Archive for June, 2008

Two Cleaners Take Misplaced Money

June 30, 2008

Bank cleaners admit to sticky fingers

Barbara Brown

The Hamilton Spectator

( Jun 21, 2008 )

Just as the apple tempted Eve, a bag full of money found on the bank floor one night was more than two cleaning ladies could resist.

Sonia Pacheco, 26, and Delia Pereira, 31, pleaded guilty to theft yesterday after the pair swooped in under the watchful eye of RBC Royal Bank security cameras and scooped up an abandoned sack containing $90,000 in cash.

The bag was accidentally left on Oct. 11, 2006, by personnel of the Universal Armoured Car Co., which regularly services the RBC branch located in Jackson Square.

After her Jan. 16, 2007 arrest, Pacheco admitted the pair had split the loot 50-50. She put $15,000 into her bank account and went on a shopping spree, outfitting her home with new furniture and electronics.

Pereira was nabbed a week later, after returning with her family from a lavish vacation in Cuba. She had just $9,100 left to give police after her arrest.

The loss was discovered the morning after the money bag went missing. The bank’s video footage showed the armoured guards arriving in the deposit room and then captured the appearance of the two cleaners, who were “acting in a suspicious manner,” said assistant Crown attorney Nancy Flynn.

Pereira is seen on videotape carrying a green plastic bag. When questioned, her coworker, Pacheco, claimed there were only books in the bag they found.

Defence lawyers Dean Paquette (see further reading below) and Robert Wasserman said their clients now admit they walked off with $45,000 apiece.

When the armoured car company’s investigator questioned Pacheco about the $15,000 deposited into her account, she claimed the money belonged to her mother and that she was helping her to conceal the money from her father.

Maria Carvalho, who owned the janitorial service that employed both women, supported her daughter’s story.

But Pacheco caved under pressure after Hamilton police took over the investigation.

The women, who have no prior criminal records, will be sentenced Sept. 12 in Cayuga.

905 526-3494

Further Reading

Dean Paquette:

Daughter of prominent lawyer seriously injured

Paquette Challenges Constitutionality of Young Offenders Act



Free Indian Widower Jailed for Raising Orphan Bear

June 25, 2008

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


File: Ram Singh Munda, 35, and his daughter feed their pet sloth bear Rani at Gahatagaon village, India.

NEW DELHI — It was supposed to be a heartwarming tale of a man who brought an orphaned bear cub home from the forests of eastern India to become part of the family, consoling his small daughter who had just lost her mother.

But when wildlife officials saw the story in the local media last week, it turned to tragedy.

Ram Singh Munda, 35, was arrested and jailed for violating wildlife laws, the bear was sent to a zoo where it has refused to eat, and the abandoned six-year-old daughter has been shipped off to a state-run boarding school.

Now animal rights activists, impressed by Munda’s compassion, are trying to win his freedom and reunite the family.

“We strongly condemn the manner in which the forest department officials arrested the poor and illiterate man who was not aware of the government’s rules and regulations,” Jiban Ballav Das, the head of People for Animals in India’s Orissa state, said Tuesday.

Munda, a laborer from the indigenous tribes that live in the forests some 125 miles north of the state capital Bhubaneswar, said he found the sloth bear cub last year while gathering firewood.

He brought the bear home, named her Rani, or Queen, and she became a member of the family, which was still struggling to overcome the death of Munda’s wife the previous year.

Television footage taken at a happier time shows the bear frolicking with his daughter, Dulki, the two of them clumsily trying to climb up on the back of Munda’s bicycle.

Wildlife officials saw the news stories and arrested Munda last week for breaking the county’s wildlife act that prohibits keeping wild animals. If convicted, he faces up to three years in prison.

“They have sent me to the jail. How will my daughter survive?” Munda told a cable news channel while being taken to prison.

“I cannot understand why I was punished for taking good care of a bear that was deserted in the forest and would have died had I not brought her home,” he said.

Munda said that when wildlife officials first approached him he tried to return the bear to the forest but it found it’s way home.

Local government official Biranchi Nayak said the daughter would be sent to a boarding school until her father was released.

Ajit Kumar Patnaik, a senior wildlife officer and director of the Nandan Kanan Zoo, where Rani was taken, defended the decision.

“Munda was arrested according to the provision of the law meant for protection of wildlife,” he told the Press Trust of India, adding that sloth bears are a protected species.

But animal rights activists said that while they condemn taking wild animals out the forest and support the decision to try to rehabilitate the bear, the government was being too harsh on Mandu

“He never tortured the animal. Neither was he using the bear for any commercial purposes. Therefore, we feel he should not have been arrested,” said Das.

The bear, too, was being unfairly treated and might die if the sudden separation from her adopted family was not managed properly, animal activists said.

The bear was being kept in an isolated cage at the zoo and was refusing to eat, apparently pining for Munda and his daughter, said Biswajit Mohanty, the secretary of the Wildlife Society of Orissa.

“Bears are known for the strong bonding they develop with human beings and therefore they are highly attached to their keepers,” he told PTI.

Das said the animal organizations were mobilizing to help Munda, organizing legal aid and trying to make better arrangements for his daughter.

“We have decided to give him a job in our animal rehabilitation center in Bhubaneswar as a caretaker,” he said.

Looking for Mr. Good Enough

June 25, 2008

Breaking News

Wednesday, June 04
11:56 PM

Looking for Mr. Good Enough

Sarah Hampson

From Thursday’s Globe and Mail

You know that scenario you hold in your head about The One? One day, you’ll be walking into your local grocery store to buy a mango, and there he will be, squeezing them too, ready to seduce you with an opening gambit about, say, ripeness.

Well, it’s a dream, and that makes you a fantasist.

Such is the new thinking from the front lines of modern dating. Forget about finding Mr. Right. You should settle for Mr. Good Enough. Heck, go for Mr. Just Okay. Don’t expect a head-spinning courtship. You should not even want love. In fact, you’d be wise to borrow a few pointers from arranged marriages.

Last month in London’s Sunday Times, Lori Gottlieb caused a stir by writing a piece about her longing to be married. At 40, she laments the decisions in her 30s to break up with certain boyfriends. Looking back, she figures she should have married one. A single mother, she conceived her child through donor sperm because she had not met Mr. Right.

Her advice to women is to settle before they panic about feeling they might never have a family. “Don’t worry about passion or intense connection,” she writes.

Marriage is “more like a partnership formed to run a small, mundane and often boring not-for-profit business. And I mean this in a good way.”

Reva Seth agrees. Born in Canada to South Asian parents, she has written a book, First Comes Marriage, Modern Relationship Advice from the Wisdom of Arranged Marriages, based on her discussions with more than 300 women in arranged marriages. Does she think modern women are fantasists? “Very much,” she says in an interview. “Our expectations have become so high in terms of what we are looking for. … Even the idea of a soulmate is a list [of attributes] in our head that keeps changing.”

Women should seek the inverse of what Hollywood and the culture in general dictate they should expect, she says. Don’t look for connection or expect to feel something the minute you lock eyes. That’s sexual chemistry, which fades over time. Look for shared values, even if that comes in a guy who is 5 foot 4 and suffers from halitosis, she says.

Depend on marriage to make love grow, she says.

Ms. Seth, whose professional experience includes journalism, public relations and the practice of law, readily acknowledges that her research is not conclusive. She began conducting interviews with women in arranged marriages out of curiosity. Her parents had one, and were happy. As a young girl, she observed their friends, many of whom were in arranged marriages, too. “I could never really tell the difference between the odd love marriage in the group and the arranged marriage. There was no difference. And that really bothered me.”

She recognizes that the women she spoke to were probably self-selecting – only those who had generally happy experiences in their arranged marriage were willing to come forward.

Ms. Seth is not advocating arranged marriage. It is the principle of being strategic about selecting a husband that she upholds. Husbands don’t need to be the centre of your life, she says. It shouldn’t matter that they don’t like to do all the things you like to do.

Her advice is to make a list of marriage musts – basic core values, not superficial attributes. That’s what she did on New Year’s Day, 2003. Then 28, she had been in a five-year relationship that ended and “was dating around the city” of Toronto. She found herself drifting into relationships, without a plan or clear idea of what she wanted. “We end up marrying the men we date,” she warns.

Women would be better off to seek the men who meet their “marriage musts” with the same determination that they would have to tackle a project at the office. Online dating and introduction agencies are good for this, she writes.

Five months after drawing up her list – which included attributes such as being positive and having lived outside Canada, as she had – she met a suitable man at a party. She struck up a friendship with the man – it was casual, she says – and after their seventh time together in person (there were many e-mail exchanges), they became engaged. (She does allow that they had slept together.)

“We decided we could date or we could just go for it,” she says. “It was this idea that commitment is the new ambivalence.” Five months later, they married. Four years later, they have a son.

Hers is a happy story, but it is hard to use as an example to other women. Her husband is also South Asian, and his parents have an arranged marriage. He, too, understood and perhaps wanted on some level to emulate what his parents have. I can’t think of many men willing to jump into marriage after seven face-to-face meetings. Non-committal men are the obstacle faced by many young women who want to marry. They are what gave rise to The Rules and all the other how-to-snag-a-hubby books.

But more than anything, what rankles about Ms. Gottlieb’s and Ms. Seth’s advice is their promotion of low expectations and the idea that you don’t need to love the guy you marry. I don’t think many women, once they are past the dreamy teenage years, really think that they will marry a Brad Pitt. They are not fantasists. The dating scene is rife with hazards, for both men and women. It’s not easy to find someone you think you can live with – and who wants to live with you. And we should choose carefully, just as men should. Unlike women in previous generations, we don’t necessarily need men for financial support. The priority is building a happy life.

The best observation I ever heard on the subject of when (and if) women should marry came from sex therapist Lou Paget. “People marry when they are ready to,” she told me once. “It’s not so much about who they are dating. It’s about when they are ready to make the commitment.” To apply that reasoning, if Ms. Gottlieb didn’t marry one of those Mr. Good Enoughs in her 20s and 30s, maybe she wasn’t prepared to undertake what it would mean. Ms. Seth, on the other hand, was clearly ready to take the plunge.

Ms. Gottlieb is right that marriage is no passionfest. It is hard work, just like being single. But that is why you should start it off by being madly in love. Feeling a romantic connection with another person is one of the lovely privileges of being human, and the memory of that initial romantic spark can sustain you through the rough patches.

As for lasting happiness, divorce happens in all kinds of unions – in marriages to the man of your dreams and to Mr. Okay. It can be as mysterious as love in some ways.

What the two women do have right is that nothing is perfect: not men, not marriage and not life.


June 25, 2008


June 4, 2008

Call it an end to Kentucky Fried Cruelty.

After five years of protests, KFC Canada and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals have cut a deal that will see the Canadian chain improve its chicken slaughter conditions and introduce vegan menu options.

Yes, vegan chicken at KFC.

The fake chicken, known as unchicken, has been around for years and is available in a handful of restaurants and stores in Canada. Most of the fake meats are soy-based and fair game for vegans. Some may contain eggs, but are meat-free.

There are some Canadian unchicken manufacturers (one calls it “Chick’n”), but a selection of the mock meats is not easy to find. Many Ontarians turn to an unusual supplier: the Seventh Day Adventist Church.

The church offers a range of fake meats, including chicken, burgers, hot dogs and bacon. Adventists do not eat shellfish or pork and many strive for vegetarianism as part of a healthier lifestyle. They sell the unchicken (frozen, canned or dried) to anyone, and it’s “very, very popular,” said Halsey Peat, a church spokesman.

The mock-meat market remains small, but with the KFC deal it’s about to get a whole lot bigger.

“It means more choice for people who are vegetarian and more options for people thinking about it,” said David Alexander, director of operations for the Toronto Vegetarian Association.

PETA will now call off its Kentucky Fried Cruelty campaign in Canada, which was supported by many celebrities including Canadians Pamela Anderson and Ryan Gosling. KFC Canada pledged to buy from suppliers who gas their chickens, what PETA calls “the least cruel form of poultry slaughter ever developed.”

PETA will continue to press KFC in the United States and elsewhere to change its slaughter practices – and sell unchicken, as 461 KFC Canadian chain stores have agreed to do.

“KFC is sort of taking a bit of leadership on the issue,” said Mr. Alexander, a vegetarian for two years. “We’ve moved beyond the era of the veggie burger, I think.”

Wanted: Smart son-in-law

June 23, 2008

Finding suitable suitors for busy offspring keeps Beijing parents flocking to matchmakers’ park

Jun 22, 2008 04:30 AM

Bill Schiller

Asia Bureau

BEIJING–Beneath a canopy of gnarled and ancient cypresses on the banks of the Huchen River – just steps from Tiananmen Square – they gathered in their hundreds last week, as they do every week, looking for love.

Not for themselves, for their kids.

Welcome to the White Collar Matchmaking Exchange, a twice-weekly gathering in central Beijing’s Zhongshan Park where parents fervently search for Mr. Right – or Ms. Right, as the case may be – for their unmarried children.

Carrying short biographies of their sons and daughters, carefully written on small white placards, the parents arrive at 1 p.m., place the cards on the pavement and await approaches from other parents whose children just might be the suitors they’re looking for.

“I want to build a bridge for them,” explains Tong Shouyang, a 74-year-old father who is on the hunt for a husband for his 31-year-old daughter. “If they can then look into each other’s eyes and find each other – then I think that’s great.”

Tong is here for the same reason all the other parents are: their kids are putting in so many hours at work in the new, industrious China that few have time to find a mate on their own. So, the parents have decided to do it for them.

In many major cities across China parents gather in parks to swap information and arrange introductions. Here in China’s Olympic city, however, there’s trouble brewing.

Filtering through the trees of this idyllic park, a tape-recorded female voice of officialdom rings out from loudspeakers.

“With the Olympic Games approaching day by day,” the voice says, “senior authorities and relevant departments have requested higher standards for the environment and order of Zhongshan Park. Due to the importance of its location … from May 29, no further White Collar Matchmaking Exchange activities shall take place in this park.”

It is now late June. But the wheeling and dealing continues.

For three weeks, these parents – dignified and mild-mannered – have paid little heed.

“We’re not going anywhere,” says one father, who asks that his name not be used for fear of government reprisals.

“This park is very central, very convenient and easy to get to by bus. And we’re not doing anything wrong.”

From the far bank of the river, two police officers in a parked car silently monitor activity.

City officials recently erected signs stipulating that parents should move on to other parks.

Bus routes and schedules have been posted on a board to show them how to get there.

But the parents have stubbornly stayed on.

Parents here feel that finding partners for their children is the unfinished business of their life’s work. And they like doing that business in Zhongshan Park.

After all, the Matchmaking Exchange has been meeting here for three years. Some weeks, as many as 4,000 parents have turned up.

“In China,” Tong explains patiently, “if our children are 30 years of age and not married – even if everything else is settled: a job, a house, a car – then that weighs heavily on a Chinese parent’s heart.”

As he speaks, occasional passersby stop to read his daughter’s details: “Female. Born Feb. 8, 1977. 1.68 metres tall. University diploma, double Bachelor degrees. Unmarried. Works with a real estate company. Engineer. A Beijinger.”

Says Tong: “I’d like her to meet someone of the same academic level – someone who is taller than 1.75 metres.

“He must be smart. He must be capable.”

Tong has been looking for a suitable match for about a year and he’s arranged about a dozen dates for his daughter.

“Unfortunately, none of them have worked out,” he says. “I thought the guys might be suitable, but my girl, well … she didn’t think they were good enough.”

Why does the candidate have to be more than 1.75 metres, he is asked?

“Offspring!” Tong says wide-eyed.

Although his daughter has never thanked him, he knows she appreciates his tireless efforts, he says.

“She doesn’t have time to go out,” he observes, “and her colleagues are all too short.”

Not far away, a friendly-looking mother in her 60s sits on a small stool behind a card proudly detailing her son’s attributes – and his requirements for a wife.

“Male. Born Oct. 1970. 1.85 metres tall. Double degrees from a famous university. Now works in management at a Beijing university. Healthy. Outgoing nature. Trustworthy, good-looking and virtuous. A Beijing householder from an intellectual family.

“Looking for someone under 32, unmarried, between 1.66 and 1.75 metres … honest and kind, outgoing and easy-going, good-looking and in good shape. Healthy, lighter skinned – a traditional girl.”

“Lighter skinned?” the mom is asked.

“Many Chinese men tend to think lighter-skinned women are more beautiful,” she smiles.

Another mother, Zhou Xiangdong, explains that it’s no wonder her 31-year-old daughter and others like her are still looking for husbands in this modern age.

The new and prosperous China has altered the priorities of young Chinese – and brought increasing pressure on women, she says.

“Today, young women have sacrificed almost everything to achieve their current positions in society. They devote far more time and energy to their jobs.

“It used to be that if you met someone and you liked each other enough, then perhaps you’d stay together. But that’s not the way it is now.

“My daughter has been to some organized social activities, kind of like dates. And the first thing the guys ask is: `Do you own a house? Do you own a car?'”

She sighs.

Back by the embankment, a mother carrying an umbrella is reading the public notice urging parents to move on. “The Olympics are coming,” she says. “They don’t want large groups of people meeting. Anywhere.”

Bill Schiller is the Star’s Asia Bureau Chief. Contact him at


Love in China: Matchmakers, moms and the Internet

Updated: 2006-02-13 09:13

The gateway to marital bliss in Beijing has a frosted glass door with two candy-apple red hearts and lots of computers.

Pairs of single men and women hold a 8-minute-talk face to face in Shanghai’s

Zhongshan Park on October 22, 2005. Nearly 5,000 local young professionals, all in a love hunt, convene for a mass match-making activity held in the park. [newsphoto]

Introducing the Beijing Military and Civilian Matchmaking Service, one of a growing number of Chinese companies that are wedding high technology with low-tech tradition to spawn romantic unions.

Bi Zhenxie, a 25-year-old real estate agent who has never had a girlfriend, was on his first visit, filling out a form with his personal details and what he wants in a mate.

“I’m so excited,” said Bi. “I just work, go home, then work again. Now I’m beginning to consider having a family because I’m getting up there in years. The pressure is on.”

Romance and marriage have changed drastically in China after 25 years of breakneck economic growth and looser social controls.

In a country now wide open to Western influences, even Valentine’s Day is making inroads, with chocolates, dinner dates, flowers and cards all becoming popular expressions of affection on the occasion.

For centuries, families relied on village matchmakers. Then came traditional Chinese unions sanctioned _ and sometimes arranged _ by companies for their employees. Today, the search is fueled by personal choice, sped up by the convenience of the latest technology.

“China is now free and transparent. Everyone has the freedom to find their partner,” said Wang Peng, a divorced 43-year-old who was making his first visit to the Beijing Military and Civilian Matchmaking Service.

“Now people can meet face-to-face, talk about their feelings, exchange ideas,” said Wang, a businessman with carefully combed hair. “They can find a common language and be together.”

The first state-sponsored matchmaking agency was set up in 1986 in the southern city of Guangzhou. Today, there are more than 20,000 registered agencies, according to the government’s Xinhua News Agency. Fees can run to thousands of yuan (hundreds of dollars) _ a fortune in a country where the average person earns just US$1,000 (euro835) a year.

But “it is the most convenient and fastest way to solve their marriage problems,” said Wang Weiming, general secretary of the Matchmaking Industry Committee of the China Social Work Association. “The modern matchmaking industry will grow and will not die out as long as human beings exist in this world.”

“Love is no longer the same as before because of the changes in society,” said Ren Wen, one of Beijing Military and Civilian Matchmaking Service’s employees, who are called “teacher” by clients.

“People are more independent. They want to think for themselves,” Ren said. “They’re also more independent financially, so they have greater and higher requirements.” With her hair piled high, a pearl necklace and coral-red lipstick, Ren looks like a traditional matchmaker but navigates her desktop computer with practiced smoothness.

“It’s a good deed. I like helping people to find their mate,” she said as she clicked on her mouse to get more information for Tian Li, a 48-year-old widow with a husky voice and a shy smile.

“I think I’m fairly attractive. I want to see what options I have,” Tian said. But for some parents, a low-tech approach is easier _ and a return to the days where they had some say in their children’s lives.

In Zhongshan Park, off Tiananmen Square in the heart of Beijing, hundreds of mothers and fathers gather twice a week in a do-it-yourself hunt for a partner worthy of their offspring.

They come with glossy photos of smiling sons and daughters, and swap stories of children so busy with careers that finding a spouse has fallen by the roadside. Some camp out on the ground and set up handwritten personal ads touting the virtues of their children.

“This is an effective way to do things,” said Guo Shufang, a slight, 65-year-old woman.

The retired office worker has come to Beijing twice from the northeastern city of Dalian, looking for a wife for her 31-year-old son, a software engineer. “You check out the potential candidates, you talk to their parents, you try to arrange for a meeting,” Guo said.

Duan Guoyi, 57, a retired construction company driver, had a photo of her 28-year-old daughter, who worked in Ukraine for five years. Duan said the park has yielded one or two men, though neither got far with the daughter.

“She told me one was too fat, the other was too quiet,” Duan said. “She’s not worried, but I am.”

“The older you get, the harder it is,” she said. “The economy has changed the way that people talk about love. Now, money, cars, homes come first.”

For Chen Yuannong, a 44-year-old office worker, career came first, but after she was divorced, loneliness set in.

At a friend’s urging, Chen signed up at the Beijing Military and Civilian Matchmaking Service. She met several men within a week and later married one.

“I carried hope in my heart that I would find someone suitable,” Chen said. “He is a kind man. Our life is good now.”

Copyright 2005 All rights reserved. Registered Number: 20100000002731


A Local Kid Has High Dreams

June 21, 2008

By Andrew Logsdon, KMVT, Twin Falls, Idaho

Story Published: Jun 20, 2008 at 6:19 PM CDT

Watch The Video

For years, many children spend their summers behind the lemonade stand.

One young man in Twin Falls is taking it a step further.

Tanner Cuellar says, “I’m selling lemonade!”

His mother Kayla Cuellar says, “We took him over to the world vision experience aids exhibit over at CSI, where we got to walk through and kind of walk through an idea of what it’s like to be a child in Africa.”

Tanner Cuellar is part of a group of children in the olive tree ministry center, who walked through the aids exhibit a few months ago.

Judi Thietten says, “CSI let world vision in to do their aids experience and that had such an impact on these children, we really wanted to do something.”

Collectively, the kids decided to have a yard sale next weekend

Tanner says, “Um, I’m hoping to raise three hundred dollars.”

Tanner chose to take it one step further with his lemonade stand.

He plans to move around the magic valley all summer selling lemonade to help pay for a well in Africa through the Adventist development and relief agency, to prove clean drinking water for impoverished people.

Even the stand he’s using is a sweet deal.

Kayla says, “Online, Sunkist has a program called ‘take a stand,’ and we applied for that. Tanner wrote a pledge to raise one hundred dollars this summer for a well in Africa through Adra.”

Tanner says, “Because I wanna raise money.”

Tanner is showing us all that when life hands you lemons, you build a well.”

Andrew Logsdon, kmvt news.

Cop stops train derailment with cruiser

June 15, 2008

Jun 15, 2008 12:01 PM


BROOKFIELD, N.S.–A quick-thinking RCMP officer from Nova Scotia is being praised for risking his own life and preventing a possible train derailment.

Const. Frank Deschenes was among a number of officers responding to single-vehicle accident just south of Brookfield early Sunday.

The accident left the vehicle stuck on some railway tracks, and a CN freight train was only minutes away.

Deschenes crashed his police cruiser into the car, pushing it out of the way with 45 seconds to spare.

The RCMP say Deschenes’ selfless actions saved lives.

Boy Scouts praised as heroes after twister kills 4

June 13, 2008

Remnants from a Boy Scout uniform sit in the rubble left by a tornado that struck at the Little Sioux Scout Ranch, seen Thursday, June 12, 2008, near Little Sioux, Iowa. Four Boy Scouts were killed and 48 people were injured when the tornado tore through their Mid-America Council camp Wednesday night. (AP Photo/Matt Miller,POOL)

Boy Scouts praised as heroes after twister kills 4


BLENCOE, Iowa (AP) — When the howling winds finally died down, the Boy Scouts — true to their motto, “Be Prepared” — sprang into action.

Putting their first-aid training to use, they applied tourniquets and gauze to the injured. Some began digging victims from the rubble of a collapsed chimney. And others broke into an equipment shed, seized chainsaws and other tools, and started clearing fallen trees from a road.

Dozens of the Scouts, ages 13 to 18, were hailed for their bravery and resourcefulness Thursday, the morning after a twister flattened their camp in Iowa and killed four boys.

“There were some real heroes at this Scout camp,” Gov. Chet Culver said, adding that he believes the Scouts saved lives while they waited for paramedics to cut through the trees and reach the camp a mile into the woods.

The 93 boys, all elite Scouts attending a weeklong leadership training session, had taken part in a mock emergency drill with 25 staff members just a day before the twister hit.

“They knew what to do, they knew where to go, and they prepared well,” said Lloyd Roitstein, an executive with the Mid-America Council of the Boy Scouts of America.

Killed were Aaron Eilerts, 14, of Eagle Grove, Iowa, and Josh Fennen, 13, Sam Thomsen, 13, and Ben Petrzilka, 14, all of Omaha, Neb. Roitstein said all four had taken shelter in a building that was leveled, and all of them were found near its collapsed stone chimney. The governor said the cause of death had not been determined.

At least a dozen people remained hospitalized Thursday with everything from bruises to spine and head injuries.

At the campsite, a pickup truck had been tossed on its side. Tree limbs rested on top of the Scouts’ tents. Trees were flattened. And the one-room multipurpose building where the Scouts died was a pile of cinderblocks and chimney stones.

Boy Scout officials said the campers had heard the severe weather alerts but decided not to leave because a storm was on the way.

“They were watching the weather and monitoring with a weather radio, listening for updates,” said Deron Smith, a national spokesman for the organization. “The spot they were at was the lowest spot of camp. It was deemed to be the safest place.”

A group of Scouts who had set out on a hike had returned to the camp before the storm hit, Smith said.

On the other side of the state, 3,200 homes were evacuated from flood-stricken Cedar Rapids, where rescuers removed people with boats, officials estimated 100 blocks were under water, and a railroad bridge over the flooded Cedar River collapsed.

In Albert Lea, Minn., 90 miles south of Minneapolis, a man died Thursday after his vehicle plunged from a washed-out road and was submerged in floodwaters.

Also Thursday, several Kansas communities began cleaning up from tornadoes a day earlier that killed at least two people, destroyed much of the small town of Chapman, and caused extensive damage on the Kansas State University campus in Manhattan.

Meanwhile, tales of heroism emerged from the Iowa camp.

Roitstein said a group of Scouts pulled the camp ranger and his family from their destroyed home. Doug Rothgeb of Omaha said his 15-year-old son emerged from a ditch where he had taken cover, then joined other Scouts to break into the equipment shed.

Fourteen-year-old Zach Jessen of Fremont, Neb., said that before the storm struck, someone spotted the rotation in the clouds and a siren sounded in the multipurpose building, which had tables and a TV in addition to a fireplace. Jessen said he and others managed to get Scouts out of their tents and indoors just before the tornado hit. According to Roitstein, the Scouts took shelter in three buildings.

Jessen said shortly afterward, the door on the multipurpose building flew open and he heard someone yelling to get under the tables.

“All of a sudden, the tornado came and took the building,” Jessen said. “It sounded like a giant freight train going right over the top of you.”

Ethan Hession, 13, said he crawled under a table with his friend.

“I just remember looking over at my friend, and all of a sudden he just says to me, `Dear God, save us,'” he said on NBC’s “Today” show.

Ethan said the Scouts’ first-aid training immediately compelled them to act.

“We were prepared,” he said. “We knew that we need to place tourniquets on wounds that were bleeding too much. We knew we need to apply pressure and gauze. We had first-aid kits, we had everything. We knew about this, we knew how to do it.”

He added: “All of a sudden people started taking action. Like it just clicked. One of the staff members took off his shirt and put it right on the guy who was bleeding and told me to get on top of him so he would stop moving so he could apply pressure and gauze. We started digging people out of the rubble.”

The 1,800-acre Little Sioux Scout Ranch is in the Loess Hills in westernmost Iowa, close to the Nebraska line, about 40 miles north of Omaha. The hills rise 200 feet above the plains in what is otherwise an exceedingly flat state. While tornadoes are often associated with flat, open land, Iowa is in Tornado Alley, and forecasters said twisters are not unusual in the Loess Hills.

The camp includes hiking trails through narrow valleys and over steep hills, a 15-acre lake and a rifle range.

Lisa Petry, the mother of 13-year-old Boy Scout Jose Olivo, said she had a bad feeling Wednesday morning when she heard reports of possible severe weather. “I thought, `Should I call the Scout camp and ask if there’s severe weather, where will they go?'” she said.

The governor would not address questions about whether the Scouts should have remained at the campground after severe weather alerts were issued.

“There’s always lessons learned from any natural disaster, from any tragedy,” Culver said. “We need to focus on the victims, the families affected.”

The National Weather Service said it was an EF3 on the 1-to-5 Enhanced Fujita scale of tornado intensity, with an estimated wind speed of 145 mph. The twister cut a path estimated at 14 miles long.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff toured the camp and said it appeared that the Boy Scouts “didn’t have a chance” and that the tornado came through the camp “like a bowling ball.”

Associated Press writers Henry C. Jackson in Des Moines, Iowa; Nate Jenkins and Anna Jo Bratton in Onawa, Iowa; Sophia Tareen and Timberly Ross in Omaha, Neb., and John Hanna in Chapman, Kan., contributed to this report.

Ontario MPPs vote to continue using Lord’s Prayer

June 12, 2008

MPPs from all three parties today banded together to spare the daily recital of the Lord’s Prayer in the Legislature.

Putting to rest a controversy ignited by Premier Dalton McGuinty four months ago, Liberals, Progressive Conservatives and New Democrats voted unanimously on a compromise today.

Under the new arrangement, the traditional Christian prayer would continue to be read each morning with other prayers rotated daily.

“Is it a perfect result? Perhaps, perhaps not,” said Government House Leader Michael Bryant, who was left to broker a solution to the problem caused by McGuinty opening what many critics dubbed a Pandora’s Box.

The motion, passed by a vote of 58-0, read:

“That the Speaker commence each meeting day of the Assembly by reciting the Lord’s Prayer, followed by another prayer, or the presentation of a verse or passage, or call for a moment of silent reflection, or any such other similar activity which, in the opinion of the Speaker, will serve to reflect over time the general demographic composition of this chamber and of the province of Ontario.”

Speaker Steve Peters said the Lord’s Prayer would be joined by a daily rotation of eight other prayers from major denominations plus a moment of silence to appease agnostics and atheists.

NDP MPP Peter Kormos (Welland) said the entire debacle was an embarrassment to the Liberal government.

“McGuinty tried to abolish the Lord’s Prayer and the Opposition stopped him,” crowed Kormos.

“McGuinty got stopped in his tracks,” he said.

For his part, the premier skipped the vote, but his office said he would be issuing a statement later.

Progressive Conservative MPP Garfield Dunlop (Simcoe North), a member of the all-party committee that made the compromise recommendation, said parliamentarians were flooded with complaints from Ontarians concerned that the Lord’s Prayer would be scrapped.

More than 20,000 Ontarians wrote letters and emails about the issue with 89 per cent of them opposing the removal of the Lord’s Prayer.

The motion had been set for this morning as a voice vote, but Tory MPP Tim Hudak (Niagara West-Glanbrook) insisted it be held as a recorded vote.

That move was designed to encourage Liberal MPPs, who privately expressed concern about McGuinty’s scheme, to vote against the government.

But in the end, there was no dissent.

The premier stunned members of all three parties on Feb. 13 when he launched a broadside against the tradition.

“It’s time for us to ensure that we have a prayer that better reflects our diversity,” McGuinty, who is Roman Catholic, said at the time.

“The members of the Ontario Legislature reflect the diversity of Ontario — be it Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, Sikh or agnostic. It is time for our practices to do the same. That is the Ontario way,” he wrote in a letter to the other party leaders.

Even his own mother, Elizabeth, chided McGuinty for broaching the issue.

“This is not an easy thing for my mother,” the premier said last month.

Canadians A Bit Too Polite

June 9, 2008

UBC president talks about free speech

Is political correctness choking the Canadian campus?

Globe and Mail Update

June 6, 2008 at 8:07 PM EDT

Is political correctness killing our university campuses?

Last week two leading Canadian scholars told a gathering of academics in Vancouver that steering clear of confrontation and trying to find consensus isn’t challenging important issues.

“If it does not happen here, where will it happen?” said University of British Columbia president Stephen Toope.

“I think in Canada we are a bit too polite,” observed Prof. Toope, a Harvard graduate who studied law at McGill before going to Cambridge for graduate studies. “We are a little afraid of controversy.”

‘I think in Canada we are a bit too polite,’ says University of British Columbia president Stephen Toope. ‘We are a little afraid of controversy.’ (Handout photo)

Scholars must encourage ‘hot debate’ on campuses, UBC president says.

His concerns were shared by McGill professor and medical ethicist Margaret Somerville, who warned that the free exchange of ideas on Canadian campuses is being threatened by the growing power of “political correctness.”

Prof. Somerville, who has taken firm stands on contentious topics such as same-sex marriage and reproductive technology, says too often her critics respond to her views, not with respectful discussion, but with extreme labels designed to shut down debate. The result, she said, is a clear message to others that such opinions are not welcome on campus. It’s a tactic, she said, that threatens a central role of university campuses.

Prof. Toope challenged Canadian scholars to have open conversations. He said if academics from different disciplines are going to work together to address the fundamental challenges of this generation, they need to be willing to engage with those who have different perspectives, not just tolerate them or take part in what he called “dialogues of the deaf.”

What do you think? Is free discussion being crippled by political correctness? Or is the search for open dialogue an excuse for intolerance?

We’re please that Prof. Toope will join us live online Monday at 1 p.m. ET to discuss these issues. Send your questions now and join us then for the discussion. Prof. Toope’s answers will appear at the bottom of this page.

Prof. Stephen J. Toope is the 12th President and Vice Chancellor or the University of British Columbia.

An international human rights legal scholar, Prof. Toope previously served as founding President of the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation and as Dean of the McGill Faculty of Law. He is a graduate of Cambridge (PhD), McGill (LLB, BCL) and Harvard (AB).

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