Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Eat-Clean Diet: You Don't Have To Be Fat and Forty-something

Pumpkin seeds are a little like viagra. They’re loaded with zinc which kicks starts the libido. I found that nutritional nugget in Tosca Reno’s book, “The Eat-Clean Diet.”

Pumpkin seeds are just one of “12 Superfoods” Reno discusses toward the end of her book – after she’s finished explaining the basics of how to Eat-Clean and escape being fat. Her slogan is, “Eat more food, not less.”

Eating Clean is not a diet. It’s a lifestyle that has worked for Reno who practiced it for 7 years before publishing her book this year. After the mother of three with a BSc. saw her weight yo yo for years from it’s peak of 200 pounds, she adopted the clean eating lifestyle and became a swimsuit model – after the age of 40. She now has a regular column, “Raise the Bar”, in Oxygen, a women’s fitness magazine. She lives in Toronto but, according to her blog, is often in much warmer places in the U.S. and Mexico attending fitness events.

Reno believes that how your body looks is 80% about the food you put into it. Only 10% of how your body looks is in her view – and this will be a relief for anybody who hates exercising -- about the exercise you do. The other 10% is largely out of your control: genetics.

A key to the Eat-Clean lifestyle, Reno insists, is to eat every 2 or 3 hours. Eat five or six small meals a day. Couple lean protein and complex carbohydrates at every meal. These foods digest slowly and prevent you from getting hungry. And they prevent swings in your blood sugar that leave you with that lethargic feeling – one reason I am now following her advice. Following are a couple of small meals suggested in “A Typical Day” Meal Plan:

2:30 pm – 5 oz. lean cooked chicken breast, ½ cup raw veggies, 500 ml water

5:00 pm ½ baked sweet potato, 1 cup steamed vegetables, 5 oz. grilled salmon, tea and 500 ml water.

Although Reno insists early in her book that you pair up lean protein and complex carbohydrates as “a steady date” at every meal, she gets off to a slow start in explaining exactly what complex carbohydrates are. In Chapter 1, she leaves the reader to infer from the Meal Plan what complex carbs are. The last sentence in the chapter is the closest she comes to explaining what they are: “A serving of complex carbohydrates from fruit or vegetables is a heaping handful, while a serving of complex carbohydrates from whole grains or starches is the size of a tennis ball.”

I mention this because the difference between complex carbs and simple carbs is a source of confusion for many people. I heard the singer, Janet Jackson, tell an interviewer that she ate “no carbs”. No carbs? Surely she eats salads.

It’s not until well into Chapter 2 of Eat-Clean that the difference between complex and simple carbs becomes more clear. When it comes to simple carbs, Reno offers a rule of thumb, “In short, avoid the white stuff!” Reno further tackles this confusion in a section called “Carbohydrate Confusion” in Chapter 5.

That’s a strength of the book, redundancy. But not boring redundancy: every chapter is chuck full of colorful 'shout out' boxes and photographs reminding you of the basics: Eat lean protein and fresh vegetables and fruit. Avoid “white poison”. Drink lots of water. Learn to tell the difference between the good, the bad, and the really bad fats and you’ll notice a difference in your hair and skin.

Tops on Reno’s bad fat list are trans fats (the ones now banned in New York restaurants), which she says could be moving your body in the direction of heart disease and cancer. When it comes to good fats, throwing a few seeds on your morning cereal is a good way to get them. Remember those pumpkin seeds?

But Reno doesn’t gloss over the work involved in eating clean. To eat clean, you have to get organized and make packing your own food a daily habit. That may seem time-consuming, she says, but look at how bad habits that have packed on the pounds have eaten into your time. “Hey, if you made Starbucks your morning habit, didn’t that take some doing? You had to get yourself there, stand in line, order your drink, pay for it, pick it up at the other end once the barista had made it and then get on with your day.”

Reno’s not a fanatic though who will deprive you of a cup of coffee. “I will give up many things to eat clean but I refuse to give up coffee” she says. She allows herself a couple of cups of coffee first thing in the morning, but she’s avoids the fat by no longer putting cream in it. The problem with coffee, she says, is that it drains vitamins and minerals out of your body. In a sample meal plan, she recommends drinking a cup of green tea at both breakfast and lunch.

Reno is not a fanatic with children either. “Choose your battles,” with kids, she says in the “Eat- Clean – Kids” chapter. “Say yes occasionally to unhealthy treats.” Set regular meal times and stick to them “within reason” over the long term.

One way to engage your children in healthy eating, Reno advises in this chapter is to “Take your children grocery shopping.” But in an earlier section called, “Clean Eating – Shopping Clean”, she advises: “Shop solo. You can get in and get out quickly and no one will bug you for a candy bar at the checkout.” Ooops!

Toward the end of the book, Reno includes an “Eat-Clean Recipes” section with entertaining full page color photographs. Most of the recipes are refreshingly simple. Only occasionally did Rosca use ingredients that I knew I would have difficulty tracking down in my local market. One recipe calls for "wild rocket, arugula, or mesculun salad greens”.

This book is not geared to vegetarians – the word vegetarian is not even in the index – but Reno does encourage people to use meatless sources of protein such as beans, lentils, and the ancient grain, quinoa. One thing that appealed to me about her meatless recipes is that they do not rely heavily on cheese.

One of the most fun recipes in her book is the “Ziploc Omelet”.

Use a Ziploc freezer bag
4 egg whites per bag
½ cup vegetables of choice

Instructions: Separate 4 eggs (large or extra large) and pour egg whites into a Ziploc bag. Shake to combine. Add a variety of ingredients, such as onion, green pepper, tomato or salsa to the egg whites. Make sure to squeeze all the air out of the bag, and zip it up. Place bag in rolling, boiling water for exactly 13 minutes. You can usually cook 6 to 8 omelets in a large pot. For more, make another pot of boiling water. Open the bag and the omelet will roll out easily. Be prepared for everyone being amazed.

Reno’s book is not all about eating though. She hones in on that 10% of her formula for a better body -- exercise. Reno believes that doing a little weight lifting three or four times a week is a must. Her book is published by Robert Kennedy who also publishes “Oxygen: Robert Kennedy’s Women’s Fitness”, a fitness magazine with an emphasis on weight training. That made me immediately suspicious: Was Reno’s book going to be a forum for hawking body building products? It wasn’t.

Whey powder though, a protein supplement widely used by body builders is included in the “Top Supplements” section near the end of Eat-Clean. Reno defers to Kennedy in endorsing whey: “It has virtually no fat but all the nutritional goodness of milk….,” states Robert Kennedy, publisher of Oxygen magazine. “It is the supplement most widely used by all those seeking to trim and define their physique.” I wince at any one-size-fits-all promotion of a dairy product. People who aren’t from Northern European backgrounds – “I’m Dutch,” Reno says in her book – commonly have difficulty digesting dairy products.

It’s Reno’s weight lifting that could buffer her from criticism that she is setting unrealistic Barbie doll standards for female beauty -- although the photo on the back cover of her in a red two piece bathing suit made me wonder how many women could actually look like that. At closer inspection, you can see that Reno has a layer of muscle that it wouldn’t hurt most women her age to strive for, since weight lifting combats thinning bones. Reno is 48 years old and beating path to the gym, while many women her age are on a path to osteoporosis.

Reno actually sounds an alarm in her book about the unrealistic Barbie doll standard of beauty that women are constantly exposed to. She provides a chart which compares the weight of the average American woman to Barbie. Barbie is much thinner in every part of her body, except the bust where she is bigger than the average woman.

Reno cautions that you are at least partially stuck with the body type that is your genetic inheritance from mom and dad. “To some extent you must live with these physical attributes.” But you can make improvements, she says. “A thick waist can be trimmed down to a slimmer version; a saggy backside can benefit from uplifting resistance training and cardiovascular exercise; skinny legs [which she says she had as a girl] can be enhanced by doing specific weight-training exercises to build them up.”

That’s the theme that runs through the entire book: what you can do. This is an upbeat book in the tradition of body builders such as Arnold Schwarzenegger who says he puts his mind not to what he can’t do, but always to what he can do. By the end of the book, Reno has made a convincing case that, to quote the blurb on the back cover, “it’s never too late to get in the best shape of your life.”

The Eat-Clean Diet is available at Amazon and other major bookstores.

BCTF Member Stands in Soup Line

It was the night before welfare day. Last Tuesday night, the Salvation Army Soup truck pulled up as usual to Main St. & Cordova at 9:45 to hand out piping hot soup and peanut butter and jam sandwiches to the poor.

A well-dressed BCTF member who teaches at the Vancouver School Board Eastside Learning Center for adults a block away, lined up for a bowl of soup. Several people saw her; in fact she said hello to a couple of people. She has been a VSB teacher in the neighborhood for years. She is middle-aged, a little on the heavy side, with short blond wavy hair.

"Those people make a fortune," exclaimed Serg, a Downtown Eastside resident, "and she's taking food from the hungry."

A couple of years ago, the media reported discussions in London, England of shutting down food lines for the poor due to widespread abuse. Working people were using them as a convenience, instead of cooking for themselves.

Truth is, virtually everybody you see at the Sally Ann soup truck on Tuesday and Sunday nights in Vancouver looks poor.

Other teacher-related articles on this blog:
Vancouver Teachers Demand Recycling in Schools
International Boycott of High School Diplomas Issued by the Vancouver School Board

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Divorced from Reality

A man in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, divorced his wife because he caught her alone in the same room as an unrelated male. The male was on television, hosting a show that she was watching.

In Saudia Arabia, under the heavily patriarchal Sharia law, a man can divorce his wife without going through the courts.

Efforts to introduce Sharia law to Ontario were defeated on Dec. 9, 2005. "I am so happy,” Ms. Homa Arjomand, one of the primary organizers against Sharia in Canada, said at the time.

I came across this story on Covenant Zone.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Vancouver Teachers Demand Recycling in Schools

It was a back flip worthy of the Olympics.

Yesterday, Vancouver School Board Chair Ken Denike said no to teachers insisting that a standard recycling program be set up in all schools. It would be too expensive, he told CBC news on Tuesday, Sept. 25. He said recycling in schools was a volunteer effort, although he admitted that it at times deserved a failing grade. "We have attempted in a number of schools to put in a recycling program," Denike said. "But unless you have a diligent teacher there, or someone really pushing it, it doesn't continue."

But here’s what Denike told the CBC the next day: "It's time to do it." On Wednesday, Sept. 26, he said, "I think it's important to do it fairly soon while we've got motivation and interest in schools. Students have also been pushing for the change.” Denike promised a review by the School Board of the possibility of a district-wide recycling program.

One teacher who put pressure on the School Board to organize a standard blue box program is Michelle Tayler (photo above), a Grade 4 and 5 teacher at Queen Mary Elementary. Tayler told the CBC on Tuesday that while the curriculum emphasizes environmental education, the School Board sets a poor example by discouraging students from actually practicing what they've learned. "Just after lunch you'll see a lot of juice boxes — they're thrown into the garbage cans", Tayler said. "I would have thought by now something would be in place."

Last spring, students from Lord Tennyson Elementary and Lord Byng Secondary made a presentation to Vancouver School Board committees on the topic of recycling and overall sustainability in schools.

Sharon Gregson, the trustee who oversees Lord Byng Secondary School and who last year appeared in the National Firearms Association Journal sporting a gun on the front cover and a tattoo on an inside page, told the CBC that she is keen on recycling. [In fact, after she recycled her husband, Ian Gregson, he accused her in The Tyee news in April 2005 of taking off on vacation to the Dominican Republic with her new boyfriend and saddling him with their joint-custody kids, sabotaging his ability to campaign as a Green Party candidate.]

Gregson told the CBC that it will take time for a standard recycling program to be voted on by the School Board. First funding will have to be found and then the issue will have to be discussed at appropriate committees.

Gregson says the issue of recycling got backgrounded as trustees have been focused on other issues lately, such as “a lack of adequate funding from Victoria, the problem of last year’s lower than expected enrollment, the problem of facilities that need to be seismically upgraded.” She avoided any mention of the international boycott of Grade 12 diplomas that the VSB was accused in the media last week of concealing from parents. The boycott has some parents looking to next year's election, when even a new recycling program may not be enough to save this School Board from ending up in electoral landfill.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Live Trolley Bus Wire Snaps in Chinatown Trapping Man in Car

A live trolley bus wire snapped and trapped a man in his car on Tuesday at about 3:30 p.m. in Chinatown. This was the second day in a row that an electrical trolley wire had fallen in the same spot, Main & Pender in Chinatown, during rush hour.

The man trapped on Tuesday in his small brown Sedan risked electrocution if he had stepped out of his car. "It had just started raining again to make it worse; the street was wet," a witness said. It had been raining in that morning and during the night too. The witness was convinced that if the man had gotten out of his car, "He would have been a goner, ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ."
The wire snapped "like a clothesline breaking", the witness said. If the live wire had hit the man's windshield when it came down, he added, it could have broken his windshield and killed him.

The witness believes it may have been the strain of the bus turning from Main St. on to Pender at that moment that caused the wire to snap.

"There was an Asian guy in the car; he didn't look like he was worried," the witness said. "The Transit supervisor was talking to him."

Police were telling people not to step off the curb. "No cars could get by; you couldn't turn left or right on Pender."

The witness had seen the same scene the day before during afternoon rush hour. "They had the cones out, they had transit supervisors, pretty well in the same spot. Police were putting the barricades up."

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Int'l Boycott of Vancouver High School Diplomas Concealed By School Board

(photo: Ken Denike, Chair, Vancouver School Board)

While the Vancouver School Board is exporting schools and diplomas to the children of the elite in China's Communist Party, Vancouver residents say it is importing tactics of political repression used by China's Communist Party.

The result is an international boycott of Vancouver School Board secondary school diplomas. The boycott was launched in 2004 by individuals who have since formed the ad hoc group, Canadians Opposing Political Psychiatry. The DTES Enquirer has learned that Vancouver School Board trustees and administrators, including Principals and Vice Principals, were sent written notification of the boycott but concealed it from the public.

Organizations around the world "are being asked not to recognize these diplomas", according to a Feb. 13, 2004 notice entitled, "International Boycott of Diplomas Issued by the Vancouver School Board", received by the VSB.

The boycott stemmed from evidence that the VSB was using police intimidation and political psychiatry to deter legitimate citizen complaints. Pursuing a complaint against the Vancouver School Board can earn the complainant a visit from Vancouver's notorious "Car 87", a police car in which an armed constable and psychiatric nurse ride. They arrive at a complainant's home, according to official forms that they complete during the visit, to perform an assessment for "apprehension" to a mental hospital.

A psychiatric notation appears for life adjacent to that individual's name on the police computer system -- even if they are cleared. But here's the catch: even when you're cleared, you're never really cleared. The wording on the form reveals that an individual is simply not a candidate for apprehension "at this time".

In the fall of 2002, outgoing President of the BC Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils mentioned intimidation of individuals pursuing complaints with school administrators in an interview with the Vancouver Sun. Reggi Balabanov stated that complainants were discovering police on their doorsteps. This has put a "chill" on the willingness of people to pursue complaints, Balabanov said. [Balabanov was not involved in organizing the boycott.]

The boycott was ultimately triggered by a case involving police intimidation and classic political psychiatry in October 2002.

The woman targeted for political psychiatry was the last (last known) of several individuals, both female and male, who had lodged complaints --with no knowledge of one another's complaints at the time -- with the School Board about a verbally and physically abusive teacher. The VSB instructed her to submit her complaint in writing to Violence Prevention Co-ordinator Lisa Pedrina, but when she did, she got no response. Months later, she wrote a letter to the VSB criticizing this lack of response. She quickly received a letter dated Sept. 12, 2000 from the VSB in-house lawyer, Richard Hall, threatening her with legal action for "liable and slander" -- this lawyer could not spell "libel" -- if she dared criticize Pedrini again. The woman asked trustees to ensure that the VSB stopped issuing threats to prevent the raising of legitimate concerns with staff.

Hall had told the woman in the threatening letter, that if she wanted her complaint processed, she would have to re-submit it. This is a typical "obstructionist tactic" she says. She asked trustee to investigate why this in-house lawyer could not simply pull her original submission out of a VSB filing cabinet? Hall later left his job at the VSB.

With Hall's departure, the VSB hired an external lawyer, Wendy Harris, to send the woman a letter stating that "no substantiation was found" to support her claims that previous individuals -- who had by now heard of her case and contacted her -- had lodged complaints about this teacher. "There are no records which could be located to indicate that either of these individuals had made complaints against [the teacher]...." Complainants were stunned by this response. The VSB ignored written notification that a previous complainant, a male, was willing to provide them with letters on VSB letterhead brushing off his complaint against this teacher, as well as a postcard he had received from the teacher apologizing for 'attacking' him. The VSB also ignored written notification that an earlier female complainant was willing to speak to them, a complainant who had been telephoned at home by a VSB supervisor when she suddenly stopped all school volunteer work after being physically assaulted by this teacher; the supervisor told her that the teacher would be sent on "sensitivity training." The VSB had been given contact information, in writing, for both these complainants. They had also been provided, in writing, the names of two VSB supervisors who had received complaints about the teacher.

The above example was one of several outlined in an Oct. 12, 2002 letter to the Vancouver Board to illustrate that they were paying hundreds of dollars an hour in taxpayers' dollars to evade a genuine investigation into this case. The woman stated in the letter that she intended to campaign in the election, just two months away, about VSB "duplicity" in the handling of bullying complaints, specifically their practice of assuring the public that such complaints were being taken seriously when in fact letters complainants were receiving told a different story. The ruling party, the Non-Partisan Association, was poised to lose the election; any campaigning by the woman could have been damaging to incumbents.

The VSB called police "Car 87".

In the morning of Nov. 5, 2002, the woman responded to pounding on her door by opening it and discovering an armed constable, Michelle Sevigny, standing with psychiatric nurse, Don Getz. Getz was flapping her Oct. 12, 2002 letter to the VSB in his hand. It is noteworthy that her Oct. 12, 2002 intent-to-campaign letter was the sole evidence submitted to police and the psychiatric nurse to justify the visit.

The woman felt sufficiently terrorized by the Car 87 visit that she dropped plans to campaign in the School Board election.

At the beginning of the visit, Getz told the woman, "You seem fine to me." As he was leaving at the end of the visit, she claims -- this is something she reported in writing to the Health Authority and the VSB at the time -- Getz told her that he shared her view that the upcoming tight School Board election had motivated the VSB to arrange this visit.

In his official psychiatric report, though, the sole reason Getz provided for going to the woman's home to assess her for "apprehension" was that she had made "freedom of information requests" to the VSB. Indeed, at the end of the Oct. 12/02 letter, the woman had requested that documents from the file be released to her under the Freedom of Information Act. The woman had made two routine freedom of information requests over the previous year. Getz revealed in his report that the only person the VSB made available to meet with him was Georgina Kosich, the Labour Relations and Freedom of Information Assistant at the VSB. (When he arrived, he had chatted with the VSB's new lawyer, Michael Hancock, who had directed him to Kosich.) The woman has in her possession letters from Kosich responding to her Freedom of Information requests and inviting her to feel free to contact her again.

The revelation in Getz' report that the VSB had diverted him to a freedom of information clerk reinforced the fact that they did not feel at any risk. Yet Car 87 is, according to Health Authority policy, to be reserved for cases where the targeted individual poses an "imminent" risk of killing themselves or others. That policy was confirmed in a taped telephone call with Jan Fisher, Head of Client Relations at the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority. Fisher told the woman that she "might get an apology" as a mistake had obviously been made. It wasn't a mistake, says the woman. "It was a pre-meditated attempt to intimidate me and discredit me with the electorate."

The fact that the Car 87 visit was no mistake tends to be supported by comments made by Police-School Liaison, Sergeant Garry Lester, whom the woman telephoned for answers on the afternoon of Nov. 5th, just hours after the visit. He told her during a taped telephone conversation (advocates routinely advise DTES residents to tape conversations in cases of police intimidation and political psychiatry) that he had stressed to the VSB that there was "nothing untoward" about her Oct. 12/02 letter. But the VSB pressured him, he revealed, so he approved the visit. (Such soliciting by bureaucrats of a favor from the VPD in order to have a critic visited has turned up in documentation pertaining to four cases of political psychiatry and/or politically-motivated police intimidation brought to the attention of DTES Enquirer bloggers.) Lester confirmed, when asked by the woman during their telephone conversation, that the Oct. 12, 2002 letter was the sole evidence considered in the decision to send Car 87 to her home.

Despite the lack of evidence that the woman posed a risk, approval of the Car 87 visit allowed instant access by Car 87 staff to her medical records. "They had no evidence against me," she says, "so they went on a fishing expedition to see if they could find anything to use against me." [She can prove that content of her medical records was altered when transferred into the Car 87 report. She has copies of both the original record and the Car 87 report. But this will be covered in another post.] She has no history of mental illness.

During the year and a half between the Oct./02 Car 87 visit and the organizing of the boycott of diplomas issued by the Vancouver School Board, records confirm that efforts were made to have VSB trustees take responsibility for their alleged instigation of police intimidation and political psychiatry. In 2003, trustees held an in-camera review of the case of the woman targeted by Car 87. She was not invited. But a staff person implicated in wrongdoing in the case was invited to brief the Board. The woman learned from meeting notes obtained through Freedom of Information that evidence in the case had been consistently misrepresented at the meeting. "He said the teacher wasn't working for the Vancouver School Board at the time we lodged our complaints, like we were all too stupid to know what school she worked at." All they had to do was check the payroll records, she points out, to confirm that she had definitely been a VSB teacher when the complaints were lodged.

Jane Bouey, elected in Nov. 2002, was a Vancouver School Board member during the term in which the in-camera review was held and the VSB persistently evaded addressing allegations that they had restricted freedom of expression via Ca 87. No hint of Bouey's record was provided to the public as she appeared in the media to sell a draft of "Safe Schools" legislation. This "Safe Schools" draft was criticized for imposing excessive and heavy-handed limitations on informal, day-to-day speech of students. Critics who believe the VSB is comfortable with tactics typical of the Communist Party in China and the former Soviet Union are hardly dissuaded by the fact that Bouey is Assistant Manager of the Communist Party's People's Co-op Bookstore in Vancouver and uses the internet domain address of the Communist Party's People's Voice newspaper as her personal e-mail address. While on the School Board, her partner in her personal life was (and may continue to be) Kimball Cariou, editor of the People's Voice.

There is no doubt that the Vancouver School Board was aware of the boycott ultimately triggered by this case. A Freedom of Information request to the VSB by the woman visited by Car 87 resulted in the release of a copy of the notice entitled "International Boycott of Diplomas Issued by the Vancouver School Board" bearing the stamp, "RECEIVED Feb. 23, 2004 HUMAN RESOURCES". The VSB also released other documents pertaining to the boycott bearing "RECEIVED" stamps with dates in 2004. Further, a copy of the notice of the boycott was hand-delivered to the Vancouver School Board headquarters at Broadway and Granville in March 2004, at which time proof of receipt was provided by a receptionist who signed a photocopy of the notice and signed her name on it.

The VSB has never formally responded to the boycott. An internal memo, though, does reveal a somewhat flippant response from a VSB administrator, "Wendy", in a handwritten memo to another VSB administrator, Sue Arthur, dated Feb. 27, 2004:

"Sue – put your "Legal Counsel" hat on for this . . . . Take care & happy Friday!"

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Vancouver Olympics Protesters say: “Free the Fish, Homes for People”

Wendy Pederson, a paid organizer of the protest, is the woman with red hair and a blue jacket in the center with the microphone. The woman sitting at the bottom left in the light blue coat is Sheila Baxter, author of "Under the Viaduct" and other books about poverty.

Ada, who 'volunteers' at Carnegie Center doing dishwashing and other tasks in exchange for food vouchers, holds a fish at the protest. (Ada, your fish is upside down.)

Roughly ten brightly colored cardboard fish were held by people standing on the steps on the Vancouver Art Gallery at lunch time today.

The weather was more suitable to fish than to people, wet with puddles. But the sun appeared shortly after about 60 people gathered in front of the Art Gallery. They listened to speakers protesting the failure of oganizers of the 2010 Winter Olympics to make good on their promise to build social housing.

The protesters wanted the world to know that governments renegging on their promise to make social housing an Olympics legacy were considering coughing up $90 million to expand the aquarium in Stanley Park. In a handout at the protest, organizers summed up their case:
“While more than 2000 people are sleeping on our streets, the Vancouver Aquarium expansion is about to provide luxury homes to captive fish for $90 million. The fish aren’t happy about it and neither are Vancouver residents. “

With the exception of several reporters and tv cameras, the crowd was made up largely of familiar faces from the Vancouver left. Wendy Pederson, a key organizer of the event is becoming a big fish in their little pond. "Our governments are rolling in dough," Pederson, a full-time paid organizer for the Carnegie Action Project on the Downtown Eastside, told the crowd as she held a microphone on the steps. "All of the money they spend on these tourist projects and then on top of that, last year the province had a 4.1 billion dollar surplus. That’s money on top of all of their spending.”

Dag Walker, a blogger at the Vancouver site, Covenant Zone, has a different take on the surplus. "If the government has a 4.1 billion dollar surplus, they should be cutting taxes."

The Carnegie Action Project and the other groups which organized the protest, Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users [VANDU], Citywide Housing Coalition, and Students for a Democratic Society, had one key demand: that the British Columbia government get to work right away and build 3,200 units of social housing.

The handout highlighting key points revealed a sense of entitlement characteristic of such protests: “Do I need to grow gills to get a home?”, Clyde Wright, Vice President, Western Aboriginal Harm Reduction and Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users member, was quoted as saying.

Some taxpayers take issue with this sense of entitlement. An argument heard on talk radio, for example, is that many working people can’t afford to live in downtown Vancouver so why should we build government housing downtown for welfare recipients and drug addicts.

Walker dismisses these left-wing protesters as "Sunday School teachers who think they know best and always need more money from the congregation for missionary work." Statements like the following from Pederson make him wince: "[The hand-made fish] represent our deep concern and love for those who are most harmed by those government policies. And it's shameful that they look after business interests and not after the interests of those who are most vulnerable."

A little girl – protesters say she was Pederson’s four yr. old daughter – stood with her head and arms poking out of holes cut into a big plastic red and gold fish, as her mother and others spoke. But like some taxpayers, she got tired of it real fast. She left with a pouty face.

Whiskeyjack Murder Suspect Picked Up on Downtown Eastside

Last night on the Downtown Eastside, Vancouver police picked up "a person of interest" in the murder of Marilyn Whiskeyjack. Constable Tim Fanning told CKNW that a male was arrested and is being questioned "but at this time there are no charges." Police believe Whiskeyjack knew her attacker.

A Carnegie member pointed out yesterday that with Crime Stoppers willing to pay up to $2,000 for a tip and it being over a week before welfare cheques are issued, "there are going to be some hungry drug addicts". One of them might be tempted to tip police, he said.

Whiskeyjack was stabbed in Main Room at 117 Main St. late Friday night. She died an hour later in hospital.

Whiskeyjack's murder is Vancouver's 15th homicide this year.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Telus: asparagus and meatballs with a dash of political psychiatry

Last Tuesday was "Telus Tuesday". That's when Telus turns up at the Salvation Army on Cordova near Main to give the Downtown Eastside poor a good feed.

They served asparagus, "overcooked", a homeless man reported. And mashed potatoes. "And meatballs." The meatballs were good and they gave a generous helping of them, he said in a voice tone that sounded pleased.

And black forest cake. He described it as one of those "cheap" ones, but that it tasted good nonetheless.

The homeless man had enjoyed the lunch enough that he was talking about it to some friends about five in the afternoon. By that time, he was trying to figure out where to go for a free dinner.

Telus Tuesday, which comes every month or two and is not advertised, is a hit on the Downtown Eastside.

But Telus' reputation is tainted on the Downtown Eastside due to the fact that 20-yr. Telus employee, Allan Wong, was involved in the use of Chinese communist style political psychiatry tactics to deter political free speech by a Downtown Eastside resident. Although Wong's involvement in political psychiatry has been in his moonlighting role as a Vancouver School Board trustee, he has chosen not to entirely separate that role from his role as a Telus employee. During the two consecutive VSB terms in which political psychiatry was instigated and evidence of it suppressed, Wong had promoted himself to voters in the School Board election as a long term Telus employee.

According to Telus ads, "The future is friendly." But for people targeted by political psychiatry and tagged with life long libelous labels, the future is unfriendly.

Man at Cobalt Hotel Attacked With Hatchet

Why would the cops call a man hit over the head with a hatchet lucky? Because he walked away with only minor injuries. Late Friday night, the 49-year old man was attacked at the seedy Cobalt Hotel at 917 Main St. where he was staying on the Downtown Eastside. A 26 year old man is facing charges for the assault.

Jim A. who has lived at the Cobalt for years was attacked there a few months back. He makes a point of not mixing with the other tenants because many of them are crackheads. But when a native woman asked Jim, a fifty-something caucasian guy, to store a few bags of her belongings in his room, he agreed to help her out. She later returned to pick up the bags and he wasn't there. There has been a misunderstanding. She was angry and told him so later, throwing his dishes and other things around in his room to drive the point home. But Jim is very slow to anger. "I guess she could see she wasn't getting to me," he said. She pulled out a knife and sunk it deep into his forearm. He was spraying blood and as he was pushing the door at the top of the hallway stairs open, he was holding the cut with his opposite hand to stem the flow of blood. He lost his balance and fell, cracking his ribs. He went to the hospital and to this day has a bit of numbness in his hand, although he has made an almost full recovery.

Jim couldn't take a job he had lined up as a forklift operator the next day. He didn't call the cops because he said, "I don't want to be a rat."

Guess what the woman who stabbed him did a week later? She asked him if she could store some of her stuff in his room.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Islamic Terrorists Demand Britney Spears and Madonna Give Them Head

Muhammad Abdel-Al, leader of the Islamic organization, Popular Resistance Committee, has said he would like to personally cut off the heads of Madonna and Britney Spears. "If I meet these whores I will have the honor – I repeat, I will have the honor – to be the first one to cut the heads off Madonna and Britney Spears if they will keep spreading their satanic culture against Islam.”

Before cutting off their heads, Abdel-Al will give Madonna and Spears the option of converting to Islam. But if they don’t, he believes they deserve to be stoned or killed for “tempting men in order to put them far from Islam”.

More on this story at the Vancouver blog, Covenant Zone

Marilyn Whiskeyjack Murdered

Isn't that an interesting name? Whiskeyjack. She won't be using it much now that she was murdered on Friday night.

The 42 yr. old aboriginal woman, raced into the hall of Main Rooms near Main & Powell St. just before midnight, screaming that she had been stabbed. She made it down to the street where she collapsed. Other tenants called 9-1-1 but Whiskeyjack died in hospital an hour later.

Whiskeyjack, according to Carnegie members, was a drug addict. She was stabbed just 2 1/2 blocks away from controversial projects for addicts that have drawn world attention to the Downtown Eastiside: the supervised drug injection site and the free heroin dispensing project. But whether she used these services is unknown.

Several patrons and staff at Carnegie Center knew Whiskeyjack, as she used to come around. She apparently picked up her mail there, as a regular recalls seeing the name "Whiskeyjack" on the list at the reception desk for people who use Carnegie as their mailing address.

Whiskeyjack was stabbed multiple times, according to the media. There are conflicting stories at Carnegie; one story is that she was stabbed in the neck, another is that her throat was slit. Paramedics would have been close by as the Fire Hall is at the end of the block where she collapsed.

Whiskeyjack's boyfriend is a suspect. The word on the street is that he is hispanic, although that has not been confirmed.

[Makes you wonder if he could be one of the many hispanic illegals on the Downtown Eastside selling drugs. Even the other drug dealers are fed up with these illegals. They tell them to scram because they are quick to draw "heat".]

The Main Rooms is a drug scene. About three years ago, just before Christmas, Downtown Eastsiders walking into the Univeristy of B.C. Learning Exchange next door to use the free public access computers saw evidence of this. They watched as half a dozen bodies were carried down onto the street from the Main Rooms. All had died from the same batch of drugs in the same room.

The Main Rooms, like numerous low-rent rooming houses on the Downtown Eastside, is owned by Betty Woo. Woo has a reputation amongst longtime Downtown Eastside residents for being a good landlord, believe it or not. She is occasionally around the Downtown Eastside with her husband Jimmy who sometimes carries a repair kit.

"It was like an episode of CSI," a Carnegie regular repeatedly said of the scene on Saturday, the day after the murder. "People in white outfits were going into the Main Rooms and there were police vans and trucks."

The forensic team was working the scene again on Sunday. "It was like CSI," the Carnegie regular said again. "They were carrying out bags of evidence. There was a woman taking off her white suit. She was real beautiful, just like you'd see on CSI. She was putting on her glasses; I was trying not to stare at her. She was opening little drawers in the back of the police van just like in CSI."

Watching the forensics team back on Sunday, this onlooker, a white guy, said twice that he was pleased to see that the police were not taking the attitude that Whiskeyjack's life was cheap. Vancouver Police have been accused for years of displaying this attitude towards the lives of women in the Downtown Eastside underclass when a serial killer appeared to be targeting them, resulting in the current infamous Pickton trial. "They're taking this real serious," the onlooker said of Whiskeyjack's murder. "They're not treating this like, 'Ahh, just another dead Indian druggie.' "

Whiskeyjack is a bird, a Canadian jay. It is not known whether Marily Whiskeyjack was Cree but according to the Canadian Gage dictionary, "whiskeyjack" is adapted from a Cree word.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Filming Abuses Land Woman in Burger King

Rather than lying in bed Thursday night, a Powell St. resident was sitting in Burger King until almost 11 p.m. That was to avoid being poisoned during the filming of "Psych Season 2" outside her apartment. Last month, she sat in Burger King until almost 11 p.m. on Mon. August 20th. That was to avoid being poisoned during the filming of “Circle” outside her home.

This woman got carbon monoxide poisoning during the filming of a Honda commercial in 2000. She claims that the Vancouver Film Office responded to the poisoning by continuing to create the conditions that caused it.
"The Vancouver Film Office was created in order to ensure that filming
takes place in a way that is least disruptive to the citizens of
Vancouver Film Office
During the filming of the Honda commercial, the resident alleges, the crew left a generator running just below her window, along with an idling truck, for most of the day. First they put the generator in the doorway of a school just up the street,” she explains, “but a teacher [Richard M.] went out and told them to move it. Then they put it under my window." The trouble was, she wasn't aware that that's where they had put it.

Over the years, she says, she has put in countless unpaid labour hours attempting to prevent the film industry from putting idling trucks and generators outside her windows for hours. Even a fireman at Main & Powell confirmed in 2002 that these conditions were dangerous, that a stream of carbon monoxide will crawl up the side of the building and enter an open window (the only windows in these apartments are facing Powell St.). But the fireman's comments seemed to have little effect on the Film Office.
After the struggle to have health and safety standards recognized on Powell St. had gone on for over a year, the resident did get a letter from Muriel Honey, Manager of the Vancouver Film Office, dated Sept. 24, 2001.
"The complaints you raised during the filming were valid -- specifically the problems with generators spewing fumes right under the window of your home. . . . Please be reassured that neither the City nor the Location Managers we work with want to cause you any grief as far as filming is concerned, and that we will continue to ask film production companies to respect your request that they keep generators and work trucks away from your windows."
It is now six years later and the same conditions continue to be re-created.

The resident did not get much satisfaction from Honda either. She told Honda in writing in 2000 that she had gotten sick. How did they respond? "They didn't", she says. They target their commercials to women and people concerned about the environment, she points out, but when her apartment was pumped full of carbon monoxide fumes, Honda didn't believe it warranted a response.

Mercedes Benz was responsive though, she says. She asked them to cancel plans to film a commercial in the same area where the Honda commercial poisoning had occurred, until the City Film Office started to respect basic health needs of residents during filming. In September 2001, Mercedes Benz canceled a commercial at the last minute. "I bet that cost them something." She believes dealers in the Vancouver area told Mercedes to cancel. She faxed a few dealers a copy of a document summarizing the situation. "I've felt good about Mercedes Benz since then," she says. "If I had the money, I'd buy a Mercedes."

There is no mention of this unresolved issue, though, on the BC Film Commission website which promotes this strip of Powell St. as a prime filming location on their home page. A promotional video appearing at the top of their home page contains footage of the Europe Hotel. The Europe is just meters away from where Mercedes canceled their commercial and it is just a few doors away from where the original poisoning occurred.

The public image promoted by the Vancouver Film Office and the BC Film Commission is that they value cooperation with residents, but this resident told the DTES Enquirer via e-mail that it's been her experience that residents who expect genuine cooperation are seen as "troublemakers". A memo obtained from a Freedom of Information request to the BC Film Commission tends to support her claim; it reveals that the fact that she had spoken up during a previous shoot was used against her during the Honda shoot. "Brian", the location manager on the Honda shoot, ridiculed the resident in an internal handwritten memo dated Aug. 11/2000 to “Pamela”:
"[Name of resident] from 'It's a Girl Thing Fame' swooped into action
causing all sorts of grief. But Jon [Summerland] was able to work things out
with her."
What had the resident done on the set of "It's a Girl Thing" to earn "fame"? She had told the Vancouver Police constable on site that they did not have a permit to shoot outside her apartment. The permit locations were no secret, she says, they were listed on a poster notifying residents in the other building of the shoot. "Some guy was below my window yelling "Action!" at the top of his lungs and I was lying in bed and I couldn't take it anymore." The police constable was standing on the periphery of the set so the two had to holler to hear one another. "I was on my balcony and there was a crowd of people staring at me." The crowd may have gathered because Elle MacPhearson and Kate Capshaw were starring in the film. Capshaw is married to Steven Spielberg and a man fitting Spielberg's description was giving tips to the actors below the resident's window. When the permit issue came up, this man eventually said, "We better go." But the cop seemed "starstruck", the resident says, and didn't ask them to leave.

You have to remember, the resident says, that this was a period of 'film fatigue' on the Downtown Eastside with massive over-filming. In fact, it was shortly after "It's a Girl Thing" that the Downtown Eastside Residents Association held a public meeting on film fatigue in which representatives from the film industry were invited to come and listen to residents. "There was a packed house at the meeting; it was in the theater at the Carnegie Center." Excessive filming is less of a problem now, possibly because overall filming in Vancouver is down 30% this year (even before the strike), according to comments Muriel Honey made to the media.

The resident received a letter from a lawyer, Kim Roberts, for "Girl Thing Productions, Inc." dated June 16, 2000 claiming that, "The permits which our client obtained for this shoot covered the activities you describe...." Roberts added that his client "utilized a Downtown Eastside Residents Association liaison". That liaison, though, disagreed with Roberts' statements.

In a letter to Roberts dated June 23, 2000, Karl Schmidt, the Downtown Eastside film liaison confirmed that "It's a Girl Thing" did not have a permit to film at the resident's address or even on that side of the street:
"It is true that the film shoot did take place in front of [resident's
address]. . . . The second floor is not a true second floor so her apartment is
only a few feet off the sidewalk....Both Mr. Hanley [a DERA rep on the set] and
the Police looked at the permit. It only mentioned 103 and 120 Powell St. For
those of us who live in the neighbourhood and read the address of 103 Powell
[we] would know that it is sufficiently away from [resident's address] not to
have a great impact....Further, the June 5th letter from "It's a Girl Thing"
states the "walk and talk" was to be at the entrance at 120 Powell Street (south
side) in the evening."
And far from the resident being an isolated troublemaker, others had swooped into action about "It's a Girl Thing" before she had followed instructions to put her complaint in writing. Schmidt wrote: "At a meeting at City Hall, on June 12th, before we were aware of [resident's] letter, Dera had brought the problems of this shoot to the attention of the City of Vancouver Film Department."

The resident says the lawyer's behaviour was at odds with the image of cooperation the film industry attempts to project. She stated that although Roberts claimed to have contacted her on behalf of "It's a Girl Thing," when she asked him a question, he wouldn't answer; there was just dead silence on the line. When she asked the same question again, there was dead silence again, and again. He acknowledged in writing that she had told him that she should report his behaviour to the Law Society: "In our conversation in June 16, 2000, you threatened to report me to the Law Society. If you feel there has been any breach by me of the Law Society Rules, I encourage you to make a complaint." I bet the film industry is still using that lawyer, she says.

Although the resident e-mailed Muriel Honey about the filming on Thursday, Sept. 13, 2007 and got no response, she largely avoids dealing with film industry managers. She finds too great a discrepancy between what they say they do and what they actually do.
Certainly, she is not the first person to question the professional integrity of Muriel Honey and Mark Desrochers, former Director of the BC Film Commission. Desrochers was fired from his job at the BC Film Commission, along with his wife who also worked there, for "irregularities" which were never disclosed to the public. Muriel Honey, while she was on the City Hall payroll as Executive Assistant to then Mayor Gordon Campbell, was exposed in 1993 by the Vancouver Sun's Jeff for working, along with Campbell's Communication Assistant Jan Fraser, on his leadership campaign for the provincial Liberal Party. According to Lee, Campbell admitted that Honey and Fraser were performing this work, but claimed they were using their vacation and other time off to do it.

The fact that the film industry can be more adversarial than cooperative was not lost on Jenny Kwan, Member of the Legislative Assembly representing the Downtown Eastside. During the period of massive over filming, Kwan told a Downtown Eastside resident in a letter dated May 1, 2001 to "contact Legal Services Society" about abuses.

The resident is no longer interested in contacting anybody other than advertisers. The public, she has noticed, is becoming increasingly interested in how products they consume have been produced. She believes that once advertisers on films airing on television find their names linked on the internet to unfair production practices, the Vancouver Film Office will, as Brian would say, swoop into action.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

CUPE Strike: Lucy's Labor Pains

The Carnegie Learning Center is in a tough spot during the current strike of Canadian Union of Public Employees in Vancouver. It is on the third floor of the Carnegie Center, a building operated by CUPE members who have been on strike for the past two months. But the two teachers in the Learning Center, Lucy Alderson and Betsy Alkenbrack, aren’t CUPE members. The two get their pay cheques from Capilano College in North Vancouver, which has jointly run the Learning Center since Carnegie gave the Vancouver School Board the boot a decade ago.

Like most teachers, Alderson was supposed to return to work after Labour Day. Instead, she is planning a trip to Labour Relations to ask them to declare the Learning Center an essential service.

Alderson has done her homework. She invited a bunch of the Center's learners and volunteers to a meeting Thursday at Carnegie to discuss strategy for the request to Labor Relations. With Betsy Alkenbrack doing the writing, they created a "draft" press release. Calling themselves, "Common Sense People of the Downtown Eastside", they included in their press release a list of things that are essential about the Learning Center. But anybody on the Downtown Eastside with an ounce of common sense can see that the list is far from accurate:

- help with resumes and job searches
- help with negotiating government services, including online welfare applications
- access to health information
- high school upgrading
- ESL and computer training for seniors
- courses such as First Nations Journeys, Success Skills for Community Work and ESL literacy
- access to computers for information, training and services

The truth is that kitty corner from Carnegie at Main & Hastings is Pathways, an Industry Canada organization providing roughly 15 public access computers that are specially set up to help with resumes and job searches. If there are empty computers, staff turn a blind eye to people dropping in to use them for other purposes such as checking e-mail. And they have extra services specifically targeting native people.

Many people using Carnegie computers didn't have a clue about what went on at Pathways until the strike. But once they were forced off the Carnegie computers, they discovered it. One guy told the friend who had brought him that he preferred it over Carnegie, "Nobody yells at you here." A woman had earlier said that she found Pathways "more relaxed" than Carnegie. You can get help using computers from staff at Pathways too.

Anybody shut out of the Carnegie Learning Center during the strike also has the option of using the University of British Columbia Learning Exchange, a drop-in center just 2 1/2 blocks from Carnegie, on Main St. near Powell. At the Exchange you can get a chintzy half an hour on a computer. During the strike, there is often a bit of a wait for a computer and if you go after 4:00 p.m., you can forget about getting on to one. If you need basic computer help, they will give it to you. They also offer ESL.

Some users of the Carnegie Learning Center have been showing up at "Free Geek", near Main & 2nd Ave. Free Geek is an organization run by a group of "never say Microsoft" twenty-somethings with a government grant and a storefront. They provide a room full of public-access, on-line, computers on the Linux operating system.

When it comes to high school upgrading, the Carnegie Learning Center is not the only game in town. The Eastside Learning Center at Powell and Columbia St. operated by the Vancouver School Board provides high school upgrading. It's not a drop-in center like Carnegie though. They have a huge banner in the window prompting people walking by to "Register Now."

Lifeskills, an organization run by the Portland Society in the old Cordova St. Clinic building by Oppenheimer Park, has posters up around the Downtown Eastside begging for students. They help people develop computer and other skills. "Anybody can walk in there," says a Downtown Eastside resident.

When it comes to support for native people on the Downtown Eastside, there is a plethora of organizations. Just walk up Hastings St. east of Carnegie and you'll pass several. In addition, the welfare offices at Powell and Main have plenty of programs for native people looking for upgrading and jobs. In fact, they tell people that if you're non-native, they don't have much in the way of courses, but if you're native there are lots.

The list of 'essential' services provided by the Carnegie Learning Center is summed up on the press release with a blatant lie: “For most residents, this is the only place they have access to computers. This is a serious human rights violation, since most government information and access to services is only available on line.”

There is no doubt that early in the CUPE strike, Carnegie patrons missed the computers they had been accustomed to having easy access to at Carnegie. But as the strike enters its third month, many people have discovered other places to go.

In the press release it was stated that the closing of the Carnegie Learning Center is causing “pain and destruction”. If that’s the case, why did Alderson at times lock the doors of the Learning Center or evacuate everyone, always with the same excuse, “A volunteer didn’t show up.” Alderson would sit in the Learning Center by herself while low income people who wanted access to computers peered through the windows at her, resulting in her being described on the Downtown Eastside Enquirer as a “sea otter at the aquarium”. When bloggers began reporting these too frequent closures -- which were also occurring on Saturdays when it was the responsibility of CUPE members to keep the Center open -- Alderson and Alkenbrack participated in a witch hunt for the blogger, interrogating a volunteer about who could be blogging. Then Alderson personally barred a homeless man, Bill Simpson, for suspected blogging.

The barring of Simpson, which was later expanded to include the entire building by City managers under pressure from CUPE members, was criticized by Carnegie Board member Sophia Friegang as a “human rights” issue. Friegang got nowhere and resigned over the issue.

But Freigang's criticism didn't prevent the promotion of the Learning Center in the press release as a place where human rights are respected. The press release began with the headline, "LABOUR DISPUTE PUTS LEARNING AND HUMAN RIGHTS ON HOLD", and ended with an appeal to both sides to resolve the strike so that the Learning Center can operate: “Lives and human rights are at stake.”

Friday, September 7, 2007

Carnegie Board Member Resigns Over Barring of Homeless Man

Sophie Friegang resigned last evening from the Carnegie Center Board of Directors over the barring of a homeless man, Bill Simpson. Simpson was barred from Carnegie in June, shortly after he was elected to the Board. He has not been allowed into the building to attend Board meetings. The reason given for the barring in a City of Vancouver letter delivered to Simpson was that his website “features links” to the Downtown Eastside Enquirer blog. The blog has published criticisms of Carnegie staff.

Friegang had asked the Board in July to hold a review of the barring of Bill Simpson. The majority of the Board voted against a review. Carnegie President Margaret Prevost took the position at the time that the barring was “a City decision” and therefore not a Board matter. But the prevalent conversation amongst the membership of Carnegie is that the Board was complicit in the barring. Indeed, Vice President Gena Thompson stated in a NowPublic comment that she had been involved in the decision to bar Simpson.

Friegang stated at the July Carnegie meeting that she believed a “serious mistake” had been made in the barring of Simpson. She said she had “poured over” the blog and found nothing that would warrant barring Simpson. I believe in human rights,” she told the Board.

At a July Community Relations meeting, Friegang asked Carnegie Director, Ethel Whitty, if it bothered her that a man may have been wrongfully barred. Whitty did not respond.

Friegang did not attend last evening's meeting. Another Board member, Peter Fairchild, read her letter.

Friegang's resignation comes the day after another Board member, Rachel Davis, distributed a letter accusing Carnegie of a double standard in the barring of Simpson. Davis' letter will be covered in another post.

The barring of a homeless man has become an embarrassment to the Carnegie Centre which presents itself as a "progressive" organization committed to improving the quality of life for the poor and the homeless on Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. The barring without due process is expected to haunt the Carnegie Community Center Association Project which has arranged for their representative, Jean Swanson, to speak to a United Nations representative in Vancouver about homeless. The United Nations representative has scheduled a visit to Vancouver to assess whether Canada is meeting its international obligations in regard to homelessness.