Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Could red soon be dead?

Blondes might have more fun, and gentlemen may well marry brunettes, but redheads are remembered. For while they have had a troubled history - being burned as witches, sacrificed to gods and condemned as unlucky or insane, to give just a few examples, there has always been an edgy glamour attached to women with red hair, from Cleopatra to Rita Hayworth to Julianne Moore.

A recent report by the Oxford Hair Foundation in the UK has caused shockwaves in the Netherlands: redheads, it says, are dying out, and could become extinct as soon as 2060.

The two main factors involved in this demise are genetics and migration. The gene that gives rise to red hair - and often pale, freckled skin - is recessive, which means it is easily dominated by genes for other hair colours. So if, for example, you have a brown-haired mother and a red-haired father, you are most likely to have a brown-haired child.

Out of existence
In order to have a red-haired child, both parents must be carrying the gene. However, you can be a carrier without actually having red hair yourself, which is why a red-haired baby can sometimes come as a bit of a surprise. With only around one percent of the world's population naturally blessed with titian locks, the theory is that the gene is simply being diluted out of existence.

Erik Sistermans is a molecular geneticist at Radboud University Medical Centre in Nijmegen:

"What's happening now is that due to migration from other countries, there are less red-haired genes and more dark-haired genes coming in. But if you go to Ireland or England, and also some Scandinavian countries, you'll see more people with red hair there than you will in China or Africa."

Mostly found in Scotland
There are always exceptions to the rule of course, and it is possible to be a redhead and have darker skin that can cope with a hot climate. But it will come as no surprise to learn that rain-soaked Scotland has the highest proportion of redheads in the world - around 13 percent - while Holland is still above average at around two to three percent.

Dr Sistermans, like some other experts, believes that 55 years is much too soon for redheads to die out completely.

"I think it will take longer. It will depend on many factors, including the amount of migration and the exact mingling of the different groups - if they don't mingle, then you'll still have red hair."

Finding models
While looking for redheads to interview for Dutch Horizons, I stumbled upon an unusual art project. Bart Rouwenhorst is an artist who paints models (that's people, not tiny aeroplanes). He had the idea of doing a series of 15 paintings of naturally redheaded women, but at first had some difficulty finding them:

"When you start really looking for something, you find out how rare it is. And no one is half a redhead - you're either a redhead or you're not."

However, word soon got around, and in the end almost 300 redheads contacted Bart through his website, expressing their interest in the project. Since there was no way he could paint them all, Bart decided to take a group photograph, and invited all the redheads to take part

Redhead sisterhood
The venue was the small town of Asten in the southeast of the Netherlands. All around the town - on the bus, in the streets, in cafes - there was a real sense of fellowship and sisterhood as redheads, all wearing green, acknowledged each other with smiles and struck up conversations.

On the stroke of noon, the flame-haired participants - together with dozens of Dutch press - congregated in the town square, which the mayor of Asten had had specially cleaned for the occasion. In fact, the whole town entered into the spirit, with local shops offering deals on henna shampoo, red wine, tomato soup and buns with orange icing. As Bart was hoisted aloft in a crane to take his photos, directing the ginger group below (very politely) through a loudhailer, opera singer Annelie Brinkhof (a redhead of course) let rip with an aria. All in all, it was quite an experience.

But what about red-haired men? While evidently they are vital for the production of future redhead generations, they are by no means an automatic choice of mate for red-haired women. And even though the list of famous male redheads is impressive - Christopher Columbus, William Shakespeare, Vincent van Gogh - they can't quite seem to shake their negative image, even with Robert Redford on their side.

So if redheads carry on mingling with people with genetically stronger hair colours, could science intervene to help stop their extinction? And should it?

Dr Sistermans thinks that in, say, 80 to 100 years time it will be possible for genetic scientists to influence factors such as hair colour. But that doesn't mean that they should:

"We are doing genetic research in order to cure people with genetic diseases. If you use it to change hair colour, in my opinion you are misusing the knowledge that you have. Then it gets very dangerous… what about big noses or small toes? Where's the limit?"

Dr Sistermans believes nature should take its course:
"Things appears naturally and disappear naturally, that's evolution. Of course it's a pity, but we shouldn't make a big problem out of it. There will always be people with red hair, they won't disappear completely - every now and then, someone will emerge with red hair, so in the future it will perhaps be even more special and more beautiful."

Monday, November 12, 2007

Grocery chain fined $90,000 for injury to young worker

WOODSTOCK, ON, Nov. 9 /CNW/ - Sobeys Capital Incorporated, a national
grocery retailer, pleaded guilty and was fined $90,000 in the Ontario Court of
Justice today after a young worker slipped and fell in a grocery store cooler,
January 21, 2006.
Justice of the Peace Robert Gay heard that the worker suffered a
fractured hip after slipping on a piece of ice on the floor of a walk-in food
cooler while on duty at the Sobeys store at 379 Springbank Ave., Woodstock.
Sobeys pleaded guilty to failing to ensure the floor used by the worker
was kept free of obstructions, hazards and accumulations of ice as required by
subsection 11(a) of the Regulations for Industrial Establishments. The failure
was contrary to paragraph 25(1)(c) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
In addition to the fine, the court imposed a 25-per-cent victim fine
surcharge on the total, as required by the Provincial Offences Act. The
surcharge is credited to a special provincial government fund to assist
victims of crime.

Court Information at a Glance

Location: Ontario Court of Justice
415 Hunter St., Woodstock, Ontario

Judge: Justice of the Peace Robert Gay

Date: November 8, 2007

Defendants: Sobeys Capital Incorporated

Matter: Occupational Health & Safety

The search is on

WOODSTOCK - The city has asked archeologists to proceed with further study on a portion of Burgess Park where First Nations artifacts were found.
Community services director Bob McFarland confirmed Thursday the city has asked Archeologix Inc. to proceed with a phase three study of one area of the park where archeologists found Kettle Point chert during their completed work there last year. The work will be paid by the city, which differs from usual procedure where the developer would pick up the cost of this required work.
"Since we don’t anticipate anything happening in the immediate future…we’ve asked (them) to go ahead and do the work," McFarland said. "If they find anything else within a couple of feet, it may require another level of study."
A stage-three assessment would involve a hand excavation of a series of one-metre deep test pits strategically located to sample the areas where the chert was found. McFarland said the archeologists may not be able to get to the task until next year, given their workload and the wet conditions at the site right now.
The prospect worries Green Earth Campaign’s Bryan Smith, who cautions that any further excavation should not proceed until the First Nations people who brought the possibility of a burial ground on the site to his attention are consulted.

Smith said based on the information that has been shared with him, the site that Archeologix has been asked to study could be in proximity to the potential burial site he has been taken to.
"I would question what they are actually digging into and whether they’re actually desecrating a grave site," Smith said. "If exploration were to be done, I would hope it would be respectfully and carefully."
McFarland said he has e-mailed Smith and his fellow Green Earth executive asking for more information on the location of the site, but has not received a response. Smith spoke to McFarland’s request, and said there could be an opportunity to determine whether the site to be studied by Archeologix is the same one.
Tracing the history of the land is complex, given the Burgess family is aware of the existence of burial grounds on their former homestead, but that information appears to have remained out of the public record.
Smith said the First Nations oral history is an even greater complexity, given the Ouendat people were forced from this part of the continent by other First Nations in the earliest days of European contact. As a result, the oral history of this particular area for the Ouendat is known by very few remaining descendents.
A spokesperson for the Ministries of Culture and Tourism said that the ministry is aware of the claim of a burial ground on the site, but has not received the Archeologix report presented to council it is not yet complete.
"There is no indication in any of our records of a First Nation burial ground at that site," Guy Lepage said. "No one has ever said there was one in that area."

Sunday, November 11, 2007


In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing,
flyScarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throwThe torch;
be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

“Why was the poppy chosen as the symbol of remembrance for Canada’s war dead? Prior to the First World War few poppies grew in Flanders. During the tremendous bombardments of that war the chalk soils became rich in lime from rubble, allowing ‘popaver rhoeas’ to thrive. When the war ended the lime was quickly absorbed, and the poppy began to disappear again.
Each November, millions of poppies blossom in Canada. They blossom on the jackets, dresses and hats of nearly half the Canadian population and they have blossomed over 80 years, since 1921. The poppy is the symbol that individuals use to show that they remember those who were killed in the wars and peacekeeping operations that Canada has been involved in.”

Stephen Harper: Death Toll

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Harper must reverse decision on capital punishment

Fri 9 Nov 2007

OTTAWA – NDP Foreign Affairs Critic, Paul Dewar (Ottawa-Centre), has called on the Minister of Foreign Affairs Maxime Bernier to immediately reverse his decision and add Canada’s name to the list of the co-sponsors of the UN Moratorium on Capital Punishment.

“The NDP is gravely concerned that the Conservatives have decided not to take a leadership role in the movement to abolish the death penalty,” said Dewar. “I am particularly concerned that the Minister would make the decision not to co-sponsor the UN moratorium on death penalty without consulting Parliament”.

Foreign Affairs has confirmed that Canada will not co-sponsor the resolution to impose a universal moratorium on capital punishment. The resolution, co-sponsored by more than 70 countries, is scheduled for a vote on November 14, 2007.

In a letter addressed to Bernier dated November 8, 2007, Mr. Dewar criticizes the government’s decision: “It indicates a weakening of Canada’s position on this important issue particularly at a juncture when Canada’s leadership could have ensured the passage of the resolution. This is another example of Canada’s foreign policy going in the wrong direction”.

“This was an opportunity for Canada to reaffirm its unequivocal support for the abolition of the death penalty and take on a position of leadership for human rights on the international stage and the Harper conservatives have once again failed Canadians,” concluded Dewar.

Reworked Falun Gong documentary to air on CBC


CBC plans to air a slightly reworked documentary on the Falun Gong on Nov. 20, ending a rift that forced the film's prime-time English debut to be abruptly cancelled this past week.

"I don't think we will be shooting new footage, but there will be some new material and new narration," Peter Rowe, director of Beyond the Red Wall: The Persecution of Falun Gong, said in an interview.

Previously, the director had insisted he would not re-edit his film after CBC Newsworld yanked it at the last minute. But yesterday he said the requested fixes were relatively minor.

"As it turned out," he said, "the film is not going to be diminished nor are voices in the film going to be muted."

The Falun Gong is a spiritual movement based in China that Beijing considers a cult and security threat. In Canada and a host of Western countries, the regime and the movement wage a constant public-relations war against each other.

Beyond the Red Wall will explore allegations of torture, labour camps and executions of Falun Gong members in China, but clarify sources it uses to delve into allegations that China harvests organs from dead prisoners.

The documentary will also fine tune the way it portrays protesters who burned themselves alive in Tiananmen Square, self-immolations that Beijing and the Falun Gong accuse each other of perpetrating.

The unedited film had already aired once on Radio-Canada and once on English CBC, albeit in a predawn timeslot that few viewers saw.

The CBC, which sponsored production of Beyond the Red Wall, had been promoting its prime-time English debut before suddenly rerunning a documentary on Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf this past Tuesday.

Because Chinese diplomats had raised concerns about the film's content to the CBC just before broadcast, Falun Gong supporters cried foul about the broadcaster's decision to pull the piece and blamed Beijing for political interference.

The CBC has insisted it wanted to ensure the piece was as solid as possible before airing it in prime time. "We just wanted to ensure it was journalistically rigorous," spokesman Jeff Keay said yesterday.

The film's director said that, in the end, everything worked out for the best. "Of course, I'm pleased the attention paid will mean far more Canadians will learn about the persecution of the Falun Gong," Mr. Rowe said.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

CBC cancels show about Falun Gong after Chinese envoys protest

A Reprehensible Move by the CBC !

TORONTO -- The CBC cancelled the airing of a documentary about the Falun Gong spiritual movement after receiving calls from the Chinese embassy expressing concern about the film's subject matter.

Beyond the Red Wall: The Persecution of the Falun Gong was scheduled to appear on Tuesday evening on CBC Newsworld. It was replaced at the last minute by a rerun of a documentary on President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan. The broadcaster says it changed its schedule because recent turmoil in Pakistan made the Musharraf documentary "timely."

However, a spokesman acknowledged the CBC has received calls from Chinese diplomats about Beyond the Red Wall and intends to review the documentary's contents before returning it to its broadcast schedule.

"We were contacted by the Chinese embassy and they've just expressed their concern that the doc[umentary] be accurate -- that's not a problem with us," said Jeff Keay. "We're having conversations with the doc's producer just to review its contents and make sure it's a good solid documentary."

Peter Rowe, who wrote and directed the documentary, said a CBC executive called him late Tuesday afternoon to inform him the film would not air that evening. The executive also asked if Rowe could come to a meeting to discuss "re-editing" his documentary.

"It's rather surprising, because the film has been in production for about three years and was delivered to the CBC in March, so the authorities and the executives at the CBC signed off on the film quite some time ago," Rowe said.

Rowe, a television veteran with credits spanning three decades, said the CBC's decision to revisit the film after giving it final approval is odd.

"It's almost unheard of," he said. "You really have to question why they decided to cancel it at this insanely late hour."

But Keay said last-minute changes are quite common and that Beyond the Red Wall eventually will be broadcast.

"Often documentaries are edited right up until hours or minutes before a show gets to air," he said.

The CBC's website describes Beyond the Red Wall as a "point-of-view" documentary the focuses on the story of Kunlun Zhang, a professor at McGill University and a Falun Gong practitioner, who spent nearly three years in a Chinese labour camp.

The documentary has already appeared on television in Spain, Portugal and New Zealand and aired in French on Radio-Canada last month.

Falun Gong is a religious sect that integrates meditation and exercise. The Chinese government outlawed its practice in 1999, describing Falun Gong as a cult and accusing its leaders of practising mind control over followers and posing a risk to society.

Speaking on behalf of the CBC, Keay said Chinese officials did not raise specific issues about Beyond the Red Wall, but seemed more concerned about the airing of any documentary that may sympathetically portray Falun Gong and its practitioners. "It's not unusual for us to come under pressure from all directions for the documentaries that we do," Keay said. "We will always take phone calls from people, be it members of the public or other interested parties. And we take those calls under advisement."
David Matas, a Canadian lawyer who represented Zhang, described the CBC's actions as "reprehensible."

"The CBC should not be the mouthpiece for the Chinese Communist Party and that is what it has become in this instance by behaving in this way," Matas said. "In my view, the CBC becomes complicit in the Chinese censorship of the Falun Gong by doing this."

Officials at the Chinese embassy in Ottawa did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

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