The 11 of 2011

Hello blogosphere, it sure is nice to visit again. No excuses for my sporadic care and attention to you – life is busy, passions get re-directed and ultimately, when you have spent your life writing, having another beast in the lair of your mind to feed might be one extra beast too many.

However, rest assured, though my fingers did not dance as frequently across this keyboard as before, while blogging like no one is watching,  it did not mean I was detached from the lovely, recession plagued, one per cent driven, 99 per cent wailing, Arab Spring jumping planet of ours.

What will 2012 hold? Who really knows but some things are assured: economies will remain tight, atrocities will still occur, politicians will still confound, the Toronto Maple Leafs will not win the Stanley Cup and you, the constant reader, the internet nomad, the blogging rogue, will still be out there. Happy travels and I hope you return.

For your review, by the warm glow of your tablet, smart phone, laptop or desktop, during this frigid January, is our humble submission for top stories of the year called The 11 of 2011. Better late than never….

THE DEATH OF JACK LAYTON

Who could have imagined the incredible public outpouring after the death of Jack Layton, NDP and official opposition leader, here in Canada. Gentleman Jack, as we fondly remember him, motivated and stirred passion among the Canadian voting public in the 2011 federal election. He WAS the Orange Wave that swept through Quebec and in other parts of Canada, pushing the New Democratic Party to unparalleled and likely never to repeat again heights.

The big screen at St. Andrew's for the state funeral nearby. Photo By: Vince Versace

Sitting in Toronto’s St. Andrew’s church to watch his state funeral on the big screen was a touchstone life moment. The celebration of his life in that church was an emotional rollercoaster I had never felt before for someone who was not an immediate family member or friend. From poignant audio and video clips, to rousing, almost Baptist-revival-like music and performances, Gentleman Jack’s memory was truly celebrated. He is still missed on our political landscape and for us political junkies, in our notepads and hearts too.

THE VANCOUVER STANLEY CUP RIOTS

An example of the public outcry after the 2011 Vancouver riot. Photo By: Vince Versace

Stupid is as stupid does. That best describes the neanderthals, hooligans and thugs who ripped up downtown Vancouver after their Vancouver Canucks lost in the seventh game of the Stanley Cup finals against the big, bad Boston Bruins. No one likes losing but someone has to in sport. However, tearing up your city on national television is no way to vent.

A common refrain after the Vancouver riot. Photo By: Vince Versace

We were on the ground in Vancouver the day after the riot as volunteers and normal citizens tried to reclaim and clean up their city. What had occurred just 24 hours before had left that community in shock. Watching and then reading the outpouring of emotion by citizens as they wrote on sheets of plywood or on homemade flags and banners, denouncing the idiots and proclaiming their civic love, was a moving sight.

FINISHED READING PARIS 1919

Every have a book you just can’t put down but at the same time, you cannot speed up to read through? Welcome to my life and the relationship I had with the book Paris 1919: Six Months that Changed the World by Margaret MacMillan. I LOVED THIS BOOK! However, before you rush out and buy it, take note, it helps to have interests in history and politics to read it. This is a dense, fact-filled book which is wonderfully researched and written.

A wonderfully researched and written book, perfect for the history-politico junkie in your life.

I learned so much, chapter to chapter, about the decisions and players that influenced and ultimately crafted the world we currently both enjoy and shake our heads about. The genesis of our mistakes, messes and some of our recent darkest hours, as a global community, can mostly be found in this book. If you do not like to read to learn, or do not enjoy history and politics, stay far away and go read another Twilight novel.

FORDVILLE  aka TORONTO

So, the mayor everyone loves to hate, in the heart of Toronto that is, is still apparently roundly loved by his suburban power base. Mayor Rob Ford rode to office with promises of eliminating the so-called “gravy train” at city hall. The head-shaking moments during his first year in office vary but one strikes us as troublesome, his war with the Toronto Star.

Mayor Ford refuses to be interviewed, let alone release his press releases and itinerary, to one of Canada’s largest dailies. He is still looking for a front page apology from the Star over a story he disagreed with. The mayor’s office is a public office paid for by the taxpayers…the same taxpayers who Mayor Ford holds dear (and I do believe his sincere care for them). They deserve to know the office they entrust to run the city is open to all…including media that the mayor may not agree with. Kudos to the Toronto Star city hall reporting team who have been doing an incredible job considering the obstacles in their way. Mayor Ford says he  respects the taxpayer, are the employees and readers of The Star taxpayers not worthy enough of his respect?

Seven other notable stories:

  • The Norway massacre in which 77 people were killed in two separate attacks orchestrated by a crazed gunman. So much youth and innocence lost to a madman.
  • NASA’s space shuttle flies its last space flight. Thank you for all the space exploration, spirit, innovation and memories on those majestic big birds.
  • Canada’s federal Conservative party secures their long elusive majority government on Parliament Hill. Like them or hate them, at least some work will get done.
  • The beating up of President Barack Obama. The American president has been besieged by his critics and wing nuts who would not survive a day in his shoes under such relentless and unfair scrutiny. He is still a good man who simply needs to lead like he can and throw some haymakers along the way.
  • The death of Osama bin Laden. For some Americans, this provided both real and symbolic closure. President Obama’s cool walk after making the announcement was priceless.
  • The 10th anniversary of 9/11. A heart wrenching day burned into most of our minds. Hard to believe 10 years have passed.
  • The “occupy” movement, from mere embryo initiative in New York to worldwide phenomena in mere months…what were its tangible results? Not sure…plenty of awareness? Possibly…that is if you were interested in listening.

2010: Crosby’s golden goal to Obama’s shellacking

An angel heralds in a new year from its Mt. Carmel cemetery perch in PEI. One of my favourite photos I shot in 2010. PHOTO:Vince Versace

Hard to believe 2010 has passed us by so quickly. One day you are planning a summer cottage getaway the next you are jostling with last minute Christmas shoppers, trying to run the Lombardi power sweep to get out of the mall.

There were highlights and lowlights all around us to either jump and cheer about or simply stand there and scratch our heads over. When all else failed, we simply Tweeted about it to say we did.

Here in no particular order of magnitude, are some of our highs and lows of the year…what were yours?

Sports Highlight of the Year

Sidney Crosby’s gold medal winning gold in overtime at the Vancouver Winter Olympics. Yes, Canada won its first-ever winter gold at a game it hosted. Yes, we had gripping stories like Joannie Rochette’s skate just after her mom passed away but, in the end, all that matters to us puckhead Canadians was winning that darn men’s hockey gold…we demolished the Russians along the way and squeaked by a plucky American team in the final..imagine how we would look back at the Olympics if we hadn’t won that hockey gold…1998 Nagano anyone?

Crosby nets the gold medal overtime winner.

Sports Lowlight of the Year

Lebron James stabbing Cleveland in the heart and back on live television in announcing his decision to go to the Miami Heat. It was cold, calculated, drawn out and in poor taste. Why skewer a fan base that adored you…especially your home state fans. But, according to Lebron, he is from Akron, so it does not really matter what Cleveland fans think anyway.

Political Highlight of the Year

The mayoral races and eventual wins of Rob Ford in Toronto and Naheed Nenshi in Calgary. We are not saying we would have voted for either but each of these men ran campaigns that connected with their respective electorates and got people voting…or angry…but voting nonetheless, some in anger.

Ford promised to stop Toronto's gravy train enroute to his victory.

Nenshi’s win makes him Canada’s first Muslim mayor. Yes, a visible minority becoming mayor in a traditionally considered “white” Anglo city (hey, I did not say redneck as others might). Then, Ford, with all his criminal charges, verbal transgressions and fiery temper wins Toronto’s mayoral seat. No one considered him a threat but he was the only candidate who kept to one simple message, stopping “the gravy train” which taxpayers took hook, line and sinker.

Political Lowlight of the Year

American President Barack Obama and his Democrats getting a “shellacked” in the United States mid-term elections. The Tea Party movement rose to new heights pushing its conservative agenda which even some Republicans cannot swallow. Pretty much since the day after Obama got elected Republicans began hammering away and campaigning for the mid-terms. A floundering economy, misplayed by Obama, proved to be his Achilles Heel. Also, the amazing ability of moderates and the general electorate to place so much at his feet as it concerns the economy, when it was nowhere near his own doing, is amazing to behold.

President Obama after the mid-term shellacking.

Too soon for Obama?

Barack_Obama

They gasped.

When President Barack Obama was announced as this year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner reports indicate that some people in attendance “gasped”. What a wonderful debate has now ensued about Obama’s Nobel-worthiness. Is it too much too soon?

“Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world’s attention and given its people hope for a better future,” states the Nobel press release. ” His diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world’s population.”

Obama is currently the commander-in-chief of  a nation involved in two wars. Yes, they are wars he has inherited so some context is in order,  this is not exactly George Bush they are giving the award to. Also, he has indicated he intends to withdraw from Iraq but increase the American presence in Afghanistan.

“To be honest, I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who’ve been honoured by this prize,” – Obama.

“Mr. Hope and Change” is a moniker which can be attached to Obama fittingly  and the domestic wars on his character and administration have earned him a Purple Heart, some could argue.

His intentions and international dialogue, in reaching out to Muslims, addressing nuclear weapons proliferation and managing verbal and diplomatic dust ups with North Korea and Iran have proven to be impressive. Simply imagine Bush in those situations and the fear of disaster was ever so imminent, with Obama, not just a nation but a world appears to trust the man.

“To be honest, I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who’ve been honoured by this prize,” Obama has  said in published reports. “But I also know that this prize reflects the kind of world that those men and women and all Americans want to build, a world that gives life to the promise of our founding documents.”

“He has been a transformational figure already but peace and change in his own  backyard is truly the record he will be judged by…”

Obama is now left having to wade through domestic backlash for winning. The expectations on him are incredibly high and at almost unrealistic levels.

He is measured harshly at home- health care reform, Guantanamo Bay, stimulus spending, unemployment…apparently in his first nine months he was supposed to solve all that and since he hasn’t, some judge him a failure. Those same cynical circles will now hold the Nobel against him.

He has been a transformational figure already but peace and change in his own  backyard is truly the record he will be judged by and he must succeed so he can achieve much more beyond America’s borders.

Ottawa pressed to help kidnapped reporters, Obama in Canada, all-black program registration

Time goes by fast and loose story threads can fray and get twisted with neglect. Here we go around the horn updating a few story bits of interest to On Deadline constant readers.

CANADIAN JOURNALISTS PRESS OTTAWA TO HELP KIDNAPPED REPORTERS

The Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ) has urged Prime Minister Stephen Harper to redouble efforts to secure the release of Canadian journalists kidnapped abroad.

 Today, Feb. 23,  marks six months to the day since Amanda Lindhout was abducted in Somalia and more than three months since Khadija Abdul Qahaar was taken on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

“Every day that Amanda Lindhout and Khadija Abdul Qahaar remain missing is another day that their lives are in grave danger, and another day of distress for their families, friends and colleagues,” said CAJ president Mary Agnes Welch, in a statement.

 “We once again call on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to focus his undivided attention and all resources possible on finding and rescuing Amanda and Khadija,” Welch said.

Lindhout was abducted in Somalia on Aug. 23, 2008, along with Australian photographer Nigel Brennan who is also still missing. Lindhout’s kidnappers threatened to kill her unless a ransom was paid by Oct. 28, a deadline that passed with no word from her captors. One month ago, on Jan. 23, her kidnappers reportedly lowered their ransom demand.

Qahaar was reported to have been seized at gunpoint on Nov. 11, 2008. She had noted on Oct. 22 that she had serious concerns about that possibility.

On Deadline has followed the Lindhout kidnapping for some time now, posting some pieces but chose to not report an unverified report issued, earlier this month, claiming Lindhout and Brennan had attempted to escape and were recaptured.

Some debate has been raised that by writing more about Lindhout’s kidnapping actually hurts her chances of release. Some international journalism agencies, familiar with such abductions, say that abductors use the reported furor about the kidnappings, and this includes Internet chatter and postings, as leverage in their ransom negotiations.

We have layed low on this ongoing tense story out of respect for such observations and for the family. We now provide this update to answer the questions of concern expressed by our constant readers here and to support the CAJ call of the federal government to help Lindhout and Qahaar.

– with files CAJ and CNW

OBAMA VISITS CANADA

President Barack’s Obama visit to Canada was a smashing success, nothing concrete was really set on this “working visit” but it was a PR smash for Prime Minister Stephen Harper and President Obama.

President Obama was eloquent in complimenting Canada’s heavy lifting, commitment and fighting in Afghanistan. He essentially said Canada’s commitment to open combat was its own issue to deal with but that Canada can still play a vital role in the region beyond active fighting.

The two nation leaders also said they would begin an open dialogue on energy conservation and fighting  carbon emissions via a North American model. Canada has the resources to burn and the U.S. has the need for them. Thankfully, President Obama has an eye on green technology and burning cleaner to create energy.

ALL-BLACK PROGRAM REGISTRATION BEGINS IN TORONTO

Registration has begun for Toronto’s groundbreaking  public school all-black program. The program is essentially an alternative program in a public school not solely restricted to black students, for the record.

The catalyst for the program was to help fight a stubborn 40 per cent dropout rate among black students by providing more diverse teaching staff and lessons. Initial outrage to the program called it segregation, however, initially, the concept proposed was in fact an all-black school. The proposal has been watered down and made more acceptable by eing modelled as an alternative program open to all.

Sixty kids have been registered so far for the program, with strong numbers in the kindergarten levels and between Grades 3 and 5, various reports note.

President Barack Obama – one man, a world of hope

barack_obama

Thousands upon thousands of words will be written about the historic day we have witnessed today, Barack Obama officially becoming president.

Better words and more poignant words will be written across WordPress, let alone across the world. What has surprised me today is the actual lack of words I have to describe it all.

When I look ahead at the gargantuan road of challenges this new American president faces, I shake my head and think, “How unfair for this one man to have so much to do and tackle.”

Then..a  few seconds later I am reassured with this thought, if there ever was a man who seems to exemplify what it means to be a leader of men and women, to embody hope and determination, it is this elegant man from Illinois now setting up shop at the Whitehouse.

Yes, he is a brilliant orator, an inspiring voice to listen to. However, the substance of his words and how he delivers them makes me believe he can do it, makes me believe change is possible and that we all can be better, not just Americans, but all of us.

He will fail at times, he is human after all. How those failures will be measured against all this hype surrounding him will be interesting to see. If he can achieve even a quarter of what is expected of him, it must be recognized as a success.

Let’s be patient, both Americans and those in other nations. His work will take time and likely two terms to execute. There is a mountain of goodwill around the world for him, he will reach out and America can now be seen as a partner again, how he capitalizes on this will be interesting.

How he reaches across the divides new and old and how he tries to mend international relationships broken, while fighting  terrorism, will be initiatives to watch. How he kickstarts his nation’s economy is a massive test alone, let alone dealing with the mess of Gitmo, Iraq and Afghanistan. There are so many fronts he must work and fight on that the pressure is unlike any of us can understand. Remember too, there is also work for all of us to do as well.

The weight of the world and not just one nation, appears to now be placed on his shoulders. He has been an inspirational figure to date but now the time arrives for his sleeves to get rolled up and to inspire by action.

Can he do it?

Yes, he can.

Yes, we all can.