The Great Global Warming Swindle great fiction

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Next Wednesday will mark the 667th anniversary of the Royal Society.

Now, to most of you, that doesn’t matter at all, but to a small group of you out there, it should give you pause to stop and reconsider.

But the fact the Royal Society — the national academy of science in the United Kingdom and its Commonwealth — has been around that long funding researchers, promoting in-depth scientific investigations and generally doing the kind of work we would expect of those at the forefront of our scientific community to do tends to give it some credibility.

And the Royal Society has been engaged in a debate with documentary filmmaker Martin Durkin since British broadcaster Channel 4 aired The Great Global Warming Swindle, a film that argues there is no such thing as climate change and global warming; rather, we’re all being duped.

And this is the documentary our school board trustees are making available to students who represent the “other side” of the argument put forward by Al Gore in An Inconvenient Truth.

Channel 4 has worked with Durkin before. In 1998, he was shopping around a show on silicone breast implants.

When the BBC heard his assertion — the implants aren’t harmful, but in fact, actually reduce the risk of breast cancer — it rightfully sent him packing.

He ended up at Channel 4, where Durkin was given a TV researcher and producer who was formerly a research biochemist.

It was her job to help him get the show ready to be broadcast.

Instead, she walked out on it after two weeks because of the way Durkin was manipulating information.

Channel 4 still aired it.

Back in 1997, again for Channel 4, Durkin made a series called Against Nature, in which he argued environmentalists were like Nazis, conspiring against the world’s poor.

After complaints were registered about Against Nature, the B.C. Independent Television Commission handed down what has been called one of its most damning verdicts, describing the series as being “distorted by selective editing” and misleading interviewees.

In 2000, Channel 4 aired another Durkin film called Modified Truth. A geneticist Durkin interviewed later said he was “completely betrayed and misled” about his participation or how his views would be presented.

But it’s the Royal Society that has really gone on the attack against Durkin and The Great Global Warming Swindle.

It has cited seven major misrepresentations of scientific evidence and research Durkin presented, including relying on research later shown to have been wrong, mislabelling graphics to show average temperatures through history and ignoring other relevant research that would have contradicted the point of his film.

The society went further, lodging a formal complaint with the regulatory body overseeing broadcasting in Britain.

A letter was also sent from the society to Durkin, signed by 37 scientists involved in the study of the environment and climate.

In September, Bob Ward of the Royal Society sent yet another e-mail to Durkin, pointing out the letter the group of scientists had signed, that misrepresentations included in the complaint to the regulatory board had not been made and imploring him to remove the DVD from sale and recall those already sold.

Durkin’s reply?

“Bob: Are you on drugs or something?”

This is a film producer with, at best, a controversial history of presenting his theses. He has promoted positions that defy logic.

He has been criticized for playing fast and loose with what should be facts.

He has been renounced at least once for distorted editing.

Three dozen renowned scientists have told him he’s dead wrong in The Great Global Warming Swindle.

Yet our school board still says seeing this documentary will be an exercise in critical thinking.

Durkin didn’t use any.

There is nothing in his documentary that could even generate critical discussion.

It’s time to take those DVDs out of the school district library’s documentary section and put them where they belong — in fiction.

Tears shed for Robert

Monday, November 19, 2007

Staff reporter

Jurek Baltakis addressed the overflow crowd at Kamloops Funeral Home.

He spoke just a few words, and about a dozen people raised their right hand.

It was a telling moment.

“I just told you in Polish to raise your right hand,” he said. “And most of you didn’t know what I was saying.”

It was an experiment, Baltakis said, to show how vital communication is to people – and how hopeless the man he was there to eulogize, Robert Dziekanski, must have felt during his last few minutes of life before he was tasered and died on the floor of Vancouver International Airport on October. 14.

The Polish construction worker had just taken his first flight, spending 15 hours travelling from Poland to Vancouver, where he was to meet his mother, Zofia Cisowski.

He arrived, made it through the first checkpoint and for reasons YVR officials have not explained, spent another 10 hours in a second secured area, with no access to food or water, and where no officials provided any help. Minutes before RCMP arrived, he had begun throwing things and blocking the doors, sparking some to call for security and one man, Paul Pritchard of Victoria, to record the four officers surrounding Dziekanski, giving him orders in English – after being told he didn’t speak the language – and, 23 seconds after confronting him, tasering him.

Baltakis, who told KTW he was both nervous about speaking and afraid his “experiment” would seem ridiculous, said most Canadians don’t understand how frightening it can be arriving here for the first time, unable to understand what is being said to them.

Add to that the unimaginable fear Dziekanski must have felt after spending those hours waiting for his mother – not knowing she was just outside the secure area immigrants must go through – and it’s a story that haunts the man who was in the same position two decades ago, arriving in a new country, hoping for a new life.

The celebration of Dziekanski’s life attracted national attention.

It was witnessed by hundreds of people, many of them strangers to the man who died after he was tasered by RCMP. The 250 seats in the chapel were full long before the 11 a.m. service began Saturday; the overflow sat in adjacent rooms, stood in hallways and listened through the audio system in a reception area.

Through it all, Cisowski, sat in a front pew, surrounded by family and friends, her eyes almost swollen shut from the crying she said she cannot staunch. Afterward, she spoke to the media in the funeral home parking lot, thanking everyone for coming to remember her “beautiful boy.”

The service, donated by the funeral home, featured music by Blue Moon, a local acoustic quartet, and speeches from Maciej Krych, consul-general of Poland, and Danuta Tokarczyk, president of the Polish Canadian Kongres in B.C.

Then Trudy Dirk, former executive director of the Kamloops Immigrant Services, took the microphone and talked of meeting Cisowski eight years ago when she, too, was an immigrant, arriving in Kamloops from her native Poland.

Dirk talked of how Cisowski worked two jobs, learned to speak English, saved money to buy a car, passed a driver’s licence test and made plans to open a cleaning business – all to bring her only son from Poland to Canada to start a new life.

Later, Riki Bagnell spoke of how she feels forever linked with Cisowski. Her son – also named Robert – died after being tasered twice in 2004. She said seeing the community and national support Cisowski was receiving at the ceremony had left her feeling some comfort since her son died.

Afterward, she told KTW how amazed she was at the way Kamloops residents had come together to show their support for Cisowski and their anger about the way her son died. Bagnell said she and her daughter, Patti Gillman, felt they had to attend, especially after she saw the videotape of Dziekanski’s death.

“I’ve been haunted by a vision of how [her son] must have suffered in the last minutes of his life and after I saw that tape, I realized how horrible it really was for him.”

Bagnell, who lives in Prince Edward Island, and her daughter, who lives in Belleville, Ont., have campaigned since the death for an independent review of tasers, a weapon she said is marketed as not being lethal but which has caused almost 300 deaths in North America in the past six years.

The joy of being a reporter, take 2

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Below you'll see a story I wrote today that we posted online first, thanks to the fact that our paper doesn't come out again until Friday. It's the story of the taser tape, of the man who taped it, of the lawyer representing Zofia Cisowski -- and it will be watched many, many times once it's released tomorrow, even though everyone watching it will know they are watching a man die.

Interviewing Paul Pritchard, the man who made the tape of the last moments of Robert Dziekanski's life, was brutal. He has his own story; he was at the airport because he had flown home from China to be with his dad, who has a serious illness. He missed his connection in San Francisco, caught the last seat on a later flight, got into Vancouver too late to catch a bus to the ferries to go home to Victoria.

He's only 25 and he has seen things no one, especially someone that young, should ever have to witness.

And here's proof I'm getting old; I really didn't want to talk to him. I didn't want to hear him describe the tape. I really wanted my colleague at our Richmond paper to do the interview but he couldn't fit it in because he was too busy trying to chase down how we could get our hands on this tape once it was released.

But I talked to him. And I listened to him. And I guess the mother part of me felt so awful for him because he was describing for the umpteenth time something that he will live with forever.

I'd like to think I made a bit of a difference for him, too, because he asked if I knew the story of Robert's long wait at the airport, of Zofia looking for him and I told him I knew it too well. That seemed to satisfy him and he went on to complain about so much of the media that has focused on him and his tape and forgotten that there is a woman who is so much more damaged by all of this than he is. A mother who has lost her only son. A mother who has lost pretty much all her hopes.

Paul was angry, too. He had just this day learned of the fundraising going on for Zofia to take Robert's ashes back to Poland. He had asked lawyers involved about fundraising. He had offered to sell the tape and give the money to Zofia. No one told him that she has nothing left. That her friends here in Kamloops are trying to raise money to pay for Robert's memorial on Saturday and for Zofia's flight to Poland.

Paul was angry the story had become all about him. Because he knows what the story is. He's losing someone he dearly loves in his family too; not quickly but in the way only a serious ailment (he doesn't want the word used) can cause.

None of it seems fair. And I just want this story to end.

Taser video to be released Wednesday

Editor's note: Video that shows the final moments of Robert Dziekanski's life will be released to the media Wednesday afternoon, with an embargo on publication until 6 p.m. KTW will have the video on this website as soon as possible. In the meantime, KTW spoke with Paul Pritchard, the Victoria man who captured the tragic scene.

By Dale Bass

Paul Pritchard was flying home to Victoria — a place he left seven years ago — to spend time with his ailing father.

Instead, he stepped directly into a media maelstrom, videotaping the last minutes of the life of Robert Dziekanski.

Were it not for a missed flight in San Francisco, Pritchard, 25, wouldn’t have been at Vancouver International Airport on Oct. 14, trying to catch some sleep in the customs and immigration area he had entered after finally arriving back in Canada from China.

Pritchard was trying to ignore Dziekanski, at the time nothing more than “a foreign man slapping his hand on the glass trying to get back in” the immigration area he had just left.

The next thing Pritchard heard were arguments.

“So I got up and got a better seat,” he told KTW. “It sounds awful to say it now, but at the time, it was, well, like entertainment. It was something to watch.”

A man, later identified as Lorne Meltzer, a corporate valet at the airport to pick up a client, used his access card to let Dziekanski back into the secured glassed-in area.

At some point, Pritchard said, he began taping the incident with his digital camera. He said he’s not sure why he did it, but he’s glad he did because police have said it’s likely the best evidence of the final minutes of Dziekanski’s life.

Pritchard said it was obvious the Polish construction worker, who was coming to Kamloops to live with his mother, was trying to get help.

“You can see it on the tape, the deep breathing, sweating. He just looked scared. You could see he was trying to get someone’s attention.

“He was walking back and forth. He was picking things up, putting them down. Then two security officers came and we thought it was the police and we said, ‘Leave him alone. He’s just scared,” because by then he was barricaded behind chairs. And he was almost like he was happy the police were there.”

At some point, four RCMP officers showed up and, said Pritchard, they can be heard asking if they should use their tasers.

The tape shows the four officers, two security guards and an unidentified man in a suit making a semi-circle around Dziekanski, who put up his hands “almost in defeat, shrugs his shoulders and takes two steps, speaking in Polish. Then you see them taser him and there’s this blood-curdling scream that just keeps going on and on.”

Three officers jump on Dziekanski, by then lying on the floor writhing in pain, Pritchard said, and there is talk of using the taser again.

“I don’t actually see them hit him again . . . but after I got the tape back [from RCMP, who had borrowed it and at one point refused to return it], I saw one of the officers handling him was using his shin and knee to pin [Dziekanski’s] head against the ground. And there were four of them on him. And it wasn’t just for a little bit. They kept him like that a long time.”

The man in the suit checked Dziekanski’s pulse, said something to the RCMP, “and they just looked up in the air. And I remember thinking ‘This is an airport. What the hell just happened here?’”

After several minutes, paramedics arrived and started CPR immediately, which has also caused Pritchard to wonder why none of the officers or security guards were doing CPR before this.

“What? His heart stopped beating the second the medics got there?” Pritchard said.

With the first bus for the ferry not leaving the airport until almost 5:30 a.m., Pritchard said he didn’t mind remaining there while police started their investigation, taking statements and gathering evidence.

“I was willing to do it,” he said. “I was definitely on the cops’ side then.

“But not anymore. Not after I saw what I saw.”

Up to the point whenDziekanski was let back into the glassed-in area by the corporate valet, there had been no problems, according to Walter Kosteckyj, the lawyer representing Dziekanski’s mother, Zofia Cisowski of Kamloops.

“He was not a problem on the plane,” Kosteckyj said. “He arrived at customs [from his Poland homeland] at about 4 p.m., which is a reasonable hour. He went through customs. He was no problem from 4 p.m. until about 10:30 p.m., and even then, he wasn’t really more than an annoyance.”

Dziekanski, who spoke no English and had never flown before, “bumbled his way to immigration by about 10:30 p.m., and was processed by 12:30 a.m.,” Kosteckyj said.

Even at this point, with no idea where his mother was, Kosteckyj said Dziekanski “was not in a rage. He was not ramping up. He was not causing a problem.”

What Dziekanski didn’t know, the lawyer said, was that Cisowski had spent hours on the other side of the secured immigration area trying to find someone to help her get a message to her son. And, after almost 10 hours of receiving no help, and being told her son was not there, she went home to Kamloops, only to discover the following morning he had been tasered by RCMP and was dead.

Kosteckyj wants to know why Cisowski couldn’t get anyone to help her.

“If you have a business like this where you’re expecting people to come and meet other people, even people who don’t speak English, you would think you’d have a way to do it,” he said.

Kosteckyj also wonders, in this post-Sept. 11, 2001 world, why no one did anything when Dziekanski’s luggage remained on the carousel unattended for so long that Lufthansa personnel finally took possession of it.

TRU gets a chance to see history in the flesh

Saturday, November 10, 2007

About 18 months ago, I read an article on a website about a young parliamentarian whose colleagues — while sitting in session — threw bottles at her, pulled her hair, knocked over chairs and yelled out threats.

All this because she spoke the truth.

Malalai Joya, the youngest person ever elected to the Afghan parliament, interrupted a former warlord — the parliament is filled with former warlords now masquerading as politicians — who was praising the Mujahadin, a Muslim-based military force.

Joya had the audacity to challenge this man by declaring there were two types of Mujahadin: “one who were really Mujahadin and the second who killed tens of thousands of innocent people and who are criminals.”

A bold step for a woman to take in today’s Afghanistan.

I read other articles about Joya, about how she continued to speak out and was eventually suspended from parliament; how her home was bombed; how she doesn’t talk about her husband or family for fear of making them targets; how she survived four assassination attempts and now must always travel with bodyguards in her homeland.

And so to see this sprite of a woman, with such an unassuming presence, speaking to a political science class this week at Thompson Rivers University was to be truly inspired.

She does not rant. She does not carry banners deploring her country’s government.

She does not dwell on the years she, her parents and her many siblings spent as refugees in Iran and Pakistan.

She speaks for the Afghani women who, despite statements from U.S. President George W. Bush, she says are not finding their lives improving.

Last year, during Women’s History Month, Bush declared of Afghan women: “There’s nothing better than being a country that’s beginning to realize the benefits of freedom. Particularly women who have been completely suppressed under the Taliban are now beginning to see the beautiful, breathe that beautiful air of a free society.

“And so I want to thank the members of the United States Afghan Women’s Council for being so diligent and caring and staying with this important issue, that issue being the freedom of women in Afghanistan.”

Joya does not even express the disdain she must feel when she talks of such pronouncements from the presumptive leader of the world. Instead, she tells stories of real occurrences.

Like the story of Sanober, an 11-year-old who was kidnapped by warlords, raped and then traded for a dog.

Like the stories of activist women Khakiba Amaj and Zakia Zaki, who were killed in their homes.

Like the UN estimates that at least one of every three Afghan women has been beaten, raped or suffered other abuse.

Joya went to a maternity hospital to visit patients there earlier this year. Because of the many death threats and assassination attempts, she wore a burqua.

At first, she was ignored, but, as people learned who she was, they all clamoured to meet her.

The Afghan Women’s Mission writes of how Afghani women will walk for miles just to touch her.

I wonder if the TRU students were aware of just how important their guest speaker is in this world.

Rather than reading a textbook, they had a living, breathing historical-subject-in-the-making standing in front of them, telling the realities of politics in her homeland.

They will never learn more from the media, books or movies than she taught them in that brief hour.

Joya is only 29, not much older than some of them, and she is already making a mark on her country because she believes in something we take for granted — democracy.

She spoke of her quest for a democratic Afghanistan on Tuesday in Toronto. The following day was declared by the Canadian Peace Alliance a day of action to reinstate and defend her. Yesterday and today, she has taken her message to Halifax.

She has been called the bravest woman in Afghanistan — and she is just that.

All we can do is hope that she lives to see her quest completed.

Time for council to make a water-meter splash

Friday, November 2, 2007

There are some things that are just so obviously needed that it defies logic to say no.

Right now, for Kamloops, it’s water meters.

And it’s time for this council to do what the previous council was too afraid to do and make them mandatory for all residences.

Why this must happen is obvious to anyone who has ever expressed any concern at all about global warming, the environment, the growth of the city or something as simple as cutting one of the myriad costs homeowners must pay.

First, some facts.

Environment Canada says more than half of the water used by municipalities goes into homes, followed by the commercial sector (19 per cent), industrial buildings (16 per cent) and — believe it or not — leakage from pipes (13 per cent).

The Organization for Economic Development — an international organization to which Canada belongs and that works toward sustainable economic growth, improved standards of living, financial stability and economic development — ranks Canada 28th of its 29 member countries in terms of water consumption per capita.

Who’s worse than us?

The United States.

Who’s better than us? France (Canada’s rate is twice as high as the average French person), Germany (Canada is three times greater), Sweden (four times greater) and Denmark (eight times greater).

In fact, Canada’s per-capita water consumption rate is 65 per cent greater than the OECD average.

The organization notes that since 1980, overall water use in Canada has increased by 25.7 per cent, five times higher than the OECD average of 4.5 per cent.

Nine OECD members (Sweden, the Netherlands, the U.S., the United Kingdom, Czech Republic, Luxembourg, Poland, Finland and Denmark) lowered their overall use.

We’re told we have an abundance of water.

Even at this week’s council meeting, David Duckworth, the city’s public works and utilities director — and a man who has said he can’t believe a city like Kamloops still has no mandatory water metering system — stated this.

Last year, however, Innovation’s online magazine published an article by David Schindler, a professor of ecology at the University of Alberta and recipient of many awards for his scholarship in the field, that said it just looks like we have a lot of water because our water tends to pool into lakes and rivers.

However, if we look at annual water runoff, which Schindler says is the true indicator of total water available, it’s about average, at seven per cent.

If we were to empty our major lakes, Schindler said, it would take more than 100 years to refill them.

Just as we’re all worrying about global warming, we need to worry about our water supply.

And that means we have stop using it as if there’s an endless supply.

The only way to do that in Kamloops is to show people how much water they use and, often, waste.

Meters will do this. There is no other clear indicator to a homeowner about the cost of a utility like having to pay the cost to use it.

Coun. Tina Lange, among others on council, gets it.

She didn’t want to ask for yet another report on mandatory water meters at Tuesday’s meeting, but she also wants to be sure all councillors have every scrap of information possible before they decide on their next step.

That next step must be voting for universal mandatory water meters.

This council cannot do what its predecessor did and wimp out, going to the public on a referendum rather than doing the right thing and risking the wrath of some people with large properties or who just don’t like to see change.

It’s why we elect politicians.

To make decisions. To plan our future. To look at the big picture.

And that means looking beyond the next municipal election.

As Lange puts it, councillors — as well as the rest of us — need to be stewards of the environment.

It’s time for this council to show true leadership. So get your report, take the time to read it — and then do the right thing.

It’s time for water meters.

In many ways, it’s almost too late for them.