Archive | March, 2015

Music’s evolved with technology: Jazz Virk

Posted on 25 March 2015 by admin

Jazz Virk

Producer/Director

Jazz Virk is an award winning, internationally acclaimed music video Director. With over ten years of professional experience in film and television ranging from commercials, music videos, documentaries and films projects, Jazz has worked both in Hollywood and Bollywood.

Jazz studied cinema studies at University of Toronto, Art and Photography at Sheridan College, Oakville, Canada. He has produced, directed and edited on a variety of projects ranging from commercials music videos to documentaries for CBC. For the last five years Jazz would be working on music videos and loving the exposure to other talents behind and in front of the camera. Jazz has worked many Hip Hop, R&B including Choclair, Ghetto Concept, Carlos Morgan, Julie Black and Nelly Furtado.

His first film, BROKEN did well in the film festival circuit and garnished the attention from the Mumbai pop/world music industry and launched a music video career.

Jazz to date has directed over 50 music videos around the world from Bombay, India, USA, Canada and the UK. Jazz worked with such artists as Jazzy B, Sonu Nigam, Gunjan, Babbu Mann, AmanHayer, Jaz Dhami, Jassi Sidhu and Charlene and Slata Jon from Basement Jaxx

Jazz Virk’s first video for artist Jazzy B’s Romeo music video won best video of 2005. And to date his Jazzy B Rambo video has won 4 awards and one for best video of 2009 and is hailed as the most expensive and best video made in the Asian and Bhangra music world.

Here’s Generation Next’s interview with this bright young man:

Please tell us a bit about you academic background?

I went to Sheridan College ‘Oakville Campus’ to study Photography, Graphic design and Fine Arts. At University of Toronto did my BA in Art History and Cinema Studies. My understanding of both practical and theory began at this stage.

Why be a director?

When I was a kid I constantly questioned how these films were being made and I was wondering who’s the guy behind all of this. I saw a documentary on PBS of the making of ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ and I saw this guy, his name was Steven Spielberg. When I saw him behind the scenes and talking to the cast and crew, I thought ..so a director is the guy who’s the creative genius. From that point on I was totally hooked.

What is in it for you, Hollywood or Bollywood?

(Laughs) Honestly neither. It’s really just about my passion for making projects. Obviously starting with commercials and music videos but always shooting them cinematically. I was born in England raised in Canada and I was never really into my Bollywood you could say, I mean I knew about it because of my heritage and my culture but it was Sci-Fi and Horror that got my attention. When I did my first action packed short film that’s what got me my first big gig in Bollywood.

Why do you think many modern songs & music videos are not like evergreen songs & music videos of the past?

Technology and evolution. I believe that’s why music videos and the songs themselves are so different today. Just the accessibility of technology. You can have a camcorder or DSLR and be sitting in the comfort of your own home working off a laptop which definitely leaves more room for freedom and experimentation.

However, having said that, I’m still a big fan of the traditional and industry set up of having a big crew.

Do you believe art is for entertainment or for social awareness? One can argue that with so much disturbance in life, people would like to enjoy art for relaxation purpose only.

I believe if you are an artist and you have a voice that reaches so many people you have a responsibility to talk about social awareness. Otherwise you’re leaving it to politicians and the governments, you don’t want that your voice to go to waste.

What’s your family’s reaction to your profession choice?

Ok! So me being of the Punjabi heritage living in Canada, the stereotypical profession for us kids is to be a doctor, lawyer, engineer. I mean the majority of my cousins are one of those 3. I have twelve lawyers in my family. So you can imagine when I chose this, it did not go down well at all. So especially when I was in High school and University I was constantly told I need a fall back career, which is something I never really had. Luckily in the last ten years I’ve started teaching and continue to teach, so actually now I’m creating my films, my music videos and teaching filmmaking. I’m happy and so is my family, it’s taken twenty years but their ok now.

Is it a profession where you can make money?

You know what, if you put your heart to it and you believe in it whatever you decide to do, you will be successful. If you give something 110% it’s automatic but that takes time and dedication right!

 Do good looks matter? Do they get you into the door?

Well look at me, I’m pretty handsome but I wouldn’t attribute my looks for any of the work I’ve produced. Confidence is a big one because your general appearance is all about your confidence and of course personality, that’s what gets you places.

 How do you keep yourself fit?

Physically, I mean I do alot of walking to clear my mind and have a break from the studio life. Mentally, Nina, my sister in-law reads a lot, she’s a great teacher, and she’d always come over and read so I thought I should try this as a full time past time and it’s really stuck. So I’m reading everyday. I make sure I always put in a few hours, that’s one way of keeping me mentally fit.

 How much time do you spend on social media?

So I definitely put more time into Social media these days, it has the power to become an addiction right but I catch up at the end of a working day and make sure I reply back to each and everyone’s comments and messages.

 What kind of pressures do you feel as a professional?

Failing! So I’m self employed right, I’m not working for somebody. I have to dream and create to make a living. When I was an editor, which is what I started off as, I was working for big companies so that felt secure. I soon realised for me to start directing I really had to just take a risk and go out there and do it myself, you have to let your work speak for itself.

 What and who do you turn to when depressed?

My family. Obviously I travel a lot and currently I’m living abroad so I’m constantly missing my nephew and niece. I would always go back to the people that I love and trust like my brother, Suny Virk, my sister Nina, mom and dad and my best friends.

 Where do you see yourself in ten years?

I will be making feature films every year! Writing novels, that excites me too.

 What would you like to change in the world. Do you associate yourself with any charity?

I’m a big supporter of woman’s rights, cancer foundations and WWF for animals. We’ve still got many parts of this world where woman are treated badly. Animals need a lot of respect. We have species out there that are disappearing, the cruelty to animals really bothers me.

 Your favourite male artist?

That’s a difficult question. I have so many favourite male musicians and artists. I love so much music.

 Your favourite female artist?

 I love strong female actresses, but with regards to music Lisa Gerrard is incredible.

 Tell us what it was like working with Jazzy B?

 So my very first music video in the South Asian community was with Jazzy B, a huge star known as the crown prince of Bhangra. I knew this kind of opportunity was only going to come once in a lifetime, so I was going to put everything I had into it. I wanted to make sure it stood out and raised the bar. It was scary as hell and I really put myself under great pressure to achieve all of those things. Jazzy B reminded me that he hired me to direct him, so he pulled me aside and told me to just direct him and he would just let me do my thing. By the time it came to the second video with him I was totally comfortable and really came into my own, he reminded me that I was an equal and once you pass that mental block you can work and direct your heart out.

 Tell us what it’s been like working with Roach Killa, since you have done so many videos with him?

 You know what he literally just left the office. We’re both from Toronto, I’m from the burbs from Mississauga and he’s from the East end of Toronto. When I first moved to England in 2009 my second video was with him, so he’s been here pretty much the same time I have been. We’re friends and work well together. The fact we clicked so well on our first project and had such huge success has just fueled us to push the limit of our creative visions. He’s a great guy and I enjoy hanging, laughing and working with him.

 Tell us about your new and upcoming music videos?

I’m currently wrapping up and in post production on a few projects right now, Simon Nandhra and JatinderCheed. Miss Pooja flew in for my latest video. She’s featured on Roach Killa’s new track and we did a 1950’s classic Hollywood style video. With Simon Nandra, a great music director/producer we’ve really pushed the boundaries and created a Jack the Ripper circa 1890 style video which has just been so fun to create the Victorian era. Next up is my Viking, Dark Ages film/music video. Then in the summer I’ll be working on my next film. Stay tuned.

www.filmdivision.co.uk
www.vimeo.com/filmdivision
www.facebook.com/jazzvirk

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Water Planning More Important Than Ever

Posted on 25 March 2015 by admin

Twenty-two years ago, the United Nations General Assembly declared March 22 to be World Water Day. In a world is facing a severe and growing water crisis without a roadmap, this day is more important than ever.

Our collective abuse of water has caused the planet to enter ”a new geologic age” – a “planetary transformation” akin to the retreat of the glaciers more than 11,000 years ago. This is according to 500 renowned scientists brought together in Bonn at the invitation of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on May 2013. A majority of the world’s population lives within 30 miles of water sources that are badly impaired or running out, the scientists said.

The water crisis is also our greatest security threat. This is according to 900 global experts asked to assess the world’s biggest global risks in advance of the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting. Another global study warns that by 2030, demand for water will outstrip supply by 40 per cent. Lack of access to clean water is already by far the greatest killer of children.

So how are world leaders and global institutions dealing with this threat? Very badly and with no plan. This is because the water crisis has been misdiagnosed.

While recognized as real, the water crisis is usually seen as a symptom of climate change, itself caused by excessive greenhouse gas emissions. Droughts are almost always reported as the result of climate change. While no doubt greenhouse gas emission-driven climate change does have an important and negative impact on watersheds, warming temperatures and speeding up evaporation, there is another story that needs to be told.

Because the water crisis is misdiagnosed, we do not have the right solutions to solve the crisis. World leaders, elected officials and international institutions wrap the water crisis in with their research and deliberations on climate change. If water is mentioned at all, it is as one more victim of climate change, almost always solely attributed to the burning of fossil fuels. The fact that destroying water-retentive landscapes is in and of itself a major cause of climate change is not part of the analysis or discussion in climate change circles.

The UN General Assembly has not specifically included water in its agenda.

Water must be addressed as an issue in and of itself. There is an urgent need to create a global water recovery plan for water.

Key components would include:

• watershed protection
• conservation and restoration
• national and community programs to replenish water-retentive landscapes
• watershed sharing and governance
• models of food and energy production that do not harm water
• the prevention of eutrophication
• consideration of the impact on water of trade agreements
• strong local, national and international commitment to put water protection at the heart of all laws and policies.

The notion that water can become a negotiating tool for cooperation and peace rather than the cause of conflict and war must be explored and the path to water justice must be a central tenet of this plan.

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Ontario raises minimum wage to $11 an hour

Posted on 25 March 2015 by admin

Ontario’s Liberal government is raising the minimum wage to $11 an hour, promising annual increases will be tied to the
rate of inflation, but critics say it’s not enough to lift workers out of poverty.

Premier Kathleen Wynne announced the 75-cent-an-hour hike Thursday — the first minimum wage increase in the province since 2010 — calling it a “fair adjustment” that reflects the rise in the Consumer Price Index.

“I think the vast majority of people in Ontario understand that it’s very difficult to make ends meet living on minimum wage, and that there needs to be a fair way of allowing minimum wage to keep up with the cost of living.” she said.

Anti-poverty activists and unions have been demanding an immediate increase to a $14-an-hour minimum wage, but the government has said that would hurt businesses and end up reducing jobs.

The Ontario Convenience Stores Association admitted some of its members won’t like the $11 dollar minimum wage, “but it’s better than $14,” said CEO Dave Bryans.

The Ontario government will announce an increase to the province’s minimum wage today, with reports suggesting it will rise to $11 an hour from $10.25. (Canadian Press)

“Some of our members might be upset, but there’s an adjustment period,” he said. “Many people get their first jobs at convenience stores or the fast food sector, and I believe it’s time that everybody had a fair wage.”

However, the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association warned the 75-cent hike will result in fewer jobs, especially among youth, calling it “unnecessary, tough for small business and counter-productive.”

The Retail Council of Canada said it likes the plan to link future hikes to inflation, but complained about using the Consumer Price Index to determine a catch-up raise for the past four years.

Amelia White of Toronto, who works full time in a grocery store for minimum wage, said she will still have to look for additional work so she can pay the bills.

“I have to decide if I want to pay for rent, hydro or buy food. It’s not enough to look after my child and it’s not enough to live on,” said White. “I pay my rent first and then I miss the bills and then I catch up the next month. It’s a cycle that goes on and on and on, so you just have to do what you can.”

Sonia Singh of the Workers’ Action Centre said the $11 minimum wage is not enough for workers to live on.

“We calculate that the minimum wage at $11 is 16 per cent below the poverty line,” she said. “Going up with the cost of living every year is an important step forward, but a minimum wage that’s below the poverty line still puts workers behind.”

The Progressive Conservatives warned the $11 minimum wage amounted to a seven per cent increase in business costs, and predicted it would result in reduced hours for workers or even job losses.

“If labour costs go up seven per cent, they’ve got to lay people off, putting them on unemployment,” asked PC critic Jane McKenna.

“What’s stopping a 40-hour week from becoming a 37-hour week?”

Wynne promised legislation to tie all future increases in the minimum wage to the rate of inflation, a key recommendation of an expert panel, and said the new minimum wage would be announced April 1 each year and take effect Oct. 1.

The premier took a shot at the opposition parties as she urged them to support the legislation.

“It’s a little shocking to me that we have a Conservative party that seems not to care, seems not to think that it’s their
responsibility to have an opinion or to care about people making minimum wage, and we have an NDP that has no position on this,” said Wynne.

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Mississauga Shooting: SIU Investigating After Peel Police Officers Wounded, Civilian Dead

Posted on 25 March 2015 by admin

Ontario’s police watchdog says a 30-year-old man is dead and two Peel Regional Police officers and another civilian were wounded after an incident late Friday night in Mississauga, just west of Toronto.

A chaotic scene unfolded in Mississauga, Ont. late Friday night with one person dead and two Peel Regional Police officers injured.

A civilian died at the scene around 11 p.m. ET on Queen Federica Drive, said the force. A second person is in hospital with undetermined injuries.

One officer suffered a gunshot wound, while another was stabbed. The pair had been responding to reports of a shooting at the apartment complex near Dundas Street and Dixie Road, said Const. George Tudos.

“Shots were fired during some kind of an altercation and I know that as a result of that altercation, the two officers did suffer serious injuries,” Tudos told CP24.

Mercedes Wickert, who lives nearby, described what she heard to the Toronto Star: “Bang, bang, bang, bang… Immediately afterward sirens went off.”

Tudos said investigators are not looking for any suspects.

“At this point, everybody we believe has been accounted for that was involved in the altercation here,” he told reporters.

The province’s Special Investigations Unit, which probes police incidents involving death or serious injury, has been called in.

The Special Investigations Unit says the man was shot multiple times and pronounced dead at the scene.

Peel Regional Police said Friday night that one officer was shot and the other was stabbed, and described the injuries as serious. The SIU says the injuries to the officers and the civilian are not life-life threatening.

The incident happened after police responded to a call (on Queen Frederica Drive near Dundas and Dixie) and “interacted” with a man.

The SIU has assigned five investigators and three forensic investigators to probe the circumstances of the incident. Three subject officers and seven witness officers have been designated.

The agency wants to hear from anyone with information about the incident.

The SIU is an arm’s length agency that investigates reports involving police where there has been death, serious injury or allegations of sexual assault.

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Pakistan: the product of political movement

Posted on 25 March 2015 by admin

Dr. Hasan Askari

  Every nation celebrates its national days in order to pay tribute to national heroes and remind people of the great events and political developments that contributed to the making of the nation.

 One of Pakistan’s national days was celebrated on March 23 as 75th anniversary of the resolution of the Muslim League demanding the establishment of a separate homeland for the Muslims of British India.

 The Muslim League, the main political party of the Muslims in British India, held its annual public session in Lahore on March 22-24, 1940. On March 23, a resolution was moved discarding the federal constitutional system for India and demanding a separate homeland for the Muslims in the northwestern and eastern zones of India. This resolution was passed on March 24th in the last session. Since the resolution was moved on March 23, this day been designated as the Pakistan Day or the Pakistan Resolution Day.

  The resolution of March 23, 1940, often described as the Lahore Resolution or the Pakistan Resolution, represented a major change in the political demands of the Muslim League.

Traditionally the Muslim leadership demanded separate electorate, reservations of seats in the cabinet and the legislative bodies, constitutional safeguards and guarantees for protecting their political and cultural rights and representation in governmental system.

They also talked of provincial autonomy so that the Muslim majority provinces were able to govern them in accordance with their political choices. However, the AIML leadership learnt from the bitter experience of the Congress rule in non-Muslim majority province during 1937-39 that a federal system with provincial autonomy did not guarantee their socio-cultural identity, civil and political rights and socio-economic interests, including access to government jobs and patronage. They began to think about going beyond the federal system.

 The resolution used the word “states” rather than a state to demand a separate homeland for the Muslims. Some writers argued in the post-independence period that the Pakistan Resolution suggested more than one state. The use of the plural word was not surprising in 1940 because the Muslim leaders of that time had floated several proposals for two or three Muslim homelands in India. It was against this background that the Pakistan Resolution used the word “states” in order to attract as much support as possible of the Muslim elite living in different parts of India.

If the Pakistan Resolution is read along with other proposals floating among Indian Muslim about their political future, it was not surprising that the resolution used a broadly based text which made sense in the context of 1940.

 The Muslim political struggle shaped up gradually. The Muslim political and societal elite did not demand separate homeland from the beginning. They made different demands for protecting their identity, rights and interests. In March 1940 they floated the idea rejecting the federal model for India. However, the Muslim political movement did not end in 1940. The political developments in the next seven years resulted in changes in their strategies. They were able to put forward their demand for a separate homeland in more precise terms.

 Within two years of the passing of the Pakistan Resolution the Muslim League leadership began to emphasize singular term of state. The communication between Jinnah and M.K. Gandhi clarified the notion of a Muslim homeland.

 Gandhi asked Jinnah in his letter of September 15, 1944 if the constituent units in the two zones would “constitute independent states?” Jinnah’s response in his letter of September 17, 1944, was very categorical: “No. They will form units of Pakistan.”

 The Muslim League formally articulated the notion of a single state in a resolution adopted by the meeting of the newly elected Muslim League members of the central and provincial legislatures in April 1946 in Delhi. The Muslim League contested the 1946 provincial elections on two major claims: the AIML was the sole organization representing the Muslim and that their demand was the establishment of a separate homeland of Pakistan.

 No controversy developed about the interpretation of the Pakistan Resolution in the pre-independence period. However, two kinds of controversies developed in the post-independence period.

 First, a number of regional-nationalist political leaders argued that the provinces should be given autonomy on the Lahore Resolution which talked about the units being autonomous and independent. Some argued for maximum autonomy for provinces with a federal government that exercised very limited powers. A few others suggested that Pakistan should be converted into a confederation where the provinces would be independent or semi-independent.

 Second, in the immediate aftermath of the establishment of Bangladesh in December 1971, a number of writers and political leaders argued that the establishment of two Muslim majority states, Pakistan and Bangladesh, had fully materialized the Pakistan Resolution. It was argued that the Pakistan Resolution envisaged two states for the Muslims of British India and, in December 1971, the second Muslim state came into existence.

 These two interpretations of the March 1940 Resolution are misleading, implying a literalist approach towards its text. This resolution did not offer any framework for distribution of state-power between the center and its units in Pakistan. It addressed the constitutional issues in an all-India context of the 1940s and offered a general statement on settling the Hindu-Muslim question in British India. It suggested a broad framework for articulating the constitutional relationship between the Muslim majority provinces with the rest of India.

 This Resolution used three terms, i.e., units, regions and zones, in the text rather than naming the Muslim majority provinces. Similarly, the resolution did not define the territorial boundaries of the new state. The resolution was the major step in search for a secure political, social-cultural and economic future for the Muslims of British India. By 1945-46 the Muslim League was very clear that it was seeking Pakistan as the homeland for the Muslims.

  The name of Pakistan did not figure in the resolution and there was no mention of identification of the homeland with Islam. The Muslim League never argued that it wanted a separate country because Islam was in danger. Rather, it argued that it wanted a separate state in order to secure the future of the Muslims of British India.

  The Muslim League’s success in the 1946 provincial elections gave electoral strength to the demand for Pakistan.

 Therefore, Pakistan was the product of a political rather than religious movement that incorporated the democratic process.

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PM Narendra Modi’s ‘persuasion’ leads Sri Lanka to rethink CEPA

Posted on 25 March 2015 by admin

In a surprise move, the new Sri Lankan government is bringing back the long-pending CEPA with India to the negotiating table after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “gentle persuasion”, a media report said.
The Sri Lankan government’s move comes despite President MaithripalaSirisena’s assurance to entrepreneurs at a recent meeting of Chamber of Young Lankan Entrepreneurs that he will not go ahead with the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) or any agreement that is detrimental to the domestic industry.
Sirisena had earlier said he deliberately dodged a move to include CEPA on the agenda during his India tour in February, his first foreign visit after taking charge as President.
But Sri Lanka’s Sunday Times quoted highly placed official sources as saying that a high-powered bilateral committee is to be formed to prepare a new draft framework for the purpose.
Sri Lanka despite entering a free trade pact with India was not willing to sign CEPA due to identified disadvantages.
The CEPA has been in the works for many several years but negotiations have proved futile. Sri Lanka’s services sector has voiced apprehensions over perceived advantage it hands to India.
Prime Minister Modi during his visit to Sri Lanka earlier this month assured Sri Lanka that steps would be taken to address its concerns over bilateral trade imbalance, while asserting that the two countries should move “boldly” to conclude the CEPA.
Modi had stated that Sri Lanka has the potential to become India’s “strongest economic partner” in the region and that it should not worry about India’s economic size.
“There are already powerful examples in South Asia that show us that differences in size is no constraint to beneficial partnerships, if we use our strengths and seize our opportunities,” Modi had said.
The bilateral trade between India and Sri Lanka in 2013-14 was USD 5.23 billion with Indian exports amounting to USD 3.98 billion and Sri Lankan exports amounting to USD 678 million.
When asked to clarify Sri Lankan government’s stand on the prospects of reviving the CEPA, Deputy Minister of Policy Planning, Economic Affairs, Harsha de Silva told the paper that any bilateral or multilateral trade pact that benefits Sri Lanka must be pursued — it can be with India or China.
According to the report, Sirisena would discuss an FTA with China when he tours Beijing this month.
Sirisena is expected to rekindle Chinese investment projects in the country, after a controversy surrounded the now suspended USD 1.4-billion Colombo Port City project.
The port city project was regarded key for China’s plans to build a Maritime Silk Road (MSR) in the Indian Ocean.
After Sirisena took office in January, his government decided to re-examine the project and reconsider the outright transfer of a parcel of land to China under the deal signed during his predecessor Mahinda Rajapaksa’s tenure.

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Racism Should Not Become a Conservative Value

Posted on 25 March 2015 by admin

By Samuel Getachew
Toronto

Racism, bigotry and ignorance should have no place in our Canadian society let alone at our highest political institutions. Yet, that is what is happening within the Conservative Party of Canada and the leader of the party should put an end to it. The Prime Minister should speak up sooner rather than later.

When Conservative MP John Williamson cites how “whities” are staying home and being replaced by “brown people” as temporary foreign workers, we should all be alarmed and dismayed. His racist words are comparable to what one-time Reform MP Bob Ringma, who once told a reporter “he would fire or ‘move to the back of the shop’ a homosexual or member of an ethnic minority whose presence turned off bigoted customers.”

Remember what these kinds of statements did to the old Reform party of Preston Manning?

Another MP, Larry Miller, who once used Hitler and the Nazis as references to oppose the gun registry, also recently made a dumb comment about how prospective Canadians should “stay the hell where you came from” if they prefer to wear a niqabduring a Canadian citizenship ceremony. What was said should worry all of us no matter our perspective on the subject and force us to wonder about the extremism and stupidity that still exists in our politics. After all, it gives an impression to the world that we’ve become a cowboy-like country.

The Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound MP is after all described by National Post’s John Ivison as an “important voice inside the Conservative caucus (and) one respected and listened to by everyone, up to and including the Prime Minister”.

Again, another Conservative MP, Chungsen Leung, demanded to know why Iranian-Canadian citizens came to Canada in the first place when asked a tough question on international affairs. He failed to answer the question without his partisan talking points — we should demand better from him despite our political affiliation.

I understand most of these comments came from backbenchers, who former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau once called “nobodies. I understand these “nobodies” are destined to remain comfortably as backbenchers and serve the party machine well in order to win the privilege of government.

Every political party has them and the art of the game is to hide them in the closet, control them and ultimately pay them handsomely with a government pension if they do indeed serve long enough to qualify. Then again, when our leaders fail to punish them when they misbehave, it ultimately destroys the fabric of a modern, successful and multicultural Canadian society. Their presence alone is a missed-opportunity and a mockery of our sacred political institution.

Then, when Canada’s Defence Minister, Jason Kenney, follows in their footsteps andacts like he is not worthy of the position he holds, we should immediately demand for his resignation.

Kenney, who is perhaps the most partisan member of the Conservative Cabinet, recently tweeted photographs of Muslim girls in chains and thanked the Canadian Forces “for joining the fight against #ISIL’s campaign to enslave women & girls.”

An Ottawa Citizen article describes how the photo did not represent extremism, but in fact, “a re-enactment that is part of the annual Ashura ceremony celebrated by Shia Muslims the world over.” Then, when he was asked to correct himself and apologize, he has decided to remain silent. We should all be alarmed and expect better from him and our Prime Minister. How can we not?

We should be alarmed, dismayed and shocked by all of these. Each are a shock to the system, however, the action of the Defence Minister is especially concerning. Shouldn’t one of Canada’s most senior elected officials, a prospective leader of the Conservative Party of Canada and a potential future Prime Minister act and conduct himself better while remaining less partisan?

Almost always, our governments are a reflection of our values and how the world knows us to be. I hope this is not the new Canada of the future.

I understand and love Canadian history and politics. I have admired and still admire those lucky enough to serve in our politics. Most are distinguished — Chris Alexander, Niki Ashton, Elizabeth May and Irwin Cotler — and remind us to envision a dream for our Canadian politics as they bring passion, substance and experienced perspectives to our political discourse no matter how partisan they are.

Preston Manning once described how “What used to be considered conservative values, are increasingly becoming more mainstream values.”

I hope racism, ignorance and stupidity are not becoming mainstream Canadian values, let alone values endorsed by the Conservative Party of Canada. I hope the Prime Minister understands in his awkward silence, he is giving the impression that he is actually endorsing all the ills we have seen from members of his caucus in recent months.

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Marriage is the new class divide

Posted on 25 March 2015 by admin

Here’s a tale of two young women. I’ve made them up, but I’ve known versions of them both.

The first is Stephanie, age 28. Her future is bright. Her mom’s a teacher and her father is a small-time lawyer. They’re not rich but they’re comfortable, and they’ve always been devoted parents. They must have read Goodnight Moon to her 5,000 times. They supervised her homework, and when she showed athletic promise, they spent tens of thousands of dollars so that she could compete on the teenage ski circuit. University was a given. Now, she’s a lawyer too. She’s moved in with her boyfriend, an engineer. Her parents adore him. At Christmas, he surprised her with a ring (she was expecting it) and next spring, they’re getting married. They’re saving up to buy a condo, and they both want kids when they can afford it – they want to give their children the same advantages they had.

Tammi is also 28. Her future is less bright. Her mom and dad never stayed in school past high school, and they drank. They split up when she was young. Her dad moved away, married someone else and had more kids. She hasn’t seen him much since then. Mom had a few boyfriends who came and went; one made moves on Tammi. Although she graduated from high school, academics were not her thing. She and her mom fought a lot, so she moved in with a guy she knew. He was no prize. He smoked a lot of weed and couldn’t hold a job. Marriage wasn’t in the cards. But when she accidentally got pregnant at 22, they decided to keep the baby. She really wanted to be a mom. Four years ago they split, and now he’s living with another woman. She had another child with someone else and lives in public housing now. She wants to go to community college and become a social worker, but child care is a problem and she hasn’t gotten around to applying yet.

Money isn’t all that separates these two women. While growing up, Stephanie had far more social capital – the web of networks and support that children need to flourish. This difference will be passed along to her children. They will get French immersion, ski lessons and huge amounts of parental and grandparental attention. Tammi’s children will probably have chaotic and unstable lives, much like her own.

The opportunity gap is the subject of Robert Putnam’s widely discussed new book, Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis. He argues that we should stop fixating on the 1 per cent and focus on the inequality that really matters: the huge differences in social capital between the top and bottom thirds. In the United States, where economic disruption and high incarceration rates have inflicted far more damage on working-class men, the gap is far greater than it is in Canada. But the questions raised by Our Kids matter to us, too. They raise the prospect of a world where inequality is baked into the cake.

In Canada today, just over 19 per cent of children live with single parents, and another 16.3 live with parents who are common-law, according to Statistics Canada. Back in 1981, most of Canada’s young single mothers were separated or divorced. By 2001, nearly two-thirds of them had never been married. Single motherhood is increasingly common among less-educated women, but scarce among the more educated. In the United States, nearly 70 per cent of children born to high-school graduates grow up in single-parent households. Just 10 per cent of the children of university graduates do.

Single mothers can be good parents, too. But mountains of evidence show that the breakdown of traditional families among less-educated people has been terrible for children and society.

You can argue endlessly (and people do) about the connections among economic upheaval, poverty and family disruption. But one thing is clear: In 1960s North America, social mores began to change dramatically. People were no longer shunned or ostracized for failing to conform to society’s norms. Expressiveness began to replace duty. Shotgun weddings became obsolete and divorce rates soared. Out-of-wedlock births shot up. The behaviour of the more- and less-educated classes began to diverge sharply, and it was kids further down the ladder who suffered most.

Today, these classes live in two different worlds, one in which neo-traditional marriage is flourishing and one in which two-parent families are dying off. Ironically, the people who have constructed traditional families for themselves are often loath to condemn the behaviour of others, for fear of seeming unenlightened, intolerant or judgmental.

What’s to be done? No one knows, which is no doubt the reason why politicians prefer to discuss the travails of the middle class instead. Universal daycare and prekindergarten? There’s no evidence they reduce the opportunity gap for poor kids. Urging moms like Tammi to read and talk more to their children? Idealists are hopeful, but the idea smacks of wishful thinking. More social transfers to single mothers? In Canada, we actually do a pretty good job of this now. What about mentorship programs and better interventions for troubled kids? Yes, by all means. But the fact is that successful child-rearing is a two-parent job.

Well, then, let’s back marriage. But how, pray tell, are we supposed to do that? David Brooks of The New York Times speaks wistfully of a “moral revival” that might occur through “organic communal effort, with voices from everywhere saying gently: This we praise. This we don’t.” But who is “we”? And who’s listening?

There must be other ideas out there. If only I had a clue what they might be.

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How to be more creative: Do it when you’re tired

Posted on 25 March 2015 by admin

Wayne Johnston has never dug into the science of creativity, but the Toronto-based novelist’s work habits are a perfect example of it.

As writers know, you can’t just summon the muse at will. Anyone who has been stuck looking for novel solutions to problems similarly knows how elusive they can be. But research has shown that if you want to produce your most creative thought, you should do it when you’re sleepy.

 “There are actually more and more studies out there that show that’s kind of how creativity happens – it’s where you just let your mind be open because you’re tired,” says Dr. Mareike Wieth, an associate professor in the department of psychological science at Albion College in Michigan.

In a study published in the journal Thinking & Reasoning in 2011, Wieth looked at how rest affects our ability to solve different types of problems. The study found that we tend to solve so-called incremental problems, ones that require analytic thinking, much better when we are well rested. But when it comes to “insight problems,” the ones that require “aha!” moments, being tired is a huge advantage, with research subjects solving them 20- to 30-per-cent better when tired. The brain isn’t working at its most efficient when you’re sleepy, making it more apt to make unusual connections.

Just ask Johnston. Since he began writing full-time in 1989, the Goulds, Nfld.,-native, who is currently finishing the third book in a trilogy that includes The Colony of Unrequited Dreams andThe Custodian of Paradise, has been the ultimate night owl.

“When I am working on a novel, which I am now, I usually would have dinner around 10 p.m. and then start writing around midnight.” He’d finish around 7 a.m., then have breakfast and go to bed. He doesn’t operate that way to chase inspiration; that’s just always been his preferred MO. But around 4 or 5 in the morning, when he’s at his furthest from sleep, the writing changes.

“That’s when the poetry comes. I will sometimes switch at those moments, or when I’m feeling that way, I’ll switch from writing a certain kind of section to writing a somewhat lyrical or poetic type section of the book that I know needs to be written.”

It’s a long journey through the night to those moments, Johnston says. There is exposition to write, dialogue to get down on paper, dramatic scenes to map out.

Writing is work, after all. It requires labour. But there’s a lesson in Wieth’s study and Johnston’s work habits: If you’re looking for flashes of poetry try searching when you’re sleepy.

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Is Ranbir listening? Chemistry brewing between Kat and Aditya

Posted on 25 March 2015 by admin

Much before “Fitoor”, their first film together, hits the big screen, actors Katrina Kaif and Aditya Roy Kapoor will be seen scorching the small screen in an upcoming commercial for mango drink Slice.

While Katrina’s love for mangoes will continue to reflect in the commercial, Aditya will join her and will be seen as someone who is smitten by Katrina and her love for mangoes. Katrina says she had a fun time shooting for the ad.

“I had no idea I had a fellow mango enthusiast in Aditya Roy Kapur. The shooting of the Slice commercial was so much fun especially since we shared a great rapport on the sets of ‘Fitoor’,” the actress said in a statement.

She describes the new ad as “playful, intriguing and refreshing with another mango crazy person in Aditya”. The ad will go live on April 1. Meanwhile, the duo’s film “Fitoor”, directed by Abhishek Kapoor, is slated to release in the Valentine’s Week of 2016.

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