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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Why does Vancouver not deserve to host the 2010 Winter Olympics

Thousands of Canadians were elated on July 2, 2003, when International Olympic Committee President, Jacques Rogge, announced that the 2010 Winter Olympics would be hosted by the cities of Vancouver and Whistler. By the same token, many Canadians were saddened when the city of Toronto lost to Beijing for the 2008 Summer Olympics. As for me, from the standpoint of a former Canadian rack and Field team member who has represented Canada on the world stage, I didn’t lose a bit of sleep over Toronto’s loss. Neither did I cheer the Vancouver-Whistler victory. When one analyzes the struggles that Canada’s budding and elite athletes face while comparing it to Canada’s politicians, athletic organizations, and most big businesses that sit on large piles of money, no Canadian city has earned the right to host any Olympic, Pan-American, or International amateur sports events.

In April 1999 while I attended Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana, I received an email from Athletics Canada. They informed me that I was pre-selected to represent Canada in the 100 metres, the 200 metres, and the 4x100 metre relay at the World University Games, that were to be held in Palma-de-Mallorca, Spain the summer of the same year. One could imagine how excited I was. I remember screaming out the loudest cheer that could be probably heard blocks away, running a victory lap around the block, and being on the phone with my parents in Montreal to give them the news.

After all, I trained myself to death, going through hamstring injuries on a yearly basis, coming home late at night from track practice to then have to start my homework at 7PM while I was in high school (8PM in the winter because I had a one-hour commute on public transport to the Montreal’s only indoor track facility at the time). I would sometimes finish my homework as late as1 AM. My social life on weekends was non-existent. The previous year I had run a personal best of 20.89 seconds in the 200 metres, which was the second fastest time in Canada at that time behind Olympian Bruni Surin. For once, my achievements were finally recognized.

In my excitement I continued to read the email: Please be available between the dates of…blah blah blah…and most importantly, please come up with $1100 to pay for your flight from Montreal to Palma. For the sake of keeping this essay under 100000 words, I’ll omit the long set of expletives that flew from my mouth over the next hour. I reread the email three more times, hoping that I misread it. Unfortunately I did not. I, a full-time university student on partial scholarship, who was not allowed to work for cash under NCAA regulations, had to come up with $1100 within a month or forfeit my opportunity to participate on the world stage.

I questioned some of my peers on a Canadian track and field internet forum about the issue. Some of the replies, some of them from Athletics Canada employees, were that I should apply for loans at certain organizations to help me. I replied to them, asking why there isn’t a committee within Athletics Canada taking care of this issue. Let’s be realistic, their reps were getting a free trip to Spain after all. One would think that it was their responsibility to ensure that all selected athletes get all of the funding. I was about to take my final exams within a few days and wouldn’t have the time to stress myself over this. Not surprisingly, no one could answer me. I got to go eventually, but only because a family friend—a pensioner—paid for me.

This was how things were for me back in 1999, and I didn’t get much more in terms of financial support after, either through the government or sponsors. When I graduated, I had to get a full-time job as an insurance salesman in order to survive. My story is typical of what thousands of Canada’s athletes go through each year. And based on what I’ve read recently in the news (1)Canada’s top athletes and up-and-comers are still struggling as I once have.

The atmosphere always changes when it is an Olympic year. One cannot turn on the television, listen to the radio, or open a newspaper without being hit with an Olympic-themed commercial. The common theme is: We support Canada’s Athletes. Interestingly, most of the same companies are absent the three other non-Olympic years when the athletes are killing themselves to get selected to a Canadian team. This hypocritical attitude that Canada’s business community has towards amateur sport only strengthens the fact that when the 2010 Olympics come to Vancouver, the only winners will be Canadian businesses and the Canadian government who’ll profit from tourist-inflated dollars and sales tax dollars respectively. The biggest losers will be Canada’s athletes, who will highly unlikely get their fair share of the profits, no matter how well they perform. It is a very sad reality, but Canada’s athletes are nothing more than modern-day slaves to the benefit of Canada’s business community, its athletic organizations, and its government.

The facts presented above represent a history of Canada’s failed commitment to its athletes. It is unacceptable that Canada is classified as an economic superpower, but lags far behind most third-world countries when it comes to showing commitment to the development of its athletes from elementary school and onwards. It is not acceptable for Canada to ignore its young promising athletes in their developmental stage, yet, only support them financially when they’re at the world stage.

As for Canada winning the Vancouver-Olympic bid, that was nothing earned and completely undeserved. The real champions in the big picture are the athletes, including their families, coaches, and peers that have supported and nurtured them from the beginning, most of whom will not get much in return. To all of Canada’s athletes, whether they make the Olympic team or not, whether they make it to the podium or not, every one of them will get a thumbs-up from me. As for Canada's CEO’s and its politicians that will see their personal bank accounts fatten as a result of these games, you definitely have earned a huge thumbs-down.

Russell Brooks is a former Canadian Track Team member and is the author of the action/thriller, Pandora's Succession.

My child sued me for grounding her. I guess she’s always right.

Adults in “La Belle Province” have another reason for not having children. Apparently in Quebec, children have the right to sue their parents if they don’t agree with their punishment. In the case of one Quebec father, he’s living this nightmare right now. He did not abuse his child. He simply didn’t grant her permission to go on a field trip after she disobeyed his orders to stop posting inappropriate pictures of herself on internet websites that he had blocked. The twelve year old girl, with the help of her legal aid attorney, sued the father in court. The father appealed the court decision in Quebec Superior Court—and lost. This kind of court ruling brings us to question the credibility of our justice system. Furthermore, the ruling also highlights the fact that our justice system does not encourage proper family values.

When I was a youngster, there was one consequence of disobeying my parents. This involved an ancient form of punishment known as The Spanking. It was either done by hand, belt, a slipper, a wooden spoon. In fact, it was enforced with anything that was within my parent’s reach on the spur of the moment. Spanking taught one thing to children: there’s a consequence for wrongdoing. I’ll be the first to admit that just the threat of getting hit with a belt was enough to keep me in line. Don't be alarmed, I wasn't abused. Unfortunately today, Quebec has passed a law that prohibits physical form of punishment. The result, I see more children disrespecting their parents and others in public. That is something that never would have happened in my day. Then again, the government feels that they can govern how parents raise their own children, even when the children exercise poor judgment. After all, the child is always right.

In the case of this father—who’s separated from the mother and had custody of his daughter on certain days, he was exercising his moral duty as a parent. One would not expect to use the same punishment methods on a twelve-year-old girl as they would with a five-year-old. However, he warned her that he would not allow her to participate in a field trip if she did not keep away from websites that he blocked. Not only did she disobey him, he alleged that she posted inappropriate pictures of herself online. The father followed through with his warning and withheld his written permission for the trip. The school was then forced not to allow her to go on the field trip in June 2008. To his surprise—and to the shock and awe of many parents and non-parents, she sued him. But it shouldn’t be a surprise in this province. After all, the child is always right.

Readers who live outside of Quebec will have a good laugh, and rightfully so because the judge’s ruling was asinine. This sends the message that in this province, parents have little control over how they raise their children. We live in a society where police are actively patrolling the internet to stop child predators. This father was doing his part to protect his daughter from them. Yet the judge ruled that he’s at fault. After all, the child is always right.

I don’t have any children and I am in no way discouraging Quebecers from having children. I just hope that Quebec judges, lawyers, and even the politicians that create these laws try to discipline their own children. They’ll learn quickly that their children are always right.


Holy Crap! My Grandparents are Cuban Secret Agents.

Here's an interesting tale for all of us spy enthusiasts.

Two American citizens, a state official and his wife, were arrested by the FBI in a sting operation on
Friday June 5, 2009. They were charged with conspiracy to act as illegal agents of the Cuban government, providing classified information to that government, and wire fraud. As it turns out, they have acted as Cuban secret agents for the past 30 years. If they are found guilty, both of them—aged 72 and 71—may spend the next 20 years in prison. It may come as a surprise to many that the individuals didn’t have a family name that sounded like: Rodriguez, Alvarez, or Gutierrez. In fact, the two suspects are Walter and Gwendolyn Meyers. And from what was researched, they appear to have spent most of their lives living in the United States. This case illustrates that security threats from the inside are just as great, if not more dangerous, as security threats from the outside.
This threat is not only limited to the United States. Its friendliest neighbour—Canada—and Great Britain have also had their brush with home-grown threats. In the summer of 2005, four British nationals of foreign descent were identified as being directly involved in the bombings of the London subway. In Canada in the summer of 2007, the CSIS and the RCMP (Canada’s CIA and FBI respectively) successfully foiled a group of men and youths who plotted to bomb Toronto-area government buildings and also storm Parliament (1). Although the Canadian and British cases differ greatly in terms of violence compared to the case of the Meyers’, a commonality is that the suspects were all influenced by political ideologies which conflicted with those of their own country.
Although unrelated, this case may remind those of us that were around in September and October 1991, when anthrax-laden letters were mailed by US Biodefense Scientist, Bruce Ivins, killing five people. Ivins committed suicide afterwards, ending the first fatal case of a bio-attack in American history (Miller, Scientific American, November 2008, pages 20 and 22). Like Meyers, Ivins was also a senior government official. Similarly to the terrorists from Canada and the UK that were born in their respective countries, Ivins was born and raised in Lebanon—the one in Ohio(2)—and had access to some of the deadliest pathogens while he worked at Fort Detrick, Maryland. There has been speculation about Ivins’ motives his attacks, but nothing concrete. On the other hand he was clearly a disturbed individual, who unfortunately—like Walter Meyers—was a trusted government employee with senior-level clearance to sensitive material.
Having Ivins as an inside operative would be the wet-dream of many terrorist organizations and nations who have hostile intentions towards the west. God forbid that scientists that work for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) plan to unleash a viral or microbial outbreak on any western nation in the near future, if the American Government does not act in accordance with their political beliefs.

Cuba is not an aggressive nation. However, the fact that the Meyers' were able to operate undetected for over thirty years is an embarrassing blow to the US Government. This is a reminder that although goods and services against a foreign country may be sanctioned, ideologies will still remain unaffected.

What can Canada’s Prime Minister learn from Michael Jackson.

The news of Michael Jackson’s passing sent shockwaves around the world on Thursday, June 25, 2009. Like the most tragic events in history, such as the attacks of 9/11, I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when I first heard the news. By the same token it was even sadder to see the whole planet mourn his passing. It is rare that one individual can affect the lives of so many generations through music and dance. One must admire the worldwide response to Jackson’s death—from the fans that crowded around his birth home in Gary, Indiana, to the Hollywood walk of fame. From the singing and dancing fans that crowded Trafalgar Square in London, to Shanghai, where candlelight vigils were held in his honour. This illustrates the fact that music, as well as other forms of art, transcends all cultural and political boundaries. Furthermore, it should be a government priority to ensure its survival.

Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, was criticized for his plans to cut funding the arts in 2008. He infuriated many Canadians when he said that ordinary Canadians were not particularly concerned with the arts ( To no surprise, he never gave the definition as to what an ordinary Canadian was, nor has he ever apologized for the insult. Yet, many of us ordinary Canadians are proud fans of artists such as Celine Dion, Avril Lavigne, Jim Carrey, and many more who have gained an international fan base. Interestingly, these first three artists might not have gotten as far in their careers had they not ventured to the United States. With government cuts to the arts here in Canada, one must wonder how many future icons, like Michael Jackson, our country will probably never know of because they never got their chance.

Many people would rather remind us of Michael Jackson’s scandals—from the alleged skin bleaching to the outrageous child molestation charges. Fewer would want us to remember the millions he donated over the years to charity that helped sick children. There's also his donations to AIDS research. Less we forget the We Are The World project that got other artists involved in order to help fight famine in Africa.

When I was a youngster everyone wanted to be like Michael Jackson. My classmates and I tried to dance like him, I went even further, learning to sing like him. I even learned the dance moves to Thriller when I was about 6 years old (Okay, I confess. MC Hammer came a little later but I won’t get into that right now). As it turns out, even today, people around the world from my generation and others, notably those from different ethnic backgrounds, are no different when it came to Jackson’s music.

It was reported a while back that Saddam Hussein was a huge James Bond fan ( There are even photographs of Kim Jong Il impersonating Elvis circulating the planet. I wouldn’t be surprised if Osama Bin Laden listened to the Jackson 5, Beyonce, or 50 cent on his I-pod—who knows. But if there’s one thing that can unify a planet, it is the arts. As to why anyone would want to do anything to suppress the one thing that unifies us all—as Stephen Harper has done—is beyond comprehension.

Personally, I was anxiously awaiting Jackson’s comeback tour and would have paid big bucks to see him perform in Montreal, had he ever come here. But the fact is that he was under a lot of pressure and had health problems, as was reported a few times earlier this year. It is very sad for the world to lose such a gifted artist. He was and will be one of the greatest people in history who wanted nothing more than to heal the world. With a planet in mourning, many of us only wished that he was strong enough to heal himself.

How Black Churchgoers are Disgracing the Civil Rights Movement

About a month ago, a YouTube video depicting the so-called exorcism of a homosexuality demon out of an African-American teenager caused a stir on the internet. The teenager, who was not identified, was seen writhing on the floor like an epileptic having a seizure. During this time, his so-called pastor was heard commanding the demon to leave his body while church members looked on and chanted. As a black man, I was totally disgusted and very embarrassed watching other black people behave so stupidly. African-American churchgoers appeared to have forgotten the struggles they endured and are still enduring to gain acceptance and basic rights in a predominantly white society. The blatant non-acceptance of this teenager as a normal human being by these parishioners mirrors the non-acceptance of blacks as normal human beings during the Jim Crow era. It is with extreme sadness to note that in terms of the treatment of homosexuals, black churchgoers have made a mockery of the Civil Rights Movement. The struggle that blacks once had in order to not be treated differently because of their skin color is arguably no different than the struggle homosexuals are having because of their sexual orientation.

Earlier this year, Jermaine Jakes—son of the popular televangelist, TD Jakes—was arrested one morning after midnight in Dallas, Texas, after he unknowingly dropped his draws to two undercover police officers. One could imagine how embarrassing this would be for any parent. But especially for TD Jakes, who has openly stated that homosexuality is a brokenness and that he would not hire a sexually active gay person. This hatred that Jakes preaches to those that foolishly listen to him not only distorts the Bible, but it has also helped to bring segregation back into the picture. This same attitude has been observed among several other so-called religious leaders, who have justified banning gays and lesbians from their churches simply because of their sexual orientation. Yet the child predators and women abusers are welcome with open arms.

What Jakes and several of these false Christians seem to forget is that there was a time that African Americans were also not welcome in churches. In fact, whites also used the Bible to justify slavery and the killing of blacks the same way that black parishioners are using it against homosexuals. One does not need to understand these facts from listening to anyone, they are easily documented in history books. One could learn from these same history books, or even a reputable news source, how many senseless wars have been fought over conflicting religious beliefs—and I stress the word beliefs—because they have never been proven as facts.

Here are some facts.

These so-called religious leaders preach about what Jesus teaches while they say that homosexuality is a sin. Yet in my research, I’ve yet to come across a passage in the Bible where Jesus spoke negatively against homosexuals. In fact, I don’t recall the word homosexuality ever appearing anywhere in the Bible. One could go further in questioning racists about where Jesus was quoted as saying that black people should not be treated equally as whites.

The best way to end this nonsense would be for black churchgoers to exercise more common sense in choosing their ministers. I once attended a church that was similar to the one displayed in the YouTube video. I admit that I loved the singing and that the minister was very charismatic. However I knew to draw the line the evening a guest pastor was invited. In his sermon he boldly spoke negatively about female and gay priests being ordained in the church. It was clear that everyone in the congregation, many who were women, accepted what this pastor by applauding him. I, on the other hand, could not. Simply because I’ve learned that discrimination in any form is ethically and morally wrong. In many cases it’s even illegal. If most of these black churchgoers would learn their facts from reputable sources instead of the charlatans in their churches, they would also learn to make better educated decisions on their own. Furthermore, it would help them differentiate real facts from Holy Crap.

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