~~ People who make a difference. ~~


HELMUT KOHL delivered German reunification and the Euro, by Noah Barkin

A towering figure of post-war European politics, Helmut Kohl pushed through German reunification and was a driving force behind the creation of the euro during a 16-year reign as German chancellor that spanned the tumultuous final decades of the 20th century. Kohl died June 16, 2017 at his home in Ludwigshafen. He was 87.

Fidel Castro, Dead at 90. Analysis: Anachronism, Achiever, Tarnished Legacy. REUTERS/Claudia Daut/File Photo

Fidel Castro, Dead at 90: A Life in Photos, by Marc Frank and Nelson Acosta  Report/Photo essay

Fidel Castro, the Cuban revolutionary leader who built a communist state on the doorstep of the United States and for five decades defied U.S. efforts to topple him, died Nov. 25, 2016. He was 90. A towering figure of the second half of the 20th Century, Castro stuck to his ideology beyond the collapse of Soviet communism and remained widely respected in parts of the world that had struggled against colonial rule.

Fidel Castro: Anachronism and Achiever, With Tarnished Legacy, by Mark Beeson   Analysis

Twentieth-century political icons don’t get much bigger than Fidel Castro. His death will reignite debates about his place in history and the revolutionary ideas he epitomised.

Shimon Peres funeral joins Israeli, Palestinian leaders — briefly. By Jeffrey Heller and Jeff Mason

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shakes hands with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (L) during the funeral of former Israeli President Shimon Peres in Jerusalem September 30, 2016. Amos Ben Gershom/Government Press Office (GPO)/Handout via REUTERSIsraeli and Palestinian leaders shook hands during a brief chat and U.S. President Barack Obama gently reminded them of the “unfinished business of peace” at the funeral Friday of Shimon Peres, the last of a generation of Israel’s founding fathers.

 SHIMON PERES: Israeli nationalist first, peacemaker second  Analysis

Shimon Peres, often described as “the last of Israel’s founding fathers”, was popular in Israel and abroad, but his record in office was by no means unblemished. His reputation as one of the 20th century’s great peacemakers needs to be put in perspective.

Fethullah Gülen: public intellectual or public enemy? by Joshua D. Hendrick

Presented by his followers as a learned scholar and orator, Fethullah Gülen leads a transnational social and economic network. If Gülen helped orchestrate the July coup in Turkey, as the government claims, tens of thousands of affiliates and sympathizers, as well as those of us who have tried to more objectively study this man and his movement, will need to come to terms with one of the most fantastic frauds in modern history.

Incoming British Prime Minister Theresa May Photo: Chatham House/Creative CommonsTHERESA MAY: Britain’s new prime minister, by Victoria Honeyman

Some newspapers obsessed over Theresa May’s quirky shoe choices, but she also hit headlines with her admission in 2002 that the Conservatives were often seen as the “nasty party”.

MUHAMMAD ALI: the final goodbye to “The Greatest,” by Nick Carey and Steve Bittenbender

Muhammad Ali trains at his retreat in Owigsburg, Pennsylvania, August 27, 1974 for his fight against George Foreman in Zaire. Action Images / MSI/File Photo

Fans chanting “Ali!” and throwing flowers lined the streets of Muhammad Ali’s hometown in Kentucky on June 10 for a funeral procession to celebrate the boxing champion who jolted America with his showmanship and won worldwide admiration as a man of principle.

Sadiq Khan: British dream reality for London’s first Muslim mayor. By Parveen Akhtar

In Pakistan, the chances that the son of a bus or rickshaw driver could secure a high-ranking political position in the country’s capital city are minuscule. But now, the people of London have elected Sadiq Khan – the son of an immigrant Pakistani bus driver – to be their first Muslim mayor.

Brian Brennan writes that millionaires Maurice and Harrold King, whose land joined Canada's largest conservation easement, always gave the outward impression they were barely keeping the wolf from the door. King Ranch, Alberta Photo by Karol Dabbs @ 2016
Karol Dabbs @ 2016

KINGS OF THE RANCH. By Brian Brennan

After a historic cattle ranch was added to a major conservation site in the foothills of the Canadian Rockies, the two eccentric brothers who originally owned the ranch were again in the spotlight. Although they saw the property appreciate in value to an estimated $6 million during the 60 years they lived and worked on it, Maurice and Harrold King always gave the outward impression they were barely keeping the wolf from the door. They were squabbling bachelors who disagreed about almost everything yet couldn’t live without one another.

Craig Venter, in 2007. Wikimedia/Creative Commons

CRAIG VENTER: Biotech’s biggest entrepreneur on a quest to delay ageing. By Roger Highfield

Craig Venter wants HLI to create the world’s most important database for interpreting the genetic code, so he can make healthcare more proactive, preventative and predictive. Such data marks the start of a decisive shift in medicine, from treatment to prevention. Venter believes we have entered the digital age of biology. And he is the first to embark on this ultimate journey of self-discovery.

JANET YELLEN: an unorthodox economist. By Jason Lange

Former colleagues paint a picture of U.S. Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen as a pragmatic economist who is ready to adjust course when necessary, but one who relies on data and economic theory rather than guesswork or hunches.

‘JIHADI JOHN’: how one man became the Islamic State symbol. By Scott Lucas

"Jihadi John," screen shot from Islamic State videos.

Dubbed “Jihadi John” by the British media after video footage of his murderous exploits was seen around the world, Mohammed Emwazi became a symbol of a complex conflict – a shorthand for the evil threatening the West as well as those in Syria and Iraq.

BRANDON STANTON, Humans of New York: beyond journalism headlines. By Karin Wahl-Jorgensen

In the fall of 1915, New York photographer Brandon Stanton – best known for his project Humans of New York (HONY) – documented the human stories behind the migrant crisis, in partnership with the United Nations Refugee Agency.

Canada's Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau greets his sons Justin (L), Sacha (R) and Michel after returning home from a foreign trip in Ottawa, in a 1983 file photo. Canada's new prime minister, Justin Trudeau, is moving back to the house where he grew up. The Liberal leader, son of former prime minister Pierre Trudeau, led his party to victory in a federal election on Monday, defeating Stephen Harper's Conservatives by a wide margin. REUTERS/Andy Clark

JUSTIN TRUDEAU: vows change, hope as Canada PM. By Leah Schnurr

Canada’s new prime minister, Justin Trudeau, is moving back to the house where he grew up. He was born to great publicity on Christmas Day 1971 and stayed in the limelight until his father left office in 1984. He returned to prominence with a moving eulogy at his father’s 2000 funeral. A former teacher and snowboard instructor, he was first elected as an MP in 2008, and led his Liberal party to victory in the Oct. 19 Canadian election.

Sister Rachel Denton practices her calligraphy St Cuthbert's Hermitage in Lincolnshire, north east Britain August 24, 2015. Denton, a Catholic hermit, rises early to tend to her vegetable garden, feed her cats and pray. But the former Carmelite nun, who in 2006 pledged to live the rest of her life in solitude, has another chore - to update her Twitter account and check Facebook. "The myth you often face as a hermit is that you should have a beard and live in a cave. None of which is me," says the ex-teacher. For the modern-day hermit, she says social media is vital: "tweets are rare, but precious," she writes on her Twitter profile. The internet also allows Denton to shop online and communicate with friends. "I am a hermit but I am also human." A diagnosis of cancer earlier this year reaffirmed Denton's wish to carry on a life of solitude, prayer and contemplation. REUTERS/Neil Hall

SISTER RACHEL DENTON: Out of the Cave and Onto Facebook. By Neil Hall and Angus Berwick

MARKET RASEN, England — Like any good hermit Rachel Denton rises early in the morning to tend to her vegetable garden, feed her chickens, and pray. But the former British nun, who has pledged to live the rest of her life in solitude, has another routine that sets her apart from her society-shunning brethren – she has to update her Twitter account and check Facebook.

JEREMY CORBYN: British Labour’s New Leader. By William James and Michael Holden

Jeremy Corbyn, a veteran left-winger who professes an admiration for Karl Marx, was elected leader of Britain’s opposition Labour party.  “Things can and they will change,” Corbyn, who when he entered the contest was a rank outsider, said in his acceptance speech after taking 59.5 percent of votes cast, winning by a far bigger margin than anyone had envisaged.

WES CRAVEN: the scream of our times. By Jane Witherspoon (video) and Lance Duerfahrd (essay)

Only an obituary as messy as an autopsy could honor the passing of Wes Craven, the slasher-film maven who  died on August 30 at age 76. Blood flows generously in Craven’s films, which tread a delicate line between visceral impact and franchise-worthy digestibility.

 WILFRED BURCHETT: A journalist’s “warning to the world” By Tom Heenan

On September 5, 1945, Wilfred Burchett was the first Western journalist to enter Hiroshima after the bombing and was shocked by the devastation.  Under the banner “I write this as a warning to the world”, Burchett described a city reduced to “reddish rubble” and people dying from an unknown “atomic plague”. Burchett’s report has been dubbed the “scoop of the century”. At the time it was ignored.

Nicholas Winton, the British Schindler, dies at 106

Nicholas Winton, the British Schindler, dies at 106, By Reuters

A man who became known as the “British Schindler” for saving hundreds of Czech children from Nazi persecution in the run-up to World War Two, has died at the age of 106. Winton managed to bring 669 mostly Jewish children on eight trains to Britain through Germany in 1939 but the ninth train with 250 children never left Prague because the war broke out. None of the 250 children on board was ever seen again.

KEITH JOHNSTONE: Founder of Theatresports. By Brian Brennan (paywall)

 Rejecting the “theatre of taxidermy” in his native England, Keith Johnstone vowed to create something different when he moved to Canada. He called it “theatresports,” and it soon moved beyond the boundaries of Calgary, and started to spawn imitation improvisational troupes in Vancouver, Toronto, Seattle, New York and elsewhere.

Hillary Clinton in 2007. Photo by Marc Nozell, Creative Commons
Photo by Marc Nozell

HILLARY CLINTON: On the defensive amid echoes of the past. By Jeff Gerth

When Hillary Clinton stood before reporters on March 10 to explain her use of personal e-mails while Secretary of State, you could hear the echoes of past appearances where she was forced on the defensive. After one previous press conference she told a friend it would not end the kind of siege she was then under. “They’re not going to let up,” she said. “They’re just going to keep coming at us, no matter what we do.”

RAJENDRA PACHAURI: Defended climate science, resigned amid sex scandal. By Marianne Lavelle

Rajendra Pachauri, who resigned Tuesday from chairmanship of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change amid charges of sexual harassment, presided over the international effort to forge consensus on climate change during eight years in which the science grew stronger, but so did the attacks.

LOTTA HITSCHMANOVA:  Canada’s ‘Mother Teresa’ with attitude. By Joyce Thierry-Llewellyn

This year would have been the 125th anniversary of a woman known to editors as the “Atomic Mosquito,” and to those in need around the world as “Canada’s Mother Teresa.”  In 1973, Dr. Lotta Hitschmanova, founder and executive director of the Unitarian Service Committee of Canada (USC), was 63 years old and exhausted. She had just flown out of Bangladesh, having witnessed the still horrifying after-effects of repression that led to its 1971 Declaration of Independence from Pakistan. She was leaving behind a nation of devastated people she described as “soft as music and hard as rock.”

In May Vancouver's St. Paul's hospital closed its dedicated AIDS ward due to lack of patients. Julio Montaner at a news conference announcing the success of treatment. Photo from B.C. government

 JULIO MONTANER: doctor led harm reduction in global HIV/AIDS fight By Rod Mickleburgh

Dr. Julio Montaner’s once controversial Treatment as Prevention strategy has now been adopted by the World Health Organization and is being pursued in a growing number of countries, including China and Brazil. Thanks to these advances, the dream of a world without AIDS is no longer just fantasy. UNAIDS has declared the epidemic can be ended by 2030

JOHN MASON NEALE: On reading and writing our winters away. By Michael Sasges

This is a “begat” story, its subjects a winter hymn and its creator, a man who passed his adult years in that figurative winter that is the lot of the chronically ill and perpetually defiant. The hymn is O come, O come, Emmanuel, in Latin Veni, Veni, Emmanuel. It is a winter song because it is only, or mostly, performed and heard by the Christian faithful during that part of the liturgical year they call Advent.  Emmanuel is an expression of longing, spiritual longing. If there be an equivalent expression of material longing, it might be Walt Whitman’s Soon Shall the Winter’s Foil be Here.

‘JACK’ and ELEANOR NASH: Hastily wed, quickly separated in 1914. By Michael Sasges

In the spring I “knew” fewer small stories about the Great War than big stories. Barbara Tuchman’s Guns of August was probably the biggest because the first I knew; Margaret MacMillan’s Paris 1919, probably the best remembered because the latest I read. The deaths, in 1917 in France, of two men from “my” street was probably the smallest, and only, Great War story I knew. In the fall, at this Canadian Remembrance Day, I now know that the cenotaph which memorializes Alexander Hogg and David Hogg is short at least one name, Tommy Charters, and the “roll of honour” hanging in one of the local churches is short many names. I also know the man whose name tops one of the cenotaph’s faces was a middle-aged bachelor who got married on his way to the Great War.

GOUGH WHITLAM: an abiding interest in the public good. By John Keane

Edward Gough Whitlam has passed on, leaving behind millions of citizens saddened by scores of eloquent obituaries reminding us how, once upon a time, Australian politics produced world-class leaders courageously committed to the public good. People are moved to tears because they sense that genuine democratic leaders have the knack of mobilising persuasive power, let’s call it, the ability to motivate citizens to do things for themselves, to win public respect by reminding everybody leaders are always deeply dependent upon the people known as the led. True leaders lead because they manage to get people to look up to them, rather than dragging them by the nose.


Alex SalmonImage © Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body – 2012. Licensed under the Open Scottish Parliament Licence v1.0.
Alex Salmond © Scottish Parliament

ALEX SALMOND: The Independent Scot. By Murray Leith

If there’s one figure that anyone anywhere would associate with the Scottish referendum campaign it’s Alex Salmond, first minister of Scotland, leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP), and the man who could be responsible for the break-up of the United Kingdom. But who is he, where did this political whirlwind begin and where will it take the man and his party?

GARSON ROMALIS: A Medical Hero. By Rod Mickleburgh

Dr. Garson (Gary) Romalis never sought the limelight. He was thrust into it in the most terrible way, with two serious attempts on his life. Dr. Romalis was targeted because he provided abortions to desperate women, which in Canada are completely legal procedures, paid for by medicare. Sadly, Dr. Romalis did not survive a serious bout with pancreatitis.

America’s Dark Money: Who Controls the Kochs’ Political Network? by Kim Barker and Theodoric Meyer, ProPublica(Public access)

Libertarian American billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch were among the first to grasp the political potential of social welfare groups and trade associations — nonprofits that can spend money to influence elections but under United States regulations don’t have to name their donors. The Kochs and their allies have built up a complex network of such organizations, which spent more than $383 million in the run-up to the U.S. 2012 election alone. Documents released in recent months show the Kochs have added wrinkles to their network that even experts well versed in tax law and campaign finance say they’ve never seen before — wrinkles that could make it harder to discern who controls each nonprofit in the web and how it disperses its money.

SEAN NOBLE: Dark Money Man for the ‘Kochtopus.’ by Kim Barker and Theodoric Meyer, ProPublica (Public access)

For a brief, giddy moment, Sean Noble — a little-known former aide to a congressman in Arizona, United States — became one of the most important people in American politics. Plucked from obscurity by libertarian billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, Noble was tasked with distributing a torrent of political money raised by the Koch network, a complex web of nonprofits nicknamed the Kochtopus, into conservative causes in the 2010 and 2012 U.S. elections.

NELSON MANDELA: curated readings and videos. (Public access and subscription)

Behind Houghton Walls, by Iain T. Benson; Learning from Mandela, by Heribert Adam; and The Nightmare of Mandela’s Dream in South Africa and Nelson Mandela’s Goodness Harmed his Leadership, by Jonathan Manthorpe

NAHEED NENSHI: Canada’s Mayor. By Brian Brennan (Subscription)


The mayor of Calgary, Alberta, was about to give a speech in Toronto when an aide drew him aside to tell of trouble brewing back home. Floodwaters were surging in the Rocky Mountains. Towns upstream of Calgary were already under water, and Calgary would be inundated within a matter of hours. “Get me on the next plane out of here,” said the mayor, Naheed Nenshi. “This is serious business.” He delivered his speech while his staff scrambled to get him on the four-hour flight back to Calgary. Seven hours later, Nenshi was on the ground in his city’s emergency management centre, answering media questions about a calamity that could define his entire mayoralty. Just as Hurricane Sandy drew widespread attention to the leadership skills of New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, and 9/11 belonged to Rudy Giuliani, the Calgary Flood of 2013 could become the crisis that established Nenshi as Canada’s mayor.

RAY GUY: the soul of Newfoundland, 1939 -2013. By Greg Locke. (Subscription)

Ray Guy has gone to That Far Greater Bay. The news that, at age 74, he passed on came as a shock around here. Not that it was unexpected; we knew Ray had been very sick with cancer in the past year, but more the realisation that we had lost one of our greatest writers, satirists and journalists. As much as he would chide me if he heard me saying this but it was more like we, as a people, lost a wise elder or ancestor on May 14.

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MICHAEL WALKER of the Fraser Institute  By Deborah Jones   2005

Michael Walker helped to spearhead Canadian policy trends such as balanced government budgets, curtailed public spending, privatized crown corporations and ongoing attempts to privatize health care. He is also gaining an international reputation for starting, with U.S. free-market economics guru Milton Friedman, annual global reports that rate countries’ degrees of “economic freedom.” His positions, and the Fraser Institute’s, are contentious, to say the least.

 CATHERINE CALLBECK: Canada’s first elected woman premier. By Deborah Jones 

Catherine Callbeck
Handout, © Studio GR Martin

As dusk and a soft rain settle over the neat fields of Prince County, Premier Catherine Callbeck sits quietly in the front passenger seat of her red Sable sedan on her way to Summerside to open an art show. She’s feeling low with the flu. It doesn’t help that dinner was a muffin on the fly, that she arose at 6 A.M. to prepare for an all – day budget meeting, or that it will be 10 P.M. before the driver drops her off at the door of her Charlottetown apartment. But as the car pulls to a stop in front of the Eptek exhibition centre, Callbeck runs a pick through her sandy blond hair, straightens her navy blazer, opens her own door and plants her sensible pumps on the curb, rising tall and patrician and exuding a no – nonsense air. “Hello, how are you?” she says coolly as she strides into the hometown crowd of art patrons and a round of photo sessions, and then she repeats it again and again, with exactly the same monotone drawl and stiff smile.

SIR GRAHAM DAY: Big knight in a small town. By Deborah Jones 

If they were trading punches instead of verbal jabs, the combatants would be reeling. Speaking for the far right in a debate on the federal deficit is Sir Graham Day, the Nova Scotia-born captain of British industry. On the far left is Nancy Riche, a scrappy union boss with the Canadian Labor Congress. Neither gives an inch as they try to win the ear of Finance Minister Paul Martin at a federal pre-budget conference in Halifax. Still, off stage later as Riche says goodbye, Day turns to her, takes her hand and bids her farewell in the manner of a knight of the realm. “He kissed my hand!” positively giggles Riche. “If he didn’t have the political philosophy that he has, I could see myself liking him!”