Windsor Humanist Society

August 28, 2007

A legal Afghan poppy crop can be used on the production of legal pain-relieving medicines providing legitimate sources of income for Afghan farmers

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Senlis Council (Security & Development Policy Group) calls for NATO action on soaring opium production.

The United Nations has no choice but to legalize Afghanistan’s poppy crop after its latest study documented “frightening” new levels of opium production, the Canadian-led Senlis Council think-tank and the Liberal opposition say.

UN Office on Drugs & Crime logoAfghanistan’s status as the world’s leading supplier of the key ingredient of heroin remained unchallenged as opium production soared 34 per cent in the last year, according to the latest annual audit by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, released yesterday.

The UN agency also called for more active NATO military involvement to eradicate the illicit opium trade.

However, Senlis and its Canadian leader, Norine MacDonald, as well as Liberal defence critic Denis Coderre, called on Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Canada’s western allies to reconsider legalizing poppy production so money now funnelled into the illicit narcotics trade can be spent on the production of pain-relieving medicines that provide legitimate sources of income for Afghan farmers.

They say this latest UN report is a dramatic example of the failure of the $600 million the U.S. has pumped into eradication efforts in Afghanistan.

The UN opposes the legalization of the poppy trade as generally unworkable and against the Islamic principles of the western-backed government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Though illicit poppy cultivation has risen steadily in the six years since western forces deposed the Taliban, yesterday’s UN report was the first to draw a direct link between the opium trade and the anti-western insurgency that Canada and its NATO allies continue to battle in southern Afghanistan.

“Since drugs are funding insurgency, Afghanistan’s military and its allies have a vested interest in destroying heroin labs, closing opium markets and bringing traffickers to justice. Tacit acceptance of opium trafficking is undermining stabilization efforts,” said Antonio Maria Costa, executive director of the UN drug agency.

For the most part, the 37,000 troops from the 26 NATO countries and its 11 allied countries are reluctant to take part in direct counter-narcotic efforts.

Mr. Coderre reiterated his party’s support for the Senlis proposal. He said past eradication efforts have simply not worked and that in the short term there is little financial incentive for farmers to grow legal crops.

“This is the only way for farmers to get bread on the table,” said Mr. Coderre. “The reality is, if you eradicate, the farmers are against you and they become allies to the Taliban. I would suggest, like Senlis Council proposes, a supply management strategy.”

Yesterday’s UN report showed that Afghanistan opium now accounts for 93 per cent of the world’s heroin trade (up from 92 per cent), and that its poppy farmers are now more productive than all the coca farmers of Colombia, Peru and Bolivia combined, who form the backbone of the global cocaine trade.
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…this post forwarded by Windsor Humanist, Alexander Hodgins, after an August 28, 2007 article by Mike Blanchfield in The Ottawa Citizen

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August 24, 2007

German returns stolen artifact to rid family of “Pharaoh’s Curse”

Filed under: Uncategorized — moderator @ 11:50 pm

Warning:  Stealing artifacts can seriously damage your health

The Egyptian Embassy in Berlin probably gets a lot of things handed in at reception, like lost passports, etc. It’s unlikely, however, that it has ever had an ancient cursed relic pass over its front desk before.

Many people come back from holiday with little souvenirs that they shouldn’t really have. Exotic seashells plucked from the sand of the South China seas, carvings made from the bough of an endangered Amazonian tree and medicines made from rare animal parts may add a slight weight to the conscience in more reflective times but none are likely to cause the ill-advised tourist a life of disease and an agonizing death.

This, however, was the alleged outcome of one man’s visit to Egypt back in 2004.

According to the unnamed German man’s stepson in a note handed in together with a stolen carving to Egypt’s embassy in Berlin this week, the unwitting thief returned to Germany from his exotic travels to suffer from unexplained paralysis, nausea, mysterious fevers and ultimately the terminal cancer which claimed his life.

The stepson, also anonymously, claimed that the artifact, which displayed a hieroglyphic text, was responsible for bringing the “Curse of the Pharaohs” onto his family.

The note with the stolen fragment said that the man felt obliged to return the carving to make amends for his late stepfather’s light-fingered-ness and enable his soul to rest in peace, as well as freeing his relatives from potential repercussions.

The Egyptian embassy in Berlin sent the fragment back to Egypt by diplomatic pouch and it has since been handed over to The Supreme Council for Antiquities, where a committee of experts was trying to ascertain its authenticity, the council statement said.

The belief in a curse that strikes down anyone who disturbs the tombs or mummies of ancient Egypt’s Pharaohs has been around since the discovery of Tutankhamun‘s tomb in 1922 and the subsequent death of the excavation’s financier Lord Carnarvon.
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…this post forwarded by Windsor Humanist, Alexander Hodgins, after an August 24, 2007 article by Deutsche Welle

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August 23, 2007

Premier accused of hypocrisy over religious schools

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Tory vow of tax dollars for faith-based schools will define October provincial election

Daltopn McQuintyOntario’s upcoming election may have just gotten its ballot issue. Premier Dalton McGuinty signalled yesterday he intends to lay bare his Conservative rival’s pledge to extend full funding to Jewish, Muslim, fundamentalist Christian and other faith-based schools in the run-up to the Oct. 10 election.

Speaking to reporters before his government’s final pre-election cabinet meeting yesterday, Mr. McGuinty said he viewed the pledge by opposition leader John Tory as retrograde, a step backwards for Ontario’s successful multicultural makeup.

“I think it’s a really important and defining issue and I’ll continue to talk about that during the course of the campaign,” Mr. McGuinty said, responding to a reporter’s question. “And it’s one of those issues where I’m hoping to grab Ontarians by the earlobes and say, ‘It’s not just another election, it’s not just business as usual. It’s about the kind of Ontario you want.’

“If you want the kind of Ontario where we invite children of different faiths to leave the publicly-funded system and become sequestered and segregated in their own private schools, then they should vote for Mr. Tory. If they think it’s important that we continue to bring our kids together, so that they grow together and learn from one another, then you should vote for me.”

Some proponents of change, however, have a problem with the premier’s position.

Mr. McGuinty, his wife, Terri McGuinty, and the couple’s four children, all attended Roman Catholic schools.

In fact, Mrs. McGuinty continues to teach part-time in the Catholic system.

York University professor Eric Lawee, among others, said he sees “tremendous hypocrisy” in Mr. McGuinty’s opposition to extending funding to religious schools.

“As he tells the story, (faith-based schools are) segregationist, regressive and so on — and yet here’s someone whose wife goes off every day and provides this type of education,” Mr. Lawee, a member of a multi-faith coalition pushing for funding, said yesterday.

“I think it belies everything he says about faith-based schooling. The fact that we have a premier who’s a product of these types of schools shows that one can not only integrate, having had exposure to faith-based schooling, but can flourish and make major contributions to the welfare of all Ontarians regardless of their faith.”

Mr. Lawee’s children, who range in age from 13 weeks to 16 years, attend Jewish schools in the Toronto area.

“I bike to work every day and I bike by a Catholic school and I see all the things my kids don’t have because they’re members of the wrong religion, as it were, in Ontario in 2007,” he said.

Mr. Tory has framed the issue in terms of fairness. The province has had fully funded Catholic school boards since 1984. Extending the same rights to other religious minorities will fix a fundamental inequality, he believes.

In 1999, the United Nations Human Rights Committee ruled Ontario was in violation of the international covenant on civil and political rights by not funding faith-based schools.
Deputy Conservative leader Elizabeth Witmer noted yesterday that in order to qualify for funding, religious schools would have to teach the provincial curriculum, take part in standardized testing and hire qualified teachers. The plan would cost an estimated $400 million.

“If you bring them into the public school system they can interact with one another, they can participate in sports or science fairs or other activities together,” she said. “(Students) would develop an appreciation, certainly, for the values and understanding of our province, our country, our history.”

But Mr. McGuinty called the Tory plan “regressive.”

The Ottawa-born premier said that in recent trips overseas he has boasted about Ontario’s social cohesion, a big part of which is due to “a publicly funded education system where we invite children of all backgrounds and faiths, economic circumstances to come together, to grow together and to learn together.”

Tarek Fatah, a secular Muslim activist who opposes the Tory plan, believes the government erred by extending full funding to Catholic schools. Mr. Fatah says the Conservative plan will compound the current inequities and “ghettoize” various communities.

“There’s not a single Islamic school that has categorically come out in opposition of the doctrines of jihad or Shariah (which advocates different treatment of women and men),” he says. “We know that in all these schools women are sent to the back of the class. They are not even allowed to sit as equal students. Now we’ll have the Canadian taxpayer funding this segregation.”

About 53,000 students in Ontario go to private faith-based schools, roughly 2.5 per cent of the total student population.

Ontario New Democrats, like their Liberal rivals, believe in the status quo when it comes to religious school funding.

Ontario’s Green party, vying for their first ever seat in October’s election, has proposed scrapping all faith-based school funding, including money for Catholic schools. Party leader Frank de Jong says that as a young student in southwestern Ontario, he witnessed firsthand the failure of Catholic schools to promote integration.

“There was a sense that we were different from the public school kids and we didn’t play sports with them, we didn’t associate with them and it was basically implied that we shouldn’t,” said Mr. de Jong.

“This is so wrong. We need a system that’s not divisive.”
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…this post forwarded by Windsor Humanist, Alexander Hodgins, after an August 23, 2007 article by Lee Greenberg in The Ottawa Citizen

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August 11, 2007

Wyandotte Street billboard depicting Hezbollah leader splits Lebanese, riles Jews

Filed under: Uncategorized — moderator @ 12:39 am

Members of the Jewish and Lebanese Christian communities in Windsor are outraged by the appearance of a billboard that appears to promote Hezbollah — an organization the Canadian government considers terrorist.

Ghina Maawie said the men on the billboard at Marion Avenue and Wyandotte Street East represent peace. Some other groups don’t agree.“That organization is banned in Canada,” said Harvey Kessler, executive director of the Windsor Jewish Community Centre. “How can that billboard be up in Windsor when it represents a terrorist organization which is banned under the laws of Canada?”

Located at the southwest corner of Marion Avenue and Wyandotte Street East, the billboard does not mention Hezbollah by name, but features a central image of Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the controversial political and military group that represents Lebanese Shia Muslims and has clashed with Israeli troops for more than 20 years.

Mr. Kessler said he feels Hassan Nasrallah represents “the opposite of peace.”

“It should be offensive to all people living in Windsor. It should be offensive not only to the Jewish community, but to any Canadian.”

Emile Nabbout, president of the Windsor branch of the Lebanese Christian political group Kataeb, said he also thinks Hezbollah is a terrorist organization, and he feels the billboard creates a misconception of the views of Windsor’s Lebanese community.

“We really are not in support or in favour of that billboard and it should be removed ASAP,” Mr. Nabbout said.

The image of Hassan Nasrallah is flanked by four other Lebanese political figures. “All those individuals in that picture… they are in opposition to the Lebanese government right now,” Mr. Nabbout said.

“By just analyzing the picture, there is no doubt in my mind this is a Hezbollah activity,” he added.

Printed in English on the left side of the billboard are the words: “Lebanese and Arab communities in Windsor city congratulate the Lebanese people for their steadfastness and endeavor to establish peace in Lebanon.”

But Mr. Nabbout said that Arabic writing which appears on the right side of the billboard does not match the English translation. According to Mr. Nabbout, the Arabic writing makes a reference to fighting.

“What they mean by ‘fight’ is basically ‘guerrilla’ — using arms and weapons,” Mr. Nabbout said. “Basically, there is a very specific word… That is a definite difference between the Arabic and the English.”

Contacted on Friday night, Mayor Eddie Francis said he was made aware of the billboard earlier in the day. Asked if he is concerned about its presence, Mayor Francis said: “The politics of Lebanon belong in Lebanon, not on the streets of Windsor.”

Mayor Francis said he has no idea who was responsible for the billboard, but the city is now looking into whether its content violates any rules.

Mr. Kessler said he has talked to Chief Glenn Stannard of Windsor police about the billboard, as well as the mayor. He said he has made calls to councillors, the city’s race and ethnocultural relations committee, RCMP and CSIS.

“I understand that everyone is looking at strategies under the Canadian law to get it down. Because it is not appropriate,” Mr. Kessler said.

Mr. Nabbout said members of the Lebanese Christian community have made calls to local MPs Joe Comartin and Brian Masse about the issue.

But Sam Ali, a 39-year-old Lebanese-born Windsor resident, said he supports the billboard’s message, and he believes many in the city’s Lebanese population feel the same way.

According to Mr. Ali, the accusations that Hezbollah is terrorist are untrue. “Hezbollah is freedom fighting. Whoever calls them terrorist is a liar,” he said.

Mr. Ali, a Muslim, said Hassan Nasrallah has done good things, helping people with hospitals and medicine. “When Nasrallah speaks in Lebanon, a million and a half or two million people go into the street to listen.”

Fellow Lebanese native and Muslim Ghina Maawie said she doesn’t understand why anyone would be offended by the billboard. “When I saw it, I felt so happy and so proud of it,” she said. “In Canada, we have freedom of speech.”

Ms. Maawie also dismissed the criticisms of Hezbollah. “For anyone to defend Lebanon, they call them terrorist. All we did is defend our country.”
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…this post forwarded by a Windsor Humanist, Alexander Hodgins, after a July 11, 2007 article by Dalson Chen in The Windsor Star

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August 9, 2007

“Green” cars in Ontario may get perks

Filed under: Uncategorized — moderator @ 12:54 pm

Owners of gas sippers could enjoy preferred parking, special lanes

As early as next summer, Ontario motorists who drive hybrids or other low-emission vehicles will be entitled to an Ecolicence plate — and perhaps a slew of special privileges that go with it.
The provincial government, which announced the program Wednesday (here), won’t yet specify the type of entitlements and rebates it will offer. First, the province will set up a panel of experts from the automobile industry, environmental movement and others to determine which automobiles will be eligible for the special plates. The panel will look at cars, light trucks and commercial vehicles.
Laurel BrotenOnce that’s done, perks are expected to be identified, said Anne O’Hagan, a spokesman for Environment Minister Lauren Broten.
In an interview Wednesday, Ms. O’Hagan said other jurisdictions have used such measures as tax rebates, preferred parking, reduced fees and the ability to use HOV (high occupancy vehicle) lanes. “That’s the type of thing,” she said.
But a look around at other places in the world, and even a peek at an Ikea parking lot in Ottawa where prime spots are saved for hybrids, shows that green membership is clearly starting to have its privileges.

Salt Lake City, San Antonio, and New Haven, Conn., are among the many American cities that offer free parking at meters to hybrids and other lowemission cars.
Some U.S. states, like California, have opened carpool lanes for hybrid drivers who apply for a special sticker, even if they’re travelling solo.
Some towns even offer extra-special perks, like the free beach passes given to low-emission vehicle owners in Huntington, N.Y.
One of the most unusual is the proposed $500 credit toward city services like swimming lessons or ice-skating classes for drivers of green vehicles in Belmont, Calif., according to a report last week in the San Francisco Chronicle.
One of the most common perks for buyers are rebates and sales tax reductions, which are already offered in British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, and Prince Edward Island.
In the United States, hybrid drivers are offered a tax credit of up to $3,150 by the federal government, depending on the fuel efficiency of the model. There are also discounted insurance rates.
Perhaps not surprisingly, Sweden is seen as a leader when it comes to promoting low-emission vehicles. They offer the tax breaks and free parking. And renewable fuel is widely available for drivers.
And then there’s Swedish-owned furniture giant Ikea, which in June designated two parking spots at each of its 11 Canadian stores for hybrid cars. Debbie McDowell, a spokeswoman at the Ottawa store, said there are plans to increase the number of spaces as the number of cars increases.
Along with the announcement on green licence plates, Ontario also said it will spend $15 million over four years in a pilot project to help businesses switch to greener transportation, such as hybrid technology. Provincial officials said a special effort will be made to help make medium-duty hybrid trucks more affordable.
As well, the province said it will build two new ethanol stations for government vehicles, which, once opened, could be made available to municipal fleets, a government statement said.
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…this post forwarded by Windsor Humanist, Alexander Hodgins, after an August 9th 2007 article by Alana Toulin in The Ottawa Citizen

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August 4, 2007

The Thin Blue Line: Suspended drug squad officer faces charges

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A disgraced Windsor-born Toronto cop facing an array of corruption, assault and sex assault charges is out on bail.

Ned Maodus leaves court in WindsorOn Friday evening, after a lengthy hearing presided by Justice Richard Gates, 44-yearold Ned Maodus was released from custody for the first time in five months.

“I’ll win,” said Mr. Maodus when asked his opinion of the charges that remain levelled against him in several jurisdictions across the province.

The former member of the Toronto police drug squad would not offer further comment about his time in jail, but acknowledged he will now be living with his 81-year-old mother in her downtown residence.

“Which is where he was residing before all this ‘in custody’ stuff,” said Mr. Maodus’s lawyer Patrick Ducharme.

Mr. Ducharme said he was “very happy” with the outcome of Friday’s bail hearing, and stressed that his client is not a danger to the public. “Absolutely, the public has nothing to fear. This man has been a police officer for 20 years.”

According to Mr. Ducharme, Mr. Maodus has suffered in custody, especially during two months at Maplehurst Correctional Complex where he lived in “deplorable conditions.”

Mr. Ducharme said Mr. Maodus was confined to a cell with “bodily substances on the wall” and was forced to sleep on a mattress only a half-inch thick.

Mr. Ducharme said the Maplehurst cell measured seven feet by seven feet in floor space, and the cramping aggravated Mr. Maodus’s osteoarthritis. “He’s six foot three. He used to weigh 200 pounds. He now weighs 170 pounds. He’s lost 30 pounds in custody.”

Smoking a cigarette as he left the Superior Court of Justice in Windsor, Mr. Maodus would not speak about his jail conditions, but indicated his thin frame — still clad in prison issue clothes.

Mr. Maodus has been held since March 12 when he was arrested for allegedly attacking his then girlfriend. He was acquitted of those charges on July 21 after the woman recanted her story, saying she “felt bad” for not telling the truth.

In March, Mr. Maodus was also acquitted of charges stemming from an alleged road rage incident in 2005, due to the lack of believability in the complainant’s testimony.

Mr. Ducharme said he expects more of the charges against Mr. Maodus will turn out favourably for his client.

According to Mr. Ducharme, at least half of the approximately 40 total charges against Mr. Maodus have already been or will soon be materially affected or dismissed.

“The fact is, he’s facing far fewer charges than he was before,” Mr. Ducharme said.

Mr. Maodus is one of six Toronto police officers who have been charged as a result of an RCMP probe into alleged corruption in the Toronto police drug squad.

But Mr. Ducharme said he believes several of those corruption-related charges will be dismissed or withdrawn after Justice Casey Hill’s ruling last week that drugs and guns allegedly found in Mr. Maodus’s Orangeville home aren’t admissible as evidence due to a “very, very serious breach of (Maodus’s) constitutional rights.”

Mr. Ducharme said there are “stringent conditions” attached to Mr. Maodus’s bail. A total surety of $45,000 was posted for Mr. Maodus’s release.

Along with living in his mother’s home, Mr. Maodus must regularly check in with a police officer when he’s in Toronto for court appearances.

“He’s essentially under house arrest,” Mr. Ducharme said.

Asked how Mr. Maodus was feeling after Friday’s bail hearing, Mr. Ducharme replied: “I’ve never been kissed by a client. He kissed me three times.”
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…this post forwarded by a Windsor Humanist, Alexander Hodgins, after an August 4, 2007 article by Dalson Chen in The Windsor Star

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