Sunday, August 14, 2005

They're Coming!

The issues of poverty and crime have received much attention this past week. On Monday night Youth For Christ asked Brandon City Council to grant them land. YFC wanted the land to build units that provide people aged 18-29 with affordable housing and support for things such as drug addictions. Some area residents had concerns, so Council asked YFC to hold consultations. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, as it's an opportunity for residents and YFC to communicate with one another, and hopefully they can resolve any differences that arise.

Yet there has been much sensationalism surrounding the issue. One resident who opposed the project wrote that "Our neighbours are being stabbed, robbed, raped and beaten. Children are being offered drugs as sex offenders lurk in our parks and watch our children as they enjoy a day at the spray park." Most cases of violent crime happen between people who know each other; domestic disputes and ex-partners is a large factor. Children are often introduced to drugs by friends, and cases of sexual molestation usually happen at the hands of close family members and friends. None of these problems are confined to downtown. In addition, police services of all sizes across the country give advice on protecting children and they advise people to always be with someone when they go out, especially if it's dark. Most of the "vagrants" who would benefit from the project already live downtown anyways, so the project wouldn't draw a swarm of people downtown. Fortunately, some Brandon residents understand the issues surrounding such projects.

There is also the "revelation" that the Indian Posse has established itself here. This coincides with some highly publicised beatings, one of which happened in broad daylight. Street gangs in one form or another have been active in Winnipeg and northern Manitoba for a long time. Brandon is the largest city in Manitoba after Winnipeg, so to think that gangs haven't been in Brandon for that same length of time seems quite naive.

The coverage of these issues is terrible. The editorial staff of the Brandon Sun had the audacity to imply that YFC is a sort of shady "mysterious group." Regardless of one's religious outlook, YFC is well respected in the community for providing services to Brandon youth, among them a drop in centre. The Sun also praised a local judge's decision to order a few convicted criminals to leave Brandon, but curiously enough remarked that " the judge may be exporting our problems to another nearby community. It would be terrible if any gang members who might get kicked out of Brandon set up shop in neighbouring towns where they could terrorize people there." That's exactly what's happening! Dangerous people belong in jail, not on an already long list of individuals the police have to look out for.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Enter Into History The Atomic Bomb

Yesterday marked the 60th anniversary that the world changed forever. As you all know, on August 6, 1945 the United States army dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, killing thousands and leaving behind radiation that made many people sick long after. 3 days later on August 9th, the city of Nagasaki was also bombed in the same fashion, leaving behind the same results.

There was coverage of the ceremonies around the world and profiles of survivors, but few Western media outlets openly denounced those acts for what they were; war crimes. Japan was on the side of the Nazis, and was thus enemies with the Allies, but the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki themselves did nothing to warrant the destruction of their entire cities with the lethal effects to boot. They were a civilian population, and there was no excuse for targeting them in that fashion. Many people believe that dropping the atomic bomb wasn't even necessary, and many scientists who worked on the bomb project had second thoughts once they saw the destructive potential. That's just the tip of the iceberg, as there's practically no discussion whatsoever of atrocities committed on German and Japanese civilians (minus brief mention of the suspensions of the civil liberties of Japanese Canadians while the war was on) at the hands of Allied soldiers.

Some are going to accuse me of being either anti-American or a Nazi sympathiser. In the first place, what's relevant is not who dropped the atomic bombs, but the fact that the bombs were dropped at all. In the second place, Hitler's crimes were atrotious, and even people who have pacifist leanings believe that WWII was necessary to stop Hitler. It's frightening to think about what would have happened had Hitler won, but let's be honest about something. The reason we are taught historically that Britain, France, and Canada (and 2 years later the US) were white knights out to rid the world of the evil Hitlerian menace and that the Nazi war criminals were quickly brought to justice is because our side won that struggle. Funny, few people realise that before the war, the business community on this side of the Atlantic admired Hitler and wanted us to go in that direction. Few people also realise that Canada, the United States, and many European countries turned their backs on Jewish refugees trying to escape from Hitler.

What's despicable about Hitler is that he manipulated his own citizens to keep his grip on power; those who disagreed with him risked abbreviated life expectancies. Yet, out leaders also manipulated us in that conflict. People shot at one another and bombed cities because that's what they were told to do, and it left behind massive devastation, death, and brokenness throughout Europe and Southeast Asia. Wars have thoughout history been started not by citizens but by elites looking to advance their own power without regard to the costs on others.

That leads into another problem caused by the dropping of the atomic bombs. Since that time, military technology has advanced, and weapons far more lethar are being researched. What's the point? 100 years ago, if you wanted to kill someone in a war, you had to do so up close and witness the brutality of it. Now bombs land on cities and cause their destruction out of sight of the pilot who dropped them, and you don't even have to set foot inside of a major city in order to destroy it completely. Again, what's the point?

Monday, August 01, 2005

West Nile Hype

So, the Long Weekend is over, and many are coming back from their holidays at the lake or wherever. They did a variety of things, but they noticed that all those mosquitoes are going to bite them and give them West Nile! Oh no, we have to fog to keep those mosquitoes away!

Here's a reality check, people. West Nile is not a big scourge. Manitoba has not recorded a death from West Nile in 2 years, and the number of cases run in the thousands. This is in a province with a million people, so your odds there are good. Very few people are left with permanent effects from West Nile. Take any medium-sized Manitoba community, and I bet there are as many, if not more, people in each community afflicted with asthma as there are annual cases of West Nile. Aside from fatalities, asthma cases are quite chronic, and they cause many problems when people have to be rushed by ambulance to a hospital when they have an attack. Yet, take a look at any Manitoba media outlet, and you'll find far more about West Nile than asthma.

The chemicals people want to fog with are also contentious. Since they're designed to kill, the general effects are not good. When the City of Winnipeg fogs, residents can normally ask for a buffer zone the City won't spray if they don't want their property to be fogged, but if Manitoba Health declares a West Nile emergency, the City is ordered to spray and to ignore those buffer zones. Several environmental and medical groups have expressed concerns about the impact of fogging, both on the environment in such manifestations as concentrations of toxins in organisms, and on health in such manifestations as cancers. Are we wrong about some of the impacts? Possibly. Do we know all of the impacts of fogging? No. The chemical processes involved with chemical fogging and the fogging products breaking down and moving through the environment are complex. Now, since we don't know much about the impacts of fogging, and West Nile isn't as bad compared to other problems even though West Nile receives more than its fair share of coverage, is it worth it to force chemicals on people who want to be left alone in order to placate people who can't stand any sort of discomfort?

I don't think so.