Archive | February, 2015

Transparent in communications, Priya Ramsingh shares her lifestyle with Generation Next

Posted on 26 February 2015 by admin

Priya Ramsingh is a well known name in the communications industry. Owner of Arka (meaning sun for clarity) Communications, Priya was born in Trinidad and Tobago from parents of 5th or 6th generation South Asians.

Armed with a BA in English Literature from Carleton University, a certificate from Ryerson in Business Communications and currently working toward French language certificate from Humber College, Priya has experience in education, healthcare, school boards, municipality and private sector marketing and communications.

Published in Hospital News, Electrical Business, The Toronto Star , Priya has also worked as a freelance writer with Metroland Publications.

Generation Next brings to its readers Priya Ramsingh’s thoughts and views:

Why be an entrepreneur, especially when it could be very risky?

I’ve always been interested in having my own business. There are pros and cons of course. The pros being that you run the business and can choose the projects you want to take on, set your own hours and manage all business decisions.

The cons being that it is risky because business is not always steady. There are times when you are working seven days a week on several projects for various clients and then you won’t have a project for three months. Sometimes, you must take projects that may not be very interesting just to stay afloat.

What’s the difference between being a journalist and to be on the other side of the spectrum, meaning receiving and interpreting information versus giving out the news?

I was lucky to be hired as a reporter because I didn’t have any formal journalism training. I was given the opportunity based solely on my writing ability and the editor taught me how to write news. My experience as a beat reporter has helped me tremendously in my communications work because I understand what editors and reporters are looking for. I have a sense of what makes a good news story and what doesn’t, so I use this knowledge to pitch stories, and it has worked really well.

 Given that you have been in communications field for quite a while, how has communications changed especially in terms of institutions’ outreach to South Asian community?

There has been a lot of change because the audience has changed. Communications is all about understanding your audience, their needs and reaching out to meet their needs whether it’s for profit or not. South Asians represent a large percentage of the audience now, so organizations are looking at ways to reach this particular demographic.

Do you think companies really understand or attempt to understand their South Asian clients?

I definitely see an attempt. Organizations have little choice because they cannot choose their audience, so they must make attempts to learn, understand and reach their audience or they run the risk of falling behind the ones who do.

How integrated is structural racism in our society?

To me, the term racism is about hate…and I don’t know that society still hates. What I see is discrimination based on fear of losing privilege. Unfortunately, based on my own experience, this type of discrimination and fear is more integrated into our society than most people want to believe or admit. I grew up in Rexdale, a very diverse community, and all of my friends were from various cultural backgrounds. I wasn’t that aware of discrimination until I joined the workforce.

Does it to certain extent mean that politicians’ claims to multiculturalism and inclusiveness are a bit exaggerated given that hiring practices are prejudicial, there isn’t nearly enough visible minority representation at the levels where it really makes a difference or in public service.

I believe you’re talking about the ‘diversity’ message that’s being used today.

Messages about diversity and inclusiveness are intended to influence behaviour and change mindsets. They [politicians] also have the power to implement legislation in order to create change. So I don’t believe they are exaggerating as much as they are using their voices and profile to create change, which is not easy. Implementing legislation is one thing, but changing the mindset of people who don’t want to change is a big challenge. A law can bring someone to trial, but if every juror is influenced by their own biases, then suddenly the verdict is based on a mindset and the law becomes skewed.

Legislative changes can also bring resentment to so many who feel it’s working against them, like affirmative action. The ones who are hired based on affirmative action may get the job, but what kind of work environment will they endure? Will they have a chance to move up and ahead? I’ve been hired in the past for ‘diversity’ reasons but the work environment was far from inclusive.

Politicians cannot get involved in hiring or operations. I’ve heard about a case where a politician tried to get involved in what appeared to be discriminatory practices in an organization based on several complaints from constituents, only to be reprimanded for overstepping his bounds.

What needs to happen is that Boards of Directors and heads of organizations need to be responsible in hiring strong leaders who are visionaries and create a workplace that’s inclusive and not discriminatory.

Does community reciprocate well to the institutions’ like TDSB, LHIN, Brampton Civic and companies outreach especially in public arena?

In my work at the TDSB, I’ve seen how well the communities respond to their Trustees because the work of the elected official is to represent their constituents, and that’s exactly what they do. It’s more difficult for the community to relate to an organization if the one-on-one interaction is not there.

What do you find are the strengths and weaknesses of the South Asian community?

Based on my own experience, I really don’t see a bond within the community. I see a lot of competition to get ahead even if it means pulling someone from the community down to save oneself.

Also, I’ve seen the fear that if we do get into a leadership position, we will start hiring only people from our cultural background. To me, this is just a tactic to further deter change. I’ve been in that situation before and just shrug it off, because while I don’t want to hire based on pigment and culture alone, I am a firm believer in giving someone a chance who deserves it and may not get the chance otherwise.

Why do you believe communications should be simpler?

To me, simple should be synonymous with communications. The purpose of communication is to reach the audience and if the message is simple, there is a higher chance that the audience will pick it up.

What are some of the challenges of your job?

Most people see a communicator as someone who develops brochures and writes copy, but the strategic skills that a communicator brings is only just beginning to get notice.

 A strong communicator reads the audience and advises the client how best to reach the audience, what tactics to use and what messages will be most effective. Strong communicators also understand the need for change in order to meet the changing audiences. Sometimes it means saying that the brochure or newsletter is not the best tactic and this doesn’t always go over too well. I’ve been fortunate to have many clients however, who are open to my recommendations and advice.

How has social media changed the communications industry?

We are moving away from paper and long-winded prose into short, real time, quick messages in a very fast moving environment. Organizations need to learn to adapt quickly or run the risk of falling behind.

What’s also interesting is that everyone who is on social media takes on the responsibility of communicating whether they understand this or not. An incorrect tweet or biased blog that goes viral can really blur the lines between fact and fiction and that can be a bit concerning. I’m not sure that everyone recognizes the power in social media communication.

But it’s important to know how to harness it as a strong communications tool because you can reach a wide audience if you are open enough to convey messages that get noticed. Organizations just need to be open to changing their traditional way of communicating and learn how to be a bit more unconventional while still maintaining integrity. I’ve had opportunities to work in a few environments with open minded leaders who were open to creative change.

Now that I think about it, social media seems to be a metaphor of inclusiveness or ‘diversity’ in the workplace – either get on board or fall behind.

How much are you influenced by your heritage?

I consider myself a Canadian because I came to Toronto when I was five, and my parents brought us up as Canadians. But I am influenced by my own heritage more and more lately because it’s a tiny island where diversity is not a novelty, it’s a way of life. I like telling the story of the Trinidadian culture however because Trinidadians have been living in a multicultural society for generations, and while it’s not without its own biases, the people of the island come together as one culture. Marriage between cultures and races is also very common – you should see my own family! It’s a beautiful example of what a melting pot is really about.

How important is your religion to you and how do you strike balance between maintaining your cultural traditions and Canadian identity?

I am not really a religious person but I do have spiritual beliefs. I was brought up with Hinduism and I believe in the philosophy of the faith but not the traditions or rituals. So what I believe is pretty much the ‘trend’ these days – karma, reincarnation, etc. Lately I’ve been more interested in Buddhism because of the philosophy. Eastern religions like Hinduism and Buddhism are a way of life and easy to live by.

How do you spend cultural celebrations?

I celebrate Diwali with my family by having dinner together and lighting candles or diyas. Trinidadians celebrate Diwali a bit differently than South Asians because I believe it is one of the few celebrations brought over to the island from the first settlers. So we celebrate Diwali as a religious holiday and not necessarily a party. In fact, it’s a time when we abstain from eating meat in respect for the religion’s vegetarian guidelines. In Trinidad, the tradition calls for inviting non Hindus to one’s home for Diwali dinner, in order to share the meaning behind the celebration.

What do you do in your idle time?

I like to be outdoors so I do a lot of hiking, walking, skating in the winter and biking in the summer. I’m also working on a novel, a couple of novels actually, so I try to write as much as I can in my spare time. I also love to cook, especially for friends and family. I’m also an avid animal lover but I’m not without my superficial side – I have an incurable shoe addiction.

What’s the key to success?

Being in a place where you are happy with what you have.

Share with us the most valuable lesson you have learned at a personal and a professional life?

What resonates with me the most is the connections we build through relationships. Too often there is judgement without investigation.

Every time I’ve stood up for myself, I’m forced into change, but I’ve learned that change is simply evolution, which may seem hard at first, but always necessary.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Hopefully as a published author. I am a fiction writer first and I hope to finally finish my novels, find a publisher who believes in me and helps me share my work.

 

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Is Ontario’s sex ed curriculum snatching our kids’ innocence or imparting long due, time appropriate info?

Posted on 26 February 2015 by admin

Ontario’s new sex ed curriculum was unveiled Monday to mixed reviews from parents, with some lauding changes to the almost two-decade-old material as long overdue, and others vowing a showdown over what they consider age-inappropriate content.

Education Minister Liz Sandals expected some parental opposition but reiterated that the materials will be implemented this fall as planned.

“I anticipate there will be members of various religions who may object to one thing or another . . . but the curriculum is the curriculum that will be taught in Ontario schools,” said Sandals.

Toronto mom Stephanie Baptist, a counsellor with Toronto Public Health, said it’s important to talk to kids about things like sexting in Grade 4 because even though they likely don’t have a cellphone, they do have access to devices “early, and often” — and often without supervision.

Parents, she added, will always play a role no matter what schools teach.

“Curriculum comes from the province — but the values always come from the family,” she said.

However, as many as 2,000 parents plan to protest outside Queen’s Park on Tuesday, upset at what they feel is too much information at too young an age, as well as a lack of meaningful parental consultation.

“My concern is about the process,” said Ziyad Mohamed, a Mississauga father of two young children who says religion has nothing to do with his concerns.

He also feels “the government has tried to demonize those who object” rather than listen to them.

Farina Siddiqui, co-ordinator of the Greater Toronto group Coalition of Concerned Parents, took part in protest and said it includes parents “of faith, of no faith — from every walk of life.”

“The ministry is calling us a fringe group. We are parents; we are the most important stakeholders in our children’s lives.”

Proper names for body parts and genitals will be taught in Grade 1 — something child-abuse investigators have long urged.

The first mention of the concept of same-sex relationships will be introduced to Grade 3 students.

Grade 4 students will learn about online safety, text messaging and “sexual pictures,” as well as puberty.

Grade 6 students will be taught what masturbation is and will learn about healthy relationships and consent.

Grade 7 students will be warned about the risks of “sexting” as well as informed about sexually transmitted diseases and oral and anal sex.

Sandals noted that if parents object to “this curriculum — or, quite frankly, science curriculum or English curriculum or any other piece of curriculum — the Education Act gives a parent of any religion or belief system the right to withdraw their child from that particular lesson.”

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Harper Government partners with communities to offer support during tax time

Posted on 26 February 2015 by admin

The Honourable Kerry-Lynne D. Findlay, P.C., Q.C., M.P., met with volunteers from the India Rainbow Community Services of Peel to promote the Community Volunteer Income Tax Program (CVITP). Minister Findlay also talked about key initiatives recently implemented, including an additional $1 million investment to strengthen the program this tax-filing season, and released the Canada Revenue Agency’s (CRA) new Need a Hand video.

There are over 2,000 community organizations partnering with CRA to lead CVITP clinics assisting taxpayers. The CVITP offers Canadians with a modest income and a simple tax situation help filing their income tax and benefit returns. By filing their return, taxpayers ensure they don’t miss out on a broad range of benefits and credits for which they may be eligible.

The CRA has supported community organizations providing volunteer assistance to eligible individuals during tax time for over 40 years. The additional $1 million investment made into the program was used to:

  Develop CVITP products in languages other than French and English to improve communications efforts in remote communities and increase the reach of the program to community organizations, volunteers and taxpayers;

  Increase use of technology by allowing organizations and volunteers to register online; and

  Provide better training and support for first-time community organizations wishing to host a clinic.

Free volunteer tax preparation clinics are typically offered to eligible individuals across Canada from February to the end of April. Information on CVITP clinic dates and locations can be found at www.cra.gc.ca/volunteer.

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New Ontario sex ed curriculum ready for September

Posted on 26 February 2015 by admin

Children to be taught dangers of sexting

The Ontario government says its new sex education curriculum, which will start in Grade 1 and later involve discussions on the dangers of sexting, will be taught starting in September.

Education Minister Liz Sandals unveiled the new curriculum at a news conference Monday, saying the government won’t back down in the face of criticism as it did in 2010 when religious groups complained about proposed revisions.

Sandals said she anticipates some criticism, but the new lessons are key to keeping children safe.

“This will be the curriculum that is taught in Ontario schools in September 2015,” Sandals said, noting training for teachers has already been scheduled.

Sandals said many aspects of the curriculum, like telling children they have the right to say no to unwanted touching, remains the same. However, due to public health data that shows children are experiencing puberty earlier, some topics are being introduced at earlier ages.

“We need to deal with the fact that our kids are starting to go through puberty much younger than they used to,” said Sandals.

The new curriculum, which marks the first time sex education courses in Ontario have been updated since 1998, also includes more information about the role technology plays in youth sexuality.

Sandals said she hopes frank discussions about the risks of sharing explicit content online will cut down on the inappropriate material children are sharing online.

Children have questions about sex: experts

Many people who work in the sexual education field praised the changes on Monday.

Lyba Spring, who has worked as a sex educator with Toronto Public Health for some 30 years, said Ontario’s curriculum is the oldest in Canada and 16 years out of date.

Spring said the number 1 issue the curriculum needs to address is consent.

Currently, she said, “there’s no encouragement to really think through what one is willing to do.”

Spring said classes should also discuss pornography and sexting, and that there should be a section about sexual abuse in the puberty section.

And, Spring said, teachers should be ready to answer questions.

“They’re exposed to everything on the internet … but they want to hear it from a teacher,” Spring said.

Dr. Miriam Kaufman, the head of adolescent medicine at SickKids Hospital, said it’s natural for children and youth to have questions about sex.

“Kids start asking about things very, very early in terms of their own sexuality,” said Kaufman.

Those questions shouldn’t be left for parents to answer, she said.

“The parent role is essential … but as parents we’re not all that good,” Kaufman said, noting that while she’s written books on the topic and taught classes, she wasn’t good at speaking with her own children about sex.

Parents will get resources, too

The Canadian Press obtained a copy of a “quick facts” guide for parents that outlines some of the changes, including many that relate to technology.

Here’s what kids will learn:

Grade 1 – proper names for body parts and how to understand non-verbal signals like facial expressions and tone of voice.

Grade 2 – the stages of development and related bodily changes along with the concept that “no means no,” as well as some elements of verbal and physical violence.

Grade 3 – same-sex relationships, which Kathleen Wynne, the first openly gay premier, said would help kids with two moms or two dads feel their families are just like everyone else’s.

“It’s not about explicit information except that it needs to be about kids feeling safe, feeling protected, feeling like they belong,” Wynne said.

One change in the new curriculum will be lessons about puberty will move from Grade 5 to Grade 4.

Grade 6 – masturbation and “gender expression,”

Grades 7 and 8 – discuss contraception, anal and oral sex, preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.

She also said Roman Catholic educators were consulted and must follow the curriculum in private schools as well as the public system.

The Progressive Conservatives complained the government did not consult enough parents before introducing the revised sex-ed curriculum.

Chris Markham, executive director of Ontario Physical and Health Education Association, called the curriculum update long overdue and cautioned critics about overreacting.

“I think the Opposition and everyone in the public and the media especially need to understand the content of the curriculum before we start forming opinions, before we start fearmongering and putting out statements that are completely incorrect,” he said.

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Interesting new decision making by civilian government and the Pakistani Army

Posted on 26 February 2015 by admin

Dr. Hasan Askari

 Pakistan has experienced different patterns of relations between the civilian authorities and the military. It started with the civilian supremacy at the time of independence. This system began to change when the military slowly increased its role in the domestic political system. In October 1958, the military assumed political power directly for the first time. Since then there have been several periods of direct and indirect military rules in Pakistan. The military has also exercised influence on decision-making from the sidelines.

  In 2015, Pakistan is experiencing a gradual rise of the military’s role while the civilian leaders continue to rule. It is an interesting mix of civil and military where the Nawaz Sharif government has given space to the Army top brass for managing internal security in return for continuity of the present political order presided over by Nawaz Shairf.

  The major decision making for general issues of governance and especially for coping with religious extremism, sectarianism and terrorism are made in a new political entity, called the Apex Committee, both at the federal and provincial levels. This brings together the cop civilian leaders and the top generals of the Army for decision making on any issue of interest to the Army and the civilian government and for dealing with issues of extremism, sectarianism and terrorism. These Apex Committees have sidelined federal and provincial cabinets.

  The current determined approach to root out terrorism in a nondiscriminatory manner was initiated by the Army against the background of the terrorist attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar on December 16, 2014. The civilian leadership was a partner in this decision, announcing the 20-point National Action Plan in the first week of January 2015 to eliminate extremism and terrorism.

 The roots of this decision can be traced back to an earlier decision of the Army in mid-June 2014 to start a full-scale security operation in North Waziristan. Later developments showed that the Army, the Air Force and the paramilitary forces pursued this operation against all kinds of Taliban groups and their affiliates in North Waziristan and some other tribal agencies. The Army top brass became more determined to chase violent groups after the attack on the Peshawar school.

 The initiation of the security operation in North Waziristan in mid June 2014 was the Army’s unilateral decision. The civilian government led by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was not favorably disposed towards any security operation.

 The Apex Committees at the federal and provincial levels have created a new institutional arrangement for the Army top brass to prod the federal and provincial government for adopting a non-ambiguous approach to counter extremism and terrorism in cities.

 The military courts have been established but these courts have not so far started functioning. A number of lawyers’ groups have challenged the legality of the military courts in the Supreme Court.

 Some religious parties are also contesting the domain of these courts. These religious parties are also resisting the implementation of the 20-point agenda items relating to madrasas, use of loudspeakers in mosques and restrictions on controversial literature with strong sectarian biases.

All this has led the Sharif government to go slow on the implementation of the National Action Plan, although its top civilian leaders use strong rhetoric in support of countering extremism and terrorism. The matching action is missing.

  The Sharif government can neither afford to alienate the Army top brass nor can it completely delink itself from the right-wing Islamist sympathizers of Islamic militancy and the madrasa establishment. Therefore, it has adopted a midway approach of conceding space to the Army for countering terrorism and related matters in return for letting the current civilian arrangements to carry on.

 This arrangement gives some advantage to both sides. Nawaz Sharif and his allies stay on in power and the Army plays the lead role from the sidelines for improving governance and controlling terrorism. The presence of civilian government in the front assures political and constitutional continuity.

 The current civil-military cooperation can sustain civilian system and let the Army to cope with religious extremism and violence. However, the sustenance of this arrangement is not possible in the absence of a satisfactory functioning of civilian political and administrative systems.

 Civilian leadership must ensure that the law enforcing and intelligence agencies locate extremist and terrorists groups, religious-sectarian outfits and others engaged in violence, extortion and kidnappings in cities and towns.

The religious hardline and sectarians groups are more entrenched in the Punjab and these have to be dealt with by civilian authorities. The economy and financial affairs are still being managed by civilians.

They also deal with the issues of power shortages and price hikes and daily societal affairs.

Another challenge for the civilian system pertains to repeated complaints about financial corruption by the top political and bureaucratic officials.

 Still another challenge for the civilian government is political management, i.e. interaction with other political and religious parties.

 If Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf of Imran Khan resumes street protest or Islamic parties and madrasa organizations decide to challenge the government, the current civilian system can run into difficulties. This can cause new strains in the on-going civil-military cooperation.

  The new political-army arrangements are currently working smoothly. These have ensured the continuity of the political arrangements created after the May 2013 elections and PMLN leaders expect this system will enable them to complete their term of office. It has also strengthened the hope that religious extremism, sectarianism and terrorism will be brought under control.

 However, the civilian government cannot take administrative and political issues lightly. It will have to perform in the above mentioned domains. Its failure can cause the collapse of the current political arrangements.

 If this happens the Army may assume power directly or install another civilian government. This will create a difficult situation for the Army because the top generals do not appear to be interested in assuming power directly. They want the civilian system to continue while they have freedom in domestic governance and for countering terrorism. Therefore, the civilian leadership will have to make sure that it continues to perform in a satisfactory manner.

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Russia Eyes India, Dassault Celebrates in Egypt

Posted on 26 February 2015 by admin

When Egypt signed an agreement to purchase 24 Dassault Rafale fighters, it marked a milestone for the program: the first international sale of the jet, which has struggled to find a market outside of its home nation of France.

But what should be a celebratory attitude at the company’s Paris headquarters has instead turned glum, as the crown jewel of its expansion plans — a $12 billion deal with India that has been in the works since 2012 — now appears in danger, with Russia hovering nearby in the hope of stealing the contract.

If Dassault can finally cement the Indian deal, it will add 126 fighters to a production facing domestic budget cuts. If Russia can come in and undercut Dassault, it would seriously harm the future of the French fighter, while exacting some measure of revenge on France’s decision not to deliver to Russia a naval vessel following the crisis in Ukraine.

In 2012, the Indian Defence Ministry made Dassault its preferred vendor to fill its Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft requirement. The Rafale beat out five other competitors — the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, Lockheed Martin F-16, Mikoyan MiG-35, Saab JAS 39 Gripen and the Eurofighter Typhoon, the latter which was the runner up in the competition.

What seemed like a major win for the Rafale quickly entered a stalemate, however, in large part due to India pressuring Dassault to guarantee work produced by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), the Indian firm that would produce the domestic models of the jet. (Under the contract, Dassault would produce only 18 of the jets before turning production over to HAL.)

Such a guarantee puts a burden on the family-controlled Dassault, which thus far has declined to accept that agreement.

Cost concerns also come into play, with the French saying the cost of integration at HAL facilities would be higher than the normal Rafale because the productivity of labor at HAL is low compared to the plants in France. And after visiting the HAL facilities, Dassault officials concluded there are no economies of scale at HAL to help drive down the cost of the platform.

No resolution appears in sight. Richard Aboulafia, an analyst with the Teal Group, gives Dassault a 40 percent chance of landing the deal.

The obvious alternative to the Rafale is the Eurofighter Typhoon, which was the other finalist after the program downselection. Eurofighter has maintained a presence in Aero India both in 2013 and 2015, and would love to win the contract from its French rival. But another contender has emerged — one with strong ties to India and a desire to spite the French.

Red Dawn

Russia has begun a very public campaign to convince Indian officials that Moscow has a better solution on the table.

Sergei Goreslavsky, deputy director of Russia’s arms export agency Rosoboronexport, told the RIA Novosti news agency on Feb. 16 that “if [India] needs additional Su-30MKI fighters, then we are ready to work out such an agreement,” stressing that New Delhi need only ask.

Goreslavsky is the head of Russia’s delegation to the Aero India 2015 air show, which was held last week in Bangalore.

India already operates a large fleet of Sukhoi Su-30 fighters, some of which have been locally produced by HAL. That argument was pushed by Yuri Slyusar, the recently appointed head of the state-owned United Aircraft Corporation, during a Feb. 19 appearance in Bangalore.

“Which aircraft would better suit the needs of the customer? Our obvious competitive advantage is that India is already making these aircraft right here, right now,” Slyusar said. “The factories have been built, the technology debugged, the documents transferred, the pilots, engineers and technicians have been trained.”

Russia’s RSK MiG has also announced plans to throw its hat in the ring with an upgraded version of its developmental MiG-35 if India rejects the Rafale and reopens the tender.

“We have every chance to compete [for the contract],” RIA Novosti quoted MiG chief Sergei Korotkov as saying at Aero India on Feb. 18. “We have not lost hope that a future tender or competition will be announced.”

Ruslan Pukhov, director of the Center for the Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, a Moscow-based defense think tank, said Russia has been lobbying for some time for India to ax the Rafale contract.

“Russia has tried its best to explain to India, as the Eurofighter people have, that it is completely senseless to buy a platform designed in the 1980s for such a huge amount of money,” Pukhov said, “especially since the full fleet won’t be operational for, let’s say, 10 years.”

For the money India would spend on Rafale, it could buy from a mature product that they already know how to maintain and operate, Pukhov argued, adding that its combat capability surpasses that of any other aircraft in India’s Air Force.

Pukhov, who is also a member of the Defense Ministry’s public advisory board, didn’t discount that Russia may be working further behind the scenes to influence the situation in Moscow’s favor, but stressed the cause is Dassault’s inexperience with exporting the Rafale.

“This is totally Russian,” François Lureau of consultancy EuroFLconsult and former head of the French procurement office. Until a contract is signed, he said, the Indian deal is seen to be open to competition and the Russians will push the message of French unreliability.

Aboulafia noted that the Russian position is fairly strong, given its industrial presence in India.

“You’re looking at two groups who could each decide to walk away,” he said of Dassault and the Indian MoD. “India says it loves the Rafale, but has a production line for the cheaper Sukhoi already in India. And while it would be a transformative sale for Dassault, they are essentially telling India it is asking for the impossible.”

The strength of Dassault’s position depends on whether the Egyptian sale represents a major change in the fortunes of the jet — Aboulafia describes its history as “25 years of trying and multiple defeats snatched from the jaws of victory” — or if the sale was a very specific case.

The financing on the Egyptian sale, which may involve gulf nations and France providing very favorable terms to Egypt, could end up meaning the sale is a one off, rather than the start of a trend for the jet.

On the other hand, the Rafale is still alive in three major competitions in the gulf region. There is a potential agreement with Qatar, in discussion for as many as 36 jets, as well as a potential 60-ship sale to the United Arab Emirates and a smaller contest in Kuwait.

Landing any of those deals could boost Dassault’s negotiating strength with India, or at least embolden the company to cut its losses.

Mistral Fallout?

Meanwhile, Russia’s state-run media outlets last week were littered with statements from officials across Russia’s defense industry boasting Russia’s proven track record of technology transfer and product delivery.

These comments have been juxtaposed against France’s refusal to deliver the first of two French-built Mistral-class amphibious assault carriers to the Russian Navy last year.

Under international pressure, France decided not to hand over the ship as a result of Russia’s role in the crisis in Ukraine. The move greatly angered Russia, which has derided France as an unreliable business partner since.

Dmitry Shugaev, deputy director for international affairs at state defense holding Rostec, also pinned the Rafale’s troubles on France’s reluctance to guarantee the jets in comments carried by the state-run TASS news agency on Feb. 16.

Shugaev said France’s failure to deliver the Mistral could also be one of the reasons India has expressed concerns over the deal.

The sentiment in Russia is that snatching the contract, or at least getting India to commit to more Su-30s while it works through its problems with Dassault, would provide some measure of solace in the wake of the scorned Mistral delivery.

Russian officials and pundits have gone out of their way in recent months to cast France as an unreliable trading partner, a supplier that may cancel deals at the last minute in accordance with the political whims of its puppet masters in DC, and have promised to pursue legal damages if Paris does not go through with the delivery.

The fact that Russia is pushing the Mistral issue as a marketing tool does not come as a surprise in Paris.

But a Russian message of the risk of a potential French embargo does not stand up to scrutiny because there would be a technology transfer to India that would deliver “industrial autonomy” on the Rafale, Lureau said.

French Senator Daniel Rainer, who sits on the defense committee, said Russia is using the Mistral as a “commercial argument of circumstance.” The circumstance is the suspension of the warship and the commercial interest is the Indian fighter contest.

Dassault, the Direction Générale de l’Armement procurement office and Defense Ministry are well aware of the Russian lobbying effort in India, he said.

Dassault’s talks with its prospective Indian partner, HAL, “are on the right track”, he said.

While the message of French unreliability may not be a major concern at the political level, public opinion about the Mistral suspension shows a different story.

An opinion poll commissioned by La Tribune business news website showed 64 percent in favor of handing over the two Mistral helicopter ships, with 77 percent concerned about a hit on French jobs. DCNS is prime contractor and STX France builder of the hulls.

Some 69 percent saw the Mistral suspension as helping foreign competitors, such as the UK, US and Russia. The poll found 56 percent saw the French reputation hurt by the decision to withhold delivery, La Tribune reported. IFOP polled 1,001 respondents Jan. 9 to 12 for La Tribune.

In comments made Oct. 29, procurement chief Laurent Collet-Billon told the French Senate defense committee that the Russians tell the Indians that the French are unreliable. “The English, too” say the same, he said.

The message does not appear to be working in New Delhi — yet.

An Indian MoD official said the government has full faith in France as a friend, and its surety to transfer technology as promised. That said, Delhi is also not going to turn its back on Russia. India-Russia defense and strategic ties remain intact with the current government under Narendra Modi as well.

“Russia remains a trusted, well-tried weapon supplier to India,” the MoD official said.

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Sikhs Serve Shelters Across Canada for One Billiion Rising

Posted on 26 February 2015 by admin

For the third year in a row, the World Sikh Organization of Canada joined with Sikh communities across Canada to take part in the One Billion Rising movement by providing care packages, treats and baked goods to over 1000 women and children in shelters in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal. Each package was accompanied by Valentine’s cards prepared by Sikh children and students from local Khalsa schools and gurdwaras.

One Billion Rising began as a call to action based on the staggering statistic that 1 in 3 women on the planet will be beaten or raped during her lifetime. With the world population at 7 billion, this adds up to more than one billion women and girls.

This initiative was launched by the WSO in 2013 in Vancouver and has subsequently spread across Canada.

 In Surrey, volunteers gathered at the Singh Sabha Gurdwara to put together packages. The volunteers were visited by Hon. Tim Uppal, Minister of State for Multiculturalism. Minister Uppal met with WSO’s Vice President for British Columbia, Jasbir Kaur Randhawa and congratulated her on the initiative. In discussions on current issues affecting the Sikh community in Canada and internationally, Minister Uppal revealed that he recently had the opportunity to meet with French President François Hollande and raise the issue of restrictions on the turban in France.

 Calgary Volunteers In Calgary, WSO in partnership with the Dashmesh Culture Centre were able to deliver care packages to the YCWA which operates several shelters across Calgary. WSO Vice President for Alberta Tejinder Singh Sidhu said, “this event is important not just for the individuals we help, but also in raising awareness about violence against women in the community. This event has been very warmly received by the Sikh community and we intend to grow and expand it next year.”

 Toronto Volunteers In Toronto, cupcakes and Valentine’s cards were delivered to women’s shelters in Peel. The cards were made by students at the Khalsa Montessori School in Brampton. This year, the WSO was joined by members of the youth group Nach Balliye in preparing the packages. Nach Balliye has spearheaded innovative initiatives such as Lori for Her and the Pink Ladoos Campaign to empower and celebrate women in the community.

In Montreal, local Sikh children helped make Valentines cards at the Gurdwara Sahib Greater Montreal (DDO). Children at the Gurdwara’s weekly class each made two cards and asked questions about abuse and bullying and why people must go to shelters. The cards were accompanied by practical items such as soap and personal care items which were delivered to two local shelters.

 Montreal Children WSO President Dr. Amritpal Singh Shergill said, “we are thankful for all the support we have received in making this year’s event another great success. It is inspiring to see how this initiative has received support from Sikhs across the country and is playing a role in educating about the issue of violence against women and making it a topic of discussion in local communities. Valentine’s Day may not be a Sikh celebration but we are glad that this initiative is able to bring some happiness to those who are going through a difficult time and need to know that someone is thinking of them.”

 

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ISIS-Bound U.K. Schoolgirls Sought By British Police In Istanbul

Posted on 26 February 2015 by admin

British police are in Istanbul hoping to find three teenage girls believed to be making their way to Syria to join the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Shamima Begum and Amira Abase, both 15, and Kadiza Sultana, 16, flew to Turkey from London earlier this week.

The girls are believed to have slipped through the throngs of passengers stranded at Istanbul Ataturk Airport during a record snowfall last week.

With no apparent intelligence request for Turkey to stop the girls, they were able to evade the eyes of the specialized team at the airport trained to stop potential ISIS recruits from moving through Turkey.

The drive to the Syrian border is about 14 hours, but CBC’s Nil Koksal reports from Istanbul that the British officers’ arrival suggests there is a chance the girls haven’t left the city.

Turkish authorities are not revealing any details about how they may be helping British police, but have been vocal in response to criticism that they haven’t done enough to seal its 900-kilometre border with Syria.

Turkey says it has increased army units across that border and has already deported more than a thousand people suspected of trying to join ISIS.

Friends, family plead for girls’ return

A friend of the girls said that everyone is worried about them and hoped they would come back for their exams in a couple of weeks.

“What were they thinking? We was all shocked when we heard about that. But individually they’re all very close they’re all just determined to do what they want to do,” said Atlanta Broadbent during an interview with Britain’s ITV news on Saturday.

Broadbent said they had not talked about going to Syria or Iraq.

“When I saw them a couple of weeks ago, they just seemed normal, how they are every day…. Just going to [study sessions] every day, they seemed normal, they spoke about anything like that,” said Broadbent.

Two of the three friends left their east London homes on Tuesday and travelled to Gatwick airport, where they caught a Turkish Airlines flight to Istanbul without telling their families.

‘We miss you’

The families of the three girls made emotional appeals for them to return home.

“The message we have for Amira is to get back home. We miss you. We cannot stop crying. Please think twice. Don’t go to Syria,” Abase Hussen, Amira Abase’s father, said to BBC News.

Britain’s former foreign secretary, William Hague, said on Sunday that there should be no rush to judge who is responsible.

“Well, there’s a responsibility on everybody here, in cases like these: on families, on religious leaders and on security services as well. I’m sure we’ll all want to learn lessons from everything that’s happened in every case when people go to Syria, but I wouldn’t want to rush into any judgments about who’s responsible for what,” said Hague.

Security forces estimate some 600 British Muslims have travelled to Syria to join the conflict there, some of them with the militant Sunni Islamist group ISIS.

Around half have since returned, and dozens have been arrested in Britain under anti-terrorism legislation.

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The Truth About Bullying and What We Can Do About It

Posted on 26 February 2015 by admin

Pink Shirt Day will soon be upon us. On February 25th, we are being encouraged to wear something pink to unite us in working together to prevent bullying in our schools, in our communities, and online. I’m very glad to know that we, as a society, are continuing to take this issue seriously — it affects more people every day than we could ever know.

Why Does Bullying Continue?

Bullies bully because they can–because they are allowed to get away with it. When we don’t stop a bully, we give the message that it’s okay for the aggression to continue since there will be no consequences.

I also believe that bullying is an addiction. We use addictive behaviours to mask what we feel –generally about our own low self-esteem and dissatisfaction about our lives. Anything can become an addiction if we are using it for that purpose: drugs, alcohol, food, TV, smoking, gambling, excessive spending, gaming, sex, co-dependency in relationships — the list goes on and on. Until we’re willing to look within and become healthier emotionally, addiction just becomes more and more widespread and progressive, often with personal and worldwide catastrophic consequences.

How Are We Enabling Bullying to Continue?

On a smaller but still very damaging, scale, we all know that bullying is happening right under our noses on a daily basis. Why are we allowing other people’s children to hurt our children? Why are we teaching our children — by our own aggressive role modelling — that it’s natural to disrespect and injure others? Do we think they don’t hear us when we scream at other drivers from the relative safety of our own cars? What must they be learning when they see us physically and verbally abusing those around us, sometimes even their own other parent or sibling? Are we in so much denial that we’ve learned how to pretend that our actions don’t affect others, sometimes in horrific ways? How are we explaining this to ourselves — and how could any rational lies we might tell ourselves make this behaviour even close to being okay?

And if we don’t make that choice — if we choose instead to do nothing because we don’t want to make waves or because we believe we’re worthless or powerless — we will have no one to blame but ourselves for this horrific behaviour continuing to spiral even more out of control, ad infinitum.

Which choice will you make?

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The Alzheimer Society of Ontario expands to four additional multilingual communities in Ontario

Posted on 26 February 2015 by admin

The Alzheimer Society of Ontario, in partnership with the Government of Ontario, is expanding the award-winning Finding Your WayTM program by reaching out to Arabic, Tagalog, Tamil and Urdu communities.

 The multicultural safety awareness initiative for people with dementia who may go missing or become lost is now available in 12 languages, helping society as a whole better understand some of the behaviours associated with the disease and in turn providing tools to deal with the risk of going missing.

 “This unique program breaks the stigma attached to the disease,” insists David Harvey, Chief Public Policy and Program Initiatives Officer at the Alzheimer Society of Ontario.

 “Dementia affects people regardless of race, religion or class. We need to find ways to support people from as many different cultures as possible.”

 According to the 2011 Census, more than 106,000 Ontarians speak Arabic, 128,965 speak Urdu, 85,045 Tamil and 69,605 Tagalog.

 Members of these communities are among the 200,000 Ontarians who have dementia today.

The Finding Your Way program has received over $2 million in funding from the Government of Ontario and now offers resources to communities across the province in 12 languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Cantonese, Mandarin, Punjabi, Arabic, Tagalog, Tamil and Urdu.

Communities have benefited greatly from the multilingual, multimedia awareness safety campaign. Statistics show that three out of five people with dementia go missing at some point, often without warning. There is greater risk of injury, even death, for those missing for more than 24 hours.

Having a plan in place and knowing how to respond should a missing incident occur can help save a life. Unfortunately, mental illnesses and neurological diseases such as dementia may be misunderstood in many ethnic communities. The lack of awareness about dementia increases the risks of missing incidents amongst people with dementia.

The Alzheimer Society of Ontario recognizes the need to educate and promote awareness of dementia to Ontario’s various multicultural communities.

 Vaqar Raees lives in Ajax. His father-in-law has Alzheimer’s. Most of the time Raees finds his father-in-law agitated, continuously repeating requests and forgetting things like day and time.

“My father-in-law is a home bird and doesn’t like to go out often. A few months ago he broke his leg and since then his mobility has been restricted,” says Raees. He was always concerned about his father-in-law getting lost.

“Alzheimer Society’s Finding Your Way program in Urdu has come as a blessing for caregivers like me. Finding the tools and information in one’s own language is definitely helpful.” “We’ve all heard news items about missing reports of people with dementia. People may not know where to seek help or what to do to offer assistance,” says Chris Dennis, Interim CEO of Alzheimer Society of Ontario.

“We commend the Ontario Government for recognizing the need to support people living with dementia from a culturally and linguistically diverse background, and we are thankful for their help in providing socially inclusive programs and services, such as Finding Your Way.”

 “There are nearly 200,000 Ontarians currently living with dementia and many do not speak English or French,” says Mario Sergio, Minister Responsible for Seniors Affairs.

“With the expansion of the Finding Your Way program we are reaching more people, and providing important information to protect those with this disease. Through Ontario’s Action Plan for Seniors we continue to work with older adults, their families, caregivers and law enforcement to improve the safety and security of seniors across the province.”

 

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