Monday, February 28, 2011
Canada near top in integrating immigrants, survey says
The Globe & Mail: Canada's integration policies rank just short of the best in the world, according to a major international survey of Europe and North America. Canada placed third behind Sweden and Portugal on the latest Migrant Integration Policy Index, a benchmark European study that measures a range of indicators, from political engagement and paths to citizenship to public education...
Canadian opinion polls show majority public support for the world's highest immigration levels and no party advocates cutting immigration... The new citizenship guide and test... was singled out as the 'most professional' in all countries... Canada was second only to Sweden on education... Canadian students benefit from multicultural policies that teach how to live in a diverse society and also include opportunities, sometimes after school, to learn about their 'heritage' cultures...
Although Sweden and Portugal came out ahead of Canada, the foreign-born make up less than 6 per cent of the population in those countries, compared to more than 20 per cent in Canada.
The Toronto Star: Known as MIPEX, the biannual index uses 148 'policy indicators' in assessing nations in seven areas involving immigrants: labour mobility, chances of reuniting with families overseas, education conditions, prospects of permanent residency, political participation, access to citizenship and equality laws...
The report credits Canada's multicultural policy and its special effort in English as a second language education for newcomers, as well as provincial investment in teacher training and heritage language classes to help with immigrant students' transition.
Image source here.
Friday, February 25, 2011
Thursday, February 24, 2011
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Vancouver still world's most liveable city: survey
Reuters: Vancouver topped the list of the world's most liveable cities for the fifth straight year, while Melbourne claimed second place from Vienna and Australian and Canadian cities dominated the lists's top 10 spots.
In the annual survey by the Economist Intelligence Unit, the Canadian west coast city and 2010 Winter Olympics host scored 98 percent on a combination of stability, health care, culture and environment, education, and infrastructure -- a score unchanged from last year. It has topped the list from 2007...
Los Angeles moved up three places to 44th and New York held on to the 56th spot. London moved up one place to 53rd while Paris came in at number 16. The top Asian city was Osaka at number 12, tying Geneva, Switzerland and beating out the Japanese capital of Tokyo, which came in at 18. Hong Kong came in at 31 but Beijing, capital of the world's most populous nation and No. 2 economy, straggled in at 72.
Following is a list of the top 10 most liveable cities as ranked by the Economist Intelligence Unit:
- Vancouver, Canada
- Melbourne, Australia
- Vienna, Austria
- Toronto, Canada
- Calgary, Canada
- Helsinki, Finland
- Sydney, Australia
- Perth, Australia
- Adelaide, Australia
- Auckland, New Zealand
Image: Getty Images
Monday, February 21, 2011
Shell report predicts peak oil now or soon, ponders 'Depression 2.0'
Raw Story: In a recent 'Signals & Signposts' report by Shell, forecasting energy scenarios through 2050, the oil giant predicted a growing volatility in the price of oil and a coming period of 'extraordinary opportunity or misery.' As the demand for oil butts up against actual production and remaining reserves, the climbing price of oil will cause the gross domestic product of all nations to decline, they predict. In another section, Shell calls these economic effects 'Depression 2.0.' ...
Shell predicts that as the energy industry struggles to meet global demand, 'environmental tension will swell and spread.' ... Competition and 'natural innovation' in energy efficiency would only account for a moderation in demand of about 20 percent by 2050. Meanwhile, between 2000 and 2050, demand for easily accessible energy will triple, they predict...
Businesses around the world, they noted, have already started to accept that climate regulations will soon become a reality for global trade and have begun to budget accordingly. But even the most rapid improvements... won't help much in the near term... Shell also predicts that '[the] longer the delay in climate policy action, the more likely the shocks become.'... Read the full report here (.pdf).
Sunday, February 20, 2011
Saturday, February 19, 2011
He who does not know the truth is only a fool. He who knows the truth and calls it a lie is a criminal. -- Bertold Brecht, in The Life of Galileo
We know, of course, there is really no such thing as the 'voiceless.' There are only the deliberately silenced, or the preferably unheard. -- Arundhati Roy, in 'Peace and the New Corporate Liberation Theology'
Politically motivated violence is always preceded by a 'period of slander, innuendo, or rumour mongering that is meant to legitimize the actions that follow'... The underlying aim of hate propaganda is 'fostering suspicion against democratic society, democratic institutions and democracy itself.' -- Paul Wilson on Stieg Larsson: 'The Archivist,' in The Walrus
But listen to what they're really saying when they shout about 'privatize public broadcasting!' They're saying we should not have access to information unless it's served through the filters of ideologues and corporations, a claim worthy of Orwell. -- Karoli, at Crooks & Liars
George Orwell had warned six decades ago that the corrosion of language goes hand in hand with the corruption of democracy. If he were around today, he would remind us that 'like the rattling of a stick inside a swill bucket,' this kind of propaganda engenders a 'protective stupidity' almost impossible for facts to penetrate. -- Bill Moyers, 'Facts still matter'
Friday, February 18, 2011
NASA: On Valentine's Day the Sun unleashed one of its most powerful explosions, an X-class flare. The blast was the largest so far in the new solar cycle. Erupting in the Sun's southern hemisphere, the flare is captured here [VIDEO] in this extreme ultraviolet image from the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). The intense burst of electromagnetic radiation momentarily overwhelmed pixels in SDO's detectors causing the bright vertical blemish. This X-class flare was also accompanied by a coronal mass ejection (CME), a massive cloud of charged particles traveling outward at nearly 900 kilometres per second.
Raw Story: A wave of charged particles from a huge solar eruption has glanced off the Earth's northern pole, lighting up auroras and disrupting some radio communications... But the Earth appears to have escaped a widespread geomagnetic storm, with the effects confined to the northern latitudes.
Thursday, February 17, 2011
Scientists find global warming fingerprints in extreme rainstorms, floods
The Toronto Star: Extreme rainstorms and snowfalls have grown substantially stronger, two studies suggest, with scientists for the first time finding the telltale fingerprints of man-made global warming on downpours that often cause deadly flooding. Two studies in Nature link heavy rains to increases in greenhouse gases more than ever before...
Both studies should weaken the argument that climate change is a 'victimless crime,' said Myles Allen of the University of Oxford... 'Extreme weather is what actually hurts people.'... Since 1950, flooding has killed more than 2.3 million people, according to the World Health Organization's disaster database... Similar studies are now underway to examine whether last year's deadly Russian heat wave and Pakistan floods... can be scientifically attributed to global warming...
For years scientists, relying on basic physics and climate knowledge, have said global warming would likely cause extremes in temperatures and rainfall. But this is the first time researchers have been able to point to a demonstrable cause-and-effect by using the rigorous and scientifically accepted method of looking for the 'fingerprints' of human-caused climate change [read the entire article for methodology]... In fact, the computer models underestimated the increase in extreme rain and snow...
Similar fingerprinting studies have found human-caused greenhouse gas emissions triggered changes in more than a dozen other ecological ways: temperatures on land, the ocean's surface, heat content in the depths of the oceans, temperature extremes, sea level pressure, humidity at ground level and higher in the air, general rainfall amounts, the extent of Arctic sea ice, snowpack levels and timing of runoff in the western United States, Atlantic Ocean salinity, wildfire damage, and the height of the lower atmosphere.
All those signs say global warming is here, said Xuebin Zhang, a research scientist for the Canadian government and co-author of the Northern Hemisphere study. 'It is affecting us in multiple directions.' 'We start to see an emerging pattern,' said Andrew Weaver of the University of Victoria...'And we have no one to blame but ourselves.'
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
House Votes to Kill F-35 Jet Engine
Slate: The proposed F-35 jet engine has until now survived two administrations' attempts to kill it, but the GOP-led may have finally delivered a death blow... to what critics have long said was a wasteful weapons system... The elimination of the engine will save the Pentagon $3 billion over the next few years.
The New York Times: The Joint Strike Fighter is the nation's most expensive weapons program, and eliminating the alternate engine would be one of the most noteworthy cancellations this year... The vote was a victory for President Obama and the defense secretary, Robert M. Gates, who had called the engine 'an unnecessary and extravagant expense.'... As costs have risen on the F-35 program, Mr. Gates has said the alternate engine seemed more a luxury than a necessity. And it is possible that the Pentagon and several allied nations will not end up buying as many of the planes as they expected.
The silent U.S. hand guiding Canada's F-35 debate
Scott Taylor, Embassy: Although no actual contract has been signed, the Harper Tories remain adamant that they will proceed with the purchase of the stealth aircraft... the largest military project expenditure in Canada's history...
Thanks to recent revelations made public via WikiLeaks, it is safe to surmise that the U.S. State Department is the unseen puppeteer making Harper do the F-35 dance. The embarrassing documents contain American diplomatic correspondence detailing how they used a public 'carrot' and a private 'stick' approach to convince Norway to buy the F-35.
A 'lessons learned' cable from the U.S. embassy to Oslo reads: "We needed to avoid any appearance of undue pressuring... We opted for 'choosing the JSF will maximize the relationship' [between the U.S. and Norway] as our main public line. In private we were much more forceful."... The American Embassy subsequently reported to Washington, "The tide has turned in Norway... The media have recently run a number of articles from active duty and retired officers extolling the strengths of the F-35."...
Fast-forward to the Jan.24 edition of the Ottawa Citizen, wherein former Canadian air force generals Angus Watt and Paul Manson penned a joint editorial entitled 'The truth about those jets'... the gist of which was to extol the strengths of the F-35...
While he was indeed once the chief of the defence staff for the Canadian Forces and a top project officer on the acquisition of the air force's current fleet of CF-18 fighter aircraft, Manson forgot to mention his post-military sting as the president of Lockheed Martin Canada... Lockheed Martin is the main manufacturer of the F-35.
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Egypt's revolution and Israel: 'Bad for the Jews'
Ilan Pappe, The Electronic Intifada: Spearheading the Israeli interpretation are the former Israeli ambassadors to Egypt... Their tirade can be summarized in the words of one of them, Zvi Mazael, who told Israeli television's Channel One on 28 January, 'this is bad for the Jews; very bad.' In Israel of course when you say 'bad for the Jews,' you mean the Israelis... But what is really bad for Israel is the comparison...
Nonviolent, democratic (be they religious or not) Arabs are bad for Israel... What is at stake here is the pretense that Israel is a stable, civilized, western island in a rough sea of Islamic barbarism and Arab fanaticism. The 'danger for Israel is that the cartography would be the same but the geography would change. It would still be an island, but of barbarism and fanaticism in a sea of newly formed egalitarian and democratic states.
In the eyes of large sections of Western civil society the democratic image of Israel has long ago vanished but it may now be dimmed and tarnished in the eyes of others who are in power and politics... One way or another the cry rising from Cairo's Tahrir Square is a warning that fake mythologies of the 'only democracy in the Middle East,' hardcore Christian fundamentalism (far more sinister and corrupt than that of the Muslim Brotherhood), cynical military-industrial corporate profiteering, neo-conservatism and brutal lobbying will not guarantee the sustainability of the special relationship between Israel and the United States.
Monday, February 14, 2011
Anthony Doerr on Books, Memory and the Twelve Bright Stars Scratched Across Page 302:
Look, Earth is four and a half billion years old. The rocks in your backyard are moving, if only you could stand still enough to watch. How are we supposed to measure the brief, warm, intensely complicated fingersnap of our lives against the absolutely incomprehensible vastness of the universe?How? We stare into the fire. We turn to friends, bartenders, lovers, priests, drug-dealers, painters. And we turn to books.All around us right now, tucked into the valleys and along the coasts, bookshops glow in the winter light. Think of them like singular, magical, and multi-dimensional recipe boxes. They wait for us to pluck out a card, to stand over the stove, to start cooking.
Sunday, February 13, 2011
Scarce, at Crooks & Liars: A MUSIC VIDEO made by Egyptian musicians with the revolution as the backdrop, sung in Arabic... A people that can make such upbeat pop songs in the midst of brutal repression were never going to lose to a mere dictator.
Saturday, February 12, 2011
Friday, February 11, 2011
Olfa G. Tantawi, Truthout: Many analysts in the media speak of Egypt's economy, they say that the economic growth did not trickle down to the poor and this is why this is happening. This is too simplistic. This revolution is not about poverty and need. The people in the streets from all walks of life, rich and poor are there because they want freedom, freedom, freedom, freedom...
In the media they speak of an international community afraid of a power vacuum, they speak of a fear from Islamic radicalism. Others speak of the absence of the building blocks of democracy. This is exactly because they do not understand the nature of this revolution. The people, literally for the first time in history, are taking the lead and deciding for themselves. The government will continue to make its concessions and offers, and the street is the judge...
The absence of a person or a group of persons as a recognizable leadership group of figures is intentional. The intellectual young people who started all this are actually leading by spreading awareness among the people in the square rather than by giving orders, and this is making the pressure of the street crowds even more forceful.
A reader of The Daily Dish: The pivotal moment was last night, when the protesters, despite their profound and understandable disappointment and anger, resisted the impulse to act with violence. At this point, most of the military leaders must have realized that, even if they themselves were willing to stand by Mubarak, the rank and file would not turn on the protesters... Days, months or even years from now, I would predict that the demonstrators' peaceful response to Mubarak's refusal to step down on the night of Feb. 10, 2011 will be viewed as the turning point in this revolution.
Jack Shenker, The Guardian: The march from the presidential palace back to Tahrir square was a wall of sound... Amid the jubilation, though, there was a moment of reflection for those who died to make this day possible. 'Be happy, martyrs, for today we feast at your victory,' sang the crowds... As the procession reached the high-walled Ministry of Defence, Egyptians could not resist reminding their new overlords of who now held the balance of power in the Arab World's most populous nation. 'Here, here, the Egyptians are here,' they shouted up at darkened windows, pointing down to the street.
'For 18 days we have withstood tear gas, rubber bullets, live ammunition, molotov cocktails, thugs on horseback, the scepticism and fear of our loved ones, and the worst sort of ambivalence from an international community that claims to care about democracy,' said Karim Medhat Ennarah... 'But we held our ground. We did it.'
Thursday, February 10, 2011
'Niceness' partly genetic, say scientists
AFP: Selflessness and civic-mindedness can be inherited, especially if you are a woman, according to a new study...
The study, published in Biology Letters, adds to a growing body of research suggesting that the drivers of human behaviour are found, more than previously suspected, in 'Nature' rather than 'Nurture.'...
University of Edinburgh scientists Gary Lewis and Timothy Bates looked at self-assessments of nearly 1,000 pairs of twins in the United States to see how 'pro-social' they were. Some of the twins were identical and the others were fraternal... Lewis explained...'Identical twins which share 100 per cent of their genes, are more similar than non-identical twins, who share only 50 per cent. You can infer genetic influence because of that biological fact.'...
Previous research, notably with infants too young to have been fully socialised already suggested humans have an inbuilt capacity for empathy. In their twins study, Lewis and Bates broke down that impulse in adults into three 'pro-social' areas: a sense of civic duty, job commitment and concern for the welfare for others... Those who felt the greatest impulse for generosity were identical female twins... The difference was much less pronounced among men...
The Independent: Women have a stronger genetic predisposition to help other people compared with men... The research... found that about half of 'prosocial' traits -- the willingness to help others -- identified in women could be linked with genes rather than environmental upbringing, while the figure was just 20 per cent in men..
'It seems that there is a general prosocial personality'... Mr. Lewis said. 'We found that in women there was quite a strong genetic influence on this type of prosociality but in men there was less of a genetic influence... For women on this general prosociality personality it was about half and half: genetic factors were about 50 per cent. For men, it was less genetically influenced. About 20 per cent.'...
'What we are really saying here suggests interventions that encourage socially conscious behaviours may be useful but some individuals may be instinctively more prosocial than others.'
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
Hero granny fights off gang with handbag
A fearless pensioner wielding a handbag helped save a jeweller's shop from a gang of robbers
Metro.co.uk: Thanks to the extraordinary bravery of the woman -- thought to be in her 70s -- four men were arrested following the attempted robbery at a jeweller's... Video shot by an onlooker captured the sight of the unlikely have-a-go-hero crossing a road and jogging briskly towards the six-strong mob as they smashed the windows of the shop... The raiders speeded off seconds after the red-coated pensioner began lashing out at them with a large black handbag.
Encouraged by the elderly lady other members of the public piled in and pinned down a man who had fallen from one of the scooters in panic just yards away from the shop. The raiders struck at 9:30am... Four men, aged 18, 22, 25 and 39, were arrested and police are now seeking a further two other people who are believed to have been involved in the incident. A police spokesman said: 'The offenders were disturbed by members of the public and fled the area without taking anything.'... No one was injured as a result of the raid.
UPDATE, CBC: A 71-year-old British woman... said she'd do it again if she had to despite the risk of getting hurt. Ann Timson said Tuesday she was 'angry that [the men] felt they could get away with what they were doing in broad daylight. I am not a hero and it was maybe foolish of me to get involved, but somebody had to do something.'... Timson has a bit of a reputation in her town for fighting crime. Neighbours said she has taken on drug dealing and prostitution in her local housing project, and has been threatened on a number of occasions.
Tuesday, February 8, 2011
Canada's hired guns in Afghanistan rejected by U.S. for unsavoury ties
Murray Brewster, The Canadian Press: Canada spent more than $41-million on hired guns in Afghanistan, much of it going to security companies slammed by the U.S. Senate for having warlords on the payroll. Both the Defence and Foreign Affairs departments have employed 11 security contractors in Kabul and Kandahar since 2006, but have kept quiet about the details...
All of the contracting happened even though the federal government has no overall policy or legislation to govern the use of hired guns -- unlike other countries, notably the United States, which has imposed strict accountability guidelines on its contractors. Even with those rules, the American system was found lacking by U.S. senators, who heard complaints from NATO that there was 'little awareness of money flow' and that some of the contracts were 'enriching powerbrokers, undercutting counterinsurgency efforts and delegitimizing the Afghan government.'...
A defence expert, who has written extensively on the use of hired guns in war zones, said they are a fact of life in the age of all-volunteer armies. The contractors, usually ex-soldiers, are most often used in a defensive manner, taking up guard duties that free combat troops, said researcher Dave Perry in Ottawa...
In conflict zones, 'I think it would be hard to find somebody who could provide credible security force that did not have something in their past that somebody could point to and say that they've done something inappropriate,' said Mr. Perry... There are an estimated 40,000 armed security contractors operating in Afghanistan.
Monday, February 7, 2011
Arctic current warmer than it's been for 2,000 years
Reuters: A North Atlantic current flowing into the Arctic Ocean is warmer than for at least 2,000 years in a sign that global warming is likely to bring ice-free seas around the North Pole in summers, a study showed. Scientists said that waters at the northern end of the Gulf Stream, between Greenland and the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard, averaged 6 degrees Celsius (42.80F) in recent summers, warmer than at natural peaks during Roman or Medieval times.
The summer water temperatures, reconstructed from the makeup of tiny organisms buried in sediments in the Fram strait, have risen from an average 5.2 degrees Celsius (41.36F) from 1890-2007 and about 3.4C (38.12F) in the previous 1,900 years.
The findings were a new sign that human activities were stoking modern warming since temperatures are above past warm periods linked to swings in the sun's output that enabled, for instance, the Vikings to farm in Greenland in Medieval times. 'We found that modern Fram Strait water temperatures are well outside the natural bounds,' Thomas Marchitto, of the University of Colorado at boulder, one of the authors, said in a statement.
The Fram strait is the main carrier of ocean heat to the Arctic... The Arctic is heating up twice as fast as the global average... The shrinking of reflective ice and snow in the Arctic region exposes water or ground which are darker coloured and so soak up more heat from the sun, amplifying warming.
Sunday, February 6, 2011
Saturday, February 5, 2011
For my part, with the manifold directions in which my nature moves, I cannot be satisfied with a single mode of thought. As Poet and Artist, I am a polytheist; on the other hand, as a student of Nature, I am a pantheist -- and both with equal positiveness. When I need a God for my personal nature, as a moral and spiritual man, He also exists for me. The heavenly and the earthly realms are such an immense realm that they can only be grasped by the collective intelligence of all beings.
-- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, to his friend Jacobi, 1813
Friday, February 4, 2011
Sandmonkey: This is a revolution without leaders. Three million individuals choosing hope instead of fear and braving death on an hourly basis to keep their dream of freedom alive. Imagine that.
The Middle East's freedom train has just left the station
Rami G. Khouri, The Daily Star (Lebanon): To appreciate what is taking place in the Arab world today you have to grasp the historical significance of the events that have started changing rulers and regimes in Tunisia and Egypt, with others sure to follow. What we are witnessing is the unraveling of the post-colonial order that the British and French created in the Arab world in the 1920s and 1930s and then sustained -- with American and Soviet assistance -- for most of the last half-century...
The events unfolding before our eyes... are the third most important historical development in the Arab region in the past century... This is the most important of the three major historical markers because it is the first one that marks a process of genuine self-determination by Arab citizens who can speak and act for themselves for the first time in their modern history.
The two other pivotal historical markers were: first, the creation of the modern Arab state system after World War I, at the hands of retreating European colonial powers... who created most of the Arab countries that have limped into the 21st century as wrecks of statehood.
And second, the period around 1970-1980 when the European-manufactured modern Arab state system transformed itself into a collection of security and police states that treated their citizens as serfs without human rights, and that came to rely on massive levels of foreign support to maintain the rickety Arab order for decades more.
Now, we are witnessing the third and most significant Arab historical development, which is the spontaneous drive by millions of ordinary Arabs to finally assert their humanity, demand their rights, and take command of their own national condition and destiny.
Thursday, February 3, 2011
Wednesday, February 2, 2011
German Archaeologists Uncover Celtic Treasure
Der Spiegel: Archaeologists in Germany have discovered a 2,600-year-old Celtic tomb containing ornate jewellery of gold and amber. They say the grave is unusually well preserved and should provide important insights into early Celtic culture...
The subterranean chamber measuring four by five meters was uncovered near the prehistoric Heuneburg hill fort near the town of Herbertingen in south-western Germany... The find is a 'milestone for the reconstruction of the social history of the Celts,' [said] archaeologist Dirk Krausse, the director of the dig...
The intact oak floor should allow archaeologists to ascertain the precise age of the tomb through tree-ring dating. This is rarely possible with Celtic finds because the Celts left behind no writings and their buildings, usually made from wood and clay, have long since crumbled away.
Krausse said the artefacts found suggest that a woman from the Heuneburg aristocracy was buried there... Heuneburg is regarded as one of the most important Celtic settlements and was a vital training center during the period between 620 and 480 BC.
Tuesday, February 1, 2011
Brigid: In her English translation of Irish myth, Lady Augusta Gregory (Gods and Fighting Men, 1904), describes Brigit as 'a woman of poetry, and poets worshipped her, for her sway was very great and very noble. And she was a woman of healing along with that, and a woman of smith's work, and it was she first made the whistle for calling one to another through the night... And the meaning of her name was Breo-saighit, a fiery arrow.'
Fire and purification are an important aspect of this festival. Brigid (also known as Brighid, Bride, Brigit, Brid) is the Gaelic goddess of poetry, healing and smithcraft. As both goddess and saint she is also associated with holy wells, sacred flames, and healing. The lighting of candles and fires represents the return of warmth and the increasing power of the Sun over the coming months...
Imbolc: Brigid is said to walk the Earth on Imbolc eve. Before going to bed, each member of the household may leave a piece of clothing or strip of cloth outside for Brigid to bless... In the morning... the clothes or strips of cloth are brought inside, and believed to now have powers of healing and protection.