Archive | July, 2014

Shadman Karim: Encouraging Exploration

Posted on 30 July 2014 by admin

Born in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Shadman Karim came to Canada in 2010. His father is from  Narayanganj District of Bangladesh and a retired government official from Ministry of Education. His mother is originally from Khulna and a housewife.

He began his academic career at York University before transferring to University of Toronto in 2011. Having a career interest in Geology and Environmental Science Shadman chose to do a specialist program in it at U of T.

Currently in his 4th year, Shadman is planning to do his graduate studies in GIS and pursue a career in the Mining Exploration in the future.

Here is Shaadman’s  conversation with Nadia Chowdhury for Generation Next:

Please tell us a bit about your academic career?

I am currently doing my B.Sc in Environmental Physics at the University of Toronto and hoping to graduate in 2015. I intend to fulfill the minimum academic and professional requirements in the coming years for my Professional Geoscientist license and return to Bangladesh.

 My area of interest is Surface Hydrology/Geology and GIS and I am planning to work in related field. Apart from my professional and academic career I like watching movies a lot and usually stay updated with the financial aspects of the film industry.

How lucrative is your career choice?

Environmental Physics is a brand new experimental field developed by University of Toronto’s Department of Physical and Environmental Science. This field specifically focuses on every environmental feature (geology, water, ecology) at and above the earth’s surface. It can be considered as an exact contrary to Geophysics. Recent graduates have taken various paths such as Exploration Geologists, GIS Analysts, Environmental Data Analyst or Atmospheric Physicists/Meteorologists. Although it is hard to predict its future importance as the difficulty of the program is extremely hard comparing other specialization or majors and graduates tend to have lower CGPA. So the number of students interested in this field will probably decline over the years.

Your various research projects include work with GIS, environmental pollution in developing countries, oceanic conflict zones and arsenic pollution in Bangladesh. You also have done significant work in several parts of Ontario on tectonic settings and depositional formations. How fulfilling has the work been for you?

My research projects have been extremely valuable in my overall learning. However, over the last few months I have realized that most of my work has been related to academic purposes rather than professional work. In the Environmental or Mining Industry most of these projects are now invaluable. Although field works tend to help understanding the principles of analysing minerals or rocks it doesn’t help much for understanding actual exploration geology.

Based on your research, how is Canada faring in terms of environmental adaptability?

Canada is very much well organized in terms of their environmental adaptability. The regulations and laws developed by most of the protection firms and the Ministry are very accurately developed comparing to other countries like USA or UK.

 But the funding from the government towards most of the environmental field except Mining is quite low and this doesn’t allow scientists to explore much. So certain industries such shoe or car companies which relatively have high level of natural hazard disposals and high expenditure of environmental monitoring, can’t come to the market due to anti-regulatory reasons.

What advice would you give to young Bangladeshis working in the environmental sciences field-as yourself?

 I would recommend all the young Bangladeshi students to explore various parts of Environmental Science specifically towards Geoscience as it’s a huge field. The reason why most students don’t take it is because the physical work is much demanding than other areas of study such as Electrical Engineering or Civil Engineering.

 But as more students enter this area of study, they would realize over the years that it has become more technical than it was before and physical work is less demanding nowadays.

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Corporate Gender Quotas Will Not Fix Sexism

Posted on 30 July 2014 by admin

Lately there’s been a lot of talk about the lack of women on corporate boards.

All this talk is certainly justified – the numbers are truly dismal. In Canada, women only comprise ten per cent of corporate board members.

Liberal Senator Céline Hervieux-Payette is proposing to solve it through legilsation. Her private member’s bill will institute a quota system that will mandate that 40 per cent of all corporate board members must be female.

NDP MP Niki Ashton has said she supports gender quotas for federal crown boards.

That’s the kind of policy you’d expect to see in 1972, not in 2014.

According to Hervieux-Payette, “law is the right place to start…so that women in Canada are contributing to the level of their talents.”

Quotas are downright patronizing, insulting and marginalizing. Let’s be honest, how many of us women would actually want to sit on a board if it’s just to fill some quota?

Women, like all people, want to be recognized for their hard work and merit, not their anatomy.

Encouraging women to be involved in organizations within their professions helps them get their names out there and network with other movers and shakers.

When it comes to the public service and crown corporations, the Advisory Council suggests private-public sector partnerships to bring in more private sector women to public sector boards.

One idea not addressed by the report is the role that existing women’s networking organizations can play. Groups like the Women’s Executive Network work with the corporate sector to promote women’s representation on boards. There are many other women’s groups out there that could be doing the same. It’s time for them to take initiative and lead by example, rather than just lament the lack of women at the helms of power.

Finally, the corporate sector needs to step up to the plate. Saying they can’t find enough women to fill board spots is not an acceptable. If companies want to find strong female talent for their boards, they need to get out the office and recruit, just like they would to find good staff. This is not an easy process and sometimes means looking in unlikely places.

The Liberal-NDP “solution” of gender quotas is about as good of an idea as implementing government printed “binders full of women.” At the end of the day, it’s just paper deep.

Let’s focus on getting women a real voice in the boardroom, not just a reserved seat at the table.

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CRA says charities audit was designed to probe all political groups

Posted on 30 July 2014 by admin

Canada Revenue Agency says a special political-activities audit of charities was designed to be balanced across the political spectrum rather than focus on groups with particular leanings.

The tax collector is responding to public allegations that it’s being used by the Harper government to target charities that are outspoken critics of the Conservative Party.

The agency rejects this, saying it was given funding to audit 60 charities and took care to ensure the probes’ targets reflected a cross-section of Canadian charities by region and category. The probes, which received dedicated funding in the 2012 budget, examine whether charities are following rules that limit political activity and whether they are properly reporting advocacy.

“We are not targeting charities that have particular political leanings,” Cathy Hawara, director-general of CRA’s charities directorate, said in interview Friday.

However critics say there’s no evidence to date that right-leaning charities have come under CRA’s microscope while several groups that have criticized the Conservatives are being audited.

The agency says the list of charities that is undergoing political-activity audits was assembled by screening CRA files. In some cases it sent charities “reminder letters” cautioning them about particular activity or notes querying organizations about what it thought might be errors in documents such as annual reports.

The agency was then left with a group that could be potentially audited. It tried to ensure those probed reflected a balance across Canada and by sector, whether relief of poverty, education, religion or the catch-all category including environmental groups, human-rights organizations and animal-rights groups.

“We wanted to make sure there was a balance with respect to the different segments of the sector and then we also gave consideration to, you know, what you might call political leanings, to make sure that we weren’t only focusing on one side of the political spectrum.”

Ms. Hawara acknowledged it’s not easy to judge a group’s place on the political spectrum.

“In terms of political leanings, that’s always a bit tricky. We did consciously make the decision that we would not want to just focus our efforts on one side of the political spectrum versus the other,” the CRA official said.

“So to the extent that we could … we were careful to make sure we were even-handed from that perspective as well.”

After the interview, the CRA said it does not keep records with respect to political leanings of charities.

The CRA has come under fire from critics for probing charities such as Pen Canada, a freedom-of-expression charity. One of Canada’s most visible authors, Margaret Atwood, used her Twitter account to denounce the audit as a “punishing” tactic by a government threatened by freedom of expression.

Gareth Kirkby, a former journalist who researched this topic as part of a master’s thesis for Royal Roads University, expressed doubt these audits are balanced in terms of political leanings. Mr. Kirkby says his research led him to conclude three specific charitable sectors are being singled out: environmental groups, development and human rights charities, and charities receiving donations from labour groups.

“I haven’t seen a lot of evidence of right-leaning charities being audited for political activities,” he said in an interview Friday.

Ms. Hawara said neither the Prime Minister’s Office nor Revenue Minister Kerry-Lynne Findlay’s office had any say in the audit list.

“The decision is made by me and my team,” she said, adding that confidentiality rules prevent her from addressing some of the concerns raised by Canadians or discussing particular groups being audited.

She said the agency pays attention to complaints but added that “getting 100 letters with respect to a particular charity does not guarantee an audit.”

So far 52 charities are being audited. Of those audits, 12 are now closed. Ms. Hawara said five of the 12 ended with a written document called a compliance agreement that outlines steps a charity must take to comply with the rules. Three charities received “education letters” in which they were asked to fix “minor non-compliance” issues.

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Liberal government spends $7.2 million on recreation programs

Posted on 30 July 2014 by admin

The cash-strapped Ontario government is spending $7.2 million in community recreation programs for everyone from kids to seniors because it’s a “no-brainer,” says the sports minister.

“Investing in physical activity at any age saves taxpayers’ dollars because there’s less people relying on the health care system and it keeps young people away from possible problems,” Tourism, Culture and Sport Minister Michael Coteau said Friday.

“So I think that in the long run, it’s a great investment and it has an economic return to the province,” he said at Scadding Court Community Centre on Dundas Street West.

“If a young person believes in physical activity and buys into it as a young age, it becomes a lifetime quality. People who enjoy basketball at 14 or 15 are playing basketball at 30 and 40. It’s one of those no-brainers where we all agree that it is a good thing for the community.”

Scadding Court executive director Kevin Lee said his community centre received a $49,000 provincial grant, which helps them serve about 600 kids year round doing everything from swimming to playing “octopus” in the gym.

“This builds our internal capacity,” said Lee, whose facility is a key hub for residents of Kensington Market, Chinatown, Little Portugal, Trinity-Bellwoods, and beyond.

“If you invest now in recreation for young people that’s going to prevent further heath care costs to the system,” he said.

In all, 116 projects around Ontario received the grants despite the provincial treasury’s $12.5-billion budget deficit.

“We look obviously to get an equitable distribution among regions, with programs geared towards seniors, programs for those low-income areas that are remote that may not have programs available,” said Coteau.

“We are just finding to find that balance all across the system. We also look at organizations that have not been able to develop these programs in the past,” he said.

“I know we received hundreds of applications, but we only have $7.2 million so that’s as many programs as we can support.”

Money is distributed through the Ontario Sport and Recreation Communities Fund and goes toward initiatives as disparate as JiggiJump at the Ontario Science Centre to the Toronto Inner-City Rugby Foundation Mini and Girls Rugby Project.

Overall, the government estimates that 350,000 people benefit from the various programs.


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7 ways to prepare for a coming correction

Posted on 30 July 2014 by admin

Sir John Templeton once told me, “The world belongs to the long-term optimist, as markets go up two-thirds of the time, and humans tend to always figure out the problems of the day. To be anything other than a long-term optimist flies in the face of historical fact.”

While I believe Sir John was right, I feel compelled to share what is seriously worrying me. I sense that we are approaching a challenging inflection point.

I find myself dreading what might be ahead, particularly in the U.S. markets and some sectors of the Canadian markets. As a deep value investor with a contrarian ethos, I don’t understand the current level of bullishness and complacency. The valuation metrics of certain markets are flashing major warning signals. Even though we have made some nice gains, we simply had to take some profits recently as we can’t justify staying fully invested today.

I am not saying that there are no investment opportunities currently available, it’s just that you have to dig a lot deeper to find them.

It’s amazing to see how we can go from the extreme lows of March 2009 to where we are today, with the S&P 500 up almost triple (196 per cent) in 5.33 years. Now, sentiment is bullish and complacent, while stock market valuations are on “the high side of fair”, as Howard Marks, the founder of Oaktree told me at the TIGER 21 Global Conference five months ago. Since then, markets have climbed even higher.

We were aggressive buyers of equities in early 2009, as we saw excellent valuations. It was nerve-wracking to buy things when there was so much fear after markets had fallen more than 55 per cent from their highs in 2007/2008. Now, we are nervous for the opposite reasons.

The three charts below illustrate my concern.

What I find most disturbing is how muted volatility has become over the last few years, and how the U.S. market has basically gone straight up with only a few shallow corrections. The quantitative easing policies of the world’s central banks have been the main reason for this.

How to prepare for what’s coming

Investors who share my concern may want to consider the following “de-risking” portfolio tactics:

1. Raise 5- to 15-per cent cash, depending on your investor risk profile, by trimming some “winners” now.

2. Consider adding to USD after CAD’s recent short-term strength to 94 cents.

3. Increase “alternatives” such as market neutral, global, long/short and long/short credit.

4. Chip away at some multi-strategy emerging markets portfolios/ETFs as they are still very cheap.

5. If you have already missed out on the 2014 bond market rally, raise even more cash instead.

6. Ensure you have developed a “watch list” of securities/managers/ETFs that you would consider buying 10-to 20-per cent lower.

7. Prepare yourself mentally to be a strong buyer of your watch list when the market’s mood turns ugly again. History has proven it will.

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What does political confrontation and military involvement mean in Pakistan?

Posted on 30 July 2014 by admin

Dr. Hasan Askari

      If we go by the statements of Pakistan’s political leaders it seems that Pakistan will experience a major political crisis in mid-August and later. The possible confrontation between the Nawaz Sharif government and the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf of Imran Khan is expected to persist for some time.  Dr. Tahir-ul-Qadri and his Pakistan Awami Tehrik (PAT) are also getting ready to challenge the federal government.

      If the agitation takes off it can make it difficult for the Nawaz Sharif government to sustain itself because its governance and service delivery to people has been poor. These failures are being exploited by the opposition to bring out people to the streets. Imran Khan and Dr. Tahirul Qadri are more vocal in criticizing the government than giving a clear plan of action to solve the problems of the common people. None has talked of resource mobilization for fulfilling their wild promises.

     If the objectives of Imran khan are electoral reforms or ending corruption. these objective can be achieved by making necessary changes through parliament. These goals can be achieved by improving administrative efficiency, control of corruption and reformulation of institutions and processes.  Imran Khan is claiming to do all this through the existing political order in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa which has a PTI government. However,  he plans to resort to street agitation and pull down the government  in order to institute the political changes of his choice.  Similarly Dr. Tahirul Qadri also wants to use his religious following and popular mobilization to launch a street agitation to remove the government in order to introduce his “revolutionary” changes..

       Both leaders view the removal of the Sharif government as a pre-requisite to the desired structural changes in Pakistan’s politics and economy.  This may be wishful thinking because the removal of an “undesirable” government does not necessarily means that Imran or Qadri would be able to make preferred changes which conflict with each other.

     It is always easy to dislodge a government that has alienated people because of poor governance and non-delivery of services to people. However, basic socio-political and economic restructuring of the state system and society is more complex. It requires providing a new intellectual basis to the state system and breaking the monopoly of the existing dominant institutions and classes of people.  Such a far reaching change in Pakistan is neither possible within the framework of the existing constitution nor the opposition leaders have the vision and mindset to transform Pakistan’s socio-economic and political order.

    The most the sustained agitation can achieve is to paralyze the present government, forcing its restructuring or setting up of a national/caretaker government within the framework of the constitution.  Such a change may not be possible even if violence escalates unless the military decides to take the initiative and facilitates a change.

       The political situation is gradually moving in the direction of confrontation. Imran Khan has expanded his agenda from the initial demand of reviewing the results of four constituencies to the scrutiny of the whole election which has now been replaced by the notion of forcing the Nawaz Sharif government out of office.

   The federal government is equally confident that nothing will happen on August 14 and later because everything is under their control. Instead of seeking political accommodation with Imran Khan the federal government is spending more energies in cultivating the army. The cabinet members known for criticism of the army are now issuing very friendly statements. They are also vocal in supporting the military operation in North Waziristan, pushing aside the fact they were not in favour of such an operation until the military top brass decided to start it.  Nawaz Sharif is meeting with the army chief more frequently. Two meetings between them on July 16 and 17 were noteworthy. On July 17 Nawaz Sharif went to the Army Headquarters with the team of his advisors.

    The initial proposal of holding a major festivity in association with the military on the morning of August 14 is another attempt to show that they are working together.  This festivity was scheduled to take place in the “D Chowk” where Imran was to hold his protest rally. Now, this programme has been shifted to the midnight of August 13-14 with a change in the venue, perhaps on the advice of the military that did not want to be dragged in the political confrontation between the ruling party and the PTI.

     The federal government is already ceding some space to the Army by involving it in the security of some cities, including Islamabad. The federal government is summoning the Army in Islamabad under article 245 of the constitution which gives enormous leverage to the military in controlling Islamabad. This is being done under the pretext of managing the fallout of the military operation in North Waziristan. However, the fact cannot be ignored that the PTI is launching a protest rally on August 14 in Islamabad whose security has been given to the Army.  If Imran Khan is not deterred by this, will the Army stop the entry of his loyalists in Islamabad? Traditionally the Army does not side with any one in political confrontation. Will it change its policy for Nawaz Sharif? The chances are that it will not play into Nawaz Sharif’s hands and it will act independently if the confrontation becomes a reality. This has happened for the first time in Pakistan’s political history that the apparently calm capital is being handed over to the military for its security. This amounts to admitting the failure of the civilian government.

    Nawaz Sharif is devoting more attention to cultivating the military and activating his ties with his Saudi royal family. The key factor in determining the direction of political change is going to be the ground political reality in the streets of Pakistan after August 14. If in the political confrontation gets out of control, the military will play autonomous role to secure internal stability rather than protecting Nawaz Sharif’s rule.   Similarly the foreign friends (Saudis and others) will be left with no option but to accept the reality as it emerges in Pakistan.

    Nawaz Sharif needs to focus more on defusing internal political situation through talks and accommodation.  He needs to reduce his government’s fights with the opposition and the military.  The calling of the military for the security of Islamabad will not solve his problems. This will work to his disadvantage in the long run.

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Sania Mirza hits back at ‘daughter-in-law of Pakistan’ jibe

Posted on 30 July 2014 by admin

A legislator from India’s BJP party has questioned the appointment of tennis star Sania Mirza as brand ambassador of the newly created Telangana state because she is married to a Pakistani.

K Laxman said Mirza’s marriage to cricketer Shoaib Malik had made her a “daughter-in-law” of Pakistan.

Mirza has responded by saying she is “an Indian and will remain so until the end of my life”.

The tennis star was appointed the state’s brand ambassador on Tuesday.

Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao handed over a letter of appointment and a cheque for 10m rupees ($166,380; £97,775) to the 27-year-old tennis player at a function in the state capital, Hyderabad.

The chief minister described her as a “true Hyderabadi” and said that “Telangana is proud” of her.

But now, an unsavoury row has broken out with Mr Laxman, the BJP legislator from Telangana, questioning Mirza’s credentials since her husband is a Pakistani.

Mr Laxman also says that the tennis player is not fit for the honour as she is not local – he says she was born in the neighbouring state of Maharashtra and that her family moved to Hyderabad later.

An upset Mirza responded by saying she was indeed born in a hospital in Mumbai as her mother needed specialist care, but that she returned home to Hyderabad when she was three weeks old.

“My forefathers have lived in Hyderabad for more than a century,” CNN-IBN quoted her as saying.

“I am married to Shoaib Malik, who is from Pakistan. I am an Indian, who will remain an Indian until the end of my life. My family belongs to Hyderabad for more than a century and I strongly condemn any attempts made by any person to brand me an outsider,” she said.

“It hurts me that so much time is being wasted on a petty issue of my being appointed as brand ambassador of Telangana,” she added.

The spat quickly went viral on social media with many coming out to defend Mirza, while others criticised her appointment.

“Honestly there are many who could represent Telangana better than #SaniaMirza… and not ask for any money also in return,” tweeted journalist Deepika Bhardwaj.

But author Sonia Faleiro tweeted: “Ironically, it’s #SaniaMirza who has given #India so much to be proud of. Certain politicians, on the other hand, only fill us with shame.”

Activist and columnist Sudheendra Kulkarnir wrote: “A terrific ace from #SaniaMirza that has floored her narrow-minded critics: I am an Indian and will remain so until the end of my life.”

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Family keeps hope alive for son, daughter-in-law kidnapped by Taliban

Posted on 30 July 2014 by admin

When your life suddenly revolves around a kidnapping there is much dark humour, but the Boyle family refuses give up on their son, Joshua, and his wife, Caitlan.

There is the sound of distant construction, the tapping of nails on the wood floor as the family’s grey Labradoodle circles the table, faint music from a pop station coming from the kitchen, and then, as they press play, their son Josh’s voice fills the room.

“My name is Joshua Boyle and I’m from the village of Perth-Andover, in New Brunswick, in Canada. My father’s name is Patrick and my mother’s name is Linda. My wife and I are requesting that my government co-operate with whomever is necessary to bring a speedy and peaceful resolution so that we can be released from our custody.”

Joshua Boyle continues in halting English: “And as a message to my family I would just thank my mother for hydrating Africa, and suggest that my siblings need to step up their game.”

Linda and Patrick Boyle can watch their eldest son and daughter-in-law Caitlan Coleman a little easier these days, after having played the videos so many times. There are two “proof of life” videos, each under two minutes, which they shared for the first time in full at their home outside Ottawa this week.

They note the new scar on Josh’s forehead and cheek, the strange accent that he has adopted, perhaps after weeks of speaking with his captors slowly and simply. The couple looks gaunt, Caitlan’s hands and face — all that is visible under the abaya she is wearing — both skeletally thin.

But what does Josh mean by “hydrating Africa?”

Linda Boyle laughs, “I can explain.”

Buying wells is what Linda does for almsgiving. The greater the stress in her life, the more she prays and donates. As teenagers, her five children used to joke about which sibling could make mom pray harder. “Because the worse we act, the more the people in the underdeveloped parts of the world are gaining,” her kids used to say.

“That was Josh telling them to step up their game,” Linda says about the video, “because he’s winning.”

It has been 21 months now since the Taliban kidnapped Josh and Caitlan somewhere near Kabul, Afghanistan. Caitlan, who is now 28, was five months pregnant at the time. Both the Canadian and U.S. governments, since Caitlan is American, have been working to secure their release.

On the second video, the one that is one minute 56 seconds long and harder to watch because they both look despondent, Caitlan mentions their child, but the baby is not shown in either video.

Josh also gives his grandmother’s phone number in the second video. They were very close. She died last year while Josh was in captivity.

“She tried so hard to hold on until Josh came home,” Linda said. “She told the nurse that she couldn’t die, she was waiting for her grandson to come home. He would need her when he got back.”

Linda wrote about her mom’s death in a letter for her 30-year-old son – letters that a humanitarian agency is trying to deliver to them in Afghanistan through a series of connections, although there’s no certainty if they reach the couple as they have never received any in return.

They haven’t received anything at all in the 11 months since the videos were delivered through an intermediary who contacted the Colemans — no additional proof of life tapes, no calls, ransom demands, no news, good or bad.

Patrick chooses his words carefully when talking about the intermediary, whom he describes as having an Afghan background with a self-professed mujahideen history and connections. He’s a humanitarian who “talks about his adult children” and lives at times in a European country.

He was their lifeline, but then he disappeared, too.

With all the unanswered questions about this case, there is perhaps the most painful one: what were they doing in Afghanistan in the first place?

It is a question the Boyles and Colemans have been asked many times since their children were kidnapped and indeed have asked themselves since Josh and Cailtan hadn’t told them of their plans to enter Afghanistan.

The pair, who had been friends since meeting online as teenagers and were married in 2011, loved to travel and had spent six months backpacking through Central America, often living in remote villages and staying with local families. They planned on spending another six months in Russia and Central Asia before moving into the small New Brunswick home Josh had bought before they left.

On July 4, 2012, they flew to Moscow from New York and had hiked through Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan before crossing into Afghanistan around Oct. 3 or 4. There was an email from Kabul and then all contact was lost.

They had a return ticket for December 2012.

“They will tell us,” the Colemans wrote the Star in response to the question of why they were in Afghanistan. “We can’t wait to hear their explanation. We can’t wait to forgive their foolishness.”

The Boyles think it was Josh’s fascination with history that drew him the region — and possibly going in search of health care that took them to Kabul.

His interest in Afghanistan is in part what drew him to the case of Omar Khadr, who was captured by U.S. forces in Afghanistan in July 2002 and spent a decade in Guantanamo before his transfer into Canadian custody two years ago. He met Khadr’s sister, Zaynab, during the time he volunteered as the Khadr family spokesperson and they had a brief and high-profile marriage that ended in 2010.

Both the RCMP and FBI have ruled out any connection to the kidnapping.

Josh is exceptionally bright, his mother says. “But he knew he was immature. I call it naïve but — he wanted an ideal world . . . I really think what drew them was that love of history and really feeling perhaps people were being maligned more than necessary over there.”

“Dumbass,” interjects Josh’s younger brother, Dan, who has joined us at the table. His parents laugh. “Put that in there; it’s OK. Dumbass.”

When your life suddenly revolves around a kidnapping, which it does for the Boyles and Colemans, there is much dark humour and many desperate thoughts.

During the first six months of their capture when there was no news, Patrick got a visa for Afghanistan and planned to fly to Kabul to try to establish contact himself.

“Both governments insisted they didn’t know any specifics and nobody had contacted anybody directly or indirectly or made any claims,” Patrick said. “So I planned on showing up and sitting in a Canada Day lawn chair and wearing a Canada Day sweatshirt in the lobby at the Serena Hotel.”

They had decided Patrick would travel because he is a federal judge, although Linda was willing to go, too. “Some of our thoughts were we would gladly put ourselves up in exchange for them,” says Linda. “But they don’t care about me — a judge they might care about more. It was those things. You’d do anything. That’s your child.”

The trip was cancelled when, a few days later, the videos arrived.

Then there have been the phone calls. When a call centre contacted Linda for a routine survey but began the conversation with, “Can you talk? Are you in a safe place?” It is apparently a line they had added so that people will not talk on their cell phones when driving, but Linda panicked thinking it was the kidnappers.

One of Josh’s sisters also received a call in the middle of the night from someone with a Middle Eastern accent who said, “I have your brother.” She leapt to her feet, banging her head on the bookshelf and cursing herself for not having pen and paper at her bedside, only to later discover it was a doctor from the hospital asking if she could come pick up her brother Dan.

The release last month of American soldier Bowe Bergdahl in return for five Taliban militants from Guantanamo brought both comfort and frustration for the families.

Happiness for Bergdahl’s family and at seeing someone released from Taliban captivity after five years. But also frustration as they had hoped the release would include their children.

“We have said from the very beginning that we felt lucky that Cait’s American and Josh, Canadian, because that meant we had two, very complementary governments that could work well together,” said Patrick, adding “and the baby’s both.”

In a letter to U.S. President Barack Obama, Rep. Duncan Hunter Jr., a California Republican and member of house armed services committee, demanded to know why other American citizens in captivity were not part of the deal that released the five Guantanamo detainees to Qatar.

Warren Weinstein, a 72-year-old contractor who went missing in Pakistan in August 2011, is believed to also be held by the Afghan Taliban. It was reported that his wife received a call from the White House just before Bergdahl’s release.

“We infer that there is a file there with her husband’s name on it,” said Patrick. “And we hope it is also reasonable to assume that there is also a file with our family members’ names on it.”

For Linda, there was hope hearing an American congressman even raising the topic of their captivity. “It meant they are still alive at least,” she said. “Whether the negotiations ever went on, or it was a passing comment we honestly don’t know. We only know what we’ve read in the paper.”

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Second career training gives laid-off workers a second chance

Posted on 30 July 2014 by admin

After being laid off by a financial institution during the recent recession, Elisa De Angelis had time to reflect on her aspirations.

After high school, De Angelis spent two years at nursing college but she wasn’t sure she wanted to revisit that as a career choice. She decided to take an online test to learn about jobs that might suit her personality. She was overwhelmed by the resulting number of options but she painstakingly went through the list alphabetically. It was when she reached “court reporter” that she stopped searching.

“I thought this is definitely something that I would be good at,” says De Angelis. “My training in nursing and background in finance would be useful, and the work would be stable during ebbs and flows in the economy.”

Thanks to second career training through the Canadian Centre for Verbatim Studies (CCVS) inToronto, De Angelis is now a qualified court reporter. She records depositions in pre-trial examinations at an astounding 225 words per minute and delivers precise transcripts to lawyers and judges.

De Angelis cautions that court reporting is not for the faint of heart. The job is demanding and time-consuming. On the plus side, every assignment is different. Cases range from organized crime and medical malpractice to divorce, arbitration, murder and everything in between. “I meet new people every day and never know what I am going to hear or see,” she says.

There are only three schools inCanadathat train people to transcribe at such speeds using steno machines: the Ecole de stenographie judiciaire duQuebecinMontreal, Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) inEdmontonand the CCVS inToronto.

According to Dan Winer, registrar at CCVS, there is a shortage of qualified personnel in court reporting and broadcast captioning, as well as communication access real-time translation (CART) providers that assist the hearing impaired.

“This is a career where a university degree is not necessary, yet the earnings potential is very high – sometimes reaching six figures,” he says.

Prior career experience is an asset for anyone considering the field of court reporting. Whether it’s in health care, information technology, manufacturing or other areas, it will likely have relevance to one or more cases that come before the courts.

Institutions offering second-career training have to be as adaptable as their students in today’s marketplace. Compu Campus College (CCC) in Windsor, for instance, updates its training programs as trends change. “Whether it is 3-D animation, computer networking and security, personal support worker or legal office assistant, we offer training for people looking to upgrade their skills or change careers,” says director Ziad Alhihi.

Many of the instructors at CCC also work full-time in the field in which they are teaching, which keeps them alert to subtle shifts in market demand. “They are able to offer their life experiences to our students,” adds Alhihi. “Real-life examples are incorporated into the program which helps mature students to learn faster.”

Financial assistance for training such as that offered by CCVS and CCC is available through provincial and federal programs.

For laid-off workers inOntario, qualified candidates may access funds through the provincial government’s Second Career strategy. The program provides financial assistance of up to $28,000 for education or training upgrades for qualified candidates. In some instances, more funding may be available to pay for living expenses, travel, books, care for dependents, transportation and disability support.

Injured workers may be eligible for assistance through the Workers Safety and Insurance Board labour market re-entry program.

The federal government’s Lifelong Learning Plan allows up to $10,000 per calendar year to be withdrawn from an RRSP to finance full time education or training. Withdrawals are penalty free provided they are repaid to the RRSP within 10 years.

For those not eligible to receive funding, both CCVS and CCC, for example, allow students to pay for tuition monthly over the course of the program.

De Angelis is delighted with her new career. “It is very interesting and rewarding, and I love it,” she says. And it offers unique opportunities both at home and abroad.

One of her school colleagues travelled to Europe, and another toAsia, on yearlong assignments. As for De Angelis, she has appeared as an extra on television three times – playing, as you likely guessed, a court reporter.

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How to dress well for office

Posted on 30 July 2014 by admin

A Business Casual Dress Code Your  Company’s  objective  in  establishing  a  business casual dress code, is to allow our employees to work comfortably  in  the  workplace. Yet, we still need our employees  to project a professional image for our customers, potential employees, and  community  visitors. Business casual dress is the standard for this dress code.

Because all casual clothing is not suitable for the office,  these  guidelines  will help you determine what  is appropriate to wear to work. Clothing that works well for the beach, yard work, dance clubs, exercise sessions, and sports  contests may  not  be appropriate for a professional appearance at work.

Clothing that reveals too much  cleavage,  your  back, your  chest,  your  feet,  your stomach or your underwear is not appropriate for a place of business, even  in a business casual setting.

Even in a business casual work environment, clothing should be pressed and never wrinkled.  Torn,  dirty,  or frayed clothing is unacceptable. All seams must be finished. Any clothing that has words, terms, or pictures that may  be  offensive  to  other employees  is  unacceptable. Clothing  that  has  the  company  logo  is  encouraged. Sports team, university, and fashion  brand  names  on clothing  are  generally  acceptable.

Certain days  can be declared dress down days, generally  Fridays.  On  these days,  jeans  and  other more  casual  clothing, although never clothing potentially offensive to others, are allowed.

Guide to Business Casual Dressing for Work

This  is  a  general overview  of  appropriate business casual attire. Items that  are  not  appropriate  for the office are listed, too. Neither  list  is  all inclusive and both are open to change. The lists tell you what is generally acceptable as business casual attire and what is generally not acceptable as business casual attire.

No dress code can cover all contingencies so employees  must  exert  a  certain amount of judgment in their choice of clothing to wear to work. If you experience uncertainty  about  acceptable, professional business causal attire for work, please ask your supervisor or your Human Resources staff.

Slacks, Pants, and Suit Pants

Slacks that are similar to Dockers and other makers of cotton or synthetic material pants,  wool  pants,  flannel pants,dressy capris, and nice looking dress synthetic pants are acceptable. Inappropriate slacks  or  pants  include jeans, sweatpants,  exercise pants, Bermuda shorts, short shorts,  shorts,  bib  overalls, leggings, and any spandex or other form-fitting pants such as people wear for biking.

Skirts, Dresses, and Skirted Suits

Casual dresses and skirts, and skirts that are split at or below  the  knee  are  acceptable. Dress and skirt length should  be  at  a  length  at which you  can  sit  comfortably  in  public.  Short,  tight skirts  that  ride  halfway  up the  thigh  are  inappropriate for work. Mini-skirts, skorts, sun  dresses,  beach  dresses, and  spaghetti-strap  dresses are inappropriate for the office.

Shirts, Tops, Blouses, and Jackets

Casual shirts, dress shirts, sweaters,  tops,  golf-type shirts, and turtlenecks are acceptable  attire  for  work. Most  suit  jackets  or  sport jackets  are  also  acceptable attire  for  the office,  if  theyviolate  none  of  the  listed guidelines. Inappropriate attire  for work  includes  tank tops; midriff tops; shirts with potentially offensive words, terms,  logos,  pictures,  cartoons, or slogans; halter-tops; tops  with  bare  shoulders; sweatshirts, and t-shirts unless  worn  under  another blouse, shirt, jacket, or dress.


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