Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Ontario files $50B tobacco suit

Ontario files $50B tobacco suit
Simon Hayter/Toronto Star File Photo
A man has a cigarette at Grovers bar on Kingston Rd. before by-laws outlawed indoor smoking. (June, 2004)
Seeks to recoup smoking-related health care costs dating back to 1955
September 29, 2009

Queen's Park Bureau

Ontario is suing tobacco companies for $50 billion to recover costs of treating citizens with smoking-related illnesses since 1955.

The lawsuit was filed today and follows enabling legislation passed earlier this year that sets the stage for the court case.

If Ontario is successful in proving its allegations of wrongdoing, tobacco companies would pay damages based on their share of cigarette sales in the marketplace.

Tobacco companies are now expected to file statements of their intent to defend themselves against the lawsuit, which could take years to wind its way through the courts.

British Columbia is also suing tobacco companies, and U.S. jurisdictions have done so as well.

The Ontario government says smoking is the number one preventable cause of death in the province, killing 13,000 people a year - or 36 per day - and costs taxpayers $1.6 billion annually.

Lucy in the skies with diamonds Dead at 46

Lucy Vodden, the woman who inspired John Lennon to write Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds has died of Lupus at age 46. Lucy Vodden, whose maiden name was Lucy O'Donnell, was a childhood schoolmate of John Lennon's son, Julian Lennon.

The song is often thought to have been inspired by the drug LSD, and appeared on the album Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, released in 1967. John Lennon's oldest son Julian has said that the song was inspired by a picture that he drew of Lucy O'Donnell in 1966, when the two of them were attending nursery school together. Julian brought the picture home and told his father it was Lucy in the sky with diamonds.

Lucy O'Donnell, wife of Ross Vodden, died in Surbiton, Surrey.

Photos used to brand woman imposter

Photos used to brand woman imposter
An upset Suaad Hagi Mohamud, 31, left, pictured at the airport three weeks after arriving in Nairobi, was deemed to be not the same woman who was photographed on entering the country, right.
September 29, 2009

Staff Reporter

Two photos, one woman.

For the first time, Canadians can see two photographs that prompted federal officials to prevent Toronto's Suaad Hagi Mohamud from returning home for three months, even though she presented more than a dozen pieces of ID.

The photos are among a mountain of papers filed Monday with the Federal Court to explain why Canadian consular officials in Nairobi branded Mohamud an imposter and not the owner of her passport.

She was held, including in an eight-day stint in a Nairobi jail, while her family and friends in Canada mounted a campaign to bring her home and reunite her with her 12-year-old son.

The documents blame Mohamud, saying she gave contradictory statements that led officials to suspect her, and point to the photos, which apparently triggered her initial detention by a Kenyan airport official.

While her face looks wider in one photo, it's likely distorted because it was taken from surveillance camera video, Raoul Boulakia, one of Mohamud's lawyers, told the Star on Monday.

"The photos look like they've been taken by a `keyhole' camera and her face looks distorted," he said. "But it's clearly the same person."

The first photo was taken April 29, the day Mohamud flew into Nairobi. Her face is fuzzy, she's wearing a cream-coloured headscarf and her mouth is slightly open.

In the other photo, taken three weeks later while she was being interrogated at the Nairobi airport, it is obvious she has been crying.

"If the government is saying this is what made (consular officials) doubt her, it's pretty weak," Boulakia said.

Mohamud, 31, tried to fly home to Toronto on May 21 but was detained at the airport for not looking like her four-year-old passport photo.

The Canadian High Commission in Nairobi called Mohamud an imposter, cancelled her passport and recommended prosecution.

Weeks later, the federal government bowed to pressure and agreed to do a DNA test, which confirmed her identity.

She returned to Toronto amid a media frenzy on Aug. 15.

Days later, Mohamud – a Canadian citizen born in Somalia – launched a lawsuit against the Canadian government, seeking $2.6 million in compensation for her ordeal.

The federal documents filed Monday say that, in addition to the differing photos, officials found she couldn't answer basic questions about Canada, according to the CBC, which viewed the papers.

In one interview, she couldn't name the Prime Minister.

"Are they saying because she didn't know who Stephen Harper was, they couldn't figure out who she was?" Boulakia asked.

Mohamud, who has not given any interviews since she returned to Toronto, was unavailable for comment.

Monday, September 28, 2009

All is not as it appears...

The Truth About Canadian Health System

Monday September 21, 2009

The Truth About Canadian Health Care

Americans are debating the future of their nation’s health care and as they do so, they keep looking beyond their borders to the systems in place in other countries. And, very often, their attention rests on Canada. More often than not, at least today, it is conservatives focusing on Canada, telling stories of woe, describing the utter breakdown of health care. You hear of people who have been forced to mortgage their homes and travel to the United States in order to receive basic care; you hear of people forced south of the border by hospitals that have no free beds; you hear of people who are utterly unable to find even a family doctor. Believe the press and you’ll think the Canadian system is in utter disrepair.

Now I am not much of one for politics, and especially so when those politics span two nations. Neither am I an economist who can talk about how Canada’s health care system impacts the nation financially (though obviously it’s a significant burden on the taxpayer). But what I do want to say is this: the truth about Canadian Health Care is that it’s really stinkin’ good. As a nation we are hard-wired to complain and we do tend to complain about our health system as we grumble about our politicians, hockey players and donuts. But we also like to boast and when we talk to Americans, one of the things we like to boast in most is the health care system (or the beer, depending on your personality type).

And it is good (the health care, that is—I’m not qualified to comment on the beer). When I hear Glenn Beck talking about the Canadian system as if it is hand-in-hand with Cuba, well, my blood boils a little bit. Of course I have little to go on beyond personal experiences and those of friends and family. But my experience is uniformly good. If I need to see my family doctor, I can call him and get an appointment usually the same day and, if not, shortly after. If I don’t care to wait, I can go to a walk-in clinic where, depending on the day, I may be seen immediately or after a couple of hours of waiting (there are at least four of these clinics within a fifteen minute drive of my home). Hospital emergency rooms, especially in cities, tend to be a little busy, but only if you have been triaged and determined not to need immediate care. If you need a couple of stitches, you may be waiting a little while; if you have a heart attack, you’ll receive much higher priority. I have only known one person who has gone to the US for treatment and, in her case, she chose not to wait a week for a mammogram. Living within minutes of the border and wishing to free her mind from worry, it was an easy choice for her to expedite things by driving to the US. When I speak to friends and family I generally hear the same things. Sure, we might like wait times to be a little shorter here and there; elective surgeries can come with long waiting times and in some locales there are just not enough doctors to go around. But overall, I do not know of a single Canadian who would trade our system for that of our neighbors to the south. I know of many more people who travel from the US to Canada to receive health care than vice versa. In fact, I hear there is a bustling business in forging health cards so Americans can pose as Canadians and be treated as them. If the health care is that bad, why would people be crossing the border to enjoy it?

It is worth nothing that in 2004 Canadians voted for the Greatest Canadian (yes, I know it was run through the liberal CBC, but still…) and winner was Tommy Douglas, the man who engineered the whole system. Though few Canadians would share his socialist political ideology (sitting as we are under a Conservative government), fewer still have any desire to dismantle the system he created. Is it a perfect system? No way. I don’t think there is a single nation we can point at as having a perfect system. But Canada’s system has to be as good as just about any of them.

Now it must be admitted that health care falls under the domain of the individual provinces, so care will differ from province-to-province. It is likely to be better in the Greater Toronto Area where I live than it is far to the north where towns are few and far between. Is it sustainable in the long term? I don’t have an easy answer. We could probably provide endless caveats. But for the average Canadian, the health care system is entirely adequate and we really have no good reason to complain. Take the time to ask Canadians and I am sure this is what you will find. There will always been exceptions, but for the majority of Canadians the majority of the time, our health coverage is exceptional.

I do not mean this as a defense or endorsement of what President Obama is proposing in the United States. Admittedly, if I were American, I’d be highly suspicious of the plan, especially when looking to the economics of it. Instead, I write all this simply to remind you, “don’t believe everything you hear.” This is as true when the rhetoric is coming from a conservative mouthpiece as when it comes from a liberal.

(For further reading, here are just a couple of useful articles: The Truth About Canadian Healthcare and Healthcare: Public vs. Private.)

Prostate Cancer Canadian Medical Breakthru

Microchip spots cancer quickly and painlessly

September 28, 2009

Megan Ogilvie

Toronto researchers have developed a portable device they say will accurately diagnose prostate cancer in 30 minutes.

The microchip technology, created by a pair of University of Toronto scientists, will be able to determine the severity of the tumours through a simple urine sample and produce quick diagnosis with no need for painful biopsies.

Now heading into the engineering stage, a BlackBerry-sized device should be available for doctors' use within two to three years and eventually could be tuned to detect a broad range of cancers and infectious ailments, the researchers say.

"The goal would be to produce a result ... while you're sitting in the waiting room," said engineering professor Ted Sargent, who holds the U of T's Canada Research Chair in Nanotechnology.

A paper on the work was published yesterday in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

The device uses a fingertip-sized microchip – fitted with microscopic meshing – programmed to detect DNA sequences and proteins uniquely produced by specific cancers or pathogens.

These "biomarkers" would be drawn from urine or blood samples.

"We simply put a sample on the chip and we have a nice small chip reader that then analyses it and tells you what markers are in the sample," said Shana Kelley, a U of T pharmacology professor and study co-author.

Detected markers can tell you not only which kind of cancer is present, but also the stage and severity the tumour has attained.

"That's very important to be able to do that because cancers are actually a bunch of different diseases with different levels of aggressiveness," said Kelley. "Particularly in prostate cancer, there are very non-aggressive forms ... that you simply want to leave alone."

Kelley said the technology could herald an age of surgery-free diagnosis for cancer patients. "The real drive is toward non-invasive diagnostics so we can just screen people without having to take parts of their organs in order to do it," she said.

Dr. Tom Hudson, scientific director of the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, said the study is "proof of principle" that it is possible to have a quick, affordable technology that can test for different cancer biomarkers at once.

"This is a critical step," he said. "They have shown you can detect this gene mutation (for prostate cancer). And if you extrapolate that you can do it for one gene, you could probably do it for 100 or 1,000."

Scientists are working hard to identify biomarkers for specific cancers and test those markers' usefulness in diagnosing cancer in patients. Some 1,000 biomarkers have been found, but Hudson said only nine of those have been validated so far in the clinic.

The other challenge is to find a way to test for many different biomarkers at once and develop a cost-effective technology to do it.

Hudson cautioned the device is still a long way off from being a staple in doctor's offices.

"How we make these (biomarker) tests happen in the clinic or in the clinical lab really needed some advances in technology. And Kelley and Sargent have done all the proof of principles here for a technology that's going to work."

For the initial work, Sargent and Kelley looked at prostate cancer, which has a set of signature biomarkers, shown in many studies to accurately portray the presence and severity of that disease.

The pair showed the chips were well able to pick up these makers in the minuscule concentrations typically found in the urine of prostate cancer patients.

But even now, Kelley said, they are shifting the technology's sights to other cancers and ailments.

"We've already done a little bit of work with head and neck cancer," Kelley said. "But really any cancer where there is an established molecular profile, we should be able to pick up using this device."

Sargent said he envisions the devices being a commonplace tool in doctors' offices around the world, along with a binder full of chips for different cancers and diseases.

"Say you were looking for H1N1 (influenza) or some dangerous infectious agent, there could be chips specific to those," he said. "You would just insert the proper one."

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Roman Polanski taken into custody on U.S. warrant

Roman Polanski taken into custody on U.S. warrant
Roman Polanski, Paris-born Polish director of films such as "Chinatown, " listens to a reporter during a news conference in Bangkok, Thailand, Saturday, Oct. 15, 2005.
September 27, 2009


ZURICH, Switzerland – Director Roman Polanski was taken into custody, Swiss police confirmed Sunday, on a 1978 U.S. arrest warrant for having sex with a 13-year-old girl.

Polanski was flying in to receive an honorary award at the Zurich Film Festival when he was detained late Saturday at the airport, organizers at the festival said in a statement.

Zurich police spokesman Stefan Oberlin confirmed Polanski's arrest, but refused to provide more details because he said it was a matter for the Swiss Justice Ministry.

Ministry spokesman Guido Balmer declined to comment. Rudolf Wyss, the Justice Ministry deputy director, also declined to comment on the case. But he said that Switzerland and the U.S. have an extradition treaty dating back to the 1950s that is still in force.

Polanski fled the United States in 1978, a year after pleading guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse with a 13-year-old girl.

The 76-year-old director of such classic films as "Chinatown" and "Rosemary's Baby" has asked a U.S. appeals court in California to overturn a judges' refusal to throw out his case. He claims misconduct by the now-deceased judge who had arranged a plea bargain and then reneged on it.

Polanski has lived for the past three decades in France, where his career has continued to flourish. He received a directing Oscar in absentia for the 2002 movie "The Pianist."

Festival organizers said Polanski's detention had caused "shock and dismay," but that they would go ahead with Sunday's planned retrospective of the director's work.

The Swiss Directors Association sharply criticized authorities for what it deemed "not only a grotesque farce of justice, but also an immense cultural scandal."

A native of France who was taken to Poland by his parents, Polanski escaped Krakow's Jewish ghetto as a child and lived off the charity of strangers. His mother died at the Auschwitz Nazi death camp.

He worked his way into filmmaking in Poland, gaining an Oscar nomination for best foreign-language film in 1964 for his "Knife in the Water." Offered entry to Hollywood, he directed the classic ``Rosemary's Baby" in 1968.

But his life was shattered again in 1969 when his wife, actress Sharon Tate, and four other people were gruesomely murdered by followers of Charles Manson. She was eight months pregnant.

He went on to make another American classic, "Chinatown," released in 1974.

In 1977, he was accused of raping a teenager while photographing her during a modelling session. The girl said Polanski plied her with champagne and part of a Quaalude pill at Jack Nicholson's house while the actor was away. She said that, despite her protests, he performed oral sex, intercourse and sodomy on her.

Polanski was allowed to plead guilty to one of six charges, unlawful sexual intercourse, and was sent to prison for 42 days of evaluation.

Lawyers agreed that would be his full sentence, but the judge tried to renege on the plea bargain. Aware the judge would sentence him to more prison time and require his voluntary deportation, Polanski fled to France.

The now 45-year-old victim, Samantha Geimer, who long ago identified herself publicly, has joined in Polanski's bid for dismissal, saying she wants the case to be over. She sued Polanski and reached an undisclosed settlement.

Driving In Canada- Hwy. 401 leaves trail of low tanks and aching bladders TheStar.com - Ontario - Hwy. 401 leaves trail of low tanks ,aching bladder

Hwy. 401 leaves trail of low tanks and aching bladders
A sign announcing government service centre in Mallorytown, west of Brockville, warns motorists it's the last chance for roadside fillups (and bathroom stops) until Quebec border.
The Star's Jim Rankin tarvels a highway that's running low on rest stops
September 27, 2009

Most of Ontario's 23 rest stops on 400 series highways are aging and slated for closure and renovations. With gas company leases expiring simultaneously, it means long gaps between stations, and the distances will soon become longer in spots between Windsor and the Quebec line.

Critics say the government renovation plan makes no sense, is unsafe and is killing jobs in the communities near the stations.

The government says the rest stops are in rough shape and that the rebuilding will create many jobs over the next five years.

With this in mind, the Star hit the road with a full coffee mug and gas tank and headed east.


Finished coffee while still leaving Toronto on the DVP, which was bumper to bumper. Need more. Can't bear the thought of waiting for the first official government rest stop on 401.

The Fifth Wheel, a privately owned truck stop just off the highway, is filled with big rigs and a busload of tourists from Quebec, who snap pictures of the trucks. They can order a sit-down breakfast here and, in a store loaded with travel necessities, buy puppy and frog figurines, "Support the Troops" T-shirts and hex lug nut covers.

The coffee is excellent.

Out back, Spencer Jefferies, 19, pumps diesel. The on-highway rest stop closures mean more business for the service stations and truck stops like this one that pepper the exits along the 401.

"If it brings more business to us, it might be good," says Jefferies. "Tell 'em to come on down to the Fifth Wheel."

At another pump, Charlie Woods, a Mississauga orthodontist, and two hunting buddies refuel a diesel pickup truck belonging to one of the men, a farmer. The truck is decked out with an extra field tank, which means they will make it to the Quebec cabin where they'll spend a week hunting for moose without having to stop again for fuel.

Still, nature will call, and Woods says he often makes use of the rest stops, which he notes are getting "pretty dingy, pretty tired. But I guess they have a function."

The farmer in the group has no use for the official stops and boasts about his bladder: "My wife says I'm like a camel."


Just passed three signs, one in French, warning that there is no fuel for next 153 kilometres. Bladder straining so must stop to "break the seal."

Trucker Steven Spears of Cambridge, en route to Montreal, has stopped at this government service stop for a Tim Hortons coffee and doughnut. He prefers the government stops over truck stops because he finds it easier to manoeuvre his rig. He is upset about how the government is rebuilding the centres and says some have sat closed for more than a year.

"It'll impact everyone. It makes no sense. They should have planned it a little better."

Inside the centre, a sign in the men's washroom assures that the place was "certified" clean a week earlier. It remains clean. There is plenty of soap and one can buy a disposable toothbrush.

Outside, Glenn Degroof, 29, and Laura Bauters, 23, of Belgium, take a smoke break. They're headed east after visiting Toronto and Niagara Falls, and, heeding the highway warnings, stopped for fuel. The two have travelled across Europe and speak highly of Ontario, even its aging road stops.

"We've seen worse," says Degroof. "It's not as modern but it's clean."


Feeling peckish. Beef jerky in order.

The warning signs have conjured up visions of motorists pulling off the highway to relieve themselves and of others wandering around with jerry cans, out of fuel and baking in the sun. Neither are spotted in this gap. It must be noted that one can always just leave the highway at most any exit between Port Hope and Kingston and find 24-hour food and fuel. This is not a desert by any means.

That said, having braved the 153 "no-fuel-and-no-rest-stop" kilometres and soldiering on past the closed Trenton stop, travellers stretch and walk dogs at this aging service centre. Inside, the men's room appears clean, but the urinals are permanently stained and smell of urine.

Staff here are nervous. They don't know when this stop might be closed and their jobs gone. It could be years, since the government has said it will do what it can to ensure the service-less gaps are not too big. "We're next," figures one worker.

"I sure as heck don't agree with the closures," says another from Tim Hortons. "A lot of people are going to be unemployed." And, echoing the earlier truck driver, "I don't think they planned it out very well."

The travel centre's manager from HMSHost, a company that specializes in running such centres across North America, arrives and shuts down the chat. "We don't know anything," she says, and tells staff not to talk to a reporter.



Staff here aren't worried about talking. On Wednesday, the service centres on both sides of the highway will close.

A plaque at the Mallorytown North centre commemorates the 1968 completion of the final stretch of the Macdonald-Cartier Freeway. The 401 delivered a financial hit to the towns and villages along the old Highway 2.

Now, the closure of the two service stations on the super highway is causing another hit to this area between Kingston and Brockville.

On a picnic table at the south travel centre, Diane Polstra, 50, scratches a lottery ticket hoping to strike it rich. She will be looking for work come 10 a.m. Wednesday after five years as a maintenance worker.

"It's done," says Polstra, who lives 45 minutes away. Staff have seen this coming for two years, she says, and only at the last moment did anybody – notably local MPP Bob Runciman – pay any attention. "It's too late to help."

Hundreds of service jobs will be lost during reconstructions of the rest stops, but the province says, upon completion, some 2,500 jobs will have been generated.

Polstra intends to take advantage of government retraining money to go back to school.

To do what?

"Funeral director," she says, laughing. "I want to pick a career I know is going to be there. The baby boomers are a'coming."

"At least no one will talk to you," pipes up Linda Hill, 53, on a smoke break. Hill has an interview with a data collection company.

Both would love to land something full-time, but "it's all service work and it's all minimum wage," says Hill.

Polstra finishes scratching. She doesn't win.


Now Toronto-bound. Have to pee so bad that my teeth are floating.

Although the station on the south side is closed, with backhoes tackling storage tanks, the one on the north side seems untouched. Slated to be rebuilt, it sits behind a fence.

It's an interim station – no fuel. There are two portables, one with washrooms, the other a snack bar with vending machines.

"The washrooms are very clean," says Johanna Cameron, 32, a civil servant from Ottawa travelling to Toronto with her mother and 6-week-old son, Nicolas.

He needed a change and Cameron was pleased to see that the restroom had a baby table.

The snacks, however, "suck," she said.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Strange But True...

They used to use urine to tan animal skins, so families used to all pee in a pot & then once a day it was taken & sold to the tannery.......
if you had to do this to survive you were "Piss Poor" But worse than that were the really poor folk who couldn't even afford to buy a pot......they "didn't have a pot to piss in" & were the lowest of the low

The next time you are washing your hands and complain because the water temperature isn't just how you like it, think about how things used to be. Here are some facts about the 1500's:

Most people got married in June because they took their yearly bath in May, and they still smelled pretty good by June.. However, since they were starting to smell . .. . brides carried a bouquet of flowers to hide the body odor. Hence the custom today of carrying a bouquet when getting married.

Baths consisted of a big tub filled with hot water. The man of the house had the privilege of the nice clean water, then all the other sons and men, then the women and finally the children. Last of all the
babies. By then the water was so dirty you could actually lose someone in it. Hence the saying, "Don't throw the baby out with the Bath water!"

Houses had thatched roofs-thick straw-piled high, with no wood underneath. It was the only place for animals to get warm, so all the cats and other small animals (mice, bugs) lived in the roof. When it rained it became slippery and sometimes the animals would slip an d fall off the roof. Hence the saying "It's raining cats and dogs."

There was nothing to stop things from falling into the house. This posed a real problem in the bedroom where bugs and other droppings could mess up your nice clean bed. Hence, a bed with big posts and a sheet hung over the top afforded some protection. That's how canopy beds came into existence.

The floor was dirt. Only the wealthy had something other than dirt. Hence the saying, "Dirt poor." The wealthy had slate floors that would get slippery in the winter when wet, so they spread thresh (straw) on floor to help keep their footing. As the winter wore on, they added more thresh until, when you opened the door, it would all start slipping outside. A piece of wood was placed in the entrance-way. Hence: a thresh hold.

(Getting quite an education, aren't you?)

In those old days, they cooked in the kitchen with a big kettle that always hung over the fire.. Every day they lit the fire and added things to the pot. They ate mostly vegetables and did not get much meat. They would eat the stew for dinner, leaving leftovers in the pot to get cold overnight and then start over the next day. Sometimes stew had food in it that had been there for quite a while. Hence the rhyme: Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot nine days old.

Sometimes they could obtain pork, which made them feel quite special.. When visitors came over, they would hang up their bacon to show off. It was a sign of wealth that a man could, "bring home the bacon." They would cut off a little to share with guests and would all sit around and chew the fat.

Those with money had plates made of pewter. Food with high acid content caused some of the lead to leach onto the food, causing lead poisoning death. This happened most often with tomatoes, so for the next 400 years or so, tomatoes were considered poisonous.

Bread was divided according to status. Workers got the burnt bottom
of the loaf, the family got the middle, and guests got the top, or the upper crust.

Lead cups were used to drink ale or whisky. The combination would sometimes knock the imbibers out for a couple of days. Someone walking along the road would take them for dead and prepare them for burial. They were laid out on the kitchen table for a couple of days and the family would gather around and eat and drink and wait and see if they would wake up. Hence the custom of holding a wake.

England is old and small and the local folks started running out of places to bury people. So they would dig up coffins and would take the bones to a bone-house, and reuse the grave. When reopening these coffins, 1 out of 25 coffins were found to have scratch marks on the inside and they realized they had been burying people alive. So they would tie a string on the wrist of the corpse, lead it through the coffin and up through the ground and tie it to a bell. Someone would have to sit out in the graveyard all night (the graveyard shift.) to listen for the bell; thus,someone could be, saved by the bell or was considered a dead ringer...

And that's the truth...Now, whoever said History was boring ! ! !

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Why Does David Letterman run across the stage before the screen goes up?

Why Does David Letterman run across the stage before the screen goes up?

According to Tony Mendez, it's because Letterman walks down a long hallway to get there, but because they film in real time, he waits for the music to start before he starts walking. He has to time it to where he's at the right spot at exactly the right time. This is why sometimes you see him run across the stage, and other times he's already there.


Ukrainian sand animator a YouTube sensation

Ukrainian sand animator a YouTube sensation
Twenty-four-year-old Kseniya Simonova draws a constantly evolving series of illustrations, in sand, during the TV show Ukraine's Got Talent. Simonova won the contest.
September 21, 2009

Of all the Internet videos to go viral this year, it is hands-down the most unusual: an eight-minute performance from the TV show Ukraine's Got Talent during which a 24-year-old "sand animator" named Kseniya Simonova draws a constantly evolving series of illustrations, in sand, showing how ordinary people suffered in the wake of the German invasion in World War II.

The unlikely YouTube sensation has been viewed more than 2 million times.

The performance reduced many in the audience –as well as at least one of the three judges – to tears. A section of the shifting pictures is set to a classical version of "Nothing Else Matters," performed by Finnish cello act Apocalyptica but originally done by heavy metal band Metallica.

Simonova was named winner of Ukraine's Got Talent, taking home prize money equivalent to about $135,000 CDN.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

George Carlin Thoughts? I dont think so,,,

George Carlin frequently gets connected to anything on the web that looks like a rant or a witty observation of society's absurdities (Such as A Bad American). This false attribution motivated him to devote an entire area of his website to denying authorship of stuff he calls "really lame." He directly addresses this chain: "The main problem I have with it is that as true as some of the expressed sentiments may be, who really gives a s--t?" Now, that's the Carlin we know and love. Examples of "Paradox" I found on the web were attributed either to Carlin or "anonymous." Before forwarding this one, ask yourself this question: Would you like it less if it didn't come from Carlin? If so, maybe it isn't as good as you thought. Break this Chain.

Isn't it amazing that George Carlin - comedian of the 70's and 80's - could be attributed with writing something so very eloquent...well he didn't

The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings but shorter tempers, wider Freeways ,
but narrower viewpoints. We spend more, but have less, we buy more, but enjoy less. We have bigger houses and smaller families, more conveniences, but less time. We have more degrees but less sense, more knowledge, but less judgment, more experts, yet more problems, more medicine, but less wellness.

We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, get too angry, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too little, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom.

We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often.

We've learned how to make a living, but not a life. We've added years to life not life to years. We've been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet a new neighbor. We conquered outer space but not inner space. We've done larger things, but not better things..

We've cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul. We've conquered the atom, but not our prejudice. We write more, but learn less.. We plan more, but accomplish less. We've learned to rush, but not to wait.. We build more computers to hold more information, to produce more copies than ever, but we communicate less and less.

These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion, big men and small character, steep profits and shallow relationships. These are the days of two incomes but more divorce, fancier houses, but broken homes. These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throwaway morality, one night stands, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything from cheer, to quiet, to kill. It is a time when there is much in the showroom window and nothing in the stockroom. A time when technology can bring this letter to you, and a time when you can choose either to share this insight, or to just hit delete...

Remember; spend some time with your loved ones, because they are not going to be around forever.

Remember, say a kind word to someone who looks up to you in awe, because that little person soon will grow up and leave your side.

Remember, to give a warm hug to the one next to you, because that is the only treasure you can give with your heart and it doesn't cost a cent.

Remember, to say, 'I love you' to your partner and your loved ones, but most of all mean it. A kiss and an embrace will mend hurt when it comes from deep inside of you.

Remember to hold hands and cherish the moment for someday that person will not be there again.

Give time to love, give time to speak! And give time to share the precious thoughts in your mind.


Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away..

George Carlin On Religion

When it comes to bullshit, big-time, major league bullshit, you have to stand in awe of the all-time champion of false promises and exaggerated claims, religion. No contest. No contest. Religion. Religion easily has the greatest bullshit story ever told. Think about it. Religion has actually convinced people that there's an invisible man living in the sky who watches everything you do, every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a special list of ten things he does not want you to do.

And if you do any of these ten things, he has a special place, full of fire and smoke and burning and torture and anguish, where he will send you to live and suffer and burn and choke and scream and cry forever and ever 'til the end of time!

But He loves you.

He loves you, and He needs money! He always needs money! He's all-powerful, all-perfect, all-knowing, and all-wise, somehow just can't handle money! Religion takes in billions of dollars, they pay no taxes, and they always need a little more. Now, you talk about a good bullshit story. Holy Shit!

But I want you to know something, this is sincere, I want you to know, when it comes to believing in God, I really tried. I really, really tried. I tried to believe that there is a God, who created each of us in His own image and likeness, loves us very much, and keeps a close eye on things. I really tried to believe that, but I gotta tell you, the longer you live, the more you look around, the more you realize, something is fucked up.

Something is wrong here. War, disease, death, destruction, hunger, filth, poverty, torture, crime, corruption, and the Ice Capades. Something is definitely wrong. This is not good work. If this is the best God can do, I am not impressed. Results like these do not belong on the résumé of a Supreme Being. This is the kind of shit you'd expect from an office temp with a bad attitude. And just between you and me, in any decently-run universe, this guy would've been out on his all-powerful ass a long time ago. And by the way, I say "this guy", because I firmly believe, looking at these results, that if there is a God, it has to be a man.

No woman could or would ever fuck things up like this. So, if there is a God, I think most reasonable people might agree that he's at least incompetent, and maybe, just maybe, doesn't give a shit. Doesn't give a shit, which I admire in a person, and which would explain a lot of these bad results.

So rather than be just another mindless religious robot, mindlessly and aimlessly and blindly believing that all of this is in the hands of some spooky incompetent father figure who doesn't give a shit, I decided to look around for something else to worship. Something I could really count on.

And immediately, I thought of the sun. Happened like that. Overnight I became a sun-worshipper. Well, not overnight, you can't see the sun at night. But first thing the next morning, I became a sun-worshipper. Several reasons. First of all, I can see the sun, okay? Unlike some other gods I could mention, I can actually see the sun. I'm big on that. If I can see something, I don't know, it kind of helps the credibility along, you know? So everyday I can see the sun, as it gives me everything I need; heat, light, food, flowers in the park, reflections on the lake, an occasional skin cancer, but hey. At least there are no crucifixions, and we're not setting people on fire simply because they don't agree with us.

Sun worship is fairly simple. There's no mystery, no miracles, no pageantry, no one asks for money, there are no songs to learn, and we don't have a special building where we all gather once a week to compare clothing. And the best thing about the sun, it never tells me I'm unworthy. Doesn't tell me I'm a bad person who needs to be saved. Hasn't said an unkind word. Treats me fine. So, I worship the sun. But, I don't pray to the sun. Know why? I wouldn't presume on our friendship. It's not polite.

I've often thought people treat God rather rudely, don't you? Asking trillions and trillions of prayers every day. Asking and pleading and begging for favors. Do this, gimme that, I need a new car, I want a better job. And most of this praying takes place on Sunday His day off. It's not nice. And it's no way to treat a friend.

But people do pray, and they pray for a lot of different things, you know, your sister needs an operation on her crotch, your brother was arrested for defecating in a mall. But most of all, you'd really like to fuck that hot little redhead down at the convenience store. You know, the one with the eyepatch and the clubfoot? Can you pray for that? I think you'd have to. And I say, fine. Pray for anything you want. Pray for anything, but what about the Divine Plan?

Remember that? The Divine Plan. Long time ago, God made a Divine Plan. Gave it a lot of thought, decided it was a good plan, put it into practice. And for billions and billions of years, the Divine Plan has been doing just fine. Now, you come along, and pray for something. Well suppose the thing you want isn't in God's Divine Plan? What do you want Him to do? Change His plan? Just for you? Doesn't it seem a little arrogant? It's a Divine Plan. What's the use of being God if every run-down shmuck with a two-dollar prayerbook can come along and fuck up Your Plan?

And here's something else, another problem you might have: Suppose your prayers aren't answered. What do you say? "Well, it's God's will." "Thy Will Be Done." Fine, but if it's God's will, and He's going to do what He wants to anyway, why the fuck bother praying in the first place? Seems like a big waste of time to me! Couldn't you just skip the praying part and go right to His Will? It's all very confusing.

So to get around a lot of this, I decided to worship the sun. But, as I said, I don't pray to the sun. You know who I pray to? Joe Pesci. Two reasons: First of all, I think he's a good actor, okay? To me, that counts. Second, he looks like a guy who can get things done. Joe Pesci doesn't fuck around. In fact, Joe Pesci came through on a couple of things that God was having trouble with.

For years I asked God to do something about my noisy neighbor with the barking dog, Joe Pesci straightened that cocksucker out with one visit. It's amazing what you can accomplish with a simple baseball bat.

So I've been praying to Joe for about a year now. And I noticed something. I noticed that all the prayers I used to offer to God, and all the prayers I now offer to Joe Pesci, are being answered at about the same 50% rate. Half the time I get what I want, half the time I don't. Same as God, 50-50. Same as the four-leaf clover and the horseshoe, the wishing well and the rabbit's foot, same as the Mojo Man, same as the Voodoo Lady who tells you your fortune by squeezing the goat's testicles, it's all the same: 50-50. So just pick your superstition, sit back, make a wish, and enjoy yourself.

And for those of you who look to The Bible for moral lessons and literary qualities, I might suggest a couple of other stories for you. You might want to look at the Three Little Pigs, that's a good one. Has a nice happy ending, I'm sure you'll like that. Then there's Little Red Riding Hood, although it does have that X-rated part where the Big Bad Wolf actually eats the grandmother. Which I didn't care for, by the way. And finally, I've always drawn a great deal of moral comfort from Humpty Dumpty. The part I like the best? "All the king's horses and all the king's men couldn't put Humpty Dumpty back together again." That's because there is no Humpty Dumpty, and there is no God. None, not one, no God, never was.

In fact, I'm gonna put it this way. If there is a God, may he strike this audience dead! See? Nothing happened. Nothing happened? Everybody's okay? All right, tell you what, I'll raise the stakes a little bit. If there is a God, may he strike me dead. See? Nothing happened, oh, wait, I've got a little cramp in my leg. And my balls hurt. Plus, I'm blind. I'm blind, oh, now I'm okay again, must have been Joe Pesci, huh? God Bless Joe Pesci. Thank you all very much. Joe Bless You!

(Copyright 1999 by George Carlin. Printed without permission.)

Friday, September 18, 2009

Canadian woman stabbed to death in her Mexican condo

Canadian woman stabbed to death in her Mexican condo
September 18, 2009

MONTREAL – A Canadian blogger was stabbed to death on the tranquil, tropical island in Mexico she had recently adopted as her home.

Local authorities told Mexican media outlets that Renee Wathelet was stabbed more than 30 times in the chest and neck Thursday in her condominium on Isla Mujeres. The reports say she was 60 years old.

Media reports say neighbours called police after they heard a woman's screams from the condo.

Police say they arrested a 24-year-old boatman named Joaquin Palacios Garza as he tried to flee the scene.

Wathelet kept a popular personal blog called En direct des iles, or Live From the Islands, which chronicled her life on the Island of Montreal and on Isla Mujeres, about 10 kilometres off the shores of Cancun.

"She was full of life, she had these eyes that sparkled all the time, she's the kind of person you want at your party," said Michelle Sullivan, a friend of Wathelet's in Montreal.

"It's particularly hard for us to comprehend what's happened because she was full of life."

Wathelet kept residences in both Montreal and Isla Mujeres for years before moving to the island permanently a few months ago, Sullivan said.

The mother of three grown children had been busy building a social-media consulting business on an island she had fallen in love with, her friend added. Wathelet kept a second, professional blog for her business.

Sullivan said that Wathelet, who had worked previously as a financial planner, was looking for something new.

"Renee was always what you would call a bit of a nomad," she said.

Wathelet adored the sea and the warmth of the people on Isla Mujeres, or Island of Women. She had even learned Spanish to connect with locals, Sullivan said.

In her final blog entry, dated the day she died, she wrote about her morning walk along the beach and looking north across the waves toward Montreal.

The Mexican Embassy in Ottawa called Wathelet's death an ``atrocious homicide."

In a statement released Friday, a Mexican government spokesman wrote that Palacios "has been turned over to the competent judicial authority to face the corresponding charges."

A spokesman for Foreign Affairs said Friday that Canadian consular officials are providing support to the family.

"We were informed of the death of a Canadian citizen and we're in contact with the Mexican authorities responsible for the investigation," Alain Cacchione said.

He said he could not confirm any details about the victim or the circumstances of the death because of privacy laws.

Canadians have been at the centre of several violent incidents in Mexico over the last few years.

In 2006, Dominic and Nancy Ianiero of Woodbridge, Ont., were found dead at a five-star resort near Cancun.

Mexican authorities named two women from Thunder Bay, Ont., as suspects in the killings, but they were later cleared. The case remains unsolved.

In January 2007, Adam DePrisco, 19, was killed outside an Acapulco nightclub.

A Mexican doctor blamed the teen's death on a hit-and-run, but his family and friends believe he was beaten to death.

In May 2007, Jeff Toews, 34, of Grande Prairie, Alta. died from severe injuries in Cancun.

His family accused officials of covering up a brutal beating, while prosecutors claimed the man fell off a balcony at a resort.

Lying Down Game latest Web rage

Lying Down Game latest Web rage
Supplied Photo
A man plays the lying down game in the office.
How a 'really stupid, random thing to do' became a viral sensation
September 18, 2009

Feature Writer

It started 12 years ago in a modest living room in the southwest of England. Or maybe it was the backyard. A couple of kids began amusing themselves by lying down stock-straight on things scattered around the room. A couch, a patio, a chair.

"I cannot remember, to be honest with you," says Gary Clarkson. "It was just a really stupid, random thing to do."

Clarkson, 27, and his buddy, Christian Langdon, 24, called it the Lying Down Game. They began picking more daring spots to perform something that falls between a prank and performance art. First, it was public places. Then the centre of town.

"Someone had a go at me after I did it hanging off a rooftop," says Langdon. "And I tried doing it on a spiky fence (pause). That wasn't very good."

It spread through their clique, then through the rest of the neighbourhood. It went viral after the pair created a Facebook group in late 2007.

Today, the game Langdon and Clarkson created as kids has spawned a European underground obsession, a 64,000-member strong Facebook group, and the official post-goal celebration of Accrington Stanley Football Club.

"It just exploded. It is totally insane," says Clarkson.

The rules of the Lying Down Game are this – look like you're standing up while lying down. So, face squashed into the ground, arms rigid at your sides, soles of the feet at right angles to the ground.

Photos across the Web show people lying down on radiators, plinths, landmarks, on top of other people and in the nude (which is a different sort of game altogether).

Langdon's favourite shows an airport worker lying down inside the engine of a passenger jet.

"Gary done one in front of his boss," says Langdon gleefully. "He doesn't look best pleased at all."

Lying Down participants judge daring in three categories – public nature of the spot, creativity of the background and the number of people involved. More, obviously, is better – both in terms of participants and observers.

"People generally think you're mad," says Clarkson. "That's sort of the point."

The game got its first mainstream exposure in July, when it was featured on a national news program in the U.K. Within months, the Facebook group boasted participants from across Europe and Asia. How about Canada?

"I expect so," says Langdon. "Frankly, it's too big for me to keep track of anymore."

It went global last week when seven doctors and nurses employed at a U.K. hospital were caught playing the game on duty.

They posted pictures of themselves lying down on operating tables, lined up in hospital hallways and supine on the rooftop helicopter pad. A manager saw the shots on Facebook. The offenders were suspended, and may yet be fired. The case generated international headlines.

"Fair play to them, for playing the game, but it's quite bad, isn't it," says Langdon. "They were really supposed to be working, weren't they?"

"At the end of the day, it is their fault. But I don't want to think that the thing me and a mate created for a laugh has lost someone their job," says Clarkson.

As the game grows, some can't help but begin parsing its significance. The photos sometimes look vaguely creepy, even ghoulish. But they are leavened by those key spices in all British humour – a hint of aberrant sexuality combined with public humiliation.

"Someone on YouTube called it a `sick pagan pastime,'" says Clarkson. "I've never explored the meaning of it. (sigh) There are some ridiculous people out there."

The pair do worry when they're confronted with death-defying lie-downs.

"I've seen some quite crazy things, people lying down on train tracks and the sort. I don't approve of that," says Clarkson. "That sounds terribly adult, I know."

Growth continues at a spectacular pace. Between the website and the Facebook group, up to 1,000 new pictures are uploaded each day.

The next step is monetizing their creation. There is now an official website – lyingdowngame.net. With the help of a pair of friends, Langdon, a chef and DJ in Wrexham, and Clarkson, a salesman of building supplies still living in Somerset, have started merchandising. They hope to pioneer some sort of monthly contest with a cash prize.

"I don't know when that number (of new participants) is going to stop rising," says Clarkson, and then less than half seriously. "Frankly, I'm beginning to think we should start charging."

$80 and I'm a security guard

$80 and I'm a security guard
Star reporter Brett Popplewell obtained a security guard licence for $160 with no training and no experience.
For $160, the Star's Brett Popplewell became a licensed security guard and private investigator — two jobs he has no idea how to perform
September 18, 2009

Staff Reporter

I drop by the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services with a passport photo in hand. I complete an application form to be a security guard at a cost of $80. The clerk asks if I'd also like my private investigator's licence. I ask what's the catch? They say another $80.

"No training?" I ask.

"Just $80."

I give the province my Visa number and permission to check if I have a criminal record.

Two weeks later, my security guard and private investigator's licence appears in my mailbox.

I'm now fully licensed for two jobs I have no idea how to perform.

I'm not the only one. The Ontario government has not come through on a four-year-old promise to institute training as a condition of licensing.

The McGuinty Liberals passed the Private Security and Investigative Services Act in 2005. It went into effect in 2007, setting an Aug. 23, 2008 deadline for thousands of unlicensed security guards, bouncers and private investigators to get licensed. A 40-hour training program was proposed.

Poorly trained Ontario guards have been linked to at least two violent deaths in the last decade, the first of which prompted the training plan.

Ten years ago, Patrick Shand was wrestled to the ground by guards at a Toronto grocery store after allegedly stealing baby formula. He died of asphyxiation after he was handcuffed and kept face-down in a parking lot by his untrained captors.

In 2004, a coroner's inquest into Shand's death recommended all in-house security guards, bouncers and private investigators in Ontario be licensed and receive mandatory training in areas such as first aid, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and the use of force.

"It is important that the government act quickly, responsibly and diligently," the inquest concluded.

In May 2008, Jon Herberman, registrar/director of the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services' private security and investigative services branch, released 41 pages of curriculum for a security guard training course. It includes four hours of use-of-force training and six-and-a-half hours of CPR training.

In June 2008, a Hamilton man died while being pinned to the ground by a security guard and store employees who were stopping the expectant father after he was suspected of stealing a $15 radiator hose from a Canadian Tire.

At that time, Herberman defended the province's pace on rolling out mandatory training. "We don't have a firm date at the moment but I trust that within a year, all of the testing infrastructure will be set up across the province," he said.

He now refuses to comment on a time frame, but insists the province is "near" to enforcing training.

In the meantime, I – like thousands of untrained guards with no clue about use of force, absolutely no idea how to implement first aid or CPR and none of the other basic training deemed necessary to safeguard lives – can meet the licensing requirements.

Despite the alarming nature of my government-approved inabilities, Herberman says we should be impressed by the number of licences his office has doled out.

"The numbers are very impressive," he says. "At the time that the new act was proclaimed two years ago, we had 32,000 licensed security guards and private investigators in Ontario. As of today we have just over 65,000 ."

With licensees paying $80 per licence per year, the province has made at least $5 million from investigators and guards since August 2008. Herberman's office works with seven investigators to ensure all security guards are licensed.

Though he's quick to point out that no one in the province is actually legally certified to teach his curriculum, he acknowledges that that hasn't stopped a number of illegitimate training academies from taking hundreds of dollars from would-be guards across the GTA in exchange for unapproved and unregulated training courses.

But he says he's unsure whether he has the authority to crack down on them.

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