Archive | December, 2016

My Wife’s Memory Lives On In Our Anti-Cancer Cookbook

Posted on 29 December 2016 by admin

My wife would never call herself a foodie. She was a picky eater who loved salads, eggs for breakfast, sweet treats and spicy foods. Recognizing flavour profiles or the effects avant-garde cooking techniques such as molecular gastronomy have on the food on her plate was never her thing. Neither was adventurous eating. She didn’t like pork belly, foie gras or anything raw, including sushi.

Yet, Julia became one of the best photographers of food and the chefs who prepare it I’ve ever known. She photographed plates meticulously — whether it was fish and chips from a shack in Nova Scotia or an exquisite spread of canapés at one of the nation’s luxury restaurants.

Her desire to present food that looked as fantastic as it tasted was rooted in her professionalism. She sought perfection with every photograph she captured. But Julia also wanted her images to match the pride and dedication the chefs would use when creating their dishes, which were their labours of love. If someone poured their heart into an undertaking, Julia would support them, cheer them and thank them.

She was the most genuinely nice person I have ever known, the most gentle soul and kindhearted spirit.

Just days after Julia was diagnosed in April 2015 with glioblastoma multiforme — the most aggressive form of brain cancer — she and I joined InspireHealth. For several months, we came often to the Vancouver location, taking part in cooking classes, counselling sessions, and nutrition tutorials. Julia called InspireHealth her sanctuary from the clinical and sometimes cold world of mainstream medicine. The team at InspireHealth boosted her spirits, instilled in her hope and confidence, and made her feel supported through the nightmare of a stage 4 cancer diagnosis.

Read the Tribute and Eulogy to’s Julia Pelish

Despite her condition, Julia was determined to find a way to thank InspireHealth for its comfort and services. The idea of Inspired Cooking, a new cookbook featuring 21 of the nation’s best chefs, was hers.

She thought a cookbook with some of Canada’s best-known chefs discussing what nutrition means to them and providing cancer-prevention recipes that could change how future generations eat and think about food could elevate InspireHealth’s profile, helping it expand to offer supportive cancer care to more Canadians.

The plan was for Julia to photograph the chefs and the food, while I volunteered as editor of the cookbook. For more than 20 years, we had done everything together, so neither of us doubted we would be entwined in this project, too. But the disease showed no mercy. Julia passed away in my arms just after 8 a.m. on March 10, 2016.

Inspired Cooking, which features several of her photographs taken in recent years, is part of her legacy. The culinary community from across the country was eager to participate and assist in a project that promises to alter how the nation views nutrition, food sourcing and healthy eating. In the stories in Inspired Cooking, readers will also receive intimate insights into the lives of some of Canada’s leading culinary talents — and learn why beating cancer is so important to them, as well.

Saskatoon’s Dale MacKay, the first winner of the Top Chef Canada competition, is a cancer survivor himself, while the likes of Michael Smith and Vikram Vij express their deep passion and commitment for making sure all of us eat better food, knowing it will lead to healthier living.

You’ll also discover the fascinating diversity of the country’s food choices, both in products and kitchen talent. Chefs such as Calgary’s Roy Oh and Angus An of Vancouver bring their Asian heritage, including philosophies on balanced diets and vegetable-focused dining, to the forefront at their respective restaurants.

Montreal’s Antonio Park looks back at his upbringing in South America where he would cook by his mother’s side after plucking fruits and vegetables from trees and plants right outside of their home. Jason Bangerter of famed Langdon Hall in Cambridge, Ontario, looks forward, making it a point of emphasis to teach his young sons about the farms and gardens that produce the food they eat.

And there are also articles on nine of InspireHealth’s members who are using nutrition to help them deal with their disease.

For me, the cookbook is an expression of love and ongoing devotion to my wife. Julia would be ecstatic to know her idea has manifested into one of the most important and exciting cookbooks ever to be produced in Canada. Inspired Cooking has already been called “the best cookbook of its kind” and “the best edited cookbook of the year” by Best of Food & Wine radio hosts Anthony Gismondi and Kasey Wilson.

For you, the hope from those of us involved in the project, including the team at, is that it makes an impact on how you view daily food choices.

I know you’ll enjoy the stories in the cookbook — and be delighted with the chefs’ great recipes.


Notable: Proceeds from all sales go toward InspireHealth’s not-for-profit cancer-care programs.
Release Date: Dec. 5, 2016
Featured Chefs: The following chefs contributed recipes to Inspired Cooking and are profiled in articles written by some of Canada’s top travel and food journalists.

Eastern Canada
Jeremy Charles (Raymonds, Merchant Tavern), St. John’s, NFLD
Michael Smith (Inn at Bay Fortune), PEI
Chris Aerni (Rossmount Inn), St. Andrews By-the-Sea, NB
Patrice Demers (Patrice Pâtissier), Montreal
Antonio Park (Park, Lavendaria), Montreal
Jason Bangerter (Langdon Hall), Cambridge, ON
Victor Barry (Piano Piano), Toronto
Rob Gentile (Buca), Toronto
Roger Mooking (Twist), Toronto

Western Canada
Dale MacKay (Ayden Kitchen and Bar), Saskatoon, SK
Connie DeSousa and John Jackson (CHARCUT, Charbar), Calgary
Roy Oh (Anju), Calgary
James Walt (Araxi, Bar Oso), Whistler, B.C.
Angus An (Maenam, Longtail Kitchen), Vancouver
Ned Bell (Vancouver Aquarium), Vancouver
Stefan Hartmann (Bauhaus), Vancouver
Jackie Kai Ellis (Beaucoup Bakery), Vancouver
Vikram Vij (Vij’s, Rangoli, My Shanti), Vancouver
Warren Barr (The Pointe Restaurant at the Wickaninnish Inn), Tofino, B.C.

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Heroes and zeroes of 2016

Posted on 29 December 2016 by admin

Let’s face it: 2016 had way more than its share of appalling news.

It began with Donald Trump beating on his Republican rivals like so many cheap piñatas. Amazingly, appallingly, it ended with … Donald Trump, days away from taking the oath as the 45th president of the United States.

It was the year of Brexit and Ghomeshi and Pokémon. And, tragically, it was the year the world stood by and watched as an ancient city and its people were pounded into dust by the bombs of a murderous regime. Aleppo joined a long list of martyred cities, alongside such tragic names as Guernica and Sarajevo.

In Canada, it was a more hopeful year. Justin Trudeau strode the land, his bright shiny government floating on a wave of popularity, the New York Times hailing Canada as newly hip under its dynamic young leader. Everything was going swimmingly – until suddenly it wasn’t with hard questions about cash-for-access and election reform.

List carbon fee separately on household natural gas bills

The Wynne government seems set on using energy bills as a political tool, displaying the numbers it wants voters to see at the top and burying the ones it doesn’t.

Despite a wave of criticism, Premier Kathleen Wynne and Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault have repeatedly refused to ask the Ontario Energy Board to separately list a new carbon fee on household natural gas bills.

They disingenuously argue that Queen’s Park has no authority to overturn the OEB’s decision over how the gas bills will be presented, and the board has already ruled the fee can be buried.

The truth is that while they may not be able to overturn the board’s problematic decision, they can at least ask that the fee be presented separately on consumers’ bills. It’s hard to believe the OEB would turn them down.

The fee, estimated to be about $5 a month on the average gas bill, should be listed separately for two very important reasons.

The first is democratic. The government should be transparent about how much its climate plan is costing Ontarians. It seems more than happy to list the tax rebate it recently offered consumers on their electricity bills. Surely whether or not a given number is likely to be politically popular should not determine where on the bill it appears.

The second is that the carbon fee is aimed at changing consumer behaviour to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But it’s not clear how the charge can have any effect if Ontarians can’t see it.

The government’s intransigence is confounding. The fee is part of Ontario’s promising $8.3-billion cap-and-trade system of carbon pricing to fight climate change. The program, which starts in January, is expected to bring in $1.9 billion annually, which will be re-invested in essential green initiatives, while capping currently unfettered corporate emissions.

It’s perfectly clear that there can be no serious progress on climate change without putting a price on carbon. The Wynne government showed leadership by taking this step. It should stand proudly by it, not pretend it away.

The latest to push for the fees to be listed separately is the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, which rightly argues not flagging the charge undermines the effort to fight climate change.

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Property taxes in Brampton, Mississauga soar above Toronto’s

Posted on 29 December 2016 by admin

The already glaring gap between property taxes in Brampton and Mississauga compared to Toronto, is getting even wider.

The GTA’s second and third largest cities just passed their respective budgets for 2017 last week, and things continue to look grim for homeowners, with tax hikes above inflation and questions about how Mississauga and Brampton will manage the coming onslaught of infrastructure needs, many of which are already being put off.

With the latest budget increases, in 2017 a Brampton home with an assessed value of $500,000 will cost owners about $5,278 in property taxes; in Mississauga a home with the same value will have about $4,498 in property taxes; and in Toronto a home assessed at $500,000 will cost you $3,495 in property taxes (which includes $940 for the education portion and $15 for the transit expansion levy.)

The overall property tax increase Mississauga homeowners will see in 2017 is 2.9 per cent, but this includes the Region of Peel share and the provincial education share. The recently approved increase for just the city’s 2017 portion of the tax bill, which is blended into the overall property tax, is 5.7 per cent.

Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie said it’s unfair to compare her city’s property tax rate to Toronto’s because the two are not operating on an equal footing.

“We cannot build a city on the property tax alone,” Crombie told the Star Monday. “Mississauga should not be treated unequally in relation to Toronto.”

She said Mississauga, like most other Ontario municipalities is too heavily reliant on the property tax base as a revenue tool, while under the provincial City of Toronto Act, Ontario’s largest city is the only one with the option to use special revenue tools such as: a municipal land transfer tax, a sign tax, a personal vehicle tax, an alcohol tax, a tobacco tax, an amusement tax, a parking tax and road pricing (tolls or a congestion charge).

“As Canada’s sixth largest city, we deserve the same revenue tools as Toronto and the authority and autonomy to decide how best to use them in Mississauga to build the city we want and deserve.”

Those tools would only go so far, says the chair of the city’s citizen oversight committee.

“I think it’s honestly, disgusting to have almost a 30 per cent increase in the city’s portion (of the property tax bill) over the last six years,” said John Walmark, who believes high public sector labour costs and the fallout from near-zero per cent tax increases under former mayor Hazel McCallion, are driving his property taxes up, now.

“You can’t run your home and spend not a nickel on it over 10 or 15 years, otherwise things would be falling apart,” he said.

Now, Mississauga, as it matures into a dynamic, major city, has to pay for upkeep on all the things built when growth-related revenues kept city coffers flush, Walmark said.

Crombie said the city formally asked the provincial government for more revenue tools last year. “We recognize the need for additional revenue sources to deliver quality services,” she added, “but we must be equally committed to keep property taxes affordable.”

In Brampton, the city’s share of the property tax bill will go up by 3.3 per cent next year — the overall increase is 2.3 per cent, when blending the education and Peel Region portions on the 2017 bill.

Taxpayers are emboldened by actions to address a grave, independent financial report last year. It concluded Brampton’s labour costs are unsustainable. The new chief administrative officer, Harry Schlange, set the tone for change by recently dismissing 45 non-union staff, mostly senior managers, including some of Brampton’s top bureaucrats.

Schlange said the 2017 budget reflects Brampton’s commitment “to modernize our processes and become more businesslike in our operations. We will continue to innovate and look at continuous improvements as we work together to build a future-ready Brampton.”

Brampton Mayor Linda Jeffrey acknowledged that things are tough for many of her city’s residents. She said the recent staffing decisions were “the first steps in improving and streamlining the way we serve our residents as we strive to become a model of good municipal governance.”

The mayor said it’s imperative that, when budget decisions are made, Brampton prioritize what it really needs.

“At a time when the city is growing in leaps and bounds I believe we should be fiscally responsible in how and when we finance infrastructure projects. These are difficult times for our taxpayers,” Jeffrey said.

The local group Citizens For a Better Brampton delegated council during the budget deliberations for 2017, calling for tax reforms such as charging more to properties that have secondary rental suites. The group believes such suites, many of which are not licensed (the city has acknowledged this) put significant strain on others because renters are using services and infrastructure, but not paying for them.

“Also, Brampton needs a lot more tax revenue from commercial properties,” said CFBB spokesperson Chris Bejnar, saying the city is far too reliant on residential properties.

Asked about the discrepancy between his property tax bill and what home owners pay in neighbouring Toronto, Bejnar questions the use of other revenue tools as a way to turn things around. “I think they would be frowned upon if they are essentially just another type of tax. But with the growing tax gap, you wonder if Brampton gets more bang for the buck than Toronto — I don’t think so.”

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The House Is Exactly Where ‘Cash For Access’ Should Be Discussed

Posted on 29 December 2016 by admin

Ujjal Dosanjh

Former B.C. Premier And Federal Health Minister

Team Trudeau’s “sunny ways” are constantly being clouded over by the drip-drip of the fallout from the political fundraisers that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his ministers continue to hold and attend despite mounting opposition, and media and public concerns.

The prime minister and his ministers have continued to defend what now seems indefensible. The whole practice seems even more questionable in view of the latest revelations in the Globe and Mail about how some organizers of the Trudeau fundraisers have been asking the invitees to pay $4,500, and in some cases $5,000 — well above the $1,525 allowed per person annually.

It all started in April of this year with our good Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould insisting on proceeding with her $500-per-head private fundraiser at a Toronto law firm — which I had publicly urged her to cancel, as had many others.

It didn’t jibe with the new Trudeau guidelines to his ministers, and those presumably to himself as well, against preferential access or the appearance of preferential access to government for individuals or organisations that may have made financial contributions to the party. The guidelines had gone on to state that this obligation to deny preferential access wasn’t satisfied by simply living within the current laws.

Ironically, the whole Liberal defence of the “cash for access” now rests solely on the practice falling within the existing law — the Trudeau guidelines be damned. And to make matters worse, Trudeau’s otherwise smart Liberal House leader, Bardish Chagger, in an interview with the Huffington Post, shockingly opined that the “House of Commons is not where [the politicians] talk about political fundraising.”


No matter how one viewed the political fundraising that is fast becoming an albatross around my political party’s neck, one would have thought that House of Commons is definitely the place to talk about it. It is the People’s House. Political fundraising — good, bad or ugly — is people’s business, and the people’s business belongs and can be discussed — must be discussed — in the People’s House.

Ms. Chagger, welcome to government. Since the Liberals are in power, it is their conduct and standards that are at the forefront in public discussions. More than 60 per cent of Canadians are concerned about the perception that is created by the current Liberal practice of fundraising — followed until recently by all political parties — that the media have dubbed “cash for access.” Before the X-mas break, the government had been on the ropes in the House of Commons for not living up to Trudeau’s own guidelines for government ministers.

The House is a place for the government and the opposition to discuss anything they deem relevant, and during question period the speaker prohibits questions that may appear out of order. Insofar as the commons speaker didn’t stop the opposition from asking questions about “cash for access,” he must have deemed them appropriate and permissible. Quite appropriately, Chagger later told the Huffington Post that she misspoke about the House not being a place for the fundraising discussion.

Chagger’s words were reminiscent of Prime Minister Kim Campbell’s elitist dictum of an election being “no time to discuss serious issues.”

Chagger had gone on to say “political parties can talk about that [political fundraising]” among themselves, away from the House, since the People’s House was not the place for it.

Chagger’s remarks may not have been intended to convey elitism. But they reeked of it. Trudeau would do well to remember himself and remind Chagger that after what appeared to be Campbell’s elitist remarks, her Tories had suffered their worst electoral loss.

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Donald Trump Cabinet Roundup: How Rich, How Conservative, How Canada-Friendly

Posted on 29 December 2016 by admin

WASHINGTON — Donald Trump has now named most of his cabinet picks, including the senior positions. Here’s what the next U.S. administration looks like:

—Quite conservative

Trump is only occasionally a conservative. Some members of his team are true believers.

His proposed education secretary, billionaire Betsy DeVos, promotes alternatives to public schools. Conservative favourite Ben Carson would lead housing and urban policy. His pick for energy secretary, Rick Perry, once proposed eliminating his future department. A climate-change skeptic will be leading climate policy as head of the Environmental Protection Agency.

The labour secretary studied replacing human workers with robots, and fought minimum-wage increases, as a restaurant-chain owner. The pick for health secretary, Tom Price, has advocated a more laissez-faire approach than Obamacare.

The attorney general choice, Jeff Sessions, has fought against the trend of relaxing drug penalties. He recently said this about marijuana: “It is not funny, it’s not something to laugh about … good people don’t smoke marijuana.”

The vice-president-elect, Mike Pence, once supported federal funding for gay-conversion therapy — though he’s never called for it. Trump, himself, has suggested he’ll appoint pro-life judges.

—A generals’ club

Trump says he’s fond of senior military figures. It shows in his picks. Michael Flynn will be his national security adviser. His defence pick is James Mattis, a blunt-talking, well-regarded, well-read retired Marine. Retired general John Kelly is his choice for Homeland Security secretary.

Kelly appeared at the Halifax Security Forum in 2014. In a panel discussion, he accurately predicted that the so-called Islamic State would begin to suffer reversals once it tried holding territory, and was drawn into traditional combat.

But he added that the group would learn, and adopt new techniques.

“Warfare is first and foremost an intellectual activity,” Kelly told that audience in Canada.

“You learn from the people you’re fighting … It’s chess.”

—Very rich

The Washington Post began a story noting that George W. Bush’s cabinet was called the team of millionaires, then added: “Combined, that group had (a) … net worth of about $250 million — which is roughly one-10th the wealth of Donald Trump’s nominee for commerce secretary alone.”T

That’s Wilbur Ross, the billionaire investor. Cabinet picks includes heirs to the Ameritrade and Amway fortunes, one of whom, Todd Ricketts, also owns the Chicago Cubs baseball team.

The transportation pick is a member of the U.S.’s 39th-richest family, according to Forbes. The labour secretary is restaurant chain owner Andy Puzder. The next Treasury secretary is a relative pauper, compared to some of these people. Hedge-fund manager Steve Mnuchin is reportedly worth a mere $40 million.

“Almost no one going into this administration … isn’t making an economic sacrifice, big-time, in order to do so,” Ross told CNN. “We want to give back and help the country.”

—Not devoid of Democrats

Not everyone is a dyed-in-the-wool conservative. The commerce pick, Ross, used to be a Democrat and donated in the 1990s to Bill Clinton and senators Ted Kennedy and Sam Nunn. He flipped to the Republicans in the early 2000s, and generally favours deregulation. The former general, Flynn, also was a Democrat.

In fact, much of Trump’s family fits that description. Politico reports his daughter, Ivanka, intends to play a First Lady-like role and champion climate change causes, after already having pushed her father to announce plans for a parental-leave program.

—Loyalists and outsiders

The top White House staffers will be fellow travellers from Trump’s campaign — Republican chair Reince Priebus and strategist Steve Bannon. The commerce secretary, Ross, wrote Trump’s anti-NAFTA trade platform.

The picks for treasury, attorney general, and national security adviser are all early Trump supporters.

However, Trump has gone outside the tent.

Secretary of state pick Rex Tillerson was a surprise choice. Perry was an early Trump critic. He’s appointed another ex-critic, Nikki Haley, the governor of South Carolina, as UN ambassador.

—Open to racial controversies

At his Senate confirmation hearing, Sessions will certainly be asked about his last confirmation hearing. The chamber refused to make him a federal judge three decades ago because of remarks about blacks, including one possible joke about supporting the Ku Klux Klan. He’s a foe of undocumented immigrants, and supports voter-ID and prison policies that disproportionately affect blacks.

Flynn has often made disparaging remarks about Islam.

The Canadian angle

A binational business lobby group says Canada has gotten a good draw. Scotty Greenwood of the Canadian American Business Council says the cabinet is stacked with people with productive ties to Canada.

People with military and business backgrounds deal often with Canada — more than most career politicians, she said.

“Military people — more than almost anyone — really love Canada … If I had to pick a category of (Americans) who love Canada the most: generals,” she said.

“The second most: business people.”

Businessman Ross wants to revamp NAFTA, although it’s unclear how Canada fits into that. Haley’s parents lived briefly in Canada, upon moving from India. Tillerson runs Exxon Mobil, has addressed Alberta’s Spruce Meadows club, and, according to former U.S. ambassador Gary Doer, he expresses pride in his company’s considerable oil investments in Canada.

As noted, Kelly has attended the Halifax Security Forum.

The Russian connection

Trump’s team also has close ties to Russia — which could come up at congressional confirmation hearings. Tillerson, as an oil CEO, has had a friendly, years-long relationship with Vladimir Putin and questioned sanctions over the invasion of Ukraine.

Flynn once dined with Putin and received an unspecified sum to appear at an event for the Kremlin-run Russia Today network.

Other members of the team are more hawkish on Russia.

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Looking Back at Pakistan’s Foreign Policy in 2016

Posted on 29 December 2016 by admin

   Dr. Hasan Askari

Pakistan had a difficult year in foreign policy. With the exception of China, Pakistan had problems with its three neighbors, India, Afghanistan and Iran. Pakistan’s difficulties with India increased manifold after Narendra Modi became India’s prime minister in the last week of May 2014. The growing role of Hindu hardline groups in the ruling BJP and a strong emphasis on nationalism have increased anti-Pakistan attitude of the Indian government, the media and societal groups.

The dialogue process was postponed by India in August 2014 on the pretext that Pakistan’s High Commissioner (ambassador) to India had met with Kashmiri Hurriyat leaders. During 2016, India refused to hold any dialogue unless Pakistan satisfied India on the terrorism issue. It wanted Pakistan to handover Hafiz Saeed (Jamaat-ud-Dawa) and Maulana Masood Azhar (Jaish-i-Muhammad) to India for their alleged role in plotting terrorist attacks in India. Pakistan was willing to discuss terrorism along with other issues including the Kashmir problem. Other issues of contention between the two countries in 2016 were: The Kashmir problem, especially the popular resistance in Kashmir that started in July and Pakistan’s complaint of human right violations in Kashmir by India’s law enforcing agencies; construction of new water storage and electricity generation projects on Jhelum and Chenab rivers in violation of the Indus Waters Treaty; propaganda against each other; repeated exchange of fire on the Line of Control in Kashmir that killed civilians and military personnel on both sides ; arrest of fishermen by both sides, the Siachen Glacier, boundary in the Sir Creek area and Pakistani complaint of Indian intelligence agencies funding Pakistan Taliban and dissident Baloch groups. As no talks were held, these grievances increased bitterness between the two countries.

There were periodic complaints of mistreatment of Pakistani film artists and music groups on visit to India. Pakistani Cinema owners retaliated by not showing Indian films in their Cinema houses. However, towards the end of the year, the cinema owners in Pakistan were thinking of reviewing the ban on showing of Indian films.

With Afghanistan, the differences pertain to the roots of internal war between the Kabul government and the Afghan Taliban. The Afghan government attempts to hide its failure to cope with the Afghan Taliban groups by blaming Pakistan for providing a place to hide to Afghan Taliban. It argues that these Taliban come from Pakistan to engage in violence otherwise the situation is normal in Afghanistan. It also refuses to cooperate with Pakistan on increasing monitoring of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border; instead it wants Pakistan to take action against Afghan Taliban when these are in Pakistan. Afghanistan also refuses to accept that Pakistani Taliban leaders, Mullah Fazlullah and others, are based in Afghanistan and the Afghan government does not take any action against them. During the year Pakistan agreed to extend the period of stay of Afghan refugees in Pakistan for another year.

There are no territorial or political disputes between Iran and Pakistan. However, the movement of the terrorist groups across their borders has been a source of irritation. Iran is interested in selling gas and electricity to Pakistan. Pakistan has accepted this offer but no practical step is being adopted to get Iranian gas or electricity. Instead, Pakistan is getting LNG gas from Qatar and it is interested in getting gas from Turkmenistan and electricity from other Central Asian countries. Iran is perturbed by this and it thinks that Pakistan is consciously delaying the implementation of the Iranian offer.

Pakistan is pursuing very active cooperative relations with China in civilian and military sectors. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is a massive project of roads, energy projects and other industry that will link Gwadar port with the Xinjiang province (Western region) of China where the Muslims are in a majority. This project will take about 10 years to complete. After its successful completion, it will give boost to Pakistani and Chinese economies.

Another positive development is that Russia is showing keen interest in improving its relations with Pakistan. Pakistan is expected to get some MI helicopters and some light military equipment from Russia by mid-2017. Pakistan should explore the Russian option on a priority basis so as to moderate Russia’s traditional support to India.

Pakistan maintains friendly relations with the United States which provides economic assistance and military sales and training to Pakistan. However, they diverge on the details of how to counter terrorism and especially how to deal with the Afghan Taliban. The U.S. has often complained about the use of Pakistani territory by the Haqqani group, an ally of Afghan Taliban. However, the U.S. is not willing to deal with Pakistani complaint that Pakistani Taliban operate from Afghanistan and that the U.S. and Afghanistan should make sure that these Pakistani Taliban do not use Afghan territory for attacks inside Pakistan. As the U.S. administration changes in January 2017, the U.S. is expected to reduce financial assistance to Pakistan from the next American financial years that begins in October.

Pakistan has active economic and trade relations with the European countries, especially Germany, France, Italy and the United Kingdom. It also maintains good economic relations with Japan and other East Asian states. With Central Asian states, its trade is limited because of the internal conflict in Afghanistan. It also maintains close relations with the Arab states, especially with the conservative Arab kingdom. However, Pakistan has avoided being a partner of Saudi Arabia in its war in Yemen and Syria. This pattern of relationship will continue in 2017.

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Ottawa’s new cap on refugee applications upsets sponsors

Posted on 29 December 2016 by admin

The federal government will cap new applications for private sponsorship of Syrian and Iraqi refugees at 1,000 in 2017, due to a backlog and long wait times faced by those whose applications are still being processed.

But some feel the move, announced earlier this week by Citizenship and Immigration Minister John McCallum, betrays the positive global perception Canada has seen since late last year when the Liberals took office and committed to accepting more refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria.

“The government’s playing politics here, on the one hand saying we should be celebrated for being welcoming, and then on the other hand stopping people from being able to get to safety,” said Lesley Wood, a sociology professor at York University who has sponsored two Syrian refugee families.

The government’s policy, which came into effect Dec. 19, places a limit of 1,000 sponsorship applications for the next year by groups of five people or more and community sponsors such as organizations.

It “forms part of a broader strategy to address the large backlog and long wait times in the Privately Sponsored Refugees category,” according to the government.

Nearly 39,000 Syrian refugees have arrived in Canada since November 2015, of which 13,700 have been privately sponsored. But Canada4Refugees, which represents private sponsorship groups, estimated earlier this month fewer than one-third of refugees who applied before April have arrived in Canada, with more than 5,000 applications still being processed.

Wood helped sponsor a family of six who are from near Aleppo and arrived in Canada this past June. The Syrian government took full control of the city, once the stronghold of the rebellion, on Thursday, marking President Bashar Assad’s most significant victory over opposition fighters since the uprising began five years ago.

“They’re worried about their family members,” said Wood. “We’re just starting a new sponsorship to try and raise the money for the woman’s sister, who’s got six kids, so a family of eight. News like this makes us wonder whether we’re going to be able to bring her and her kids. It’s absurd.”

Wood also helped sponsor a second family of four individuals who lost two children in the war. However, she said, they are stuck right now in Jordan because their applications haven’t been processed.

“We were expecting them a year ago, so even when the numbers were moving fast, they weren’t moving fast enough for people whose lives are in danger,” she said.

Seher Shafiq of Lifeline Syria, an organization that matches Canadian sponsors with families trying to flee the war, said their group alone has a backlog of about 2,000 refugees.

“We’re encouraging people to fundraise so that we can match some of these cases to sponsor groups and put them in line to be processed by the government,” said Shafiq. “When the picture of Alan Kurdi came out, we had overwhelming amount of sponsors, so many so that we couldn’t match them quick enough to our cases, but now we have an opposite situation where we’ve had people, some of them almost a year, waiting for sponsor groups.”

Shafiq said the organization has helped bring 400 privately sponsored refugees to Canada, while another 800 have been matched with sponsors and whose cases are being processed by the government.

“There’s definitely a perception that we’ve done a lot and the job is done. We definitely should be proud,” she said. “Canada has been recognized on the world stage for taking action for this crisis but at the same time the need is so great that we often forget there’s still so much to be done.”

Syed Hussan, an organizer with immigrant and refugee group No One is Illegal, called the government’s new policy a “tweak” to an already “disappointing” system.

“The Liberal government has taken a piecemeal approach and has therefore been unable to adequately respond to the needs of global refugee flows,” Hussan said. “There’s millions of refugees, millions, and Canada’s taking so very few either as percentage of its population or as a percentage of its size.”

The backlog is because the Liberals “have simply not hired enough people to process the applications,” according to Hussan. He said those trying to flee the war will face the harshest consequences because of this.

“The key challenge is going to be that people will keep looking for alternative venues for safety and dignity,” he said. “Syrians . . . who are stuck, who are going to try and make the journey they can through the perilous Mediterranean crossing and face death.”

While it’s unclear how the government will select which 1,000 applications to process next year, the cap has would-be sponsors feeling that raising the necessary funds might be an urgent matter — if, for example, applications are picked on a first-come, first-served basis.

An application cannot be processed until a certain minimum amount is raised, depending on the number of refugees one wishes to privately sponsor. It takes at least $12,600 to sponsor one individual and $27,000 for a family of four, according to Shafiq.

Wood is aiming to raise about $60,000 that will be needed to bring the family of eight to Canada.

“We know it’s going to be a long process even when the numbers are favourable but this could really slow things down,” she said. “The worry is that they’re in a conflict zone and as their kids get a little bit older, they get dragged into fighting. They’re in danger both from the bombing, but they’re also in danger of being dragged in against their will.”

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Ebola Vaccine Is Already Saving Lives

Posted on 29 December 2016 by admin

Final test results confirm an experimental Ebola vaccine is highly effective, a major milestone that could help prevent the spread of outbreaks like the one that killed thousands in West Africa.

Scientists have struggled to develop an Ebola vaccine over the years, and this is the first one proven to work. Efforts were ramped up after the infectious disease caused a major outbreak, beginning in 2013 in Guinea and spreading to Liberia and Sierra Leone. About 11,300 people died.

The World Health Organization, which acknowledged shortcomings in its response to the West Africa outbreak, led the study of the vaccine, which was developed by the Canadian government and is now licensed to the U.S.-based Merck & Co. Results were published Thursday.

Merck is expected to seek regulatory approval in the U.S. and Europe sometime next year.

The experimental vaccine was given to about 5,800 people last year in Guinea, as the virus was waning. All had some contact with a new Ebola patient. They got the vaccine right away or three weeks later. After a 10-day waiting period, no Ebola cases developed in those immediately vaccinated, 23 cases turned up among those with delayed vaccination.

The Lancet paper published Thursday mostly crystallizes what was already largely known from interim results released last year. The vaccine proved so effective that the study was stopped midway so that everyone exposed to Ebola in Guinea could be immunized.

“I really believe that now we have a tool which would allow (us) to control a new outbreak of Ebola of the Zaire strain,” said Dr. Marie-Paule Kieny, a WHO assistant director-general who was the study’s lead author. “It’s the first vaccine for which efficacy has been shown.”

She noted that other Ebola vaccines are undergoing testing, and that a vaccine is also needed to protect against a second strain, Sudan.

The virus first turned up in Africa in 1976 and had caused periodic outbreaks mostly in central Africa, but never with results as deadly as the West Africa outbreak. Many previous vaccine attempts have failed. Among the hurdles: the sporadic nature of outbreaks and funding shortages.

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Why Do Facebook And Google Show Us What They Show Us?

Posted on 29 December 2016 by admin

What we have here are two seemingly disparate stories involving two of the most dominant content distributors on the planet.

In one, our friend Mathew Ingram discusses Mark Zuckerberg’s video initiative, which, he says, undercuts the Faceborg supremo’s insistence that he’s not running a media company. In a subsequent post, he highlights Faceborg’s ostensible commitment to fighting fake news.

It’s not hard to see why Zuckerberg resisted the characterization as long and as hard as he did. We’ve talked about that previously ourselves. And as Ingram points out:

Facebook likes things that are neat and tidy, like algorithms — not things that are all muddy and gray and complicated, like defining what constitutes fake news.

Well, we’ve all seen how effective the algorithms are at distinguishing genuine, authentic content from bullshit. And we’ve already talked about how those algorithms are shaped by your ultimate goal: do you want engagement, or do you want veracity? Do you want to be clicky, or do you want to be authentic? Can’t always have both.

And which one you prioritize is going to determine what floats to the top of your menu.

There’s no great insight in observing that this is going to get a lot messier before it gets any neater. The accusations of bias, censorship, lack of transparency, and hidden agendas are going to be deafening, and they’re going to be coming from all sides. The language is going to be heated and ugly. If there’s any small comfort to be drawn from this, and it’s a big “if,” it’ll be in Facebook’s acceptance of responsibility for the content it serves up.

(In any event, it might all be academic anyway. As our friend Jonathan Albright argues, fake news is soon to become the least of our problems.)

Secondly, Ra disturbing piece in the Guardian by Carole Cadwalladr. When she tried a Google search involving the Holocaust, the first thing that happened was that the search bar auto-completed her query to read “did the Holocaust happen?”

And there, at the top of the list, was a link to Stormfront, a neo-Nazi white supremacist website and an article entitled “Top 10 reasons why the Holocaust didn’t happen”.

She then recounts Google’s insistence that it would not rewrite its search algorithm* or remove the results, despite its declaration that it did not endorse those views. Eventually Cadwalladr did an end run around the organic search results by buying a paid Google ad that bumped Wikipedia’s entry about the Holocaust to the top of the page. For now, at least.

The rest of the piece examines how and why such a self-evidently repugnant outcome becomes possible. Not so much about why Google won’t edit the results, but why Stormfront would rank so highly — and, unsurprisingly: it comes down to money:

” … empirically speaking, people tend to treat Google like an authority. So this is an appalling shirking of responsibility. It’s about money. It always is. The commercial imperative trumps all other aims at the company, including moral ones.”

Why this content and not that?

So, a few revealing insights about what motivates two of the most powerful content platforms on the planet. These entities control what we see, what we read, what we’re exposed to, and what we consume. These entities control the vast majority of the information available to us. If they don’t want to show it to us, chances are we’re not going to see it.

What lessons do we draw from this? Once again: the importance of critical thinking. Why is Facebook serving up this story and burying that one? Why is Google ranking this at the top of its search results, and not that? What are we not seeing here? Why is our attention being directed to this thing at this time? There’s no need to go full-bore conspiracy theory here — just a healthy skepticism and willingness to do the work.

*In the spirit of disclosure, there are times when one doesn’t necessarily want Google to rewrite its algorithms.

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If I Date White Guys?

Posted on 29 December 2016 by admin



A friend recently asked me if I date white guys. My awkward answer was I don’t know.

I used to. All the time. My first love was 6′, blond, and blue-eyed. Bless that man. He set the standard for attraction for several years. But the reality is that it’s become increasingly difficult for me to date white men.

My edges are sharper and I have less interest in explaining to my date that there are multiple countries in South Asia and Africa where people who look like me come from. Can’t I just drink this latte and bat my lashes?

But here we are, on this date, and you are telling me that you like my bindi. I cringe, I look away. I hear my friend Megan telling me “Use kindness Meech. Don’t make him feel ashamed just because he doesn’t know something. Use kindness.”

I’m breathing, I’m using kindness. I’m letting the conversation move on and away from your non-knowing, North Indian, neocolonialism and staying present to the heart that you imbue. This man’s vulnerability is so deep. He’s really showing up for this date.

Except then he does it again. His eyes are roaming my face. “You’re looking at something,” I say. “You have beautiful eyes,” he says. (Well, shoot! #hairflip) “And your bindi’s so pretty.”
At this point, I choose honesty. “You know it’s really hurtful when you use that word,” I say. He’s aghast. Apologetic. Wanting to understand. “Educate me,” he says. The words hung like twinkling stars in a nursery rhyme I may never get to sing to my children.

“I don’t know if I want to,” I say. “I mean I will, but I don’t know if I want to.” He looks confused. And I get it. I get that he doesn’t get it. He doesn’t get that I don’t want the responsibility to educate to be a requirement of my existence. Not on a date, not here.

I move past my feelings of bleh and share with him my feelings on the word bindi and why I prefer the word pottu. “Pottu,” he repeats. “Your pottu is so pretty.” And here he gets one more shot.

“So tell me what you like about my pottu!” I say. I am waiting to hear that he likes the shape. The symmetry is so round. Or maybe he likes the velvety texture. These are things I like about my pottu. I am curious as to what interesting things my date sees that I have missed. “Your pottu makes you unique,” he says. “It sets you apart from everyone else.”

Oh GAWD bruh. You might as well call me exotic. This date is officially over. But I am appreciative – of this man and of this date – because I received some damn deep opportunities. I got to practice showing up with kindness.

I got to practice holding my needs without shaming the person who wasn’t meeting them.

Feature image courtesy of Easy Freezy.

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