Friday, May 28, 2004

Colby Cosh's comments on Schmeiser V. Monsanto...

The Supreme Court's decision in Schmeiser v. Monsanto, expected on Friday, will mark the end of a drama that has lasted about six years -- except it won't be, if I know Percy Schmeiser. Which I don't. But I surely do know his type. One almost pities the U.S. agri-giant, for while it will almost surely win in court on Friday, and win big, it has picked a fight with the kind of guy who just won't quit --the cussed, unrelenting small-holding farmer, whose distrust of big institutions was the seedbed of Hellenistic civilization and the American Revolution.

Mr. Schmeiser, who grows canola near Bruno, Sask., has become an unlikely hero of the worldwide green left since he first started fighting with Monsanto in 1998. He has visited Bangladesh, India, Poland, New Zealand and other countries, telling his tale of personal struggle against a corporate behemoth. Yet back home, rural sentiment probably runs, at a guess, at least two to one against him. Many Western farmers have a marked, almost tender affection for Monsanto. This doesn't mean they aren't just as stubbornly self-sufficient as Mr. Schmeiser; they merely take a long view, seeing Monsanto's research into genetically-modified crops as a shot at preserving their business model and their independence over the next century.

The battle began when Monsanto got an anonymous tip that Mr. Schmeiser had an unauthorized field brim-full of the company's Roundup Ready canola. The patented Roundup Ready is genetically engineered to resist the powerfully lethal glyphosate in Monsanto's Roundup brand herbicide, so it allows farmers to plant earlier and spray more often, wiping out a broad spectrum of weeds without hurting the canola. That means higher yields, and authorized growers are insured by Monsanto for the cost of the seed if weather wipes out the crop. Since its 1996 introduction, the product has taken off in Canada like Internet porn.

Of course, there's a catch: To legally grow Roundup Ready, you have to purchase it by the acre and agree not to save the seed for planting in the next crop year. You're supposed to buy it anew from Monsanto every time out. If you're found growing a glyphosate-resistant crop without having signed a user agreement -- and Monsanto has private detectives on the payroll to catch such people out -- you can end up in court. That's what they did with Mr. Schmeiser when samples from his crop were found to consist of more than 90% Roundup Ready canola.

Mr. Schmeiser disputes this figure, though the tests were made independently and the samples taken with his permission. His story is that some of Monsanto's demon-seeds blew onto his land in 1996 from a neighbouring quarter and adulterated his crop, mixing with the seed he was setting aside year after year. One way or another, he ended up with much or most of his crop being Roundup Ready, and he knew, and didn't report, that it was there in the mix. He is not alleged to have stolen the seed or bought it illicitly. It's a pure patent case: he is accused of knowingly using a particular genetic sequence without permission of the inventor. Of being an agrarian plagiarist, if you will.

Although he has become a hero of the Luddite anti-genetic-modification movement, Mr. Schmeiser is hardly a squeaky-clean organic farmer; like so many canola growers, he was a willing user of Monsanto's pesticides before he fell into this legal pickle. But his lawyers are now fighting the whole idea of a patent on a plant, pointing to the 2000 Federal Court decision that made it illegal to patent "higher" life forms in Canada (the case revolved around a genetically engineered "oncomouse" used in cancer research). Unfortunately, when it comes to the plant kingdom, statute and legal tradition run strongly the other way: The federal Commissioner of Patents granted enforceable intellectual property rights on a strain of yeast as far back as 1982, long before general nervousness about artificial genetic modification set in.

In the prelude to the Supreme Court hearing, the Federal Court found that Monsanto was entitled to about $20,000 in damages -- the hypothetical cost Mr. Schmeiser would have paid for the seed, plus a modest quantum for harm done to the patent. But the court also stuck the Saskatchewan farmer with the corporate giant's legal costs. His fight against Monsanto could now cost Mr. Schmeiser 15 or 20 times what merely buying Roundup Ready would have run him. And if he had reported the presence of the supposedly unwelcome seed on his land in the first place, Monsanto would have -- more than gladly -- cleaned things up at its own expense.

The legal regime that makes farmers police their own crops for Monsanto's intellectual property is certainly lamentable, and a little repellent, with its neighbourhood informants and back-road gumshoes. But Monsanto's Canadian patent on Roundup Ready runs out in 2010, and every farmer knows the rule about making hay while the sun shines. It goes without saying that Percy Schmeiser, however the coin comes up on Friday, will continue to regret nothing. (May 24, 2004)

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More strange smells in London

Evacuees tired, thankful

Residents moved from a London townhouse complex say emergency crews made it bearable.
APRIL KEMICK, Free Press Reporter 2004-05-28 02:01:32

Residents of a townhouse complex evacuated late Wednesday night were tired but thankful for the help they received from neighbours and emergency workers who helped make a bizarre night bearable. More than 100 people -- including sleepy, scared children -- were evacuated about 10 p.m. and taken by city buses to Kinsmen Arena around 1 a.m. after emergency services received two calls reporting a strange smell in the Spiritwood Court area.

As of last night, the source of the problem remained unknown.

St. John Ambulance supplied light food and beverages to the tired travellers while the Salvation Army provided blankets, pillows and sleeping mats so the makeshift shelter would be more comfortable.

"You had to take your kids from their warm beds and they were all crying because they were scared. It was dark and there were lots of fire trucks and flashing lights and nobody knew what was going on," said resident Karen Cahill. "But everyone just sort of came together and it was great."

Brenda Guest, who tried to catch a few winks at the arena, said the work emergency crews did, and the speed at which they did it, was "fantastic."

"Everyone was really nice and they brought us just about everything you'd think we'd need," she said.

While some residents were picked up and sheltered by relatives or friends after being evacuated, many were forced to spend the wee hours of the morning with neighbours at the arena. They were taken there about 1 a.m. and were not allowed back in until nearly 5 a.m. yesterday, when the fire department's Hazardous Material Team (HAZMAT) deemed the area safe.

Acting Fire Chief John Kobarda said the team identified trace amounts of trichloroethane, a chemical found in many common products such as glue, paint and aerosol sprays, in three units. The chemicals don't occur naturally in the environment.

But the HAZMAT team was unable to determine the source of the problem, or discover how it ended up in three different homes -- although neighbours said firefighters asked some residents if they had poured any cleaning chemicals down the drain.

"We never established where it actually came from," Kobarda said yesterday.

"We're trying to figure out how it could be possible that it was located in three different units.

"One thing that we're going to follow up on today is looking at what some potential sources might be."

Some residents who smelled the strange odour described it as smelling like bleach or ammonia mixed with sewage, while others worried it might be related to a natural gas leak.

Kathryn Hicks was among residents who called the fire department to report a stench coming from her basement drain.

"I walked a little bit down my hallway, then hit my basement door and told my son to get out of the house right away," said Hicks, who worried the sweet smell might be gas.

"I didn't know what it was, but I'd rather err on the side of caution."

Hicks said she wasn't allowed to re-enter her apartment once the fire department arrived and was left without a coat or her wallet or shoes for her son, Alexander.

But neighbours pitched in to make sure they got warm gear and shoes as the night became cooler.

Kobarda said the effort ran smoothly.

"If you think of it as a test of our emergency system, it went pretty good," he said.

"It all came together really quickly and, you know what?

"We feel that if anything major happened, we'd have a pretty good handle on it."

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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I wonder if the Federal Liberals had anything to do with this press release

Sex change left uncovered

The health minister's bid to have OHIP pay again gets premier's cold shoulder.
JAMES MCCARTEN, CP 2004-05-28 02:01:32

TORONTO -- Ontario's health minister appeared to run afoul of his political masters yesterday when an apparent bid by George Smitherman to reinstate provincial funding for sex-change procedures was abruptly shot down by his own government. Smitherman had reportedly been working for months to restore Ontario Health Insurance Plan coverage for sex changes in cases where an individual has been diagnosed with a gender identity disorder.

But news of the plan had barely seen the light of day yesterday before senior Liberal insiders were saying it wouldn't happen.

"Reinstating sex-change operations was not in the provincial budget introduced last week," said one Liberal insider.

"It is not one of our health-care priorities and, therefore, there is no plan to reinstate funding for those procedures at this time."

An Osprey News report based on an interview with Smitherman said the minister had officials in the ministry working on reinstatement of the coverage, cut by the Conservatives in 1998.

But the optics of restoring the funding on the heels of a budget that delisted eye exams, chiropractic services and physiotherapy were clearly unpalatable to senior Liberals in Premier Dalton McGuinty's office.

"We've had to make tough decisions to ensure health dollars are being directed to health-care priorities, such as reducing waiting times for cancer care and cardiac care," the source said.

Indeed, another senior Liberal said the premier's office was completely unaware the ministry was working on getting the funding reinstated.

Ontario's Tory government stopped funding sex-reassignment procedures, which reconstruct the genitalia, in October 1998 on the grounds the operations weren't medically necessary.

Opposition member Tim Hudak, who was a member of that government, defended the decision yesterday even as he denounced what he called a "24-hour flip-flop" on the part of the Liberals.

"These guys now have an unsalvageable reputation for broken promises," he said. "Their reputation is bordering on incompetence."

Delisting the operations was part of a Tory effort to rein in health spending by focusing on priorities such as cancer and cardiac care and delisting elective procedures, Hudak added.

"It was something we had campaigned on as well, that we would begin to prioritize how OHIP funding is allocated."

Smitherman, who is openly gay, represents the downtown riding of Toronto Centre-Rosedale, which includes Canada's largest gay community.

Officials in his office did not return calls yesterday.

Prior to 1998, the surgery was covered, provided patients went through a two-year program that included psychological assessments and hormone treatment.

Only after the approval of mental-health authorities were the operations allowed to proceed.

Between 1980 and 1998, about six or seven surgeries were recommended by the clinic each year, at a combined annual cost to taxpayers of about $122,000.

That's compared to the $157 million a year the government is saving after delisting chiropractic services, selected physiotherapy services and eye exams for people aged 20 to 64.

"We're going to continue to advocate that this is necessary for the quality of life for Ontarians," said Gilles Marchildon, executive director of the gay-rights group Egale Canada.

I guess the ability to see, and live with less back and joint pain are not necessary "for the quality of life for Ontarians." And what about my pets - what about publically funded pet health care. And what about dental care for the poor. The list goes on and on.....Force your neighbour to shoulder your burden and increase his burden without his consent

"It's something that has a dramatic impact on the lives of very few people, but it has a huge impact on their quality of life."

Refusing to pay for the procedure is "short-sighted" since without the surgery, people with gender identity disorders tend to burden the health-care system, he added.

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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The dreaded Language Issue....

Harper won't alter languages policy

He says the act won't be overhauled despite words to the contrary by a Tory MP.
STEVE LAMBERT, CP 2004-05-28 02:01:33

WINNIPEG -- Stephen Harper's careful effort to assure voters his Conservative party wouldn't take Canada in radical new directions was shaken yesterday when one of his influential MPs suggested an overhaul to the Official Languages Act. Ottawa-area MP Scott Reid, who is Harper's critic on the official languages portfolio, told the Moncton Times and Transcript it's time to consider ending the federal obligation to offer bilingual services from coast to coast.

He also said the requirement that senior public servants speak both languages should be lifted.

"That does not mean that you should (not) try to offer services better where you make a promise," Reid was quoted as saying.

"But it also means you ought to try and make realistic promises and try to deliver on them, as opposed to making a proposal that looks good on paper."

Harper said he would maintain the Official Languages Act.

"Mr. Reid has expressed some views about how the policy could be strengthened and made more effective," Harper said in St. Boniface, Winnipeg's French quarter. "They're his views. But, as I said, they are not party policy."

The law was designed to ensure public servants could speak to francophones in their own language.

The old Reform and Alliance parties sought to blunt provisions of the Official Languages Act. Progressive Conservatives insisted Harper accept official bilingualism as one of their conditions for merger with his Alliance.

Harper said official bilingualism would remain government policy if he moves into 24 Sussex, but he went on to suggest portions of the law would be reviewed.

"It's my intention to continue the official languages policy," he said during an exchange with a French-language reporter.

"Obviously, we should ensure that this policy is workable and just."

Reid's office issued a statement yesterday saying the views he expressed were personal, adding there is no consensus in the party on specific changes to the law.

"Unless consensus were to develop, there will be no changes made to current policy."

Prime Minister Paul Martin, who has relentlessly tried to portray Harper as a right-wing ideologue, pounced on the issue. "If anybody has to ask is there a difference of opinion as to the kind of Canada that we want and the kind of Canada Mr. Harper wants, I think that this is an indication of what that's all about," the prime minister said in Victoria.

Martin moved to Montreal four decades ago and became fluently bilingual. He has been a staunch defender of French-language rights since then.

"This is a question of principle," he said. "I find it quite disappointing that Mr. Harper was unable to express himself on what I really do think is an essential foundation of the way in which we look at the country.

"I support official bilingualism. I support it unequivocally. I support minority language rights and I support them unequivocally."

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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Yep, London Stinks

Sewers to cost London plenty

A report to city hall this fall will show the city isn't keeping pace with needed repairs.
JONATHAN SHER, Free Press Reporter 2004-05-28 02:01:33

Londoners reeling from this year's hike in property taxes will pay much more for sewers in coming years if city council follows the direction of staff. The chasm between what's needed and what's being spent on sewers is growing every year, city staff says.

And some of the problems that have resulted were flagged last year during inspections by Ontario's Environment Ministry, The Free Press has learned.

"We believe we need a substantial increase in revenue," Ron Standish, the city's director of waste water and treatment, said yesterday.

Just five years ago, council voted to spend $500 million on sewers over 20 years, of which $200 million would be spent on capital works. That cash injection has since led to big increases in the sewer tax.

But that cash will run out before the 20 years is up, even though the city has spent far less than it needs to keep up a sewer system worth $2.6 billion, Standish said.

The city must spend $30 million a year on sewers to keep them in good repair and keep pace with growth, he said.

But over the last five years, council has spent an average of $10 million and this year will spend $18 million.

Standish's department is working on a report that will be presented to council in the fall. "It's fair to say the system is aging and we're not keeping up," he said.

That's also the assessment of the Environment Ministry, which last year found two key problems:

- Treatment plants were discharging water that had too many solids, exceeding regulatory limits.

- The city was dumping too much untreated and less-treated sewage into the Thames River because its plants lacked the capacity to manage large flows that typically come when there's a lot of rain.

The latter problem, called a bypass, reared its head the past week when the city dumped more than 337 million litres of sewage in the Thames River.

Nearly half of the bypass occurred at London's largest facility, Greenway Pollution Control Plant.

While the sewage at Greenway was disinfected and screened, sewage from some of the other plants was not.

"It's absolutely disgusting," said Chief Kelly Riley of the Chippewas of the Thames, which is downstream from London and uses the river for fishing and boating.

Last year's inspections prompted the ministry to ask city staff to produce an action plan and conduct a study of how bypasses affect the Thames.

The plan is expected to be completed in coming weeks and the study by year's end.

The ministry hasn't issued an official order because it believes the city is trying to co-operate, district manager Lee Orphan said.

Industry that spills pollutants are often charged and fined.

Orphan said there are some critical differences between industrial spills and the municipality's problems.

A charge against a municipality won't likely stick since the Environment Ministry approves the sewage capacity of each treatment plant. By doing so, the ministry implicitly permits sewage that exceeds capacity to be bypassed, Orphan said.

Also, a discharge from a sewage plant poses less of a threat than an industrial spill since the former is greatly diluted with water and sometimes disinfected, he said.

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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Proposed Robbery

Layton platform targets wealthy

PETER GEIGEN-MILLER, Free Press Reporter and news services 2004-05-27 02:58:44

NDP Leader Jack Layton, hoping to overcome his party's tax-and-spend image, rolled out a squeeze-the-rich platform yesterday promising billions in spending and balanced budgets. A major part of the $61-billion platform is a party proposal to pour billions more into health care.

The plan's biggest single tax hit is a $3.1-billion estate tax, which has the potential to rile aging baby boomers.

Big banks, corporations and chief executives would pay higher taxes in the plan that would divert $29 billion more over five years into caring for Canada's ill and elderly.

The platform, which Layton unveiled in Toronto, comes with a promise of five straight balanced budgets.

"If the money isn't there, we will change the timing of our proposals to keep that budget balanced," said Layton.

Two London-area NDP candidates said the platform could be good for London's economy.

Irene Mathyssen, who's running in London-Fanshawe, said the platform provides a middle-of-the-road approach.

"It's cautious in as much as it is not going to jeopardize our balanced (federal) budgets," she said.

The platform also will deliver cash-starved educators and hospitals from the "mania" of Prime Minister Paul Martin's budget cuts over the years as Liberal finance minister, she said.

And higher health spending will create jobs in the city's health sector, she noted.

"If we have a properly funded health-care sector, we're creating jobs in this community that cause spinoffs that help everyone."

Joe Swan, NDP candidate in London-North-Centre, said the platform's numbers are big, but that's also true of Liberal and Conservative promises.

"These are the costs that are attached to running federal programs," he said.

Swan noted one estimate has pegged the cost of Conservative election promises at $89 billion over five years. Liberal promises have been estimated at $40 billion.

"Some of our proposals are more aggressive than the Liberals in health care and education, but we think we have a better balanced budget than the Conservatives," said Swan.

The NDP platform, with almost $30 billion for health care, contrasts with the Liberal promise of about $9 billion.

New Democrats readily admit economics is their perceived weak suit, something Layton has tried repeatedly to address by stressing his experience as a city councillor working with Toronto's budget, which is bigger than that of several provinces.

He also promised more money for affordable housing and public transit, saying it's time to invest in cities.

Layton said the NDP wants to create a "green and prosperous Canada that leaves no one behind."

The child tax benefit would be increased and there would be more money for child care, as the NDP proposes easing the financial burden on Canadian families. Federal income tax would be eliminated for people earning less than $15,000 a year.

Layton, releasing the platform on his home turf, also promised a NDP government would invest in cities. "Without that investment, things begin to break down," he said.

In other developments yesterday, Conservative Leader Stephen Harper offered a better equalization deal for Nova Scotia and Newfoundland during a swing through Atlantic Canada.

Martin, grappling with a potential sleeper issue, promised to raise the question of soaring gasoline prices when he meets world leaders in the U.S. next month.

He also was dogged on a campaign swing through Montreal by the ghost of the federal sponsorship scandal and his party's ties to ad agencies that profited from the program.

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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Decision held on city's thorny affidavit appeal

JANE SIMS, Free Press Justice Reporter 2004-05-27 02:58:43

Allowing a judge's ruling that deems closed meetings are "not cloaked with confidentiality" will have ramifications for all Ontario municipalities, a lawyer for the City of London warned yesterday. James Caskey made the remarks as he applied in court for leave to appeal Justice John Kennedy's decision not to remove London development lawyer Alan Patton from a case involving a controversial development freeze.

Caskey and Patton re-hashed many points made almost a month ago before Kennedy during Patton's bid to quash a temporary bylaw freezing development along Richmond Street near the University of Western Ontario.

The arguments go the heart of city hall's rules and procedures.

The city had accused Patton of misconduct for collecting sworn statements from two council members saying a vote on the bylaw was held behind closed doors.

Such votes are illegal under Ontario's Municipal Act.

Patton is seeking to overturn the bylaw on behalf of RSJ Holdings, which wants to build a fourplex at 915 Richmond St., in the affected area.

Caskey said all municipalities must be concerned about Kennedy's assertion information in the affidavits of Controller Bud Polhill and Coun. Roger Caranci was "in the public domain."

The temporary bylaw, in place until zoning issues are ironed out, essentially freezes development along both sides of Richmond between Huron and Grosvenor streets.

Yesterday, in the Superior Court of Justice, Caskey told Justice Dougald McDermid the affidavits violate solicitor-client privilege and were not public.

"If that turns out to be the law of Ontario, all municipalities will have to live with it," he said, adding that would take away the authority of the Ontario Municipal Act to protect information discussed behind closed doors.

"That, in essence, is the reason this is of such significance" to the city, he said.

He added there's nothing in the council minutes to indicate Polhill and Caranci opposed the bylaw in open session during five votes.

McDermid said he needed case law on the confidentiality of closed sessions, promised by Caskey by week's end.

Patton argued the council members did not disclose any information from the city solicitor in their affidavits, and that there's nothing in the law that restricts a councillor from talking about what happens behind closed doors.

There are specific reasons for closed deliberations, he said, which include security of property, personnel matters and labour relations.

It took a mere eight minutes after more than two hours in closed session to give a series of bylaws its required three readings, including the one now in question.

Patton said it was not part of the posted council orders of the day.

"This is what was in the public domain and this is where the trouble is," he said.

"Clearly there had to be a decision made in camera to be approved," he said.

He compared the temporary bylaw to "dropping a nuclear bomb," freezing development for as long as three years.

Patton reminded McDermid that Kennedy said the city's bid to remove him from the case was "much ado about nothing," and he asked for costs should the city lose its request for leave to appeal.

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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What's going on here.....?

Area 51 hackers dig up trouble

By Kevin Poulsen, SecurityFocus
Published Tuesday 25th May 2004 23:29 GMT

To the Area 51 buffs who journey to the Nevada desert in the hopes of catching a glimpse of unexplained lights in the sky or to bask in the mythic allure of the region, 58-year-old Chuck Clark is almost as much a part of the local color as the Black Mailbox.

A resident of tiny Rachel, Nevada - 100 miles north of Las Vegas along the Extraterrestrial Highway - the amateur astronomer and author has spent years keeping an eye on the spot the government calls the "operating location near Groom Lake, Nevada." He's said to be a frequent presence at the Little A'Le'Inn, where you can purchase post cards and tee shirts, enjoy an "Alien Burger," and walk out with a copy of Clark's "Area 51 & S-4 Handbook" to guide you on your journey into the desert.
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But this self-appointed military watchdog is harder to find these days: messages left for him at the Inn go unreturned, and his media appearances have dried up like Groom Lake itself. "I think he's really not as motivated to talk to the media anymore as he used to be," says friend and fellow base-watcher Joerg Arnu. The reason: it turns out the truth really was out there, and the government didn't appreciate Clark digging it up.

Clark didn't find the Roswell craft or an alien autopsy room - in fact, while officially shrouded in secrecy, the 50-year-old base is generally believed to be dedicated to the terrestrial mission of testing classified aircraft. "The U2 spy plane, the SR-71, the F-117A stealth fighter, all were flight-tested out of the Groom Lake facility," says Steven Aftergood, director of the Federation of American Scientists' Project on Government Secrecy. The myth of Area 51 memorialized in films, T.V. shows and novels is a function of the secrecy that surrounds it. "It is a concrete manifestation of official secrecy at its most intense, and that invites a mixture of paranoia and speculative fantasy that has become ingrained in popular culture," says Aftergood.

Even without aliens, the facility has its secrets, and last year while roaming the desert outside the Groom Lake base Clark stumbled upon one of them: an electronic device packed in a rugged case and buried in the dirt. Marked "US Government Property," the device turned out to be a wireless transmitter, connected by an underground cable to a sensor buried nearby next to one of the unpaved roads that vein the public land surrounding the base. Together, the units act as a surveillance system, warning someone - somewhere - whenever a vehicle drives down that stretch of road.

Similar devices had been spotted in the area in the early 90s, but they were crude and bulky, stashed in the bushes and easily spotted. They were later withdrawn. The new road sensors are more clandestine, given away only by a slender antenna poking up through the dirt. "They're very, very hard to find, because there's just this little wire, like a blade of grass," says Arnu.
Sniffing Out Surveillance

Arnu, a Las Vegas software engineer, has shared Clark's preoccupation with the Groom Lake base since 1999, when he made a trip to the area to see what all the fuss was about. "I thought, okay, I'll give it a try, see what's out there... A couple of days turned into a couple of weeks and before I knew it I started developing a website about Area 51," says Arnu.

So when Clark found the new generation of road sensor, Arnu drove out to help investigate further. The pair found that, at close range, they could use a handheld frequency counter to pick up the wireless signals given off by the devices as a car passes. Over the following month and half, Clark and Arnu engaged in a kind of geocaching game with the Men in Black, systematically sniffing out the road sensors with the frequency counter, exhuming them, and opening them up. They discovered that each device was coded with three-digit identifier that could be read off an internal dial, allowing Arnu to make a list that correlated each unit's ID number with its GPS coordinates, creating a virtual map of a portion of the surveillance network surrounding the Groom Lake facility. Some of the sensors were miles away from the base.

"We dug up about 30 or 40 of them on various access roads leading to the base on public land," Arnu says, insisting that he and Clark always carefully reburied each unit after logging it, and even tested it with the frequency counter to make sure it was still working before moving on to the next one.

Based on their survey, Clark and Arnu have estimated that there are between 75 and 100 sensors, on public land used by hikers and photographers in addition to curiosity seekers. "I think it is absolutely inappropriate," says Arnu. "You have to understand that people going out there - not everybody is interested in Area 51...They track these tourists on public land going about their hobby."

When they'd gathered sufficient evidence that the Air Force was bugging the desert, Arnu and Clark revealed the road sensors on Arnu's website, Dreamland Resort, a forum and information site for Area 51 aficionados and the "Official Home Page of the world-famous Little A'Le'Inn."

The reaction from the government was immediate, according to Arnu: the road sensors were fitted with a new feature aimed at better eluding detection. Now the transmitters would wait a minute or two before broadcasting an alarm, so that desert wardrivers are out of range before the transmission takes place - at least, using relatively insensitive detection equipment like a frequency counter.

Undeterred by the innovation, in June of last year Clark led a news crew from Las Vegas' KLAS television station into the desert and showed them some of the road sensors.

The following week, according to the station's report, FBI and Air Force agents raided Clark's trailer home in Rachel, and carted off his computer, photographs and records. The next day, Arnu got a call at work from the FBI. "They demanded that I speak with them the very same day," he says.
The Case of the Missing Sensor

The investigation sparked something of a backlash in Nevada. The Las Vegas Review Journal editorialized against the FBI's tactics. In the Las Vegas Mercury, George Knapp, the newsman who filmed the KLAS segment, asked how far the government should be allowed to go in protecting the secret base. "If you or I accidentally kick one of these hidden transmitters, should the feds be able to seize our Macintosh and photos of Aunt Betty?"

Arnu describes the probe as an intimidation tactic. "It didn't lead anywhere," he says. "It was basically a dead-end from the beginning because we didn't break any law... We dug [the sensors] up without damaging them or destroying them."

But court documents unsealed earlier this year reveal that there was an unsolved mystery lurking around Groom Lake. It seems that a month prior to the raid, one of the road sensors went missing - vanished, like an abductee pulled into a flying saucer.

The government didn't charge anyone with stealing US property, but last December it charged Clark with a single count of interfering with a communications system used for the national defense. On March 12th, 2003 Clark allegedly obstructed, hindered and delayed "a signal from a mini intrusion device" located outside "the Nevada Test and Training Range" -- a reference to the government land that encompasses the Groom Lake site.

"He removed one," says Natalie Collins, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Las Vegas. "It says that there, so it's fine for me to confirm that."

In a deal quietly reached with prosecutors last January, Clark agreed to "either locate and return the sensor removed on March 12, 2003 or pay restitution to the United States Air Force to replace the missing sensor." In exchange, the government agreed to suspend proceedings against Clark and to place him on a kind of probation called "pretrial diversion": if Clark goes a year without interfering with any of the road sensors, and doesn't otherwise break the law, the government will drop the felony charge.

Clark's phone number is unlisted, and he didn't respond to repeated messages left for him at the Little A'Le'Inn over the course of several months, and inquiries passed through Arnu. His attorney also declined to return repeated phone calls on the case.

Arnu says his friend never told him about a missing sensor, or his agreement to return it. "I refuse to believe that Chuck would be stupid enough to remove one," says Arnu. "I know... that he agreed to lay low for a year." Clark's adventures near the most famously secret patch of real estate in the world appear to have pulled him beneath the very cloak of secrecy he poked and scratched at for so many years. He has, in a sense, become a part of Area 51.

Copyright © 2004

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Once again, fat people and smokers are the scapegoats for the day - The Cattle cars will be rolling in soon for the fatties and smokers

Coming up for British school kids: 'fat' tests

Death of obese toddler sparks alarm over growing number of youngsters who gorge on junk food and do not exercise

By Alfred Lee - The Straits Times

LONDON - Lawmakers want all British schoolchildren to have annual 'fat tests' after it was revealed that a three-year-old child had died after a constant diet of junk food and fizzy drinks.

The toddler died from heart failure brought on by excessive weight, the first case of its kind in Britain.

His death, which has shocked medical experts because of his young age, was revealed in a report by the powerful Parliamentary Health Committee on the rapidly growing crisis of obese children in Britain.

'The boy was so overweight he had breathing problems and his heart could not cope. He choked on his own fat,' Dr Sheila McKenzie, head of a clinic at the Royal London Hospital that treats overweight youngsters, told The Straits Times.

'Obesity in children is a huge and growing problem, and we have four other youngsters receiving constant medical care because they are so overweight. We have so many children needing treatment that there is...an 11-month waiting list,' she added.

The Health Committee wants 'fat tests' on all children at school, with their body mass index ratings sent to parents and, in cases of seriously large waistlines, to doctors for treatment.

After hearing evidence from 60 experts during their 12-month investigation, the MPs said in their report published yesterday that Britain had the fastest-growing rate of obesity in youngsters in Europe.

This was resulting in a generation where children would die before their parents.

The number of tubby children had increased by 400 per cent in the past 25 years and, if the trend of eating junk food and lack of exercise continued, half of all youngsters in Britain would be seriously overweight by 2020 and obesity would overtake smoking as the most common cause of premature deaths.

There would be a huge demand for kidney dialysis and the £7 billion (S$21.8 billion) annual cost in a few years' time to treat obese children and adults could cripple the National Health Service.

The MPs, from all political parties, were scathing in their report of the government, saying it had not promoted sport or exercise among children enough and had failed to take tougher action against unhealthy foods and drinks.

Sport stars and other celebrities were criticised for promoting unhealthy food.

The committee recommended that a 'traffic light' system be introduced on food labels so that parents and children are advised on healthy and junk food.

Red circles would indicate high-fat, high-sugar foods; amber would label foods as containing medium levels of fattening ingredients; and green would give the go- ahead for foods considered healthy.

The committee also criticised parents who did not provide home-cooked meals for their children, relying instead on fattening snacks.


U.S. Lengthens the List of Diseases Linked to Smoking
By ELIZABETH OLSON - The New York Times

Published: May 28, 2004

WASHINGTON, May 27 - Four decades after the surgeon general's first report on smoking and health linked cigarette use to lung cancer, larynx cancer and bronchitis, the latest annual report has further expanded the list of smoking-related diseases.

The new report, issued Thursday by Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona, concludes that in addition to the many other diseases listed in the intervening years, smoking can cause cancers of the cervix, kidney, pancreas and stomach, as well as abdominal aortic aneurysms, acute myeloid leukemia, cataracts, pneumonia and gum disease.
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The report, Dr. Carmona said at a news briefing, "documents that smoking causes disease in nearly every organ in the body at every stage of life."

Among the other disorders listed since the first report, in 1964, are cancers of the esophagus, throat and bladder; chronic lung disease; and chronic heart and cardiovascular diseases.

Government figures show that 440,000 Americans a year are now dying of smoking-related illnesses, and Dr. Carmona said more than 12 million had died since the first report. Smokers typically die 13 to 14 years earlier than nonsmokers, he said.

Treating those diseases costs about $75 billion a year, according to government figures, and an even greater amount is sacrificed in lost productivity.

For the first time, however, the number of Americans who have quit smoking edges out the number who still smoke, the surgeon general said. An estimated 46 million Americans "have managed to beat the habit and quit,'' he said, "while 45.8 million continue to smoke." Of the entire adult population, people 18 or older, smokers now account for only 22 percent.

Still, Dr. Carmona conceded that at the current rate of decline, the federal government would not meet its goal of cutting the number of smokers to 12 percent of adults by 2010.

The report warned that while the number of high school seniors who smoke had been reduced to 24.4 percent last year from 36.5 percent in 1997, trends indicated that the rate of decline in smoking among youths, like that among adults, was slowing.

The surgeon general said that "every day, nearly 5,000 people under 18 years of age try their first cigarette."

Just as disturbing as those trends, the report said, is that the rate of smoking "among some racial and ethnic minority populations and among less-educated Americans remains high.''

Dr. Carmona said he hoped that the message that "toxins from cigarette smoke go everywhere the blood flows" would help "motivate people to quit smoking and convince young people not to start in the first place."

Quitting can have immediate as well as long-term benefits, the report found. Quitting at age 65 or older, it said, can reduce by nearly 50 percent the risk of dying of a smoking-related disease. On the other hand, former smokers have the same stroke risk as nonsmokers 5 to 15 years after quitting.

Smoking cigarettes with lower yields of tar and nicotine, the report said, do not substantially reduce the risk of lung cancer.

"There is no safe cigarette," Dr. Carmona said, "whether it is called 'light,' 'ultralight' or any other name."

The 941-page report was prepared by a team of 20 scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and drew on research reported in 1,600 articles, which are available at www.cdc.gov/tobacco.

It found that while some research had pointed to an association between smoking and diseases including colon, liver and prostate cancer, as well as erectile dysfunction, the current evidence was not sufficient to establish a link.

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I won't vote for any of you!

Martin says he won't sink to Layton's level

CTV.ca News Staff

Paul Martin is fighting back against personal attacks from the left and the right.

The attacks began on Wednesday, when NDP Leader Jack Layton accused the PM of being personally responsible for the deaths of homeless people because of cuts he made to affordable housing programs as finance minister.

Layton didn't back down from his statements today.

"Politicians have to take responsibility for their actions," Mr. Layton told reporters. "When Paul Martin cut the funding for affordable housing, terminated the program to keep building affordable housing in this country, homelessness rose rapidly."

Martin responded to the comments during a short stop a veterans health centre in Victoria. But didn't demand an apology as earlier reports suggested he would.

"I think Mr. Layton is condemned by his statements," he said. "I would hope that this would be a campaign of ideas and I don't want to sink to that level."

Layton made the comments in Toronto Wednesday, at a nomination meeting for his wife, Olivia Chow.

"I believe that when Paul cancelled affordable housing across this country it produced a dramatic rise in homelessness and death due to homelessness. I've always said I hold him responsible for that," he said.

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper called the comments about homeless deaths outrageous. But he didn't let Martin completely off the hook. He said the Liberals are putting the lives of Canadian troops at risk because they are being made to use antiquated equipment.

"We don't want to go over the top and start pointing the fingers at particular individuals and saying they are guilty for deaths, but hopefully as political figures we'll take our responsibilities towards citizens, towards our troops seriously," Harper said.

The state of Canada's military equipment, particularly its aged Sea King helicopters, has been topic of much debate in recent years. Iltis jeeps, used in Afghanistan, have also been blamed for not protecting Canadians from mine accidents.

This appears to mark the beginning of the personal attacks in a five-week campaign that has so far been about health care and tax cuts. The vote will be held June 28.

There are 308 seats up for grabs this year, seven more than in the last vote. At dissolution, the Liberals held 168 of the 301 seats in the Commons. The newly merged Conservatives had 73, the Bloc Quebecois 33 and the NDP 14. There were nine independents and four vacancies.

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The Liberal campaign strategy - increase the threat of terrorism and keep kissing those minority babies

U.S. terror news bolsters Martin

Greg Weston, Special to the Free Press 2004-05-27 02:58:44

VICTORIA -- No matter how angry Canadians may have become toward the federal Liberals over the past few months, pollsters report voters have continued to view Paul Martin as the best leader for prime minister. You can bet the PM's favoured standing just went up again.

Shortly after 1 p.m. yesterday, the PM was thrust into the mother of all national issues by the most unlikely of players to enter this federal election campaign.

Canadians were again being confronted by the threat of terrorism and the death merchants of Osama bin Laden.

And of all Canada's federal leaders, polls suggest no one inspires public confidence in crisis more than the earnest PM in his rolled-up shirtsleeves.

Martin was campaigning at a Montreal hospital when the bomb dropped in Washington. U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft called a news conference to announce intelligence agents had uncovered evidence of a terrorist plot to hijack a commercial jetliner and crash it into an unknown American target.

Then came the worst news for Canada, revelations that can only confirm Americans' worst security fears of their neighbours to the north. Two of the alleged terrorists, Ashcroft said, are Canadian citizens (with dual passports in Muslim countries), one of whom had trained as a pilot.

Their plan, he continued, was to hijack a plane in Canada and crash it into one of three possible sites due to host major political gatherings this year in the United States.

One of those targets is the annual G-8 summit of western leaders being held in Georgia on June 8, when Martin is scheduled to break from the campaign here to attend the high-level gathering.

As an unofficial campaign event, there can hardly be one better suited to Martin, reminding Canadians of what has clearly become the PM's most powerful image -- the trusted elder statesman. That image flashed in Canadian faces as Martin confronted what seemed to be the nation's first major security threat since he took office in December. So it seemed.

Martin had been in the midst of his campaign stop and photo-op at a Montreal hospital when his national security adviser, Robert Wright, first tried to reach him with the news. Lucky it wasn't an attack on Canada -- at the time Wright was trying to reach the prime minister, Martin and his aides were all in an area of the hospital where cellphones had to be turned off.

While Ashcroft's presser may have come as a surprise to the PM and Canadian officials, the terrorist threat certainly was not.

As far back as January, the National Post reported both the suspected Canadian terrorists were on the FBI's publicly posted list of second-tier suspects wanted by the U.S. for terrorist activities against the United States.

One of them, 38-year-old Abderraouf Jdey, originally from Tunisia, had obtained Canadian citizenship in 1995.

He had been on a FBI alert list since January 2002.

So why the big fuss by the feds here and in Washington yesterday? Officially, American authorities said that with the G-8 summit only weeks away, they were holding the news conference to enlist the public's help in finding the seven terrorist suspects.

Unofficially, Washington is abuzz with speculation the terrorist plot is being splashed in the media to help shore up public support for President George W. Bush.

Bush's popularity tends to be greatest in times of threat, the leader Americans perceive can best protect them. Polls in this country suggest Canadians feel the same about Paul Martin.

Did Martin just get a lucky bounce from Bush?

"There is no threat to Canada," Martin told reporters aboard his campaign plane. "Canadians can be very, very confident."

In the background, his aides were smiling.

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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Thursday, May 27, 2004

Wonder how long they have to wait to see a doctor?

OHIP funding for sex changes to be restored

Grits expect uproar, but approval anticipated soon

By James Wallace, Osprey News Network

Thursday, May 27, 2004 - 01:00

National news - Ontario’s Liberal government plans to reinstate funding for sex-change operations, Osprey News has learned.

Health Minister George Smitherman has instructed ministry officials to begin preparatory work to restore OHIP funding for operations that alter the sex of individuals diagnosed with gender identity disorder.

Smitherman told Osprey News in a recent interview that he opposed the former Conservative government’s October 1998 decision to delist sex-change operations and intends to see the provincial medicare system fund the procedure as soon as possible.

He has also privately assured advocates in the gay, lesbian and transsexual community that he would restore funding that had been in place since 1969.

Approval for the decision is expected “soon,” sources said, and will come on the heels of a Liberal budget that cut funding for eye exams, physiotherapy and chiropractic therapy.

Smitherman, and senior Liberals, expect it will generate some controversy but are determined to correct what they perceive as an injustice.

However, the Health Ministry can’t add sex-change operations to the list of OHIP-approved medical procedures until an outstanding complaint made to Ontario’s Human Rights Commission is resolved.

The complaint was filed by four transsexuals who argued the Tory decision to cut funding violated the province’s Human Rights Code.

Earlier this year, Attorney General Michael Bryant instructed provincial lawyers to begin settlement negotiations with the complainants and an agreement is weeks, if not days, away, sources told Osprey News.

Brendan Crawley, a spokesman for the attorney general, said it wouldn’t be appropriate to comment on any matter before the tribunal.

The Human Rights Commission investigation into the complaints concluded the former government’s decision to remove sex-change operations from OHIP coverage was discriminatory and referred the matter to the province’s independent Human Rights Tribunal for resolution.

Agreements are now being finalized that commit the province to fund the procedure and detail criteria including what steps individuals would be required to take to be eligible for funding and who would approve the surgery.

Before the Tories delisted sex change operations, candidates for the surgery were required to participate in a two-year program that included undergoing psychological assessment, hormone treatment and a test where they dressed and lived as the other gender for a full year.

The surgery is covered in four other provinces: Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and Newfoundland.

OHIP paid for six or seven sex-change operations per year before 1998, which then cost taxpayers a combined total of about $120,000 annually.

Private clinics routinely charge $15,000 and more for the procedure, although doctors in countries such as Thailand advertise the procedure on the Internet starting at $5,000 US.

Transsexuality, known as gender identity dysphoria, is controversial even within medical circles.

In some cases, sex reassignment surgery (SRS) is performed on individuals born with both male and female genitalia. In other cases, individuals seek the surgery to make their physical bodies conform to their mental and emotional perceptions.

Laurie Arron, director of advocacy for Egale Canada’s Trans Committee, said the Conservative government’s decision to suspend OHIP funding for sex-change surgery had terrible consequences for transsexual people in this province.

“It’s important to recognize that these people are one of the most targeted groups for discrimination, harassment and violence,” Arron said.

“It does lead to people killing themselves and all kinds of nasty things,” he said. “It’s something we can fix, so why don’t we?”

Surgery is performed in only a handful of cases each year and transsexuals are broadly misunderstood, Arron said.



James Wallace is Queen’s Park bureau chief for the Osprey News Network.


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Let us spend your money and make your decisions for you - Vote NDP!

NDP leader welcomes his wife to federal race at Toronto nomination meeting
By JEN HORSEY

TORONTO (CP) - Under the richly painted cathedral ceiling of a downtown church, federal NDP Leader Jack Layton welcomed the party's newest candidate to the federal election with a kiss on the lips.

"We're on the podium of a church, it just felt appropriate right there," Layton said Wednesday after congratulating his wife Olivia Chow on her acclamation at the evening nomination meeting.

Layton made an appearance only after his wife had secured the nomination, leaving the spotlight to a beaming Chow for the first portion of the meeting.

Although his candidacy carries a higher profile nationally, Layton joked he's known as "Jack Chow" in the Trinity-Spadina riding, an ethnically diverse community that includes both Chinatown and the city's Kensington Market.

And it was clearly her night. Her arrival was greeted with foot-stomping that thundered through the packed and stifling Holy Trinity church - a suitable venue for NDP business given the congregation is known for its political activism and has long ties to the party.

Her acceptance speech, delivered while the 53-year-old Layton stood behind her in the dutiful spouse role, standing ever-ready with a supportive smile and timely applause, prompted several standing ovations.

Chow, 47, will be trying to unseat incumbent Liberal MP Tony Ianno. She pledged action on a national child care program, affordable housing and an end to a Toronto Island Airport expansion.

If Chow and Layton are elected, they would become the first husband-and-wife team to sit together in Parliament, according to NDP officials.

And as the pair faced the microphones and TV cameras outside after the meeting, both said they're handling the pressures of being a two-campaign household just fine.

"We're kind of used to it," said Layton, as Chow added, "we've done this many times."

After all, politics brought the pair together in 1985. Layton was a city councillor and Chow, who spent several years working for NDP MP Dan Heap, was elected a school board trustee.

Layton said they'll keep in touch during the campaign by phone and "send good vibrations to each other all the time" by way of wireless handheld units that can send and receive e-mail.

Despite promises there would be no favouritism if the pair ended up together on Parliament Hill, Layton admitted Wednesday to having a special interest in his wife's candidacy.

"Everyone has their personal favourite candidate, somebody that inspires them, somebody who reminds them day in and day out what a great movement we belong to," Layton said. "Well mine is right here on stage."

Trinity-Spadina was considered a safe Liberal seat until the early 1980s when Heap upset Trudeau's former principal secretary James Coutts in a stunning byelection.

It has long been considered a working-class neighbourhood but has been upwardly mobile since property values rose and the immigrant population was squeezed out.

Among those to publicly support Chow on Wednesday were several party heavyweights including Toronto city councillor Joe Pantalone, provincial NDPer Rosario Marchese and Heap.

Layton is running against Liberal MP Dennis Mills in the Toronto-Danforth riding.

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A future idea for London Ontario

Singapore will keep tabs on registered gum chewers

Pharmacists face big fines and possible jail time if they sell Wrigley's illegally.
AP 2004-05-26 02:42:35

SINGAPORE -- Ultra-tidy Singapore is lifting its notorious ban on chewing gum after 12 years -- but only for registered users. Gum dealers face jail if they break the rules. Before Singaporeans think about unwrapping a pack of the Wrigley's Orbit gum that has just started selling here -- and only in pharmacies -- they have to submit their names and ID card numbers.

If they don't, pharmacists who sell them gum could be jailed as long as two years and fined 5,000 Singapore dollars, equivalent to $4,031 Cdn.

This Southeast Asian city-state, known for its immaculate streets and tight social controls, outlawed the manufacture, import and sale of chewing gum in 1992 after the country's founding father, Lee Kuan Yew, complained it was fouling streets, buildings, buses and subway trains.

Lee, 80, stepped down as prime minister in 1990, but still wields considerable influence as senior minister.

Gum became a sticking point months ago in Singapore's free-trade talks with Washington, when U.S. Representative Philip Crane of Illinois -- home of gum giant Wrigley -- pressed the issue.

Singapore compromised, agreeing to allow only the sale of therapeutic gum in pharmacies. The free-trade pact took effect Jan. 1.

The Health Sciences Authority said it has allowed the sale of 19 medicinal and dental gum products.

Wrigleys' Orbit, which the company claims is good for teeth, hit pharmacy shelves just days ago. Pfizer's Nicorette, meant to help smokers kick their addiction, has been available since March.

Nicorette costs 19 Singapore dollars ($15 Cdn) for a pack of 30 pieces. A pack of Orbit goes for $1.60 ($1.28 Cdn).

Singaporeans, many of whom have long derided the gum ban, seemed unimpressed by the change.

"It's ridiculous that it's easier for 16-year-olds to visit prostitutes than it is to get chewing gum here," said college student Fayen Wong, 22.

Prostitution is legal in parts of Singapore -- and no registration is required.

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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We will all appear the same - the individual does not matter - Hail to the Collective

Uniforms spur debate

Catholic trustees mull making a dress code compulsory in all its high schools.
CARLY WEEKS, Free Press Reporter 2004-05-26 02:42:35

Trustees with the London District Catholic school board were debating a plan last night to make school uniforms compulsory at all high schools. If adopted, the move would mean only one high school -- London's Catholic Central -- would have to adapt, since uniforms are now required of students at all other board high schools.

Still, the sensitive issue brought out representatives of both sides at last night's meeting -- people for and against a dress code for teenagers.

"Students need to focus on their individual gifts as opposed to superficial images," parent Linda Steel, who opposes uniforms, told the trustees.

If the plan is passed, student uniforms would become compulsory in September 2005.

Yesterday, Frank McMahon, a teacher representative on Catholic Central's school council, said most staff members dislike the idea of uniforms and would rather see students chose their clothes.

A mandatory policy outlining what is suitable for wear contradicts the school's values, said McMahon, a CCH teacher for 19 years.

"We're Catholic by our actions and by our beliefs, not by what we wear. That's basic Catholic teaching," he said.

Those in favour of the uniform policy argue uniforms are an effective way to curb extreme and immodest clothing choices.

Modesto Azevedo, a parent and school council chairperson at Holy Cross, said uniforms improved the atmosphere at that school when they were introduced in 2002.

"We do know that some of our young people can be somewhat outrageous in their choice of clothing," he said. "(The uniform) provides a consistent clothing option."

The bonus to uniforms is they help create a positive school community and reflect Catholic values, Azevedo said.

McMahon said pop stars such as Britney Spears, who have been known to dress like school girls, bring unwanted sexual meaning to uniforms.

He said the board shouldn't decide for all schools, but leave the choice to each one.

"We resent having it pushed on us and we don't think it presents Catholic values," McMahon said.

He added the policy unfairly targets students from lower- income families who may not be able to afford uniforms without assistance.

But Azevedo said the benefits will outweigh any problems, as they did when Holy Cross adopted a uniform policy in 2002.

"We feel strongly that it helps to build community. It unites rather than divides," he said.

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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Wednesday, May 26, 2004

This is what happens when you let government guide the economic process

NDP: Let CPP pay for renos

SASKATOON (CP) -- The New Democrats are proposing to tap up to $100 million from the Canada Pension Plan to show that going green wouldn't be economically painful.

The money would create a pool of capital for homeowners and businesses to borrow from to retrofit older, less energy efficient buildings.

Property owners would use the savings on energy costs to make loan payments, Layton said.

Loans would be interest-bearing and the CPP fund would be fully repaid, party officials said.

"Everybody wins," Layton said outside a Saskatoon youth shelter that has been retrofitted. "Participants get lower energy bills without spending a dime. Workers get well-paid jobs and communities burn far less fuel, creating much less pollution."

A national building retrofit program would bring "Canada that much closer to meeting our Kyoto commitments," he said.

Under the international agreement, Canada promises a six per cent cut in greenhouse emissions from 1990 levels by 2012.

The federal Liberals under former prime minister Jean Chretien introduced a $1-billion program to help prepare the country to meet that target.

One element of the federal plan was a $74.9-million program to improve home energy efficiency.

Environmental groups said last year that response has been amazing and as many as 120,000 homeowners have requested visits from energy auditors with a view to improving their homes.

Layton emphasized potential employment gains that would come from a co-ordinated, sustained retrofit program.

"We have a high-level of unemployment in this country," he said. "Nobody is talking about it. We're emphasizing jobs."

The New Democrats said their plan would create years of employment and spin off jobs for up to two million people.

The idea, Layton said, isn't that novel, as the federal government has already realized $24 million in energy savings by refitting 7,000 buildings.

Layton also pointed to a Saskatoon project at Quint Development Corp., which used about $400,000 from a federal program for at-risk youth to buy and upgrade a building.

The environmental retrofit cost between $150,000 and $200,000, corporation officials said.

Improvements included installing radiant floor heating, thicker walls, energy efficient lighting, water flow regulators and a hookup for solar panels.

Although the renovations were completed within the last year, Quint officials estimate annual energy costs have fallen to about $2,000 from $4,000.

"It's a proven success story," said Layton.

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More cash for beaver mania

Artist uses Hudson's Bay blanket as symbol of native oppression

RITA TRICHUR, CP   2004-05-25 02:55:22  

TORONTO -- For most Canadians, the Hudson's Bay blanket is a symbol of Canadian identity -- a cherished emblem of the fur trade representing exploration, wilderness survival and the birth of a nation. But as the Hudson's Bay Co. relaunches its historic multi-stripped blanket as part of a new HBC Signature collection, a provocative Canadian art exhibit touring the country is suggesting the icon is tainted by controversy.

Artist Marianne Corless says that while the blanket is steeped with national pride for the Canadian mainstream, some aboriginals view it as a grim reminder of the smallpox epidemic that ravaged their communities during the 1700s and 1800s -- a dark consequence of the fur trade glossed over by history books but smouldering in native consciousness.

"It is not something that is really well known," Corless said in a recent interview from Victoria, adding that some natives believe infected Bay blankets helped spread the epidemic.

"Disease in general played such a major role in reshaping the population of the country."

Her multimedia art exhibit entitled Further, currently showing at the eyelevelgallery in Halifax, is a blunt critique of European colonialism and the fur trade. Wall hangings feature five Bay blankets and explore themes of exploitation, disease and death.

In Blanket 1, a Bay blanket is transformed into a diseased Canadian flag. Hung with its striped side down, its central feature is a large maple leaf infected and bleeding with smallpox pustules.

Corless acknowledges the image is "violent."

"I was trying to determine for myself what it meant to be a Canadian, to have this as part of our history," Corless said, noting that the Bay, established in 1670, was instrumental in exploring and settling Canada.

"(History) is coming back a little more now to the forefront because the Bay is starting to use that again in their modern-day marketing."

That corporate branding strategy includes a new Hbc Signature collection that relaunches the "heritage" blanket with a "modern edge." While it is still sold as a blanket -- its price ranging from $200 to $400 -- its distinctive green, red, yellow and indigo stripes now also adorn new clothing, outerwear, luggage and accessories from the Bay.

"The spirit of our great heritage is infused in every piece," Bay fashion director Suzanne Timmins says in a news release.

Historically, however, the Bay blanket was a "principal" commodity traded by Europeans for such native fur pelts as beaver. Made in England and transported by boat across the Atlantic, the wool blanket's history dates back to 1780.

Aboriginal people often transformed them into hooded blanket coats called capotes, "the most indispensable piece of clothing" for keeping warm during harsh Canadian winters.

The cream-coloured background provided a good camouflage against the snow for hunting, while the multicoloured stripes -- known as "Queen Anne's colours" for their popularity during her 1700-14 reign -- were considered fashionable.

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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Down with the white males and their disease carrying ties (but what about dresses?)

Doctors' ties tied to bedside bugs

HELEN BRANSWELL, CP   2004-05-25 02:55:22  

TORONTO -- Concerned about picking up a nasty bug while in hospital? Forget about whether your doctor washed his hands before examining you. Ask when he last dry-cleaned his tie. Neckties worn by doctors can and do carry dangerous pathogens, a study released yesterday reveals. It suggests a bedside visit by a well-dressed physician could dole out disease along with comfort and care.

The presence of bugs on ties suggests doctors aren't washing their hands enough, or at the right times, said Dr. Allison McGeer, one of Canada's leading infection control experts.

"If physicians washed their hands when they were supposed to, their ties would not be contaminated," she said.

McGeer suggested this finding probably also pertain outside hospitals, noting male pediatricians often wear ties with cartoon themes to entertain their young patients. "And they should probably think twice about that."

Lead author Steven Nurkin came up with the idea that ties might pose a contamination threat while doing surgical studies at the New York Hospital Medical Centre of Queens. Nurkin, who will shortly get his medical degree from the Bruce Rappaport faculty of medicine, in Haifa, Israel, presented his findings yesterday at the annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology in New Orleans.

Nurkin said he began wondering about the possibility of contamination when he noticed swinging ties coming in contact with patient bedding, even patients.

Earlier research had shown items doctors routinely carry -- pens, pagers, cellphones and stethoscopes -- are often teeming with all sorts of bugs. And cloth is known to harbour pathogens, which is why surgical staff change gowns between patients.

But whereas doctors know to clean their phones and pagers, "the necktie, you don't," Nurkin said.

So he and colleagues from the hospital's infectious disease lab swabbed the ties of 42 doctors, physician assistants and medical students, and cultured the swabs to see what if anything would grow. They compared the results to swabs taken of the ties of 10 hospital security guards, who were used as a control because though they work in a similar environment, they rarely come in contact with patients.

Nearly half the doctors' ties were positive for bugs like Staphylococcus aureus, which can cause wound infections, pneumonia, meningitis and food poisoning among other things. Only one of security guard tie tested positive.

McGeer said it's easy to see how this happens -- and the type of threat it might pose for the transmission of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and other pathogens.

"I go see a patient who has MRSA," she explained, using the acronym for methicillin-resistant Staph aureus. I get MRSA on my hands, I transfer it to my tie. Then I wash my hands . . . While I talk to the (next) patient, I fiddle with my tie. And then I transfer the MRSA back from my tie to my hands. And that's what would create the problem."

Though the small study found no ties contaminated with MRSA, a tie that can become contaminated with regular Staph can also become contaminated with the antibiotic-resistant form.

No one is suggesting ties are modern-day Typhoid Marys in hospital settings. But they may be contributing, in a small way, to the spread of hospital-acquired infections, said McGeer.

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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Cote and Hume speak out against the arts centre

Arts centre faces uphill fight
Timing and a cash shortage may again bury a new plan to build the facility.

JOE BELANGER, Free Press City Hall Reporter   2004-05-25 02:55:22  

Timing may again kill any renewed effort to build a performing arts centre in London, city leaders say. With the city struggling to get control of its finances after a $100-million capital spending spree the last few years, there's little if any left in the coffers.

No council members rejected the idea of supporting a performing arts centre. But few were optimistic it can be done during this council term.

"Right now it ranks well down my list of priorities for the next few years," said Controller Gord Hume, who agreed London needs a performing arts centre.

"It ranks well behind emergency services, roads and sewers."

Since the late 1990s, the city has spent about $100 million on a plan to revitalize the downtown. Major projects include the John Labatt Centre, Covent Garden Market, the new Central Library and the forks of the Thames water park.

Meanwhile, over the last 20 years, several bids to get a performing arts centre built failed due to a lack of funds, planning or other city priorities.

However, a new group, London Performing Arts Centre (LPAC), led by Joe Samuels, is working on a new proposal.

They have hired Artec Consultants Inc. of New York to do a feasibility study on a centre that would seat 1,500 to 2,000 people.

Artec is now looking at operating costs and how the centre would be managed.

The cost has not been estimated, but a similar centre built last year in Edmonton cost $33 million.

The group hopes to create an endowment fund for operating costs, but would seek money from the city, province and federal governments for buying the land and building the centre.

Coun. Judy Bryant, while aware of the city's tight finances, is optimistic a performing arts centre can be built.

"I think London is ready," she said. "The timing could be better. But I think the private sector may come forward in a much bigger way than we've expected."

Bryant said a performing arts centre would be an asset to the city, not just for current residents, but for economic development.

"We have people coming from Europe or other parts of North America who are used to having these kinds of facilities available to them and they are asking what we have when they are considering London as a new home."

Coun. Cheryl Miller, a long-time proponent of downtown revitalization, said a centre is essential.

"It's essential if we want to be the kind of cosmopolitan, grown-up city we deserve to become," Miller said.

However, Miller also said it's unlikely a performing arts centre will be built this term, partly because of tight finances, but also ongoing controversies occupying council's focus.

Vic Cote, the city's acting manager of finance credited as the architect of downtown revitalization, would have to play a key role if a performing arts centre has any chance of success, Miller said.

But Cote isn't convinced the time is right for the project.

"Not in this term," Cote said when asked if a performing arts centre could fit into the city's capital financing strategy.

"We all know it's back to the basics for capital spending right now."

If city council holds the course on its strategy of an annual capital spending limit of $30 million, it will be five to 10 years before there's room to finance such projects.

"And that would be my recommendation," Cote said. "We already have more basic infrastructure needs (sewers, water and roads) than we have money available to spend."

Still, budget chief Deputy Mayor Tom Gosnell wouldn't rule out the possibility of performing arts centre being built this term.

"I would take a look at if if the federal and provincial governments came up with some dough and a private group was able to do some fundraising. . . I'd be hard-pressed not to look at it."

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Unions are power opportunities for people with no capital of their own.

beelzebubba - london fog staff

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Sunday, May 23, 2004

What about my parking exemption? Allowing Sunday worshippers free parking is discriminatory!

Sunday exemption fuels neighbourhood dispute

JOE BELANGER AND TONI SYRETT, Free Press Reporters   2004-05-23 01:55:40  

The fight isn't over for a west London neighbourhood in a battle with churchgoers over parking. New parking restrictions proposed by the city to resolve a dispute between Riverside United Church and nearby residents were approved recently by city council.

However, in an unexpected twist, Ward 1 Coun. Judy Bryant convinced council to approve a Sunday exemption to the parking restrictions.

That means when church-goers arrive to worship today, nothing will have changed.

"What a bunch of knuckleheads," said Ingo Schmiedchen, a Dunedin Drive resident, when informed of the decision earlier this week.

"I'm not very happy to say the least. What was the point of the exercise? Nothing happens during the rest of the week. It's Sundays that are the problem. I guess we'll have to get together to try and beat up on council again."

Residents complain churchgoers block driveways and fire hydrants. But their biggest concern was during the winter, when the combination of snowbanks and cars parked on both sides of the streets made driving difficult, blocking access for emergency vehicles.

The issue erupted on Mother's Day, 2002, when churchgoers' cars were ticketed by police.

Since then, the church has examined and tried a number of initiatives to ease the congestion, but with little success.

They now have a parishioner directing traffic on Sundays, as well as bumper-to-bumper parking to fit more cars in the existing lot.

Church officials say they can't afford to expand the lot. Residents agree paving the facility's front yard wouldn't look good.

The city council's environment and transportation committee met two weeks ago and approved staff recommendations to ban parking on the west side of Dunedin Street from Riverside Drive to Warren Road and on the north and east side of Sherene Terrace that curls onto Dunedin.

Church officials had previously agreed to the staff recommendations.

But Bryant offered no apologies about the exemption.

"I don't think it was a compromise, as it was described," Bryant said. "I thought there should have been more of a balance in the agreement."

Bryant said the church plans to continue seeking solutions to its parking shortage.

"If the parking restrictions had been imposed, it would have effected the economic viability of the church," Bryant said. "And nobody wants a run-down church in the neighbourhood."

Council's decision pleased Ann McEwan-Castellan, chairperson of the church council.

The church will continue to work on solutions, she said.

"It's not going to happen overnight, we know it," McEwan-Castellan said.

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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Ebay displaying Liberal tendencies

EBay chokes on Arnold's cough drop

AP   2004-05-23 01:55:40  

SACRAMENTO -- A seller on EBay tried to auction off a cough drop that California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger allegedly used, then tossed into a trash can -- listing the item under the heading Schwarzenegger's DNA. But the ad posted on the popular website Friday was quickly yanked after EBay decided it fell into the category of "body parts," which the website will not list for sale.

The original listing was accompanied by two photos of a half-consumed cough drop and the words: "Own a piece of DNA from the man himself."

The seller indicated he or she had seen Schwarzenegger discard the lozenge at a recent public event and had retrieved it.

"Like many people who collect items from international stars this is a must have," the ad stated.

The California governor's office confirmed Schwarzenegger routinely sucks on cough drops, but would say little more.

An EBay spokesperson said the seller, identified only as AMF814, could put the item back up for sale if he or she reclassified it as a collectible.

However, as of yesterday, it was not among the 115 Schwarzenegger collectibles listed.

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2004

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Saturday, May 22, 2004

THE FOURTH REICH - AFTER THE CIGARETTE SMOKERS, LET US GO AFTER THE FATTIES

World health ministers agree on strategy to battle obesity

The WHO is at the centre of a plan to move toward healthier diets and lifestyles.

EMMA ROSS, AP   2004-05-22 02:02:53  

GENEVA -- With the number of fat people in the world outnumbering the hungry, top health officials from around the globe tentatively agreed yesterday on a plan to fight the growing epidemic of diseases driven by bad diet and lack of exercise. The plan, expected to be formally approved by the governing body of the World Health Organization today, is a guidebook for countries on designing policies to make people eat better and exercise more.

The aim is to stem the tide of obesity and other diseases linked to diet and physical inactivity, such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis, malnutrition and tooth decay.

Dr. Kaare Norum, a Norwegian obesity expert who advised WHO on the development of the plan, said the agreement was a victory for public health and that despite earlier fears, the sugar industry failed to derail the plan.

Though not legally binding, the plan makes recommendations on limiting the intake of such things as sugar, fat and salt in processed foods. It also suggests guidelines on marketing food to children and on health claims on packaging, along with more comprehensive nutrition labelling and health education.

The sugar limit became a focus of controversy and behind-the-scenes pressure.

Several sugar-producing developing countries sought to eliminate any reference to limiting sugar.

"There was a lot of lobbying from different stakeholders, but in the end, public health has been able to be recognized, and that's the most important point," said Dr. Catherine LeGales-Camus, assistant director for non-infectious diseases at the WHO.

The plan also provides ideas on ways to make it easier to make healthier lifestyle choices at home, school and work.

Approaches could range from better urban planning so walking and cycling become more popular to tying toy promotions in with healthy fast-food meals or subsidizing the provision of fruits and vegetables in school cafeterias.

Health officials says they have watched with alarm as cheap, high-calorie western food and labour-saving devices increasingly invade the developing world.

Experts say fat people now outnumber the hungry on a global basis and that malnutrition and infectious diseases -- still a scourge in many areas -- are no longer responsible for most of the world's deaths. They predict that the situation will only get worse unless serious action is taken.

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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MORE PARKING WOES IN SMOKY LONDON

Parking tickets insult to core believer

PATRICK MALONEY, Free Press Reporter   2004-05-22 02:02:53  

John Scott-Pearse spent more than $1 million to refurbish a downtown building. Now he wants city hall to give him a little back. In this story of one downtown entrepreneur and 118 unwanted, unpaid and -- in Scott-Pearse's opinion -- undeserved parking tickets, the co-owner of Robinson Hall hopes the ending will be a happy one. But 2 1/2 years after he got the first one outside his Talbot Street bar, he admits it doesn't look promising.

"I'll be really, really mad if I have to end up paying for them," Scott-Pearse said. "I was always at the parking office (asking), 'What can I do, what can I get?' Nothing. They don't care."

A conservative estimate puts his ticket tab at about $6,000.

The mountain of parking fines was built while he was renovating the one-time bank across the street from the John Labatt Centre. Scott-Pearse said he was often ticketed while he loaded and unloaded supplies from a truck and trailer he parked next to the building.

But after a few dozen tickets, why not find a different place to park? To Scott-Pearse, that just wasn't possible.

"How far can you carry 100 two-by-fours? This place has thousands and thousands and thousands of two-by-fours," he said.

"The point to me is we're loading and unloading . . . hundreds and hundreds of loads."

Most viable spaces were usually taken by construction crews working on the JLC at the same time, he said.

Over the years, he fixed up the bar, he explains and dealing with the tickets simply wasn't a priority.

"Most people don't realize the problems we have to solve (during construction) and how you lose your house if you don't solve them.

"You have to ignore some things."

Since construction ended last December, Scott-Pearse has lobbied the city's parking division to overturn the tickets.

While some Londoners may argue he doesn't deserve special treatment, Scott-Pearse said entrepreneurs who assume all the risk of starting a downtown business deserve some help.

"There are people who mortgaged their homes to put stores downtown," he said. "If (one) loses their business, they lose their house. There's absolutely no safety net."

The city, however, hasn't budged.

The tickets, now considered convictions, are out of city hall's hands and are a provincial matter, said city parking manager Shane Maguire. Such parking regulations are needed downtown, he added.

"Without the regulations, you have long-term users parking on the street."

To Scott-Pearse, who joined the London Downtown Business Association last fall, his own downtown parking troubles are only a small part of what he calls a city policy driving entrepreneurs -- and customers -- to the fringes.

"It costs more to do business in downtown London than on Fanshawe Park Road," he said. "When you come to downtown London, you're going to get tickets.

"Downtown needs customers (and) we are sending all our customers to . . . stores on Fanshawe Park Road. London's going to develop into a doughnut (with) business all the way around and nothing in the centre."

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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The Next Money Pit for London - The JLC #2!?

Plans revived for performing arts centre

A group is laying the groundwork for a new downtown facility.

NORMAN DE BONO, Free Press Business Reporter 2004-05-22 02:02:54  

Dreams of a performing arts centre in London are returning to centre stage. A group of businesspeople and music lovers is quietly working behind the scenes, laying the foundation in hope of getting an arts centre built.

"It would be good for downtown, it would be great for London," said Andy Spriet of Spriet Associates in London, who has sat on an advisory committee for the centre.

Artec Consultants Inc. of New York has been hired by the London Performing Arts Centre (LPAC) board of directors to do a feasibility study on how large a centre is required and how it would operate.

Meetings have been held with builders on early designs.

The theatre would seat 1,500 to 2,000 people and the board is considering several downtown sites, said David Bennett, senior consultant with Artec.

"One of the interesting things about this project is they want an orchestra as a prime candidate, but they want travelling shows there as well," Bennett said from New York.

"They are thinking it will be a big economic boon to London."

The completed first phase of the study covered a needs assessment, building description and capital cost estimates.

Artec is looking at operating costs and how the centre would be managed and operated. That will be done by mid-summer, Bennett said.

The board has asked for a "concert theatre" model that could house Orchestra London, theatre, ballet and opera performances.

The cost has not been estimated, but a similar centre built last year in Edmonton cost $33 million.

"It has become a more important issue recently because Centennial Hall is certainly lacking when you see other venues," said former Orchestra London president John St. Croix.

There's no timeline for the centre, but LPAC president Joe Samuels hopes the music will play within three years.

"The time is right. London is one of the 10 major cities in Canada and this is an area where we lag behind. It is a critical piece we need," Samuels said.

"This is not just about serving people who like to go to concerts. It is about economic development, it is about positioning ourselves to lure people here."

An arts centre is the last major project called for by the city's millennium committee on downtown revitalization.

The project did not get city support because there was no plan for how it would be built or operated.

Artec will provide that, Samuels said.

"They will give us a preliminary capital cost and an operational plan," he said. "They will give us a realistic idea of what we need in terms of a facility.

"Once we have all that done, then we will talk to the city and potential donors. We will be able to tell people about it."

Ideally, LPAC would like to have a $10-million endowment, proceeds of which would be used to fund the operation of the centre. The three levels of government can then be tapped solely for land and capital costs, said Joe Swan, former city controller and chair of the millennium committee.

The roadblock at the local level has always been the city, which did not want to fund another operation because it spends about $2 million a year on the Grand Theatre, Orchestra London and Museum London, Swan said.

"The strategy they have had is to have a $10-million foundation which offsets operating costs because the city can't afford another operating deficit, but it won't happen in this term of council, there is no money," Swan said.

A performing arts centre may cost as much as $1 million a year to operate, Swan said. He believes the centre may cost as much as $40 million to build.

"Once (the study) is done, there will be programs put together to raise money. Right now, they are just approaching people, asking if they will support it," Spriet said.

London-based construction firm EllisDon has done preliminary design and costing work on the centre, meeting with the board about three weeks ago, Samuels said.

"The desire for this will not go away. If London wants to be on the national stage, this is required," Swan said.

"It is great to see the private sector, prominent Londoners, invest in their community. This proves the private sector has formed a private development group, it is a dream come true."

Artec, which offers consulting services in the planning and designing of performing arts centres, has worked for Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto, Edmonton's Winspear Centre for Music and the Esplanade Theatres on the Bay in Singapore, to name a few.

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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Friday, May 21, 2004

Excuses, Excuses, Excuses ......Shut up already!!!!

Martin lays blame on Harris Tories

ALEXANDER PANETTA, CP 2004-05-20 03:35:46

OTTAWA -- Liberals are being urged to blame the bad-news Ontario budget on Conservative ideology -- not the province's Liberal government -- in an attempt to escape the fallout in the upcoming federal election. Prime Minister Paul Martin picked up on the blame-the-Tories theme yesterday as he rehearsed a line from a script being e-mailed to Liberal election candidates and obtained by CP.

He said the tax increases levied by the Liberal government in Ontario were the result of policies espoused by former Tory premier Mike Harris.

"I think that this really demonstrates that when Mike Harris cut taxes prematurely, eventually those chickens come home to roost," said Martin. The prime minister is expected to announce Sunday that there will be a June 28 election.

"(Federal Conservative Leader) Stephen Harper is essentially saying 'Cut taxes now and face the consequences later.' That's what Mike Harris said, and you see what happens."

The federal Conservatives called the prime minister's response a desperate attempt to seek a scapegoat for the negative news.

Federal Liberals expect to face an uphill fight in Ontario for the first time since 1993 and worry about losing more than two dozen seats after two decades of landslide victories in the province.

With 106 seats up for grabs in vote-rich Ontario, federal Liberal election fortunes could be dealt a serious blow if there's an anti-budget backlash.

It was clearly on the minds of party strategists who sent a guide to candidates yesterday with a half-dozen talking points to help them defend their provincial cousins.

"(Ontario Liberals) were forced to renege on a number of their campaign promises from earlier this year due to a crippling deficit left behind by the previous Tory government," said the document.

A few selections from the Liberal hymn book:

- The former Tory government left behind a deficit that hamstrung Premier Dalton McGuinty.

- The new Ontario government tackled difficult choices. That's the challenge of governing.

- Deep tax cuts mean cuts to public services and large deficits.

- The federal Conservative plan to bring in less revenue and spend more money is "simply untenable."

The Conservatives have promised a 25-per-cent tax cut for middle-income earners, with the long-term goal of pulling Canadian tax rates lower than the U.S.

The Liberal attack line distorts the facts in a desperate search for a scapegoat, the Conservatives said in a news release yesterday.

"In Paul (Martin's) world the avalanche of negativity burying the Liberal party is all Mike Harris's fault. Or maybe Stephen Harper's," said the release.

"We would remind Paul Martin, and the Liberal party, that the only people responsible for (the) Ontario budget were Liberals.

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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Library staff, board reach new contract

TEVIAH MORO, Free Press Reporter 2004-05-20 03:35:44

Wages for library workers in London will increase more than five per cent under a new contract approved this week. London Public Library employees voted 94 per cent in favour of the two-year contract, which will boost wages 5.25 per cent by the end of 2005.

"It was kind of a tough negotiation and we were pleased to come to an agreement," Valerie Chapman, president of Local 217 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, the union representing library workers, said yesterday.

The previous contract covering library workers expired at the end of 2003. Workers had voted in February to strike, Chapman said.

"I'm really delighted that we were able to get a two-year agreement. I think it reflects two things: fairness and recognition to the employees for the ongoing contributions they make," said library chief executive Darrell Skidmore.

The agreement calls for wage increases of 1.5 per cent retroactive to Jan. 4, 2004, 1.5 per cent effective July 4, 2004, two per cent effective Jan. 2, 2005, and 0.25 per cent effective July 3, 2005.

The new deal is positive because "it assists us significantly in our planning related to our overall budget development," Skidmore said.

"It's clearly within the parameters of the guidelines in our discussions with the city."

Library staff who will be affected by the new deal include 199 librarians, library assistants, maintenance workers and staff in all public services and support areas.

Under the former contract, wages for librarians ranged from $36,763 to $48,431 while wages under the new agreement range from $38,728 to $51,020 by 2005.

The agreement also includes improved vision-care benefits. But staff had to make compromises in two areas, Chapman said.

Full-time staff agreed to a Sunday pay cut, lowering wages to time and half instead of double time on Sundays, she said.

The library board and staff also settled on a different plan for prescription drugs, which would save money, Chapman said.

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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