Windsor Humanist Society

December 24, 2007

Violent East-Indian Sectarian Clashes Ring In The Season

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A violent clash took place on Monday between members of two communities at Brahmanigaon town of Kandhamal district, nearly 400 km from the state capital allegedly over Christmas celebrations. Ten people belonging to both the groups were injured.

The situation took a turn for the worse later in the day when an important Hindu religious leader Laxmanananda Saraswati was attacked allegedly by some Christian members while he was on his way to visit the troubled spot.

Member of Sangh ParivarThe Viswa Hindu Parishad, the Bajrang Dal and other outfits belonging to the Sangh Parivar have called for Orissa bandh on Tuesday to protest against the attack on Swami Laxmananda Saraswati.

The police at the Bramnaigaon police station told Hindustan Times that trouble began in the morning when some Hindu groups suddenly started demolishing the gates erected to celebrate Christmas. Christian groups in the town then resisted the attackers.

Satyabrata Sahu, divisional commissioner of southern range, told Hindustan Times, “I’m rushing to the spot along with the DIG. Till Sunday, we were in Kandhamal district and had held talks with community leaders from both sides to maintain peace.”

Nearly 18 per cent of the population in Kandhamal district belongs to the Christian community and Christians have been attacked in this area in the past. On August 26, 2004, a church in Raikia town in the same Kandhamal district was attacked.
…this post forwarded by Windsor Humanist, Alexander Neil, after a December 24, 2007 article by Soumyajit Pattnaik in The Hindustan Times

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Curfews have been imposed in four districts in the Indian state of Orissa after rioters attacked churches, police stations and homes. The violence allegedly started with a fight over Christmas decorations.Christian Church in OrissaOfficials in Orissa say hundreds of armed security personnel have been sent to the tribal-dominated Kandhamal district, following a rampage that saw the torching of about 12 churches, attacks on police and offices of charitable organizations. At least one person was killed in the violence.

Authorities say a prominent conservative Hindu figure, 80-year-old Swami Laxmananda Saraswati, was attacked on his way to a town where gunfire had broken out over the installation of public Christmas decorations. Hindu mobs took to the streets to protest the assault on the official of the VHP, the acronym for the World Hindu Council. The VHP is active in the area trying to convert Christians to Hinduism.

Media reports say a member of the Kui tribe was hit by a rock and killed when he was caught between clashing Hindus and Christians. About 25 other people have been injured in the escalating violence since Monday.

Vijay Kumar Nayak, who heads the Ashakiran organization, a volunteer group dedicated to conflict resolution in the troubled district, blames authorities for not doing enough to prevent violence.

“I feel really sorry about our government and our police department who cannot control the difficulties and problems. They don’t take precautions,” said Mr. Nayak. “When everything is finished, the destruction is done, houses have burned, churches have burned, Christians are killed, they implement the rules and all that.”

On Wednesday, the national Hindu newspaper described the area as a “virtual war zone,” which is now under indefinite curfew.
…this post forwarded by Windsor Humanist, Alexander Neil, after a December 26, 2007 article by Steve Herman via The Voice of America

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December 18, 2007

Darwin’s Era, Modern Themes: Science, Faith & Publication

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Given the furour he feared it would unleash, it is not surprising that Charles Darwin sat on his “great idea,” refusing to publish The Origin of Species until 1859, more than 20 years after he first devised the theory of evolution.“If I finish the book, I’m a killer,” he said. “I murder God.”Charles Darwin on a smoke breakAt least that’s what Peter Parnell has Charles Darwin say in his new play, “Trumpery,” which opened this month at the Atlantic Theater Company in New York.

In the play, as in real life, Charles Darwin is moved to publish by Alfred Russel Wallace, a young man whom Peter Parnell’s Charles Darwin dismisses as “a nobody, a collector, a poor specimen hunter,” but who has independently come up with a theory just like the one Charles Darwin has been chewing on for decades.

So in part the play hangs on scientific “priority:” who will publish first? As the action begins, Alfred Russel Wallace, as in real life, has sent Charles Darwin a paper describing his ideas, in hopes that Charles Darwin will help make them known. (If, like many people, you know who Charles Darwin is but not Alfred Russel Wallace, you probably think you know how that comes out. Think again.)

But a larger question, Mr. Parnell said in an interview, is “what it means to be a scientist” when confronting issues of faith. It is an idea as controversial today as it was then.

Charles Darwin’s Britain teemed with religiosity as diverse as evangelical Christian fervour and spiritualism, an idea whose adherents included Alfred Russel Wallace and Charles Darwin’s wife, Emma Wedgwood. Charles Darwin knew he would be called heretical for challenging the Biblical idea of God as a one-time-only creator of an immutable natural order.

At first, he finds the idea literally sickening. But, as Mr. Parnell put it, Charles Darwin is “both great enough and grandiose enough” to eventually conclude not just that he could do it, but that he ought to. And we all know how that came out.

But today as then, there are creationists who assert that people must choose between belief in Charles Darwin’s theory and belief in God. Yet Charles Darwin did not kill God. His theory, unchallenged in science, is the foundation on which the edifice of modern biology is built. And it has plenty of adherents among religious believers.

“Trumpery” is not the first foray into science for Mr. Parnell, a screenwriter and dramatist who has worked on television shows like “The West Wing” and who teaches television writing at the Yale School of Drama. That would be “QED,” a play about Richard Feynman, the physicist and theorist of quantum electrodynamics, the modern theory of electromagnetism.

It was while working on that play that Mr. Parnell stumbled on a book, “The Song of the Dodo” by David Quammen, which describes Alfred Russel Wallace’s work. The book led Mr. Parnell to more study of Charles Darwin, Alfred Russel Wallace and their times. Pretty soon, he had a three-act play with, he realized, a cast of way too many characters dealing with way too many subjects — not just evolution, but topics like Colonialism and a Tierra del Fuegan accused of murder.

“I didn’t know for a long time what the play was about,” he said.

But just as “QED” focused sharply on Richard Feynman, Mr. Parnell found this play by focusing on Charles Darwin and telescoping some of the events in his life to bring his quandaries into sharp relief.

For example, much of the play is an argument involving Charles Darwin, his biological allies Joseph Hooker and Thomas Henry Huxley, and their foe, Richard Owen. In fact, their debates took place in letters. But confrontation is useful for a dramatist dealing with science.

“The ideas have to be accurate, they have to be intelligible,” Mr. Parnell said. “But you have to find a dramatic way to tell it — a reason it can be a play, to exist on stage.”

He added, “It has to be grounded in conflict.”

“Trumpery” is not Mr. Parnell’s first exploration of a frightening idea either. That was “And Tango Makes Three,” a children’s book he wrote with his partner, Justin Richardson. The book tells the true story of Silo and Roy, two male penguins at the Central Park Zoo who courted each other and formed a relationship. When a keeper saw them trying to incubate a rock, he gave them an orphaned egg, which they cared for until it hatched as the chick Tango.

While the book received many favourable reviews, some parents and religious groups objected to it as suggesting that a family could be something other than Mom, Dad and kids.

“That idea is considered dangerous,” Mr. Parnell said.

Today, although Charles Darwin’s idea is not so frightening to many, the conflict over evolution still plays on, on stage and in school boards and courtrooms around the country. Perhaps conflict is inevitable when people confront new and frightening ideas. But, as Charles Darwin tells his dying daughter Annie Darwin, at the end of the play, it is good to challenge conventional wisdom. He adds, though, “if you question everything, you have to expect to be scared.”
…this post forwarded by Windsor Humanist, Joe Pkr, after a December 18, 2007 essay by Cornelia Dean in The New York Times

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December 16, 2007

NDP Pulls Two Québec Candidates From Roster – Transgendered Lawyer Objects, Claiming Bias

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A Québec City lawyer says the federal New Democratic Party has dumped her as a candidate because she is transgendered.

Micheline MontreuilMicheline Montreuil claims an NDP official told her the party has had a tough time attracting new candidates in the province because of her sexuality.

The prominent lawyer also says the party told her she lost the candidacy for statements she made in media interviews, her difficulty maintaining the local riding association and for not working in a team.

Ms. Montreuil was selected in April to carry the New Democrat banner in the provincial capital’s riding of Quebec.

Raymond Guardia, co-chair of the NDP election planning committee for Quebec, says Ms. Montreuil’s removal has nothing to do with her sexual orientation.

He says her candidacy was annulled because she was not a team player.

Mr. Guardia says Rivière-des-Milles-Iles NDP candidate Francis Chartrand was also recently removed for making statements that did not coincide with the goals of the party.

NDP Leader Jack Layton was not available for comment yesterday, but issued a statement, saying he supports the committee’s decision to drop Ms. Montreuil and Mr. Chartrand.

In September, the New Democrats scored a huge upset when former Québec environment minister Thomas Mulcair won a by-election in the Montréal riding of Outremont.

He is the party’s only Quebec MP.
…this post forwarded by Windsor Humanist, JoePk, after a December 16, 2007 article from The Canadian Press and printed in The Toronto Star

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December 15, 2007

Medicine & Religion Clash Over Another End-of-Life Issue

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Medical science and religion clashed this week over whether to switch off life-support equipment that is keeping an 84-year-old man alive in a Canadian hospital.

The Complete Works of ShakespeareIn a court case in Winnipeg, which doctors say could set a legal precedent, the family of Samuel Golubchuk argues it would be a sin under their Orthodox Jewish faith for doctors to halt treatment and “hasten death.”

Doctors say Mr. Golubchuk has only minimal brain function and his chances of recovery are slim. They want to disconnect his ventilator and remove his feeding tube. They also argue he is in pain and that ongoing invasive procedures constitute abuse.

The conflict, a medical ethicist said, is becoming increasingly common as science extends its ability to prolong life.

“Increasingly so — over the past few years as technology allows us to keep people alive with more complex medical situations for longer — I think we’re seeing more really difficult end-of-life type cases,” said Dr. Jeff Blackmer, executive director, office of ethics, for the Canadian Medical Association, which represents 65,000 doctors.

“Our viewpoint is that we want to make sure that clinical decisions are left to physicians and not judges,” he added. “These decisions are not made lightly and they’re not made in haste, and they’re not made with anything except the best interest of that individual patient at heart.

But Mr. Golubchuk’s family disagrees.

“The family sees it as when there is life there is hope. He is breathing, his brain functions, he holds their hands,” Neil Kravetsky, the family’s lawyer, told the CBC.

Lawyers don’t know when the ruling could come.
…this post forwarded by Windsor Humanist, Alexander Neil, after a December 15, 2007 article by Carla Tonelli in Reuters

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Nine Years for Killers’ Dad – Muslim Cabbie Killed Over A $1,000 Collection For Planned Windsor Shi’ite Community Centre

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The father — and brains — behind a “dangerous plan” that ended with his two sons and their friend serving life sentences for a grisly murder, was himself handed a nine-year prison sentence Friday for his role in the 2004 killing of Windsor cabbie Thualfikar Alattiya.

I'm Not Ready For My Close-Up, Ms DeMilleOn the eve of a trial expected to last months, with a witness list drawn from around the world, Daham Al Ghazzi pleaded guilty to manslaughter in what Superior Court Justice Robert Abbey called the “horrible” murder of Thualfikar Alattiya on Nov. 19, 2004.

He also pleaded guilty to attempted obstruction of justice for his attempts, while awaiting trial, to intimidate witnesses into changing their testimony.

Given two-for-one credit for his three years in pre-sentence custody, Al Ghazzi, 56, was ordered to serve another three years in penitentiary.

A local lawyer involved in the case said Al Ghazzi could be eligible for day parole by June and out on full parole before the end of next year.

Both of Al Ghazzi’s sons, Hassan and Mohamed — 17 and 19, respectively, at the time of the crime — and their friend Ali Al-Shammari, then 19, are serving life sentences for carrying out the taxi hijack and bloody murder of the father of three young children.

In addition to face wounds, cuts, abrasions, contusions and three broken ribs, assistant Crown attorney Renee Puskas told the court the victim’s throat “had been cut to the point of near decapitation.”

The murder was the culmination of a dispute that began after the late Mr. Alattiya demanded the return of $1,000 he’d collected for Al Ghazzi from local Shiite Muslims for a planned community centre from which the late Mr. Alattiya subsequently withdrew. According to a statement of facts agreed to by both the Crown and defence, Al Ghazzi also accused the late Mr. Alattiya of “spying” on him with the intent of exposing his family for welfare fraud.

Police later learned that Al Ghazzi had been warning members of the local Muslim community that the late Mr. Alattiya had better stop insulting his family, and he threatened to “send his boys to beat Mr. Alattiya,” according to the statement of facts. Ms. Puskas said it was a matter of ongoing discussion in the Al Ghazzi home in the month before the late Mr. Alattiya’s death.

The original plan was to have the three young men collect the cabbie, beat him up and then abandon him in a field. The plan went awry when the late Mr. Alattiya recognized and then appealed to his masked assailants.

Al-Shammari was sentenced last week to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years after a jury found him guilty of first-degree murder for handing a knife to Hassan, helping hold down the late Mr. Allatiya and ordering the other teen to kill him.

Both of Al Ghazzi’s sons are also serving life sentences for the killing. Two other minors were convicted of being accessories after the fact.

Ms. Puskas read out a victim impact statement from the late Mr. Alattiya’s widow Rola Kamel, who informed the court via e-mail that she has left the country for a new start with her traumatized family.

Her husband was killed three years after the family came to Canada “with hopes and dreams,” she said, adding his death has left her “overwhelmed with grief.”

The late Mr. Alattiya’s son “views the world as a dangerous place” and trusts no one, she wrote.

Justice Abbey sentenced Mr. Al Ghazzi to seven years for manslaughter and added a consecutive two-year term on the obstruction charge.

The judge also imposed a lifetime weapons ban and ordered Mr. Al Ghazzi to submit a blood sample for a police DNA bank. He could face deportation back to Iraq upon his release, although one court observer said it is unlikely given the current security situation there.

“He’s happy to have this done,” Mr. Al Ghazzi’s lawyer Daniel Topp told reporters.

“It’s a sad conclusion to a tragic chain of events.”


Among nearly 3,000 pages of Arabic poetry, scribblings and drawings police seized in a search warrant executed at Daham Al Ghazzi’s Windsor Jail cell last spring were not-so-veiled threats issued to potential trial witnesses.

One such poem — “Fashion Party for the Tailor” — warned a witness known as “the tailor” to “imagine what the consequences would be” of his anticipated testimony.

Translated from Arabic, it warns the tailor “he is not the only one sought.”

It says that other family members, including infants, in his Iraqi homeland could face harm.

The tailor — a member of Windsor’s Shiite community — had nothing to gain if he “threw us in the hands of the infidels.”

He was also asked why he would “allow the Jews to win over us.”

Assistant Crown attorney Renee Puskas told a sentencing hearing Friday for Mr. Al Ghazzi, a self-described local Muslim community leader, that the “fashion party” was the tailor’s “final warning” before his family would be targeted.

The translation explains in broken English how “today Iraq is an open grounds to settle the differences and easily.”

One of the witnesses scheduled to testify told police that his “tribal family” back home advised him of the threats and “suggested he change his testimony,” said Ms. Puskas.

While in jail, Mr. Al Ghazzi approached another inmate with an offer of a car, $300 and a rent-reduced apartment if he forwarded threats to two key prosecution witnesses, telling them not to testify against “the sheik.”

The inmate, subsequently dubbed “Mr. X” became a police informant and helped gain information leading to an additional charge of obstructing justice.

Ms. Puskas referred to another lengthy jail poem entitled “Who is the One Who Did This?” that points to slain cabbie Thualfikar Alattiya — alluded to as the “gullible monkey” — as having “attempted to overthrow … the sheik.” In recorded conversation with “Mr. X”, Ms. Puskas said Mr. Al Ghazzi expressed his belief that the late Mr. Alattiya was telling the local Muslim community that Mr. Al Ghazzi was “not an imam,” or religious leader.

“Just about every investigative technique was used in this investigation,” said lead Windsor police investigator Staff Sgt. Norm Burkoski, adding 14 detectives were involved at its peak.

Mr. Al Ghazzi was the sixth person convicted in the brutal Nov. 19, 2004, killing of the late Mr. Alattiya, whose head was nearly severed in the rear of his taxi.

Superior Court Justice Robert Abbey said Mr. Al Ghazzi’s “persistent” attempts to threaten and intimidate witnesses while he sat in jail was an aggravating factor in his sentencing consideration, as was the “conscripting” of his sons in “the horrible events of November 2004.” He pointed out that members of the local Shiite community had offered to mediate the dispute, but that Mr. Al Ghazzi “chose the path of violence.”

“The Crown and the police are very pleased that everybody involved in Mr. Alattiya’s murder were held to account by the justice system,” said assistant Crown attorney George Spartinos.
…these posts forwarded by Windsor Humanist, Alexander Neil, after a December 15, 2007 article by Doug Schmidt in The Windsor Star

December 13, 2007

Castro’s Girl Seeks Equal Legal Protection For Cuba’s Lesbian-Gay Community

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Cuban sexologist Mariela Castro shocked the world, and a good number of people in Cuba, this year when she announced a proposed legal reform in this socialist Caribbean island nation which would include the full recognition of the rights of gays, lesbians, transsexuals, transvestites and transgender persons.

Mariela CastroThe director of the National Centre for Sex Education (CENESEX), Ms. Castro has followed a strategy of awareness-raising on sexual diversity in Cuba since 2004, and is one of the few people in Latin America and the Caribbean to carry out a campaign of such magnitude on this issue from a government institution.

The CENESEX proposals include non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, recognition of de facto unions between same-sex couples, the right of same-sex couples to adopt children, and the responsibilities of families and society towards transsexuals, transvestites and transgender persons.

In an interview with IPS correspondent Dalia Acosta, the niece of Cuban leader Fidel Castro and daughter of acting President Raúl Castro said that although amending current laws would not imply an automatic change in social attitudes, it would lay the foundations for such a change and prompt the country’s institutions to move towards guaranteeing the rights of sexual minorities.

IPS: What stage is your proposal at?

MARIELA CASTRO: We have three draft proposals. The first is a Ministry of Public Health resolution to implement integral health care for transsexual persons, including the creation of a clinic to provide care, from diagnosis and hormonal treatment to sex-change operations and post-operative follow-up.

The second is to include sexual orientation and gender identity in a reform of the Family Code of 1975, and the related changes needed in other bodies of law. For instance, the Ministry of Labour and Social Security would need to pass a specific resolution to guarantee employment for transvestite or transsexual people, which is often difficult to find.

And lastly, we are preparing the arguments for a draft law on gender identity which will address, among other aspects, the fact that a transsexual person need not necessarily undergo an operation to change their gender identity.

IPS: The reform of the Family Code was in the hands of the Political Bureau of the ruling Communist Party in June. What is its status now?

MARIELA CASTRO: It’s going through a consultation process. The guidance we were given by the Party was that we should go ahead with educating the public before the draft reforms are set before the people. So right now we are focusing on an educational strategy, through the media.

IPS: Is the recommendation to prepare the public a good sign?

MARIELA CASTRO: I think it’s positive. The importance of the draft law has evidently been understood, but the feeling is also that the people deserve to be informed in advance, so that they do not take offence.

IPS: Will the proposal come before the ordinary session of parliament this December, or will it have to wait until next year?

MARIELA CASTRO: It’s still too soon. Perhaps it will be ready by July 2008. I’d like that, and that’s why we’re preparing the ground to work quickly and intensively with the population on the issues of gender identity and sexual orientation.

IPS: Have you been able to maintain mechanisms for discussion with different social sectors?

MARIELA CASTRO:We have held seminars in various directorates of the Interior Ministry, especially with the police, and at the Communist Party’s Advanced School, with municipal party leaders, and with three permanent parliamentary commissions.

One achievement is that when Cuban transsexuals who went abroad for a sex-change operation return, they can now go to a municipal tribunal and obtain a legal change of identity. We’re also waiting for an agreement to be signed to provide training for lawyers in the proper defence of transsexuals, gays and lesbians.

IPS: What about the situation of transsexuals who are sent to prison for breaking the law? Is that being discussed?

MARIELA CASTRO: Modifications to the criminal code and prison regulations are needed. So far, after the seminars we gave in prisons, when they have admitted transsexual inmates they haven’t housed them with either the female or the male prison populations, but in a separate area where they face no conflicts. At present there is a transsexual convict who is biologically male. But she is in the women’s prison, in the infirmary area, and is allowed to attend her regular scheduled sessions at CENESEX.

Another thing we’d like to propose to the Interior Ministry is providing conjugal facilities in prisons for homosexual couples. I think it is extremely discriminatory that these persons have nowhere to meet for intimacy, when other prisoners do.

IPS: Another sensitive sector, as important as the media, is education, not only because of the way education influences people from their earliest childhood on, but also because of the discrimination that students may encounter at school. Have you come to a working agreement on this?

MARIELA CASTRO: Both the Ministry of Higher Education and the Education Ministry are included in our strategy, but we have achieved very little. There is also a serious problem over transgender people who drop out of school. As their mannerisms and attitudes are related to their gender identity, which is not the sex that people identify them with, they are very vulnerable to mockery and rejection.

And then there are the issues related to sexual orientation. A lot of prejudices have to be overcome to address these problems in the education system. At a more opportune moment, we’ll have to create a draft resolution specifically for this sector and, of course, for training teachers.

IPS: Absence of information about sexual diversity in the Cuban media has contributed to ignorance, and therefore prejudice. How would you describe the present situation?

MARIELA CASTRO: The media are beginning to discuss the issue, but only timidly as yet. They are overcoming their fear of addressing these subjects, which they evidently know very little about. We are willing to offer advice, and we are proposing soap operas, radio plays, documentaries and films. Different ways of making the issues visible and gradually informing people have to be found.

I’m sure that as it becomes more natural to talk about these issues, under the protection of the law, government agencies will also become more flexible. Everything has to happen gradually.

IPS: This year a spontaneous debate broke out about the so-called “five grey years” in Cuban cultural politics. But there are other past problems as well, such as the confinement of homosexuals in the so-called military production support units in the 1960s, or penalties for homosexual behaviour. Do you think it is time to start talking more clearly and rationally about these topics?

MARIELA CASTRO:It’s very healthy to talk about what has happened, and why. I think it is generally accepted that it was a mistake, but it needs to be analysed. Like human beings, institutions sometimes make mistakes, and they have to be capable of recognising that fact, and deciding what to do to avoid repeating them, what laws to pass and what values to instil.

Acknowledging mistakes can be painful, especially when what was done is in conflict with revolutionary ideology. Cuba’s mistakes were very similar to those that were committed and still are being committed in many countries. The same things happened here as in other places. But the Cuban errors were more widely commented on because of the expectation that a socialist revolution, dedicated to freeing human beings, should not make such errors.

A revolutionary ideology should be truly revolutionary throughout, not just in some aspects. But the ideology of that era was deeply prejudiced against homosexuals. Communist parties everywhere were extremely homophobic. Now they’re adopting more inclusive attitudes. Fortunately, they have learned and become aware of those errors and many others.

Apparently the Cuban Communist Party, too, is digesting all this and coming to terms with it. It’s going through a learning process on these issues. What we are doing is helping it progress along the learning curve.

But there’s no point in looking for scapegoats to blame. What we have to do is learn from experience and take steps to move forward as a society.
…this post forwarded by Windsor Humanist, Alexander Neil, after a December 13, 2007 interview in (IPS) The Inter Press Service News Agency

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December 12, 2007

Teen Slain Over Hijab – Father Charged in His Daughter’s Death

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A Mississauga cab driver has been charged with the murder of his 16-year-old daughter, who was attacked in the family home after clashing with her strict Muslim family over whether to wear the hijab, the traditional Islamic head scarf for women.

Asqa Parvez during better daysMuhammad Parvez, 57, was charged after his daughter Aqsa Parvez died in hospital late Monday.

The victim’s older brother, Waqas Parvez, was charged with obstructing police in connection with the girl’s death.

Police were called to a home in Mississauga early Monday by a man who told 911 operators that he had killed his daughter.

They found Aqsa Parvez lying motionless on the floor of her bedroom.

To all appearances she was dead, but paramedics found a faint pulse and rushed her to hospital.

The teenager succumbed to her injuries several hours later, police said Tuesday.

Const. J.P. Valade would not give any details about the teenager’s killing, but police sources said she was strangled.

Friends of the girl said she had left the family home, where her brothers also lived with their families, about a week before the attack because of arguments with her father and brothers over her refusal to wear traditional Muslim garb, including the hijab.

“She was scared of her father: He was always controlling her,” said Dominiquia Holmes-Thompson, a friend and classmate at Applewood Heights Secondary School, where both were Grade 11 students. “She wasn’t allowed to go out or do anything: That’s why she left.”

Police Constable Valade would not comment on the possible motive for the killing, but said detectives are continuing to interview neighbours and friends of the girl as well as members of her extended family.

Canadian Muslim groups on Tuesday condemned the attack.

“There should be zero tolerance for violence of any kind against women or girls,” said Shahina Siddiqui, the president of the Islamic Social Services Association.

Faisal Kutty, the legal counsel for the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations, said: “We call for the strongest possible prosecution of Ms. Parvez’s alleged attacker.”

Constable Valade said police and prosecutors have not yet decided whether to charge the dead girl’s father with first- or second-degree murder, but they have until the beginning of his preliminary hearing to make that decision.

Mr. Parvez is scheduled to appear in a Brampton court today on a bail hearing.
…this post forwarded by Windsor Humanist, Alexander Neil, after a December 12, 2007 article by Chris Wattie in The Windsor Star

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December 8, 2007

Canada’s Boreal Forest Called “Fort Knox of Carbon” – Locks Up Twice As Much As Tropical Forests

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A new series of maps shows how Canada’s boreal forest manages to lock up almost twice as much carbon as the same area of tropical forest.

IBC's map of Canada's peatlandsThe three maps show where permafrost, peatlands and soil with organic carbon are located within the boreal forest that covers much of the country.

Each is adept at storing the carbon that would otherwise contribute to the planet’s climate change problem.

This forest is to carbon what Fort Knox is to gold, said a senior scientist with the International Boreal Conservation Campaign.

“It’s an internationally important repository for carbon, built up over thousands of years,” said Jeff Wells in a statement. “The maps released today document where and how these vital carbon reserves are distributed across Canada. We should do everything we can to ensure that the carbon in this storehouse is conserved.”

The maps were developed for the campaign by Global Forest Watch, an international forest conservation group with a Canadian chapter based in Edmonton.

Canada’s boreal forest stores an estimated 186 billion tons of carbon in its widespread forest and peatland ecosystems — the equivalent of 27 years worth of global carbon emissions from the burning of fossil fuels.

University of Alberta ecologist David Schindler, who was involved with the mapping project, said Canada needs to be very careful about how it handles its forests.

A study about five years ago suggested the boreal forest had been tipped from a slight sink that absorbed carbon to a slight source because of harvesting and fire, David Schindler said.

Timber harvesting and controlling fire will be key to keeping the forest’s ability to store carbon, he added.
…this post forwarded by Windsor Humanist, Alexander Neil, after a December 8, 2007 article by Hanneke Brooymans  in The Edmonton Journal

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Our Wind Farm To Be Canada’s Largest

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Construction of Canada’s biggest wind farm could start in Essex County in 2009 if all approvals fall into line, a company spokesman says.

Wind Farm at SunsetThe $500-million Brookfield Power project is nearing the end of the environmental assessment approval process, and local planning approvals aren’t that far behind.

Brookfield operates what is now the country’s largest wind farm just north of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.

In an interview Friday, Ian Kerr, a Gatineau-based senior manager for Brookfield, said the Ontario Power Authority is scheduled to call for proposals on wind energy in mid-2008.

Allowing three or four months for proposal preparation and approval, a construction start in 2009 is realistic, he said.

Brookfield has plans for 151 turbines within an 8,900-hectare or 22,000-acre leased area of Lakeshore, Kingsville and Leamington.

The much larger study area for the project — roughly 279,000 acres or 113,000 hectares — is bounded by Highway 401 to the north, County Road 18 to the south, County Road 27 on the west and County Road 1 to the east. Less than 400 acres would actually be needed for the turbines.

At this point, no turbines are proposed within Leamington but that could change. The turbine towers are 80 metres high and the three blades 41 metres long.

If all turbines are built, about 250 megawatts of power would be generated, enough to power 50,000 homes.

Mr. Kerr said the company welcomes the support for its project from Lakeshore and Kingsville councils, and residents affected — mostly farmers in the rural areas where land has been leased.

Lakeshore Mayor Tom Bain said farmers have told the town they were hoping for quick approvals and a start to the project in 2008. Many have said at public meetings the revenue from hosting wind turbines is much-needed given recent lean years for area farmers.

About $2 million in royalties will be paid annually to farmers with leases, plus $300,000 in municipal taxes.

A stack of documents about six inches thick comprises the research the company’s consultant, Stantec, undertook to get the provincial and federal environmental approvals needed. No significant environment effects were found, Stantec said.

Deadline for public comment on the environmental screening report passed Nov. 30. The environmental review by numerous government agencies should wrap up next year.

Essex County hopes to approve its official plan amendments to accommodate wind farms in early 2008. The county must also approve municipal official plan amendments dealing with wind power.

Lakeshore planning consultant Tom Storey said the planning and environmental assessment approval processes are separate, but have some overlap. Many of the studies done by a company for environmental screening will also be requested in the planning process, he said.

Mr. Storey, who’s overseen planning for wind power projects in Chatham-Kent, was impressed with the thoroughness of the research done by Brookfield.

“They do their homework,” he said. “There’s been no lack of effort.”

Lakeshore has submitted its official plan amendments to the county for approval, Mr. Storey said.

It’s not clear if the county will approve those before completing its own amendments, he added.

Mr. Kerr was hoping to see sharing of research and suggestions for changes to official plans as the process continues. He questioned the need for the county to duplicate research done by various proponents and municipalities.

Planners for the seven municipalities, including Mr. Storey, are assisting in the revision of Essex County’s official plan to deal with wind power.

While developers of large projects like Brookfield also have to wait for the OPA proposal call, some of the small wind farms seeking approval could get started earlier. The smaller projects are funded separately through an OPA “standard offer” for the power they generate.

Mr. Kerr said a big hurdle for the smaller companies is getting approval to connect to the existing electrical grid.

Based on average wind speeds and its flat terrain, much of Essex County is suitable for wind power projects.

Avoiding airports and noted birding areas like Point Pelee National Park, Holiday Beach Conservation Area and Hillman Marsh are concerns being addressed.

Lakeshore has proposed setbacks from homes and businesses of as much as 600 metres, depending on the specific zoning. For farms hosting turbines the setbacks are based on the height of the turbines to eliminate the risk of injury and damage to a home should one topple.
…this post forwarded by Windsor Humanist, Alexander Neil, after a December 8, 2007 article by Gary Rennie in The Windsor Star

~~~~~~~~~~~FOLLOW-UP POSTING – December 19, 2007~~~~~~~~

A bid to create Canada’s largest wind farm has hit a large snag.

A tie vote Monday at Kingsville council defeated bylaws that would have allowed large-scale wind farms in rural areas in the town.

Mayor Nelson Santos, who voted in favour of the bylaw changes, said he was disappointed and surprised. He expects the applicant, Brookfield Power, to appeal the decision to the Ontario Municipal Board.

“We basically gave the decision (on whether to allow large wind farms) to the OMB,” Mayor Santos remarked Tuesday.

Brookfield Power is proposing 151 wind turbines in Kingsville and Lakeshore. If successful in its applications, the company has said it would build Canada’s largest wind farm and construction could start in 2009. In early December, Kingsville council held a public meeting on changing its official plan and zoning bylaws to allow large-scale wind farms and to create a wind farm zone. In a 3 — 2 vote, council recommended the changes but the decision wasn’t to be finalized until late Monday night, when council voted on the specific bylaws. Then, the vote went 3 — 3, and a tied vote defeats a motion.

The tie was possible because this time all seven council members were present. However, the seventh vote wasn’t cast because Coun. Brad Stevenson declared a conflict of interest because he has a lease with the wind power company.

Mayor Santos said some members of council wanted to wait to see the pending county policies on renewable energy. But the next public meeting on those policies could be in February and any changes Kingsville makes to its official plan would need county approval in any case, he said. Council had to make the decision based on the best planning information it had, Mayor Santos said. Kingsville was considering its own wind power policy because Brookfield Power had applied to the town to allow the large project in the north end of Kingsville.

A spokesman for Brookfield Power couldn’t be reached Tuesday, and hadn’t indicated to the town whether it planned on appealing to the OMB.

In July, Lakeshore council called itself “progressive” when councillors unanimously voted to change its official plan and zoning bylaw to allow wind farms. Some of Kingsville’s policies were to be similar to Lakeshore’s policies. Kingsville was considering a minimum setback of 600 metres for turbines from a residential zone and wasn’t considering wind farms along the shoreline or near urban areas.

Councillors Gord Queen, Tamara Stomp and Chris Lewis voted against the bylaws. Mr. Queen said he wanted to table the bylaws but was ruled out of order because he had made a similar motion to defer at the last meeting. Mr. Queen said he was concerned about having a large enough buffer zone around the Jack Miner Bird Sanctuary to protect migrating birds.
…this post forwarded by Windsor Humanist, Alexander Neil, after a December 19, 2007 article by Sharon Hill in The Windsor Star


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December 7, 2007

Two Hindu Gods Issued Summons To Appear In Court By Indian Judge

Filed under: Uncategorized — moderator @ 12:57 pm

A judge in India has summoned two Hindu gods, Ram and Hanuman, to help resolve a property dispute.Ram abd HanumanJudge Sunil Kumar Singh in the eastern state of Jharkhand has issued adverts in newspapers asking the gods to “appear before the court personally”.

The gods have been asked to appear before the court on Tuesday, after the judge said that letters addressed to them had gone unanswered.

Ram and Hanuman are among the most popular Indian Hindu gods.

Judge Singh presides in a “fast track” court – designed to resolve disputes quickly – in the city of Dhanbad.

The dispute is now 20 years old and revolves around the ownership of a 1.4 acre plot of land housing two temples.

The deities of Ram and Hanuman, the monkey god, are worshipped at the two temples on the land.

Temple priest Manmohan Pathak claims the land belongs to him. Locals say it belongs to the two deities.

The two sides first went to court in 1987.

A few years ago, the dispute was settled in favour of the locals. Then Mr Pathak challenged the verdict in a fast track court.

Judge Singh sent out two notices to the deities, but they were returned as the addresses were found to be “incomplete”.

This prompted him to put out adverts in local newspapers summoning the gods.“You failed to appear in court despite notices sent by a peon and later through registered post. You are herby directed to appear before the court personally”, Judge Singh’s notice said.

The two Hindu gods have been summoned as the defence claimed that they were owners of the disputed land.

“Since the land has been donated to the gods, it is necessary to make them a party to the case,” local lawyer Bijan Rawani said.

Mr Pathak said the land was given to his grandfather by a former local king.
…this post forwarded by Windsor Humanist, Alexander Neil, after a December 7, 2007 article by Amarnath Tewary via BBC News

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