Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Relate to yourself through your journal

Relate to yourself through your journal

"To write spiritually is to engage in a search for authentic language. You’ll find your truth by writing your way to it."

-- Patrice Vecchione

Who would allow you to totally ignore, abuse, laugh with, swear at, shed tears on, get angry at and be totally honest with him/her? Your journal does.

Your journal is an unconditional friend. It does not reject, manipulate, judge, laugh at or ridicule you. It’s always there for you. So be honest with your best friend and it will help you discover who you are.

"The positive thing about writing is that you connect with yourself in the deepest way, and that's heaven. You get a chance to know who you are, to know what you think. You begin to have a relationship with your mind."

-- Natalie Goldberg

Leo (July 23 — Aug. 22)

The more you discuss and debate a matter, the more you risk entrenching yourself in an indefensible opinion. For the time being, be noncommittal and wait for someone else to make the first move.

Scorpio (Oct. 24 — Nov. 22)

Look one way and all you see gives you reason to worry. Look the other way and your heart fills with hope and gratitude. Focus your attention on the latter.

Gemini (May 21 — June 21)

There is something you need to keep at bay. It is not a threat from any item or person. It is more a mood that you cannot and should not tolerate. It's attracting trouble that could be easily avoided.

Pisces (Feb. 20 — March 20)

Fate has a way of pushing us down any direction it chooses. This, however, may not always be one that we wish to take. Your current apprehension about the future will be dispelled as some encouraging news brightens up your prospects.

Read Phil Booth at boothstars.com or at thestar.com/horoscope.



Austrian Man Sexually Abused Daughter, Held Her In Dungeon For 24 Years

April 28, 2008

According to reports, an elderly Austrian, 73-year old Josef Fritzl has admitted to building a dungeon in his cellar and locking his daughter and her children in it for a period of 24 years. He has yet to admit to incest, but has admitted to abusing her.London (dbTechno) - According to reports, an elderly Austrian, 73-year old Josef Fritzl has admitted to building a dungeon in his cellar and locking his daughter and her children in it for a period of 24 years. He has yet to admit to incest, but has admitted to abusing her.

Fritzl is scheduled to appear before an investigating magistrate on Monday evening. He was arrested on Saturday.

He has admitted to building the dungeon and to holding his daughter and three children in it.

According to reports, Elisabeth Fritzl, his daughter, was drugged by the father back in August 1984. Ever since then, she has been kept captive in the dungeon.

While in the dungeon, she gave birth to seven children, with one of them being a twin and dying.

The six children are made up of three boys and three girls, aged between 5-years old and 20-years old.

Three of the children have been held captive in the dungeon as well, with one of the 19-year old children seeing light for the first time when Josef Fritzl was arrested.

He has yet to admit to incest, as DNA tests are being carried out to see if he is actually the father of the six surviving children.

The seventh child who died, and was a twin, was apparently burned by Fritzl following his or her death.

The other three children went to school as normal, without ever knowing their mother and three other children were trapped in a dungeon in the cellar.

The search is now on for the wife of Fritzl, as Elisabeth Fritzl stated that her mother knew of the sexual abuse.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Dungeon Life For 24 years: Elisabeth Fritzl The Scope Of Things Today




Leo (July 23 — Aug. 22)

It's hard to resist the temptation to look back over your shoulder in case trouble is following you, but other than a few minor nuisances, you're in the clear.

Gemini (May 21 — June 21)

If you find yourself caught up in any misunderstandings, they will prove transitory. Your heart knows what to do and your head is well positioned, too. You will see through a complicated predicament with perspicacity.

Scorpio (Oct. 24 — Nov. 22)

Don't completely write off an old emotional investment. It may never pay dividends in the way that you expected, but that doesn't mean you have been wasting your time. You're in for a good surprise.

Pisces (Feb. 20 — March 20)

When stress become the norm, we become suspicious of harmonious normality. Don't rule out something wonderful just because you can't see what's wrong with it.

Read Phil Booth at boothstars.com or at thestar.com/horoscope.


Inside Josef Fritzl's cellar dungeon
For 24 years Elisabeth Fritzl and three of her children lived an isolated life in three tiny underground chambers, deprived of natural light and room to move around freely.

The rest of the Fritzl family lived in the house upstairs and had been forbidden by the domineering Josef Fritzl from ever going into the cellar, where the dungeon was.

The secret location was so well hidden that when the police searched the property they failed to find it until Mr Fritzl showed them where it was.

The dungeon is entered via a narrow passageway leading into rooms that include a cooking area and shower facilities, with children's drawings on the walls.

The cellar rooms cover an area of approximately 60 sq m (650 sq ft).

They are reached through a massive reinforced concrete door which was hidden behind a shelf in Mr Fritzl's workshop, which was in the cellar under the family house.

ORF, Austria's public broadcaster, reports that the workshop and cellar area was strictly off limits to the Fritzl family members who lived upstairs.

The secret door was electronically locked and could only be opened with a special code and a remote control - which Mr Fritzl is reported to have carried with him at all times.

The dungeon is divided into cells - some parts no more than 1.70m (5.6ft) high.

A narrow corridor, five metres long, leads to an area which includes cooking facilities and a small bathroom with a shower. The floor is uneven and bumpy. A tube provided ventilation.

Police said there were also two bedrooms - each containing two beds. At least part of the dungeon appeared to be padded and well sound-proofed.

Police have refused to circulate pictures of the victims' sleeping areas or possessions to the press, saying they wished to protect their privacy.

The rooms are described as being neat and tidy. There are no windows. The three children who lived in the cellar, 19-year-old Kerstin and her two brothers aged 18 and five, had never seen daylight, and grew up with artificial light.

They had no fresh air and no room to exercise or run around. Hospital officials said the lack of oxygen may have contributed to Kerstin's illness. She remains in a critical condition. Police described the two boys as very pale, small and weak.

Children's paintings and posters were hung on the walls. Police say there was a television with a video player and a radio.

All of Elisabeth's seven children were born in the dungeon without medical supervision. One died shortly after being born.

As Mr Fritzl's secret family grew, he began to enlarge the dungeon. Police say it is still unclear how he managed to carry out this construction work secretly, as well as deliver food and clothing to Elisabeth and the three children without being noticed.

They believe the underground dungeon was originally one room, equipped only with washing facilities, which was gradually enlarged over the years. It is thought Mr Fritzl may also have expanded under the house's garden.

Amstetten authorities authorised the building of a cellar in 1978, city spokesman Hermann Gruber told the Austria Press Agency.

Mr Gruber said inspectors examined the project in 1983 - the year before Elisabeth went missing - and did not notice anything suspicious, but that he believed Mr Fritzl had not stuck to the original plans but had secretly expanded the cellar area.

Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/europe/7373172.stm

Published: 2008/04/29 15:21:11 GMT

© BBC MMVIII

Sunday, April 27, 2008

TTC ordered back to work

TTC ordered back to work
TANNIS TOOHEY/TORONTO STAR
Gary Webster, new chief general manager of the TTC, says he uses public transit every day and wants to make it more comfortable and convenient.

Affected by the strike?

If you are a small business owner affected by the strike, we'd liked to hear from you. Please call us at 416-869-4301

April 27, 2008


Toronto Star
A law ordering 9,000 striking TTC staff back to work was passed this afternoon, in time to get transit service rolling later today and avoid commuter chaos tomorrow.

"When people can't get to work that's a major problem," said Labour Minister Brad Duguid.

MPPs from al three parties gathered for a rare Sunday sitting at Queen's Park. It took them just 31 minutes to unanimously pass the law, prompted by Friday night's abrupt and unexpected shutdown of the country's largest transit system.

"We faced the reality that there is no better option," said NDP Leader Howard Hampton, whose party supported the law with some reservations.

Union leaders at the TTC responsible for calling Friday night's strike with no advance notice should be "horsewhipped" for making transit workers the targets of anger from riders, said Progressive Conservative Leader John Tory.

The Liberals were taking no chances in terms of getting the law passed, bringing in 48 MPPs and cabinet ministers to outnumber seven Progressive Conservatives and five New Democrats.

The law, introduced by Premier Dalton McGuinty, was quickly given royal assent by Lieutenant-Governor David Onley, making it official.

McGuinty said letting the strike go on would have crippled Toronto's economy and hurt the environment.

"We all need Toronto to be strong so Ontario can be strong."

The law takes effect immediately, empowering the TTC to call striking employees back to work immediately.

Earlier today, TTC Chief General Manager Gary Webster told The Star service could begin within hours.

"We have the buses, subway trains and streetcars ready to go," Webster said.

It was expected to take four hours to get subways rolling and two to three hours for buses and streetcars.

McGuinty thanked frustrated TTC riders for their "characteristic goodwill, patience and grace" this weekend and asked them not to take out their anger on transit workers.

Those remarks were echoed by Duguid, who said he doubts there will be any incidents of violence against TTC workers.

But he said it's up to the TTC whether they deploy more security officers throughout the transit system.

Under the back-to-work legislation, the TTC and its unions will have five days to agree to an arbitrator or mediator to finalize a contract. If they can't agree, Duguid will appoint one.

The arbitrator or mediator must begin work within 30 days and complete a deal within 90 days, bearing in mind the city's ability to pay any increased costs.

Tory said there's not much more money in the pot given the high fares TTC riders already pay.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Stroke Of Luck?


Leo (July 23 — Aug. 22)

Difficult or even painful events can sometimes do us more good than the pleasant ones. They galvanize us into action. A recent setback will prove to be an amazing stroke of luck.

Gemini (May 21 — June 21)

No plan is so clever, so final and so dramatic that it could permanently fix a certain problem. Time will do the job – be careful not to stand in its way.

Scorpio (Oct. 24 — Nov. 22)

Every so often, life obliges us to look at whatever it is that we have been running away from. You are about to discover that you have been fleeing a deep-seated fear that no longer has the power to harm you.

Pisces (Feb. 20 — March 20)

Be proud of your progress and be even more proud of any mistakes you suspect you may have made. Regardless of what you think, feel or fear, your route to happiness is going forwards, not backwards.

Read Phil Booth at boothstars.com or at thestar.com/horoscope.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Canada + USA :Economy: 2 years of pain

TOM HANSON/THE CANADIAN PRESS
Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney discusses the latest Monetary Policy Report in Ottawa on April 24, 2008.
Weak exports forecast for Ontario until 2010, along with $1.40 gas and soaring food prices
April 25, 2008

Business Reporter

Groceries will be more expensive. So will that drive to the cottage. And a sharp drop in exports means that the Ontario economy is facing two more painful years.

Canadians were hit with a series of dire reports yesterday – underlining the fact that difficult times are ahead – particularly if you live in Canada's most populous province.

In a bleak forecast, the Bank of Canada said a dramatic weakening in exports will cause the national economy to struggle this year, but it will narrowly avoid stalling out completely.

Exports, which account for more than 40 per cent of Ontario's gross domestic product, will come back to life in the second half of 2008 but will not show solid growth before 2010, the bank forecast. Ontario's all-important auto manufacturers export more than 85 per cent of what they produce to the U.S.

"Reading between the lines, this clearly isn't an upbeat picture for Ontario," said Doug Porter, the deputy chief economist at the Bank of Montreal.

For those with jobs, getting to work will be more expensive.

CIBC chief economist Jeff Rubin thinks gasoline will top $1.40 a litre this summer, and end up costing as much as $2.25 a litre by 2012.

"Oil prices will continue to rise steadily over the next five years, almost doubling from current levels," Rubin said yesterday.

He expects the cost of crude to hit $225 (U.S.) a barrel by 2012. Increased demand from such countries as Russia, India and China is pushing prices steeply upward, Rubin added.

You won't catch a break at the grocery store either. Canadians can expect to see steep price hikes this summer stemming from global shortages of staples such as wheat and rice.

"Food will be considerably more expensive well into the future," Michael McCain, the chief executive officer of Maple Leaf Foods Inc., told shareholders at the company's annual general meeting yesterday.

McCain said his company has raised bread prices three times over the past 18 months, but that hasn't been enough to keep up with the cost of wheat. Pork prices are expected to increase over the next year as well, he said.

The Bank of Montreal released a gloomy report yesterday on the Canadian dollar, which appears to be stuck below parity with the U.S. greenback. That's partly because there haven't been as many foreign takeovers of Canadian companies in recent months, Porter said.


Leo (July 23 — Aug. 22)

Change is the basic rule of existence. It's impossible to hold on to anything for long – not even our problems. The flux of life is essentially working in your favour.

Gemini (May 21 — June 21)

Some people conveniently omit important facts. You may not feel sure who you can believe at the moment, but don't let that concern you. Believe in yourself and you'll turn the impossible into the feasible.

Pisces (Feb. 20 — March 20)

A splendid alignment from Venus to your ruler will illuminate a dark and shadowy area of your life. A long-standing conundrum will be solved.

Scorpio (Oct. 24 — Nov. 22)

Yet again, you face the task of undoing a chaotic situation brought on by someone's stubborn resistance to take advice. You could do it faster if you weren't getting so many helpful contributions from a particular source.

Read Phil Booth at boothstars.com or at thestar.com/horoscope.


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Scope Of Things Today+Clinton wins Pennsylvania primary

Leo (July 23 — Aug. 22)

An inane situation and all the trouble it seems to be creating has been plaguing you. Your peace of mind absolutely must come first, so separate yourself from this nonsense. You are under no obligation to get completely absorbed by it.

Gemini (May 21 — June 21)

The reality of your dilemma is far better than the fearful fantasy which currently has gripped your imagination. A certain truth has been tough, but you'll learn to love it as you notice how life improves from here on in.

Scorpio (Oct. 24 — Nov. 22)

You have the power to get things back on track without the need to use force. Do not overreact to sources of antagonism, no matter how aggravating. A favourable alignment from Mars will empower you.

Pisces (Feb. 20 — March 20)

Disaster has been averted. Intelligence has triumphed over arrogance, at least for the time being. Given what could have happened or how things could have turned out, you have the unequivocal right to be in a celebratory mood.

Read Phil Booth at boothstars.com or at thestar.com/horoscope.

Clinton wins Pennsylvania primary

Margin of victory will be key in determining whether Clinton campaign can pick up momentum


Washington Bureau

PHILADELPHIA–A punishing battle for the Democratic presidential nomination will continue at least another two weeks after former first lady Hillary Clinton scored a clear victory over Illinois Senator Barack Obama tonight in the Pennsylvania primary.

Clinton won the vote by about 10 points, close enough to the blowout win which could change the landscape of this epic struggle, and certainly enough to take the campaign to North Carolina and Indiana amid fears within the party that an often nasty battle is exacting a deep toll on its electoral prospects in the fall.

"Here in Pennsylvania, you made your voices heard,'' Clinton told jubilant supporters in a downtown hotel ballroom here.

"And, because of you, the tide is turning.''

Clinton still faces long odds and a short calendar but Tuesday night's win may provide her campaign with some badly-needed cash, give her momentum and provide credence to her argument that she, not Obama, is the choice of the core of traditional Democratic voters in states the party's nominee must win if he or she is to prevail against Republican John McCain in November.

"We were up against a formidable opponent who outspent us three-to-one,'' she said.

"He broke every spending record in this state trying to knock us out of the race. Well, the people of Pennsylvania had other ideas.''

While Clinton painted her victory as a blow for all Americans who will not quit, she dealt directly with one reality — she is running out of money, and unless she can parlay this win into a financial windfall, it could be money which finally pushes her to the sideline.

She made a direct appeal for money in her nationally-televised speech, saying she could only keep winning if she could compete with an opponent flush with cash.

Obama countered in Evansville, Ind., telling voters in that state the fate of this race was now in their hands.

He said Democrats could not lose sight of what this race was all about and he urged the party to be the party it aspires to be, not one that will do or say anything to win the next election and lurch from one poll-tested position to the next.

"It's easy to get caught up in the distractions and the silliness and the tit-for-tat that consumes our politics,'' he said, "the bickering that none of us are entirely immune to, and it trivializes the profound issues: two wars, an economy in recession, a planet in peril, issues that confront our nation.''

Tuesday night marked the fourth opportunity Obama has squandered to potentially force Clinton out of the race, with the New York senator confounding pollsters in New Hampshire, pushing back against an Obama surge on February's Super Tuesday, taking Ohio last month and again surviving a win-or-else state Tuesday.

Clinton went into Pennsylvania as the prohibitive favourite, once holding a 20-point lead in the state, but a go-for-broke spending campaign by Obama narrowed that gap, although it could not get him the victory which could have ended the Democratic marathon.

North Carolina and Indiana offer Obama yet another chance in two weeks for the knockout blow he has been unable to administer.

He is heavily favoured in North Carolina, but the real battleground will be Indiana, a state where the demographics skew in Clinton's favour, but which borders on Obama's home state, Illinois.

Obama has been running ads in Indiana for a month already, with Clinton putting up her first ads in the past two weeks.

That is another sign of the wide financial gap between the pair.

Clinton began April in debt, with about $9 million (U.S.) cash in hand, but $10 million (U.S.) in debts.

Obama had $42.5 million (U.S.) in hand to begin the month with only negligible debt.

Should the May 6 votes settle nothing, five more states will weigh in — West Virginia, Kentucky, Oregon, Montana and South Dakota.

Guam and Puerto Rico have also yet to vote.

All Democratic votes will be in by June 3.

"I've come to the conclusion that this race will continue until the last primary or caucus vote is cast,'' Obama said Tuesday before departing Pennsylvania for Indiana.

"That's not that far away.''

There were 158 pledged delegates to allocated in Pennsylvania, a state with 4.2 million Democrats - including some 300,000 who have switched party affiliation or registered for the first time.

Obama had 1,648.5 delegates before last night's vote ahead of Clinton's 1,509.5, according to the Associated Press count.

To win, a candidate needs 2,025 delegates.

About one in five voters said the race of the candidates was among the top factors in their vote. About as many said that about the candidates' gender.

White voters who cited race as a factor voted for Clinton by about a three-to-one margin.

Some familiar voting patterns in this Democratic race held true in Pennsylvania.

New voters went to Obama, and according to one exit poll, the Illinois senator won 92 per cent of the African-American vote.

Clinton scored big with older, white women and she won about six in 10 of those who made their choice at the last moment.

She also won among union voters and was the choice of gun owners in Pennsylvania, a huge constituency, even among Democrats.

The exit polling indicated four in 10 voters had a gun owner in their household.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Scope Today+Transit strike averted

The world is changing at an alarming rate,

for some ,

its a life or death struggle everyday

For others its gas at record prices, commodities are out of control and one

horrendous media event after another.

You witness it every night on the evening news .

So this blog is this bloggers attempt to track the "Signs of the Times" which happen to you the Signs Of Your Times.


To chronicle the experiences of your life and mine in light of the truth of what happens to be in the bible, coincidentally. So I keep the Score, in the Chronicles of these times. By giving you a glimpse at the significant events of our lives.

In my own crude way , showing you the times of your lives as you read these Journals,


Consider them a connection thru the web to record events in these time of the end, in a biblical way.

And the internet is unlimited fertile ground to plant a seed of truth about the Matrix we all live in, this System Of Things.

The bites/bytes of our lives .

The Matrix is a great example of the problem, the world is filled with unexplainable , weird, curious and some of the most significant events of your life and mine that the System Of Things have on display.

Think about how masterful that was to design a system based on things.

The ultimate System, made of Things. The Ultimate Lure for more things.

Thats Lucifer's Master Program. Greed and Fear.

In the bible he is credited with the god of this system of things.

This virtual Matrix world with which we live and die.

Like The Master Matrix - The System Of Things.

What a world , I am typing and you're reading these words.

What a World of communication, April 21, 2008

This blog presented to you through this medium or network channel

in a master chip, kind of way

These are headlines that grabbed my attention. Enjoy The Signs Of Your Times.

The Chronicles of the Signs Of Our Times,

And Worst case scenario ? I'm doing all the work and you get to see where you were when by bookmarking this blog now, so you know where to find me.

Just like reading the chronicles of your life as it happens on a world wide event scale.

And for the record these significant Signs In My Life

Leo (July 23 — Aug. 22)

If you look into the distance towards the horizon, you may spot the sparkle of a golden opportunity reflecting in the sunshine. Trust that the future contains plenty to please you. Good news will come, if you truly believe it.

Scorpio (Oct. 24 — Nov. 22)

You don't need to go very far forward or back. Nor is it necessary to run 'round in circles or jump up and down. You simply need to stay roughly where you are. Much to your surprise, you will discover that you are in exactly the right spot.

Gemini (May 21 — June 21)

There is a pressing need to appreciate how differently certain people often see the same thing. It is not a question of right and wrong. It is a matter of sympathy and sensitivity. To make progress, allow flexibility to work in your favour.

Pisces (Feb. 20 — March 20)

When there is doubt or insecurity, we are more inclined to take refuge in ignorance. The less we know, the more we feel it is important to pretend we have answers. An open, flexible attitude will teach you what you need to know.

Read Phil Booth at boothstars.com or at thestar.com/horoscope.

Transit strike averted
STEVE RUSSELL/TORONTO STAR
Subways, buses and streetcars are running as usual after the TTC and its union reached a last-minute deal April 20, 2008. TTC workers will get an annual 3 per cent raise for three years.

THE AGREEMENT

WAGES

Tentative agreement gives 8,900 TTC workers a 3% wage increase in each year of a three-year deal, which will have them making $27.38 an hour in the first year. Under the old contract, operators made less than their Mississauga counterparts but a "GTA clause" ensures that, throughout the contract, they are the highest-paid in the region.

INJURY COMPENSATION

A sticking point throughout negotiations, the union wanted workers hurt on the job to get a top-up to the 85 per cent provided under the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board. The new contract will give those workers 100% of their wages.

BENEFITS

Improvements to insurance, dental and other benefits.

PREMIUMS

Extra compensation for shift workers and skilled trades

NEW HIRES

New TTC workers will retain the same pay and benefits as their long-term counterparts.


WORD ON THE STREET

"It's good to know that everything is going to work normally and I can go everywhere on Monday."
- Lorena Lopez, 23, student

"It would have been a big problem because I would not have made it to school. So it's good."
- Maria Hidalgo, 27, student

"I am really relieved because right now it's pretty much my main means of transportation."
- Rob Gennings, 28, animator

"Doesn't bother me. I like walking in the summer time."
- David Gulyas, 26, bartender.

"I hope that situation is not going to happen again because everyone ... needs the TTC."
- Freddy Eras, 35, computer engineer

"I think it's stupid to put millions of people in Toronto through that sort of thing, it's kind of selfish."
- Alysha Montgomery, 20

"It's been a very difficult process, as negotiations often are."
- TTC Chair Adam Giambrone

The settlement "keeps to the city's goals of being fair and reasonable but also affordable."
- Mayor David Miller

"I think it's evident the mayor did get involved. If it wasn't the mayor, somebody from city hall sent a new directive."
- Union president Bob Kinnear

April 21, 2008

Transportation Reporter

Buses, streetcars and subways are rolling as usual this morning, spelling relief for 1.5 million TTC riders who had anxiously waited days for yesterday's tentative contract deal between the transit agency and its union.

The agreement, which averted a paralyzing transit strike today, gives 8,900 TTC workers a 3 per cent increase in each year of a three-year agreement, making them the highest-paid transit workers in the Toronto region. By year three of the new contract, they will earn $29.05 an hour.

Before the deal was reached, TTC workers made $26.58 an hour, 5 cents less than their counterparts in Mississauga.

Union president Bob Kinnear announced the settlement nearly two hours after yesterday's 4 p.m. deadline and 24 hours after he told reporters that he was losing hope a strike could be averted.

The self-imposed 4 p.m. deadline was the latest the union said it could wait to notify its workers of a strike.

But a breakthrough in bargaining compelled the union to keep talking.

"We felt it was reasonable to go an hour beyond the deadline in the interest of the public and, more importantly, our members," Kinnear told reporters about 6 p.m.

Calling it the toughest negotiation Local 113 of the Amalgamated Transit Union has faced in 20 years, Kinnear said there were many times, right up to yesterday afternoon, that he didn't believe a deal could be reached.

But he credited city hall with bringing about a settlement after days of frustration. Although some movement was made about 9:30 p.m. on Saturday, Kinnear suggested the real turnaround came yesterday following Mayor David Miller's return from a trade trip to China.

"I think it's evident the mayor did get involved. If it wasn't the mayor, somebody from city hall sent a new directive," he said.

Thanking TTC patrons and workers for their patience, Kinnear said the new agreement "made some major inroads in improving our benefit package, we made inroads in closing the gap with other city workers and transit agencies. It is an agreement that we believe all parties can live with."

But Miller deferred credit for the agreement to TTC negotiators and its chair Adam Giambrone.

Although he spoke with TTC chief general manager Gary Webster and elected transit commissioners since returning from China, it was the TTC negotiators that did the bargaining, Miller insisted last night.

Union members still have to ratify the deal and no date for a vote was given yesterday.

The mayor called the settlement "one that is fair to the workers of the Toronto Transit Commission and keeps to the city's goals of being fair and reasonable but also affordable."

The deal will allow the TTC to remain competitive in a market where other Toronto-area transit agencies, including Brampton and Mississauga, are trying to hire drivers, Miller said.

The new contract contains a "GTA clause" ensuring TTC workers retain their lead by guaranteeing an increase in pay if employees doing the same job at another transit service earn more.

Asked if he would go ahead and push to have transit declared an essential service, which would avert the possibility of any future strike, Miller said, "That's a debate for another day.

"The importance of what's happened is there's a negotiated settlement. A negotiated settlement is always best.

"They're written by both parties who have to live with this agreement," he told reporters.

Yesterday's last-minute agreement was similar to the situation three years ago, the last time the transit union settled its contract. Miller has been credited with averting a strike then by speaking directly with Kinnear.

But yesterday he downplayed that conversation, saying it amounted to a five-minute phone call in which he merely asked the union leader to go back to the table.

Stressing that the new agreement would not mean fare increases or service cuts to riders, Miller refused to speculate on whether the city could afford similar contracts with its other workers including police, whose agreements are also expiring this year.

"It's been a very difficult process, as negotiations often are," said TTC chair Adam Giambrone.

"They normally come down to the wire, as they have in this case. On behalf of the 1.5 million people that ride the TTC every day, it's very good news."


Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Scope Today+possibility of a transit strike

Leo (July 23 — Aug. 22)

The more things change, the more they stay the same. The more they move on, the more they come back to how they used to be. All cycles have peaks and troughs. You're coming out of a low and starting a long climb to the top.

Gemini (May 21 — June 21)

You feel torn between sticking up for yourself and capitulating over what you thought was important. It's somehow managed to slip you into a defensive frame of mind. It would be best to extricate yourself from this pointless power struggle.

Scorpio (Oct. 24 — Nov. 22)

You are expending more energy and effort than you should concerning a certain matter. Let more time pass and you will find that many of your problems will solve themselves. Take a broad view.

Pisces (Feb. 20 — March 20)

The full moon is here. Our night luminary is working on delivering a promising development. You'll be surprised and happy to discover that the worst of a certain drama is over. And it can only get better.

Read Phil Booth at boothstars.com or at thestar.com/horoscope.

Riders weigh in on 'essential service'
STEVE RUSSELL/TORONTO STAR
Jonathan Bunce, outside Union Station April 29, 2008, says the possibility of a transit strike motivated him to buy a new bike. But he's not in favour of making the TTC an essential service.
McGuinty's musings spark debate over rights of TTC workers
April 20, 2008


Staff Reporters

Should the country's largest public transit system, which 1.5 million people count on daily to get to their destinations, be deemed an essential service?

It depends on whom you talk to. For those who see the TTC as their only means of transportation, and unable to rent a car, buy a bike in time or get a ride from others, Premier Dalton McGuinty's musings about declaring the TTC an essential service is a welcome move.

"I use it every day to go to my work at St. Andrew subway station (at King and University). Without it, I'd have to walk to work or walk to do anything in the city," said TTC commuter Gabriella Vera, a financial underwriter who lives near Christie and Bloor Sts.

"Public transit should be an essential service in this city. They can reduce their service but they can't shut it down."

Yesterday, both the City of Toronto and the Amalgamated Transit Union representing 9,000 TTC workers continued their negotiations at a Richmond Hill hotel. The parties have until 4 p.m. today to reach a settlement.

On Friday, McGuinty sparked the debate over declaring the TTC an essential service by warning that a transit strike would cripple the economy and cause havoc for the system's daily riders.

Sarah Wetmore, an outreach worker with an international charity based in Toronto, uses the TTC every day to get to local schools and communities to do presentations.

"How do I go to all these places to give speeches and workshops?" asked Wetmore, as she waited for a train at Union Station yesterday.

While business analyst Kashif Chandani has looked into spending $30 a day to rent a car to get to work in Etobicoke from his North York home, he's not sure the essential service designation is fair.

As a commuter who uses the TTC daily, he says he thinks it's "a good idea, since more than 1 million people use it every day."

However, he added, it would take away the right to strike from the workers.

"It takes their leverage away in the bargaining," Chandani said.

But the city is reluctant to take that route.

Declaring the TTC an essential service would put transit workers on the same footing as police and firefighters, forbidden by law from striking, but beneficiaries of arbitrated wage settlements that often are more lucrative than those achieved through collective bargaining.

Accusing McGuinty of trying to deflect responsibility onto the city, transit union boss Bob Kinnear said he believes the TTC and city politicians are trying to push the workers to walk out so they can be legislated back to work

"It's a little perplexing that McGuinty would initiate a debate on whether we're an essential service. He's in his fifth year as premier. Has he just realized the importance of transit?" asked Kinnear.

A transit strike is "not a matter of life and death," pointed out Jonathan Bunce, who lives near Dundas and Keele Sts. and works at Queen St. and University Ave.

The artistic director of a music company has just bought a $300 bike at Kensington Market's Bikes on Wheels to replace an old bicycle stolen last October.

"I'm not that concerned about the strike, but it certainly gave me the motivation to buy my new bike," Bunce said.

"I don't think the government should declare TTC an essential service because it's disrespectful to the union by taking away their right to strike."

The transit workers say they are looking for the same benefits and wages that other Toronto-area operators and city workers receive.

It's their unwillingness to strike – the union has only been off the job 11 days in the past 25 years – that has put TTC workers behind, said Kinnear.

But management has so far refused to put any new benefit money on the table.

"You don't want to shut down the city for 20 cents," he said, "but those 5 cents and 10 cents have added up."

The TTC has suggested that some worker premiums might be redistributed among the entire union.

TTC workers, unlike most Ontario employees, get their provincial health tax paid by the company and receive Sunday shift premiums.

They do not, however, get paid their regular wages when they call in sick.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Scope Today+In New York, Pope calls for 'time for purification'

Leo (July 23 — Aug. 22)

Make a deliberate decision not to fuss about something that has recently taken up far too much of your time and energy. It may not be sorted out yet, but it is on course to a natural resolution.

Gemini (May 21 — June 21)

The passage of time dramatically changes our expectations and desires. What you want now is what will make you happiest in the long run. You're getting that.

Scorpio (Oct. 24 — Nov. 22)

Our most poignant moments tend to come not when something new or unexpected occurs, but when we suddenly look at something that we think we know well and discover a whole new layer of meaning.

Pisces (Feb. 20 — March 20)

There is nothing you can do that is so final and so dramatic that it can fix a certain problem forever more. Time will eventually take care of this issue, with or without you.

Read Phil Booth at boothstars.com or at thestar.com/horoscope.

In New York, Pope calls for 'time for purification'
REUTERS
Pope Benedict XVI smiles as he celebrates Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York April 19, 2008.
April 19, 2008
The Associated Press

NEW YORK – Pope Benedict returned to the clergy sex abuse scandal as he preached today in St. Patrick's cathedral, assuring priests and nuns that he was close to them as they battled the damage left by the scandal.

Addressing some 3,000 people, most of them clergy, he called it a "time for purification" and healing.

"I simply wish to assure you, dear priests and religious, of my spiritual closeness as you strive to respond with Christian hope to he continuing challenges that this situation presents," Benedict said.

He also urged them to co-operate with bishops, who he said were working to resolve the crisis.

Today was the third anniversary of Benedict's election as Pope and he was feted by cardinals and bishops, priests and nuns who jammed the magnificent Gothic church on Fifth Avenue.

He was met outside by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, while former mayor Rudy Giuliani was inside.

Benedict blessed the cathedral with holy water before making his way to the altar of the landmark church. As he walked down the centre aisle, nuns clutched at his robes, showing an enthusiasm for his presence that has been mirrored by much of the American public.

Later today, Benedict was scheduled to speak to seminarians at a youth rally. Then on Sunday, the final day of his trip, he will visit ground zero and participate in a mass at Yankee Stadium.

The Vatican said the German-born Pope came outside from his residence on the Upper East Side Friday night to greet a crowd of more than 500 people who had lined up for hours. He shook hands and blessed the crowd before returning inside.

At the cathedral, Benedict touched on the theme of his trip – Christian hope – saying he wanted to communicate the joy born of faith to a cynical world.

But since the start of his trip Tuesday, Benedict has concentrated on the clergy sex abuse scandal that has shaken the U.S. church. He has said that it is more important to have good priests than many priests.

A top Vatican official now said the Roman Catholic Church is weighing a further change to clean up the clergy: revising church law so predators could be more easily removed.

"It's possible," said William Cardinal Levada, head of the Vatican office that reviews abuse claims against priests worldwide.

"There are some things under consideration that I'm not able to say," Levada told reporters Friday, in a meeting at Time magazine's offices.

It is the latest signal during Benedict's first papal visit to America that he is intent on purifying the priesthood as he affirms traditional Catholic practices and teaching.

He has also spoken privately with some victims in what is believed to be the first time a pontiff has met with people who had been abused by priests.

And he has told bishops the problem had sometimes been "badly handled" – an indirect but clear papal admonition.

Still, Benedict has offered support to America's clergy during his visit.

He said priests who had done nothing wrong had been unfairly tarred by the crisis. More than 4,000 clergy have been accused of molesting minors in the U.S. since 1950.

Abuse-related costs have surpassed $2 billion in that period, with much of the payouts in just the last six years. But most of the recent claims concern wrongdoing that occurred decades ago.

At the height of the scandal, which erupted in 2002 with the case of one predator in the Archdiocese of Boston, the shame was so intense that some priests took off their clergy collars before going out in public. Benedict compared their suffering to "Christ in his Passion."

However, morale has been improving as the intensity of the crisis has eased.

Seminary rectors say that their students are eager to show through their service to parishioners that the priesthood can still be a noble calling.

Yet Catholic clergy face other challenges beyond fallout from the abuse problem.

The priesthood has been shrinking for decades. More than 3,200 of the 18,600 U.S. parishes don't have resident priests, according to the Center for Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University.

Dioceses have been hiring recruiters to travel overseas to find clergy candidates. The number of priests from other countries has grown so steadily that some seminaries are adding English classes, hiring accent reduction tutors and providing courses on American culture.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Leo (July 23 — Aug. 22)

No matter how much we try to rationalize our behaviour, we are very much creatures of impulse and emotion. Symbolic gestures can often touch our hearts in a way that defies all logic. Someone's kind actions now will affect you deeply.

Gemini (May 21 — June 21)

The imminent full moon has placed a touchy emotive issue on the agenda. And it's making you feel rather unsettled. Allow this dynamic period to run its course. It will prove to be a positive cathartic process once a certain issue has been faced.

Scorpio (Oct. 24 — Nov. 22)

Trust your inner impulses and instincts now. If you listen carefully, they will point you in a very profitable direction. You are on the verge of breaching the ramparts of an old enemy within. It is now possible to achieve what your heart desires.

Pisces (Feb. 20 — March 20)

You feel as if you have a pressing responsibility to make a wise, clever choice. The smartest option of all is the one that involves going along with whatever seems to be happening naturally. The path of least resistance, now, is also the road to happiness.

Read Phil Booth at boothstars.com or at thestar.com/horoscope.

City braces for TTC strike
VINCE TALOTTA/TORONTO STAR
Commuters crowd the Yonge and Bloor St. subway station on April 17, 2008. Subways, streetcars and buses will be idled at 4 a.m. Monday unless the TTC reaches a settlement by Sunday at 4 p.m.
TTC riders worry about walkout

Zac Black will be walking to school.

Zompa Tenzin said her boss at McDonald's has promised to pay her cab fare.

Salme Samuels says she'll most likely take a vacation day if the TTC does go on strike Monday.

Those were three reactions from a rush hour crowd at Union Station abuzz about a possible strike yesterday.

"This is going to really (expletive) me over," Black, 27, said. He commutes daily from Oakville to attend a cosmetology school at Yonge and Bloor Sts. "I'm going to have to walk. I think hailing a cab will be next to impossible."

Tenzin is 16. She lives and goes to school up at York Mills, but comes downtown five days a week to the McDonald's job. "The manager said they might get a taxi for me," Tenzin said.

But for Samuels, the only backup plan is missing work.

The 59-year-old works downtown at the Canada Revenue Agency. She takes a bus from her home in the Steeles and Kipling Aves. area.

The trip takes about 75 minutes each way, and if there's no TTC, Samuels doesn't know how else to get to work.

"I don't know anyone who lives up by me to carpool with. I'm just going to play it by ear," she said. "I'll probably have to take a vacation day."

Brent Chisholm, 35, a Bay Street equities trader, said he'll be forced to drive from his home near Danforth and Greenwood Aves. "I live five minutes from the subway, so I never drive to work. But I guess I'll have to."

- Robyn Doolittle

Commuters and employers consider their options as the union begins countdown to possible walkout
April 18, 2008


Staff Reporters

Toronto commuters and businesses are bracing for a possible transit strike that could see the city grind to a halt just in time for the Monday morning rush.

Subways, streetcars and buses will stand idle as of 4 a.m. Monday unless the TTC reaches a contract settlement with its largest union by Sunday at 4 p.m. – the firm deadline announced by the union yesterday.

Even though both sides stressed they are still optimistic an agreement can be reached, officials and businesses throughout the city were making contingency plans for a possible Monday transit strike.

At the Royal York Hotel, where two-thirds of employees rely on discounted Metropasses to get to work, organizers said a strike would put a different spin on a leave-your-car-at-home Earth Day event planned for Tuesday.

And police were already warning drivers to be prepared for full-out gridlock and watch out for hordes of pedestrians and cyclists.

Transit union president Bob Kinnear said he was disappointed to have to threaten such drastic action, though his union has been in a legal strike position since April 1.

"But we have a choice: We can take this action or continue to be second-class in this city as far as wage and benefit packages in comparison to other city employees," said Kinnear, who heads Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113.

The union says it is looking for the same wages and benefits other city workers get and complains that Toronto transit wages lag behind those in Mississauga.

Even the issue of compensation for workers hurt on the job has not been resolved, as had been suggested earlier, according to Kinnear.

Kinnear called on Mayor David Miller and TTC chair Adam Giambrone to step in and ensure the 8,900 unionized transit workers – operators and maintenance employees – get a fair settlement.

"The fact of the matter is, the bus stops there, with the mayor. He's responsible to the constituents of Toronto. We're optimistic that he'll do the right thing and bring fairness and equality to the table and ensure there will be no disruption to service on Monday," Kinnear said, adding that, whatever he says publicly, Miller is involved in the negotiations.

But speaking to reporters from China, Miller said it's up to the elected TTC commissioners to handle the talks. "I'm in constant touch with my office and constantly briefed," he said.

"I would like Mr. Kinnear and his bargaining team to resolve issues at the table with (TTC chief general manager Gary) Webster and his bargaining team. That's how it should be done," said Miller, who is expected home on Sunday.

"I know the TTC is prepared to be fair, but neither the city nor the TTC is in a position to be overly generous," he said, adding that the transit agreement has the potential to set a pattern with other city contracts expiring later this year, including the police service.

"We've chosen to hire significant numbers of new police officers and significant numbers of new bus drivers," Miller said. "We're very pleased with those new investments. We have an obligation to pay our workers fairly and competitively, but there's not the money to be generous in those circumstances."

Miller's relationship with the transit union has been strained since the union's illegal strike in May 2006. He has said the union owed the city an apology, something Kinnear has never offered.

The mayor also backed the TTC's bid to exact compensation from the union for the cost of the strike, under the terms of the contract. The issue was settled last November.

But Kinnear's relationship with Giambrone has been more amicable. The union leader has praised the TTC chair's willingness to listen to workers' concerns even when he doesn't agree with them.

Still, Giambrone restated yesterday his commitment to remaining outside the negotiations.

"I'm not getting involved," he said. "The chair is not the one who should be doing the negotiating."

The TTC's two smaller unions, representing about 500 electrical and communications workers, and 50 machinists and millwrights, have both said they will walk off the job with the ATU's 8,900 members if they go on strike.

At least two city councillors want the province to declare public transit an essential service, which would lead to arbitration and mediation to resolve labour disputes.

"The TTC is an essential service for the people of Toronto," said Councillor Cliff Jenkins (Ward 25, Don Valley West). "We need to be acting on that as quickly as possible to have transit declared an essential service and to have the strike, if there is one, ended," said Jenkins, who with Councillor Cesar Palacio (Ward 17, Davenport) has drafted a motion to that effect.

Even a one-day loss of transit service, such as the 2006 walkout, causes huge disruptions, Palacio said. "The economic loss and the environmental situation that was created, and the chaos all around the city of Toronto was tremendous, and it was only one day."

Kinnear said back-to-work legislation may already be in the works.

But Premier Dalton McGuinty refused to comment directly on that possibility when asked by reporters in Barrie yesterday. Urging both sides to work harder to reach a deal to avoid commuter chaos, McGuinty said, "Failure is not an option."

Minister of Labour Brad Duguid was evasive when asked how long the government might let a strike drag on. "Let's hope that they can reach an agreement and we won't have to deal with any of that stuff," he told reporters at Queen's Park.

- With files from Paul Moloney, Rob Ferguson, San Grewal and Michele Henry

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Scope Of Things Today+Major stores pull plastic bottles off shelves

Leo (July 23 — Aug. 22)

For most of us, it is more than a life's work to discover all that we feel, think and truly aspire to. You are close to answering an important question that is preoccupying you. Take your time as your future depends on it.

Gemini (May 21 — June 21)

You may be getting excited about an idea that you fear isn't quite as good as it sounds. Yet you sense, quite rightly, that it may to lead to something valuable. Success depends on your ability to believe in it.

Scorpio (Oct. 24 — Nov. 22)

A recent discovery has improved the quality of communication between you and an important person. You may not yet see eye to eye, but you are both starting to understand what each of you is seeing.

Pisces (Feb. 20 — March 20)

Some of your hopes are hanging by a slender thread while others are firmly attached to a sturdy point of anchorage. By focusing on the latter, you will put yourself in the strongest possible position.

Read Phil Booth at boothstars.com or at thestar.com/horoscope.

Major stores pull plastic bottles off shelves
Health Canada expected to label chemical they contain – bisphenol A – a dangerous substance
April 15, 2008

THE CANADIAN PRESS

VANCOUVER–Three of Canada's major retailers said today they are pulling plastic water and baby bottles that contain the controversial chemical bisphenol A, in anticipation of Health Canada labelling it a dangerous substance.

The Forzani Group Ltd., Canada's largest sporting goods retailer, Hudson's Bay Co., which includes the Bay and Zellers stores, and Canadian Tire Corp. Ltd. said Tuesday they are removing BPA products and will refund customers who bought the bottles at their stores.

"Pending the government announcement, the company will immediately move to clear all 94 Bay stores and 280 Zellers stores of BPA baby products, and effective immediately, HBC will no longer sell any baby feeding products that are not BPA-free at any of its stores," the company said in an e-mail to The Canadian Press.

Bob Sartor, chief executive officer of Forzani, which has more than 500 stores across Canada under such banners as Sport Check, Athlete's World and Coast Mountain Sports, said the company began removing the water bottles early Tuesday.

Canadian Tire Corp. pulled all plastic water bottles and food storage containers known to contain BPA from store shelves at all Canadian Tire, Mark's Work Wearhouse and PartSource stores.

"While Health Canada's assessment and conclusions have not yet been completed, Canadian Tire, Mark's Work Wearhouse and PartSource are implementing the sales stop to err on the side of caution in the interest of customer safety," the company said.

Last year, Mountain Equipment Co-op removed plastic bottles containing BPA from its shelves, while Lululemon Athletica Inc. said all new water bottles arriving in its stores this year would be free of the chemical.

A Globe and Mail report that Health Canada is expected to announce the finding against BPA on Wednesday was "sufficient cause to take the high road and get it off the shelf," Sartor said in an interview.

"We are doing this out of an overabundance of caution."

Forzani couldn't immediately say how much sales revenue the water bottles represent, but said it wasn't material.

"Even if it was, the bottom line is that if there are any significant concerns, we have to deal with it."

If Health Canada marks BPA a dangerous substance it will be the first regulatory body in the world to do so, said Kapil Khatter, pollution policy adviser for Environmental Defence, a Toronto-based advocacy group that has lobbied for a ban on BPA in food and beverage containers.

"We have been saying for months there is enough evidence in animal studies that low doses of BPA are harmful," said Khatter.

"I think it's the right thing to do. They are being responsible about protecting our health."

A preliminary report issued Tuesday by the U.S. National Toxicology Program said experiments on rats found precancerous prostate tumours, urinary system problems and early puberty when the animals were fed or injected with low doses of the plastics chemical bisphenol-A.

While such animal studies only provide "limited evidence" of bisphenol's developmental risks, the group's draft report stresses the possible effects on humans "cannot be dismissed." The group is made up of scientists from the Centers for Disease Control, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Institutes of Health.

Khatter said the government's options include an outright ban of the chemical, which he says may be unrealistic, to taking it out of production, or a substitution plan.

"What we hope they would do is work with the industry to get it out of the system," said Khatter. "We just want them to get it done."

Environmental Defence released a study earlier this year showing some of the most popular plastic baby bottles sold across Canada have all turned up "very significant" levels of BPA.

In the study, nine different polycarbonate bottles from three different major manufacturers were heated during testing and leached levels of the chemical that ranged between five to eight parts per billion.

BPA acts like the hormone estrogen and can alter cell function. Chemical studies on animals have linked the product to cancer and infertility.

"The biggest concern is that we are exposing ourselves to these foreign estrogens," said Stelvio Bandiera, a professor of Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of British Columbia.

While he isn't aware of any studies showing the impact of BPA in humans, Bandiera said that if animals are impacted by the chemical ``it is possible it could produce the same effects in humans."

However, Steve Hentges, executive director of the polycarbonate-BPA global group at the American Chemistry Council argues there is a "huge body of evidence" that shows the chemical is not harmful.

"(These studies) support the conclusion there is no risk to human health, particularly at extremely low levels," which he says the water bottles contain.

Hentges called the retailers' decision to remove the bottles ``premature."

"The science doesn't support it."

Health Minister Tony Clement wouldn't confirm or deny Tuesday that Health Canada is poised to label BPA as a dangerous substance.

"I'm not here to speculate and certainly when we have something that has been determined, we'll immediately get that out to the public," Clement said.

"Our primary responsibility is the health and safety of Canadians. I believe we have to err on the side of caution, and I believe we have to let science dictate what our determinations must be."

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Scope Of Things Today

Leo (July 23 — Aug. 22)

Mars is giving you the power to accomplish things that you once only have dreamed of. While it is providing you with energy and stamina, Mercury is whispering a brilliant plan in your inner ear.

Gemini (May 21 — June 21)

You are caught up in a drama that you cannot completely control. There are certain shots which are not yours to call. You will discover though, that you have a lot more influence than you think – enough, in fact, to attract plenty of admiration and even perhaps a little money.

Scorpio (Oct. 24 — Nov. 22)

Your empathetic nature is now very sensitive to events in your environment which are starting to affect the hearts and minds of others. Whatever the reason, you're on the verge of having a brilliant idea that will be welcomed by everyone.

Pisces (Feb. 20 — March 20)

The future is a promissory note that might, or might not, pay up. The past is an expired cheque. The present is the only cash you have, so spend it wisely. Be glad of what you've got now and your future investments will enrich you.

Read Phil Booth at boothstars.com or at thestar.com/horoscope

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