quinta-feira, maio 29, 2008

Death & Unrelated Statistics

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Up, Down, Thread Ahead: the great grey-green, greasy Limpopo River.

1. Political Killing.
2. Death of a Zimbabwean activist.
3. Obituary: Rest in Peace Tonderai Ndira!.
4. Tonderai Ndira - human rights activist mutilated, and murdered.

5. Statscan public transit spin is out of control.

Political Killing, Stephanie Nolen, May 24, 2008.

POLITICAL KILLINGS, Another violent loss for Zimbabwe's opposition. Likened to Steve Biko, 32-year-old activist was fifth Movement for Democratic Change leader slain in the past 10 days.

JOHANNESBURG -- The first time the Zimbabwe police arrested Tonderai Ndira back in 1998, he didn't resist. In fact, he was smiling when they crammed him into a tiny prison cell with other democracy activists, and his comrades asked him why.

"He said we had to be strong because we were going to see such things," Reuben Tichareva, who has been one of Mr. Ndira's closest friends since the age of 5, recalled yesterday. "He said such arrests will become a routine thing as the struggle continues."

Indeed they did. Mr. Ndira was arrested so often over the next decade - 35 times in all - that his friends and family started to believe he was invincible. No matter how long the police held him, or how much they beat him, he emerged alive and gentle and suffused with enthusiasm to educate people about the need for political change.

Because Mr. Ndira led with such dignity and courage, "we called him our Steve Biko," Mr. Tichareva said, in a reference to the legendary South African anti-apartheid activist.

And now he and Mr. Biko have something else in common: Mr. Ndira, too, has been viciously slain in his early 30s.

He was dragged from his bed by six armed men on May 13, beaten savagely in front of his wife and two children, and stuffed into an unmarked car.

His body, or most of it, was found Wednesday on the other side of town.

Mr. Ndira was part of a group of young people who helped found Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change in 1999. But he had been politically active long before that, campaigning for the rights of people in Mabvuku, the slum neighbourhood where he grew up, then pushing for a democratic constitution as the regime of President Robert Mugabe grew increasingly autocratic.

Mr. Ndira rose through the ranks of the MDC, and for the past few years had served as an irrepressible "advance man" for party leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

His slaying, and that of four other young MDC leaders in the past 10 days, is widely believed to be the work of pro-government forces that have launched a ruthless campaign to cripple the opposition as it tries to prepare for a runoff presidential vote on June 27.

Mr. Tsvangirai is to return to Zimbabwe today, despite threats to his safety, in part because he is determined to attend Mr. Ndira's funeral. However, it is not yet clear that the government will allow the funeral, scheduled for today, to go ahead.

From the time he was a child, Mr. Ndira stood up against the abuse of power. Girls who went to school with him remember him for intervening when boys taunted them. He abhorred violence. "He would say, 'We are not fighting people, but the system,' " Mr. Tichareva said.

Mr. Ndira had been in hiding since a wave of state-sponsored violence began after it became clear that Mr. Mugabe's ZANU-PF party had lost the March 29 election, for the first time since Zimbabwe gained independence in 1980.

His family at first sought safety in rural areas, but when the violence moved there, they came back to Mabvuku. Last Tuesday night, a worn-out Mr. Ndira sneaked home to see them.

Shortly after dawn, as he lay sleeping, six men in dark glasses burst into the house. One put a pistol to the head of Mr. Ndira's wife, Plaxedess Mutariswa, who was in the kitchen, and ordered her to be quiet and show them where her husband was.

Mr. Ndira awoke as they burst into the room, and for once, he did not go willingly. "One of them said, 'Let me hit him' and dragged him out of the room," Ms. Mutariswa said, weeping. "They started hitting him. He started screaming for help. As they were busy hitting him I tried to run for the door to call for help but I found another man with a gun on the door. He said, 'Just let a word out and I will blow your MDC head off.' " The men, believed to be agents of the Central Intelligence Organization, carried Mr. Ndira out to the car. His children Raphael, 10, and Linity, 7, watched from the doorway.

"They threw Tonderai into the car as he pleaded with the people around him to help save his life," Ms. Mutariswa said. She saw two of the men sit on her husband to keep him down inside the car as they drove off, saw another stuff a cloth into his mouth and blindfold him.

"When they took him, I could feel a shiver down my spine," said Ms. Mutariswa. "I have seen police coming to take him 35 times, but this time something in me told me that there was something very wrong."

The family tried without success for a week to get information from the authorities about where Mr. Ndira had been taken.

On Wednesday, a team from the MDC went to Harare's largest hospital to claim the bodies of a pair of activists from the mortuary. The staff person on duty told them there was another body, found on a farm outside the city, which had not been claimed and suggested they try to identify it.

It fell to Mr. Tichareva to do that job. "It was horrific: his face had been crushed and I could see a maggot on the left side. His left eye had been removed, his nose was damaged, his tongue was missing. He had two holes, one just below the ribcage and the other just near the heart. His body was black with bruises. The murderers had used his boxers to cover his face."

In fact, Mr. Tichareva would have been unable to say this body was his friend's, but for the bangle he always wore on his left hand.

Ms. Mutariswa, who lapsed frequently into racking sobs at the wake, described how, years ago, she tried to dissuade her husband from politics.

As she spoke, more than 100 people gathered outside the house, singing and drumming in what became one of the largest opposition gatherings since the election. Mr. Ndira's brothers emerged defiantly from hiding to attend; inside, their mother could only sit and keen.

While those who gathered in Mabvuku for his wake yesterday vowed to fight on in his name, they also said they didn't know how they could carry on without his leadership. "We can only say we will try, but I don't think we can match that level where Tonderai had taken this to," Mr. Tichareva said.

Death of a Zimbabwean activist

The body of Tonderai Ndira was found this week, the 43rd Zimbabwean opposition activist to die in violence since elections in March. Journalist Farai Sevenzo looks back at his life and the circumstances leading up to his murder.

"It is clear that the change we were waiting for is here. If we do not get it, the people must rise up and fight for their victory," Tonderai Ndira

Tonderai Ndira lived in the desperately poor township of Mabvuku and Tafara, east of Harare.

He was no stranger to the Zimbabwean police and at one stage had 38 charges levelled against him, ranging from "political nuisance" to attempted murder.

He was one of a group of young men and women, barely in their thirties, who formed the backbone of the opposition's ranks.

Theirs was the thankless and arduous task of mobilising moribund, disillusioned and tired folk to believe in this new concept called change and to sign up to the messages of the eight-year-old opposition - the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

On election day, 29 March, the tall and charismatic Ndira was hanging around by what passes for shops in his sewage-ridden constituency, where electricity is erratic and where cholera has already claimed lives in the last 12 months.

I asked him what he felt that day would bring, and if, given the history of elections in this country, the day would make any difference.

"It is clear that the change we were waiting for is here. If we do not get it, the people must rise up and fight for their victory," he said.

Rising up and fighting for victory pits one against the awesome strength of the security machinery the state has at its disposal.

That is an undisputed fact in the history of this country's opposition.

It is an impossible task.

Beyond politics

In the weeks following polling day, a campaign of intimidation was unfurled which largely affected opposition people rather than ruling party folk.

Huts and houses were torched on both sides of the political divide; images of the beaten and tortured were wired around the world, and diplomats based in Harare collected eyewitness accounts of the horrors being unleashed in the countryside by people variously described as war veterans, militias or soldiers.

It was with this background that Tonderai Ndira continued to lend his leadership to the idea of democratic change, and his activism went beyond the politics of the MDC.

An official from human rights organisation ZimRights, who declined to be named, outlined what Ndira meant to civic society in and around Harare.

"I knew him personally, he was a youth activist who went around the country holding workshops and teaching people their rights.

"He was very active in the Combined Harare Residents Association - campaigning for things like better streets, more rubbish collections, healthy water supplies.

"And so he became a target for the Zanu-PF, because they are targeting active members."

And why would such people become targets of the ruling party?

"They know that if people like Ndira are removed, there will be less likelihood of an uprising."


Ordinarily it was a mission to find Ndira.

He would venture into the centre of town for the odd demonstration and then disappear for days on end.

His wife and three young children became used to the idea of him coming home after weeks away because a healthy sense of paranoia was needed to avoid spurious charges and lengthy stays in remand prison.

But on Tuesday 13 May, according to his friends and eyewitnesses, Ndira came home and slept the sleep of the exhausted in Mabvuku township.

At around 0645, a pick-up truck packed with 10 men arrived on his narrow street and drove past his house, stopping at the neighbours.

The 10 men were armed with revolvers and AK-47s - some of them wore masks.

The neighbour's child duly told them the right address and they reversed, disembarked and told Ndira's wife they were looking for her husband.

The presence of so many armed men frightened her into calling out his name and announcing that there were people there to see him.

He answered with a voice drunk with sleep and asked her to tell them to come by later, as he needed his rest.

"We are like chickens waiting for the knife to reach our throats" Tonderai Ndira's brother Cosmas

He was abducted in his underwear, in front of his young children as they were heading to school and beaten into the truck until he was bleeding.

In the ensuing week, his family and friends desperately tried to locate him.

The omens were not good, several activists had been found dead and funerals were happening throughout the city and the rural areas - all connected to Zimbabwe's protracted political impasse.

On Wednesday, the MDC went to claim two more bodies from Harare's Parirenyatwa Hospital morgue.

Party officials were told by the mortician there was another body that had not been claimed.


This new body was badly decomposed; a pair of bloody shorts was plastered to a face clearly broken and shattered.

"We only knew it was my brother by his distinctive ring, his bangles, and his unmistakeable height," said Cosmas Ndira, as family and friends filled his small home to mourn his passing before his funeral, which is yet to be finalised.

"His jaw was shattered, his knuckles broken, a bullet hole below his heart, many many stab wounds and a large hole at the back of his head which seemed to have been caused by a hammer."

Jimmy Chidakwa, a colleague and fellow activist, struggled to contain his anger both at the assassins and his party's leadership.

"They are cowards, all of them. Ten men to take down one unarmed man.

"And where are our leaders? Out of the country."

Cosmas chipped in: "Yes, we are like chickens waiting for the knife to reach our throats.

"Given his position in the party, my brother should have had more protection.

"I know so many people now too frightened to vote with their hearts come the run-off."

Unlike the opposition leadership, who are not here and have been at pains to tell the world of diplomatic efforts under way as they travel - to Botswana, South Africa, Kenya, the UN headquarters in New York - the foot soldiers like Tonderai Ndira remained on the ground, visiting the injured, co-ordinating relief efforts to the displaced.

The opposition may yet feel the full force of the loss of such urban activists in the weeks to come as the country heads for the presidential run-off on 27 June.

Obituary: Rest in Peace Tonderai Ndira!, Thursday, May 22, 2008, by Beloved Chiweshe.

Fellow Comrades,

On one Saturday afternoon I drove in a white Nissan Hardbody with a colleague.We had bumped into each other at the MDC headquarters and upon deliberations realised we were heading the same direction.We were heading for Chinhoyi.He had a workshop in the rural Chinhoyi and I was travelling to the university.

He immediately offered me a lift and we departed.On arrival at the university, he convinced me he would drop me on his way back from his workshop.I agreed.On arrival at the homestead,the venue of the workshop,I was surprised at how popular the comrade was in the area.

I later learnt that he had stayed there for some time during the formative stages of the party.Braving the harsh political climate that was there in Mashonaland at the time.I was inspired by the bravery and the passion that the comrade had shown me over years for the people and the party.

The colleague is now late. Rest in peace Tonderai Ndira.

Today I received the worst news in years.The body of Tonderai Ndira,who was abducted from his Mabuku home on 14 May 2008 was found dumped at Parirenyatwa Hospital decomposing,his lips and tongue cut.

Oh what brutality,I never thought we could turn to each other with such brutality, after the bitter and protracted struggle that our people went through to be free.It pains me.

Oh Rest in Peace Tonderai.

Your blood will water the revolutionary tree and keep the revolutionary garrison going.I am sorry for this posting which seems not have any way forward but I hope it may stimulate thought and inculcate a spirit of oneness among all of us who share the same vision and aspirations for our country.

I thought I should share with you comrades,the pain and agony I am going through due to the continued callous murders of opposition leaders,activist and supporters in Zimbabwe.

The pandemonium that ensued today 21 May 2008 at the burial of two other gallant sons of the struggle Godfrey Kauzani and Ken Nyeve also makes me wonder whether insanity has become as contagious as the Ebola virus within ZANU PF.Surely idiocy can not be allowed to rampage with such impunity.

ZANU PF youth arrived in lorries and covered the empty graves of Godfrey and Ken before they were buried.Surely messing up with the dead has never gone unpunished.

A number of people including ZINASU president Clever Bere were injured as the mob charged towards the mourners,who fled for cover.A number of cars were damaged in the process.Call it whatever you prefer.I call it madness and evil.

The death of Tonderai Ndira touched me most.It is my hope that we will be able to fulfil his dream of a free Zimbabwe.

For those who worked closely with the Youth Assembly, they will remember Tonderai as an easy going,committed and hard working youth of the MDC.He will long be credited with his single handed repossession of a party truck that had been impounded.His courage was inspiration to all of us.

Call him an alarmist or whatever,Honourable Biti's skills in preempting the regime have worked very well to deter ZANU PF from most of its planned actions.Announcing results was not a bad idea either,without that they were going to RIG that election.

In an appeal to the international community to act expeditiously to the then folding crisis and escalating cases of violence,Biti asked if the international community was only going to react after dead bodies littered the streets of Harare.

Little did he know that even with a Harare littered with dead bodies no one was going to respond either.Probably only Hollywood responded by investigating if the genocide was bad enough to warrant scripting yet another Hotel Rwanda.

It seems we may have to find our own solutions comrades,raising our expectation high from the international community will only worsen our misery.

Not withstanding the support we have received from friendly nations,their support may only be complementary, we have to find a way.If it means war let it be.After all we are already in a war.

Rest in Peace Tonderai.We will certainly remember you and your sacrifice towards our freedom

* Beloved Chiweshe is a Former Zimbabwean Student Leader

Tonderai Ndira - human rights activist mutilated, and murdered

This very distressing information alert from Advocacy & Community Organizing Centre for Community Development In Zimbabwe (CCDZ), via SW Radio Africa:

We can’t believe that the youthful, soft-spoken,humble, truthful, dreadlocked Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) activist, Tonderai Ndira is no more. Today we give this eulogy for a courageous men who stood against evil. Tonderai Ndira was abducted last week at his Mabvuku home by members of the Central Intelligence Organization (CIO).

We have just received the news that Tonderai’s body was found near Parirenyatwa Hospital with the lips and tounge cut off. Tonderai was a community mobilizer, a leader and someone who always stepped in to help people either as an associate of the Centre for Community Development in Zimbabwe (CCDZ).

Ndira was a selfless human rights defender who assisted many people and organizations run their advocacy campaigns for a better Zimbabwe. The forces of evil responsible for murder, abduction and torture of opposition activists shall be

The Centre for Community Development in Zimbabwe (CCDZ) urges all MDC activists and members of civic groups like Crisis Coalition, National Constitutional Assembly, Combined Harare Residents Association, Zimbabwe Elections Support Network, Youth Forum, Zimbabwe National Students Union, Women of Zimbabwe Arise, Zimrights, International Socialist Organization, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, Restoration of Human Rights and the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum to be on the lookout out against the forces of evil.

We have it on good record that the Central Intelligence Organization would like to wipe out leaders of the above mentioned organizations before the presidential run-off scheduled for the 27th June, 2008. We urge all the political leaders to take precautionary measures and avoid isolated places where they can be easily ambushed by the notorios CIOs.

We urge prominent lawyers in Harare and Bulawayo who have handled MDC cases and the journalists who have provided coverage to the MDC to exercise extreme caution in the face of these assasinations and abductions.

We salute You Tonderai Ndira, you are Our Hero. Our message is that the tree of Liberty that has been watered by your blood, shall forever grow. Rest in Peace. We shall continue to fly high the flag of liberty that you left behind.

Statscan public transit spin is out of control, Neil Reynolds, May 28, 2008.

Public transit is making progress of a kind in Canada – though it's not always visible.

In its report called Commuting Patterns, Statistics Canada noted last year that the percentage of Canadians who drive to work fell to 80.0 per cent in 2006, a decline – wait for it – of 0.7 per cent in the past decade. The car maintains its enduring edge over public transit across the entire country.

Thus, 78.2 per cent of Quebec commuters get to work by car (the lowest level in any of the provinces); 90.7 per cent of Prince Edward Island commuters get to work by car (the highest). In Ontario, it's 79.2 per cent. In New Brunswick, it's 89.1 per cent. In Saskatchewan, it's 86.5 per cent.

Statscan nevertheless manages to declare a victory of sorts for what it calls “sustainable transportation” – an arbitrary classification that appears to measure advances in public transit but slyly encompasses everyone who walks or cycles to work. By this definition, an exhaust-belching bus is “sustainable” but no car ever is. From a supposedly objective statistical agency, this sort of manipulation is a perversion.

More people walk to work, by the way, than you might think. Indeed, in some cities, far more people walk to work than use public transit. In Kingston, for example, 10 per cent of workers walk and another 2.2 per cent cycle – together, three times as many people as the 3.5 per cent of workers who use public transit.

Using this lenient definition, and analyzing selected municipalities, Statscan confidently asserts a feel-good conclusion: “Between 2001 and 2006, 20 of the 25 municipalities with the highest number of workers reported an increase in the use of sustainable transportation.” By this standard, 43.0 per cent of Toronto workers now use “sustainable transportation,” an increase of 1.9 per cent (the largest increase in the selected municipalities).

Statscan finds further progress in public transit still by arbitrarily distinguishing between workers who drive cars and workers who merely ride in them. Thus: “[In the period from 2001 through 2006], there was a decrease in the proportion of drivers, from 73.8 per cent of workers to 72.3 per cent.” The agency concludes, again confidently: “The proportion of drivers is decreasing.”

But wait. We already know that 80.0 per cent of Canadian workers drive to work, right? How can Statscan simultaneously report that only 72.3 per cent drive to work? Well, quite easily – by not counting the passengers in the 10 million cars, vans and pickup trucks that (as the agency appears to imply) carry only “drivers.”

Elsewhere, Statscan concedes that 714,900 additional workers chose to drive to work in 2006 (compared with 2001) – and finds solace in the fact that a larger number still (1,000,000) chose cars over public transit in the five years from 1996 through 2001.

The proportion of commuters who used public transit did increase marginally from 2001 through 2006 – from 10.5 per cent to 11.0 per cent. Halifax went from 2.8 per cent to 2.9 per cent. Saint John went from 4.3 per cent to 4.4 per cent. Vancouver went from 11.5 per cent to 16.5 per cent – an extraordinary increase.

Helpful though this increase may have been in producing a statistical increase in public transit use, this particular success was essentially phony, arising as it did from the infamous public transit strike in 2001 (which many Vancouver drivers still recall as a Golden Age of hassle-free commuting).

On the other hand, notwithstanding its apparent rise in “sustainable transportation,” Toronto fell from 22.4 per cent to 22.2 per cent. Windsor fell from 3.1 per cent to 2.9 per cent. Trois-Rivières fell from 3.0 per cent to 2.4 per cent. Saskatoon fell from 4.1 per cent to 3.7 per cent.

In fact, the biggest real change in this five-year period was probably the increase in passengers in cars. In 2001, 6.9 per cent of workers got to work as passengers in cars; in 2007, 7.7 per cent. As Statscan does note, this was a significant increase – an honest-to-God increase of 22.6 per cent (or more than 200,000 people). In the previous five-year period, passengers had increased by only 2.7 per cent.

Public transit is important enough as a commuter service, notably in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and Ottawa.

Yet there is no good reason to exaggerate this importance – especially since the subsidies provided for it inflate the use of it. Cars routinely get 80 per cent of people to work in this country. Other forms of transportation (walking, cycling, inline skating, snowmobiling, etc.) routinely get another 8.9 per cent of people to work.

(Without benefit of subsidies, these self-reliant commuters equal public transit users, or outnumber them, in five provinces.)

Here is the measure of Canada's reliance on public transit to get people to work: Newfoundland and Labrador, 1.9 per cent; PEI, 0.5 per cent; Nova Scotia, 5.9 per cent; New Brunswick, 2.0 per cent; Quebec, 12.8 per cent; Ontario, 12.9 per cent; Manitoba, 8.9 per cent; Saskatchewan, 2.2 per cent; Alberta, 9.2 per cent; British Columbia, 10.3 per cent.

All in all, only a very small minority of Canadians appear to need much help getting to work.


quarta-feira, maio 28, 2008

Lennie Cone in old St. John's

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"Gimme crack and careless sex," sings Leonard Cohen last night, instead of, "gimme crack and anal sex," which gets into deeper and richer imagery as it were.

Well, it's not homophobia I would say given the stature of some of the local gays ... so who can say what motivates "the little Jew who wrote the Bible"? Some kind of inverse arrogance maybe? ... dunno.

A-and then there is the grand manipulator, the Master of Ceremonies dressed up as a humble monk. But really, a gentleman does not kiss and tell.

In any event, don't forget Sharon Robinson (as Kipling, the old storyteller, says of the suspenders somewhere or other), a beauty and a lovely voice.


quarta-feira, maio 21, 2008

more Charles Taylor

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Up, Down, Thread Ahead: yet more Charles Taylor, Thread Back: Origins.

Something to watch for - full report coming Thursday.

Mr Gérard Bouchard, Mr Charles Taylor.

also, Massey Commission, Northrop Frye.

1. Commission de consultation / Consultation Commission.
2. Modern Social Imaginaries, Duke University Press.

Commission de consultation sur les pratiques d’accommodement reliées aux différences culturelles
, aka Consultation Commission on Accommodation Practices Related to Cultural Differences.


On February 8, 2007, Québec Premier Jean Charest announced the establishment of the Consultation Commission on Accommodation Practices Related to Cultural Differences in response to public discontent over reasonable accommodation. The Order in Council (PDF, 2 pages, 59 ko) establishing the Commission stipulates that it has a mandate to:

- take stock of accommodation practices in Québec;
- analyse the attendant issues bearing in mind the experience of other societies;
conduct an extensive consultation on this topic; and
- formulate recommendations to the government to ensure that accommodation practices conform to the values of Québec society as a pluralistic, democratic, egalitarian society.

The Commission's mandate, as defined, could be broached in two ways, in a broad sense or in a narrower sense. The narrower sense would consist in confining the Commission's deliberations to the strictly legal dimension of reasonable accommodation. This notion, which stems from labour-related jurisprudence, designates a form of arrangement or relaxation aimed at combating the discrimination that a seemingly neutral norm can bring about in its effect, usually an infringement of an individual's right to equality. In general language, the meaning of the concept has gone beyond this legal definition and encompasses all forms of arrangements allowed by managers in public or private institutions in respect of students, patients, customers, employees, and so on.

The second approach to the Commission's mandate would be to perceive the debate on reasonable accommodation as the symptom of a more basic problem concerning the sociocultural integration model established in Québec since the 1970s. This perspective calls for a review of interculturalism, immigration, secularism and the theme of Québec identity. The Commission has decided to follow the second course with a view to grasping the problem at its sources and examining it from every angle.

Modern Social Imaginaries, Charles Taylor, 2004.

One of the most influential philosophers in the English-speaking world, Charles Taylor is internationally renowned for his contributions to political and moral theory, particularly to debates about identity formation, multiculturalism, secularism, and modernity. In Modern Social Imaginaries, Taylor continues his recent reflections on the theme of multiple modernities. To account for the differences among modernities, Taylor sets out his idea of the social imaginary, a broad understanding of the way a given people imagine their collective social life.


sábado, maio 17, 2008

Old Chunk of Coal

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A song more interesting for where it goes wrong than for what it gets right, by Billy Joe Shaver.

Hey I'm just an old chunk of coal,
But I'm gonna be a diamond some day,
I'm gonna grow and glow 'til I'm so blue pure perfect,
I'm gonna put a smile on ev'rybody's face.

I'm gonna kneel and pray ev'ry day,
Lest I should become vain along the way.
I'm just an old chunk of coal now Lord,
But I'm gonna be a diamond some day.

I'm gonna learn the best way to walk,
I'm gonna search and find a better way to talk
I'm gonna spit and polish my old rough-edged self,
'Til I get rid of ev'ry single flaw.

I'm gonna be the world's best friend,
I'm gonna go 'round shakin' ev'rybody's hand
Hey I'm gonna be the cotton-pickin' rage of the age,
I'm gonna be a diamond some day.

Now I'm just an old chunk of coal now Lord,
But I'm gonna be a diamond some day,
I'm gonna grow and glow 'til I'm so blue pure perfect,
I'm gonna put a smile on ev'rybody's face.

I'm gonna kneel and pray ev'ry day,
Lest I should become vain along the way.
Hey I'm just an old chunk of coal now Lord,
But I'm gonna be a diamond some day.


more shit around the RCMP

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It just goes on and on with the RCMP. Disfunctional in every category of management and personal morality. That there are excellent officers in this organization is also true - I know this from personal experience.

But being embarrassed does not go far enough. The situation is shameful, the political masters must be brought to task - won't likely be of course, more maggoty bureaucrats will be brought in to spin and spin.

1. Police psychologist equates RCMP with Putin's Russia.
2. Editorial: A psychologist speaks out.
3. Editorial: Compounding disgrace, 21/05/08.

Police psychologist equates RCMP with Putin's Russia, Taser Inquiry, Gary Mason, May 15, 2008.

VANCOUVER -- Someone else might have resisted the temptation, especially knowing he might be blackballed as a result. But Mike Webster has never operated that way.

And so, when the respected police psychologist testified this week at the B.C. public inquiry into the use of tasers, he didn't parse his words when asked about the Mounties' decision to zap an unarmed Robert Dziekanski last October, and more recently, a penknife-wielding 82-year-old man lying in a hospital bed in Kamloops.

"I'm embarrassed to be associated with organizations that taser sick old men in hospital beds and confused immigrants who are arriving in the country," said Mr. Webster, considered one of the top police psychologists in the world.

Even as the words spilled from his mouth, Mr. Webster knew they had the potential to cause him more trouble with the RCMP. He knew because of a chilling incident late last year that still hangs over his association with Canada's national police force.

Mr. Webster is a registered psychologist who deals exclusively with law enforcement agencies. His expertise in conflict resolution has been sought to help resolve some of the most volatile situations in recent years, including the showdown with Branch Davidian followers in Waco, Tex., in 1993. He was widely credited with helping avert a bloodbath during the RCMP standoff with native protesters at Gustafson Lake, B.C., in 1995.

He has worked on a contract and fee-for-service basis with the RCMP for more than 30 years. Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, much of his work with the Mounties has been in the area of intelligence gathering. After Mr. Dziekanski died at the Vancouver International Airport last October, media outlets in B.C. sought Mr. Webster's opinion on the incident. He was honest: he thought it was a disgraceful display of policing. The officers had blasted the troubled Polish immigrant without making any attempt to resolve the matter peacefully.

In early December, Mr. Webster says he received a call from Richard Bent, chief superintendent of the RCMP E Division in Vancouver. The senior Mountie asked Mr. Webster, who lives on Denman Island, B.C., if the two could have a meeting. Mr. Webster knew something was amiss.

He wanted to know immediately what it was about.

"That's when he said it was about the nature of my comments to the media about the Dziekanski incident," Mr. Webster revealed in an interview yesterday. "He said: 'You've upset some of the members here and they're saying things.' I said, 'Like what?' And he said: 'Well, they're saying that maybe you shouldn't be getting any more work with the RCMP.' "

Mike Webster nearly dropped the phone.

"There was only one way to interpret that comment," Mr. Webster said. "It was a clear threat."

Mr. Webster said he told Chief Supt. Bent that he didn't respond well to threats. And that they wouldn't change his mind in any event. After stewing about the incident over Christmas, Mr. Webster articulated his anger in a letter to Chief Supt. Bent, which he copied to Gary Bass, the RCMP's top man in B.C. In it, he reiterated how offended he was by Chief Supt. Bent's comments, which he considered a blatant form of intimidation.

He said he heard nothing back. But he did begin hearing from his friends inside the force. He said one relayed to him that Mr. Webster's outspokenness cost the psychologist a small fee-for-service job. One of Mr. Webster's friends was told: "Don't be hiring Mike Webster. He's in shit with us for being disloyal." Another told him to expect a call from a top RCMP official in Ottawa who was going to fly out to talk to him.

Sure enough, the call came. Two weeks later, Mr. Webster said he was having lunch with an RCMP inspector from headquarters who scolded him for his Dziekanski comments. He suggested the psychologist was being disloyal to an organization that had been good to him over the years. He said Mr. Webster should have waited until the RCMP had concluded its investigation into the incident before giving any kind of opinion on it.

"I told him I didn't need anything more than the 25 seconds of video that we've all seen over and over again to offer my analysis," Mr. Webster said. "I really gave him a blast. It was just more of the same. The expectation is that if you work for the Mounties you align your values with the corporate culture and if you don't that's being disloyal and is unhealthy."

Chief Supt. Bent said in an e-mail yesterday that he did phone Mr. Webster because of concerns that Mr. Webster was making statements to the media about the RCMP's guidelines for handling potentially violent situations that he felt weren't accurate.

He confirmed that he told Mr. Webster that other RCMP members were upset and didn't want the Mounties to give the renowned intervention specialist any more work. He said it wasn't intended to be a threat.

To Mr. Webster, his run-in with the Mounties reflects a more serious and systemic problem inside the organization, one recognized in the report into the RCMP pension-fund scandal. That report suggested the force was a troubled organization that did not abide dissent of any kind. And those who did offer opposing views were often shunted off to dead-end jobs and forced to wave promotions goodbye.

"As a psychologist, I know it's not healthy for people to live in such an oppressive climate," Mr. Webster said. "Being a member of the RCMP today is like being part of Putin's Russia; they don't tolerate any opinion that doesn't reflect the party line."

A devastating charge. Mr. Webster currently has a one-year contract with the Mounties. After it expires next April, he has no idea if more work will be offered to him.

"I find it offensive that I'm expected to park my morals at the door if I'm going to be part of the organization," Mr. Webster said. "If that's what it means, I won't do it. I just won't."

Mike Webster has never operated that way.

Editorial: A psychologist speaks out, Taser Inquiry, May 16, 2008.

Someone had to state the obvious, and the police psychologist Mike Webster was the right man at the right time. "I'm embarrassed to be associated with organizations that taser sick old men in hospital beds and confused immigrants who are arriving in the country," the adviser to the RCMP told a judicial inquiry into police taser use in British Columbia.

The whole country is embarrassed. In one case that Mr. Webster referred to, an 82-year-old in a hospital bed refused to let go of a penknife, and was tasered three times by the RCMP. In the other case, four Mounties approached a Polish immigrant who was agitated after waiting 10 hours to meet his mother at the Vancouver airport last October. The immigrant, Robert Dziekanski, made no threat to the officers, and offered no resistance. Yet within 30 seconds of their approach, the Mounties tasered the 40-year-old twice, and he died minutes later. Each of these was a national disgrace, an embarrassment.

Could anything be more obvious? The mismatch between the strong and the weak, the lack of any serious threat of harm, the reliance on heavy weaponry, the seeming lack of any thought given to alternatives - it's all a little ridiculous, as if the polite and helpful Mounties were under the illusion they work for a police state. But they do not see it that way. And so the need to point out the obvious.

Why was Mr. Webster the right man? Because his job is to teach police how to deal with conflicts. He has been hired by the FBI, Europol and other police forces around the world to instruct them on how to handle confrontations. If he thinks the police use of tasers is embarrassing, it gives the entire country licence to be embarrassed.

But the RCMP and other Canadian police forces do not accept the obvious. The Mounties have sent a delegation to Poland at who knows what cost to dig into Mr. Dziekanski's mental health, behaviour and personal life. Presumably they are looking for ex post facto justifications of their tasering. All the more reason for people like Mr. Webster to state the obvious.

That he did so at some financial risk to himself underlines his credibility. While the RCMP is understandably anxious at having a respected figure bite the hand that feeds him (he says the Mounties threatened to cut off his work, the Mounties deny it), it's clear that Mr. Webster felt he had to speak his mind as a matter of principle.

A moratorium on taser use is the obvious answer to this national embarrassment.

Editorial: Compounding disgrace, Taser Inquiry, May 21, 2008.

The RCMP is adding to the disgrace of the Vancouver airport tasering by pursuing background checks that appear to serve little purpose other than to blame the victim. It is willing to spend large amounts of money - sending four officers and a translator to Poland - for information that is likely to be superfluous.

Why so much effort and expense? Perhaps because no taser-related death has shown more clearly all that is wrong with how the Mounties and other police forces in Canada use the electric stun gun. That death prompted a judicial inquiry now under way in British Columbia on taser use, with a separate inquiry to follow on the tasering of the 40-year-old Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski on Oct. 14, 2007. Mr. Dziekanski's death may serve to discredit this weapon of choice.

The original disgrace was that four officers confronted an unarmed, distressed man who offered no resistance or threat and within 30 seconds tasered him. Mr. Dziekanski died a few minutes later.

The next disgrace was that the RCMP asserted that Mr. Dziekanski had been increasing his violence. A bystander's video released later shows no resistance. He appeared confused as the officers approached. When a taser was drawn, he backed away a few metres. Then he was shot.

And now the third disgrace: In investigating the officers who tasered Mr. Dziekanski, police flew to Poland to probe the victim's background. It is hard to imagine what they hoped to find. Evidence of drug use? Medical examiners after his death had the best evidence possible. They found no drugs or alcohol in his blood. Evidence of dangerousness? The officers who tasered him did so because of what they thought they knew about him.

What Canadians know about taser use is the bizarre, unjustifiable spectacle recorded by the videotape. Or the ridiculous tasering of an 82-year-old man in a hospital bed in B.C. Lu Shaohua, an expert in delirium, told the B.C. taser inquiry last week that people in a delirious state (while he didn't say so, Mr. Dziekanski appeared to be in that state, as did the 82-year-old, Frank Lasser) experience rapid breathing, sweating, unstable blood pressure and an increased heart rate and are so highly vulnerable that an "additional insult" can kill them.

He didn't know whether a taser could do so, because he hasn't studied it. But neither do the police across Canada know, yet they continue using the weapon where public safety is not seriously at risk. The real answer to the dangerous and needless use of police tasers is not to be found in Poland.


quarta-feira, maio 14, 2008

Marina Silva, ex-Ministra do Meio Ambiente

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Marina Silva quit at Environment Minster of Brazil. OK, I did not think she was that effective but she certainly has the background to know what's what - up to and including personal experience of mercury poisoning. Who knows? Another politician ...

But I will translate and maybe analyse her letter later on ...

Em carta a Lula, Marina reclama de 'resistências' no governo, 14/05/2008.
A ministra Marina Silva atribuiu sua saída do governo às dificuldades enfrentadas "há algum tempo para dar prosseguimento à agenda ambiental federal". Na carta de demissão enviada ao presidente Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Marina diz que ele “é testemunha das crescentes resistências encontradas por nossa equipe junto a setores importantes do governo e da sociedade”. EEEEEE
Na carta, Marina não cita nomes de quem, no governo, teria criado resistência contra suas ações à frente do ministério. Ela ainda agradece o empenho e a coragem do presidente ao assumir bandeiras do ministério na luta contra o desmatamento da Amazônia. Marina diz no texto que sua saída é em “caráter pessoal e irrevogável”. EEEEE
Veja abaixo a íntegra da carta de demissão de Marina Silva. EEEEE
“Caro presidente Lula, EEEEE
Venho, por meio desta, comunicar minha decisão em caráter pessoal e irrevogável, de deixar a honrosa função de Ministra de Estado do Meio Ambiente, a mim confiada por V. Excia desde janeiro de 2003. Esta difícil decisão, Sr. Presidente, decorre das dificuldades que tenho enfrentado há algum tempo para dar prosseguimento à agenda ambiental federal. EEEEE
Quero agradecer a oportunidade de ter feito parte de sua equipe. Nesse período de quase cinco anos e meio esforcei-me para concretizar sua recomendação inicial de fazer da política ambiental uma política de governo, quebrando o tradicional isolamento da área. EEEEE
Agradeço também o apoio decisivo, por meio de atitudes corajosas e emblemáticas, a exemplo de quando, em 2003, V. Excia chamou a si a responsabilidade sobre as ações de combate ao desmatamento na Amazônia, ao criar grupo de trabalho composto por 13 ministérios e coordenado pela Casa Civil. Esse espaço de transversalidade de governo, vital para a existência de uma verdadeira política ambiental, deu início à série de ações que apontou o rumo da mudança que o País exigia de nós, ou seja, fazer da conservação ambiental o eixo de uma agenda de desenvolvimento cuja implementação é hoje o maior desafio global. EEEEE
Fizemos muito: a criação de quase 24 milhões de hectares de novas áreas de conservação federais, a definição de áreas prioritárias para conservação da biodiversidade em todos os nossos biomas, a aprovação do Plano Nacional de Recursos Hídricos, do novo Programa Nacional de Florestas, do Plano Nacional de Combate à desertificação e temos em curso o Plano Nacional de Mudanças Climáticas. EEEEE
Reestruturamos o Ministério do Meio Ambiente, com a criação da Secretaria de Articulação Institucional e Cidadania Ambiental, do Instituto Chico Mendes de Conservação da Biodiversidade e do Serviço Florestal Brasileiro; com melhoria salarial e realização de concursos públicos que deram estabilidade e qualidade à equipe. Com a completa reestruturação das equipes de licenciamento e o aperfeiçoamento técnico e gerencial do processo. Abrimos debate amplo sobre as políticas socioambientais, por meio da revitalização e criação de espaços de controle social e das conferências nacionais de Meio Ambiente, efetivando a participação social na elaboração e implementação dos programas que executamos. EEEEE
Em negociações junto ao Congresso Nacional ou em decretos, estabelecemos ou encaminhamos marcos regulatórios importantes, a exemplo da Lei de Gestão de Florestas Públicas, da criação da área sob limitação administrativa provisória, da regulamentação do art. 23 da Constituição, da Política Nacional de Resíduos Sólidos, da Política Nacional de Povos e Comunidades Tradicionais. Contribuímos decisivamente para a aprovação da Lei da Mata Atlântica. EEEEE
Em dezembro último, com a edição do Decreto que cria instrumentos poderosos para o combate ao desmatamento ilegal e com a Resolução do Conselho Monetário Nacional, que vincula o crédito agropecuário à comprovação da regularidade ambiental e fundiária, alcançamos um patamar histórico na luta para garantir à Amazônia exploração equilibrada e sustentável. É esse nosso maior desafio. O que se fizer da Amazônia será, ouso dizer, o padrão de convivência futura da humanidade com os recursos naturais, a diversidade cultural e o desejo de crescimento. Sua importância extrapola os cuidados merecidos pela região em si, e revela potencial de gerar alternativas de resposta inovadora ao desafio de integrar as dimensões social, econômica e ambiental do desenvolvimento. EEEEE
Hoje, as medidas adotadas tornam claro e irreversível o caminho de fazer da política socioambiental e da economia uma única agenda, capaz de posicionar o Brasil de maneira consistente para operar as mudanças profundas que, cada vez mais, apontam o desenvolvimento sustentável como a opção inexorável de todas as nações. EEEEE
Durante essa trajetória, V. Excia é testemunha das crescentes resistências encontradas por nossa equipe junto a setores importantes do governo e da sociedade. Ao mesmo tempo, de outros setores tivemos parceria e solidariedade. Em muitos momentos, só conseguimos avançar devido ao seu acolhimento direto e pessoal. No entanto, as difíceis tarefas que o governo ainda tem frente sinalizam que é necessária a reconstrução da sustentação política para a agenda ambiental. EEEEE
Tenho o sentimento de estar fechando o ciclo cujos resultados foram significativos, apesar das dificuldades. Entendo que a melhor maneira de continuar contribuindo com a sociedade brasileira e o governo é buscando, no Congresso Nacional, o apoio político fundamental para a consolidação de tudo o que conseguimos construir e para a continuidade da implementação da política ambiental. EEEEE
Nosso trabalho à frente do MMA incorporou conquistas de gestões anteriores e procurou dar continuidade àquelas políticas que apontavam para a opção de desenvolvimento sustentável. Certamente, os próximos dirigentes farão o mesmo com a contribuição deixada por esta gestão. Deixo seu governo com a consciência tranqüila e certa de, nesses anos de profícuo relacionamento, temos algo de relevante para o Brasil. EEEEE
Que Deus continue abençoando e guardando nossos caminhos. EEEEE
Marina Silva”  

Carta aos servidores do Ministério do Meio Ambiente, Ibama, Instituto Chico Mendes, Agência Nacional de Águas, Serviço Florestal Brasileiro e Jardim Botânico EEEEE
Prezados servidores, EEEEE
Acabo de entregar ao Presidente Lula carta na qual comunico minha decisão de deixar a honrosa função de ministra do Meio Ambiente e meu retorno ao Senado Federal. Estou fechando um ciclo no qual enfrentamos muitas dificuldades, mas, colhemos resultados gratificantes nesses cinco anos e meio em que estamos juntos. EEEEE
Quero agradecer a colaboração de todos e afirmar que nada do que alcançamos seria feito sem a participação, o entusiasmo, as críticas, a competência de cada um de vocês. E não foi pouco: entre outras conquistas, acriação de quase 24 milhões de hectares de áreas de conservação federais, a definição de áreas prioritárias para conservação da biodiversidade em todos os nossos biomas, a estruturação do Plano Nacional de Mudanças Climáticas, aaprovação do Plano Nacional de Recursos Hídricos, do novo Programa Nacional de Florestas, do Plano Nacional de Combate à Desertificação. Também conseguimos aprovação da Lei de Gestão de Florestas Públicas, da criação da área sob limitação administrativa provisória, da Política Nacionalde Povos e Comunidades Tradicionais, entre outros marcos regulatórios importantes. EEEEE
Com erros, acertos e muito aprendizado, acredito que conseguimos nos guiar pela quatro diretrizes traçadas quando aqui chegamos: a busca do desenvolvimento sustentável, do controle e participação social, do fortalecimento do SISNAMA e da política ambiental integrada pela prática da transversalidade. EEEEE
Embora nunca tenha conseguido lhes dar a atenção que pretendia, dada a intensidade da agenda de que são testemunha, procurei fazer o possível para valorizar os servidores por meio de aumento salarial, enquadramento na carreira funcional, informatização e reforma das instalações físicas, realizaçãode concursos públicos e reorganização das equipes de licenciamento. A reestruturação do Ministério, feita com o objetivo de aproximar mais o organograma das necessidades de nossas ações e programas, levou à criação da Secretaria de Articulação Institucional e Cidadania Ambiental, da Secretaria de Mudanças Climáticas, do Instituto Chico Mendes e do Serviço Florestal Brasileiro. EEEEE
Assim como nossa gestão incorporou avanços de gestões anteriores, estou certa de que nosso trabalho terá continuidade sobretudo pela ação de vocês, servidores, os agentes verdadeiramente capazes de internalizar a política ambiental que melhor sirva ao nosso País. EEEEE
Continuaremos em contato, agora que voltarei ao Congresso Nacional, na busca da sustentabilidade política fundamental para consolidação da agenda de desenvolvimento sustentável. EEEEE
Um grande abraço, EEEEE
Marina Silva.  


terça-feira, maio 13, 2008


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Up, Down, Thread Ahead: more Charles Taylor, Thread Back: polemic.

Excuse me sir. You can't stay in the store without ...
... buying something.

I'm sorry sir, but ...
... they are orders from the boss.

But who are you?
I'm you tomorrow.

Thinking about ethics and morals (in the shower of all places!) and came away still thinking ...

I mean, even just the words themselves ... generally not understood properly enough to have a decent conversation, nevermind discussion.

ethic, a. and n.

A. adj. (Now usually ETHICAL.)
A1. Relating to morals.
A2. Of an author or literary work: Treating of moral questions, and of ethics as a science.
A3. Characterized by ‘ethos.’
A4. Gram. ethic dative: = ‘ethical dative’: see ETHICAL 3. 1867 FARRAR Gr. Syntax (1870) 80 To this dative of reference belongs what is called the ethic (i.e. emotional) dative.

B. n. I. sing.
B1. [after Fr. éthique, It. and Sp. etica, ad. L. thic, Gr. ().]
a. The science of morals; cf. 2.
b. A scheme of moral science.
II. pl. ethics.
B2. a. (after Gr. ). The science of morals; the department of study concerned with the principles of human duty.
b. A treatise on the science; spec. that of Aristotle.
c. As discrete plural: Ethical maxims or observations. Obs. rare.
B3. In narrower sense, with some qualifying word or phrase:
a. The moral principles or system of a particular leader or school of thought.
b. The moral principles by which a person is guided.
c. The rules of conduct recognized in certain associations or departments of human life.
B4. In wider sense: The whole field of moral science, including besides Ethics properly so called, the science of law whether civil, political, or international.

ethical, a.
1. a. Of or pertaining to morality or the science of ethics.
b. Pertaining to ‘ethos’ as opposed to ‘pathos’: see ETHOS.

2. Of an author or literary work: Treating of the science of ethics, or of questions connected with it.

3. Gram. ethical dative: the dative when used to imply that a person, other than the subject or object, has an indirect interest in the fact stated.

4. Med. Of a medicine or drug: advertised only in the professional press, not to the general public, and often available only on a doctor's prescription (see quots.). Hence as n., such a medicine.

5. In accordance with the principles of ethics; morally right; honourable; virtuous; decent; spec. conforming to the ethics of a profession, etc.

6. Finance (orig. U.S.). Of, pertaining to, or characterized by investment in enterprises whose activities do not offend against the moral principles of the investor. Freq. as ethical investment.


sexta-feira, maio 09, 2008

Mr Know All

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Mr Know All by W. Somerset Maugham

I was prepared to dislike Max Kelada even before I knew him. The war had just finished and the passenger traffic in the ocean-going liners was heavy. Accommodation was very hard to get and you had to put up with whatever the agents chose to offer you. You could not hope for a cabin to yourself and I was thankful to be given one in which there were only two berths. But when I was told the name of my companion my heart sank. It suggested closed portholes and the night air rigidly excluded. It was bad enough to share a cabin for fourteen days with anyone (I was going from San Francisco to Yokohama, but I should have looked upon it with less dismay if my fellow passenger`s name had been Smith or Brown.

When I went on board I found Mr Kelada`s luggage already below. I did not like the look of it; there were too many labels on the suit-cases, and the wardrobe trunk was too big. He had unpacked his toilet things, and I observed that he was a patron of the excellent Monsieur Coty; for I saw on the washing-stand his scent, his hair-wash and his brilliantine. Mr Kelada`s brushes, ebony with his monogram in gold, would have been all the better for a scrub. I did not at all like Mr Kelada. I made my way into the smoking-room. I called for a pack of cards and began to play patience. I had scarcely started before a man came up to me and asked me if he was right in thinking my name was so and so.

"I am Mr Kelada," he added, with a smile that showed a row of flashing teeth, and sat down.

"Oh, yes, we`re sharing a cabin, I think."

"Bit of luck, I call it. You never know who you`re going to be put in with. I was jolly glad when I heard you were English. I`m all for us English slicking together when we`re abroad, if you understand what I mean."

I blinked.

"Are you English?" I asked, perhaps tactlessly.

"Rather. You don`t think I look like an American, do you? British to the backbone, that`s what I am."

To prove it, Mr Kelada took out of his pocket a passport and airily waved it under my nose.

King George has many strange subjects. Mr Kelada was short and of a sturdy build, clean-shaven and dark-skinned, with a fleshy hooked nose and very large, lustrous and liquid eyes. His long black hair was sleek and curly. He spoke with a fluency in which there was nothing English and his gestures were exuberant. I fell pretty sure that a closer inspection of that British passport would have betrayed the fact that Mr Kelada was born under a bluer sky than is generally seen in England.

"What will you have?" he asked me.

I looked at him doubtfully. Prohibition was in force and to all appearance the ship was bone-dry. When I am not thirsty I do not know which I dislike more, ginger ale or lemon squash. But Mr Kelada flashed an oriental smile at me.

"Whisky and soda or a dry martini, you have only to say the word."

From each of his hip pockets he fished a flask and laid it on the table before me. I chose the martini, and calling the steward he ordered a tumbler of ice and a couple of glasses.

"A very good cocktail," I said.

"Well, there are plenty more where that came from, and if you`ve got any friends on board, you tell them you`ve got a pal who`s got all the liquor in the world."

Mr Kelada was chatty. He talked of New York and of San Francisco. He discussed plays, pictures, and politics. He was patriotic. The Union Jack is an impressive piece of drapery, but when it is nourished by a gentleman from Alexandria or Beirut, I cannot but feel that it loses somewhat in dignity. Mr Kelada was familiar." I do not wish to put on airs, but I cannot help feeling that it is seemly in a total stranger to put "mister" before my name when he addresses me. Mr Kelada, doubtless to set me at my case, used no such formality. I did not like Mr Kelada. I had put aside the cards when he sat down, but now, thinking that for this first occasion our conversation had lasted long enough, I went on with my game.

"The three on the four," said Mr Kelada.

There is nothing more exasperating when you are playing patience than to be told where to put the card you have turned up before you have had a chance to look for yourself.

"It`s coming out, it`s coming out," he cried. "The ten on the knave."

With rage and hatred in my heart I finished.

Then he seized the pack.

"Do you like card tricks?"

"No, I hate card tricks," I answered.

"Well, I`ll just show you this one."

He showed me three. Then I said I would go down to the dining-room and get my seat at table.

"Oh, that`s all right," he said. "I`ve already taken a seat for you. I thought that as we were in the same state-room we might just as well sit at the same table."

I did not like Mr Kelada.

I not only shared a cabin with him and ate three meals a day at the same table, but I could not walk round the deck without his joining me. It was impossible to snub him. It never occurred to him that he was not wanted. He was certain that you were as glad to see him as he was to see you. In your own house you might have kicked him downstairs and slammed the door in his face without the suspicion dawning on him that he was not a welcome visitor. He was a good mixer, and in three days knew everyone on board. He ran everything. He managed the sweeps, conducted the auctions, collected money for prizes at the sports, got up quoit and golf matches, organized the concert and arranged the fancy-dress ball. He was everywhere and always. He was certainly the best haled man in the ship. We called him Mr Know-All, even to his face. He took it as a compliment. But it was at mealtimes that he was most intolerable. For the better part of an hour then he had us at his mercy. He was hearty, jovial, loquacious and argumentative. He knew everything better than anybody else, and it was an affront to his overweening vanity that you should disagree with him. He would not drop a subject, however unimportant, till he had brought you round to his way of thinking. The possibility that he could be mistaken never occurred to him. He was the chap who knew. We sat at the doctor`s table. Mr Kelada would certainly have had it all his own way, for the doctor was lazy and I was frigidly indifferent, except for a man called Ramsay who sat there also. He was as dogmatic as Mr Kelada and resented bitterly the Levantine`s cocksureness. The discussions they had were acrimonious and interminable.

Ramsay was in the American Consular Service and was stationed at Kobe. He was a great heavy fellow from the Middle West, with loose fat under a tight skin, and he bulged out of this really-made clothes. He was on his way back to resume his post, having been on a flying visit to New York to retell his wife who had been spending a year at home. Mrs Ramsay was a very pretty little thing, with pleasant manners and a sense of humour. The Consular Service is ill-paid, and she was dressed always very simply; but she knew how to wear her clothes. She achieved an effect of quiet distinction. I should not have paid any particular attention to her but that she possessed a quality that may be common enough in women, but nowadays is not obvious in their demeanour. You could not look at her without being struck by her modesty. It shone in her like a flower on a coat.

One evening at dinner the conversation by chance drifted to the subject of pearls. There had been in the papers a good deal of talk about the culture pearls which the cunning Japanese were making, and the doctor remarked that they must inevitably diminish the value of real ones. They were very good already; they would soon be perfect. Mr Kelada, as was his habit, rushed the new topic. He told us all that was to be known about pearls. I do not believe Ramsay knew anything about them at all, but he could not resist the opportunity to have a fling at the Levantine, and in five minutes we were in the middle of a heated argument. I had seen Mr Kelada vehement and voluble before, but never so voluble and vehement as now. At last something that Ramsay said stung him, for he thumped the table and shouted:

"Well, I ought to know what I am talking about. I`m going to Japan just to look into this Japanese pearl business. I`m in the trade and there`s not a man in it who won`t tell you that what I say about pearls goes. I know all the best pearls in the world, and what I don`t know about pearls isn`t worth knowing."

Here was news for us, for Mr Kelada, with all his loquacity, had never told anyone what his business was. We only knew vaguely that he was going to Japan on some commercial errand. He looked round the table triumphantly.

"They`ll never be able to get a culture pearl that an expert like me can`t tell with half an eye." He pointed to a chain that Mrs Ramsay wore. "You take my word for it, Mrs Ramsay, that chain you`re wearing will never be worth a cent less than it is now."

Mrs Ramsay in her modest way flushed a little and slipped the chain inside her dress. Ramsay leaned forward. He gave us all a look and a smile flickered in his eyes.

"That`s a pretty chain of Mrs Ramsay`s, isn`t it?"

"I noticed it at once," answered Mr Kelada. "Gee, I said to myself, those are pearls all right."

"I didn`t buy it myself, of course. I`d be interested to know how much you think it cost."

"Oh, in the trade somewhere round fifteen thousand dollars. But if it was bought on Fifth Avenue shouldn`t be surprised to hear that anything up to thirty thousand was paid for it."

Ramsay smiled grimly.

"You`ll be surprised to hear that Mrs Ramsay bought that siring at a department store the day before we left New York, for eighteen dollars."

Mr Kelada flushed.

"Rot. It`s not only real, but it`s as fine a siring for its size as I`ve ever seen."

"Will you bet on it? I`ll bet you a hundred dollars it`s imitation."


"Oh, Elmer, you can`t bet on a certainty," said Mrs Ramsay.

She had a little smile on her lips and her tone was gently deprecating.

"Can`t I? If I get a chance of easy money like that I should be all sorts of a fool not to take it."

"But how can it be proved?" she continued. "It`s only my word against Mr Kelada`s."

"Let me look at the chain, and if it`s imitation I`ll tell you quickly enough. I can afford to lose a hundred dollars," said Mr Kelada.

"Take it off, dear. Let the gentleman look at it as much as he wants."

Mrs Ramsay hesitated a moment. She put her hands to the clasp.

"I can`t undo it," she said. "Mr Kelada will just have to take my word for it."

I had a sudden suspicion that something unfortunate was about to occur, but I could think of nothing to say.

Ramsay jumped up.

"I`ll undo it."

He handed the chain to Mr Kelada. The Levantine look a magnifying glass from his pocket and closely examined it. A smile of triumph spread over his smooth and swarthy face. He handed back the chain. He was about to speak. Suddenly he caught sight of Mrs Ramsay`s face. It was so white that she looked as though she were about to faint. She was staring at him with wide and terrified eyes. They held a desperate appeal; it was so clear that I wondered why her husband did not see it.

Mr Kelada stopped with his mouth open. He flushed deeply. You could almost see the effort he was making over himself.

"I was mistaken," he said. "It`s a very good imitation, but of course as soon as I looked through my glass I saw that it wasn`t real. I think eighteen dollars is just about as much as the damned thing`s worth."

He took out his pocket book and from it a hundred-dollar bill. He handed it to Ramsay without a word.

"Perhaps that`ll teach you not to be so cocksure another time, my young friend," said Ramsay as he took the note.

I noticed that Mr Kelada`s hands were trembling.

The story spread over the ship as stories do, and he had to put up with a good deal of chaff that evening. It was a fine joke that Mr Know-All had been caught out. But Mrs Ramsay retired to her state-room with a headache.

Next morning I got up and began to shave. Mr Kelada lay on his bed smoking a cigarette. Suddenly there was a small scraping sound and I saw a letter pushed under the door. I opened the door and looked out. There was nobody there. I picked up the letter and saw that it was addressed to Max Kelada. The name was written in block letters. I handed it to him.

"Who`s this from?" He opened it. "Oh!"

He took out of the envelope, not a letter, but a hundred-dollar bill. He looked at me and again he reddened. He tore the envelope into little bits and gave them to me.

"Do you mind just throwing them out of the porthole?" I did as he asked, and then I looked at him with a smile.

"No one likes being made to look a perfect damned fool," he said.

"Were the pearls real?"

"If I had a pretty little wife I shouldn`t let her spend a year in New York while I stayed at Kobe," said he.

At that moment I did not entirely dislike Mr Kelada. He reached out for his pocket book and carefully put in it the hundred-dollar note.


quinta-feira, maio 08, 2008


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Up, Down, Thread Ahead: Origins, Thread Back: Things / Coisas ... &etcTibetera.

polemic, adjective and noun:
A. adjective - Of the nature of, exhibiting, given to, or relating to dispute or controversy; contentious, disputatious, combative; polemical.
B1. noun - A controversial argument; a strong verbal or written attack on a person, opinion, doctrine, etc.; (as a mass noun) writing or opinion of this kind. Also: (in singular and plural) aggressive debate or controversy; the practice of engaging in such debate.
B2. noun - A person who argues or writes in opposition to another, or who takes up a controversial position; a controversialist; polemicist.
B3. noun, in plural (rare) - Poetical or other literary discourse dealing with war.

compare with conversation, noun:
7. Interchange of thoughts and words; familiar discourse or talk.

(Imagine! There were 6 other definitions before the one I had in mind ... this is a flaw in the OED thinks I ...)


quarta-feira, maio 07, 2008

Yossi Harel / Exodus 1947

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There were some things in this story I did not remember, probably never knew: that they were returned to Germany, to other camps, dispersed. The younger pictures below are not certain but I am posting them anyway.

A call to courage, Globe Editorial, Israel at 60, May 8, 2008.

The life of Yossi Harel, the captain of the illegal immigrant ship Exodus 1947, who died last month at the age of 90, symbolized as much as the life of any man could the hope, courage and resilience that is the story of Israel. As the Jewish state celebrates its hard-won 60th anniversary today, the example of people like Mr. Harel serves as a reminder that no matter how daunting the challenges and obstacles that remain for Israel, they could be no greater than those confronted and overcome by the country's founders.

Mr. Harel was in his twenties when he became a central figure in the effort to smuggle displaced Jews from Europe to Palestine, then under British Mandate. The Exodus, a rusting former U.S. warship obtained from a scrapyard, carried 4,500 Holocaust survivors from Europe to Palestine in 1947. To reach the promise of Israel, Mr. Harel gave British warships the slip, defied warning shots and fought, along with passengers, an armed boarding party. After the ship was finally seized and towed into Haifa, the passengers refused to disembark so that they could be returned to Europe, and went on a 24-day hunger strike. Perhaps as much as any one act, the defiance of the Exodus, its crew and passengers changed opinion - especially among members of a UN special committee on Palestine - to favour a Jewish state.

Sixty years is just two-thirds the span of one man's - Mr. Harel's - life. Still, what has been achieved in Israel represents not only a triumph for the Jewish people but a lesson for others. The country's per capita GDP places it in the world's top tier. Its universities are major world-class research institutions. In a region defiled by despotism, Israel is a beacon of freedom and democracy. In a region tainted by cronyism and arbitrary measures, Israel is governed by the rule of law. This is a day for celebration.

There is much emphasis in the analysis accompanying Israel's 60th anniversary on the negatives: the Iranian threat, the demographic challenges, and much legitimate concern also over the plight of the Palestinian people, who live in hopelessness and squalor. Yet the lineaments of a settlement between Israel and the Palestinians exist. Israel's leadership, and its Palestinian counterparts, know what a peace agreement would look like. Extremism, especially but not exclusively on the Palestinian side, must not be allowed to create a situation that sees Israel content to live with security measures that fall short of a comprehensive peace. The courage of Yossi Harel and his generation should serve as a guide.


terça-feira, maio 06, 2008

acabar em pizza

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Jury absolves farmer accused of ordering Dorothy's murder.

1. Júri absolve fazendeiro acusado de mandar matar Dorothy.
2. Marina Silva considera 'lamentável' absolvição no caso Dorothy.

Júri absolve fazendeiro acusado de mandar matar Dorothy, 6/05/2008.

Local: São Paulo - SP
Fonte: Agência Estado
Link: http://www.estadao.com.br/agestado/

Pistoleiro inocentou Bida e disse ter agido sozinho; promotor afirma que vai recorrer da decisão

Acusado de ser o mandante da morte da missionária Dorothy Stang, em fevereiro de 2005, o fazendeiro Vitalmiro Bastos de Moura, o Bida, foi absolvido pelo conselho de sentença durante o segundo julgamento a que foi submetido. A decisão revoltou as famílias da vítima e entidades de direitos humanos presentes no salão do júri. O promotor Edson Souza disse que pretende recorrer da decisão. Os jurados entenderam que não havia provas suficientes para condenar o fazendeiro e ele será solto. No mesmo julgamento, que durou dois dias, o pistoleiro Rayfran das Neves Sales, o Fogoió, foi condenado a 28 anos de prisão em regime fechado.

Dorothy, defensora dos direitos humanos e que trabalhava em área de conflitos fundiários, foi morta a tiros em Anapu, a 300 quilômetros da capital paraense, em 12 de fevereiro de 2005. A previsão é a de que o julgamento demore dois dias.

O que pesou na absolvição de Moura, condenado a 27 anos no primeiro julgamento, realizado no ano passado, foi o depoimento do pistoleiro favorável ao fazendeiro, assumindo sozinho a autoria do crime. Ele descartou um possível mandante, dizendo ter planejado executado sozinho o crime. A defesa de Moura festejou a absolvição juntamente com os familiares do fazendeiro.

O promotor sustentou contra Moura e Sales a acusação do homicídio qualificado, com uso de recurso que impossibilitou a defesa da vítima. Também afirmou que o crime foi praticado mediante promessa de pagamento. Ele denunciou da tribuna as ameaças que vem sofrendo, dirigida a seus familiares. "Essas ameaças, feitas por telefonemas anônimos, vem ocorrendo há cerca de um ano", disse Souza.

O advogado Eduardo Imbiriba, defensor de Moura, viu coroada sua tese de negativa de autoria. Ele foi categórico ao dizer que não existe nenhuma prova concreta no processo que incrimine o fazendeiro. Segundo Imbiriba, houve contradições no inquérito policial que favoreceram Moura.

Como Moura e Sales foram condenados a mais de 20 anos de prisão cada um, 30 e 27 anos respectivamente, eles tiveram direito a novos julgamentos. O fazendeiro foi condenado em 14 de maio de 2007. Sales, executor do crime, foi condenado em dezembro de 2005, recorreu e em 22 de outubro de 2007 o júri confirmou a condenação. A defesa dele recorreu, alegou problemas técnicos e o segundo julgamento foi anulado.

Marina Silva considera 'lamentável' absolvição no caso Dorothy, 10/05/2008

A ministra do Meio Ambiente, Marina Silva, considerou "lamentável" a absolvição do fazendeiro Vitalmiro Bastos de Moura, o Bida, acusado de ser mandante do assassinato da missionária norte-americana Dorothy Stang, ocorrido no município de Anapu (PA), em fevereiro de 2005. "É lamentável. O Brasil fica estarrecido com a decisão. No País, poucos mandantes foram punidos e temos que ter uma Justiça que seja capaz de punir tanto aquele que executa o crime como o que manda e contrata, porque são esses que patrocinam, principalmente na Amazônia e no estado do Pará, milhares de assassinatos", avaliou.

Na última quinta-feira (8), o presidente Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva também criticou a absolvição e disse esperar que seja revista a decisão do Tribunal do Júri de Belém. Mesmo frisando que presidente da República não pode "dar palpite" em decisões da Justiça, declarou que a absolvição, após o fazendeiro ter sido condenado num primeiro julgamento, em maio de 2007, mancha a imagem do Brasil no exterior.

Trezentas pessoas, entre religiosos, líderes sindicais e de movimentos sociais, estão sob ameaça de morte no interior do Pará por denunciarem crimes como grilagem, extração ilegal de madeira e exploração de mulheres. O número foi levado ao Conselho de Defesa dos Direitos das Pessoas Humanas (CDDPH), órgão da Secretaria Especial dos Direitos Humanos da Presidência da República, por três bispos que também integram a lista de jurados de morte no Estado - onde foi assassinada há três anos a irmã Dorothy Stang. A governadora do Estado, Ana Júlia Carepa (PT), disse, em nota, que reconhece uma lista de 60 pessoas.

O promotor do caso Edson Cardoso de Souza entrou com recurso na última quinta-feira para levar Bida a novo julgamento. "A decisão dos jurados contrariou a prova dos autos no caso do Bida. Além disso, o Conselho de Sentença não reconheceu um item importante do julgamento, que foi a qualificadora de promessa de recompensa pela morte da freira, quando julgou e condenou a 28 anos o Rayfran das Neves, o pistoleiro", explicou Cardoso.

A absolvição de Bida foi criticada por ministros do Supremo Tribunal Federal (STF) e pela Secretaria Especial de Direitos Humanos da Presidência. Ex-presidente do STF, Jobim disse que "cabe a eles (2ª Vara do Júri de Belém) decidir". "Como advogado que fui, juiz e político, sei muito bem que as decisões tomadas pelos tribunais são em cima do processo. Não tenho opinião a emitir", disse.

Este foi o segundo julgamento de Vitalmiro Moura, condenado em maio do ano passado a 30 anos de reclusão, em regime inicialmente fechado. O fazendeiro, que estava preso desde 2005, foi libertado já na noite da última terça, após o resultado do julgamento. Rayfran Sales, que confessou ter sido o executor da missionária, também foi julgado na última terça e teve a pena de 28 anos de prisão confirmada.

O júri que absolveu Bida era formado por seis homens e uma mulher. Eles acataram a tese da defesa de negativa de autoria de mando do crime. O que pesou na absolvição foi o depoimento do pistoleiro favorável ao fazendeiro, assumindo sozinho a autoria do crime. A defesa de Moura festejou a absolvição juntamente com os familiares do fazendeiro.


segunda-feira, maio 05, 2008

Solar Thermal Electicity

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See previous: May Day.

aka Concentrated Solar Power (CSP)

Nevada = 110,567 sq mi, 92 x 92 = 8,464 = 7.6%
Gigaton Gt = 10(9) tons, =1,000,000,000 tons = 1 billion tons.

"I said, 'That's the best news
That I've ever heard.'"

     Bob Dylan, Isis.

Because ... because ... because ... maybe later on I will explain, not right now ...

Solar Thermal at Wikipedia.
Out of Africa: the Riddle of Solar Electricity.
Ausra Makes Solar Thermal Simple and Cheap.

Solar Thermal at Wikipedia.

Out of Africa: the Riddle of Solar Electricity, IEEE, Spectrum Online.

One of the hottest new approaches to generating electricity today is "solar thermal," a form of capturing sunlight in order to convert water into steam, which in turn drives a conventional electricity-producing turbine. Solar thermal, as a concept, has been around since the 19th century, but in recent years the technology has undergone a revolution, helped by new designs and materials.

I visited last week with Ausra, one of the leaders in the solar thermal revival. Founded by an Australian inventor named David Mills, the company moved from Australia to Palo Alto, California a few years ago at the urging of legendary Silicon Valley financier Vinod Khosla who believed the company would thrive with more capital and the prospect of partnerships with American electric-utilities.
Khosla's vision seems to be coming true. Ausra specializes in providing large-systems to electricity grids and last year the company struck a deal to build a solar thermal plant for PG&E.

The PG&E plant remains years away from generating electricity but Ausra is already getting inquiries from all over the world. The key selling point: national electricity grids, suffering from shortages, can immediately benefit from solar thermal.

While India and China have the greatest needs for electricity going forward, sub-Saharan Africa is suffering from an unprecedented shortage, with South Africa -- the region's biggest economy -- suffering the most. Solar thermal as a technology would seem ideal for sub-Saharan Africa.

Indeed, Ausra is fielding requests from African governments and electricity companies -- and giving a stock answer, John O'Donnell, an executive vice president for the company, told me.

The answer to the Africans is "be patient."

"We're just saying we want to get proven in the U.S. before we take the next step," he says. "We don’t want to get overstretched."

For Africa, with its difficult business and geographic conditions, "you want well-proven systems," O'Donnell says.

"But once some of the technical risks are taken out and we're more experienced, solar thermal is clearly going to be part of the solution to Africa's electricity needs."

Ausra's approach -- providing electricity to a national grid -- runs counter to virtualy all of the current solar approaches in Africa, which is why solar thermal as a technology is worth watching closely. At present, solar in Africa is very small-scale and most often deployed at the level of villages (that are off the grid) or individual homes or buildings in cities (where excess electricity is not even fed back into the grid).

The trouble with these small solar systems is that they are costly, and especially so relative to the electricity generated.

O'Donnell describes proponents of small, off-grid solar in Africa as "romantic dreamers." He thinks the main show in solar should move away from simplistic notions about rural self-sufficiency and instead concentrate on helping to fill the growing demand in African cities for electricity.

Until now, solar in Africa has been dominated by romantics. O'Donnell predicts that will change. "Every African country is looking at solar thermal," he says. "The question is the maturity of the technology, over the next five years, we should begin to get the answers that Africans want to hear."

Ausra Makes Solar Thermal Simple and Cheap, Tekla S. Perry, IEEE Spectrum, May 2008.

Photo: Ausra
FLAT, CHEAP, AND UNDER CONTROL: Ausra’s steerable flat mirrors focus sunlight on a tube to make steam for a generator.

A start-up decades in the making may accelerate the solar-energy revolution.

Solar-thermal power has never seemed as technologically smart as photovoltaic technology. After all, a Neanderthal man could warm himself in the sun, but it took Einstein to explain the photoelectric effect.

But these days the idea of using sunlight to heat fluids to generate electricity is suddenly looking like a bright idea. At least 10 solar-thermal power plants are being developed for installation in the United States, and another 17 are under construction or being planned in Algeria, China, Egypt, Israel, Mexico, Morocco, South Africa, and Spain. With a typical plant generating somewhere between 50 and 500 megawatts, that's a lot of clean power due to come online. (New photovoltaic installations worldwide totaled a record 2826 MW in 2007, according to Solarbuzz.)

There are lots of ways to build a solar-thermal system, parabolic troughs or dishes being the most familiar. But a former Australian academic, David Mills, founder of the solar-thermal firm Ausra, in Palo Alto, Calif., thinks he has a better idea, and at least one major utility—Pacific Gas & Electric, in San Francisco—agrees. In November, the utility signed an agreement to purchase power generated by a 2.6-square-kilometer 177-MW power plant Ausra is building in the Nevada desert. Ausra says it has many more such deals in the works.

Mills's design, called the Compact Linear Fresnel Reflector, uses much less land than others. The mirrors appear to be solid but are actually made up of many smaller, movable reflectors, each with a slight curve. The system uses nearly flat mirrors at ground level that focus the sun's light onto water-filled steel tubes. When the water boils, it directly drives a steam turbine to generate electricity. Typical solar-thermal systems use heat transfer; water- or oil-filled tubes pass the heat to another system, which then boils water to drive steam turbines.

“I have a favorable opinion of [Ausra's] technology, largely because of the relative simplicity of manufacturing flat mirrors compared with parabolic mirrors. Also, because the mirrors are closer to the ground, they are less subject to wind loads,” says Michael Locascio, a senior analyst with Lux Research, in New York City.

Last April Ausra powered up the production line at a 12 000-square-meter manufacturing plant in Nevada. It's the first facility in the United States dedicated to producing the components of solar-thermal systems, including reflectors, towers, and specially insulated steel tubes. The new factory can build enough equipment to fill more than 10 km2 with solar-thermal collectors annually, enough to produce 700 MW of power or to power 50 000 homes. Eventually, Mills expects Ausra to sell equipment to others; for now, Ausra will consume the output.

Ausra sounds like a young company on the fast track, and in a way it is. It got its first round of venture capital financing last year—US $43 million. But in another way, Ausra's been slowly building for decades. Mills has been working with solar energy since the 1970s. Back then he was a principal research fellow at the University of Sydney, doing work in optics. There he started a research program to develop advanced coatings for evacuated-tube solar collectors, cleverly constructed glass tubes that let solar energy in but don't let heat out. Today his tubes are widely used in water heaters in China.

In 2006, John O'Donnell, a serial technology entrepreneur, contacted Mills. At first Mills told him, basically, to get lost. But O'Donnell was persistent, and in October of that year, he convinced Mills to come to California for a meeting with venture capitalists. Just three months later, Mills left the house in Sydney where he'd lived for more than 20 years and moved to Palo Alto; his wife and children followed a month later.

These days he heads up R&D for Ausra; until recently he ran the company's engineering efforts as well. “I'm 61,” he says. “It's a bit late in life to do a start-up, but when you work at something all your life, you do hope something comes of it and that you can influence change.”

Ausra Web Site.