International Hearings on 9/11


International Hearings on 9/11


A decade after the events of September 11, 2001, which resulted in the immediate deaths of nearly 3,000 people on American soil, countless victims from toxic dust and hundreds of thousands of deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq, international hearings on this pivotal event will begin in Toronto in September.

The events of September 11 provided a pretext for a “War on Terror” that has led to military invasions and occupations and attacks upon civil and human rights throughout the world. The credibility of the official investigation into the events of September 11, 2001, carried out by the US Government between 2003 and 2005, has been questioned by millions of citizens in the US and abroad, including the victims’ family members, expert witnesses and international legal experts.

To date, open and transparent judicial hearings to question the official evidence provided by the US Government have never taken place in the US or abroad. Similarly, no perpetrators of the events of September 11 have ever been brought to justice on American soil.

A group of international citizens has therefore undertaken to privately fund and cause these independent hearings to take place. Because of the global ramifications of the events of 9/11, the initiators of this inquest have opted to select an international location outside of the US for these hearings to proceed. The city of Toronto was chosen as an ideal international location because of its proximity to New York, Washington and Shanksville, the three crime scenes.

Sponsored by the International Center for 9/11 Studies, the first four days of these hearings will take place at Toronto’s Ryerson University between September 8 and 11, 2011. During these proceedings various expert witnesses will present evidence into the case.

All seating to attend the hearings is now sold out, but the hearings will also be broadcasted live via the Internet. Please visit our website at for further information on how to link up and for background on the hearings and presenters.

Private funding to carry out these initial hearings is being provided by citizens from around the world. The Toronto Hearings will be moderated by Dr. Michael Keefer (Canada) and Dr. Matthew Witt (USA) and the final report will be edited by American attorney James Gourley.


Source: International Center for 9/11 Studies


9/11 and the Orwellian redefinition of Conspiracy Theory

 by Paul Craig Roberts

While we were not watching, conspiracy theory has undergone Orwellian redefinition.

A “conspiracy theory” no longer means an event explained by a conspiracy. Instead, it now means any explanation, or even a fact, that is out of step with the government’s explanation and that of its media pimps.

For example, online news broadcasts of Russian Television (RT) have been equated with conspiracy theories by the New York Times simply because RT reports news and opinions that the New York Times does not report and the US government does not endorse.

In other words, as truth becomes uncomfortable for government and its Ministry of Propaganda, truth is redefined as conspiracy theory, by which is meant an absurd and laughable explanation that we should ignore.

When piles of carefully researched books, released government documents and testimony of eye witnesses made it clear that Oswald was not President John F. Kennedy’s assassin, the voluminous research, government documents and verified testimony was dismissed as “conspiracy theory.”

In other words, the truth of the event was unacceptable to the authorities and to the Ministry of Propaganda that represents the interests of authorities.

The purest example of how Americans are shielded from truth is the media’s (including many Internet sites’) response to the large number of professionals who find the official explanation of September 11, 2001, inconsistent with everything they, as experts, know about physics, chemistry, structural engineering, architecture, fires, structural damage, the piloting of airplanes, the security procedures of the United States, NORAD’s capabilities, air traffic control, airport security and other matters. These experts, numbering in the thousands, have been shouted down by know-nothings in the media who brand the experts as “conspiracy theorists.”

This despite the fact that the official explanation endorsed by the official media is the most extravagant conspiracy theory in human history.

Let’s take a minute to re-acquaint ourselves with the official explanation, which is not regarded as a conspiracy theory despite the fact that it comprises an amazing conspiracy. The official truth is that a handful of young Muslim Arabs who could not fly airplanes, mainly Saudi Arabians who came neither from Iraq nor from Afghanistan, outwitted not only the CIA and the FBI, but also all 16 US intelligence agencies and all intelligence agencies of US allies including Israel’s Mossad, which is believed to have penetrated every terrorist organization and which carries out assassinations of those whom Mossad marks as terrorists.

In addition to outwitting every intelligence agency of the United States and its allies, the handful of young Saudi Arabians outwitted the National Security Council, the State Department, NORAD, airport security four times in the same hour on the same morning, air traffic control, caused the US Air Force to be unable to launch interceptor aircraft, and caused three well-built steel-structured buildings, including one not hit by an airplane, to fail suddenly in a few seconds as a result of limited structural damage and small, short-lived, low-temperature fires that burned on a few floors.

The Saudi terrorists were even able to confound the laws of physics and cause WTC building seven to collapse at free fall speed for several seconds, a physical impossibility in the absence of explosives used in controlled demolition.

The story that the government and the media have told us amounts to a gigantic conspiracy, really a script for a James Bond film. Yet anyone who doubts this improbable conspiracy theory is defined into irrelevance by the obedient media.

Anyone who believes an architect, structural engineer, or demolition expert who says that the videos show that the buildings are blowing up, not falling down, anyone who believes a Ph.D physicist who says that the official explanation is inconsistent with known laws of physics, anyone who believes expert pilots who testify that non-pilots or poorly-qualified pilots cannot fly airplanes in such manoeuvres, anyone who believes the 100 or more first responders who testify that they not only heard explosions in the towers but personally experienced explosions, anyone who believes University of Copenhagen nano-chemist Niels Harrit who reports finding unreacted nano-thermite in dust samples from the WTC towers, anyone who is convinced by experts instead of by propaganda is dismissed as a kook.

In America today, and increasingly throughout the Western world, actual facts and true explanations have been relegated to the realm of kookiness. Only people who believe lies are socially approved and accepted as patriotic citizens.

Indeed, a writer or newscaster is not even permitted to report the findings of 9/11 skeptics. In other words, simply to report Professor Harrit’s findings now means that you endorse them or agree with them. Everyone in the US print and TV media knows that he/she will be instantly fired if they report Harrit’s findings, even with a laugh. Thus, although Harrit has reported his findings on European television and has lectured widely on his findings in Canadian universities, the fact that he and the international scientific research team that he led found unreacted nano-thermite in the WTC dust and have offered samples to other scientists to examine has to my knowledge never been reported in the American media.

Even Internet sites on which I am among the readers’ favorites will not allow me to report on Harrit’s findings.

As I reported earlier, I myself had experience with a Huffington Post reporter who was keen to interview a Reagan presidential appointee who was in disagreement with the Republican wars in the Middle East. After he published the interview that I provided at his request, he was terrified to learn that I had reported findings of 9/11 investigators. To protect his career, he quickly inserted on the online interview that my views on the Iraq and Afghanistan invasions could be dismissed as I had reported unacceptable findings about 9/11.

The unwillingness or inability to entertain any view of 9/11 different from the official view dooms to impotence many Internet sites that are opposed to the wars and to the rise of the domestic US police state. These sites, for whatever the reasons, accept the government’s explanation of 9/11 yet they try to oppose the “war on terror” and the police state, which are the consequences of accepting the government’s explanation. Trying to oppose the consequences of an event whose explanation you accept is an impossible task.

If you believe that America was attacked by Muslim terrorists and is susceptible to future attacks, then a “war on terror” and a domestic police state to root out terrorists become necessary to make Americans safe. The idea that a domestic police state and open-ended war might be more dangerous threats to Americans than terrorists is an impermissible thought.

A country whose population has been trained to accept the government’s word and to shun those who question it is a country without liberty in its future.

From Global Research, June 20, 2011

Times, Dreams & Death – Spreading ashes and gathering memories

by Geoff Olson

“Did you bring mom and dad?” Luckily, I had. I’m the absent-minded one in the family and to my sister’s relief, I remembered to pack my parents’ ashes in the trunk of my car.

My family had rented a ski cabin in northern British Columbia for a weekend get-together and ceremony. On Saturday afternoon, the relatives gathered around a table and rummaged through the contents of my parents’ safety deposit box. The estate had all been settled and the money apportioned. Now, there were only loose ends: some outdated bank statements, a birth certificate of one of my sisters and some old coins.

These were some of the material traces left of my parents’ time in this world: ashes and silver. At dinner the night before the ceremony, we toasted their memory and struggled with a rickety, sixties-era slide carousel with slides from Olson family camping trips, birthdays and holidays. Over drinks, we laughed and shared anecdotes from our childhood days on an Ontario airbase town. We tried, with only partial success, to recall the names of family friends in slides. We marvelled at how my mother kept her slim figure even after four children.

Given enough time, personal history takes on the quality of a dream. What became of that kid with the crew cut and buck-toothed grin, for example? The childhood self in Ektachrome seemed no more real to me now than a dream I had the previous night. And my parents are almost as spectral. They were here only a short time ago. My dad, two years ago. My mom, nine months ago, though she had long been absent through dementia. Now, they are utterly gone. It still seems strange and so dreamlike.

Time, dreams and death. Those are three of the biggest puzzles for human beings.

What is time? “The cradle rocks above an abyss and common sense tells us that our existence is but a brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness,” wrote Russian novelist Vladimir Nabokov in the opening lines of his memoir, Speak, Memory. Nabokov went on to describe a “chronophobiac” young friend who experienced panic when he watched an old home movie in which his mother was waving from an upstairs window. Below, a brand-new baby carriage sat empty. He realized that the carriage was his own, days before his actual birth, “with the smug, encroaching air of a coffin.” For Nabokov’s chronophobiac, it was a frightening peek into the eternity of darkness preceding existence.

I’m not a chronophobiac; if anything, I’m a ‘chronophiliac.’ The subject of time has long fascinated me, along with its existential sidekick, death. I’ve been on the trail of all things temporal since my teens and have thumbed through plenty of books on the topic, yet all I’ve managed to do is circle a dense thicket of prose, without flushing out the prey. I’m hardly alone in my puzzlement. Seventeen-hundred-years-ago, St. Augustine famously asked, “What then is time? If no one asks me, I know what it is. If I wish to explain it to him who asks, I do not know.”

If anything, it’s even harder to square our subjective understanding with the contemporary scientific description of time. At the turn of the last century, a Swiss patent office clerk by the name of Albert Einstein denied time and space independent existence, replacing them with a ghostly hybrid called “space-time.” In Einstein’s “General Theory of Relativity,” clocks slow down at velocities near the speed of light and in the presence of gravitational fields. Even something as straightforward as determining whether two events happened simultaneously or not gets all mucked up at relativistic scales and speeds. And it’s all been confirmed by experiments.

It’s even weirder in the microworld where time is theorized to be ‘quantized’ like particles of light. At this level of inquiry, answers are conditioned by the way we ask questions. To measure is to change the reality we attempt to measure. Luckily, for embodied beings that prefer to exist in one place at once, the whims of the microworld are swamped at classical scales, giving us our hard-edged world of bus trips, bank holidays and baseball games.

There is inextricable connection between consciousness and time, some scientists believe. Theoretical physicist Julian Barbour hypothesizes the passage of time is purely an artifact of consciousness, like colour. Just as ‘red’ is a subjective quality the human brain imparts to a particular wavelength of light, the subjective sense of time is something the mind conjures up out of a physical world. How, I’m not sure, since I’ve only skimmed his book. (So many books about time and so little time.)

What are dreams? There is no shortage of theories, from neural house cleaning to an evolutionary gambit for avoiding nocturnal predators. Or how about the freedom to “go quietly insane” every night? Whatever the story we tell ourselves about dreams, they will, at some point, leave the dreamer scratching his or her head. A few weeks after my father’s death, I had one such dream. I was sitting at a desk as hands set before me a drawing of a western-style comic strip. There were cowboys and horses in action scenes, drawn in a manner reminiscent of the long-gone Sunday strip, Price Valiant. “Now I want to show you something I’m really proud of,” said the voice, which I recognized as my father. The hands set another comic strip before me on the desk surface – more western stuff, but drawn in an unconventional, stylistic manner of great beauty. This was graphic art, as opposed to commercial art.

My father had always wanted to be an artist, an impossible pursuit with four kids, yet he felt pride that one of them had taken his road untravelled. I already knew that. And certainly it would make sense I would project that knowledge into a dream. Something I didn’t know, however, was revealed a few weeks after his death when my sisters and I were rummaging through a decaying leather photo album we had found among my parents’ effects. None of us had ever seen it before. I was surprised to see so many black and white photographs of horses in bridles and cowboy gear. My father took them when he was a kid, at his uncle’s farm in Regina. This was the place he was happiest as a kid, my sisters told me. The pages and pages of horse photos were strongly reminiscent of the strip I was shown in the dream.

If my dad had a bit more time on his hands – say, all of eternity – perhaps he’d have taken up a hobby he had little time for on Earth. At least, that’s the theory my sister endorses.

It’s no use conveying this to the New England Journal of Medicine or The Lancet. It’s an anecdotal report of no weight to anyone other than me and a few family members. Yet, for decades, there have been a number of studies, such as those from The Maimonides Medical Center Dream Laboratory in Brooklyn, New York, suggesting the dreaming mind may sometimes extend beyond the normal limits of space and time. But debunkers continue to reject such research as pseudoscience, the result of loose protocols and experimenter bias. I’m not qualified to assess the contending claims, but I’ve met some so-called ‘rationalists’ who become completely unhinged by anything with a whiff of the occult. No experimental evidence for the paranormal will ever score through their ever-moving goalposts, just as the only standard of proof for some fuzzy-minded New Agers is whatever makes them feel good.

Skeptical-minded materialists like their world with sharply defined boundaries and tightly stitched labels, but I don’t believe this tidy mapmaking does full justice to the messy terrain of human experience. All I know is that my dream with the comic strips felt like a “big dream” rather than the nocturnal newsreels I’m familiar with. It was like an IMAX film compared to a small, highly compressed jpeg.

What is death? Actually, my father was himself a hard-core skeptic for most of his life. He lived in an intellectual Missouri (the “show me” state) and didn’t go in for fringe ideas of any kind and that included stories about life after death. Then, about 13-years-ago, after he had fallen sick, he was wide awake in his bedroom when his brother walked in, big as life and real as day. Unmedicated at the time, my father could see the sheets crumpled from where the figure sat at the edge of the bed. His brother, who had died several years earlier, told him “everything is going to be all right” and then vanished. After hearing this story from my sister, I had my dad confirm it for me. He didn’t like to talk about it all that much; it did not conform to his mental picture of the world in any way, shape or form.

Of course, my dad’s experience was a “vision.” Yet we are often too quick to shelve boundary-dissolving experiences that might trouble the dinner table or the faculty room. And when we do try to examine them rationally, one-size-fits-all nouns like “vision,” “hallucination,” or even “hypnagogic imagery” don’t so much explain as explain away. Visions of deceased loved ones are not uncommon and estimates of so-called ADCs (After Death Communication) range from 50 to 100 million Americans – 20 to 40 percent of the population of the US. Given the cultural pressure on us to keep a lid on anything that might make us sound ‘crazy,’ this high figure is not altogether surprising.

A grieving father who had lost his young son once wrote Albert Einstein for some comforting words. A passage from Einstein’s letter was recorded in the New York Times in 1950. “A human being is part of a whole, called by us the Universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness.”

My bias is this: I would like to believe, in ways I cannot fathom, that love is not so much a hostage of time as a species of eternity and in rare moments of dreams or vision, the levees of individual separation are breached. That being said, I will sum up these musings with three little words that men find so difficult to say: I don’t know.

On a cloudless Sunday, I walked with two of my sisters and my niece along a forest path as the morning sun cut shafts of light through an arbour of branches. Stepping around banana slugs and tree roots, we arrived at a secluded spot by a brook that we had selected the previous day. We took turns scattering our parents’ ashes and I read a poem I had written. We held hands in a circle and honoured the two people who had brought four utterly unlike, occasionally fractious, siblings into the material world.

To keep the moment from fading into shadowy recollection, we agreed to return to the spot every year. Our parents passed away in such a terrible, tragic manner, the least we thought we could do as their children is to honour their final, brave battle against impossible odds.

It’s become a cliché that the Pollyannas compare the world to a dream and the Cassandras compare it to a nightmare. Yet the world-as-dream theme has persisted for centuries across the globe, from the Australian aboriginal ‘dreamtime’ to Taoist philosophy to ancient Vedic myth to physicist John Archibald Wheeler’s “participatory universe.” It’s also a time-honoured theme in literature, art and music, from Shakespeare to Philip K. Dick to the songs of Neil Young to children’s nursery rhymes (“row, row your boat gently down the stream… life is but a dream”). Its millennia-long shelf life demands our attention and our acknowledgement that we may be dealing with something more than a shop-worn metaphor.

Scientists, philosophers and artists will continue to debate and celebrate these questions as long as there is a human species. As Prospero said in The Tempest, “We are such stuff as dreams are made on/ and our little life/ is rounded with a sleep.”

time image © Lincolnrogers


Iron Deficiency Impacts

From anemia to zoonosis, the benefits of medical screening need to outweigh the drawbacks
DRUG BUST by Alan Cassels

(zo•on•o•sis) n. a disease passed from animals to humans.

The best and most useful medical screening takes people with no symptoms and puts them through a safe and simple test that can accurately locate a disease in an early enough stage to stop it from hurting or killing them. After all, that’s why you screen people – to prevent them from being hurt. Any medical screening program intended for entire populations of healthy people needs to be studied well to ensure the benefits outweigh the harms. Unfortunately, few medical screening tests fill this bill.

But some do. How about the screening of blood?

If you are a blood donor in Canada, as I am, you know if you want to donate, you will be put through a rigorous, demanding and sometimes embarrassing medical screening program that drills down into the very core of what it means to be perfectly healthy. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not against this. Lax blood-screening protocols in the past led to thousands getting tainted blood – a scandal that still resonates in the medical community.

The good folks at Canadian Blood Service screen you for almost everything: your past, where you’ve lived, which diseases or medical procedures you’ve had, who you’ve had sex with and so on. They also screen your current state of health and the nurse will check your temperature, blood pressure and pulse. Your donated pint of red stuff will be tested for seven different diseases, including hepatitis, HIV, West Nile virus, syphilis and others. They are extremely careful about the purity of the blood supply.

The screening procedures blood donors go through is like the flip-side of standard medical screening: instead of looking for something that might hurt you, blood donor screening is all about the health of your neighbour, the soul who receives your blood.

One aspect of this screening I find particularly fascinating is the test for low iron. Once the blood donor clinic has ascertained who you are, they poke your finger and squeeze a drop of blood into a little vial of blue liquid. If the drop of blood sinks like a stone, you’re OK. If not, you’ve probably got low iron. A machine has now replaced the blue vial, but if you’ve got low iron, you’ll be barred from donating and told to go see your doctor.

I was totally surprised when this happened to me a few years ago. Here I was, feeling all hale and hearty, with none of the symptoms of low iron, such as tiredness, shortness of breath, etc. A quick trip to the lab determined my iron levels were borderline at 125 grams/litre and my doctor reassured me that, in the absence of symptoms of slow blood loss, which can sometimes go unnoticed, I didn’t need to worry.

Anemia is so common that about 15 percent of blood donors are turned away because of it. It can be caused by either not absorbing enough iron into your blood or excreting blood, possibly the result of stomach ulcers, polyps and even colon cancer. Blood loss can be very gradual and you may not notice it until you’ve had your hemoglobin checked.

Is ‘screening’ for iron deficiency a useful medical test? Obviously, if you have any symptoms whatsoever your doctor will send you for more sensitive lab work to see if iron deficiency is suspected. But what about the general population? Should we all get checked out even if we feel well?

There may be some things in favour of population testing for low iron, but, in practice, it doesn’t happen in the context of a big program. Doctors generally manage it on their own, especially in patients with symptoms. Measuring hemoglobin levels is one of a few rare screening tests that can actually leave little doubt as to what is being measured.

In some parts of the world, anemia constitutes a major public health problem. As much as half the population of some countries might be suffering from anemia. Iron deficiency anemia was part of a discussion by a World Health Organization (WHO) study group in 1958 and it was only after that meeting that the WHO adopted criteria for blood hemoglobin levels below which a person is likely to be suffering from anemia.

According to the WHO, women of childbearing age screened for anemia have the highest incidence of the condition. Women are more likely to be anemic than men because of the iron loss that happens through menstruation. In most countries, routine maternity care includes ‘screening’ the blood of pregnant women to make sure iron deficiency, which could harm their developing fetus, is not present.

Beyond menstruation, however, there are other ways to become anemic. Blood diseases as well as other diseases, particularly those caused by parasites, are often the culprits.

The WHO’s 1968 publication Principles and Practices of Screening for Disease created what is likely a seminal document recognizing the many problems with screening. It concluded anemia is “probably one of the more acceptable conditions for screening under present circumstances; it is highly prevalent, can be sufficiently accurately detected and, when due to primary iron deficiency, responds excellently to treatment.”

The level of iron in your blood is a marker for disease and certainly in the developing world there are a whole range of potential causes.

But back to the developed world.

My research into medical screening over the last year has led me to conclude the “test early, test often” axiom is only justified for a few worthwhile, well-studied and valuable screening programs while most of those programs are harmful and prevent few deaths.

Which leads me to the “what if?” question: What if, instead of a world where screening harms people inadvertently while searching for more and more elusive diseases, we had something different? What if we used very simple technology to find the markers of deadly diseases that could be intervened at an early stage, before they went on to hurt people – better yet, if the diseases in question affected a huge swath of humanity suffering untold (but highly preventable) miseries?

This brings us to zoonoses, which are diseases passed from animals to humans. In Canada, you can easily pick up parasites like roundworm or hookworm from a pet, but other sexy and rarer zoonotic diseases such as monkeypox, anthrax and rabies get much more attention. In the western world, we don’t screen for zoonotic diseases, but shouldn’t we be doing it in the developing world?

The WHO’s stance is “iron deficiency affects more people than any other condition, constituting a public health condition of epidemic proportions.” Further, “the numbers are staggering: 2 billion people – over 30% of the world’s population – are anemic, many due to iron deficiency, and in resource-poor areas, this is frequently exacerbated by infectious diseases.”

Other than HIV and tuberculosis, the major diseases afflicting mankind and the ones with the greatest death toll are zoonotic diseases. Malaria (transmitted by mosquitoes), hookworm (a worm that lives in the intestine and causes anemia) and schistosomiasis (a parasite carried by freshwater snails) afflict literally billions of people around the world, causing high levels of anemia in many places on the globe.

Iron deficiency may be the true silent killer, exacting more of a toll in terms of illness, premature death and wasted human energy than anything else we know. Millions of people are home to parasites, literally sucking their blood. They become anemic and struggle to consume enough protein-rich food, functioning at only a fraction of their normal energy level. And guess what? The poorest and the least educated among us are most vulnerable to iron deficiency.

Would more screening help? In the developing world, almost more of anything would help, but, at the very least, systematically educating the population about iron deficiency would be simple. We know the tests for iron deficiency are quick and cheap and solutions revolve around controlling infection and improving nutrition.

Iron deficiency literally sucks the energy and vitality out of development.

Forty years ago, the famous Dr. Julian Tudor Hart coined the term the “Inverse Care Law,” which, in its elegant simplicity, states, “the availability of good medical care tends to vary inversely with the need for it in the population served.” Which is to say, the more urgent our medical needs are, the less likely they are to be met.

I propose the ‘Inverse Screening Law’ is alive and well too, where huge sums of money are spent on useless and harmful population screening while almost nothing is spent on screening and treating anemia, a condition suffered by billions in our global community.

Alan Cassels is a drug policy researcher at the University of Victoria. Read more of what he’s writing about

Jack Layton’s Legacy of Hope – A Letter to All Canadians

August 20, 2011
Toronto, Ontario

Dear friends:

Tens of thousands of Canadians have written to me in recent weeks to wish me well. I want to thank each and every one of you for your thoughtful, inspiring and often beautiful notes, cards and gifts. Your spirit and love have lit up my home, my spirit and my determination.

Unfortunately, my treatment has not worked out as I hoped. So I am giving this letter to my partner Olivia to share with you in the circumstance in which I cannot continue.

I recommend that Hull-Aylmer MP Nycole Turmel continue her work as our interim leader until a permanent successor is elected.

I recommend the party hold a leadership vote as early as possible in the New Year, on approximately the same timelines as in 2003, so that our new leader has ample time to reconsolidate our team, renew our party and our program and move forward towards the next election.

A few additional thoughts:

To other Canadians who are on journeys to defeat cancer and to live their lives, I say this: please don’t be discouraged that my own journey hasn’t gone as well as I had hoped. You must not lose your own hope. Treatments and therapies have never been better in the face of this disease. You have every reason to be optimistic, determined and focused on the future. My only other advice is to cherish every moment with those you love at every stage of your journey, as I have done this summer.

To the members of my party: we’ve done remarkable things together in the past eight years. It has been a privilege to lead the New Democratic Party and I am most grateful for your confidence, your support and the endless hours of volunteer commitment you have devoted to our cause. There will be those who will try to persuade you to give up our cause. But that cause is much bigger than any one leader. Answer them by recommitting with energy and determination to our work. Remember our proud history of social justice, universal health care, public pensions and making sure no one is left behind. Let’s continue to move forward. Let’s demonstrate in everything we do in the four years before us that we are ready to serve our beloved Canada as its next government.

To the members of our parliamentary caucus: I have been privileged to work with each and every one of you. Our caucus meetings were always the highlight of my week. It has been my role to ask a great deal from you. And now I am going to do so again. Canadians will be closely watching you in the months to come. Colleagues, I know you will make the tens of thousands of members of our party proud of you by demonstrating the same seamless teamwork and solidarity that has earned us the confidence of millions of Canadians in the recent election.

To my fellow Quebecers: On May 2nd, you made an historic decision. You decided that the way to replace Canada’s Conservative federal government with something better was by working together in partnership with progressive-minded Canadians across the country. You made the right decision then; it is still the right decision today and it will be the right decision right through to the next election, when we will succeed, together. You have elected a superb team of New Democrats to Parliament. They are going to be doing remarkable things in the years to come to make this country better for us all.

To young Canadians: All my life I have worked to make things better. Hope and optimism have defined my political career and I continue to be hopeful and optimistic about Canada. Young people have been a great source of inspiration for me. I have met and talked with so many of you about your dreams, your frustrations and your ideas for change. More and more, you are engaging in politics because you want to change things for the better. Many of you have placed your trust in our party. As my time in political life draws to a close, I want to share with you my belief in your power to change this country and this world. There are great challenges before you, from the overwhelming nature of climate change to the unfairness of an economy that excludes so many from our collective wealth and the changes necessary to build a more inclusive and generous Canada. I believe in you. Your energy, your vision, your passion for justice are exactly what this country needs today. You need to be at the heart of our economy, our political life and our plans for the present and the future.

And finally, to all Canadians: Canada is a great country, one of the hopes of the world. We can be a better one – a country of greater equality, justice and opportunity. We can build a prosperous economy and a society that shares its benefits more fairly. We can look after our seniors. We can offer better futures for our children. We can do our part to save the world’s environment. We can restore our good name in the world. We can do all of these things because we finally have a party system at the national level where there are real choices, where your vote matters, where working for change can actually bring about change. In the months and years to come, New Democrats will put a compelling new alternative to you. My colleagues in our party are an impressive, committed team. Give them a careful hearing; consider the alternatives and consider that we can be a better, fairer, more equal country by working together. Don’t let them tell you it can’t be done.

My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic.
And we’ll change the world.

All my very best,

Jack Layton

Health workers lead alternative medicine use

by Andrea Burton

A recent study by Johnson, Ward, Knutson and Sendelbach suggests healthcare workers (at 76 percent) are more likely than the general population (at 63 percent) to use complementary and alternative medicine. This is an important step forward for CAM; doctors and nurses regularly rate in the top five most trusted professions in Canada and their willingness to embrace and endorse CAM as a positive add-on to conventional medicine promotes the acceptance of this important field.

Over time, many theories once considered controversial have become part of good healthcare practice. As a result, more and more Canadians are using elements of complementary and alternative medicine without even realizing these practices – therapeutic massage, acupuncture, etc. – were considered unorthodox a mere 20-years- ago. A 2007 study undertaken by the Fraser Institute found approximately 54 percent of Canadian adults had used CAM therapies in 2006 – a more than four percent increase since 1997. A similar study in the US found a 10 percent increase over a similar time period.

A growing body of work suggests CAM will only continue to increase in popularity as more and more consumers recognize the benefits of complementary or alternative therapies and treatments. And consumers have become savvier when it comes to managing their own healthcare. New technologies, access to the Internet and higher levels of education have made health information accessible to most Canadians. For many, the opportunity to investigate complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is appealing and adding elements of CAM to their regular health regimen is a natural next step.

The Dr. Rogers Prize Colloquium, which is being hosted in Vancouver on September 23, will examine how four Canadian clinics are currently integrating CAM with conventional medicine. The $250,000 Dr. Rogers Prize celebrates the contributions of leaders and trailblazers who have dared to pursue new and unfamiliar approaches that fall under the expansive umbrella of “complementary and alternative medicine.” Named after one of BC’s leading advocates for CAM, the Dr. Rogers Prize is awarded biennially to an individual who has made a significant contribution in advancing this important field. The gala award dinner brings together a wide range of practitioners in the CAM field and has become a gathering place where ideas and discussions can flourish.

Moderated by Harvard University’s Allen Grossman, the innovative Colloquium features a panel discussion with representatives from the four clinics. Panelists will tackle questions about the successes and barriers to building and maintaining these clinics and share some of the lessons they have learned. The four clinics represented are:

1. Integrative Healing Arts (Vancouver): Founded by naturopaths Larry Chan and Eric Posen, this clinic helps clients achieve optimal health through the integration of modern science and traditional healing arts. The clinic offers naturopathic and chiropractic medicine, massage therapy and rolfing, Traditional Chinese Medicine and acupuncture, nutritional consultation, weight management programs and a naturopathic spa featuring the Rejuveness system.

2. InspireHealth (Vancouver): Founded by physicians Hal Gunn and Roger Rogers, this clinic focuses on integrated cancer care. Its underlying philosophy is that treatment must be provided for a patient’s mind, body and spirit. InspireHealth uses an integrated approach that combines standard cancer treatments with nutrition, exercise and emotional and spiritual support.

3. Integrative Health Institute (Toronto): Founded by naturopaths Meghan Walker and Erin Wiley, this clinic was founded on the premise of open and constructive communication between practitioners regarding all aspects of patient care. Inspired by the experiences of naturopaths working with women and their families in rural Africa, IHI believes in providing patients with access to varied medical philosophies and the practitioners who share a common vision for integration.

4. The Seekers Centre for Integrative Medicine (Ottawa): Founded by physician Richard Nahas, this clinic focuses on utilizing the best therapies from the worlds of alternative, traditional and conventional medicine to help people heal. The centre focuses on several key programs: Integrative Cancer Program of Care, Pain Program of Care, Cardiac Program of Care and Women’s Health Program of Care.

Following the panel presentations, attendees will have an opportunity to participate in breakout groups and discussions about CAM in Canada, both now and in the future. All participants will be encouraged to consider ways the community can develop stronger networks to improve discussion and collaboration throughout the year.

The day will culminate in the presentation of the $250,000 Dr. Rogers Prize and a gala dinner. “Due to the number of significant contributors in the field, and the difficulty in discriminating between their achievements, the 2007 and 2009 Prizes were split by a hung jury,” stated Juror Dr. Joseph Pizzorno. “However, we promise you one winner in 2011!” The 2009 Prize was split between Dr. Hal Gunn and Dr. Bud Rickhi and the 2007 Prize between Dr. Abram Hoffer and Dr. Alastair Cunningham.

The Dr. Rogers Prize Gala and Colloquium will provide Canadian leaders and innovators in the field with an opportunity to network, discuss and share their ideas for how to move complementary and alternative medicine forward in the months and years to come. This is an exciting era as integration and collaboration between CAM and conventional medicine becomes more of a reality. The Dr. Rogers Colloquium will move the field one step closer to realizing its full potential.

For more information about the Dr. Rogers Prize, Colloquium and Gala on September 23, visit

A Yes to cancel the HST is a Yes for democracy

This has truly been a David versus Goliath battle

British Columbians’ rejection of the Harmonized Sales Tax in today’s [August 26] binding referendum is historic and a victory for the people and for democracy in BC, says Bill Vander Zalm, the former BC premier who led Fight HST, the grassroots group that fought the tax.

“British Columbians have not only rejected an unfair tax but they have also sent a message to not just the BC Liberal government, but to all governments in Canada – do not break your word to voters after you get elected. The BC Liberals thought they could get away with imposing the HST after promising not to before the May 2009 election – we proved them wrong twice. We organized the first successful Citizens Initiative petition in Canadian history to force a referendum, gathering 705,643 voter signatures in less than 90 days from every one of BC’s 85 ridings.

“This has truly been a David versus Goliath battle and today the giant HST has been slain,” Vander Zalm said. “It is an enormous victory for the citizens of BC and for democracy.”

Vander Zalm said it is now urgent that the BC Liberal government quickly bring an end to the HST that shifted a $2 billion tax burden onto consumers and off of big business by adding an extra seven percent tax on services and hundreds of items not previously subject to the Provincial Sales Tax.

Vander Zalm said he expects the BC government to refuse to take responsibility for its own actions when it imposed the HST after the May 2009 election and instead paint a picture of economic doom and gloom. “The reality is the BC Liberals looked for a quick fix to their massively out of control deficit in 2009 and refused to honestly tell voters about our financial problems. Premier Christy Clark should learn from former Premier Gordon Campbell’s mistakes and consult with voters about BC’s finances and seek a consensus, not make rash decisions in anger at the rejection of the HST.”

“The BC government needs to skilfully negotiate an end to the HST that takes place quickly and reduces costs to the province for this ill-fated mistake,” he said. “The $1.6 billion ‘grant’ from Ottawa to impose the HST should be pro-rated for the period of time this tax was in place.

Fight HST lead organizer Chris Delaney said the Referendum result would have been an even greater vote for the YES side had Premier Clark kept her promise to fund both sides equally and had spending limits been kept in place as it was for the Initiative process. As it was, our $250,000 less the $25,000 we had to pay in HST out of that was no match for the estimated $25,000,000 spent by government and big business.

Delaney says a precedent has been set with the HST Referendum: “No government, no matter what their political stripe, can ever again create a new tax, expand the tax base or indeed implement a significant new policy without first obtaining the people’s permission through either an election or a referendum. The people have spoken.

“People can debate whether the HST is a good tax or a bad tax, but there was no debate about whether we should have a Referendum or a more robust democracy. That is perhaps the greatest achievement of this whole exercise,” said Delaney.

Vander Zalm said the victory belongs to the people of BC, but most especially to the tens of thousands of volunteers who gave their time, talent and treasure on the Initiative petition that led to the history-making referendum result.


Coffee – the nectar of Sufism

by Kathleen Seidel

Most coffee drinkers today are probably unaware of coffee’s heritage in the Sufi orders of southern Arabia. Members of the Shadhiliyya order are said to have spread coffee drinking throughout the Islamic world sometime between the 13th and 15th centuries CE. A Shadhiliyya shaykh was introduced to coffee drinking in Ethiopia where the native highland bush, its fruit and the beverage made from it were known as bun. Many believed this Sufi was Abu’l Hasan ‘Ali ibn Umar who resided for a time at the court of Sadaddin II, a sultan of southern Ethiopia. ‘Ali ibn Umar subsequently returned to Yemen with the knowledge the berries were not only edible, but they also promoted wakefulness. To this day, the shaykh is regarded as the patron saint of coffee growers, coffeehouse proprietors and coffee drinkers; in Algeria, coffee is sometimes called shadhiliyye in his honour.

The beverage became known as qahwa – a term formerly applied to wine – and ultimately to Europeans as “The Wine of Islam.” It became popular among the Sufis to boil up the grounds and drink the brew to help them stay awake during their night dhikr. (Roasting the beans was a later improvement developed by the Persians.) Coffee drinkers even coined their own term for the euphoria it produced: marqaha.

The mystic theologian Shaikh ibn Isma’il Ba Alawi of Al-Shihr stated that when imbibed with prayerful intent and devotion, coffee could lead to the experience of qahwa ma’nawiyya (“the ideal qahwa”) and qahwat al-Sufiyya, interchangeable terms defined as “the enjoyment which the people of God feel in beholding the hidden mysteries and attaining the wonderful disclosures and the great revelations.”

It soon became apparent coffee’s benefits could be extended to the workday and the local economy as well. The southern Arabian climate was ideal for coffee cultivation and the ports of Yemen, particularly the port of Mocha, became the world’s primary exporters of coffee.Coffee’s use spread to Mecca where, according to an early Arab historian, it was drunk in the sacred mosque itself so that there was scarcely a dhikr or mawlid where coffee was not present. Coffee spread throughout the Islamic world by way of pilgrims, traders, students and travellers. Al-Azhar became an early centre of coffee drinking and a certain amount of ceremony began to surround it.

Over time, coffee even acquired an angelic reputation. According to one Persian legend, it was first served to a sleepy Muhammad by the Angel Gabriel. In another story, King Solomon was said to have entered a town whose inhabitants were suffering a mysterious disease; on Gabriel’s command, he prepared a brew of roasted coffee beans and thereby cured the townspeople.

By the early 16th century CE, coffee drinking moved to the secular sphere and a new institution evolved that transformed social life throughout the Islamic world. And coffeehouses supplied more than beans; they had the expertise to prepare the brew, the necessary equipment and a convivial milieu in which to enjoy it. Ahmet Pasha, the governor of Egypt during the late 16th century CE, actually built coffeehouses as a public works project, garnering him great political popularity. In the mid-17th century, two Syrian businessmen, Hakm and Shams, introduced coffee to Istanbul, established the city’s first coffeehouses, made a fortune in the process and established a new and profitable arena of economic activity. Evliya Efendi wrote of the coffee-merchants of Constantinople: “The Merchants of coffee are three hundred men and shops. They are great and rich merchants, protected by Shaikh Shadhili… ”

Throughout the first few centuries of its history in the Islamic world, coffee’s popularity engendered great controversy. Many were suspicious of the effects of caffeine and the gatherings in which it was consumed – they seemed debauched to some and subversive to others. Coffeehouses competed with mosques for attendance and as unsupervised gathering places for wits and learned men, provided spawning grounds for sedition. The wags of Istanbul jokingly called the coffeehouses mekteb-i ‘irfan, “schools of knowledge.” Efforts were launched and persisted for at least a hundred years to declare coffee an intoxicant forbidden by Islamic law.

During Ramadan in 1539 CE, Cairo’s coffeehouses were raided and closed, although only for a few days. Soon after coffeehouses achieved popularity in Constantinople, Sultan Murat IV closed them all and they were to remain dark until the last part of the century. But as soon as the Sultan’s edict went into effect, the coffeehouse patrons, their money and their social life went elsewhere: “In Brussa there are 75 coffeehouses frequented by the most elegant and learned of the inhabitants. All coffeehouses, particularly those near the great mosque, abound with men skilled in a thousand arts…” writes Efendi.

Opposed by well-educated coffee-drinkers from the highest ranks of the religious and political hierarchy, who did not look fondly upon innovative, legal prohibitions, the moralists fought a losing battle. The “tavern without wine” offered a respectable gathering place for men to socialize and entertain away from home and business was especially brisk during Ramadan when proprietors made extra efforts to draw crowds with storytellers and puppet shows.

Despite coffee’s eventual secularization, the fondness for it in Sufi circles and the motives for its use were not lost. Helveti dervishes were among those who enthusiastically drank coffee to promote the stamina needed for extended dhikr ceremonies and retreats. Once coffee was readily available throughout the Ottoman Empire, it became a fixture of daily life in the Helveti dergahs.

In Persia, coffeehouses evolved into hotbeds of lasciviousness and political dispute soon after they were introduced. Shah Abbas I responded to this situation by installing a mullah in the leading Isfahan establishment; he would arrive early in the morning, hold forth on topics of religion, history, law and poetry and then encourage those assembled there to be off to their work. A pious ambience was thereby promoted, an example was set for other coffeehouses and a potentially volatile social milieu was somewhat controlled. Poets and mystics occasionally took up permanent residence; for example, Molla Ghorur of Shiraz settled in Isfahan in his old age and established himself at a coffeehouse, which soon became a gathering place for those seeking spiritual guidance.

By the end of the century, coffee was fashionable throughout Europe and its cultivation and use subsequently spread to North and South America. Wherever it has been introduced, it has become a symbol of hospitality and a vehicle of sociability. The current resurgence in popularity of the coffeehouse is undoubtedly a response to the marketing efforts of coffee producers and enterprising restaurateurs. It may also contain a longing for the sort of companionship the Shadhiliyya dervishes enjoyed 600-years-ago, as they gathered to remember Allah and passed the cup from hand to hand.

Adapted from Serving the Guest: A Sufi Cookbook by Kathleen Seidel © 1999, 2000. Visit the Rumi Rose Garden Cafe & Market, 3660 E. Hastings St., Vancouver, 604-558-4455.

VIFF 2011 preview


Letters From the Big Man grows on you.

After a decade of covering documentary at the Vancouver International Film Festival (September 29 to October 14 this year), I’ve come to rely on certain staples. Each year, filmmakers tackle the issue of oil dependency with a sharp focus on the ecological and humanitarian travesty of the tar sands; wrestle with the vexed question of clean, green energy for all; fret about the downward spiral of biodiversity; and seek spiritual solace from the chaotic materialism of mainstream western lifestyles. All of these issues are covered, in one shape or another, in the five films I’ve seen so far.

Since VIFF 2010, we’ve had the Gulf oil spill, the North Sea oil spill, and as I write, activists are being arrested outside the White House over the plan to build the Keystone XL Pipeline from the Alberta tar sands to Texas. Local adventurer Frank Wolf’s On the Line highlights another pipeline project closer to home. Wolf and buddy Todd McGowan biked, walked and paddled the length of Enbridge Corp’s proposed pipeline from Bruderheim Alberta to the port city of Kitimat, BC.

In a rough-and-ready video diary of their adventure, Wolf talks to everyday people about the project – including advocates and naysayers – as the duo traverse roads, fields, forest and hundreds of water courses. Unfortunately, the review disc got stuck a third into the film, but I saw enough to want to catch the rest of it.

Volker Sattel’s austere Under Control shows impressive timing, coming so soon after the recent Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster and Germany’s subsequent decision to abandon nuclear energy by 2022. Sattel also gained incredible access to Germany’s network of nuclear reactors, waste dumps deep in the earth and a training centre (where he memorably shoots an emergency leak). Occasionally, it’s difficult to follow the scientific jargon via subtitles, but Sattel’s bleak, Teutonic vision of these monster projects is simultaneously awe-inspiring and chilling.

Fish, and the lack thereof, is on the menu in Sushi – The Global Catch. With fish stocks in danger of collapsing, what’s next? The film’s passion seems torn between on the one hand, celebrating the art and tradition of sushi and on the other, the preservation of fish species – in particular, increasingly rare bluefin tuna. These big fish, “the Porsche of the seas,” sell for up to $400,000 each. There are some valuable and unsettling insights into the lucrative, global bluefin industry, however, one of the key conclusions, that bluefin tuna can be farmed and sold as an “organic” choice, seemed a case of industry self-serving.

Crazy Wisdom: The Life & Times of Chogyam Trungpa looks at this controversial monk, who, in the 60s and 70s, was as well known for his drinking and womanizing as for his teachings. Johanna Demetrakas’ uncritical profile features Pema Chodron, Ram Dass, Allen Ginsberg, Robert Thurman, and plenty of archive material. While there’s no doubting the spiritual teacher’s charisma, the film would have benefited from a deeper exploration of Trungpa’s behaviour.

With its hanging ending, Letters From the Big Man feels like a pilot for a television series. It also features a Sasquatch man. Not just one, either. Initially, I couldn’t help laughing whenever the elusive, woolly creature made an appearance, but the film grew on me. Much of the action takes place in an Oregon forest where artist, hydrologist and general loner Sarah (Lily Rabe) is surveying a stream after a forest fire and nursing a broken heart. The drama is slow moving, it rains a lot and there’s little dialogue, but Sasquatch’s telepathic powers began to get to me.

Robert Alstead made the Vancouver documentary You Never Bike He writes at

Ego as judge

UNIVERSE WITHIN by Gwen Randall-Young

How often have you or someone you know said, “he thinks that just because…?” These types of expressions seem ubiquitous in our communications. Let’s think about this for a moment. When we do this, we are assuming we know the thoughts and motivations of others. Essentially, we think we can read someone’s mind, but we are actually projecting our own thoughts onto another.


This is the work of our pesky egos. Generally, these types of assumptions are part of a judgment or criticism. There are two problems here: we are being judge and jury with no input from the defendant and we are repeating our guilty verdict to another as though it is truth.

Why does ego do this? It’s because ego likes to be right. In order for ego to be right, it has to make the other wrong. This is the nature of the polarity thinking so characteristic of ego. Ego shares its judgments with others in order to marshall support for itself. This is the essence of gossip. It is like a toxic cloud released into the environment, be it an office, school or neighborhood. It creates division, ill will and negativity. Taken to its extreme, it is the bullying in schools that has led to student suicides. We all agree this is wrong, yet adults do it all the time. Children overhear mom in conversations where someone is being judged so they think it’s okay.

Let’s go back for a moment to the mind reading. If you have ever been in a heated discussion with a significant other and he or she said, “Oh yeah, well you think….” My guess is the person was wrong about your thoughts and you did not like it one bit. How do you defend yourself when someone assumes to know your mind better that you do? You can disagree with their assessment, saying you do not think that, and the reply is “Oh yes you do.” This is completely negating and it is a battle, not a communication.

When ego gets into judgment, it only creates negativity, conflict, distance, resentment, distrust and drama. It is not healthy for our bodies or our relationships. How do we change the patterns so we put only good energy into the world rather than the toxic kind?

It really has nothing to do with other people and what they do. It has to do with an inner commitment about the kind of person we want to be. It is about making conscious choices rather than defaulting to an unevolved ego.

If we check in with our higher wisdom, which we all have, we know which behaviours are negative or unkind. We all learned this as children when we watched Bambi and Thumper said, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.”

Our conscious choice as adults is to stop judging and criticizing others and to not talk negatively about people, particularly behind their backs. It requires courage to stop others who are doing this as well. Significantly, when we do this we raise the consciousness of those around us. Some of us – many in fact – must begin to regularly choose the high road if we are ever to evolve beyond the conflict mentality that characterizes so much of our world.

We all belong to the same tribe and every tribe needs some wise ones.

Gwen Randall-Young is an author and psychotherapist in private practice. For more of Gwen’s articles and information about her books, Self Care CDs and the new Creating Healthy Relationships series, See display ad this issue.