Archive | November, 2015

The race to find ‘biomarkers’ that can predict dementia

Posted on 26 November 2015 by admin

In a laboratory on the south side of town one August afternoon, a man names animals as he paces down a walkway: Aardvark. Bear. Camel. Dog. Giraffe. That same afternoon in a lab on the north side of town, a graduate student is poring over data generated by a rare seven-tesla MRI. The brain imaging machine is the most powerful of its kind in Canada, and one of fewer than 60 in the world.

The south-side lab belongs to Manuel Montero Odasso, a geriatrician who studies gait and mobility. The north-side lab belongs to Robert Bartha, a physicist who works with cutting-edge imaging technology. But both researchers — and countless others around the world — are in pursuit of the same thing: dementia “biomarkers,” bodily clues that could predict the existence of the brain disorder years before its worst symptoms take hold.

That two scientists in the same city could be taking such divergent approaches speaks to the sheer challenge involved. Dementia affects nearly 50 million people worldwide, yet there is no single positive-or-negative test for it, only a combination of exams that support a diagnosis.

Biomarker research could provide more certainty for patients. But it could also bring more grief: should doctors tell patients their minds will one day unravel if there is no treatment? Decades of drug trials have failed to cure the disease.

“If tomorrow I could diagnose someone with Alzheimer’s disease five years before they got the symptoms, that would be a huge victory for us in terms of diagnosis. But the bottom line is we don’t have an effective treatment,” says Bartha.

Yet many researchers also believe that the best hope for a dementia drug is to intervene before memory problems become apparent. By the time symptoms are obvious, the brain is already ravaged. To peer inside the brain earlier — figuratively or literally — we need biomarkers.

“Maybe if you give (treatment) before the symptoms are full blown and the brain is already deteriorated, you’ll be able to postpone the disease significantly or change the course altogether,” says Bartha. “So having that biomarker that identifies people early is critical to defining new drugs and evaluating whether or not they’re going to be effective.”

Tim Costello, the 72-year-old man listing animals as he walks, is part of a study led by Montero Odasso that has been running since 2007 at London’s Parkwood Institute, involving 150 participants. The subjects, who have mild cognitive impairment — a diagnosis that sometimes leads to full-blown Alzheimer’s and sometimes doesn’t — return to the lab every six months to repeat the same series of tests.

They walk down a sensor-filled pathway as they undertake a series of cognitively demanding tasks. They count backwards from 100 by ones, and then by sevens. They list as many animals as they can. They balance on a platform. A computer records tiny variances in their gait and balance.

Normal adults slow down if they attempt cognitively demanding tasks while walking. But Montero Odasso has found that patients with cognitive impairment slow down more, and their gait becomes more uneven. If a simple walking test could predict who among the cognitively impaired will advance to more serious dementia, it would have immediate benefits — especially because other targets for biomarker research, such as spinal fluid, are invasive or expensive to obtain.

With gait analysis, “You can do it any time, anyplace,” says Montero Odasso, who is also a clinician-scientist at Western University.

The research also raises fascinating questions about our species, since bipedalism and brain expansion were both crucial adaptations in the evolution of Homo sapiens. In fact, many believe they were linked: that walking upright was necessary to develop bigger, more sophisticated brains. Other mammals, such as cats, can walk in a straight line even without a functioning cortex. But in humans, important aspects of cognition like attention and memory share the same brain circuits that control gait and navigation.

In Bartha’s lab at Western University’s Robarts Research Institute, multiple experiments are underway. But perhaps the most exciting is a collaboration among biophysicists, cell biologists, chemists and others at the multidisciplinary institute: the team is trying to develop injectable chemical tracers that would cling to early imbalances in the dementia-damaged brain and light up under an MRI scan.

 “They would kind of hunt out and stick to pathological changes associated with Alzheimer’s disease,” says Bartha. “It’s not something we’re actually doing in people yet — we’re still in the animal phase of testing — but it’s really a neat idea, and I think that’s the big future for imaging.”

Researchers already use a type of imager known as PET to scan for abnormal brain proteins linked to dementia, but in the context of clinical trials and other research — not as a diagnostic tool. PET systems are also rare, requiring long waits.

“In terms of getting this out to people, they wouldn’t have to wait a year or two for a scan. MRI is much more accessible, and it’s much cheaper than PET,” says Bartha. MRI is also a more flexible tool. “We can take really nice pictures, but we can also look at how the brain is functioning; we can do a memory test while someone is in the scanner.”

Montero Odasso and Bartha both see their own approach as the future. But they do not see themselves in competition: in fact, the participants in Montero Odasso’s trial undergo MRIs in Bartha’s lab, and both lead teams in the Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging, a massive research network that aims to promote collaboration among top scientists and lead to transformative results.

Biomarkers: where else are researchers looking?

 Saliva: University of Alberta research presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in July showed that in a small sample of diseased and non-diseased patients, those with dementia had different patterns of certain substances that are the byproducts of metabolism. The evidence is very preliminary, but presents a tantalizing opportunity if it can be validated, because saliva is so easy to obtain.

 Cerebrospinal fluid: Research has suggested that those with dementia have different levels of amyloid and tau, two abnormal proteins linked to Alzheimer’s, in their cerebrospinal fluid, the clear fluid that protects the brain and spinal cord. Other proteins indicative of damage to the brain’s synapses, such as one called neurogranin, are also being probed.

 Blood: Researchers are also investigating whether abnormal levels of proteins can be detected in blood — a bodily fluid that is much easier to obtain and much more cost-effective, but still more invasive than other techniques.

 Eye: Researchers with the Ontario Neurodegenerative Disease Research Initiative are investigating eye movement as a potential biomarker, since some patterns, such as jumping between objects passing by a car window, are linked to the brain’s frontal lobe, where early damage occurs in Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases. The researchers are also examining how nerve fibres and blood vessels change over time in the eyes of dementia patients. Research elsewhere has suggested that amyloid and tau can be detected in dementia sufferer’s eye lenses.

 Brain: Since dementia is a neurodegenerative disorder, naturally, researchers are investigating many different biomarkers in the brain, including the presence of inflammation, evidence of altered proteins and simple brain size.

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Ask Parineeti: How to deal with winters?

Posted on 26 November 2015 by admin

Vivacious Parineeti Chopra will soon be seen in a new commercial endorsing a moisturizing lotion that promises to take care of winter woes and ensure proper skin care in the harsh months ahead.

The national Award winner will endorse Emami Ltd’s new variant of skincare products – ABoroPlus Cocoa Soft Moisturising Lotion.

“Parineeti is the latest entrant to the Emami endorsers’ club and becomes the face for brand Boro-Plus which boasts an ensemble star power like Amitabh Bachchan and Kangana Ranaut.

“The new variant of the BoroPlus range of skincare products is developed by Ayurvedic and international skin experts and packs in the goodness of natural ingredients,” a statement said on Monday.

The new ad film will run in cinema halls with blockbuster movies and will also be promoted digitally.

“The film is going to be rolled out primarily in UP, Maharashtra, nCR, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Karnataka,” the statement said.

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Daisy Shah: I am not a showpiece in ‘Hate Story 3′

Posted on 26 November 2015 by admin

Daisy shah who will be seen in bold character in Hate story 3 said here on Wednesday evening that she was not just an attraction in the movie.

“i think my character is not just for entertainment. i am not just a showpiece in the movie. it is worth to play such a role. if my role wasn’t that much important i could have not been featured prominently in the poster.” The actress claimed in an exclusive interview.

Daisy, the actress exhibits her sensuous side in the song “Tu isaq Mera” in the trailer went on saying “there are two songs picturised on me. Earlier it was decided there would be one song then Vishal (Pandya) added one more”.

Daisy who appeared opposite salman Khan in “Jai Ho” talked about her role, “i am playing a character of Kaya sharma, a strong headed business woman. and she can go to any extent to protect her business.” she added further.

“i am happy that the trailer has been appreciated by audience and also liked the music of the film. So it is kind of boost for the movie,” she said.

Responding to a question about salman Khan’s reaction after watching the trailer, Daisy said “he liked it and was happy the way we are moving forward with our career. He also mentioned that he has allowed us (Diasy and Zarine) to work in this movie. so whoever thinks that he advised me not to take the movie, salman made it clear for them,” she added.

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P-Your Vision: The Creative Storyteller

Posted on 19 November 2015 by admin

Can you imagine being able to travel to America, Mexico, the Bahamas, Iceland, Sri Lanka and all over Canada as your job? P-Your Vision is that dream job. I came across them when I saw a wedding video that made me smile from beginning to end. Here is their story.

Launched in 2008, P-Your Vision consists of Prashanna “Sean” Jeyaseelan, Claude Quammie and Rob Cole alongside a few editors. Sean’s wife, Rathika, helps with the administrative work.

The videos they produce are a story tailored to each couple they meet. It is a glimpse of their love story. And by adding a touch of P Your Vision’s passion for storytelling and creativity, they are able to produce a piece of art that is unique to that couple.

Sean’s first memory with his company is when his good friend, Suresh Kanegalingam, gave him his first Canon XL2 camera. His now-brother in law, Wijendra Ganesharatnam, gave him his first Apple laptop. The big break was when Professor Joseph Stephen took Sean on as his apprentice. This was Seans’ first hands-on opportunity to film. A special mention also goes to Prashanna’s wife, Rathika, who has always believed in him and pushed him to achieve his goals and has his utmost gratitude. They are crucial aspects to the foundation that started this company.

Videography may seem fun with all the travelling and meeting new people, but the challenging part is being your own biggest critique. Every time Sean and his team share a video, he tries to be better than his last piece of art. At times, this can be mentally exhausting. Being hard on oneself is a habit many endure to help grow and succeed.

“Each fall was a lesson learned.”

There’s something you need to know about this industry – the intense time and effort that is put into each video. Sean always wanted to be different and to not follow the norm, but wanted to stay relevant. That is what he wishes others understood about his line of work.

Of the numerous people he has met, he shares that the best part is to be able to cross paths with all kinds of different people and develop great friendships. His family and friends are extremely supportive when it comes to his line of work. They often mention he is fortunate enough to have his own business and travel the world filming.

For up and coming videographers, Sean’s personal advice is:

“Dedication and finding your individual style are key. Love for the art will take you a long way. It also takes a bit more to withstand the hurdles you will face in the industry. Just be strong.”

If it weren’t for this business, Sean would be travelling the world filming nature and wildlife with National Geographic. At the moment, he is pursuing his passion in creating documentaries that tell a story about the world. Ideally he would like to give back and make a difference.

Sean’s off-hours consist of hiking, portaging and camping. The best part of his life is that he can stop working and simply spend the day with his three fur kids (aka four-legged children). The dogs are wonderful ways of helping Sean relax from hectic days. As a fellow dog mother myself, a fur child is a blessing for sure!

The company’s future consists of branching off into commercial, corporate work and to film documentaries.

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Trudeau should stand firm after Paris attacks, spell out military, refugee plans

Posted on 19 November 2015 by admin

Well, that didn’t take long.

Within hours of the attacks, interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose demanded that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government “immediately” reverse its decision to pull Canadian warplanes from bombing runs in Iraq and Syria. “It’s important that we remain resolute and support our allies,” she said. The implication is, the Liberals are about cutting and running.

Meanwhile online petitions — Stop the Immigration of Refugees to Canada and Non à l’immigration des 25,000 réfugiés — had garnered 85,000 signatures and nods of support by Monday. And Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall urged Ottawa to suspend plans to grant speedy asylum to Syrians fleeing the civil war.

Undeniably, the fallout from Paris puts pressure on Trudeau to respond quickly to public concern. He needs to spell out clearly the “robust” military role he intends Canada to play after bringing home the warplanes; and also how he intends to identify, carefully screen and resettle refugees. So far, the Liberals have been long on good intentions and short on specifics.

After Paris, Trudeau does not have the luxury of temporizing, or retreating behind bland ministerial statements that all is unfolding as it should. Some people at least are rattled. They want leadership and a sharper sense of the government agenda. That’s only to be expected.

The Conservatives need reminding that Canadians by a margin of two to one supported parties that ran on pledges to reverse Tory policy by ending the bombing and providing more generous asylum. Trudeau isn’t making this up on the fly. Canada isn’t cutting and running. And we’re not at risk of being flooded with terrorists disguised as refugees.

Militarily, Trudeau intends to “refocus … Canada’s efforts … on the training of local forces and humanitarian support.” That balance is what the public voted for. Canada is one of the few allies in the American-led coalition fighting the Islamic State that has been daring enough to put troops in harm’s way by training Kurdish fighters and targeting jihadists. That’s riskier than bombing. Trudeau plans to step up the training role. Canada has also supplied reconnaissance and refuelling aircraft to assist our allies.

Nor is Ottawa shirking on the humanitarian side. We have supplied $1 billion in aid to the region, resettled 20,000 Iraqis here, and promised to take in 25,000 Syrians.

As French ambassador Nicolas Chapuis put it over the weekend, Canada is “a land of asylum” much like his own. Syria’s refugees “are not the barbarians … they are fleeing the barbarians,” he said.

Despite the clamour in Europe and here at home to bar the gates, U.S. President Barack Obama warned that “slamming doors in their faces would be a betrayal of our values.”

If Trudeau’s critics have a valid point, it is that people expect more leadership and clarity of purpose than we have seen so far.

On the military side, Ottawa seems intent on beefing up the small contingent of special forces trainers. If so, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan should spell out by how many, what their role will be, how close to the front lines they will serve, and how long they will be there. He must also decide whether our other aircraft will remain, and whether Ottawa will deploy further resources.

As for Syrian refugees, we need to hear more from Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale than airy assurances that “appropriate security checks” can be done in time to bring many refugees here by year’s end. That strains belief. Do we have the diplomatic, security and immigration staff to screen so many refugees with confidence within a few weeks?

All that said, on the issues of principle — maintaining a credible military role, helping refugees – Trudeau should stand firm, however much the critics may carp. He has the mandate.


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Canadian man falsely IDed as Paris terrorist

Posted on 19 November 2015 by admin

A Canadian man is defending his name and reputation after he was falsely depicted as one of the masterminds of Friday’s deadly attacks in Paris.

Veerender Jubbal took to Twitter after an altered photo of him began surfacing in international media with captions identifying him as a terrorist. A Spanish newspaper, La Razon, has since apologized for running the doctored picture.

The original image of Jubbal was a selfie that showed him posing in his bathroom with the iPad in his hand that was used to take the photograph.

But it was manipulated to show him wearing a suicide vest and holding a Qu’ran.

Jubbal tweeted that the image had made its way onto the front page of La Razon with a caption identifying him as one of the suicide bombers that stormed the French capital on Friday, killling at least 129 people and injuring scores of others.

He says it wasn’t long before people around the world, including family members in India, had seen the image and reached out to let him know about it.

In addition to defending his name, Jubbal also criticized the photoshoppers for mistaking a Sikh for a member of the Islamic State, which has claimed responsibility for the co-ordinated attacks in Paris.

“In gauging this entire incident — millions upon millions of people have seen the photoshopped images, and have placed me as a terrorist,” Jubbal tweeted, adding the “strange” situation has him pondering suing newspapers that published the altered image.

The case highlights how vulnerable today’s online citizens are, said Melonie Dodaro, a Kelowna, B.C.-based social media consultant. Even non-controversial content can become dangerous in the wrong hands, she pointed out.

“The Internet’s the Wild, Wild West,” she said. “There are not a lot of things you can do to protect yourself.”

Jubbal retweeted messages of support that decry the picture’s potential consequences.

“Portraying @Veeren_Jubbal as a terrorist puts his life at risk, ruins his reputation. This is online terrorism,” wrote one Twitter user.

Others openly mused about the racial mix-up and wondered whether they could be subjected to similarly arbitrary typecasting.

“As a white European living in England, should I worry that I have recently grown a beard?” another Twitter user asked him.

Other tweets documented some of the backlash that came Jubbal’s way after the picture first surfaced.

“Can’t believe people told @Veeren_Jubbal one way of avoiding being photoshopped to look like a terrorist is to not post selfies online.”

Jubbal wrote that he watched his name and image become a globally trending topic on social media, adding that other publications besides the Spanish newspaper had reprinted the image.

Amid the social media posts detailing the incident, Jubbal issued a message to those who altered the image.

“Learn the difference between me being a Sikh and a Muslim,” he wrote.


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After Paris

Posted on 19 November 2015 by admin

Author: Richard N. Haass

President, Council on Foreign Relations

The attacks in Paris by individuals associated with the Islamic State, coming on the heels of bombings in Beirut and the downing of a Russian airliner over the Sinai Peninsula, reinforce the reality that the terrorist threat has entered a new and even more dangerous phase. Just why the Islamic State decided to stage its attacks now is a matter for conjecture; it may well be that it is going global to compensate for its recent loss of territory in Iraq. But whatever the rationale, what is certain is that a clear response is warranted.

Actually, the challenge posed by the Islamic State calls for several responses, as there is no single policy that promises to be sufficient. Multiple efforts are needed in multiple domains.

One is military. More intense attacks from the air against Islamic State military assets, oil and gas facilities, and leaders is critical. But no amount of air power on its own will ever get the job done. A substantial ground component is needed if territory is to be taken and held.

Unfortunately, there is no time to build a partner force on the ground from scratch. This has been tried and failed, and Arab states are unable or unwilling to constitute one. The Iraqi army has also come up short. Iran-backed militias only make matters worse.

The best option is to work more closely with Kurdish troops and select Sunni tribes in both Iraq and Syria. This means providing intelligence, arms, and being willing to send more soldiers – more than the 3,500 Americans already there, and possibly on the order of 10,000 – to train, advise, and help direct a military response.

Such an effort must be collective. It can be informal – a “coalition of the willing” that would include the United States, France, the United Kingdom, Arab states, and even Russia under the right circumstances – or carried out under NATO or United Nations auspices. The packaging matters less than the results. Symbolic declarations of war, though, ought to be considered with caution, lest the Islamic State appear to be winning every day it does not lose.

A diplomatic component is no less essential to any response. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is a recruiting tool for the Islamic State and must go. But any successor government must be able to maintain order and not permit the Islamic State to exploit a power vacuum, as it has done in Libya.

Moreover, orderly political change can be brought about only with Russian and Iranian support. One near-term option worth exploring is a coalition government still headed by a representative of the Alawite minority, a concession that could well be the price of moving Assad out of power. In principle, and over time, a more representative national government could come about, although talk of holding elections in 18 months is fanciful under any scenario.

But reaching a compromise along these lines could well be impossible. This is why increased military effort is needed to bring about larger and more secure enclaves that could better protect civilians and take the fight to the Islamic State. Syria is not a normal country in any sense, and it will not be for a long time, if ever. A Syria of enclaves or cantons is a more realistic model for the foreseeable future.

Other indispensable elements of any effective strategy include expanded help for or pressure on Turkey to do much more to stem the flow of recruits to the Islamic State. And Turkey, along with Jordan and Lebanon, need more financial assistance as they shoulder the bulk of the refugee burden. Arab and Muslim leaders can do their part by speaking out to challenge the Islamic State’s vision and delegitimize its behavior.

There is also a domestic dimension to policy. Homeland security and law enforcement – increasing protection both at borders and within them – will have to adjust to the increased threat. Retail terrorists – individuals or small groups carrying out armed attacks against soft targets in open societies – are extremely difficult to deal with. The threat and the reality of attacks will require greater social resilience and quite possibly a rebalancing of individual privacy and collective security.

What is also required is a dose of realism. The struggle against the Islamic State is not a conventional war. We cannot eradicate or destroy it any time soon, as it is as much a network and an idea as it is an organization and a de facto state that controls territory and resources.

Indeed, terrorism is and will continue to be one of the scourges of this era. The good news, though, is that the threat posed by the Islamic State to the Middle East and the rest of the world can be dramatically reduced through sustained, concerted action. The main lesson of the attack on Paris is that we must be prepared to act over time and place alike.


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Toronto Nowhere Near Ready For Refugees: Citizenship Judge

Posted on 19 November 2015 by admin

Thousands of Syrian refugees will arrive in Toronto over the coming weeks.

The federal government has promised details soon about how it will bring 25,000 refugees to Canada by year’s end and where they will be housed.

But how ready is Toronto?

A retired citizenship judge who was once a refugee himself said that the logistical details of resettling thousands of Syrians are immense and Toronto is not close to being ready.

Aris Babikian grew up in Aleppo, Syria, and lived in Beirut. He came to Toronto 38 years ago when civil war broke out in Lebanon. As the head of the Armenian National Federation, he worked with the government to bring 5,000 Iraqi refugees here every year for five years.

He said, on a readiness scale of one to 10, Toronto is barely at 2 or 3

“We don’t have any plans yet from the federal government,” said Babikian. “With all the good intentions and compassion, we are still struggling with this issue.”

For instance, Babikian said, he went to meet with one of the organizations helping refugees, Lifeline Syria, and they don’t even have an office yet.

Over the past three years, Babikian has helped hundreds of Syrians come to Canada.

At first, he said, refugees thought the crisis might be short-lived, and they might be able to return. “But in the last three years, they gave up hope that the crisis would be resolved,” he said.

Fulfilling basic needs

Babikian said there are steps to successful resettling.

The first key struggle for new refugees to Canada is a financial one.

“Many have lost everything; coming with one or two suitcases,” he said. “They have difficulty renting places — paying first and last months’ rent.”

The next hurdle is finding a job. “They have no employment record here,” he said. That extends to education.

Most school-age refugees, from high school through to university, have lost a year or two and are having difficulties being accepted in university. And there is again the problem of documentation. “Universities are asking for too many records for many refugees to provide,” he said.

If those two challenges can be successfully navigated, the next priority, according to Babikian, is furniture and basic household items like cutlery, pots and pans.

But resettling is more than finding homes and work, Babikian said. “They need psychological treatment because they have gone through so much trauma — in their cities and in the refugee camps. The treatment from local people in Jordan and Turkey, for example, was terrible,” Babikian said.

Another challenge Babikian sees with Syrians coming to Canada now is they are alone. Under different circumstances, refugees could join existing networks of family or friends. But the urgency here makes that impossible for most Syrians.

“When you bring so many people to new culture, new country, new traditions, we’ll have problems,” he said. “But we have to plan as perfectly as possible. We need to minimize the strain and the anxiety as much as possible.”


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Can Rona Ambrose find her own voice?

Posted on 19 November 2015 by admin

Rona Ambrose’s first day as interim leader of the official Opposition got off to an intriguing start. While her caucus colleague Jason Kenney was fulminating on Twitter, somehow blaming Justin Trudeau for the death of the Keystone XL pipeline, Ambrose took a far more measured stance.

“I spoke to Prime Minister Trudeau today and encouraged him to continue advocating for market access for the energy sector,” said Ambrose, the Conservative MP for Sturgeon River–Parkland in Alberta, in a written statement last Friday.

“The official Opposition urges the new government to open talks with the U.S. government as soon as possible,” the statement continued.

It’s the calm, cool language you’d hope to see from an opposition leader. But the contrast between Ambrose’s diplomatic diction and the heated rhetoric of Conservative partisans shows just how large a challenge she faces as the public face of a divided party.

Things heated up even more later in the day when Ambrose appeared on CBC-TV’sPower and Politics and said she supported a national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women. She called it a non-partisan issue — a remarkable about-face, given Stephen Harper’s fierce resistance to such an inquiry.

By Friday night, vocal Conservative partisans were on Twitter, calling for her resignation.

When Ambrose entered public life, she came across as funny, smart, self-deprecating, not a rigid ideologue. When she became environment minister, in 2006, she was a rising star, the youngest woman ever appointed to cabinet.

But the environment portfolio was a truly no-win job in a Harper regime. After less than a year, Harper demoted her to western economic diversification.

She became more and more careful, more and more nervous with the media. She seemed terrified of going off-script or deviating from the PMO-issued party line. Strict loyalty got her promoted, but didn’t win her much public respect.

“Her time in the environment ministry didn’t go well for her, and anyone who’s been through that baptism of fire becomes cautious,” says Danielle Smith, the former Wildrose leader. “But you lose something when you stick to the script. You lose some personality.”

Now Ambrose has to be in the spotlight, in both official languages. And she has to bridge the re-opened gulf between the party’s Reform and Progressive Conservative wings. She needs to find her own voice — and backbone.

Kim Krushell is a former Edmonton city councillor who dealt with Ambrose on Edmonton’s light-rapid transit file.

“She had a job to do as a cabinet minister and that was to stay on message, and she did that job,” says Krushell. “Now she needs to step up into this new job and show more of herself.

“I’ve seen her do stilted speeches. But I’ve also talked to her when she’s more herself than what the media has seen. She’s an introvert and she’s guarded with the media. She’s a reserved person, but I’ve also found her to be someone who will listen.”

Interim party leader is an unenviable task at the best of times. Bob Rae did it well for the federal Liberals, after the Michael Ignatieff flame-out. Dave Hancock handled the role with good grace for the Alberta Progressive Conservaitves after the Alison Redford meltdown.

But Ambrose may have a harder and more thankless task.

It’s going to be especially challenging, says Smith, with so many social issues on Trudeau’s agenda — from marijuana legalization to changes to the sex trade laws to doctor-assisted suicide. It won’t be easy for the Conservatives to present a new and united image, when caucus social conservatives are at odds with more libertarian conservatives on such emotional issues.

And it will be harder if caucus members gunning to become the next leader pander to the hard-core party base and undercut her authority.

“She’s going to have to be the grown-up in the room,” says Smith. “I think she’s going to be a careful caretaker, solid and not embarrassing.”

Even without Harper’s controlling hand, Ambrose may not be truly able to speak for herself if she has to represent the will of her caucus, Smith says.

But Krushell says Ambrose must redefine herself to keep her party from lurching far to the right and into electoral oblivion.

“There’s a lot of enthusiasm about Trudeau and the Liberals. To offset that, she’s going to have to reach out. She has an opportunity to set a different tone, to be more open and transparent and listen to what people have to say. I think she’s going to have to change. She’s going to have to learn to deal with the media and seem real.”


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On-the-same-page civil-military relations ruffles

Posted on 19 November 2015 by admin

Dr. Hasan Askari 

  No analysis of Pakistani politics and state affairs is possible without taking into civil-military relations (CMR). The stability in civil-military relations is the key to the overall stability in the political system. This equation is so important that top leaders of the civilian federal government often talk of the military and the civil government being on one page. The reality is that the so-called page is controlled by the military and civilian leadership situates itself on that page. This “on-the-same-page” narrative runs into trouble from time to time.

 The civilian federal government was perturbed by the statement issued at the conclusion of the Corps Commanders meeting on November 10, 2015 that called upon the civilian government to fill the gaps in the implementation of the National Action Plan (NAP).

A similar discussion took place in the meeting of the top brass of the Army with the Prime Minister and his top colleagues a day earlier. However, the public expression of the top commanders’ displeasure on poor governance and a lack of supportive civilian role for the Army’s counter-terrorism operations caused much distress in the ruling PMLN circles.

  The Prime Minister faced a dilemma on this issue.

 If he responded to the Army’s statement it was bound to build strains in civil-military relations. If he ignored the statement, many political leaders and the media persons would have accused him of surrendering more and more space to the military and bowing to their pressures.

 The Prime Minister opted the first course of action. His office issued a rejoinder defending the governance track record of the government and declared that the implementation of the NAP was the joint responsibility of all state institutions. On its part, the statement maintained that the government was adopting effective measures to implement various provisions of the NAP.

 Pakistan’s experience suggests that the military invariably enjoys precedence in civil-military relations because Pakistan has been developed as a security state from the early years of independence due to increased security threats from external context and the fear of internal collapse of the state.

The U.S. military and economic assistance helped to modernize the military, thereby accentuating institutional imbalance in Pakistan. The long years of the military’s direct and indirect rule, the weak and divided political leadership in the post military withdrawal period and the Afghanistan war boosted the image of the military.

The military makes the most decisive input to the making of foreign policy and security choices. It enjoys monopoly on Pakistan’s nuclear progamme.

 When Nawaz Sharif assumed power in June 2013 he appeared to command the political system. However, he gradually lost ground to the military in 2014-15. The balance of civil-military relations began to shift away from Nawaz Sharif with the PTI “Dharna” in Islamabad (August-December 2014). As the PMLN top leadership was convinced that the PTI protest enjoyed the blessings of the ISI, it made up its mind to work closely with the military to protect itself from the opposition onslaught.

 The indecisiveness of the Sharif government for countering religious extremism and terrorism adversely affected its capacity to pursue these issues with firmness and clarity. The insistence on a dialogue with Pakistani Taliban when the Taliban did not give any indication of a direct contact with the government showed poor handling of the dialogue option.

Surrounded by Pakistani Taliban sympathizers, Nawaz Sharif delayed the military action, giving enough time to the Taliban leadership to relocate them. It was the Army’s unilateral decision to launch the security operation in North Waziristan on June 15, 2014. The Sharif government was left with no option but to endorse the Army’s decision.

 The leadership role in coping with the terrorism challenge passed on to the Army in the aftermath of the terrorist attack on the Army Public School, Peshawar (December 2014), the setting up of the Apex Committees and the establishment of military court.

 The first signs of strains in civil-military relations emerged in Karachi, when the absence of requisite political support led the Rangers/Army to unilaterally step up the security operation there.

 The PPP-led provincial government and the MQM expressed strong reservations on the stepping up of the Rangers operation. What perturbed the political elite was the Rangers/Army policy of going after the providers of political support and funding to terrorist and extremist groups. This brought the Rangers often in conflict with the political forces in Sindh.

 The Army faced another criticism from the PPP and other opposition parties as to why the issues pertaining to bad governance, corruption and support to terrorism were being raised in Karachi only? Was the province of Punjab immune from these ills or the Army was soft paddling towards the PMLN in the Punjab?

 The Army’s recent frustrations are mainly due to non-availability of the required civilian support in Sindh and the Punjab/federal level for a consistent implementation of the NAP and control of corruption in the government, funding to terrorist groups and the madrassa reforms. The civilian leadership is not likely to adopt a forthright approach on these issues as their support base overlaps with those engaged in these activities.

 The tension between the civil and the military can decrease or increase from time to time and depending on the issue under consideration. However, the management of this relationship will be a delicate balancing for both sides.

 Pakistan faces such an acute internal and external security challenges that neither civilians nor military alone can deal with them. They will have to work together, showing restraint towards the peculiar behavior patterns of each side.

However, if the civilian leadership engages in political adventurism or continues to neglect the imperatives of controlling terrorism and extremism, its survival in power will become doubtful.

Similarly, if the Army decides to set all civilians aside and assume all responsibilities, it may find it difficult to manage the increasingly unmanageable politics. Some semblance of civilian order is required to pursue internal and external security.

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