News & Current Affairs

July 20, 2009

Thousands flee Canada wildfires

Filed under: Latest — Tags: , , , , , , , , — expressyoureself @ 5:52 am

Thousands flee Canada wildfires

Two wildfires near a western Canadian city have forced the evacuation of around 17,000 people, officials say.

One of the fires near Kelowna, British Columbia, started on Saturday. It quickly grew to 300 hectares (740 acres) and destroyed up to nine homes.

A second seemingly unrelated fire broke out on Sunday some 10km (6 miles) away and has already consumed 100 hectares.

The cause of the fires are not known. A 2003 fire in the same area destroyed more than 240 homes.

‘Difficult conditions’

No injuries or deaths have been reported in the latest fires.

Map

More than 150 firefighters are battling the blazes, with support from 10 helicopters and eight water bomber planes.

Firefighters said they were facing difficult conditions, with more hot and dry weather to come.

Local media said human activity was suspected to have sparked the blazes because there had been no lightning storms in the area.

Some residents told the Province newspaper that the larger fire may have started near a lumber mill which was also being threatened by the flames.

One resident said big, hot embers were falling all around his home.

Officials closed down a 19km (12-mile) stretch of the highway leading in and out of Kelowna, which is located 350km (217 miles) east of Vancouver.


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July 4, 2009

Self-help ‘makes you feel worse’

Filed under: Health and Fitness, Latest — Tags: , , , , , — expressyoureself @ 1:31 pm

Self-help ‘makes you feel worse’

Psychologist and patient

Self-help mantras are a common therapeutic technique

Bridget Jones is not alone in turning to self-help mantras to boost her spirits, but a study warns they may have the opposite effect.

Canadian researchers found those with low self-esteem actually felt worse after repeating positive statements about themselves.

They said phrases such as “I am a lovable person” only helped people with high self-esteem.

The study appears in the journal Psychological Science.

A UK psychologist said people based their feelings about themselves on real evidence from their lives.

The suggestion people should “help themselves” to feel better was first mooted by Victorian Samuel Smiles 150 years ago.

Repeating positive self-statements may benefit certain people, such as individuals with high self-esteem, but backfire for the very people who need them the most
Joanne Wood
University of Waterloo

His book, called simply “Self Help”, sold a quarter of a million copies and included guidance such as: “Heaven helps those who help themselves”.

Self-help is now a multi-billion pound global industry.

‘Contradictory thoughts’

The researchers, from the University of Waterloo and the University of New Brunswick, asked people with high and low self-esteem to say “I am a lovable person.”

They then measured the participants’ moods and their feelings about themselves.

In the low self-esteem group, those who repeated the mantra felt worse afterwards compared with others who did not.

However people with high self-esteem felt better after repeating the positive self-statement – but only slightly.

The psychologists then asked the study participants to list negative and positive thoughts about themselves.

They found that, paradoxically, those with low self-esteem were in a better mood when they were allowed to have negative thoughts than when they were asked to focus exclusively on affirmative thoughts.

Writing in the journal, the researchers suggest that, like overly positive praise, unreasonably positive self-statements, such as “I accept myself completely,” can provoke contradictory thoughts in individuals with low self-esteem.

Such negative thoughts can overwhelm the positive thoughts.

If people are instructed to focus exclusively on positive thoughts, negative thoughts might be especially discouraging.

Real life

The researchers, led by psychologist Joanne Wood, said: “Repeating positive self-statements may benefit certain people, such as individuals with high self-esteem, but backfire for the very people who need them the most.”

However, they say positive thinking can help when it is part of a broader programme of therapy.

Simon Delsthorpe, a psychologist with Bradford District Care Trust and spokesman for the British Psychological Society, said self-esteem was based on a range of real life factors, and that counselling to build confidence – rather than telling yourself things are better than they are – was the solution.

“These are things like, do you have close family relationships, a wide network of friends, employment and appearance.

“If you’re not close to your parents, don’t have many friends, are unemployed and are unhappy with your appearance, it might be hard to have high self-esteem.

“But if your experience is the reverse of that it would be much easier to say ‘I’m OK’ and believe that.”

December 24, 2008

Canada woman survives snow burial

Filed under: Latest — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , — expressyoureself @ 7:03 am

Canada woman survives snow burial

A person in Friday's snowstorm in Toronto 19/12/2008

Ms Molnar’s car became stuck in Friday’s snowstorm near Toronto

A Canadian woman who went missing during a blizzard last week has been found alive, buried in 23in (58cm) of snow, police say.

Rescuers were shocked to find Donna Molnar, of Ancaster, west of Toronto, still conscious after she spent three days outside in freezing temperatures.

Ms Molnar, 55, vanished on Friday after her car became stuck in a snowy field, and is now being treated in hospital.

Police dog Ace and his handler Ray Lau have been credited with the find.

“When I came up to her she was covered in snow, just her face and her neckline were exposed,” rescuer Ray Lau said. “I was surprised she was alive.”

Mr Lau found Ms Molnar on Monday, just a few hundred yards away from her four wheel drive car, wearing little more than a winter jacket and suffering from hypothermia.

Police credited the insulating effect of the snow with keeping her alive.

Staff Sgt Mark Cox said she was suffering from frostbite and could lose some of her extremities, although she was expected to survive.

“That’s the miracle. That’s a Christmas miracle. Sometimes the good don’t die young,” said Mark Mackesy, a family friend who spent the weekend comforting Ms Molnar’s husband and son.

“Donna Molnar is an exceptional person,” he added.

Canada and much of the US have been hit by extreme winter weather in recent days, with vast amounts of snow falling from coast to coast.

Transport has been disrupted and thousands of homes have been left without power.

November 12, 2008

Was Armistice flawed?

Was Armistice flawed?

The armistice deal signed on 11 November 1918 brought yearned-for relief to Western Europe. But the same pact has been blamed for the return to conflict in Europe only 20 years later. Does the deal deserve the criticism, asks Professor Gerard De Groot of the University of St Andrews.

Armistice celebrations in Britain

The Armistice ended four years of fierce fighting

On 27 September 1918, the British Army, reinforced by French, Belgian and Canadian units, attacked the German line in Flanders, Belgium.

Progress was not immediately impressive, but that operation did achieve the symbolically important result of piercing the Hindenburg Line, which was supposed to be impregnable.

For Erich Ludendorff, the German commander, the jig was up. On 1 October, he told his general staff that “final defeat was probably inescapably at hand”. The task now was to avoid ignominious defeat.

The Germans therefore notified US President Woodrow Wilson on 6 October that they were willing to discuss an armistice.

They approached Mr Wilson because they hoped to get a good deal from a leader who seemed humane.

That immediately aroused the suspicions of British Prime Minister David Lloyd George and French President Georges Clemenceau, both of whom were determined to make Germany pay for the suffering the war had caused.

‘Harsh peace’

Keen to get a jump on President Wilson, Mr Clemenceau asked the Supreme Allied Commander Ferdinand Foch to draw up armistice terms.

You wish to do justice to the Germans. Do not believe they will ever forgive us; they will merely seek the opportunity for revenge
Georges Clemenceau
French President

Mr Foch concocted a set of demands designed to render it impossible for the Germans to resume hostilities.

All captured territory, including German speaking areas of Alsace and Lorraine, would be immediately surrendered. Within four weeks, the Germans would be required to evacuate the right bank of the Rhine to a depth of 10km (six miles), a demand cleverly calculated to leave German units in a disorganized state.

In addition, a vast collection of military hardware (including 5,000 artillery pieces, 25,000 machine guns and 1,700 aircraft) were to be surrendered, plus 5,000 locomotives, 150,000 railway cars and 5,000 lorries.

At sea, Germany would be reduced to a second-rate naval power, surrendering all her submarines and the bulk of her surface fleet.

By the end of October, the British and French had managed to drag the Americans toward their version of reality.

The three powers settled upon terms roughly similar to Mr Foch’s.

In a series of notes, Mr Wilson warned the Germans to expect a harsh peace.

They were to consider themselves militarily defeated, and safeguards would be implemented to insure that hostilities could not be resumed. They should also expect to pay reparations for the costs of the war.

President Wilson further insisted that he would deal only with the elected representatives of the German people, not with the Kaiser.

‘No hope’

For Mr Ludendorff, this amounted to unconditional surrender and was therefore unacceptable.

Allied Supreme Commander  Ferdinand Foch (first row, 2nd right) and other signatories of the Armistice treaty in Compiegne Forest on 11 1918

The Armistice was signed in a railway carriage outside Compiegne Forest

In consequence, he demanded that the German government back away from the armistice.

His sidekick, General Paul von Hindenburg, likewise attested: “Wilson’s answer can only amount to a challenge to continue to resist to the utmost of our capabilities”.

But that rallying cry was shouted into a vacuum.

The German state was in terminal meltdown. Once the possibility of an armistice was raised, there was no further hope of rousing the people to continue the fight.

On 8 November, therefore, a German delegation – headed by Matthias Erzberger – met Mr Foch in a railway carriage outside Compiegne.

The terms sent Mr Erzberger into a state of near paralysis. He nevertheless accepted, and it was agreed that the armistice would take effect at 1100 on 11 November.

Not punished enough?

The armistice terms, and the Versailles settlement that confirmed them, have been blamed for causing World War II.

It is difficult to imagine an armistice that would have satisfied the Entente powers and left the Germans feeling fairly treated

Because we know that WWII occurred, it is easy to judge in retrospect that the armistice must have been too harsh.

This harshness had dual effect: it encouraged a desire for revenge within Germany and a feeling of contrition within Britain. Thus, when the time came that Germany felt able to reassert herself, the British were disinclined to protest because, for many, its anger seemed warranted.

Another school holds that Germany was not punished enough. According to this thesis, the war ended too soon – Germany’s offer of an armistice should have been refused and its army should have been pushed back across the Rhine in order to give the German people graphic proof of their own defeat.

Those who adhere to this thesis often also argue that the treaty established the principle of war guilt, which encouraged German resentment, but did not sufficiently destroy the German ability to act upon that resentment.

Bearing in mind the way Adolf Hitler manipulated the propaganda value of the “unjust” peace, the argument seems to have some merit.

US ‘isolationism’

But punishment, be it of nations or children, is a blunt tool.

Could Germany’s aggressive power realistically have been destroyed in 1919? And, if that option was indeed possible, would the allies have been prepared to make the sacrifices necessary to realize it?

Allied troops huddle in a trench around a tiny fire near Ypres, Belgium, in 1914

More than 40 million people – soldiers and civilians – died in World War I

Which country would have been prepared to forfeit the lives of its citizens in order to make victory more emphatic and peace more severe?

A “fairer” peace seems likewise inconceivable.

“You wish to do justice to the Germans,” Mr Clemenceau once remarked to Mr Wilson. “Do not believe they will ever forgive us; they will merely seek the opportunity for revenge.”

Mr Clemenceau was probably right.

It is difficult to imagine an armistice that would have satisfied the Entente powers and left the Germans feeling fairly treated.

A more liberal treaty might have brought into being a more peaceful, secure Europe, but the populist mood across Europe was not liberal. Equanimity is easy in hindsight, but difficult at a time when the graves of millions were still being dug.

The flaws in the armistice did not alone cause WWII. Germany was able to act upon its resentment because the country that emerged most powerful from the Great War decided subsequently to absent herself from European affairs.

Power implies responsibility, yet the US, in the inter-war period, sought an isolationist haven.

It is by no means clear that greater American involvement in European affairs would have prevented WWII. But it is certain that America’s decision to turn her back on Europe created a power vacuum that Hitler was able to exploit.

September 25, 2008

Canadian guilty in terror trial

Filed under: Latest, Politics News — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — expressyoureself @ 5:52 pm

Canadian guilty in terror trial

Map

A Canadian man has been found guilty of participating in a terrorist group that allegedly planned to storm parliament and behead the prime minister.

The 20-year-old was arrested in 2006 along with 17 others in a massive anti-terrorism operation in Toronto.

Delivering the verdict, the judge said there was “overwhelming” evidence that a terrorist group existed and that the accused “knew what it was about”.

The trials of 10 others, including the alleged ringleaders, are still pending.

Charges against the remaining suspects have since been dropped.

Undercover operation

The man, a convert to Islam, cannot be identified under Canadian law as he was a minor at the time his arrest in 2006.

He had denied all terrorism-related charges, and his lawyer argued that the bomb plot was a “jihadi fantasy” that the accused knew nothing about.

Working toward ultimate goals that appear unattainable or even unrealistic does not militate against a finding that this was a terrorist group
Judge John Sproat

However, Superior Court Justice John Sproat found him guilty of attending terrorist training camps and described him as an eager “acolyte” of the ringleader.

“He clearly understood the camp was for terrorist purposes,” the judge told a court in Ontario.

“Planning and working toward ultimate goals that appear unattainable or even unrealistic does not militate against a finding that this was a terrorist group,” he said.

He found the defendant guilty of participating in a terrorist organisation rather than the more serious crime of plotting bomb attacks – a charge faced by some of the group.

The cell members were arrested in the summer of 2006.

Prosecutors said the group conspired to obtain several tonnes of ammonium nitrate – a fertilizer that can be used to make explosives – and bomb key Canadian landmarks including the parliament buildings in Ottawa.

Canada’s intelligence agency described the alleged campaign as “al-Qaeda inspired”.

September 14, 2008

Slumdog wins film festival prize

Slumdog wins film festival prize

Danny Boyle

Boyle made his feature film directorial debut with Shallow Grave in 1995

British director Danny Boyle has won the Toronto Film Festival’s main prize for Slumdog Millionaire.

The People’s Choice Award, voted for by film fans, is regarded as an early indicator of success at the Oscars.

The film, starring Dev Patel, charts the life of a poor boy’s rise to fortune living in the Indian slums.

Boyle, 51, received critical acclaim for previous gritty works such as Shallow Grave, Trainspotting and the zombie-horror film 28 Days Later.

Cash prize

Previous winners of the Canadian award include the London gangster film Eastern Promises by acclaimed director David Cronenberg.

It’s a great underdog story
Danny Boyle, on Slumdog Millionaire

Patel plays orphan Jamal, who appears on the Indian version of the hit TV game show Who Wants to be a Millionaire.

Originally, Boyle said he had hoped for an all Bollywood cast.

However, that was not possible as local Indian actors “didn’t look enough like losers” for the main role of poor Jamal.

“It’s a great underdog story,” he said.

“In Bollywood if you want to be a young actor breaking into the system, you have to go to the gym for six hours a day to bulk up. I needed a very average-looking guy.”

Bollywood star Anil Kapoor also stars in the movie, along with newcomer Freida Pinto.

Winners of the award are also presented with $15,000 (about £8,400).

September 7, 2008

Canadian PM calls snap election

Canadian PM calls snap election

Stephen Harper - file photo

Mr Harper’s minority government has needed opposition support to pass bills

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has called an early election for 14 October in a bid to strengthen his minority Conservative government.

He met Governor General Michaelle Jean – the representative of Canada’s head of state, Queen Elizabeth II – to request the dissolution of parliament.

The latest polls indicate the Conservatives are ahead of the opposition Liberals.

The PM, elected in 2006, has complained that parliament is deadlocked.

The vote will be Canada’s third national election in four years.

Economic issues

Mr Harper’s government has needed the support of the main opposition parties, the Liberals and the Bloc Quebecois, to pass legislation and adopt budgets.

The election call had been widely expected, with Mr Harper complaining in recent weeks that parliament was “dysfunctional”.

Between now and October 14, Canadians will choose a government to look out for their interests at a time of global economic trouble
Stephen Harper

Holding the election this year breaks Mr Harper’s own fixed-date election law, something he had said was necessary to prevent prime ministers calling elections when polls indicated they were in a favorable position.

Mr Harper has made it clear he is running on economic issues and criticized the Liberals’ plan to tax greenhouse gas polluters while cutting other taxes.

“Between now and October 14, Canadians will choose a government to look out for their interests at a time of global economic trouble,” Mr Harper said in a statement.

“They will choose between direction or uncertainty; between common sense or risky experiments; between steadiness or recklessness.”

The opposition leaders are expected to make their own addresses later on Sunday.

Favourable polls

Mr Harper led the Conservatives to victory in the 2006 election, ending 12 years of Liberal government.

The party heads into the election with 127 of parliament’s 308 seats. The Liberals have 95, the Bloc Quebecois has 48 and the New Democratic Party (NDP) 30.

There are three Independent MPs, the Green Party has one seat and four are vacant.

Stephane Dion - file photo

Opposition Liberal leader Stephane Dion proposes taxing polluters

An opinion poll held last week suggested support for the Conservatives had grown over the summer.

The Environics survey suggested that 38% of Canadians would vote for the Conservatives; 28% for the Liberals; 19% for the NDP, eight for the Bloc Quebecois and seven for the Greens.

The figures put the Conservatives within striking distance of a majority government, Donna Dasko, senior vice-president of Environics Research Group, told CBC News.

The leader of the separatist Bloc Quebecois, Gilles Duceppe, said his party was best positioned to stop the Conservatives gaining a majority.

The same Environics poll indicated increased support for the Conservatives in Quebec, where separatist ardour has faded in recent years.

Liberal leader Stephane Dion is staking his command of the party on his “Green Shift” plan, which would tax polluters but reduce other taxes.

If his party does not do well on 14 October, his leadership will likely come under scrutiny at a party convention in December.

Mr Dion has described Mr Harper as Canada’s most right-wing prime minister in history.

Mr Harper supported the Iraq war while in opposition and withdrew Canada from the Kyoto Protocol that aims to cut greenhouse gases. He has also increased Canada’s troop commitment to Afghanistan.

August 28, 2008

Zoom heads towards administration

Zoom heads towards administration

The grounded plane at Glasgow Airport

The grounded plane was due to leave Glasgow Airport on Thursday morning

Transatlantic budget carrier Zoom Airlines has admitted it is applying to go into administration.

The announcement came after one of its planes was detained at Glasgow Airport on Thursday for non-payment of air traffic control charges.

UK-Canadian Zoom blamed its problems on the “horrendous” price of aviation fuel and the wider economic slowdown.

People due to travel on Zoom have been told to check their flight’s status.

‘Support and advice’

Zoom’s admission of financial difficulties came after BAA, the owner of Gatwick Airport, said it had been instructed by the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority to detain a Zoom plane that was due to fly to the Canadian cities of Halifax and Ottawa.

BAA said another Zoom flight from Glasgow to Vancouver had also been delayed.

“BAA is working with Zoom Airlines to provide support and advice for passengers,” said the airport company.

Meanwhile, a Zoom plane was grounded overnight in Calgary, Canada, a move also said to be in connection to overdue charges.

“Zoom Airlines Ltd based at Gatwick and Zoom Airlines Inc based in Ottawa, Canada, have sought creditor protection by filing legal notices of intention to appoint an administrator in both the UK and Canada,” said Zoom executive chairman Hugh Boyle.

He added that while Zoom sincerely apologised for those passengers affected by the grounded aircraft, its “flights will continue to operate”.

Zoom operates services from Glasgow, Gatwick, Manchester, Cardiff and Belfast International airports a well as from European airports to a number of North American destinations.


Are you due to travel on Zoom? Have you been affected by any issues raised in this story?

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August 15, 2008

British protester held in Beijing

British protester held in Beijing

The Free Tibet banner

The banner was unfurled on a building next to an Olympic promotion

A British man has been held by police in China after unfurling a pro-Tibet banner on a building in Beijing.

Philip Kirk, 24, of St Albans, Herts, and Australian-Canadian Nicole Rycroft, 41, scaled the Central Television building to make their protest.

The pair, from the group Students for a Free Tibet, and three other supporting protesters were detained on Friday.

Han Shan, spokesman for the campaign group, said the banner read “Free Tibet” in English and Chinese.

Kate Woznow, also from the group, said the protest happened at the headquarters of the state-owned China Central Television building in east Beijing.

She said Mr Kirk and Ms Rycroft were detained after climbing up part of the building to reveal the banner.

Previous protests

Last week, two other British pro-Tibet protesters, Lucy Fairbrother, 23, from Cambridge, and Iain Thom, 24, from Edinburgh, were deported after scaling a 120ft-high (36.5m) lighting pole and unfurling banners reading “One World, One Dream, Free Tibet” and “Tibet will be free”.

The activists said the action had been worth it – but their job was not done and there would be more protests during the games.

We are in touch with the Chinese authorities and we are seeking further details
British embassy spokesman

Eight demonstrators from Students for a Free Tibet were also detained on Wednesday after staging a demonstration.

Wang Wenjie, of the Beijing Public Security Bureau, said he did not have any information about the latest protest.

A spokesman for the British embassy in Beijing said: “We are in touch with the Chinese authorities and we are seeking further details.”

Officials expect Mr Kirk to be deported some time on Friday.

Meanwhile, spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Qin Gang, warned activists on Wednesday to obey the law in China, which does not allow unauthorized protests.

He said: “No matter Chinese citizens or foreigners, in China if you want to have processions or demonstrations, you should abide by Chinese laws and regulations.”

August 9, 2008

Protest attempt at Olympic event

Protest attempt at Olympic event

Christina Chen and another protester tries to display Tibetan flag at the equestrian event in Hong Kong

Security staff moved in as soon as the pair tried to display the Tibetan flag

A student who tried to unveil a Tibetan flag during the first day of Olympic competition has been removed by officials from an equestrian event.

Christina Chan tried to display the flag, hidden under a Canadian flag, at the dressage in Hong Kong.

She was asked to leave, but refused to do so, and was later removed from the arena with a second protester.

The Games opened in Beijing on Friday with a spectacular display of fireworks, music and dancing.

Some 10,000 performers took part in the ceremony, watched on TV by an estimated one billion people, before athletes paraded around the national stadium.

Security was tight in the capital, and three US activists were arrested after holding a pro-Tibet protest.

House rules

Ms Chan sat in the front row of the dressage arena in the Sha Tin district of Hong Kong, when the first full day of the Games got under way.

Christina Chan is removed from the equestrian event in Hong Kong

Christina Chan refused to leave and was later removed

She was holding a Tibetan flag concealed under a Canadian flag, and when she and another protester tried to display it, several security officials covered her with a blue cloth.

She was asked to leave, but refused to do so, and was later carried out of the venue.

“She was sort of disturbing other spectators around her, which is against the house rules,” equestrian event spokesman Mark Pinkstone said.

Ms Chan had also protested during the Hong Kong leg of the Olympic torch relay in May.

China bans the Tibetan flag from events under rules which prevent the display of flags of countries not competing in the Games.

Anti-government riots broke out in the Tibetan capital Lhasa and elsewhere in China in March.

Pro-Tibet groups say there have been many arrests and beatings in the security crackdown which followed.

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