Soldiers arrested drug-trafficker Santiago Meza Lopez - El Pozolero (The Stew Maker) - earlier this year in Tijuana. He specialized in disposing of corpses in acid, 300 by his count (see sidebar) when he was arrested.
Soldiers arrested drug-trafficker Santiago Meza Lopez - El Pozolero (The Stew Maker) - earlier this year in Tijuana. He specialized in disposing of corpses in acid, 300 by his count (see sidebar) when he was arrested.
Well, I was going to blog on the drug-trafficking series, "Lethal Connections" Monday to Friday in Decoder. But I hate to see today's link to my blog go to waste, so let's begin today with Plan B.
Photographer Carlos Osorio and I had a lot of fun on this swine flu/drug trafficking trip, with leaving Toronto in a panic and researching drug series contacts on the fly being just the beginning.
On a Friday night, we went out, as today's opener describes, on a ride-along with B.C. Integrated Gang Task Force units. (Here's a link to our Lethal Connections video.) The evening began with a get-acquainted meal at a local Lower Mainland pizza parlour to give Carlos and me a chance to talk with Corp. Al Coons and other officers, Constables Mike Hughes and Jamie Forbes. I've got to admit, once I got over the shock! of if, the record set by Hughes at our table was pretty overwhelming.
I thought Coons was joking when he pulled out his watch, held up a finger and, preparing to count out the seconds, shouted, "Go!" to Hughes. While everyone else, journos included, had ordered pizza, Hughes broke with tradition. And how! In front of him sat a large dish of (I believe) creamed chicken and mashed potatoes. There may have been peas and other vegies in there somewhere.
Anyway, Hughes had spent a fair amount of time preparing his meal, mashing everything together and using repeated pressings of his fork to give it a consistency of, well, golly, I can't even begin to describe it.
And then, he inhaled.
"I minute, 12 seconds," yelled Coons in triumph. I gather this could have been some kind of record, but truthfully, it beats me. It was something to behold, trust me.
His buddies applauded and, later, clapped Hughes on the back. He was on my right, so I later I got his explanation about the big family back there in Chilliwack (12, I think) and the perils of eating slowly.
Later sandwiched between Hughes and Clark on a quick walk through a downtown bar, I felt very well protected. Hughe's is built like the proverbial "brick s---t-house." He's into mixed martial arts and probably could hoist the black Task Force SUV on a finger and toss it across the Lion's Gate Bridge.
This isn't to suggest he's not a consumate pro, a cop's cop. But he should be a character in "Borat" Hold on, I've already got him lined up for fiction of my own. Rather, a character based on . . .
Maybe this guy is already a legend among law enforcement types, and I'm not telling them anything they don't know.
* * *
Much more blogging on all aspects of drug-trafficking over the up-coming week.
This is the week the deal — or Bill C-23 — was supposed to be debated in the Commons. But there is cautious optimism today among non-governmental groups who oppose the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement over what appears to be the quiet withdrawal of the bill from the House of Commons Order Paper. The hope is it's off the schedule, at least until fall, giving opponents more time to fight in the court of public opinion.
A recent letter to Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff from Dr. John C. Jones, Colombia coordinator for Amnesty International Canada, makes a strong case against the deal, arguing nothing should be done until a full human rights review can be carried out. More than 50 prominent organizations and individuals have endorsed the letter. It reviews allegations of unofficial/official support for the death squads that continue to butcher civilians in that country. Support for a human rights review was, after all, the all-party position of a parliamentary committee last fall until the Conservatives rather clumsily reversed themselves in the House.
Nobody has fought harder against the deal than the Canadian NGO, Common Frontiers and director Rick Arnold. The best analysis I've seen on may have happened this week is Arnold's own in a recent email to Decoder, part of which I share with readers.
Short and sweet today: a gift.
For a great read, spend some time on Rick Mercer's Facebook page. (Obviously, readers will have to befriend Rick by themselves.) Rick is a tonic for Canadian life and politics. What else can you do but laugh?
Rick's take on the FM: "Jim Flaherty is shocked that the deficit will be 'substantially more' than he anticipated. Every time he turns around he is astounded and amazed. He is the goldfish Finance Minister; every day is a new one."
Plus one of my favorite Mercer clips.
Or, when is an, uh, untruth simply a misunderstanding? In politics, always, I suppose. But then, one can hardly argue the Conservatives stand alone when it comes to tricky advertising.
I see the Conservative crowd is not above playing with the truth when it comes to attacking Michael Ignatieff in this recent all-you-can-eat buffet of ads, even twisting — gasp! — my own pristine prose. A post at a Conservative-friendly site, www.quisuisje.ca/#UNESCO, asserts the dastardly Ignatieff is against the aspirations of Quebecers. In the link provided, an ad quotes my Toronto Star story as saying Ignatieff insists "Canada needs troops, warriors and chiefs to lead the battle against Quebec." Sounds like a military offensive to me.
What the story actually says is quite different. Naturally. I reported on an Ignatieff speech in Toronto, in January, 2006, at the beginning of the Liberal leadership campaign, where he said Canada is facing a national unity crisis in which "troops, warriors and chieftains " are needed for the political battle over Quebec. Very different indeed to the website ad. The word, "against" is part of www.quisuisje.ca link to my story when in fact my piece used "over" and not in quotes. Plus, the link dropped any reference to a political battle and made it appear like a new call to charge up the Plains of Abraham. What's bizarre is that my actual 2006 story is linked at the website — as if they assume people are such idiots they don't bother checking out anything for themselves. How's that for distorting the meaning, and dangerously? Some poor soul is going to read the site and think Ignatieff is advocating invasion — which is, I guess, the point of the Conservative exercise. (One must point out it's not an official Conservative site. Friends of, that sort of thing. )
* * *
However, Conservative-minded partisans don't have exclusive rights to shading the truth. In August, 2006, I wrote an analysis of the Ignatieff leadership campaign, suggesting the front-runner's organization was showing cracks. Turned out to be true. Big-time.
In the piece, I noted Ignatieff was on vacation in Europe in those late summer days. At the time, other leadership rivals were campaigning hard and I thought Europe was an interesting choice because it was far from the action, plus his opponents were harping none too subtly about his long absence from Canada as a political weakness. Why not, I thought, use part of his holiday time to check out Canadian vacation hot spots? Here's what I wrote: "Where he vacations is his business. No question. But Europe does raise alarm bells about political instincts."
Shortly thereafter, the wily political master and Renaissance Man, Warren Kinsella — author, lawyer, intellectual, musician, former Jean Chrétien strategist and current chief of the Liberal election war room — blasted my column in the National Post. Kinsella made a teeny-weensy little change. He quoted my story thusly: "Where he vacations is his business. No question. But (the confusion) does raise alarm bells about political instincts."
"Actually," he observed, "no it doesn't."
Confusion? Confusion? Who's talking about confusion in that quote? I meant what I wrote and wrote what I meant. Europe - E-U-R-O-P-E - raised alarm bells. Going to Europe was the point, in my analytical opinion. So Kinsella changes a word and the meaning and then, like Roseanne Roseannadanna, gets to attack the writer for something not written, something he has instead conjured from thin air. In all likelihood, it was just a misunderstanding of meaning on Kinsella's part. Arguably the most brilliant, take-no-prisoners strategist on the Canadian political scene simply misread a line and had to improvise.
Uh-huh, sure. Okey-dokey, I'll buy that.
It's going to be a blast covering the master in the next election campaign, not that, as this blog hopefully shows, Kinsella is alone in his techniques. But he's one of the few who keeps journos on their toes, to put it mildly. (By the way, for fans of Dr. Death and Destruction, I very generously offer a link to his blog.)
* * *
I promise almost positively this will be my last blog on the Ignatieff attack ads. It's been such a good run though, it's hard to give it up. I drum my fingers and ask a little tensely: "How long are they saying it will be until the next election?" (Are we almost there yet?) After almost eight months, like any political junkie, I'm starting to need that fix — a feeling I'll bet most Canadians don't share with me.
I've been paying a lot of attention to the Conservative attack ads against Ignatieff in English, but not in French. But Don Macpherson's column in The Gazette Saturday jolts me into realizing how important it is for a political journalist to watch French television. (It's too easy to get out of the habit in Toronto.) In Ontario, the ads are at the saturation point in prime time and Macpherson tells us they are running so often in Quebec (in both French and English), the Conservatives are even hitting the cartoon shows "in the off chance that a voting adult might be in the room while SpongeBob Squarepants is on."
Macpherson considers some of the points about Ignatieff's long absence from Canada "fair," but takes issue with the personal attacks on the Liberal leader. In one ad, the narrator says Ignatieff boasts of "speaking the French of France and not Québécois," with the "French of France" line delivered in a sneering tone. (It comes from a quote in his book, "Blood and Belonging." ) Another ad criticizes Ignatieff for being a Harvard grad and having a villa in the south of France, as well as a "luxury condominium in Toronto with its own private doorman."
Macpherson calls the ad campaign "anti-intellectual as well as anti-elitist" and compares the attitude to the government's flubbed move last year to cut arts funding. One ad even lambastes Ignatieff for liking expresso with a dipped chocolate wafer. Says Macpherson: "So while Stephen Harper . . .was recently shown serving double-doubles and tractor wheels to Canadian troops at the Tim Hortons in Afghanistan, Ignatieff is an effete snob, an espresso-sipper."
It's seems clear Harper is not doing well in Quebec. A good example is Chantal Hébert's column today on La Presse editor André Pratte's informal poll of Quebecers showing the PM rubs people the wrong way. Still, it's a devastating tool to attack the French spoken in Quebec and the ads could come back to bite Ignatieff in an election. As Macpherson writes: "What the Conservatives are saying is that Harper is Timmy's and Ignatieff is Second Cup. And there are a lot more neighbourhoods across Canada with the former than the latter."
* * *
Boy, it was great to see Red Fisher of The Gazette win his third National Newspaper Award Friday night in Montreal for Sports. At 83, with no plans to retire, he's been writing about the Montreal Canadiens for more than 50 years. Fisher is a journalist's journalist, although he may not even like the term, "journalist."
He had a major impact on my career when he read a story by an unknown in the Toronto press many years ago and went out of his way to praise my work to top editors at the Montreal papers, including The Gazette. When I later needed a job I just waltzed through the door at the Gaz, not knowing until years later Red had paved the way. He's done the same for many journalists in this country and it's no surprise he was a favorite to win.
Another three, Red!
Congratulations to all the winners, especially at the Toronto Star. (Of course, I'm going to cheer for the home team!) Our Ken Kidd won for Short Features, Lucas Oleniuk for Feature Photography and David Bruser, Moira Welsh and Andrew Bailey for Investigation. However, I don't think anyone will mind me saying the sentimental favorite win at the Star was Chris Hume who walked off with the NAA for Columns, after a string of about five nominations. He didn't even want to go, he'd lost so often and wasn't there for his win. But Chris never mentions that he's already won two NNAs for Arts and Entertainment, making this his third.
It was inspiring to be at the awards (even as a runner-up in Politics) because it reminds us of the amazing work being done in a profession so under seige these days. And it was bittersweet. Just looking at the list of winners in Critical Writing, for example, I saw names of greats in Canadian journalism who are no longer with us. The mighty impact of writers like David Billington, Jay Scott and Val Ross still influences journalism today. I didn't know Scott but he remains one of the best film reviewers I've ever read. He's up there with Pauline Kael in my book. Ross exploded into my consciousness before I worked with her at Maclean's when she authored an article on the mining industry in Sudbury. (Sorry, I don't remember where it played.) I'm from Sudbury and figured I couldn't match the brilliance of that piece. And Billington was a chum at two papers, a larger-than-life presence who changed my perspective on life and journalism. He's as present and alive to me as the last day I saw him. In a quick search, I unfortunately couldn't find a link to him for readers but trust me, he was one of the very best.
No post today but thank-you to the reader who wrote to correct my spelling on Gandhi the other day. It's fixed, but how embarrassing! There should be a category for dumb blogging errors.
You know what Shakespeare said about sound and fury signifying nothing. . .
With much fanfare, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty took to the spotlight today to announce long-awaited changes to credit card rules. He sold it as a benefit to Canadian families. New regulations will change the font sizes on statements and make it easier for consumers to understand how long it will take them to pay off credit card debt. A little paperwork, but nothing too serious for the big banks. Consumers? Well, that's another matter.
By failing to cap rates credit card companies can charge, he incurred criticism he missed the big picture. According to Liberal Sen. Pierrette Ringuette, Flaherty ignored calls for "strong action by businesses and consumers across Canada who are facing skyrocketing fee and interest rate hikes at a time when our country's economy can least afford it."
She said Flaherty's regulations omit measures to help the business community who face increased fees for processing credit and debit cards - a service that cost Canadians over $4.5 billion in 2007 alone.
"People across this country are losing their jobs, and are increasingly turning to their credit cards to help them through these tough economic times," added Ringuette. "The minister's announcement today will have absolutely zero impact on Canadians who keep hearing that interest rates are dropping, but see their credit card rates getting higher and higher."
Ringuette called the regulations, "a slap in the face to the business community in Canada."
Two parliamentary committees - the Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce and the Industry Committee - are studying the credit card industry, at the request of Ringuette and Liberal MPs Dan McTeague and Anthony Rota. Their reports are expected before Parliament adjourns for the summer.
"While Canadians are sitting around their kitchen tables, trying to balance their own budgets and getting hit with 24 percent interest rates on their credit cards, the minister of finance said today the fonts on their credit card statements aren't big enough for them to understand," added Ringuette. "That's just plain insulting."
But if your eyesight is failing, those statements will be easier to read. That has to be a blessing, right?
Here's a clever video. That Gandhi character sure was despicable.
It must have been a happy Conservative camper who came up with that Harvard Crimson video in which Michael Ignatieff makes a reference to being American. Imagine all the weary eyeballs in the Conservative bunker, after hours and hours of searching for video evidence of what the Liberal leader had said in several articles written from his base at Harvard University. While the clip is the focal point in one of a series of Conservative attack ads against the Liberal leader, it may have backfired.
Rocco Rossi, Liberal national director, says outrage over the ads is translating nicely into donations for the party. His office reacted quickly to the ads, unveiled last week, by sending out a mailing to members. They were tied to the first rebuttal by Liberal leader Ignatieff. Rossi says results over the past week show the mailing is already the party's "most successful email solicitation . . . the most successful by over 50 percent." Recent figures for the Liberals show first-quarter donations at $1.8 million, up from $850,000 in the first quarter of 2008. That's still well behind the Conservatives who pulled in $4.3 million, but Rossi notes they went down in the first quarter from $4.9 a year earlier, while the Liberal trend is up. It's been a long, long time since Liberal fortunes have been on the upswing, however large the gap still remains with the government party.
"People were fundamentally upset and outraged that in the midst of a crisis, this is the best the government can do," said Rossi. The Liberal consensus is the last thing Canadians want to know about in the current economic climate is mud-slinging among political leaders.
Veteran Liberal Jamie Deacey doesn't think the ads are all that good, actually. He believes they will appeal to the Conservative base, but do nothing to attack new members. His reaction was: "That's the best you can do? This is what you've been storing up for?"
Liberal insiders prepared for the onslaught they knew was coming by preparing their own mock ads, according to Deacey, who tells the Decoder: "And we did better internally than anything they did."
Now those are the ads to see.
* * *
Since everybody by now has seen the Conservative attack ads, here's a nice change on an Iggy video from David Nelson Ostrosser.
* * *
I've often read about the ability of cats and dogs to divine when their owners are coming home. That's nothing. As any cat owner can tell you, there is nothing more powerful than a cat's beady eyes boring into a sleeping owner's brain at kitty breakfast time. I have never seen an energy force like it. It's like the brain suddenly awakes with the knowledge, "Must feed cat, must feed cat."
(It's not the same for dogs, because they don't resort to the laser stare but rather joyous bounding to remind sleeping owners of the time.)
Ah, c'mon, I like Patricia Arquette.
But it's guaranteed - if I watch a TV show, it gets cancelled. Okay, maybe Medium has been around for 5 years but I don't think NBC bouncing it around the schedule helped much this season.
NBC honchos insist the show has no fans, etc. etc., but I don't buy that. It sure looks like weight discrimination against Arquette? She's been fighting with skinny-obsessed studio execs for years - and they finally won. I guess they didn't think it was believable a mother of three would look as if she actually eats meals with her kids.
First I lost "Intelligence" and now this. When "Fringe" goes, that's it for me for regular TV schedules. (I know, I'm way behind most of the population who eschewed TV schedules long ago.) I'll do all my watching by buying full seasons of series like, "The Wire" and "Damage."
* * *
Been doing a lot of flying lately, so I've seen too many bad movies. However, I can recommend, "I've Loved You So Long," with Kirstin Scott Thomas. It's in French with English subtitles. I loved it, but then I didn't see it on a plane.
It's getting tougher lately hearing Industry Minister Tony Clement lecturing Canadian workers in the Commons, saving most of his condescension for the Canadian Auto Workers union. Our industry minister appears partial to two things: rolling over when corporations break their legal commitments to Canada; and berating Canadian workers for not giving up enough of their wages and benefits. You'd almost think Mr. Clement, a lawyer who once served in the Mike Harris cabinet, prefers corporate bigwigs to working stiffs who take on the line jobs and go down in the mines. But that's just my take.
There are many examples of Minister Clement not demanding legal recompense when companies break their legal bond — not that he's the first Conservative or Liberal minister to fail to fight when investment commitments to the federal government are broken. But let's take one example involving Mr. Clement: Xstrata. That's the Brazilian company that took over Falconbridge operations in Sudbury in 2006 to become Xstrata Mine, Mill and Smelter. At that time, the company made a commitment to the federal government not to cut jobs for three years — a deal the Canadian Auto Workers Union representing Xstrata workers says they broke last February by announcing the layoff of 686 workers. The CAW urged Clement to make the company honour its agreement barring layoffs for three years, until the end of July, 2009. The CAW sent a delegation from Sudbury to meet with Clement in early March, as reported in the Sudbury Star. Clement agreed to meet with only Dwight Harper, president of Mine Mill Local 578, leaving the rest of the delegation who'd bussed to see him out in the cold. Later, Harper said he was "bamboozled" by Clement's attitude, which appeared to suggest that pushing for Xstrata to honour its commitment might jeopardize a further $350 million company investment in the Sudbury area. Harper argued that investment had already been locked in as part of a company commitment in 2008, and had nothing to do with the guarantee to conserve jobs for three years. In public statements, Clement appeared to be finding excuses for the company, a point not lost on the NDP.
How hard can it for ministers of the crown — and their teams of lawyers — to insist legal commitments to the government of Canada be honoured? Unless, of course, you have no interest in holding corporate feet to the fire in the first place. There's still time for Clement to stand up for workers in Sudbury — and elsewhere in Canada — but don't hold your breath.
There's another thing. Hounding working people like some school master there to enlighten the lumpen masses seems to give Clement — and others — perverse pleasure. Never does he seem to tire of chiding them in the House of Commons about how they should take less, when their backs are already against the wall. It happens so often, it seems citizens have become oblivious to Clement's disrespect to the very people who helped build this country, giving up their youth in the process, in what they thought was a fair bargain for jobs with good wages and benefits. Now that's blowing up in all their faces, the blame seems to be one-sided. It appears Clement forgets he's a minister of the crown and views himself more as a corporate honcho, a master of the universe, so to speak. It doesn't matter who he's talking about; they can be workers for Chrysler, who made concessions for a deal, or employees for somebody else. The putdowns and lack of respect are identical. It's the same when he's talking about GM and CAW workers. The union's 9,000 GM workers are on their third round of concessions, and still face a $4 billion deficit in the company's pension plan. The union is on its knees fighting for its pensioners. Members of the CAW didn't make this mess by themselves. None of these auto giants put money aside for workers' pensions out of the goodness of their hearts over the years. Instead, they got huge tax writeoffs to do so. Nobody is talking about all the tax dollars that flew out the window because it was supposed to go to pensioners. Why is Clement not blasting these companies for dipping into the pension fund kitty whenever the whim struck, then daring to moan about how they don't have money to pay their pensioners (whom they treat like some gangrenous limb that needs to be lopped off). When does Clement accept responsibility for governments allowing pension funds to be used to other purposes? Never. He just likes to lecture workers. Michael Bryant, economic development minister for Ontario, at least showed some compassion by assuring workers cost cuts (at GM) won't affect retiree pensions.
However, in the Commons, it was a different story. NDP MP Malcolm Allen accused Clement of expecting CAW members to sacrifice more than anybody else. Replied Clement: "What will not work is if the union heads do not want to be part of the solution. Then the choice of the workers is to have a job that is cost-competitive or to have no job at all."
So take your pick, he taunts.
Hit 'em when they're down. It seems to have escaped the attention of our political masters that these workers are grandfathers and grandmothers, mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers and all the others who helped build this province and country. It's only cabinet ministers who seem to overlook that fact and, frankly, it is shameful and embarrassing.
* * *
Well, maybe I overstate the case. Wouldn't it be better to just order the Tony Clement gravy boat, as Rick Mercer suggests?
* * *
A belated apology for missing a week or two. I was in Mexico covering swine flu recently, and easily found time to blog about the story while I was doing it. Then I went on to other things in Mexico, and my blogging time evaporated. Sorry, I should have given readers a heads-up. However, I'm back now and, when the Mexican series runs, I promise an extra week of blogging about all the juicy things I've been saving up from that trip.
For now, here is one man's take on swine flu in Mexico. Oscar Rodriguez owns a tourist shop in downtown Tijuana. His theory: President Barack Obama came to Mexico this spring and brought an idea for the beleaguered Mexican president, Felipe Calderon, to make some money. We'll give you swine flu, he said, and then send you lots of money to treat your people and use the cash on a few other things you might need.
"That's all it is," insisted Rodriguez, sweeping his arm across a sunlight Tijuana street. "See no swine flu here."
There's one explanation I haven't heard before.
From what's being shown on TV reports here, seems like Mexicans are being held in medieval dungeons in China. Canadian students under H1N1 quarantine in that country may be getting good treatment, according to my colleague Bill Schiller, but not so Mexicans. Media reports here are full of what happened to an AeroMexico planeload of Mexicans who arrived on the weekend in Beijing, to be whisked by ambulance to a hotel and quarantined for swine flu. Last night, television reports showed conditions in one hotel with filthy bathrooms, no water, poor food and confinement so difficult, one woman said over the telephone: "We're being treated as if we have the plague." (I apologize for lack of TV links; I'm far from the capital and holding on to my Internet connection by a thread.)
The Mexican government has chartered an AeroMexico plane to rescue and estimated 70 tourists from Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Hong Kong, opening up the flight to any Mexican who wants to get out of China. There will be huge celebrations when it arrives tomorrow afternoon at the international airport in the capital.
Anger has been building in this country for days over how Mexico is being treated. Several countries have cancelled flights - Peru, Ecuador, Cuba and Argentina. Cuba is a special irritant because Mexico has been one of the country's staunchest supporters against the U.S. embargo. Argentinian Ambassador Jorge Yoma apologized yesterday, but many Mexicans shrugged it off, believing (to generalize wildly) Argentinians feel superior to them at the best of times. There are reports of verbal aggression against Mexicans in the U.S. and officials refer to unwarranted discrimination and a special xenophobic paranoia against Mexicans abroad. There's a diplomatic row with China, with complaints yesterday at the United Nations.
These feelings of being discriminated against always seem close to the surface here - a sense the rest of the world doesn't regard Mexico or its citizens with respect. This will not be forgotten.
It is worth noting country-by-country media charts on swine flu reaction show the government of Canada has acted well, issuing only a travel advisory against travel to Mexico. President Felipe Calderon speaks often of co-operation with both U.S. President Barack Obama and PM Stephen Harper.
* * *
From my own swine flu coverage diary, Friday was a special day. Photographer Carlos Osorio and I arrived in Acapulco by the seat of our pants to file on Toronto Star deadline. Just as we signed on to the Internet at our hotel, an earthquake struck near Acapulco. Not serious in terms of loss of life, but it knocked us off the Internet. Naturally, I took it personally. Sure, said editors on the desk about my late file: an earthquake.
* * *
Now that things are returning to relative normality in this country - schools opening either tomorrow or next Monday - Mexicans can return to wrestling and boxing news and the soap opera craze that is so important. It's great, for example, to know Mexican-American boxing icon Cesar Chavez has launched a new energy drink.
Personally, I am thrilled Alma Rebelde has regained its rightful importance in life. I too agree Ana Cristina is as arrogant as she is beautiful.
Mexico City may not just be in lockdown, but under seige. Today comes news other parts of Mexico - vacation spots - are telling Chilangos from Mexico City they aren't wanted. That means anybody with Mexico City plates (DF). Oh-oh.
* * *
I didn't have room in my overnight story about swine flu to get into all the details about pork production in the U.S. revealed in some fine investigative reporting. It's painful reading. Pigs live crowded together, without straw, without ever seeing sunlight, without air; sows are artificially inseminated and boars are separated into pens where they can't stand or turn around. I have come to understand in life, largely through telling the stories of others, that even if we aren't always exposed to actual toxins ourselves, the pain and suffering of innocent animals and people on this planet poisons our hearts and souls and makes lesser beings of us all. This is knowledge borne with pain.
Here are links to three good stories - Boss Hog in Rolling Stone and Al Giordino in the Narco News Bulletin. And, the AmericasMexico Blog, on the globalization of disease. *
* * *
O-kaayyyy then, let's all have a giggle now.
Last night, photog Carlos Osorio got back to the hotel late after working all day in a mask and almost getting punched out by the bodyguards of a woman with an SUV the size of a city block. He stopped by my hotel where I was working - see proof - and started flipping through the hotel directory. His every muscle ached and he asked if I thought the hotel had massage service. (Kenny, he wouldn't expense it.) Yeah, sure, C, we haven't seen a hotel staffer without a surgical mask for three days and now you think they'll be thrilled to do give you hands-on treatment, up close and personal, for an hour. Sure thing.
Linda Diebel is a veteran political reporter who worked across Canada, including on Parliament Hill, and as the Toronto Star's bureau chief in both Washington and Latin America. She has written two books, Betrayed: The Assassination of Digna Ochoa, and Stéphane Dion: Against the Current.
She's been described as "that mean Diebel person" by President George H.W. Bush and someone "with a good head on her shoulders" by Noam Chomsky. They're probably both right.
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