman-turned-event promoter has whipped up a website and organized disposal trucks in a mad dash to capitalize on Toronto's garbage strike.

His instant business, Toronto Sameday Garbage Removal, launched Tuesday with Mr. Hennessey, his brother and a cube van going door-to-door in North Toronto, offering to pick up bags of trash.

The self-described “garbaneurs” see no limit to the gains they can make off Toronto's pain. Mr. Hennessey said he has proper disposal trucks lined up for the weekend, and a deal to dump the waste at a landfill outside the city (he wouldn't say where).

As for what he'll charge, he's coy. Mr. Hennessey said he'll “figure it out as we go based on market demand,” though he is aiming for about $50 per home in the beginning.

“We'll come to your door. We'll take everything the City of Toronto would typically take,” he said. “Who wants a stinky garage? As you know if you've been to a transfer station, it's a hassle.”

Indeed, Mr. Hennessey stands to make a small fortune if yesterday's experience at some transfer stations continues. In Scarborough, residents waited several hours under the blazing sun to cross the picket line. A manager working as a bylaw officer shooed away cars that parked too close to the gates, and threatened other residents with fines for illegal dumping.

“If this persists for three or four more weeks, it's going to be a nightmare. People are going to be dumping,” said a woman in line with two bags. She declined to give her name. “Who can afford to stand here and wait three hours?”

Toronto's last garbage strike in 2002 was a boon to private trash haulers. Many charged premium prices, although some, like 1-800-GOT-JUNK, turned down work out of respect for striking workers.

For someone new to the rubbish business, Mr. Hennessey cuts a polished figure: His hair is coiffed, his sunglasses mirrored, and the sales patter spills easily off his tongue.

The Charlottetown native and business graduate from the University of Western Ontario runs a live lobster delivery service that ships crustaceans summer-long to Muskoka.But he saw a new opportunity while sifting through Monday's newspaper headlines after Toronto's 24,000 indoor and outdoor workers walked off the job, shutting down daycares, recreation centres and garbage collection.

“I saw the garbage strike and said that's going to be an issue for all families ... I'm sure there's demand for this service.”

For more on Mr. Hennessey's business, visit

City scrambles to save $1.2-billion streetcar project, Jennifer Lewington, Thursday June 25 2009.

With June 27 deadline looming, city officials plan special meeting to approve funding

A special Toronto city council meeting - with the mayor and councillors having to cross picket lines in the middle of the current civic workers' strike - may be called as early as today to save a $1.2-billion streetcar project.

The possibility of such a dramatic move comes as city officials scramble to meet a June 27 deadline for the Toronto Transit Commission to sign a contract with Bombardier Inc., of Montreal, to replace 204 streetcars starting in 2012.

Adding to the intrigue was an offer in the works from Mayor David Miller's council critics, who say they would agree to the special meeting tomorrow or Saturday to approve streetcar funding, if they could also re-open debate on a freeze on councillor salaries.

"If we are going to cross the picket line, we also should have a discussion about councillor salaries," said councillor Karen Stintz (Ward 16 Eglinton-Lawrence), a possible mayoral challenger.

While the mayor and at least 18 councillors have voluntarily given up a 2.4-per-cent cost of living increase in their salaries this year, council's right-wing minority has tried unsuccessfully to impose a freeze on all 44 councillors. The down-to-the wire scramble on streetcars is the latest twist in a high-stakes political drama heightened when the federal government confirmed last week that the project - with a key option for up to 400 light-rail vehicles for Toronto's "Transit City" project - would not qualify for Ottawa's short-term stimulus funds.

Last December, the city pledged one-third of the cost for the replacement streetcars, with matching funds pledged last week by Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty. The two governments hoped Ottawa would jump in for the final one-third share.

But last week, the federal government rejected Toronto's streetcar project as ineligible for the Infrastructure Stimulus Fund, largely because it would not be substantially completed by March 31, 2011.

Still, federal Infrastructure Minister John Baird made clear other city projects could receive stimulus dollars, a move that would free up city dollars.

City officials were tight-lipped yesterday about behind-the-scenes efforts to compile a suitable list of projects for federal funding. "We're doing everything we can to make this happen," said Don Wanagas, press secretary to the mayor.

Since council's funding approval last December assumed Ottawa would directly contribute a one-third share, Ms. Stintz and other councillors say council must bless the new approach to pay for streetcars.

Meanwhile, in yet another wrinkle, a senior official with Bombardier Transportation North America yesterday opened the door to a possible extension past June 27.

"There is no legal reason why the date cannot be reviewed," said Michael Hardt, but made clear any change to the midnight Saturday deadline would set off "an untold list of other issues."

Prentice moved wind power funds to oil sands projects: Raitt tape, CBC, Thursday June 11 2009.

Natural Resources Minister Lisa Raitt is heard on tape saying she believes the environment minister pushed to divert funds earmarked for wind energy to oil patch projects during pre-budget negotiations, says a report on Thursday.

The Halifax Chronicle Herald published a previously unreleased excerpt of a five-hour conversation between Raitt and her former aide, Jasmine MacDonnell.

The Jan. 30 conversation was apparently recorded inadvertently while the two were being driven around Victoria. The digital recording device landed in the hands of a Chronicle Herald reporter after reportedly being left in a Parliament Hill washroom.

On the tape, Raitt says she believes Environment Minister Jim Prentice redirected wind power funds to the Clean Energy Fund, a $1-billion fund for research and development in alternative energy sources, mostly in the oilpatch.

Prentice represents a Calgary riding that's home to many in the country's oil industry.

In the recording, MacDonnell can be heard telling Raitt that the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) had sent letters to its supporters about the lack of funding in the Jan. 27 budget.

MacDonnell then appears to read from a CanWEA letter claiming the organization knew help for the industry was part of the federal budget until it was removed late in the process.

"We know that the proposal was actively promoted and pushed by Minister Raitt. In fact, it is our understanding that it was actually part of the budget until it was taken out very late in the process," says the letter, according to the Chronicle Herald.

Raitt denies she told anyone from CanWEA about the budget negotiations and speculates the leak could have come from either the Finance Department or her own.

"Someone in Finance talked," Raitt says on the tape, reported the newspaper. "Am I going to get blamed for this?" She later speculates that someone at the Natural Resources Department could have been the source of the apparent leak, says the report. Raitt adds that she didn't know the proposal was dropped from the budget late in the process.

"I would have no way of knowing that. I understand that's what happened. My suspicion is, what I told you, that Jim took the money for his Clean Energy Plan," she said.

"They said, 'Ah, they don't need it.' There should never have been any choice. No one asked my opinion on it. If they had, I would have lobbied. Maybe that's why I'm invited to P and P [the priority and planning committee of cabinet]. Oh, the prime minister's not going to like that."

Raitt is also heard saying she won't "put up with the whining of CanWEA," and says wind producers are not making use of existing funds allocated to the industry.
Not a story: Prentice

Federal Environment Minister Jim Prentice has denied that he was mentioned on the recording. (CBC)Prentice told the Chronicle Herald he has not been mentioned in the recorded conversation.

"Well, let's be clear. I've listened to the transcript in question. It doesn't say Jim Prentice at any point," he said outside the House of Commons on Wednesday.

"It doesn't use the words oil industry or oilsands at any point. It doesn't use the word pandering at any point. And so, really, this isn't much of a story."

The recording, revealed earlier this week by the Chronicle-Herald, has been a source of embarrassment for Raitt. She issued an emotional apology on Wednesday after the newspaper published an earlier segment of the conversation in which she called the shortage of medical isotopes a "sexy" issue that she should take credit for fixing. She also expressed doubts about the abilities of her colleague, Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq, to handle "hot" issues. Raitt has since apologized to Aglukkaq.

Opposition MPs have demanded her resignation, but Prime Minister Stephen Harper says he has confidence in her abilities.

The recording was released after Nova Scotia Supreme Court Justice Gerald Moir rejected an application by MacDonnell on Monday for an injunction blocking the Halifax Chronicle Herald from publishing a story about its contents.

MacDonnell resigned last week after leaving secret documents related to Canada's nuclear industry at CTV's Ottawa news bureau.

In Depth: Fort Chipewyan, CBC, November (?) 2008.

Note: this is a truly excellent reporting on this situation. I have copied it here but without the numerous links to backup & supporting documents - maybe later I will fill in those links. In the meantime ... GO READ IT!

The isolated community of Fort Chipewyan, named after the First Nations who inhabited the area, was the first European settlement in Alberta in 1788. Sitting on the far northeastern tip of Alberta, this community of about 1,200, also known as "Ft. Chip," can only be reached by an ice road for a small portion of the year, or by boat or plane. Its isolation makes food expensive, and many in this community still rely on hunting, trapping, fishing and gathering throughout the year for their food.

But these days, many people in Fort Chipewyan say they can no longer trust the environment that has sustained them for so long. Their community is downstream from what is often referred to as largest industrial project on the planet – Alberta’s oilsands. And it shares shores with Saskatchewan’s Uranium City, which supplied the world with most of its enriched uranium for many years.

Over the past decade, residents of Fort Chipewyan say, they have watched too many people die from cancer and other illnesses. Many now suspect something in their water is slowly poisoning them. Hunters and trappers say they no longer dip their cups over their canoes to get a drink of water, and sales of expensive bottled water have increased.

Dr. John O'Connor

Dr. John O'Connor was Fort Chipewyan's doctor and medical examiner from 2000 to 2007.

The community’s suspicions, which were based on anecdotal experience at that time, seemed to have been substantiated when Dr. John O’Connor, the community’s long time fly-in physician and the medical examiner for the region, spoke out publicly in March 2006 about seeing higher-than-expected rates of cancer and other diseases.

Since then, questions have lingered about whether O'Connor's concerns were scientifically supported. Nevertheless, Fort Chipewyan has [missing link] made international headlines and its apparent health problems have become a key rallying point in campaigns being waged around the world by environmentalists against Alberta’s so-called "dirty oil."

Dr. O'Connor on cancer rates:
[missing link]CBC story Mar. 10, 2006 | Cancer rate in Fort Chipewyan cause for alarm: medical examiner
[missing link]Listen Mar. 10, 2006 | O’Connor interview Audio icon (7:14)

After O’Connor spoke to CBC News in March 2006 about his observations, several other health professionals came forward with similar concerns, including the head nurse of Fort Chipewyan’s nursing station, Georg MacDonald, and Donna Cyprien, the director of Nunee Health, Fort Chipewyan’s Health Canada-funded health authority.

However, O’Connor and the other health professionals weren’t the first to sound the alarm about apparent health problems in this community. Dr. Michel Sauvé, an internist and president of the Fort McMurray Medical Association, had raised similar concerns three years earlier during government licensing hearings for two oilsands operations: Shell Oil and Canadian Natural Resources Ltd.

Read EUB's final decisions:
[missing link]Jan. 27, 2004 | CNRL's oilsands application (PDF)
[missing link]Feb. 5, 2004 | Shell Canada's application (PDF)

Recommendations for a health study

In both cases, the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board (now the Energy Resource Conservation Board or ERCB) recommended a study of the health of residents living in the oilsands region. Shell Oil also promised to complete a human health baseline assessment, which First Nations say was never completed.

Prior to that, the Northern River Basins Monitoring Program, a provincial panel studying water issues in northern Alberta, had suggested baseline health studies should be done of northern aboriginal communities, after panel members became concerned about reports of elevated health problems.

[missing link]Read the full report Mar. 1999 | Northern River Basins Human Health Monitoring Study (PDF)

After O’Connor’s claims received national media attention in March 2006, Health Canada and Alberta Health and Wellness pledged to do a thorough study of health problems in Fort Chipewyan. Alberta’s health minister at the time, Iris Evans, pledged to do whatever was necessary to alleviate the community’s fears and address the concerns of area doctors and nurses.

Officials said it would take up to a full year to do a thorough study, and they promised to include the community and its doctor in the planning of any study.

Surprise release

Just a few months after those promises were made, Alberta Health and Wellness surprised the community, health professionals and the media when, on July 14, 2006, it suddenly released a health analysis of Fort Chipewyan residents at a licensing hearing for another oilsands company, Suncor.

The company was requesting government approval for its Voyageur upgrader and mine expansion, which was opposed by residents of Fort Chipewyan and members of the area’s tribal council. The residents were asking the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board (now the ERCB) to stall the project until a health study could be completed.

[missing link]Read the full report Jul. 14, 2006 | Alberta Health's Fort Chipewyan Health Data Analysis (PDF)

Alberta Health and Wellness’ response was to table its analysis, which was based on a search of a provincial billing database and a cancer registry database.

The analysis showed overall cancer rates in Fort Chipewyan were no higher than the rest of the province. It also did not find the three to five cases in 100,000 of cholangiocarcinoma, a rare bile-duct cancer reported by O’Connor, which normally strikes one to two people.

However, the analysis did show elevated cases of two diseases O’Connor was concerned about: Graves (a type of autoimmune disease that causes over-activity of the thyroid gland, causing hyperthyroidism) and kidney (renal) failure. It also showed specific cancers were elevated, including cancers of the blood known as hematopoietics, which oncologists say includes leukemia.

For reasons unknown, the Alberta Cancer Board decided to separate leukemia from hematopoietics for the analysis. Once the figures were combined, blood cancers were double the expected rate (five expected, 10 diagnosed). Nevertheless, Alberta Health determined this was not a statistically significant difference and said there was no cause for concern, and repeatedly said there was no need for further study of Fort Chipewyan..

Incomplete data used

CBC stories:
[missing link]Jul. 19, 2006 | Cancer rates not higher in Fort Chipewyan, investigation concludes
[missing link]Jul. 25, 2006 | Local doctor doubts report on Fort Chipewyan cancer rates

O’Connor immediately called the study rushed and incomplete, and criticized it for failing to include data more recent than the 1995-2005 statistics it was based on.

The lead investigator for the cancer board, Dr. Yiqun Chen, did admit to using incomplete data even for the years included in the analysis because of limitations in the cancer database. She also said a review of medical charts from Fort Chipewyan’s nursing station wasn’t completed for the analysis — something that had been promised to the community.

Members of the Fort Chipewyan and medical communities immediately called for a more thorough study to be done, including an analysis of blood and tissue samples from the community and a close examination of medical charts.

However, the Alberta and federal governments stood by their analysis despite criticism of the methodology from area doctors, and maintained the analysis showed overall cancer rates are not elevated. They said media sensationalism was the only reason there was concern for this community.

Dangerous arsenic

In November 2006, residents discovered a Suncor Energy study predicted via modelling, that arsenic levels in moose meat and other food sources used by the residents in Fort Chipewyan are up to 453 time acceptable limits in terms of cancer risk.

CBC stories:
[missing link]Nov. 15, 2006 | Fort Chip doctor rails against government inaction
[missing link]Nov. 16, 2006 | Imperial, gov't say arsenic scare unfounded
[missing link]Nov. 17, 2006 | Moose meat reports confusing residents

Despite these alarming findings, Fort Chipewyan’s community leaders said they had to send numerous letters to the provincial government demanding further study before Alberta Health and Wellness agreed to investigate arsenic levels in the area. A spokesperson for Alberta’s health minister, Howard May, denied those claims and said a study of the arsenic levels had been initiated as soon as the Suncor report became public.

[missing link]Arsenic levels in food and water Full report: Mar. 2007 | Alberta Health study of arsenic levels in northern communities (PDF)
[missing link]CBC story Apr. 3, 2007 | Mixed reports on safety of eating northern Alberta game

Alberta Health completed its study in March 2007, concluding arsenic levels were much lower in the area than had been reported previously. The new analysis, published in March 2007, found arsenic levels were only 17 - 30 times the acceptable levels, and found they were no higher than samples taken from another northern community.

Given the dramatically conflicting findings, the people in Fort Chipewyan asked for a more comprehensive, independent and peer-reviewed analysis. The Alberta government has not responded to the request.

Official complaint

O'Connor is investigated
[missing link]CBC story Mar. 5, 2007 | Hamlet supports whistleblower MD
[missing link]Audio: Mar. 5, 2007 | Erik Denison reports Audio icon (6:19)

In March 2007, senior medical officials at Health Canada used the Alberta Health analysis as the basis for a complaint against O’Connor, accusing the physician of causing undue alarm in Fort Chipewyan and causing mistrust of government. They filed the complaint with the Alberta College of Physicians and Surgeons, which began an investigation.

College rules prevented O’Connor from talking publicly about the probe, but when news of the complaint surfaced, members of the community and fellow doctors rallied around him, suggesting it was an attempt to muzzle the outspoken physician. Members of the Alberta Medical Association (March 2007) and The Canadian Medical Association (September 2007) passed motions supporting a doctor’s right to speak out publicly about concerns for his patients.

[missing links]Associations support O'Connor Mar., 2007 | AMA motion passed (PDF) Sep. 5, 2007 | CMA motion passed

About six months after the complaint was filed, the investigator looking into the complaint decided there was no foundation for the allegations against O’Connor. However, the college’s registrar, Trevor Theman, decided further investigation was needed and overruled the decision. Two years later, the college still hasn’t ruled on the allegations.

Doctor leaves town

After his son was violently robbed on the streets of Fort McMurray, in 2007 O’Connor decided to move back to the East Coast where he had started his practice in Canada.

Dr. Michel Sauvé is president of the Fort McMurray Medical Association.

Dr. Michel Sauvé again took up the cause of Fort Chipewyan. Sauvé, an internal medicine specialist and then president of the Fort McMurray Medical Association, called for a thorough examination of toxins in the blood and tissue of area residents. But politicians continued to say there was no cause for concern in the community.

However, the government did agree to initiate a province-wide examination for toxins in blood samples taken from pregnant women for toxins. The scientist in charge of that examination said the sample size being taken from Fort Chipewyan was too small to produce specific results for the community. The government still has not released the results that were promised in the fall of 2007.

Community activism

With the continued refusal by federal and provincial governments to undertake a comprehensive study, residents in Fort Chipewyan demanded their community leaders conduct their own study.

New chiefs were elected in two of the area’s largest First Nations — Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation in 2007 and Roxanne Marcel of the Mikisew Cree in 2008 — along with numerous new council members with promises to do more about the health concerns.

The new leaders began working with local health authorities to commission studies of contaminants in Lake Athabasca.

The Timoney Report:
[missing link]Read the full report: The Timoney Report (PDF)
[missing link]CBC story Nov. 8, 2007 | Study contradicts earlier findings on N. Alberta water quality
[missing link]Audio: Nov. 8, 2007 | Randy Henderson of CBC Radio's Trailbreaker program speaks with Kevin Timoney Audio icon (7:04)

The first of these was the Nov.11, 2007 Timoney Report, written by independent ecologist and statistician Kevin Timoney.

Study finds cause for concern

Timoney’s analysis found numerous deficiencies in the industry-funded and operated monitoring of water quality in the oilsands region.

"We found that there is reason to be concerned that levels of arsenic, mercury and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are higher than would be considered safe," Timoney told CBC News. Timoney's analysis found these higher than expected sedimentary contaminants and some of the most toxic contaminants appeared to be rising with increased development.

Alberta Health Minister Dave Hancock, while admitting he had not read Timoney's report, said it contained nothing new and did not give him any reason to be concerned for the health of people drinking the area's water. Officials with Alberta Environment’s oilsands division also said there was little connection between contaminants found in the sediment of the lake where the residents get their water, and the safety of their drinking water.

Those officials also said any sedimentary contaminants are naturally occurring because the area is rich in petroleum.

However, at the same time, federal officials responsible for the quality of Fort Chipewyan’s drinking water admitted to CBC News that they do not test – and had never tested – the settlement’s water for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), the petroleum-based contaminants Timoney found in lake sediment that, according to his report, are linked to cancers and other illnesses.

[missing link]The Polaris report Nov. 11, 2007 | Read the full report (PDF)

Following a November 2007 report it commissioned, Suncor admitted that one of its oldest tailings ponds, the Tar Island dike, had been leaking millions of litres of wastewater daily into the groundwater, which flows into the Athabasca River. Tailings ponds are lake-sized bodies of toxic wastewater from oilsands operations. They hold the waste left over after the oil is washed out of the oily sand. The industry’s tailings ponds currently cover 130 square kilometres.

[missing link]Expert report prepared for Suncor Nov., 2007 | Read the full report (PDF)

In May 2008, members of Alberta’s Liberal opposition questioned why Suncor had never been fined for this admitted leak. The province replied that water quality in the area of the leak was being closely monitored by the industry-funded [missing link] Regional Aquatic Monitoring Program, and any toxins from the tailings pond were highly diluted and not of any concern.

A May 2008 report by the Polaris Institute, an Ontario-based safe water advocacy group, added fuel to the controversy: It found the water quality in Fort Chipewyan was among the worst in Canada.

Cancer board launches new investigation

New study launched:
[missing link]Transcript: May 20, 2008 | Lee Elliot discusses Alberta Cancer Board analysis with CBC's Erik Denison (PDF)
[missing link]CBC story May 22, 2008 | 'Comprehensive' review of Fort Chipewyan cancer rates announced

With a growing number of local, national and international media outlets and non-governmental organizations calling for further study of Fort Chipewyan’s water, the provincial Department of Health and Wellness decided to re-analyze the area’s cancer rate. The Alberta Cancer Board’s (now the Alberta Health Services Board) spokesperson and director of media relations, Lee Elliot, told CBC News and other media outlets the study would be comprehensive and researchers would involve the community and local health officials.

Elliot told CBC reporter Erik Denison that researchers would take steps to ensure their data were accurate, including talking with elders who have kept lists of deaths in the community. Community members in Fort Chipewyan have long said staffing shortages, turnover and poorly trained nurses have led to incomplete record-keeping in the community’s small nursing station.
Cancer board refuses access

[missing link]Jul. 9, 2008 | Media request (PDF)
[missing link]Jul. 14, 2008 | Cancer board's reply (PDF)

Elliot refused to release to the media a copy of the research protocol being used for this analysis, despite a joint request by reporters from Alberta’s four major media organizations: CBC News, Canwest Global, Sun Media Corp. and The Canadian Press.

Elliot also told CBC News the study would follow the [missing link]American Centre For Disease Control cancer cluster protocol.

[missing link]CBC obtains study's ethics application Read the ethics application (PDF)

However, CBC News obtained the application for the new analysis, which contained an outline of the researchers’ plans. It showed the new analysis would be limited to a chart review and a review of a provincial cancer database. It also showed Elliot, the provincial cancer board’s media relations director, would be a co-investigator on the new analysis.

Community rejects study

On Nov. 10, 2008, before the study was even completed, Fort Chipewyan First Nations’ leaders and their health authority, the Nunee Health Region, rejected the cancer board’s analysis.

They said the board had not fulfilled its promise to involve them in the study’s design, and had failed to consult with them about its progress. The chair of the Nunee Health Board, which is responsible for health in the community on behalf of Health Canada, said he had only been invited to two meetings: The first in February 2008 to introduce the researchers who would conduct the study, the other in August 2008 to inform the community that the study had been completed.

Doctors who treat the community also said they were not closely involved with research, to ensure cancer cases were not being missed. Liam Griffin, Fort Chipewyan’s fly-in physician, said his involvement was limited to an invitation to attend two community meetings with residents and leaders. He attended one but, due to a schedule conflict, could not attend the other.

Griffin said he was sent a list of people who had died in the community and was asked to verify whether it was accurate. Given his limited time in the community, he said, he found that task difficult.

O’Connor, the community’s doctor between 2000 and 2007, said the researchers had not consulted him about cancer cases in the community.

Sauvé, then president of the Fort McMurray Medical Association, which represents doctors that treat patients from Fort Chipewyan, said the researchers did not consult him, and said none of his members had told him they had been consulted.

Sauvé was also critical of the provincial cancer board’s outline for its research. He said the board’s new analysis appeared to exclude a significant number of suspected cancer cases because it would only look at lab-confirmed diagnoses, which are part of the Alberta Cancer Registry. He said doctors in remote communities such as Fort Chipewyan often do not fly patients out for confirmation via biopsies if the cancer is advanced and the diagnosis does not require lab confirmation. As well, Sauvé added, many First Nations family members are reluctant to allow autopsies for cultural reasons.

Sauvé said the long-recommended comprehensive health study of Fort Chipewyan's First Nations has still not been completed and is still needed.

800 BA workers set to work unpaid, BBC, Thursday 25 June 2009.

British Airways has said 800 workers have volunteered to work for nothing for up to a month, following the airline's request to cut costs.

Another 4,000 workers are taking unpaid leave, while 1,400 people have volunteered to work part-time.

The airline had appealed to 40,000 workers to work for nothing for up to one month, to help the firm cut costs. BA's chief executive Willie Walsh has already agreed to work unpaid in July, forgoing his month's salary of £61,000. The airline, which is struggling in the downturn, says the move will save £10m.

Many firms across different industries have been reducing their workforces and cutting workers' hours in a bid to save costs during the economic downturn.

"What makes BA stand out is that it is asking workers to work for nothing for a period, rather than simply reducing pay through fewer hours," said Jane Amphlett, an employment lawyer with Finers Stephens Innocent.

'Fantastic' response

In May, BA reported a record annual loss of £401m, stemming partly from higher fuel bills and other costs.

Following the response from workers, Mr Walsh said: "This is a fantastic first response. I want to thank everyone who has volunteered to help us pull through this difficult period."

He added: "This response clearly shows the significant difference individuals can make."

Mr Walsh said staff could volunteer for the programme later in the year too.

Starting in July, the 800 workers have the chance to stagger the days worked unpaid over a period of up to six months, with the pay deduction spread over three or six months. Those volunteering to work part-time can do so for a period of between one month and one year, before another review is expected later in 2009. Similarly those on unpaid leave can take the time off for up to a year.

Somalis watch double amputations, BBC, Thursday June 25 2009.

Somali Sharia AmputationsSomali Sharia AmputationsSomali Sharia AmputationsSomali Sharia Amputations

Hardline Islamists in Somalia have carried out double amputations on four men for stealing phones and guns. They have each had a hand and foot cut off after being convicted by a Sharia court in the capital earlier this week.

More then 300 people, mainly women and children, watched as masked men cut off their limbs with machetes.

The four men reportedly admitted to the robberies, but were not represented by a lawyer and were not allowed to appeal against their sentence. The al-Shabab group, which controls much of southern Somalia, has carried out amputations, floggings and an execution in the port of Kismayo but such punishments are rare in the capital.

'Help, help, help!' one of them shouted - Eyewitness Mohamed Abdi.

The amputations were carried out in the open in front of an al-Shabab military camp in the north-east of Mogadishu. A local resident said the four men cried out during and after the amputations. Each man had his right hand and left foot cut off.

"'Help, help, help!' one of them shouted," Mohamed Abdi told the BBC.

Eyewitnesses estimate the age of the four men - Aden Mohamud, Ismail Khalif , Jeylani Mohamed, and Abdulkadir Adow - to be between 18 and 25. Mr Abdi said the whole process took about an hour to complete.


Human rights lobby group Amnesty International has condemned the amputations. "These punishments amount to torture," said Tawanda Hondora, Amnesty's Africa deputy director. The group says that committing torture could amount to a war crime.

After the four were sentenced to double amputations on Monday, mosques in the area announced through their loud speakers that the amputations would take place at 0800 local time on Thursday.

Al-Shabab spokesman Ali Mohamud Rage told journalists that the amputations were a warning to all thieves. "If they are caught red-handed in similar circumstances, they will face amputation," he said. He also said al-Shabab would look after the welfare of the amputees.

On Monday, the court had said it was too hot for the sentence to be carried out on that day as an amputation in such conditions could lead the accused to bleed to death. The punishments carried out in Kismayo have shocked many Somalis, who traditionally practise a more tolerant form of Islam than al-Shabab's strict Wahabi interpretation. Onlookers at the amputation in Mogadishu on Thursday declined to comment when asked for their reaction.

President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, a moderate Islamist, took office in January but even his introduction of Sharia law to the strongly Muslim country has not appeased the hardliners.

The government has not carried out any amputations under its version of Sharia.

Since 7 May, al-Shabab and its allies have been locked in ferocious battles with pro-government forces. The president has declared a state of emergency and has appealed to Somalia's neighbours to send troops to help.

Swallow self-respect? Er, no thanks, Rick Salutin, Friday June 26 2009.

Here's a strike reality check

There's an excuse-me quality to the Toronto civic employees' strike. “We knew it was not going to be a popular strike,” said union leader Ann Dembinski. She didn't request support, just “for the public to be understanding.” Further down the (picket) line, it's the same. “We're not asking for anything. We just want to keep what we've got,” said a district captain.

That's modest enough, even apologetic. They don't want to suffer a pay increment far below the 3 per cent that Toronto police, firefighters and transit workers got recently. They don't want to give back the right to accumulate sick-leave benefits by coming to work assiduously, a benefit common across the country. They probably knew, before Globe columnist Marcus Gee told them, that the world “has entered an era of austerity.” They just don't want to be forced to swallow human excrement - a technical term in labour relations.

Some strike issues are not primarily economic. You have to look at yourself in the mirror, and at your kids, and it's harder to do with a mouthful of the stuff. It can happen to anyone. Recently, one employer after another has tried to redefine pension clauses from the guarantee of “defined benefits” to the RSP-style crapshoot of “defined contribution.” Mostly, they've succeeded.

There are other non-economic factors, such as hypocrisy. Few things motivate people like the sight of it. The Toronto strikers may know that Sir Fred Goodwin banked millions of pounds in bonuses for wrecking the Royal Bank of Scotland and that Sarah Kramer got a $114,000 bonus plus $317,000 severance when she was pushed out the door at eHealth Ontario. Margaret Wente says the Toronto strikers want a (sick leave) bonus “just for showing up.” But they've seen that, in sectors such as finance, you get far more not just for showing up but for botching things, losing billions and pulverizing the global economy.

It's true there's something odd about collective bargaining in the public sector. In the private sector, market forces impose a reality check, so that unions try not to bargain a company into bankruptcy. On the other hand, free trade and globalization have now so badly tilted market forces that companies impose their will just by threatening to move. Truck assemblers at Navistar in Chatham, Ont., for instance, face company contract demands that will basically destroy their lives and community. The alternative is a more direct version of the same: The plant just bolts.

In the public sector, it's different. Toronto can't shift its daycare and playground employment to Kentucky or Oaxaca. Public-sector workers, you could say, are the hedge-fund managers and bank presidents of the working class in that they get away with murder. Relatively speaking, of course. The most they really get away with is jaywalking, in comparison with the bankers.

But in most strikes, strong non-economic motives are also at work: moral, emotional, etc., and the latter often predominate. These can include hostility toward those whose garbage you regularly handle but who rarely show appreciation. Or, from the other side, columnists and talk-show callers who, for their own reasons, identify with the overdog.

There are normal considerations of fairness (as in, “that's not fair”) that begin very young, when the smallest kids notice that the bigger ones usually get their way simply due to strength. And there's the widespread preference to go on strike rather than swallow human excrement.

Not everyone gets the choice. The cornered truck workers in Chatham told the company, in a piercing phrase: “We will not be exercising the right to strike.” Toronto's civic workers still retain a margin for action, in the name of self-respect. Perhaps they felt they didn't have a right not to strike.


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