Friday 14 January 2011

 
Wisdom is a result of a happy marriage between intelligence and experience.
© Carl Dow, Editor and Publisher, True North Perspective
 
Editor's Notes 
 
True North Perspective
Vol. 6, No. 2 (259)
Friday, January 14, 2010

Death by a thousand (self-inflicted) cuts

By Geoffrey Dow
Managing Editor, True North Perspective
Originally published at Edifice Rex Online
 
Keith Olbermann responded to Saturday's shooting of American Congresswoman, Gabrielle Giffords (and close to 20 others) with a passionate call from arms, a nine-minute plea to "both sides" of the American political discourse to pull back from the rhetoric of violence, as if it is mere imagery that has bred the climate of fear that has seen the American people shed their civil liberties as willingly as they shed their shoes and dignities at their airports.
 
Olbermann's was a noble and humane call for a return to mutual respect, with an equally noble mea culpa for his own excesses.
 
Noble and humane, Olbermann's call was also blind and utterly wrong-headed. — 1,083 words.

From YouTube to Twitter, Ottawa heard it all during the G20

By Steven Chase
The Globe and Mail
 
 
 
By William D. Hartung
TomDispatch.com
 
11 January 2011 — Have you noticed that Lockheed Martin, the giant weapons corporation, is shadowing you?  No?  Then you haven’t been paying much attention.  Let me put it this way: If you have a life, Lockheed Martin is likely a part of it.  — 2,289 words.
 

11 January 2011 — If you're worrying whether anyone is really reading your blog or Twitter musings, take comfort in the possibility there may be folks in official Ottawa following your political postings.

In the lead-up to last year's Group of Eight and Group of 20 meetings in Muskoka and Toronto, the Canadian government went to significant lengths to monitor Internet chatter and criticism of summits, documents obtained by The Globe and Mail show.425 words.
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Rape, sexual harrassment on the job: don't ask, don't tell 

Toronto police threatened to gang rape woman reporter arrested during G20 last June

By Dana Lacey
The Canadian Journalism Project
 
11 January 2011 — Journalist Mac McClelland's experience in Haiti, where she was covering the aftermath of the country's devastating earthquake, included sexual threats from the man she had hired to drive her around.
 
It wasn't the U.S. reporter's first experience with sexual harassment on the job, and definitely not the last (later she would enlist the aid of a rifle-wielding passerby when another man in her employ threatened her).
 
But as result of her trip she produced an excellent and chilling long form magazine piece for Mother Jones about the country's rape pandemic, where women as young as two are raped without reprisal. 846 words.
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By E.B. Boyd
FastCompany.com
 
 
13 January 2011 — The Bradley Manning Support Network, a group supporting Bradley Manning, the Army soldier charged with leaking a massive number of classified U.S. documents to WikiLeaks, posted an announcement on its site today, saying that WikiLeaks had transferred $15,100 to the legal trust account of Manning’s attorney. WikiLeaks has been publicly soliciting donations specifically for the expenses of Manning’s legal defense following his arrest in May 2010.292 words.

11 January 2011 — The U.S. government has almost certainly made secret requests for WikiLeaks-related material from other companies. But only Twitter (successfully at least) fought to have to have those orders brought into the open. Here’s why.

 
Secret subpoenas of the kind the Department of Justice sent Twitter are apparently not unusual. In fact, other tech companies may also have received similar WikiLeaks-related requests. But what is unusual in this story is that Twitter resisted. Which raises an interesting question: Assuming that Twitter was not the only company to have been served a secret subpoena, why was it the only company that fought back? The answer might lie in the figure leading Twitter’s legal efforts, Alexander Macgillivray (right), an incredibly mild mannered (really) but sharp-as-a-tack cyber law expert. —  1,182 words.
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From the Desk of Darren Jerome, Ottawa, Canada

Looking for the latest and greatest home renovation products and services?

If so, the Home Renovations Show at Lansdowne Park in Ottawa is the place to be on January 21, 22 and 23.

New and exciting products to be showcased at the 10th annual show will include fireplaces fuelled by ethanol, concrete countertops that create the look of granite and marble, and a garage floor/pool surround coating that withstands wear and tear caused by salt, gasoline and grease.

"When people are updating their kitchens, we can create the look of granite, marble, slate and travertine for a fraction of the price," says Zack Askew, owner of Granicrete Ottawa, which specializes in concrete overlay systems on countertops and flooring and has imported the innovative system to Ottawa from Arizona. "It is a revolutionary product that is affordable and elegant." — 750 words.
 
Our readers write
Villeneuve-Sinclair doesn't drag readers down but takes readers up
 
I just finished reading your article and I so agree with your cousin Gaston. Sometimes in life you have to clean house of people\friends who drag you down. Some individuals can easily drain you of every ounce of energy or happiness in a few hours. For the last few years, I have tried to rid myself of these parasites of gloom and doom. They become high maintenance friends who keep us away from the good times in life. As they say in New Orleans «Let the good times roll» P.S. Here in Florida, even Mickey chooses to be with fun friends.
- Lise Chatelain, Florida

Thumbs up to your cousin, Gaston! Wise man indeed! I'm glad you mentioned The Green Mile movie; it's one of the best films I have seen and worth letting people know about it.
- Mirella Zanetti, Ottawa, Ont.

You succeeded quite well in summarizing 2010's ups and downs without ridiculing the events as some year-end shows do. Gratitude and compassion would surely be more uplifting. P.S. Your photo really illustrates clearly the ups and downs of life's journey.
- Colette St. Denis, Ottawa, Ont.

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-- PBS journalist Bill Moyers.
 
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Is federal food safety system losing its way?

Food producers say federal agency is high-handed and unaccountable

By Alex Binkley
True North Perspective

14 January 2011 — The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CIFA) was formed in 1997 to consolidate the federal government’s food inspection operations under one roof. Not only was that to lead to an even safer food supply, it was also supposed to improve the reputation of Canadian food internationally leading to more exports and jobs.
 
Despite the nasty Listeria outbreak in 2008 that left 22 people dead and other problems that crop up, Canadadoes have a good food supply. Do you worry every time you go into a grocery store?652 words.
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From the Desk of Dennis Carr, Sustainable Development Editor

Once a great notion: Promise of pumping CO2 underground suffers body blow in Saskatchewan

Farmers say high profile carbon sequestration experiment is a bubbling, dangerous failure

By Andrew Nikiforuk
TheTyee.ca
 
12 January 2011 — Canada's poster child for so-called clean energy and "the world's first CO2 Measurement, Monitoring and Verification Initiative" may have sprung a serious leak in Saskatchewan.
 
And it's the sort of geological and political disclosure that just might unravel plans to spend billions of taxpayers' dollars on constructing elaborate carbon cemeteries across the country, if not the world.
 
The story, which includes explosions, dead animals, and an international cast of characters, also raises some critical questions about transparency and the quality of government regulation in a carbon-centric economy.1,427 words.
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Report from Harper's Canada

Canada ranks last in info access: study

The Canadian Press

9 January 2011 — A new study ranks Canada last in an international comparison of freedom-of-information laws — a hard fall after many years being judged a global model in openness.
 
The study by a pair of British academics looked at the effectiveness of freedom-of-information laws in five parliamentary democracies: Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, the United Kingdom and Canada.
 
New Zealand placed first and Canada, last. 778 words.
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CBC News
 
13 January 2011 — Prime Minister Stephen Harper has indicated he will make the elimination of taxpayer subsidies to political parties a campaign pledge in the next federal election.

Speaking Thursday in west Toronto, Harper said the $2-per-vote subsidy, where parties "make no effort whatsoever to raise money is not acceptable to Canadian taxpayers."

"Our position on the direct public subsidy is well known. We don't support it, we never have. We opposed its creation and have opposed it ever since," said Harper.

800 words.
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Just one of 25,000
 
 
CBC News
 
10 January 2011 — A cross-border kerfuffle over a popular chocolate treat nearly cost a Winnipeg woman a $300 fine and saddled her with a bureaucratic headache.

Lind Bird was recently stopped at the U.S. border and selected for a random search of her vehicle. She was warned she could have faced a fine after the customs official found — and seized — her $2 Kinder Surprise egg as illegal contraband.

354 words.
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Bits and Bites of Everyday Life

Tea, coffee and me

“May you always have a soft place to land!”

True North Perspective
 
Alberte Villeneuve-Sinclair is the author of The Neglected Garden and two French novels. Visit her website to learn more: www.albertevilleneuve.ca.

14 January 2011 — Judging from your response, Gaston’s New Year message was extremely popular! Sometimes we do get stuck with relationships that weigh us down or are no longer sustainable and we must break free. I had the pleasure of viewing the movie, “The Young Queen Victoria” last Saturday. Queen Victoria’s mother, the Duchess of Kent, groomed her daughter for the eventual role as a monarch by imposing on her a cloistered life in which she was forbidden to speak to anyone, except in Mother’s presence or that of her strict German governess.
 
Mother’s idea was to rule as a regent but the day of her ascension to the throne, Queen Victoria who was barely eighteen made it clear that from then on she wanted to be left alone and Mother was to back off. Victoria ruled the British Empire for 65 years. This is a perfect example of how we must sometimes impose limits on intrusive friends and family members.860 words.
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Spirit Quest

A 12 step program to bringing hope and joy to the world

By The Rev. Dr. Hanns F. Skoutajan

True North Perspective

I am no great fan of 12 step programs. Undoubtedly they have merit, but not being an addict of alcohol, drugs or smokes, or work for that matter, I have not considered enrolling in some remedial exercise.
 
Thus I was somewhat surprised when Karen Armstrong, one of the most prolific writers  on religious topics (22 books) such as A History of God has come out with a book entitled Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life. That just didn’t seem to me to be her genre of writing. — 808 words.
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Thoughts of home and homeless on a cold winter day in Parkdale

By Frances Sedgwick
True North Perspective

As you shovel off the latest snow from your driveway or front path don't complain too much. There is a hot cup of coffee inside when you are finished.

As you bundle up to go out in the beauty of winter enjoy because you know you have a warm house or apartment waiting on your return.

 
But some people don't have a permanent warm place to find shelter from the cold "beauty" of winter. — 298 words.
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Former CIA asset Luis Posada goes to trial

'A guilty verdict in the Posada case, and a determination by the U.S. Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security that Posada should be imprisoned indefinitely as a perpetrator of terrorism, could still contribute to conditions for better U.S.-Cuban relations. As the trial starts, however, the last word on its significance belongs to Posada's victims. "He is not being charged as a terrorist but rather as a liar," says Livio Di Celmo, whose brother, Fabio, was killed in one of the hotel bombings in Cuba. "My family and I are outraged and disappointed that a known terrorist, Luis Posada, is going to trial for perjury and immigration fraud, not for the horrific crime of masterminding the bombing of a civilian airliner," Roseanne Nenninger, whose 19-year-old brother, Raymond, was aboard the Cuban plane, told The Nation. "Our hope is that the US government will designate Posada as a terrorist and hold him accountable for the pain, suffering and loss he has caused to us and so many other families."'

By Peter Kornbluh
The Nation

11 January 2011 —On January 10 one of the most dangerous terrorists in recent history went on trial in a small courtroom in El Paso, Texas. This is not the venue the Obama administration has finally selected to prosecute the perpetrators of 9/11; it is where the reputed godfather of Cuban exile violence, Luis Posada Carriles, may finally face a modicum of accountability for his many crimes.

In the annals of modern justice, the Posada trial stands out as one of the most bizarre and disreputable of legal proceedings. The man identified by U.S. intelligence reports as a mastermind of the midair destruction of a Cuban airliner—all seventy-three people on board were killed when the plane plunged into the sea off the coast of Barbados on October 6, 1976—and who publicly bragged about being behind a series of hotel bombings in Havana that killed an Italian businessman, Fabio Di Celmo, is being prosecuted for perjury and fraud, not murder and mayhem. The handling of his case during the Bush years became an international embarrassment and reflected poorly on the willingness and/or abilities of the Justice Department to prosecute crimes of terror when that terrorist was once an agent and ally of America. For the Obama administration, the verdict will carry significant implications for U.S. credibility in the fight against terrorism, as well as for the future of US-Cuban relations. — 2,181 words.
 

Always worth repeating

'Give us the tools and we'll finish the job'

— Winston Churchill

Let's say that news throughout human time has been free. Take that time when Ugh Wayne went over to the cave of Mugh Payne with news that the chief of his group had broken a leg while chasing his laughing wife around the fire. That news was given freely and received as such with much knowing smiles and smirks to say nothing of grunts of approval or disapproval. — 688 words.


Fox shoots hunter in Belarus

The Moscow Times

13 January 2011 MINSK — A hapless 40-year-old Belarussian was hospitalized with a gunshot wound to the leg that he said was inflicted by a fox he was hunting in Belarus, Interfax reported Wednesday, citing a local law enforcement source.

The man said he wounded the fox with a shot by a double-barrel gun and tried to finish off the animal with a blow by the gun’s butt. But the fox, which attempted to fight back, hit the trigger with a paw, causing the gun to fire.

Police were checking other versions, including a conflict with another hunter and a suicide attempt, but were inclined to believe the man’s story, the source said.

The fox, which appeared to have avoided a serious wound, escaped. Foxes of its kind are not a protected species in Belarus because they transmit rabies, the report said.
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Setting the record straight on Venezuela and Hugo Chavez

'You may not like Hugo Chavez's way of speaking, or the fact that he was born into poverty, comes from the military, is a leftist and doesn't fit the stereotypical image of a head of state. But that doesn't make him a dictator.'

'In Venezuela, more than 80 per cent of television, radio and print media remain in the hands of private interests critical of the government. So, despite what some international press claim, there is no censorship or violation of free expression in Venezuela.'

By Eva Golinger
Venezuela.analysis
 
9 January 2011 — With so much misinformation circulating in different media outlets around the world about Venezuela and President Hugo Chavez, it's time to set the record straight. Venezuela is not a dictatorship and President Chavez is no dictator.

Just last evening the Venezuelan head of state participated in a meeting with a group of housing activists, who not only criticized - live on television - government policies and inaction on tenant and housing issues, but also proposed laws, regulations and projects that were received with open arms by Chavez himself. And last week, the Venezuelan President vetoed a law on higher education that had been approved by the prior year's majority pro-Chavez legislature, calling for more "open and wide" debate on the subject, to include critics and those who had protested the bill. That is not the behavior of a brutal dictator.

As someone who has been living on and off in Venezuela for over 17 years, I can testify to the extraordinary transformation the country has undertaken during the past decade since Chavez first was elected in 1998. He has been reelected by landslide majorities twice since then. — 1,779 words.
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Al-Jazeera files complaint over what it calls humiliating
and lengthy security check at an event in Jerusalem
 
Hasretz.com
 
13 January 2011 — The Foreign Press Association in Israel is threatening to boycott briefings held by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu if security procedures are not changed immediately.
 
"In a democratic country, security services are not permitted to do as they please," the association said in a open statement.
 
"For a government trying to usher in a new era of relations with the foreign media, this is a peculiar way to begin." — 742 words.
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Having a rough winter?

Never mind - 2010 still tied for Earth's hottest year on record

By Stephen C. Webster
RawStory.com

 
 
Reuters
12 January 2011 SINGAPORE Climate change has likely intensified the monsoon rains that have triggered record floods in Australia's Queensland state, scientists said on Wednesday, with several months of heavy rain and storms still to come. —  754 words
10 January 2010 — The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration said Wednesday that last year was tied as the planet's hottest on record.
 
Surface temperatures in 2010 were tied with 2005: both years, up approximately 1.12 degrees Fahrenheit over the 20th century's average.
 
Surface temperatures for the Earth's oceans were also up by 0.88 degrees Fahrenheit in 2010, once again tying with 2005, this time for the third warmest year on record. 307 words.
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Health Watch

Private rooms cut hospital infections in half: study

CBC News
 
10 January 2011 — Patients in intensive care staying in private rooms have half the rate of some hospital-acquired infections as patients in shared rooms, a new Montreal study shows.
 
Almost one in three patients in ICU pick up another bug in hospital, which means longer hospital stays, higher costs and for patients, a new bug to fight on top of the illness that put them in intensive care.470 words.
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From the Desk of Anita Chan, Contributing Editor, Australia
 
 
Labor lawyer imprisoned in Xi’an for organizing
against corrupt privatization of state enterprises
 
' . . . Zhao’s ability to mobilize a large number workers across enterprises and even cities is impressive. Ironically, it is in the quotes extracted from the authority’s charges levelled on Zhao that gives us a much better picture of the scale of the movement that Zhao has been able to generate. Grassroots associations or organizations that can link up a large geographical area is what is seen as the most dangerous by the Chinese authorities. Sentencing Zhao for only three years in fact is quite a light. One can speculate that there could have been disagreement within the party over this case.'

"Maoist leftists and people concerned with social justice within the Party are outraged by his imprisonment, and see this as a case of the Party going after one of its own.'

10 January 2011 — Against the backdrop of Liu Xiaobo being awarded the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize, this issue of CLNT highlights the case of Zhao Dongmin — a labor lawyer and Maoist who on 25 October 2010 was sentenced to three years in prison for applying to set up a workers’ organisation to monitor the privatization of state enterprises and alert the authorities about cases of corruption.
 
Details of Zhao’s Case
 The basic details of Zhao Dongming’s case are already well documented in English (see notes below). Zhao was trained in law by correspondence at the Central Communist Party and worked for years as a lawyer and mediator in the courts. He is a Communist Party member, a self-declared Maoist, and was involved in founding a “Mao Zedong Study Group” in Xi’an.
 
In April 2009 Zhao Dongmin assisted hundreds of workers to apply to establish a “Union Rights Defence Representative Congress”, which would have monitored cases of corruption in the restructuring of state enterprises. Workers came together across multiple enterprises, and included current employees as well as laid-off workers and retirees. They were critical of the Chinese trade union’s failure to represent the interests of state sector employees in restructured and/or privatised enterprises. He was arrested on 19 August 2009. — 1,424 words.
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Science

Swine flu infection offers 'extraordinary super immunity'

By Michelle Roberts
BBC News
 
10 January 2011 — People who recover from swine flu may be left with an extraordinary natural ability to fight off flu viruses, findings suggests.

In beating a bout of H1N1 the body makes antibodies that can kill many other flu strains, a study in the Journal of Experimental Medicine shows.

Doctors hope to harness this power to make a universal flu vaccine that would protect against any type of influenza.

474 words.
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'We either live together, or we die together'

Thousands of Egyptian Muslims become 'human shields'

to defend Coptic Christians from terrorism

By Zaid Jilani
ThinkProgress
8 January 2011 —On New Year’s Day, a devastating terrorist bombing at a Coptic church in Egypt killed 21 people and injured 79 others. Although the identity of the culprits was not known, it was assumed that they were Muslim extremists, intent on targeting those they saw as heretics. Religious tensions immediately rose in the country, and angry Copts stormed streets, battled with police, and even vandalized a nearby mosque. The riots and heightened tensions between the Muslim and Coptic communities was likely what the terrorists wanted — to divide the Egyptian community and create sectarian strife between different religious groups.
 
Yet by Coptic Christmas Eve, which took place Thursday night in Egypt, things had changed completely. As Egyptian Copts attended mass at churches across the country, “thousands” of Muslims, including “the two sons of President Hosni Mubarak,” joined them, acting as “human shields” to protect from terrorist attacks by extremists.548 words.
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Money and Markets

The song remains the same: Ignoring success in Iceland, economic 'experts' advise Ireland to follow Baltic path of pain

By Paul Krugman
Truth-Out.org
 
13 January 2011 — As Ireland attempts to overcome its economic difficulties, European hard-money types are proposing Latvia as a model for Ireland to emulate. Their argument goes like this: Sure, Iceland, which devalued the krona after the crisis struck in 2008, has begun to recover — but so have Latvia and Estonia, even though they kept their currencies firmly pegged to the euro.

Latvia and Estonia have done much worse than Iceland as far as employment is concerned. And jobs are only part of the story. Iceland, as even the International Monetary Fund has admitted, was able to “preserve the Nordic social model” after the downturn in 2008, meaning that because safety nets for the unemployed were preserved, there has been a lot of distress but not much extreme hardship.

750 words.
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Wikipedia celebrates 10th birthday

Targets Brazil, India for growth

By Daniel Trotta
Reuters
 
12 January 2011 — With China virtually cut off and Western markets maturing, Wikipedia is targeting India first and possibly Brazil next to reach its goal of 1 billion users, Executive Director Sue Gardner says.

The San Francisco-based online encyclopedia, which turns 10 years old Saturday, also vows to reach that goal in the next five years while maintaining its status as a non-profit organization.

Wikipedia claims 440 million unique visitors a month -- fifth most in the world -- making it the envy of many for-profit rivals in the Silicon Valley who aspire to generate such numbers.

466 words.
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By David Brown
Washington Post

7 January 2011 — It's widely held that a woman's tears will turn a man to mush. And many think that sympathetic response is a sign of sensitivity, a psychological shift away from baser male impulses.

But new research suggests that much of the response may be involuntary and that men are unable to help themselves. The smell of a woman's tears, the study found, is associated with a dip in testosterone, the principal male hormone, and a general decline in sexual arousal.

"We've identified that there is a chemosignal in human tears," said Noam Sobel, a neuroscientist at the Weizmann Institute of Science near Tel Aviv. Sobel headed the study, which involved exposing men to tears collected in vials. It was published online Thursday by the journal Science.

Historically, tears have been of more interest to poets than scientists. — 988 words.
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Greek victims of Nazi atrocities 

 
Nazi troops executed 214 civilians on June 10, 1944 in Distomo
in one of the worst World War II atrocities in occupied Greece
 
 
13 January 2011 — Greece will support a claim for compensation from Germany for a World War II massacre by Nazis, the prime minister said Wednesday. Residents of the village of Distomo, in central Greece, have won a battle in Italian courts for compensation from Germany, joining Italian plaintiffs seeking similar damages. — 275 words.
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Ukraine's parliament votes for new Russian nuclear reactors

Reuters

13 January 2011 — Ukraine’s parliament gave the green light on Wednesday for a joint project with Russia to build two nuclear reactors in western Ukraine, financed by a multibillion-dollar Russian loan.

Ukraine already operates 15 nuclear units at four nuclear power plants, and nuclear energy covers about a half of its electricity needs.

The agreement, signed in April, calls for construction of two Russian-designed units at the Khmelnytsky plant, each with a capacity of 1,000 megawatts. Russia is to issue a loan to pay for the nuclear equipment it supplies to the project. Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych said last year that the loan could reach $2 billion, while one Russian official put it at “several billion of dollars.”


In case you missed it ...
 
The Old Man's Last Sauna
A collection of short stories by Carl Dow

An eclectic collection of short stories that will stir your sense of humour, warm your heart, outrage your sense of justice, and chill your extra sensory faculties in the spirit of Stephen King. The final short story, the collection's namesake, The Old Man's Last Sauna is a ground-breaking love story.

The series begins with Deo Volente (God Willing). Followed by The Quintessence of Mr. FlynnSharing LiesFlying HighThe Richest Bitch in the Country or Ginny I Hardly Knows YaOne Lift Too ManyThe Model A Ford, the out-of-body chiller, Room For One Only and O Ernie! ... What Have They Done To You! The series closes with the collection's namesake, The Old Man's Last Saunaa groundbreaking love story. All stories may also be found in the True North Perspective Archives.