Tag Archives: Charles Mandel

Who Did In the Republic of Doyle?

Doyle

Republic of Doyle cast. CBC Photo

Charles Mandel writes about the end of the Republic of Doyle, a television series that captured the essence of Canada and Newfoundland. A production of Canada’s public broadcaster, the Doyle family was well-loved — but apparently, in a time of severe government cutbacks, not sufficiently loved. An excerpt: 

These are damn sad days in the Duke of Duckworth. The Doyles have announced they are hanging up their detective badges – and such a statement must have sent fans in the droves to drink at the Duke.

As any Republic of Doyle fan worth his or her salt knows, that pub – in a side alley in St John’s, Newfoundland – is home base for the Doyle TV series dynasty. That’s where the East Coast family of detectives supposedly operate from: the family owns the pub, and maintains their offices on the second floor. The latter, of course, is a bit of television fiction … read more*

*Log in on the top right of each page, or click here to purchase a subscription or a $1 site day pass, to read One Last Cheer for Republic of Doyle.

*Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O serves and is entirely funded by reader payments. We do not carry advertising or solicit donations from non-journalism foundations or causes.

 

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On Rachel Carson’s birthday

Rachel_Carson_Conducts_Marine_Biology_Research_with_Bob_Hines

Researchers Rachel Carson and Bob Hines, 1952

Rachel Carson, the American scientist and environmentalist who wrote the classic Silent Spring, was born 107 years ago today. Charles Mandel, who reported on Carson’s life and the impact she made, writes:

I believe if she were still alive, she’d be singularly unimpressed with the progress – or lack thereof.

Governments are still wrestling over bans to cosmetic pesticides. When Manitoba enacts a ban in 2015, it will bring to six the number of Canadian provinces shunning the use of such products. It seems like a hard-won, slow process overall. More contentious still is the controversy over pesticide-coated corn and soybean seeds, which are being blamed for the demise of bees. Europe has banned the use of neonic pesticides, but according to the CBC, Bayer CropScience – the company that developed the seed – and Health Canada maintain proper planting practices minimize risk to the bees. 

Twelve years ago, Edmund O. Wilson wrote in the afterword to a new edition of a book about Carson that if she were alive she would have given America a mixed-grade.

These days I suggest the writer and environmentalist would be less generous given all the time we’ve had to correct the errors of the past.

Read Mandel’s archived story, Pesticides prevail decades after Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring,” here. (Public access) 

*Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O serves and is entirely funded by reader support via subscription or $1 site day passes. We do not carry advertising or solicit donations from non-journalism foundations or causes.

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Charles Mandel

F&O is happy to welcome aboard Canadian journalist Charles Mandel as our newest regular contributor.

Mandel, who has worked throughout the continent, is now based on the east coast in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He will contribute book reviews, “Think” features and Dispatches reporting, and arts writing to Facts and Opinions. You can read his bio here, and see his work in Ex Libris, Dispatches and F&O’s Loose Leaf column.

 

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Pesticides prevail decades after Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring”

By CHARLES MANDEL 

More than 50 years ago a storm erupted when aquatic biologist Rachel Carson published Silent Spring. The book, gathered together from scattered information on pesticides, offered a powerful narrative about the harm chemicals caused people and the environment.

Rachel_Carson_Conducts_Marine_Biology_Research_with_Bob_Hines

Marine biologists Rachel Carson and Bob Hines conduct research in the Atlantic Ocean, 1952. Photo: United States Fish and Wildlife Service.

“Silence” was the price mankind paid for poisoning spring birds with pesticides.

Before the book’s publication, one anguished woman wrote to Robert Cushman Murphy, curator emeritus of birds at the American Museum of Natural History. Before the elm trees in her village underwent repeated sprayings for several years, she said, the area teemed with bird life, cardinals, chickadees, woodpeckers and nuthatches. After the DTT applications, she reported in 1958, the neighbourhood’s entire nesting population appeared to consist of one pair of doves and a catbird family.

Other, similar reports came from across the United States. A woman in Alabama reported a disturbing scene after the federal government unleashed a massive spraying program against the fire ant. She awoke one morning and “there was not a sound of a song bird. It was eerie, terrifying. What was man doing to our perfect and beautiful world? Finally, five months later a blue jay appeared and a wren.”

Those stories, and many others on the dangers of pesticides, appeared in Silent Spring. The pesticide industry heaped abuse on the Springdale, Pennsylvania author for her book. According to Linda Lear’s introduction to the 40th anniversary edition of Silent Spring, just released by Houghton Mifflin, the chemical lobby called Carson “a bird and bunny lover,” a woman who kept cats and was therefore clearly suspect. She was a romantic “spinster” who was simply “overwrought about genetics.” The industry spent $250,000 trying to discredit her research, but failed, notes Lear, author of Rachel Carson, The Life of the Author of Silent Spring.

In its time, Carson’s book sparked federal and state investigations into pesticide use, and led to a ban against the domestic production of DDT in the U.S. It was banned in Canada in 1969. Today, Silent Spring is a modern classic. In Time magazine’s special issue, “100 Most Influential People of the Century,” Peter Matthiessen wrote: “Even if she had not inspired a generation of activists, Carson would prevail as one of the greatest nature writers in American letters.”

Rachel-Carson profile

Rachel Carson. Photo: United States Fish and Wildlife Service

Decades later, what is the impact of Silent Spring? Have its lessons been taken to heart? It all depends on where you look.

Forty years after the book was published, in Prince Edward Island, nearly 5,000 trout were poisoned in the Wilmont River, a small waterway on the southeast of the Island. It wasn’t the first time a large number of fish have died in rivers in the Canadian province. In 2000, thousands of fish succumbed in the Mount Herbert, Indian and French rivers. In 1999, nearly 10,000 fish died in nine separate incidents. In every instance, pesticides were blamed. The fish in the Indian River, for instance, died from exposure to the insecticides edosulfan and azinphos-methyl, both confined to the restricted use list by the United States’ Environmental Protection Agency. The chemicals flowed past buffer zones from an agricultural field into the river.

To readers of Silent Spring, the fish kills are disturbingly familiar. Carson devoted a chapter in her book to several such incidents in New Brunswick’s Miramichi River, one of the world’s great salmon waterways. In 1954, the Canadian government sprayed the forests of the Northwest Miramichi with DDT to prevent a budworm infestation. Within days, Carson reported, dying salmon and brook trout littered the banks of the river. An entire year’s worth of spawning salmon were killed.

“If the runs in the Northwest Miramichi are still in relatively good condition,” Carson wrote, “this is because spraying was done one year only.”

Elizabeth May, executive director of the Sierra Club of Canada and now leader of Canada’s federal Green Party, recalls she campaigned hard in the 1970s to prevent budworm spraying in Cape Breton, where she’d moved from her home in the U.S.

“I think largely the reason it never happened, that they never did spray with any chemical from the air on Cape Breton, is because I had Silent Spring with me.”

May remembers reading Carson’s book in Grade 10, in 1970. At the time she was living in Bloomfield, Connecticut, a community that had a lot of mosquitoes and where pesticide fogging wasn’t uncommon. Several years earlier, two of May’s pet sheep mysteriously died, a ghastly scene that traumatized May’s family.

“They both died with nervous twitches and shakes. They died quite horrifically, because I remember riding in the back of the truck to get the sheep to the vet, with all four legs gyrating and their eyes looking wild.”

The pets’ deaths were sufficiently serious to the May family that they had an autopsy done to find out what killed them. Veterinarians couldn’t find any explanation; they checked the sheep’s stomach contents for poisonous berries and came up negative.

After May read Silent Spring and its descriptions of organic phosphate poisoning, she wrote to city officials asking if anything had been sprayed about the time the animals died. It turned out the city had used heptachlor.

“They died with symptoms described in Silent Spring as relating to those kinds of chemicals,” May says. “I was against pesticides ever after that.”

“We are still poisoning the air and water and eroding the biosphere, albeit less so than if Rachel Carson had not written” – E.O. Wilson

 

Remarkably, Silent Spring almost wasn’t published. It was a Canadian resident, Martin Haase, who helped persuade publisher Houghton Mifflin that Carson’s book was a ground-breaking work and that it would gain a wide audience. Haase, who made Chester, Nova Scotia, home but at one time lived in Belmont, Massachusetts, had his own run-in with pesticides that first led to his interest in the subject.

In the 1950s, a company came to his house to spray a tree against Dutch elm disease. It was outside Haase’s window and he was near it at the time. When the pesticides drifted in, he immediately became shaky and disoriented. His wife called several doctors, who were unable to diagnose the problem. Finally, a third doctor contacted the tree firm and asked them what the active ingredient had been in the spray. It turned out to be DDT.

Haase, who had helped publish a booklet on pesticides by Beatrice Trum Hunter called Gardening Without Poison, said publisher Houghton Mifflin was concerned about publishing Carson’s Silent Spring. Paul Brooks, then an editor with the publishing house, told him the firm was worried Carson’s book would lose money, attract lawsuits and was too controversial.

“They actually hesitated and almost didn’t publish it,” Haase recalled in a 2002 interview. “But I was one of those who urged Brooks to press for its publication and he did. Of course, it not only turned out to be an important book, which we all knew, but it turned out to be a big money-maker for Houghton Mifflin, and Brooks went on to become editor-in-chief.”

Haase also met Carson. He remembers her as a soft-spoken but strong-willed woman who never realized what a fight she’d face from the chemical companies. “I think the great thing about Carson,” he says, “is not only did she write the book, but she stood up — even though she was ill (with breast cancer) — to the tremendous onslaught of the chemical industry against her and this book, trying to label her as a quack and everything else. She didn’t take it lying down.”

While Haase calls Silent Spring a watershed book and credits it with waking people up to the dangers of pesticides, he laments the fact that pesticides are still as prevalent as ever, and worries that the great increase in cancer in the human population comes from all the chemicals that have spread through the food chain. “The book, of course, is still in print,” he says, “but sadly the chemical companies are still running strong.”

Carson died in 1964 in Silver Spring, Maryland.

In an afterword in the new edition of Silent Spring, Pulitzer Prize-winning biologist Edward O. Wilson opines that if Carson were alive today “she would give America a mixed grade. The increased public awareness of the environment would please the educator in her; the ranking of her book as a literary classic would astonish the writer; and the existence of new regulatory laws would gratify the frustrated government bureaucrat.”

Wilson says Silent Spring continues to command our attention because the examples and arguments it contains are timeless lessons. “They are also timely, because the battle Rachel Carson helped to lead on behalf of the environment is far from won. We are still poisoning the air and water and eroding the biosphere, albeit less so than if Rachel Carson had not written.”

Copyright © 2013 Charles Mandel

Adapted from a piece published by The Ottawa Citizen, December, 2002

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Hooking Up

By CHARLES MANDEL

Hooking Up
By Tom Wolfe
Picador, 2001. 293 pages

Tom Wolfe has talent to burn. That much is clear from his new collection of essays, Hooking Up. But his greatest talent may be for self-promotion. One thing becomes increasingly evident as you read Hooking Up: The author of the best-selling novel A Man in Full is also The Man Full of Himself. The false modesty! The ego! The overbearing confidence! (Did I mention that Wolfe himself is fond of exclamation marks just! like! this!?)

F&O Tom Wolfe Hooking UpAt his best, Wolfe is tremendously good. A writer who single- handedly invented the form known as New Journalism over the course of nine books, he knows how to spin a fine narrative, has an endless capacity for wit and matches sharp reporting with a peerless prose style and an often daunting intellect. “Two Men Who Went West” is a great piece of reportage on the rise of the digital age. Wolfe builds a convincing theme comparing Josiah Grinnell — the Dissenting Protestant of small-town Iowa who founded the Iowan town that bears his name and gave it an excellent educational system — with Robert Noyce, who benefited from Grinnell’s extraordinary schools and founded the world’s best-known computer chip company, Intel. Wolfe clearly shows the lineage leading from Grinnell the town founder, to today’s Silicon Valley. 

In other essays, Wolfe tackles sociobiology, which argues that genetics determines destiny and that concepts of free will, soul and self have nothing to do with how we lead our lives. Wolfe delights in ripping into these ideas and heaping scorn on those who propose them.

But Wolfe reserves his greatest bile for anyone who dares to disagree with his own vision of the novel. In “My Three Stooges,” he reiterates his call for a documentary novel of “intense social realism based upon the same painstaking reporting that goes into the New Journalism.” Wolfe then proceeded to turn out two such books, The Bonfire of the Vanities and the aforementioned A Man in Full. Before introducing us to the stooges who snub his vision, Wolfe treats us to a blow-by-blow description of the reviews, the profiles and the fuss over the latter novel. “It’s uncomfortable being compelled to sum things up so baldly,” Wolfe writes, “but here, in as few words as possible, is what we have: a critically acclaimed novel selling at an astonishing clip in a blaze of publicity.” Heaven forbid, then, that anyone should have the temerity to criticize the book. So who are the “three stooges” who dare sully Wolfe’s excellent and perfect idea of what constitutes a novel? No less than John Updike, Norman Mailer and John Irving.

But how delicious, as Wolfe himself might write, to lash out at these big names. After all, it guarantees ink and, even more importantly, television appearances: That is how you sell books. So what if Updike, Mailer and Irving might actually have a point or two? Certainly, Wolfe is entitled to rail away in favour of novels that traffic in intense realism. It seems a tad narrow-minded, however, to dismiss everything else.

But then Wolfe has always been a populist, particularly when it comes to art. Still, to single out Terry McMillan’s decidedly light- weight Waiting to Exhale and Joseph Wambaugh’s shallow cop thriller The Choirboys as “wonderful books” seems a bit extreme.

Wolfe includes another self-serving section on the furore caused by his profile of William Shawn in — wait for it — 1963. (In fact, there is only one new essay in the entire collection.) The article, entitled “Tiny Mummies! The True Story of the Ruler of 43rd Street’s Land of the Walking Dead!” relies on inferences, insults and other cheap effects. Its one funny note, and obviously the whole piece is built around it, is when Wolfe wonders why all of the New Yorker writers failed to turn out truly great and memorable work. “They had achieved the perhaps small-scale but still special goal he (former editor Harold Ross) had set for them — Anglo-Saxon sophistication – – very well. Ecce homines! Tiny Giants!”

Oh, but Wolfe is no tiny giant. He is a man of stature, a veritable colossus striding across the content of today’s media networks. 

A man of the hour — of the moment even — Wolfe has his pulse on the ticker of the nation and is taking society’s measure. Hooking Up — even the title of his book is up-to-the second; it’s current slang for sleeping together — is entertaining, urbane and sharp. But it would be all that much better if its author wasn’t so keenly aware of it.

Copyright © 2013 Charles Mandel

References and further reading:
Tom Wolfe’s page for Hooking Up: http://www.tomwolfe.com/HookingUp.html

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LOOSE LEAF

F&O’s salon: an eclectic gathering place, for guests and resident contributors

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Why Ramadan is called Ramadan, by Mohammad Hassan Khalil

The Muslim month of fasting, Ramadan, started Friday, May 26, 2017. Professor Mohammad Hassan Khalil  answers six questions about the significance of this religious observance. The Conversation

Why Scientists Should Not March on Washington, by Andrea Saltelli

America’s scheduled April 22 March for Science, like the Women’s March before it, will confront United States President Donald Trump on his home turf – this time to challenge his stance on climate change and vaccinations, among other controversial scientific issues. The Conversation But not everyone who supports scientific research and evidence-based policymaking is on board.

Losing a dog can be harder than losing a beloved human, by Frank T. McAndrew

Recently, my wife and I went through one of the more excruciating experiences of our lives – the euthanasia of our beloved dog, Murphy.  When people who have never had a dog see their dog-owning friends mourn the loss of a pet, they probably think it’s all a bit of an overreaction; after all, it’s “just a dog.” Perhaps if people realized just how strong and intense the bond is between people and their dogs, such grief would become more widely accepted.

I Cover Hate. I Didn’t Expect It at My Family’s Jewish Cemetery, by Ariana Tobin

The American cemetery  Chesed Shel Emeth, where Ariana Tobin’s relatives are buried was vandalized in February 2017. As authorities investigate whether it was a hate crime, she relates it to the project she works on for ProPublica,  “Documenting Hate.”  It’s about confronting the ugliness and comforting the scared, she notes — but it’s also about giving real answers, using actual numbers and telling true stories when our children ask questions like, “What happened to the Jews?”

Under Trump, Is It Game Over for the Climate Fight? by Bill McKibben

Donald Trump’s ascension to the presidency is a stunning blow to hopes for avoiding the worst impacts of global warming. But a broad-based, grassroots movement committed to cutting emissions and promoting clean energy must continue and intensify – the stakes are simply too high to give up.

WASHINGTON DIARY, by Cheryl Hawkes  Column

IMG_2449Estimates put the Washington, DC, Women’s March at between 500,000 and a million people, while sister protests in more than 650 U.S. centres and another 261 internationally drew an additional 3-5 million people. Journalist Cheryl Hawkes marched in their midst. This is her story about it, and thoughts about what comes next.

Protecting Digital Privacy in Public Shaming Era, by Julia Angwin, ProPublica   Column

Every January, I do a digital tune-up, cleaning up my privacy settings, updating my software and generally trying to upgrade my security. This year, the task feels particularly urgent as we face a world with unprecedented threats to our digital safety.

U.S. President Donald Trump (L) takes the oath of office from U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts (R) with his wife Melania, and children Barron, Donald, Ivanka and Tiffany at his side during inauguration ceremonies at the Capitol in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos BarriaTrump Hits Populist Note in Inaugural Address, by Richard Tofel, ProPublica

Donald Trump’s speech largely lacked lofty language, but contained a full-throated populist vision, delivered with confidence, and signaled this from the start in one of its most memorable lines: “Today we are not merely transferring power from one administration to another or from one party to another, but we are transferring power from Washington, D.C., and giving it back to you, the people.” This might be heard to echo Ronald Reagan’s 1981 statement that “government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem,” but that would actually miss Trump’s point: The speech did not oppose government — it opposed the governors.

Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Fund choice between LGBT rights and saving lives, by Jeremy Hainsworth

Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Fund choice between LGBT rights and saving lives, by Jeremy Hainsworth The annual hullabaloo about the allegedly homophobic and discriminatory activities of the Salvation Army has begun. I'm torn: the Salvation Army has discriminatory policies affecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people issues. It also runs detoxes and rehab facilities for those seeking recovery from addiction. Bottom line: someone who is dead can’t help fight inequality.The annual hullabaloo about the allegedly homophobic and discriminatory activities of the Salvation Army has begun. I’m torn: the Salvation Army has discriminatory policies affecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people issues. It also runs detoxes and rehab facilities for those seeking recovery from addiction. Bottom line: someone who is dead can’t help fight inequality.

Wake-up: How the 2016 Election Changed One American Voter, by Emily Lacika

My U.S. post-election emotions have run the gamut: sadness, anger, anxiety, vindictiveness, shame. American politics is big on rhetoric about democracy, but it often falls short, especially this year when the candidate who won fewer votes has captured the White House. Sixty two million other Americans voted the same way I did, and lost –and now we are working together.

How should you grieve? by Andrea Volpe, Loose Leaf essay

The pain and sorrow of bereavement is supposed to get easier to bear as time passes. But what if it doesn’t? Psychiatrists call it ‘complicated grief’ – and it can be treated.

Poppy: medicine, or opiate? by Alex Kennedy  Loose Leaf 

A former soldier questions the symbolism of the poppy.

His Bob-ness joins Yeats, Beckett, and Eliot, by Rod Mickleburgh

In the winter of 1990, I waited with a handful of reporters and photographers in a grand salon of the Palais-Royal in Paris for Bob Dylan. More than 25 years ahead of the Nobel Prize people, the French had decided that Dylan’s lyrical prowess was worthy of the country’s highest cultural honour, Commandeur dans l’ Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. T.S. Eliot was one of the first to receive the award in 1960. Borges followed in 1962. And now, following in the footsteps of Sean Connery (1987), it was Bob’s turn.

photo_10261“Only White People,” the Little Girl Told my Son, by Topher Sanders

I saw the messy birth of my son’s otherness … They were playing on one of those spinning things — you know, the one where kids learn about centrifugal force and as a bonus get crazy dizzy. They were having a blast. “Only white people,” said a little girl.

On Capitalism and “Bullshit Jobs” by David Graeber

In the year 1930, John Maynard Keynes predicted that technology would have advanced sufficiently by century’s end that countries like Great Britain or the United States would achieve a 15-hour work week. There’s every reason to believe he was right. Why did Keynes’ promised utopia never materialise?

Is the Environment Stuck in US Journalism’s Basement? by Peter Dykstra

Environmental journalism has reached a certain maturity: Decades of quality, often courageous and ground-breaking reporting on life-or-death issues, an imperfect-but-enviable record of accuracy, and at least a dozen Pulitzer Prizes to show for it in the U.S. But some see another view.

An Ancient Fossil’s Lessons About Cancer,  by Richard Gunderman

The finding of cancer in the bone of a 1.7-million-year-old human relative isn’t just a biological oddity – it is a reminder of what it means to be both alive and human. Life is fraught with hazards. Thriving biologically (and biographically) does not mean eliminating all risks but managing the ones we can, both to reduce harm and promote a full life.

Photos Shape Attitudes to Refugees: View from Australia, by Jane Lydon

Photography has mapped a distinctively Australian version of this global story. Once migrants were represented as complex, vulnerable, diverse people. Today the Australian government seeks to suppress photographs of asylum seekers, seemingly from fear that such images will prompt empathy with them and undermine border security policy.

Trump as dealmaker-in-chief? by Brian Brennan

Donald Trump would envisage himself as America’s dealmaker-in-chief. What would that look like? Not a pretty picture, as I see it.

hc_Al_Hussein_smllVerbatim: Hate, mainstreamed — UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. By Ra’ad Al Hussein

Hate is becoming mainstreamed. Walls – which tormented previous generations, and have never yielded any sustainable solution to any problem – are returning. Barriers of suspicion are rising, snaking through and between our societies – and they are killers. Clampdowns on public freedoms, and crackdowns on civil society activists and human rights defenders, are hacking away at the forces which uphold the healthy functioning of societies. Judicial institutions which act as checks on executive power are being dismantled. Towering inequalities are hollowing out the sense that there are common goods. These trends bleed nations of their innate resilience.

Canada’s ambassador to Ireland: Once a Cop, Always a Cop. By Brian Brennan

It’s hard to tell from the raw television footage if the shaven-headed protester posed any real danger to the Irish and British dignitaries gathered at a Dublin military cemetery this week to honour British soldiers killed during the 1916 Irish rebellion against British rule. But clearly the Canadian ambassador, Kevin Vickers, felt there was a threat. He made a beeline for the shouting protester, grabbed him by the sleeves of his leather jacket, marched him away from the podium and turned him over to police.

Remembering the Pillar. By Brian Brennan

A century ago, on April 29, 1916, the Irish Republic ended its brief existence with an unconditional surrender. Though successfully thwarted, it set off a series of events that led to the outbreak of an Irish war of independence between 1919 and 1921. Brian Brennan writes about his experience of Ireland’s independence movement halfway between then, and now.

After Paris climate pact, let’s get personal. By Gwynne Taraska and Shiva Polefka  Essay

Reengineering global economic dependence on carbon pollution requires conscious commitment and action from individuals as well as governments and corporations.

Thousands turned out in Vancouver, Washington to hear Bernie Sanders. © Rod Mickleburgh 2016

“Feeling the Bern”  By Rod Mickleburgh

The 74-year old, white-haired politician advanced to the podium, and the roof nearly came off the Hudson’s Bay High School gymnasium. No wonder. For nearly four hours, thousands of us had been standing in line, braving a cold, miserable rain, without even knowing whether we would be among the 5,000 or so lucky enough to make it inside. As the cheers continued to cascade down from the packed, rickety benches of the high school gym, Bernie Sanders leaned forward and shouted in his hoarse, Brooklynese. “All I can say is: WHOA!”

Dal Richards Facebook profile

DAL RICHARDS: The bandleader who almost lived forever. By Rod Mickleburgh

How often do you get to shake hands and say ‘hello’ and ‘thanks’ to a living legend? Vancouver’s King of Swing had a gig every New Year’s Eve for 79 years, which, as the whimsical Richards never tired of pointing out, must be some kind of world record.

Star Wars inspired me to become an astrophysicist, by Martin Hendry

For nearly 40 years, the phrase “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away” has resonated in popular culture – forever linked to the iconic opening credits of Star Wars. When I watched the movie for the first time in 1978, at the tender age of ten, I was instantly entranced by its visions of alien worlds, lightsaber battles and the mysterious Force that “binds the galaxy together”.

Alaa Murabit: Libyan Women, identity, country and faith, by Christopher Majka

Alaa Murabita, a Canadian born-woman of Libyan heritage, and a physician and activist, founded the Voice of Libyan Women following the overthrow of the Gaddafi dictatorship.

The Painting That Saved My Family From the Holocaust by Stephen Engelberg, ProPublica

Seventy-seven years ago, my grandmother left her fourth-floor apartment in Munich carrying a painting by Otto Stein, a modestly popular German artist. Earlier that month, the Nazis had launched a nationwide pogrom against Germany’s Jewish minority, a rampage in which gangs of men burned stores, schools and synagogues. In the aftermath of what became known as Kristallnacht, the Gestapo rounded up hundreds of Jewish men and sent them to the Dachau concentration camp. Among them was my grandfather, Jakob Engelberg.

Courtesy of the author: Naomi Shihab Nye explores her world through poetry and prose. She will read and discuss her work at a free event of the New Mexico Humanities Councils Annual Convocation, Friday, Nov. 14 at the KiMo Theatre, 421 Central NW, from 7 to 9 p.m. dolmstead@abqjournal.com Wed Oct 29 16:51:47 -0600 2014 1414623104 FILENAME: 181150.JPG

Gate A-4, by Naomi Shihab Nye

Wandering around the Albuquerque Airport Terminal, after learning my flight had been detained four hours, I heard an announcement: “If anyone in the vicinity of Gate A-4 understands any Arabic, please come to the gate immediately.” Well — one pauses these days. Gate A-4 was my own gate. I went there.

Remembrance and Refugees, by Rod Mickleburgh

Two days before the numbing atrocities of Paris, I went to the annual Remembrance Day ceremony at the Japanese-Canadian War Memorial in Stanley Park. After the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, bowing our heads in remembrance on that sun-bathed morning feels light years away. Yet, looking back, as hearts harden towards welcoming desperate Syrian refugees, the event seems to take on a deeper meaning.

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“Throw the bastards out,” by William Thorsell

Not in recent times have Canadian voters had an opportunity to “throw the bastards out” in the classic phrase. Elected officials generally leave office before such public urges get to them. Knowing when to leave is among the more elegant qualities of any CEO, but then Mr. Harper has never laid claim to elegance.

Niqab: Radical feminism or female subjugation? By Christopher Majka

Unexpectedly (or perhaps not) the wearing of the niqab has emerged as an issue in the Canadian federal election. Yes, that’s right — the Canadian federal election, not that of Pakistan or Yemen. And in the year 2015, not 1015. How is it that we are even having a discussion about how a very small minority of Muslim women in Canada dress in the context of determining the political future of Canada?

Steve pic

When Democracy Becomes Controversial. By Stephen Collis

Poet and professor Stephen Collis,  and biology professor Lynne Quarmby, were awarded the Nora and Ted Sterling Prize in Support of Controversy at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver on Oct. 13. Here is Stephen Collis’s acceptance speech: “Here’s perhaps a bit of controversy: we’re not living in a democracy. Not, at least, if we take seriously the idea that a democracy is a system of rights and freedoms enshrining the self-determination of a community’s constituents. As many thinkers are now pointing out, western democracies in fact function much more like oligarchies …”

The Canada We Hope For. By Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi

Crafting an ideal Canada—the Canada to which we aspire—lies in engaging muscularly with the past and the future. It means a thousand simple acts of service and a million tiny acts of heroism. It means acting at the community level: on our streets, in our neighbourhoods, and in our schools. It means refusing to accept the politics of fear. And then it means exporting the very best of Canada, that ideal and real Canada, to the rest of the world.

Photo by Kent Kallberg, Creative Commons via Suzuki Foundation http://davidsuzuki.org.

Voting and Canadian values. By David Suzuki

When my grandparents arrived from Japan in the early 1900s, Canada was far less tolerant than it is today. Women and minorities couldn’t vote, nor could Indigenous people who had lived here from time immemorial. In 1942, the government took away my Canadian-born family’s property and rights and sent us to an internment camp in the B.C. Interior simply because of our ancestry. Canada has come a long way in my lifetime.

Pope Francis and Dorothy Day Economics. By Chuck Collins

Perhaps the most subversive part of Pope Francis’ speech to the United States Congress was in celebrating a little-known figure and thus reviving interest in what Dorothy Day stood for. And if we truly heed the teachings of Dorothy Day, we would radically transform our society and economy.

Alan and x Kurdi. Photo from Facebook page In Memory of Kurdi Family

Alan and Ghalib Kurdi.

 “Politicizing” Alan Kurdi’s death. By Alexander Kennedy  (Warning: photo and language may be disturbing)

The future and the past clash with me, and I’m left with a feeling of shame. The past. That a child drowned on a beach near a Turkish resort. The present. That the death of Alan Kurdi, 3, along with his brother Ghalib and mother Rehanna, is the last  straw for me. The future. That Canada’s immigration minister,  Chris Alexander  was allegedly asked to bring these children to safety in Canada.

Facts, or fictions? How PR flacks exploit Wikipedia. By Taha Yasseri

If you heard that a group of people were creating, editing, and maintaining Wikipedia articles related to brands, firms and individuals, you could point out, correctly, that this is the entire point of Wikipedia. It is, after all, the “encyclopedia that anyone can edit”. But a group has been creating and editing articles for money. Wikipedia administrators banned more than 300 suspect accounts involved, but those behind the ring are still unknown.

Science and “the environment” should not be separated. By Manu Saunders

 Does the natural world have any relevance to modern science? Of course it does; but sometimes it seems like that’s not the case. This is a myth perpetuated directly and indirectly through media, policy decisions, academic disciplines, even some science engagement initiatives: that the natural world is somehow separate from science.

Living With an Ankle Bracelet in America. By M.M.

I cannot sleep. There is a device on my leg. It requires that I wake up an hour early so I can plug it into a charger and stand next to the outlet, like a cell phone charging up for the day. Not the day, actually, but 12 hours. After that, the device runs out of juice. Wherever I am, I have to find an outlet to plug myself into. If I don’t, I’m likely to be thrown back onto Rikers Island. At the age of 22, I landed in prison. Though I had grown up around violence, it was my first time in trouble. I’d taken the law into my own hands during an altercation, because where I come from, we don’t dial 911 for help — we see how badly police officers treat people like us.

Riccardo Cuppini

Riccardo Cuppini

A Judge Asks: How Do We Hold a Child’s Mind Accountable? By Morris B. Hoffmann

Debates about juvenile justice also sometimes mix up responsibility with punishment. We hold our own children responsible for their actions from about the time they learn to talk. English common law drew the line of criminal responsibility at age seven. Indeed, holding children responsible for their actions is one of the important ways we teach them to become responsible adults. In this sense, it is more important to hold children responsible than adults.

Wanted: A new story of humanity’s place in the world. By Philip Loring

It goes without saying that humans are good at causing problems. Climate change, overfishing and widespread environmental contamination from chemical toxicants are all creations of our own making. But are we destined to create such problems? Many people believe so, and argue that our capacity for self-interest, avarice and ecological shortsightedness make us inherently unsustainable as a species. Not only is this way of thinking built on long-disproven myths about human nature and human origins, it also constrains how we think about solutions and alienates us from the rest of the natural world. We need to abandon this belief and not allow ourselves to be defined only by our most recent history. The truth of the matter is that we belong here, and belonging is a much more powerful narrative for sustainability than isolation.

The Crush Also Rises: On learning only Spain’s vineyard-plant exceed China’s. By Michael Sasges

Chiang was glad to see us, and shook hands and gave us good rooms looking out on the square, and then we washed and cleaned up and went downstairs to the dining room for lunch … His text a Hemingway appreciation, “wine is the most civilized thing in the world,” Mike Sasges savours this week’s viticulture news: Last year, and for the first time, only Spain had more hectares of vineyard under cultivation than China. The Spanish number was more than one million hectares; the Chinese, 799,000. The French number was 792,000 hectares, making 2014 the first year the Chinese planted more vineyards than the French.

The Great Riddle: fostering creativity and tenacity. By Sheldon Fernandez

Not everyone is an entrepreneur, though many readers may be so without realizing it. The word itself means different things to different people, but I prefer the sentiments of the playwright who said: “some people see things and ask why, but I dream of things that never were and ask why not?” Stripped of the decoration and fluff, what I’ve discovered is that the entrepreneur’s soul is move by two complementary forces: refusal and audacity. Refusal to be limited by the world as presented to them, which then blossoms into the audacity to transcend it.

Lone-Wolf Terror Trap: Why the Cure Will Be Worse Than the Disease. By Matthew Harwood, ACLU

The shadow of a new threat seems to be darkening the national security landscape: the lone-wolf terrorist. Like all violent crime, individual terrorism represents a genuine risk, just an exceedingly rare and minimal one. It’s not the sort of thing that the government should be able to build whole new, intrusive surveillance programs on or use as an excuse for sending in agents to infiltrate communities. Programs to combat lone-wolf terrorism have a way of wildly exaggerating its prevalence and dangers – and in the end are only likely to exacerbate the problem. For Americans to concede more of their civil liberties in return for “security” against lone wolves wouldn’t be a trade; it would be fraud.

CCM Tackaberry skates worn by Jean Béliveau when he scored his 500th goal, on February 11, 1971. These are at the lac aux Castors Pavilion, Mount Royal, Quebec, Canada. Photo by Simon Pierre Barrette via Wikipedia, Creative Commons

Jean Béliveau’s bronzed skates. Simon Pierre, CC

Thank you, Jean Béliveau. By E. Kaye Fulton

When I arrived at the Montreal Gazette as a feature writer in 1980, the legendary Red Fisher offered a blanket invitation to write anything I wanted, anytime, for the sports department. Without hesitation, I said: “I want to write about the Forum.” In my family, the Forum was the Temple of Apollo and the guardian at its gate was the man who wore these skates, this glorious gentleman, this unassuming and superb sportsman.

Body counts disguise true horror of what wars do to bodies. By Tom Gregory

Every year on Remembrance Day, we pause to look back on old wars and recount the tallies of the dead, including 16 million killed in the first world war and 60 million in the second world war. And every day, news reports use body counts to highlight the human costs of war: from Syria, where the United Nations has estimated more than 191,000 people have been killed up to April this year, to Ukraine, where the latest estimates are of at least 3,724 people killed (including 298 on Flight MH17). But simply counting the bodies of those killed in war may not actually help us understand the death and destruction caused by war. Instead, my worry is that they end up erasing the violence inflicted on each of the bodies of those affected by war, and numbing our emotional responses to the deaths of others.

Postcard from Poland as the Iron Curtain lifted. By Rod Mickleburgh

Rod Mickleburgh, 1989

Rod Mickleburgh, 1989

Being in Warsaw while East Germany teetered had its fascination. It was the dawn of the free market in Poland. An entrepreneur had set up the country’s first fledgling stock market on the second floor of the city’s ramshackle, old Fisherman’s Hall. A cab driver told me that now, for the first time, he could buy bananas. The independent, pro-Solidarity newspaper, Gazeta Wyborcza, had just been launched. But I most remember my first night in Warsaw, when I walked into the darkened main square of its beautifully-restored Old Town. A couple of guys, clearly from the country, were selling cheese by candlelight from the back of an old van. There was such simplicity to the scene as money and cheese changed hands, only the low hum of their voices breaking the silence of the vast, empty square. I thought to myself: “Thus, capitalism begins in Poland.”

Ebola: the Black Death Revisited. By Ewa Bacon

It is not Ebola that is stalking the land, but anxiety and fear. We fear an extinction event. We search the environment and note the loss of plants and animals. We worry as we examine “Martha,” the last ever passenger pigeon. We examine the geological record and note that not even the mighty dinosaur survived the cataclysm of Cretaceous period. Could that happen to us as well? We search history and note some sobering examples of global catastrophes. Few are as renowned as the “Black Death.” Early in the 1300’s Europeans received news of unprecedented diseases raging in the wealthy, remote and mysterious realm of China.

Michael Brown, Ferguson and the nature of unrest. By Garrett Albert Duncan (Public access)

Many Americans share president Barack Obama’s sentiment regarding the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. This is clearly indicated in the deeply felt hurt experienced by so many and the massive swell of moral support people of all backgrounds offered to the young man’s parents in recent days. But to suggest that all, or even most, Americans feel the same would be severely misleading.

Israel at the Boundary. By Chris Wood (Public access)

A friend — I hope I may still call him one — recently chastised me for selectiveness in my criticism on social networks of Israel’s Gaza campaign, and my comparative silence about the horrors occurring in Syria and Iraq. The unspoken implication that there was something particular about Israel that inclined me to single it out, embedded another: that the something particular was Israel’s Jewishness. The suggestions are sufficiently morally impugning, and implicate enough of my personal friendships, that they deserve a thoughtful response.

Canada’s Justice Minister is Yesterday’s Man. By Charles Mandel (Public access)

Peter MacKay is yesterday’s man.  According to Canada’s Justice Minister, women are dedicated moms and caregivers around the clock who are busy changing diapers, packing lunches and dropping the kids off at daycare. In contrast, men are dedicated fathers who are shaping the minds of the next generation. This old-fashioned, blatantly sexist attitude recently surfaced in a pair of emails MacKay sent to his staff on the occasions of Mother’s and Father’s Days.

The Ugly Oil Sands Debate. By Tzeporah Berman (Public access)

I have family who work in Canada’s oil sands. They know that I have been a vocal critic of current oil sands operations and plans for expansion, yet they didn’t hesitate to welcome me into their homes and to invite me to a family gathering in Canmore, Alberta. We had a wonderful time. We shared some memories, laughed a lot and even tackled some hard stuff. The conversations were rich and surprisingly easy. Perhaps in part because although we have different opinions there already was a basis of trust and shared experiences.

Hurricane Carter, Champion of the World. By Cheryl Hawkes (Public access)

Rubin (Hurricane) Carter, who spent 19 years in a United States prison for a triple murder he did not commit, died of prostate cancer on Easter Sunday at his home in Toronto. He was 76. Toronto journalist Cheryl Hawkes remembers the man who, for a few years, was her neighbour: “a man who had given a lot of thought to how we treat one another in this world and to the deadly power of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

512px-Archbishop-Tutu-mediumAn Argument for Carbon Divestment. By Desmond Tutu (Public access)

Scientists and public representatives gathered in Berlin are weighing up radical options for curbing carbon emissions contained in the third report of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The bottom line, a draft of the report warns, is that we have 15 years to take the necessary steps to affordably reduce emissions to attain the targeted 2°C over pre-industrial times. The horse may not have already bolted, but it’s well on its way through the stable door. Who can stop it? Well, we can, you and I. And it is not just that we can stop it, we have a responsibility to do so.

Fred Phelps: Death of a Dinosaur. By Cheryl Hawkes (Public access)

Fred Phelps, the Christian crusader who led his flock of evangelical nut bars from Topeka, Kansas, on anti-gay crusades, died last month. It is mortifying for many Christians that Phelps defined himself as one, as he stalked the funerals of gays and straights, raging against his own United States government and a democracy that tolerated homosexuality. Phelps and his family at Westboro Baptist Church took full advantage of their constitutional rights while blasting the civil rights of others. His death has given the people he hurt and offended a moral choice.

The Pluck of the Irish: How a proud native cuts through the kitsch. By Brian Brennan (Subscription)

Here’s what I will not do this St. Patrick’s Day: I will not call it St. Paddy’s Day or the 17th of Ireland. I will not wear a green tie or sweater. I will not drink green beer. I will not wear a button that says, “Kiss Me, I’m Irish.” I will raise another glass to the poet Seamus Heaney, listen to Dublin pianist John O’Conor play the music of Irish composer John Field, and re-read James Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. I will remember that many of us who become emigrants leave Ireland because we beg to differ, because we fear what Edna O’Brien calls the “psychological choke.”

Winter Swan. By E. Kaye Fulton (Public access)

Swan 3

© E. Kaye Fulton

This has been a hard, hard winter for wildlife  – the worst, locals say, in 70 years. For a month or more, the mute swans of Wellington, Ontario, have been buffeted by howling winds and driving snow. Unable to forage the frozen shorelines and bottom of Lake Ontario for food, they fend off starvation by curling themselves into snowy white mounds, immobile and defenceless on the impenetrable surface. Two nights ago, in search of easy prey, coyotes crept across the ice to claim two sleeping swans huddled at the end of the line formed by their 26-member flock.

Golden Age of American Journalism? By Paul Steiger, ProPublica (Public access)

… I too am thrilled with what the new digital tools can do, in capturing data, drawing knowledge it, and in displaying and distributing that knowledge.  I’m also delighted that the barriers to entry have shrunk so dramatically. Instead of spending millions on a printing press, you need only spend a few thousand on a laptop and a website and, boom, you’re a publisher. But creating millions of lone-wolf, single-person bloggers doesn’t get us to a golden age. It can give us cat photos that make us giggle, news scoops involving an original fact or two, a trenchant analysis of finance or politics or sculpture, video of Miley Cyrus or Taylor Swift nuzzling their latest boyfriends, or possibly some movie and book reviews worth trusting. All nice to have but not game-changing. If you’re going to reliably produce journalism that improves the world, maybe you don’t need a village, but you need some collaborators. You need lots of reporters. You need editors, data journalists, a lawyer … (and) you need to find a way to get paid.


Pete Seeger: Farewell to a Giant
. By Silver Donald Cameron
(Public access)

silver_donald_cameronAuthor and filmmaker Silver Donald Cameron remembers American icon Pete Seeger, who died January 27, 2014:
In June, 1969, I was rattling away at my old Remington manual typewriter when my five-year-old daughter Leslie wandered into my workroom.
“What are you doing?” she asked.
“I’m writing a letter to Pete Seeger,” I said. I was hoping that Seeger would consider a benefit concert for The Mysterious East, a dissident magazine in Canada’s Maritimes that I helped to edit. At five, Leslie already knew and loved Seeger’s music, especially his children’s album Strangers and Cousins.
“Pete Seeger? Really?”
“Really.”
“You tell Pete Seeger,” she said gravely, “that I’m having my birthday — and he can come!”

My Last Day in Kenya. By Sheldon Fernandez  (Public access)

Kenya child 2

© Sheldon Fernandez 2008

In the summer of 2008 Sheldon Fernandez spent several weeks working in Kangemi, a large slum on the outskirts of Nairobi.  Under the auspices of the African Jesuits Aids Network (AJAN), he assisted with infrastructure projects and HIV/AIDS education, but also had the opportunity to work with the school children of Kenya. The following essay recounts the very last day of his trip, when Fernandez discovered some hard truths about one of his students.

Behind Houghton Walls: on Nelson Mandela’s last days. By Iain T. Benson (Public access)

Madiba has been a long time a-dying.
I’ve driven, we all have,
past his Houghton home;
cream security walls
even him …

Convocation Address. By Patrick Lane(Public access)

Armstrong, BC - Purple Springs Nursery field location shoot with large lift.

© Craig Pulsifer 2013

It is sixty-five years ago, you’re ten years old and sitting on an old, half-blind, grey horse. All you have is a saddle blanket and a rope for reins as you watch a pack of dogs rage at the foot of a Ponderosa pine. High up on a branch a cougar lies supine, one paw lazily swatting at the air. He knows the dogs will tire. They will slink away and then the cougar will climb down and go on with its life in the Blue Bush country south of Kamloops.* It is a hot summer day. There is the smell of pine needles and Oregon grape and dust. It seems to you that the sun carves the dust from the face of the broken rocks, carves and lifts it into the air where it mixes with the sun. Just beyond you are three men on horses.

Two decades of disaster: Newfoundland’s fishery. Words and photos by Greg Locke (Subscription)

Spanish and Canadian offshore fishing trawlers at the Canadian 200mile limit on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland. © Greg Locke 2000

© Greg Locke 2000

It’s a cold foggy day in the fishing village of Petty Harbour, Newfoundland. Just 20 kilometers south from downtown St. John’s, it feels much further. There is not much activity or many people out and around the few remaining wharfs and twine lofts that once were buzzing hives of fishing activity ringing the harbour. Today, there are just a few frozen tourists looking to make photos of a Newfoundland that doesn’t exist anymore …  The grim faces and tears of the people of Petty Harbour, and other fishing communities around the eastern Canadian province, told the story of a great calamity.

Bangladesh and The Bay. By Rod Mickleburgh(Subscription)

The fair city of Vancouver on Canada’s West Coast is more than 11,000 kilometres from poor, benighted Bangladesh. But this week, the teeming flood plain came to the doorstep of the large Hudson’s Bay Company department store in the heart of downtown Vancouver, through the glass doors and up the escalator to the second floor. There, close to a hundred union protesters gathered in front of the store’s swank, high-priced merchandise, serenading shoppers, mannequins and suddenly-invisible Bay managers with chants of “Shame” and “Sign the Accord.” Their ire was directed at far-away Bangladesh, and Western retail chains like The Bay that peddle clothing items produced  by impoverished, poorly-paid Bangladeshi textile workers toiling in grim, frequently dangerous factories.

JFK: The Murdered King. By Brian Brennan (Subscription)

I was 20 years old at the time so I remember, of course, where I was the day Kennedy was shot. I had been out visiting with friends that afternoon and when I got home my mother was in tears. “The president’s been killed,” she said. “Dev’s been killed?” I said, thinking she was referring to Ireland’s Brooklyn-born president, Éamon de Valera. “No, President Kennedy,” said my mother. “Somebody shot him.” For my mother, as for many in Ireland, it was as if a member of the family had been taken from us.

A lesson passed on. By Jim McNiven (Subscription)

My wife and I spent a couple of months in the American Southwest last winter. We stayed out on the edge of the desert near Tucson, Arizona. It is dry, hot and utterly unlike where I live, in Halifax on Canada’s Atlantic coast. Our two married daughters, twins, came down together to visit, bringing one’s 9-year-old son. The three women were keen to explore shops and galleries and a mother-daughters expedition was formed. I was designated as official entertainer of the grandson.

A bale of  a good time. By Charles Mandel (Subscription)

Hay bales in the Peace Country

© Greg Locke 2009

Thursday night in Auburndale, Nova Scotia, and what’s the big entertainment? A drive-in movie, perhaps? Maybe dinner out? How about staring at a big field of hay? That doesn’t sound terribly promising, but over four balmy nights in July, Steph and I sit on our front porch, watching grass get cut in the field directly across from our house. We aren’t the only ones entranced. Everyone and his dog (literally, for half the vehicles zipping past have a mutt sharing the front seat) slows down and gawks at the haying that proceeds apace up the hill on the Oickle farm.

The Prince and the Prostitute: By Brian Brennan (Subscription)

When the heir to the British throne paid his first official visit to Canada in 1919, it was expected he would follow the usual royal routine of shaking hands, making speeches and inspecting troops. What wasn’t anticipated was that Edward, Prince of Wales, would buy a ranch while he was abroad. And what certainly wasn’t predicted was that the ranch would become a convenient hiding place for the prince four years later, when one of his former mistresses went on trial for murder in London.

Accordion Man: Born to Squeeze? Not me. By Brian Brennan (Subscription)

Brian Brennan, age 16, playing accordion at a talent contest in Dublin, 1960. (I didn't win, by the way!) You’ve heard the jokes. They’re not funny. What’s the difference between an accordionist and a terrorist? A terrorist has sympathizers. Not funny, I tell you. Syndicated cartoonist Gary Larson (The Far Side) used to lead the insult brigade. He put his favorite on a greeting card sold all over the world. The caption read, “Welcome to Heaven, here’s your harp. Welcome to Hell, here is your accordion.” Not funny? All right, maybe a little bit funny.  Accordionists get no respect. I know. I used to be an accordionist. OK, still am. No respect I get.

 

Loose-Leaf-DSC_0336-2.jpg

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