Windsor Humanist Society

May 31, 2007

Wind Turbine Risks Weighed

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Developers to Assess Impact of Wind Farms on Migratory Birds

Will wind energy farms with hundreds of turbine towers and blades reaching up more than 100 meters have an impact on this area’s international reputation as a corridor for migrating birds and monarch butterflies?

That could turn out to be the biggest question wind farm developers have to answer as they prepare to unveil local sites for their multimillion dollar projects.

Two major international flyways for migrating birds cross in Essex County, making Point Pelee National Park one of the premier spots for birding in North America.
The migration of raptors through Holiday Beach Conservation Area, and the Canada Geese gathering at the Jack Miner Bird Sanctuary near Kingsville are also well known.

Marian Stranak, superintendent at Point Pelee National Park, has written to every county municipality to warn of its significance as a migratory corridor for hundreds of thousands of birds and bats as plans for wind energy are developed.

Point Pelee has also been designated as “..a wetland of international significance..” and proposed as a monarch butterfly reserve in co-operation with the U.S. and Mexico, Marian Stranak said.

Almost 400 species of birds have been seen at Point Pelee, says Marian Stranak. “..In the context of migration we’re pretty important..”Yet, the draft official plan and zoning bylaw proposals unveiled by Lakeshore this week to accommodate wind energy projects make no mention of Point Pelee or bird migration as an issue for developers.

Lakeshore stretches almost the width of the county, with the north-south Mississippi migration flyway passing overhead.

Ian Kerr, a senior manager for Brookfield Power, which has a wind farm proposal in Lakeshore, was aware of the Atlantic migration route in Essex County, which follows the Lake Erie shoreline, but not the Mississippi flyway.

Mr. Kerr said his company should have a site-specific project to unveil in about three months. Its studies on the impacts aren’t complete, he said.

Marian Stranak said Parks Canada doesn’t get involved in municipal planning. But the federal agency will be commenting — along with the Canadian Wildlife Service — on the federal or provincial environmental assessments required for local wind energy projects, she said.

Matthew Child, director of watershed restoration for the Essex Region Conservation Authority (ERCA), said in addition to the migratory routes, local movements of birds along rivers and shorelines should also be considered when wind farms are sited. Mr. Child hopes the $80,000 planning study on wind energy about to be undertaken by Essex County will answer a lot of the questions about impacts on birds and other species.

Mike Crawley, president of AIM PowerGen Corp., also with a project planned for Lakeshore, says newer designs of turbines with larger, slower moving blades and a tubular tower that birds can’t perch on or nest in pose less of a risk to birds. Mr. Crawley said the number of birds killed by turbines also needs to be put in perspective. More than 100 million birds are believed killed by household cats in the U.S. annually, compared to about 33,000 by wind turbines, Mr. Crawley told a public meeting in Comber this week.

Other studies have noted the many millions of birds killed each year in the U.S. in collisions with buildings, glass windows, communication towers, transmission lines and moving vehicles. Still, critics say the relatively small number of wind turbines makes comparisons about their dangers to birds premature.

Other issues, such as the lighting of turbine towers or the noise generated also have roles in their attraction to birds.
this post forwarded by a Windsor Humanist, Alexander Hodgins, after a May 31, 2007 article by Gary Rennie in The Windsor Star

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Canada Sows Border Confusion: U.S. Official

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False expectations sown about new travel initiative

A senior Homeland Security official on Wednesday accused the Canadian government of sowing confusion about looming passport requirements at the Canada-U.S. land border, even as U.S. officials again admitted they don’t know when the plan will come into full force.

Kathleen Kraninger, director of Homeland Security’s screening co-ordination office, said Ottawa had contributed to public uncertainty about the impending U.S. rules by creating false expectations the Bush administration might scrap the controversial Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI).

“..I’ll just cut through it and say, very honestly, the fact that the Canadian government was very concerned about the impact in the relationship that this would have (and) has been really saying ‘Do we really want to do this? Is the U.S. government really going to do this? Maybe Congress will stop them? Maybe we’ll go back to just the way things have always been.’ That kind of perspective is clearly what exacerbates confusion at the local level..”, Ms. Kraninger told a group of academics and diplomats at a forum organized by the Woodrow Wilson Centre’s Canadian Studies program.

“Clearly that kind of interest and message and confusion is in some peoples’ interest. That’s just something I just would want to lay on the table.”

The swipe drew a tart response from Kevin O’Shea, the political affairs minister at the Canadian Embassy, who said Ottawa has “never opposed” and “never tried, or sought, to cause confusion” about the passport plan.

“Our primary concern has been the implementation of it,” Mr. O’Shea said.

The exchange revealed the depth of bilateral tension that has developed between the U.S. and Canada as the Bush administration rushes to begin implementing the WHTI at land border crossing as early as January 2008.

Canadian officials have long complained, both in private and public settings, that blame for confusion over the plan falls squarely at the Bush administration’s doorstep.

With time running out before the potential enforcement of new travel document rules, the U.S. has yet to reach agreement with Canada on an acceptable “alternative document” to a passport that Canadians can use to cross land borders.

Talks about the possible use of security-enhanced driver’s licences — which denote citizenship and identity — are still in their infancy with only one approved pilot project underway.

While Congress has extended the deadline for implementation until June 2009, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff has repeatedly said he will not wait to begin enforcement.

…this post forwarded by a Windsor Humanist (N.Hod) after a May 31, 2007 article by Sheldon Alberts in The National Post

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Cannabinoids Enhance Analgesic Activity Of Opiates In Inflammatory Pain

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THC (the active ingredient of marijuana) when administered in combination with morphine, acts synergistically to reduce symptoms of chronic pain, according to preclinical data to be published in the European Journal of Pharmacology.

Investigators at Virginia Commonwealth University’s Department of Pharmacology (in Richmond, Virginia, USA) assessed the antinociceptive interaction between cannabinoids and morphine in an animal model of arthritis. The administration of THC enhanced morphine’s anti-inflammatory activity on chronic pain, researchers concluded.

Preclinical data published last year in the journal Anesthesia & Analgesia reported that the co-administration of cannabinoids and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSIADS) also act synergistically to alleviate pain and reduce inflammation.

Clinical trial data published in the February 2007 edition of the journal Neurology reported that inhaled cannabis significantly reduces HIV-associated neuropathy, a painful nerve condition that often goes untreated with standard pain medications.
…this post forwarded by a Windsor Humanist (N.Hod) after an article published in medical journal The European Journal of Pharmacology

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May 29, 2007

Ban Urged on ‘Priest-Child Visits’

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Sylvestre Abuse Victim says: End Practice of Clergy Being Alone with Kids

With the London diocese’s new sexual abuse policy long overdue, 47 victims of pedophile priest Charles Sylvestre have petitioned the bishop to immediately ban clergy from being alone with children.

But abuse survivor KellyAnne Appleton said their call for open confessionals and an end to children being alone with priests in other private places has been refused since petitioning the diocese in late April.

She said the diocese must immediately implement these measures because its new sexual abuse policy — setting rules for adults dealing with children and vulnerable people — still hasn’t been released for public input months after the target date.

“The diocese still allows priests to be alone with children in closed rooms,” said Ms. Appleton.

“There is no other institution I’m aware of that still allows that — schools, boy scouts, organized sports. Many of the girls abused by Father Sylvestre, it was done in a confessional. Why can’t you implement these measures right now? They don’t cost money and all they do is protect children.”

Charles Sylvestre, 84, died in prison in January after pleading guilty to sexually abusing 47 girls in parishes across southern Ontario. Police have said at least 56 victims came forward.

In the wake of that case, the diocese began revising its sexual abuse policy. It was slated for release in February for public input.


…this post forwarded by a Windsor Humanist (N.Hod) after a May 29, 2007 article by Trevor Wilhelm in The Windsor Star

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May 28, 2007

Biometrics at Border ‘Appropriate’

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Documents with DNA or Other Biological ID Needed for Security, Study Says

Canadians will inevitably have to carry travel documents with their DNA, biometrics or other biological identifiers in order to ensure secure border travel to the United States, according to a new white paper to be revealed in Ottawa today.

Governments must prepare to make massive investments in new technologies at border crossings if they want to make the most of strict new travel rules for passengers under The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, says the paper, released to CanWest News Service by The Network on North American Studies in Canada, part of the foundation that administers The Canada-U.S. Fulbright Programme.

“We need to face the fact that there are some difficult challenges and that we need to address those challenges and we need to use whatever tools are most appropriate in a democratic society to make those decisions and to move forward,” said Michael Hawes, who will present the paper as executive director of The Foundation for Educational Exchange between Canada and the United States of America.

Government officials and policy experts from the U. S. Embassy, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade and The Canada Border Services Agency will discuss the paper Monday in a panel held in the nation’s capital.

Although some technology, such as DNA- enabled passports or driver’s licences, may be a long way off, terror threats and other looming risks mean governments must begin to seriously consider how they will introduce those measures in the future, Mr. Hawes said.

“As the world becomes more complex, and as our expectations with respect to safety and security become greater, governments are going to have to invest in appropriate ( measures) — whether it’s technologies, additional people, additional infrastructure — in order to make sure that people can move freely,” he said.

The paper examines the issues and challenges involved in beefing up border security and requirements for enhanced travel documents.

Above all, the governments of Canada, the U.S. and Mexico must seriously consider the impact the new rules will have on their respective countries and work to ensure they can be implemented to prevent serious problems, it says.

Earlier this year, new rules came into force that require Canadian air travellers to show a passport before they’re allowed to fly into the U.S.

Canadians will also have to show passports at land-crossings — a rule that is expected to come into force sooner rather than later.

The original deadline was set for January 2007, but officials in both countries have been pushing for an extension.

Despite this, U. S. Ambassador to Canada David Wilkins recently urged Canadians to get their passports to deal with the new rules, which he says will take effect sometime next year.

But stricter rules that require travellers to show passports are just one step in the movement toward more secure borders, according to the report. In order to adequately confirm an individual’s identity and speed up the process of screening passengers, governments will inevitably move to enhanced identity documents that use biological information to identify travellers, it says.

“It is likely that there will be some form of biometrically enabled identifier or credential that individuals will carry,” said Gayle Nix, executive director with Accenture, a global management consulting firm who will moderate the panel discussion.

Mr. Hawes said the paper clearly directs governments to think about developing partnerships with the private sector to help implement new technologies at border crossings.

That’s necessary in order to properly take advantage of technological possibilities, such as embedding radio frequency identification chips, electronic fingerprints or even DNA into travel documents, the report says.

However, the report acknowledges that moving in this direction and linking an individual’s biological information on travel documents to a government database will likely stir a major controversy about privacy rights and protecting personal information.


…this post forwarded by a Windsor Humanist (N.Hod) after a May 28, 2007 article by Carly Weeks in The Ottawa Citizen

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May 27, 2007

Support Fellow Humanist Taslima Nasreen: under Islamic death threat

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The (UK) National Secular Society’s honorary associate and vice-president of GALHA (Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association), Taslima Nasreen, gave an International Women’s Day address on March 8, 2007 at the University of London Union with a moving account of the persecution she’s suffered at the hands of the religious authorities in her native Bangladesh. (You can listen to a podcast of her address here)

Because she refused to accept the role as an inferior human being that Islam dictates for women, she was driven from her homeland under threat of death and is now a refugée.

She aches to return home, and her dream is that one day that will be possible on her terms and not those of the mullahs who demand that she squander her education and experience by confining her to what would be, in essence, house arrest.

Taslima’s co-vice-president of GALHA, Maryam Namazie has initiated an on-line petition in support of Taslima, who remains under threat from Islamic extremists in India & Bangladesh. Help to support Taslima by adding your name to this petition:

May 26, 2007

Canadian Auto Workers’ Union Shifts Focus

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In the last five years, Windsor has watched almost 18,000 jobs disappear. In the last year alone, Windsor lost 8,000 well-paying manufacturing positions. That does not include more than 1,000 announced job cuts still pending at the Big Three. Nor does it include more than 1,000 people who took severance packages or retirement earlier than they wished. Nor does it include further spinoff job losses that may come.

Some rare good news in the auto sector locally, however, is that Chrysler is retooling with a billon-dollar investment to build a new minivan at the Windsor assembly plant, though with 1,100 fewer workers.

“It is a crisis,” Union leader Ken Lewenza said. “Everybody feels more insecure today than ever.”

Mr. Lewenza spoke about widespread hardship of union members and their families, about how even some union locals may vanish without government action. Specifically, Mr. Lewenza advocates laws which require reciprocal trade with other countries, and lowering the high-flying loonie.

As for unions, which often battle negative perceptions, Mr. Lewenza says change is afoot.

The last Big Three strike came in 1987.

Unions started at the turn of last century concerned mostly with low wages and poor working conditions. They have traditionally resisted technological improvements. Not so now, Mr. Lewenza argues. “I care more about investment today than I do about any other collective bargaining issue,”

 he said, “If you don’t have investment, you don’t have jobs”.

“Unions have always changed. Now we’ve kind of moved into the investment mode, the product mode.”

But does the public see a more flexible union movement?

Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis’s state of the city address May 14 ruffled some feathers. Mayor Francis suggested labour leaders refrain from talking tough lest potential investment be scared off.

“Many people inside our city believe things about Windsor that are simply not true. For example, some believe we have militant labour unions in our city,” said Mayor Francis, who praised the economic, cultural and charitable benefit of local unions. Though he stressed that militancy is a misperception, he asked for more assurance from the labour community.

“We are being watched very closely by investors,” Mayor Francis said. “That’s why I am calling upon our labour movement to show Windsorites, and to show the world, that we are modern and sophisticated. That we have moved on. That we share a common interest that balances job security and corporate success.”

Mayor Francis also noted that officials are chatting with companies considering Windsor, and that The Financial Times of London recently named Windsor the No.1 small city for business investment in North America.

Tony Faria, chairman of the department of marketing and management science at the University of Windsor, predicts the “Our Jobs, Our Community, Our Future” rally scheduled for this Sunday won’t help.

“If you talk to business people around town or if you talk to business people out of town we do have a negative image as a really militant union area, which hurts us in investment,” Tony Faria said. “I don’t think we’re necessarily as militant as our image suggests, but we are a little militant.”

Mr. Faria also considers looking for government intervention misdirected.

“What can the government do to save manufacturing jobs, other than do things that are artificial?” Mr. Faria asked. “Establish trade barriers not to let products into the country? That won’t benefit consumers. Subsidize business so that companies can operate inefficiently?”

Mr. Faria said North America will continue to lose manufacturing jobs — and that becoming more competitive in a global economy requires lower costs, particularly through wages.

“The current wage rates we see in the auto industry are not sustainable,” Mr. Faria said, noting that typical hourly workers earn from $28 to $35 an hour at the Big Three. “The level of wage rates are well beyond what the skills of the job call for. The level of benefits are matched only by government officials.”

Competition reduces union clout, Mr. Faria believes.

With the onset of the North American Free Trade Agreement on Jan. 1, 1994, some people worried that jobs would migrate to Mexico. Now, Mr. Faria notes, Mexican jobs are heading to even lower-wage countries.

“Our standard of living is going to fall,” said Bill Wellington, associate professor of marketing at the Odette School of Business. “Our wages and standard of living have to fall while other countries’ wages rise until they balance out. I don’t see changing that as possible, given global markets.”

Nevertheless, Mr. Wellington, who has advised a union local on public relations, suggests labour organizations need an image makeover.

“I suggested that instead of going with ‘Buy Canadian’ campaigns, which sound like begging, they should talk about all the good they’re doing and how they contribute,” he said. “They do a lot of charity in the community and they contribute tremendously by volunteering — so they should emphasize how much unions give back to the community.”

Union members locally have donated millions to local charities, including The United Way, The University of Windsor, Hospice of Windsor, sports organizations, food banks and many other social justice causes. Mr. Wellington suggests using a “CAW Working For” campaign, which highlights community benefits on everything from billboards and stationary to websites and print ads

Windsor West MPP Sandra Pupatello uses the local labour force as a selling point, even if potential investors voice concern about Windsor’s union-town image.

“People certainly ask me about it, but that is a perfect opportunity for me to launch into the great partnerships you find in this area. I always speak about our workforce as one of our biggest selling points. We flaunt it as a positive. We’ve got one of the most educated, highly skilled workforces in a concentrated area anywhere in North America.”

Nevertheless, as Ontario’s minister of economic development and trade, Ms. Pupatello is concerned about job losses, and on Thursday announced support for tool-and-die companies as well as displaced workers seeking new work, and a local economic summit Aug. 24.

Buzz Hargrove, president of The Canadian Auto Workers union, calls the loss of manufacturing jobs permanent — unless something is done.

“It’s only permanent if we don’t have any government action, if this Harper government doesn’t get off its ass and deal with the import question,” he said. “Canada has the highest level of vehicle imports since 1985, and it was considered a crisis then.

“But we also have transplants (car company plants from other countries) now that are capturing 20 per cent of the market. So over 50 per cent of the market is going to offshore manufacturers who don’t make the same kind of commitment to jobs.”

Mr. Hargrove said that strong economies are built on strong policy, not laissezfaire ideology.

“We’re calling for a North American type autopact, where we work with the U.S. government which is facing the same challenges we are,” Mr. Hargrove said. “GM, Ford and Chrysler are closing all kinds of plants in the United States.”

Mr. Hargrove said while Canada is losing 2,000 Chrysler jobs, the U.S. is losing 11,000, plus some 30,000 Ford and GM jobs disappearing from North America.

The original Autopact, Mr. Hargrove said, was a boon for Canadian jobs.

“That’s what built the economy in Windsor, the Canada-U.S. Autopact in 1965,”  Mr. Hargrove said. “Thousands of new jobs were created within a decade.”

He believes the government should ensure that countries which sell to Canada must buy as many vehicles from us, or produce as many in this country, or no deal.

Meanwhile, he said unions are transforming, too, becoming more flexible and business-minded. He says studies from corporate-analysis firms such as J.D. Power and Associates and Harbor Associates show that Ontario quality and productivity is exceptional.

“So we’re doing everything right,”  Mr. Hargrove said. “The problem is the government is allowing the jobs to be created in Japan and South Korea today and China and India tomorrow if we don’t do something about it.”


…this post forwarded by a Windsor Humanist (N.Hod) after a May 26, 2007 article in The Windsor Star

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Turkey Securalists Launch Campaign to Keep Turkey Secular

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Turkey’s main opposition party today launched its campaign for the July 22nd election vowing to keep the country secular and capitalise on popular protests against the Islamist-rooted AK Party government.

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling AK Party, which denies any Islamist agenda, called the early parliamentary election to resolve a conflict with the secularist elite over a presidential election.

The secular establishment, including the military, judges and opposition parties, derailed the government’s plan to elect Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul as president, fearing he might weaken the official separation of religion and state.

“Turkey must say no to the AK Party in the ballot box,” Deniz Baykal, leader of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), told tens of thousands of supporters waving Turkish flags and shouting “Turkey is secular and will remain secular”.

“We will succeed in this with the power we get from you. We must defend the republic, the integrity of the nation and Mustafa Kemal Ataturk,” Mr Baykal said referring to the staunchly secularist founder of the Turkish Republic.

The CHP agreed this month to enter the elections together with the smaller left-wing Democratic Left Party (DSP) after calls by millions of secularist Turks at several anti-government rallies in Turkey’s biggest cities since mid-April.

Tens of thousands turned out for latest secularist rally in the western Turkish city of Denizli today.

The rally was billed by organisers as a way of uniting the divided opposition against the government which they accuse of trying to undermine the secular state in overwhelmingly Muslim Turkey.

Analysts said the rallies strengthened the CHP after its popularity waned during the four-and-a-half years of AK Party rule, whose policies helped cut annual inflation to around 10 per cent from nearly 60 per cent when they took power in 2002.


…this post forwarded by a Windsor Humanist (N.Hod) after a May 26, 2007 article  in The Irish Times

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May 23, 2007

Sneaky, unfair, divisive: welcome to church schools

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A bastion of middle-class educational privilege

It is not a row over nothing, as David Cameron protested, it is a row about something that couldn’t be more important. The argument over grammar schools is an argument about fairness, about equal access to education, and nothing could be more important than that. It is a row we do not have nearly as often or as loudly enough.

The grammar schools are the least of the problem. There are 164 of them in the country. Compare that with an astonishing 6,848 faith schools, about a third of all the schools in England. More than 6,000 of these are primary schools, overwhelmingly Church of England or Catholic, with a smattering of Jewish (37), Methodist (26), Muslim (8) and Sikh (2). And these are used ruthlessly by the middle classes as a barely covert form of social and academic selection. This is where the campaign for a fairer education system should be focusing.

Faith schools tie up places in good local schools for those families who are, or who are prepared to pretend to be, religious. They get the best results because they select their intake. Doing what the Blairs did and sending your children across town to a faith school has a direct impact on other children; faith schools prevent other four-year-olds, whose only fault is failing to have religious or hypocritical parents, from attending their nearest school, forcing them to travel sometimes miles from home each day, increasing their stress as well as addding to pollution levels.

Their admission criteria are opaque, manipulated and blatantly unfair, ranging from church attendance (twice a week for five years; every week for two years; whatever the governors fancy imposing) to academic record, parental committee work or, in one case, how many raffle tickets a child’s parents had sold at the primary school.

When schools are officially banned from selection on the grounds of race, colour, ability or parental background, the system sanctions selection on the entirely random basis of whether a child was born to a practising Christian family. And because faith schools set their own admissions criteria, and run their own admissions, in practice they can discriminate against anyone they choose. Many use their nurseries as a filter, so that a family effectively has to apply to the school when the child is as young as 2, and before any admissions code applies.

Questions about a child’s background were supposed to have been banned under the new school admissions code, with faith schools no longer allowed to seek supplementary information except about religion, or to interview applicants. One London school I know, a heavily oversubscribed Church of England primary, while technically sticking to the new rules, also asked this year for parents to send in copies of the child’s birth certificate with their application, ostensibly to prove their age – not something it is necessary for the school to check at that point. What the birth certificate also provides, of course, are details of the child’s parents’ professions. Parents with children at the school tell me it is overwhelmingly professional class – and pupils are drawn from surprisingly far away. Yet the school is surrounded by pockets of deep deprivation.

Schools can be fined or forced to reconsider an application, if a parent appeals successfully. One Church of England secondary for girls, Lady Margaret in Parsons Green, West London, was fined this spring for using unfair selection techniques after two families complained that their daughters had been unfairly refused places. The school operated a points system, rewarding attendance and primary school references as well as the extent of parental support. It also banded children by ability, ostensibly to ensure a comprehensive intake across the range but in fact using it to select higher ability kids. And it asked children to write an account of themselves and their home lives, which favoured articulate middle-class children. There was no clear rationale for the way governors scored the applications, the ombudsman said. To parents trying to apply for places at church schools, there never is.

Pressure from the Government to crack down on covert selection has turned the panic of parents unable to manipulate the system into near mania, with about 70,000 appeals being launched every year. More and more schools are expected to introduce lottery systems to allocate places in future, to ensure fairness and to prevent parents buying their way into the school of their choice by purchasing houses in the ever-tighter catchment areas. The unpopularity of the lottery system introduced by Brighton & Hove City Council this year contributed to Labour’s hammering in the local elections there in May.

It shouldn’t matter if schools choose to teach according to a particular religious ethos as long as they are open to anyone to attend and their entry criteria are fair. But in practice faith schools can also act as racial segregators. How many white Christian families, for instance, will choose to send their children to a Muslim school?

If you stop to think about it even for a minute, it is extraordinary that we allow publicly funded schools to exclude children simply on the basis of an accident of birth. How many four-year-olds even know if they are Christian? The reason for the lack of public outrage is because the system so strongly favours the aspirational and manipulative middle and professional classes who are the ones who would normally be making the most noise.

I am delighted that the Conservative Party leadership has ended its obsession with grammar schools. David Willetts, who declared the Tories’ love affair with grammars dead, is one of the truly great thinkers in public life, unafraid to turn dearly loved and entrenched assumptions on their heads. Now let’s see them turn their attention to the rotten selection processes of faith schools. Then again, a Tory leader who is assiduously trying to secure his own daughter a place at a C of E school, two miles and 46 alternative schools away from his home, probably isn’t the man to do it.
…this post forwarded by a Windsor Humanist (Jim.Mac) after a May 23, 2007 article by Alice Miles in The Times (of London)

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The Times of London

May 19, 2007

Islamic Scholar Touts Canada As More Tolerant Than Europe

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Canada is more tolerant of immigrants than Europe and less afraid of terrorist attacks than the United States, meaning it could be a model for faithful Muslims trying to integrate into Western society, says a controversial Islamic scholar.

Tariq Ramadan has two reservations: Canada must stop thinking of itself as peripheral to the debate and it must not knuckle under to U.S. policies.

Mr. Ramadan spoke to CanWest News Service from his office in London, England, just before departing for Ottawa where he will speak to the Islamic Society of North America conference here this weekend.

Some 3,000 Muslims from across Canada and around the world are expected at the event.

Mr. Ramadan, whose books include “In the Footsteps of the Prophet” and “Western Muslims and the Future of Islam”, says he has been working for the past 20 years trying to build bridges between Muslims and their communities.

He will be speaking with Ingrid Mattson, the first female, and first Canadian to become president of the society.

Time magazine named Mr. Ramadan one of its 100 innovators of the new century. British Prime Minister Tony Blair consulted him after terrorist attacks in London.

Yet the United States denied him a visa that would have allowed him to take a prestigious teaching post at Notre Dame University in Indiana.

Various Arabic governments have also denied him entry, calling him an infidel.

In a way, it is hardly surprising.

His message seems contradictory, calling for a return to the roots of Islam as well as a vigorous role in the public square.

Some fear he is at the forefront of the “Islamification” of Europe. Others are uncomfortable with his economic policy which decries globalization as simply wrong.

The worst thing the Muslim community can do, he says, is isolate itself from the society around it, making itself a ghetto.

“We are living in a state of fear, on both sides. You need to promote what I call a revolution of trust.”

Public policy gets warped by this mistrust until “it’s all about control and security. It’s wrong. (Muslims) are citizens, they have the same rights.”

He said the community needs to pool its leaders in all faiths and walks of life so co-operation is already established before a crisis erupts.

…this post forwarded by a Windsor Humanist (N.Hod) after a May 19th, 2007 article by Jennifer Green in The Ottawa Citizen

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