Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Ageless Humour For Those Of Us Who Are Aging LOL

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Scope Of Things Today

Leo- Monday, June 28, 2010

Your best bet now is to accept the pace of change that circumstances are creating. The sky is firing you up with the passion to sort something out. Though you may have had some tense exchanges with someone you care about and though you may now feel you know less than you previously thought about this person – a very liberating revelation will soon come to enlighten you.

G20 cleanup in Toronto begins

CBC.ca - ‎59 minutes ago‎
Toronto is slowly returning to normal after the conclusion of the weekend G20 summit, which prompted violent protests that resulted in hundreds of arrests.

Canada's population passes 34 million

CBC.ca - ‎49 minutes ago‎
Canada's population now exceeds 34 million, with British Columbia showing the strongest growth rate of all provinces, according to Statistics Canada.

Do-little G20 summit cheers spared bankers

Reuters - Paul Taylor, Arno Schuetze - ‎42 minutes ago‎
PARIS, June 28 (Reuters) - Bankers voiced relief on Monday after world leaders abandoned a global bank levy and eased the timetable for new capital requirements at a G20 summit in Canada which posed questions about the forum's ...

Queen set to start packed nine-day tour of Canada

CTV.ca - ‎21 minutes ago‎
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II travels in a carriage to the Houses of Parliament in London for the State Opening of parliament, Tuesday, May 25, 2010.

Toronto Humane Society reopens shelter seven months after cruelty charges

Winnipeg Free Press - ‎17 minutes ago‎
TORONTO - Anyone looking for a feline friend can once again adopt a cat or kitten from the Toronto Humane Society. The society re-opened its River Street shelter today, seven months after it was closed and several officials charged with animal cruelty.
Global Winnipeg - Winnipeg Sun - Naples Daily News - TCPalm

The woman who sold a winning lottery ticket to a Labrador trio says she will be able to launch a new adventure in her life with her share of the proceeds.

Three Happy Valley-Goose Bay residents shared a $25-million prize in Friday night's Lotto Max draw.

Sherry Bessey, who owns the Daybreak Cafe where the winning ticket was purchased, picks up a commission of one per cent, or $250,000.

"I'm thinking about finishing with this place here and probably just go back to school or do something I enjoy doing," Bessey said.

"I've had this place for 10 years now and it's time to live life."

Gerald Healey, his wife Winnie and their co-worker Marg White bought the winning ticket as part of a $60 purchase.

"It's still so unreal," Gerald Healey told CBC News Saturday.

The Healeys own and operate a small business in the central Labrador town.

'I'm just one happy camper, that's all.'—Sherry Bessey

Their ticket had the same numbers as a ticket sold in Saskatchewan, which also wins a $25-million Lotto Max prize.

Bessey said the winners gathered at Daybreak Cafe on Saturday when word of the win got out.

"I'm just one happy camper, that's all," she said. "I never had a big winner so this was the biggest, I guess."

Bessey, who said she has never been outside of Canada, is planning to take her family on a vacation south.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

G20 preparations have given us the unique opportunity to see Toronto through paranoid eyes

By Christopher Hume Urban Issues, Architecture The Toronto star

Regardless of its stated agenda, the real substance of the G20’s Toronto meeting is the relationship between power and paranoia.

How else to make sense of the preparations so extreme they have turned downtown Toronto into an armed camp?

The ostensible reason, of course, is security, but that doesn’t begin to explain what’s happening. If security were the issue, the meeting would not have been held in downtown Toronto, or any other city for that matter.

One can only understand the fencing now in place around the city as a symbolic gesture rather than a response to a practical concern. It is the metaphorical line in the asphalt, but made real. It is fear made manifest.

Given the nature of 21st-century political leadership, which finds itself challenged at every turn, such a response should come as no surprise. This is a siege mentality acted out in steel and concrete. We question not just the decisions of the ruling elites, but their very existence and certainly their right to make decisions. That is true across Europe, North America, and here in Canada, where our prime minister enjoys the support of less than one third of the population.

As novelist and semiotics theorist Umberto Eco would remind us, the fences and the disappearance of much the infrastructure of urban life can be interpreted as a sign.

“A sign,” he writes, “is everything which can be taken as significantly substituting for something else. This everything else does not necessarily have to exist or to actually be somewhere at the moment in which the sign stands in for it.”

As Eco goes on to argue, if something can be used to tell the truth, it can also be used to tell a lie.

Writing recently in these pages, Michael Byers, Canada Research Chair in Global Politics and International Law at the University of British Columbia and a member of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics Civil Liberties Advisory Committee, said, “If Vancouver can teach Toronto anything about protests, it’s that police must exercise restraint, especially when provoked. The vast majority of protesters do not wish violence. Treated well, they are the most valuable asset that security planners have.

“Well-intentioned protesters can exercise peer pressure on potential perpetrators of violence, as occurred in Vancouver. They know that law-breaking can impede or distract from their message — if the message is in fact getting through.”

But Byers assumes that the purpose of the G20 preparations is, in fact, security. Suppose it isn’t. Suppose the real intention is to create a sign, an indication of a crisis so dire it overshadows the issues people expect the G20 to solve. Certainly, it signals a perceived threat too overwhelming to allow anyone to get anywhere close to the leaders, the targets of this potential violence.

And yet surely the average citizen in any of the G20 nations wishes their leaders well. Surely they hope that the crises that have devastated so many lives will be dealt with once and for all. Surely they hope the economic downturn, environmental degradation, and the whole agenda of woe will be addressed.

But we know better.

The G20 has become an obstacle like the one it was intended to eliminate back in the days of the G6. With its paraphernalia of bureaucracy and trappings of power, it has grown heavy and cumbersome. It has taken on a logic that overshadows its original purpose.

The leaders have disappeared behind a fortress of three-metre-tall walls, concrete buttresses and the whole infrastructure of paranoia.

With this G20 meeting, the biggest and most expensive ever staged, semiotics may finally have overwhelmed content. The more optimistic interpretation is that face time is desirable even at such a heavily scripted event. Though undoubtedly true, it would be an added bonus, not part of the plan. The semiotic subtext is the reaffirmation of power. And who’s more anxious to make such a statement than our own prime minister, Stephen Harper, a leader whose grasp on power has always been shaky at best. He, as much as any other, would feel the need to send a signal.

The result cannot be ignored, especially in Toronto, a city as open and accessible as any. Seen through the eyes of G20 organizers, however, it becomes an endless source of unintended weaponry and possible violence. Garbage bins must be removed, parking ticket dispensers, bus shelters . . . Even a lowly sapling cannot be left in place lest it be turned into a killing device by some crazed protester.

The city has been revealed to be other than what we thought. The decorative has become deadly, accessibility a liability. Thanks to the G20, we have a new interpretation of the urban condition; we now see the city through different eyes. This is the world according to the paranoid. As usual, things weren’t what they seemed.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Where were you when the earth shook 5.5?

Magnitude 5.5 quake moved the ground in Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and several U.S. states

Toronto Globe and Mail Update

A magnitude 5.5 earthquake hit central Canada this afternoon, rattling buildings from Windsor to Montreal and several U.S. states.

The epicentre of the quake was in Quebec, 61 kilometres north of Ottawa, according to U.S. Geological Survey, and struck at 1:41 p.m.EDT.

Environment Minister Jim Prentice was doing an interview with CTV at its Ottawa bureau on the 14th floor of the World Exchange Plaza in downtown Ottawa when the tremour struck.

"I was on the air and suddenly my chair was moving," he said afterwards. "Fortunately I was at the end."

The sidewalks quickly filled with workers who decided to evacuate their buildings. Within minutes of the tremour, cellphone service in Ottawa was down, possibly because callers had overloaded the system, though the exact cause was not known.

The Globe's Ottawa bureau was evacuated at 1:43 p.m. The Toronto newsroom also shook.

Twitter users as far away as Springfield, Mass. and Traverse City, Mich. reported feeling tremors. A Globe reporter in Montreal said that city also shook.

A Toronto Police spokesperson said that there have been no reports of injuries in Toronto.

Henderson Sweater 19 Sells For $1,275 Million

Randy Boswell and Deborah Tetley, Canwest News Service · Tuesday, Jun. 22, 2010

It appears that Paul Henderson’s iconic white-and-red jersey from the 1972 Canada-Soviet hockey series will remain in Canadian hands after a Toronto-area real estate developer purchased one of the country’s most storied sports artifacts for well over $1 million in an online auction early Wednesday morning.

Mitchell Goldhar, owner of SmartCentres, one of Canada’s largest developers of open-air shopping centres, bought the historic Team Canada jersey for $1,275,000 in a wild auction that saw the price surge over earlier bids.

Classic Auctions president Marc Juteau, whose company organized the sale, confirmed to Canwest News Service Wednesday morning that Goldhar was the buyer, but he could not say exactly what Goldhar intended to do with the jersey. He said only that Goldhar wanted to “let Canadians benefit” and that he will likely “keep the jersey in Canada and on display somewhere.”

Earlier in the evening, after the price had surged past $1 million, Paul Henderson himself expressed disappointment that B.C.’s Jim Pattison -- who had vowed to put the jersey in Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame -- had pulled out of the bidding, leaving the 38-year-old sweater’s fate in limbo.

For weeks leading up to this week’s sale of the artifact by the Quebec-based online auction firm, the effort to repatriate the jersey -- worn by Henderson when he scored his famous series-winning goal, but owned by an American collector since 2006 -- was generating a major buzz across Canada.

In May, when the auction was announced, Henderson said Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame -- with its new home scheduled to open at Calgary’s Canada Olympic Park next year -- would be “the most appropriate place in the world” for the jersey.

Sheryn Posen, the hall’s CEO, said late Tuesday: “I can only hope that whoever purchased it can respect the wishes of this great Canadian who wants to see his jersey come home.”

The intensity of the desire among individual collectors, museums and history-minded corporations to own the object only became clear after the sale’s initial 9 p.m. closing. That’s when the auction house’s “10-minute rule” kicked in, allowing potential buyers of the jersey to continue registering fresh bids until bidding on all of the hundreds of items for sale in Tuesday’s auction had halted for 10 minutes.

Between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. ET, bidding shot up from just under $500,000 to $1,067,538.

The jersey’s sale even caught the attention of Heritage Minister James Moore in late May. He offered federal financial support for any buyer willing to donate the “important part of Canadiana” to a public museum.

With rival bidders upping the ante several times during the sale’s final hours, Juteau said late Tuesday that he didn’t expect the jersey’s ownership to be decided before early Wednesday morning Montreal time. He was right.

The bidding war began with a Canadian business icon skating into the fray.

In early June, Canadian Tire had announced plans to bid $200,000 to secure the jersey for a cross-country tour and eventual display in Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame.

But the next day, the hall itself said it was launching its own effort to buy the jersey with help from Molson and Forzani.

That prompted Canadian Tire to announce it would avoid a “bidding war” by supporting the Hall of Fame’s campaign and offering to help finance a winning bid with the other companies.

Then, last week, the Pattison Group announced a $309,000 bid, along with plans to take the jersey on a national tour before offering it for exhibit at the Hall of Fame.

Bidding for the Henderson jersey far surpassed the record-setting price of $191,000 US paid earlier this year at a U.S. auction for a Bobby Orr sweater worn during his 1966-67 rookie season.

Henderson’s No. 19 jersey -- at the centre of the iconic photograph of Henderson being hugged by jubilant teammate Yvan Cournoyer after the winning goal -- was initially given to Team Canada trainer Joe Sgro.

He later sold it to a Canadian collector before the jersey was acquired by its current American owner.

Calgary Herald

Read more: http://www.nationalpost.com/sports/Iconic+Paul+Henderson+hockey+jersey+bought+million/3188282/story.html#ixzz0rfy3W06M

Roseman: Beware door-to-door hot water tank sellers


New Door to Door Sales Regulations

As of March 1, 2018, under the Consumer Protection Act, many energy-related products and services (listed below) can no longer be offered or sold door to door or in your home unless you've initiated the transaction (for example, you called or emailed the business and asked for a home visit). There are some exceptions if you have a contract already in place.
The products and services included in this new legislation are: furnaces, air conditioners, air cleaners, air purifiers, water heaters, water treatment devices, water purifiers, water filters, water softeners, duct cleaning services, any good or service that performs one of more of the functions listed above (for example, an HVAC system).
For more details, visit the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services.

Roseman: Beware door-to-door hot water tank sellers

June 23, 2010

Ellen Roseman

When retiree Bill Webb moved to cottage country last year, he fell for a pitch from a door-to-door seller to upgrade his hot water tank.

National Home Services took out his rental tank from Direct Energy and put in a new one that came with a 15-year contract.

“The tank was poorly installed,” Webb says. “I had to call them to fix an exhaust pipe that was leaking fumes into our house, which was kind of scary.”

His 50-gallon tank is too large for his needs, since the company had no 40-gallon units. And if he removes it, he’ll have to pay more than $1,000 in early cancellation fees.

National Home Services, owned by Just Energy Income Fund, had 77,000 customers under contract on March 31 and is adding more each week. Rebecca MacDonald, executive chair, says the business will be generating positive cash flow next year.

Most rentals come from Direct Energy customers. Some people want to get a new tank that is more efficient and is inspected once a year. (DE doesn’t do service calls for its rented water heaters until they break.)

Other people mistakenly assume they’re dealing with Direct Energy or Enbridge Gas, which does the billing for DE. They don’t read the contract until after they sign it.

Direct Energy has more than one million water heaters rented to Ontario homeowners, who prefer paying $15 to $20 a month to buying their own units.

But intensified competition led to a loss of 2 per cent of its customer base in the last quarter of 2009, says John Macdonald, chief executive of Consumers’ Waterheater Income Fund.

(CWIF, which trades on the Toronto Stock Exchange, has a partnership with Direct Energy to provide service for its water heater portfolio in return for 35 per cent of the rental revenues.)

In response, DE has launched a loyalty program for water heater rentals and has started doing more frequent replacements of tanks that are 10 to 15 years old. Their useful life is 16 years.

Customers can gain from the water heater wars if they stay with their existing suppliers. But for those who switch, life isn’t as easy.

Echoe Holowchuk and Kyle Lambetz were customers of Reliance Home Comfort, a water heater rental supplier spun off by Union Gas, when a Direct Energy representative came to their door in Baden, Ont.

He promised to upgrade their piping, give them a more energy-efficient tank and throw in six months of free water heater rentals. He also said Direct Energy would remove the old water heater and return it to Reliance.

But for the past year, the couple has been getting bills from Direct Energy and Reliance. It seems their old water heater was lost in transit.

“We’ve called Direct Energy dozens of times. They promise us it will be taken care of, but it never is,” Holowchuk says.

Direct Energy promised not to bill them until the Reliance bills stopped, but sent a letter last week saying they had to pay for the past year because of a billing error. DE spokeswoman Crystal Jongeward told me she would check into their case right away.

This summer, an estimated 600,000 households will be visited by door-to-door sellers trying to replace a rental hot water tank, says the Consumers’ Waterheater Income Fund.

Research shows that more efficient Energy Star water heaters will yield savings of less than 10 per cent, while a survey by CWIF showed that one third of people expected savings to exceed 20 per cent. (Find out more at http://www.hotwaterfacts.ca.)

My advice: Ask for identification. Don’t let a salesperson into your home. Don’t switch before doing your research. And if you sign a contract at the door and change your mind, remember to cancel within the 10-day cooling off period.

Ellen Roseman writes about personal finance and consumer issues.

Monday, June 21, 2010

More than 90 per cent of strokes can be attributed to 10 common risk factors, a new Canadian-led study shows.

More than 90 per cent of strokes can be attributed to 10 common risk factors, a new Canadian-led study shows.

Sciatica A real pain in the back!


*If you are experiencing back pain, see a doctor who can determine the cause. If the pain spreads down your leg or is accompanied by tingling, numbness or weakness, see a doctor immediately. Occasionally, sciatica may be caused by a serious condition that requires immediate surgery.

Sciatica refers to pain along the path of the sciatica nerve. It is usually caused by pressure on the sciatic nerve. Fortunately, most cases of sciatica are not serious and usually resolve within six weeks.

The sciatic nerve branches off nerve roots at the lower end of the spinal cord – it’s two branches run from the lower back through the each side of the pelvis, buttocks, back of leg to the foot. The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in the body and its diameter is the diameter of a finger

Sciatica Symptoms

Sciatica is a term for pain that radiates along the sciatic nerve, anywhere from the lower back, buttocks, down the back of the leg, to the foot. There may also be weakness, numbness, tingling, particularly in the leg and/or foot. The location of the pain and/or numbness varies according to the location that the sciatic nerve or nerve root is affected. The pain can range from burning to aching and can vary in intensity. The pain may be intermittent or constant. Sciatica usually occurs on only one side of the body. Prolonged sitting or standing, sneezing, coughing or lifting aggravates sciatica. Sciatic pain may be acute but often develops gradually

Causes of Sciatica

Sciatica is caused by inflammation or compression of the sciatic nerve or nerve roots in the lower spine. It may also be caused by damage to nerve roots. Sciatica is not a disease in itself and its causes are various.

*Compression of a nerve is often referred to as a "pinched nerve." A "pinched nerve" in the lower spine causes sciatica.

The most common cause of sciatica is a herniated disc in the lumbar spine (lower back) that puts pressure on the sciatic nerve or a nerve root. A herniated disc can occur suddenly and cause acute pain or it may develop gradually.

Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spaces in the spinal column that causes compression of the spinal cord or nerve roots. It can cause sciatica if it occurs in the lower back.

In advanced osteoarthritis of the spine, bits of cartilage may break off and float around inside the spinal joints. This causes irritation and inflammation and if it occurs in the lower back may put pressure on the sciatic nerve.

Spondylolisthesis – when one vertebra slips over another – occurs most often in the lower back – where the misaligned vertebrae may place pressure on the sciatic nerve.

A less common cause of sciatica is Piriformis syndrome, a disorder in which a muscle located in the buttocks (the piriformis muscle) contracts and irritates the sciatic nerve. In this case, the pain starts in the buttocks and radiates down the leg. Piriformis syndrome is generally treated with stretching exercises, massage, and anti-inflammatory drugs.

Something as simple as muscle strain can cause inflammation, which may put pressure on the sciatic nerve.

Sciatica Treatment / Pain Relief

*Always consult a physician to diagnose the cause of sciatica and rule out any serious conditions that may require immediate surgery.

Treatment consists of treating the pain and the condition that is causing it. Anti-inflammatory medication, analgesics, and usually some form of physical therapy are prescribed.

Medications: Non-prescription NSAIDs (anti-inflammatory drugs) such as aspirin and ibuprofen treat both pain and inflammation. Analgesics such as Tylenol treat pain but not inflammation, but may be preferred by some people. In cases of severe acute sciatica, physicians may prescribe codeine preparations and/or muscle relaxants.

An injection of corticosteroids, a powerful anti-inflammatory, into the spinal fluid around the affected area delivers a high dose of medication to the spinal nerves.

Exercise: A couple of days of bed rest may be necessary with acute, severe sciatic nerve pain. Bed rest will not speed up recovery, and it can actually hinder it. Not using the muscles causing them to weaken very quickly. Muscles – back and ab muscles - are what supports and protects the joints of the spine. Exercise also increases circulation and promotes healing.

*Depending upon the cause of sciatic pain, certain exercises may have to be avoided. Always consult a doctor as to the safely of exercises for your particular condition.

Stretching exercises are usually recommended to relieve sciatica. Stretching exercises loosen tight muscles and increase spaces between the vertebrae, allowing more room for the spinal nerves. Stretching muscles in the back and buttocks and even the hamstrings (muscles in the back of the thigh) can relieve sciatica. See Back Stretching Exercises.

*A physical therapist can create an individualized exercise program for a patient’s particular condition. Depending upon the cause of sciatic pain, certain exercises may have to be avoided.

Severe Acute Sciatica: Though bed rest does not speed up recovery, in the case of acute sciatica lying down on a firm surface often relieves the pain. Applying ice for the first couple of days of acute sciatica may also help.

Treating Muscles Spasms: Muscles may spasm in a reaction to sciatica, intensifying the pain. Sciatica may also be caused by muscle spasms that irritate the spinal nerves. Massage therapy may be helpful. Stretching exercises also loosen up tight muscles. Heat also relaxes tense muscles. Moist heat may be more effective. See hydrotherapy.

Support/ Posture: Sitting on soft surfaces aggravates sciatica - adequate support is necessary to prevent slouching, which places excessive stress on the lower back. A chair that tilts back slightly shifts your weight onto the backrest of the chair to take stress off the lower back. Support is necessary while lying down too. A saggy mattress causes the lower back to sink into the mattress and can irritate the spinal joints and aggravate sciatica. The best mattress for lower back pain may be a medium-firm mattress. Any increase or decrease in the normal curve of the lower back increases stress on the spine and aggravates sciatica. See Posture.

Avoid heavy lifting, which places extreme stress on the lower back. Use proper body mechanics. See lifting techniques.

Avoid prolonged sitting or standing, which can aggravate sciatica. (Your lower back supports the majority of the body weight)

Other Pain Treatments: The use of Heat and Cold are often used to relieve pain. Spinal traction is not recommended for acute sciatica but is commonly used to relieve chronic lower back pain, especially sciatica. See Back Pain Treatment and Complementary Treatments for more pain relief information.

Invasive Treatment

Spinal Injections: Before considering surgery, but after conservative, non-invasive treatments have not provided adequate pain relief, an epidural steroid injection may be given. This minimally invasive procedure involves injecting a combination of corticosteroids and a local anesthetic into the epidural space.

Surgery: If conservative treatments do not bring adequate pain relief, surgery becomes a consideration. If there is progressive weakness or difficulty in walking (possible progressive nerve damage) surgery is may be necessary. Immediate surgery is required if there is or loss of bladder or bowel function.

Sciatica Prevention with Exercises:

*If you currently have sciatica, consult a physician who can diagnose the cause and recommend appropriate exercises.

Keeping the back muscles strong and flexible reduces the risk of a herniated disc, the most common cause of sciatica. Low impact aerobics increase circulation and promote healing. Walking, swimming, and riding a stationary bike are good low-impact aerobic exercises. Strengthening the muscles that support the spine (back and abdominal muscles) help maintain proper posture, which takes stress off the spinal joints. Strengthening exercises may cause the muscles to tighten up so stretching exercises are important. Stretching exercises that increase the spaces between the vertebrae and create more room for the discs may relieve pressure on nerves. Exercise can help prevent or slow down age-related degenerative changes in the spine and can help prevent sciatica from recurring.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

30 New Millionaires+ $50 Million Still The Winning Pot

TORONTO — Thirty Canadians became millionaires overnight, but no one had the winning ticket to the $50-million bounty, part of the largest prize in Canadian history.

This was the third week in a row that the jackpot went unclaimed, but that’s unlikely to faze those who won the 30 $1-million Maxmillions “consolation” awards.

Among the provinces, Ontario had the biggest number of Maxmillions winners with 16, followed by 11 in Quebec.

The unclaimed grand prize means the Lottery Corporation will have another $50-million bounty up for grabs for next Friday, plus an additional 55 Maxmillions prizes — to create a $105-million prize lot in total. The number of Maxmillions prizes include those that were not won in Friday night’s draw, in addition to those generated from new sales for the next draw.

Players had about a one-in-28-million chance of winning the $50-million grand prize, and the 30 lucky Maxmillions winners had a one-in-600,000 shot.

But the steep odds of winning didn’t scare lottery players away. The Lottery Corporation said sales for the June 18 draw jumped nearly 40% across Canada.

Last November, a Manitoba resident won the full $50-million jackpot, and months later, in February, two ticket holders split the $50-million pot.

Rogers customers paid $30 million too much to Rogers!

June 18, 2010

Bob Mitchell

Admit it. You always thought you were getting ripped off even though you bundled your cellphone with your Internet and added cable and a home phone to boot.

Well, you’re right.

Rogers Communications on Friday announced about 300,000 customers never received the correct discounts for all of their bundling.

It seems there were some clerical errors and system-related issues with the Better Choice Bundles package that offered discounts of up to 15 per cent if you had all four services.

They’ll be refunding about $30 million, including interest and taxes to current and former customers.

That sounds like a lot of cash but the average refund will be around $100.

Another 200,000 customers, give or take, actually received a better discount than they should have but don’t worry, you won’t have to give any of that cash back.

“Once we identified the issue, we initiated a comprehensive review of current and former customer accounts to identify those that were not correctly billed,” said Phil Hartling, a senior vice-president with Rogers in a news release.

“We have been working around the clock to make this right and we apologize to our affected customers.”

Customers don’t have to do anything. Notices are being sent out on June 22 and the correct discount will be applied against your next two bills. All existing customers who paid too much will receive a credit on their account. Former customers will get a refund cheque in the mail, if they have your current address.

Summitt Energy pay $495,000 for what it calls unfair practices in the sale of energy contracts.

June 19, 2010

Ellen Roseman

The Ontario Energy Board wants to make Summitt Energy pay $495,000 for what it calls unfair practices in the sale of energy contracts.

The Toronto-based company paid a $70,000 fine in January 2009 for similar offences in selling energy door to door.

Five Summitt agents made deceptive statements to consumers or failed to deliver written copies of contracts within 40 days of signing, as required by law, the board said – pinpointing 28 incidents of such behaviour.

Here are some misleading sales practices that the board said its investigation unearthed:

Not identifying themselves as Summitt agents and telling consumers they worked for a regulated utility or the Ontario Energy Board.

Failing to explain that consumers were being asked to sign a five-year contract for gas and electricity supply and failing to state the price to be paid.

Telling consumers they had to sign a document to have their smart meter for electricity installed or activated.

Saying the market price of natural gas was 41 cents a cubic metre at a time when it was less than half that amount.

Falsely saying that if natural gas prices fell, the contract price would also fall.

Summitt did not respond when asked to comment Friday. Nor did it say whether it would ask for a hearing.

I’ve helped many readers cancel their Summitt energy contracts without penalty in the past few years. But the pace is slower than it once was.

Compliance specialist Tamara Sinson recently told me she needed at least three weeks to resolve complaints. Most firms I contact can resolve complaints within a week or two. Some do it within a day of receipt.

Summitt watches real estate sales closely to find new homeowners who are susceptible to its pitch.

Peter Ng bought a Markham townhouse last November. Ten days later, a Summitt agent came by and said the townhouse committee had a contract with his company to supply electricity and gas.

“He said if I didn’t sign, my utilities would be cut off,” Ng says. “I feared the water lines in my house would freeze over at night.

“He showed a list of names of every household in the area to prove his claim. He even had the previous owner of my house listed, saying he had to transfer the account to me. So I ended up signing.”

Ng realized he had been deceived after talking to other townhouse owners. But when he tried to cancel, he was told he had to pay $2,122.79 in liquidated damages as indicated on his contract – which he had never received.

Water heater replacement, a new business activity for Summitt, is not policed by the Ontario Energy Board. It’s become a growth area for deception at the door.

David Manga says a Summitt agent came to his home last January, pretending he came from Enbridge Gas to replace their aging hot water tank.

His wife signed a contract, which Manga cancelled right away. But he found charges from Summitt on his gas bill the following month.

His wife had unknowingly agreed to a two-year carbon offset plan at $14.99 a month. And he had to pay a penalty equal to the balance of the contract ($262.50) to get out.

It seems unfair to sneak in a green energy plan while claiming to replace a water tank – and to penalize customers for cancelling when carbon emission credits can be traded on the market.

At last, the Ontario Energy Board is cracking down on deceptive energy sales practices. To read the 17-page list of charges, go to http://www.oeb.gov.on.ca, click Industry, then go to Media Room and look at What’s New (June 17, 2010).

Ellen Roseman writes about personal finance and consumer issues.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Countdown to zero


Queen Noor, who is also a leader of Global Zero and a spokesperson for non-proliferation around the world, suggested that the film undergo another edit to be less America-centric.

Queen Noor of Jordan (Arabic: الملكة نور‎) (born 23 August 1951) is the last wife and widow ofKing Hussein of Jordan. She was queen consort of Jordan during her marriage (1978–1999) and has been queen dowager of Jordan since her husband's death in 1999.

Hussein's family claims a line of descent from the Islamic prophet Muhammad. "We are the family of the prophet and we are the oldest tribe in the Arab world", the king once said of hisHashemite ancestry.[1]

She arranged screenings at the U.N., in Mumbai, Delhi, Paris and Washington for intelligence community and state dignitaries. It has been 20 years that arms reduction has been a trend, and New Zealand Prime Minister, David Lange was a key figure in the last round of nuclear weapons reduction advocacy in the world.

Queen Noor, remembers undergoing duck-and-cover drills while attending elementary school in Santa Monica. “Countdown to Zero references that global movement to eradicate all nuclear arms, and Global Zero’s scientists, engineers and scholars have compiled an action plan designed to accomplish that via a phased, verifiable process over 20 years.”

“Countdown to Zero” references that global movement to eradicate all nuclear arms, and Global Zero’s scientists, engineers and scholars have compiled an action plan designed to accomplish that via a phased, verifiable process over 20 years.

Queen Noor goes on to say “I look at this from the perspective of trying to promote understanding between the Middle East, the Arab and Muslim world, and the West over the past 35 years. I’ve given a million speeches! But, it’s the visual images, it’s the storytelling, it’s the ability to draw people into the reality of a situation that affects all of us regardless of our nationality, our religion, our ethnicity, our political orientation. There is no more effective way. This [film] is the most powerful tool in the arsenal.”

Never Forget Never Surrender

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Italian Secret to a Long Marriage

At St. Peter's Catholic Church in Toronto, they have weekly husbands' marriage seminars.

At the session last week, the priest asked Giuseppe, who said he was approaching his 50th wedding anniversary, to take a few minutes and share some insight into how he had managed to stay married to the same woman all these years.

Giuseppe replied to the assembled husbands, 'Wella, I'va tried to treat her nicea, spenda da money on her, but besta of all is, I tooka her to Italy for the 25th anniversary!'

The priest responded, 'Giuseppe, you are an amazing inspiration to all the husbands here! Please tell us what you are planning for your wife for your 50th anniversary?'

Giuseppe proudly replied, " I gonna go pick her up."

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Bogus ‘dentists’ prey on immigrants

In basements and backrooms across the province, with outdated and unsterilized tools, a cottage industry of illegal and sometimes dangerous dentistry is thriving among immigrant communities, a Toronto Star investigation has found.

Offering cut-rate prices for inferior dental care, these bogus dentists attract patients, overwhelmingly new immigrants, who share the same culture. Vulnerable, ill-informed and desperate to save money, they have low expectations for care.

And why not? Immigrant patients say that’s the way it was in their home countries, and they don’t expect much different in Canada — where some opt for the cheapest available service, and never mind the credentials. It’s all they can afford. And those who complain of problems — a rarity — are nervous about speaking against community members.

The dental profession’s watchdog is struggling to thwart this underground enterprise with a seven-year, $1 million crackdown that has netted 42 imposters. But where one practice is knocked down another pops up.

The Star went undercover and visited two fake dentists. We found dingy conditions — one with a patient chair in a bedroom, the other in a basement corner — rusty tools, dirty overhead lights, and no diplomas that would identify a properly trained and accredited dentist. Treatment was offered for as low as $20 in this cash business.

“I know it is illegal,” Mikhail Genkin said after a Star reporter posing as a patient identified herself. “I think I help people because my price is very low and quality is quite good.”

Genkin was the subject of an anonymous complaint to the Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario, but he said he has done nothing wrong and has no recollection of the issues raised in the complaint. The college is investigating.

There are plenty of patients for unlicensed dentists to draw from: 32 per cent of Canadians — mostly low-income earners — don’t have dental insurance. And, 17 per cent of Canadians avoided seeing a licensed dentist last year because of cost, according to a recent Health Canada report. In 2008 the province committed money for a dental plan for low-income adult Ontarians, but funding has yet to appear.

The Royal College’s registrar, Irwin Fefergrad, said poor workmanship by bogus dentists can lead to complications, such as infection. Radiation from X-ray machines can seep through unleaded ceilings and walls. HIV and other blood-borne ailments can be transmitted through dirty tools and syringes.

In one recent London, Ont., case, patients of an unlicensed dentist were urged by health officials to use condoms and get tested for fear they may have been infected with hepatitis B and C. Both viruses are found in blood and saliva, and can live on unsterilized equipment for a month.

The college’s mandate is to regulate licensed dentists, not backroom practitioners. But in 2003, after hearing numerous complaints, it went on an expensive mission, dispatching undercover operatives. In 42 cases, the college obtained court injunctions to shut down the bogus dentist or signed an agreement that they would not practise again.

Fefergrad said this is the tip of an iceberg.

“I suspect there are probably hundreds of them out there. They’re dangerous. They’re totally unregulated. What standards do these bogus phonies have? What skills do they have? If someone’s going to put a high-speed drill in my mouth, I want to know.”

Olga Volchenko knew of her dentist in their native Moldova before they both immigrated to Canada several years ago. She didn’t think twice about seeking her services in Toronto when she needed a root canal and other dental work. The woman’s rates were cheap, attractive to someone without dental insurance.

Today, Volchenko wishes she had been less frugal.

She curls a finger around her upper left lip and tugs to reveal a murky gum line of blackened flesh where four molars used to be.

“Look at that,” she says in Russian, with a grimace. Her mouth is only partially healed. “Da. Look.”

Volchenko rents a sliver-sized public housing apartment in the city’s north end and has worked only part time or in temporary jobs since coming to Toronto in 1992.

So far, she has spent close to $15,000 and countless hours in a licensed dentist’s chair to repair the damage.

Working with old equipment in her basement, the practitioner didn’t wear gloves while prepping, Volchenko says, and was stingy with anesthetic while she pulled teeth that didn’t need to come out, filled others that should have had root canals and improperly fitted the 64-year-old woman’s mouth with bridges and crowns.

Volchenko didn’t realize the shoddiness of the work until two years later when she startled awake in the middle of the night with a toothache. A couple days later she developed an abscess and infection so severe it caused her left cheek to swell with a baseball-sized bulge.

The dentist who has since helped Volchenko, Dr. Allen Aptekar, blames the unlicensed dentist for her problems. He said an abscess so severe, if untreated, could lead to blindness, even death.

One of the complications was that Volchenko’s upper jaw bone eroded. Aptekar has had to painstakingly perform bone grafts, extractions and implant surgery.

The cost of the initial work paid to the unlicensed dentist was $6,000.

Volchenko would not give the bogus dentist’s name to Aptekar, fearing he would alert the Royal College. Volchenko would not tell the Star either, saying she was worried about repercussions in her community.

In another case, Peter Krichevsky visited unlicensed dentist Yosef Istzer shortly after immigrating to Toronto from Poland more than a decade ago. And he has spent close to $50,000 over the last four years to repair the dental damage. A licensed dentist is in the midst of extracting all of Krichevsky’s teeth to install a full mouth of implants.

Istzer would not speak to the Star, but his wife, Shifra, denies her 65-year-old husband, a denturist licensed to work in Ontario, is also working illegally from their basement as a dentist. While she said her husband doesn’t work from home, she acknowledged there is a dentist’s chair and paraphernalia in the house.

Wearing a white lab coat, her voice shaky, she said her husband is out of the country even though he answered the phone earlier that day.

“There’s an expression in Polish,” Krichevsky says. “You pay cheap, you pay twice.”

Phony dentists hail from all corners of the globe: Russia, Colombia, Lebanon, Southeast Asia, Africa. In their windowless, subterranean settings they perform all manner of dental procedures from seemingly routine cleanings and fillings to complex dentures and implants.

Prices vary but are significantly cheaper than what a legitimate dentist charges. A root canal is $250 instead of $900, a filling is $40 instead of up to around $300, and crowns are $175 apiece, compared to between $900 and $1,000 each in an office dressed with diplomas.

Some home clinics are filthy and littered with bloodied gauze. At least one practitioner tried to use a toaster oven to “sterilize” his tools, the college says. Yet others have typical dental office amenities, including business cards and secretaries. In general, most of the illegal dentists make do with tarnished probes and mirrors, dated dental chairs, and spent and rusted lights and drills — all easily purchased on eBay.

Their materials, such as anesthetics and composite resin used in fillings, can only be legally purchased by registered dentists.

Some smuggle their supplies into Canada and others buy materials in illegal, untraceable cash deals with small, local dental supply stores.

Phonies who do bridge, crown and denture work sometimes purchase them from shady dental technologists.

Many registered professionals come into regular contact with a mouth mangled by an unlicensed practitioner. Some are through referrals — the illegals actually send their patients to licensed dentists for second opinions and X-rays — some are by happenstance.

Dr. Samuel Barkin, a dental surgeon who handles serious cases in Thornhill, says he encounters problems at least twice a year. His office is a stone’s throw from Bathurst St. and Finch Ave. W., the epicentre of Russian Toronto and quite possibly this city’s ground zero for unlicensed dentists.

“It’s almost like the (patients) are told, ‘Here, bite down on some gauze and go stand on this street corner,” Barkin says.

The Star went looking for unlicensed dentists and found several easily. In two cases, a reporter visited the fake dentist posing as a patient in need of a checkup.

Michael (Mikhail) Genkin, a barrel-chested 64-year-old clad in stained scrubs, slouch socks and flip-flops, works out of a dank basement in a bungalow near Bathurst and Finch.

The reporter climbed into a green vinyl chair, circa 1970, and stared up into a creaking overhead light while Genkin, who did not wear sterile gloves, examined her mouth. A dented autoclave, used to sterilize tools, was pushed against a wall.

Clutching a dental mirror and probe, Genkin prodded tooth after tooth before proclaiming nothing was wrong. For this consultation he took $20 cash.

When the reporter identified herself, Genkin said he understood what he was doing was illegal, but he believes he has done a good job over the past 15 years, working out of various basements in North York, treating people who cannot afford a real dentist.

Genkin immigrated to Canada from Moscow, by way of Israel, at age 50. His age, he said, is partly why he didn’t bother trying to get registered. Like many illegals, he said he didn’t have the time or money to attend the University of Toronto’s two-year, five-month foreign-trained accreditation program. Tuition and associated fees tally around $100,000 and more than 250 applicants compete annually for up to 28 spots.

The University of Western Ontario also offers such a program and there is a $7,500 fast-track option, Fefergrad said.

If their training and education are up to college standards, applicants who pass written and practical exams can be granted a licence. About 24 foreign-trained dentists have passed since 2007.

Many basement dentists say the licensing requirements are prohibitive, but Dr. David Mock, dean of U of T’s dentistry school, said financial institutions are only too happy to bankroll future dentists and it is usually those who can’t meet the qualifications who go underground.

“Many of them are dental mechanics,” Mock said, adding such individuals are likely to be the most dangerous and inflict the most harm. “They may have some skill, but don’t know why they’re doing a procedure and don’t know what to do if something goes wrong.”

Unlicensed dentists are typically cautious about who they allow into their clinics. When the Star booked an appointment to see Aleksander Zanger, his wife, Ann Shapiro, asked half a dozen times how the undercover reporter got their telephone number.

Zanger, 84, later told the Star he has been practising from the tiny second bedroom in their modestly appointed apartment for close to 40 years since he failed to pass his accreditation exams.

Standing next to a machine that cuts dental moulds, Shapiro denied her husband is working at all. After a few moments she conceded: “We only see friends.”

In a rare case before the criminal courts, Colombian-born dentist Humberto Solano Rosania allegedly operated an unlicensed clinic from his London, Ont., basement for eight years. Members of the local Colombian community said he began his alleged practice by helping the penniless among them, investigators said.

The 46-year-old man was quick and wary of those out to shut him down. He refused to see patients until he could confirm their identities. That is why Joe Passmore, an undercover college investigator and retired Toronto police officer, could never get inside. Eventually, a police department trainee whose mother was Solano Rosania’s patient turned him in.

When Solano Rosania was arrested in March, police seized an appointment book containing more than 600 patient names, said an affidavit in support of the college’s motion to shut him down.

Hiding inside his bungalow, he sent his 28-year-old wife, Vanessa De-Avila to the door when the Star came seeking comment. She said her husband will not speak publicly for fear it will influence custody decisions over her young daughter from a previous marriage.

Solano Rosania, who investigators say earned close to $100,000 cash annually and did not pay income tax, faces four criminal charges, including unlawfully inflicting bodily harm and fraud. He recently consented to a civil order prohibiting him from practising dentistry. Such an order — an injunction — is usually an illegal practitioner’s worst fate.

None of the shuttered unlicensed dentists have resurfaced after they’d been investigated, said Passmore, who has been involved in several investigations. But if caught violating the injunction, Fefergrad said an underground dentist could face jail time.

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