In memory of the victims of the recent Ukrainian plane crash in Iran
INTERNATIONAL CAMPAIGN To Closedown Iranian Embassies
416- 737-9500 www.nosharia.com
Open letter to the Honourable Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2
From: Homa Arjomand
Co-ordinator, The International Campaign to Closedown Iranian Embassies
We write to you in memory of the victims of the recent Ukrainian plane crash in Iran, and for the liberty and freedoms of people in Iran and around the world. To prevent further crimes by Islamic Regime of Iran, the International Campaign to Closedown Iranian Embassies expects Canada and all other Western countries to break all diplomatic ties with the Iranian regime and close down their Embassies.
This request is based on the recent Ukrainian plane crash in Iran that ended the precious lives of 176 people, among them 63 Canadians of Iranian descent; and the witnessing on November 16 2019 of tens of thousands of people in Iran who bravely took to the streets in over 21 cities to overthrow Islamic Republic of Iran. Five days after the outbreak of this popular uprising, the Iranian government engaged in a violent and deadly crackdown with over 7,000 of these courageous protesters being arrested and over 1,500 killed by security forces. Presently detainees are subjected to torture and other ill-treatment.
Canada needs to not only condemn Iranian regime for its heinous state crimes but also to put pressure on the United Nations High Commissioner of Human Rights to act fast and adopt a resolution to close down all Iranian Embassies immediately in order to prevent future crimes by the Islamic Regime of Iran and to save lives of people not only in Iran but also in other parts of the world.
We respectfully request a meeting at your earliest convenience in this regard.
The International Campaign to closedown Iranian Embassies
This poison is seeping into our brains. It is killing us.
The poison is not carbon dioxide: it is Fear.
It is irresponsible to pretend that carbon dioxide is a poison which is killing us; shoving this fearful idea down the throats of trusting children who are a captive audience is a heinous form of child abuse.
I am honoured to teach a class on business and entrepreneurship in the Jane-Finch community. Every week, I get to spend time with 14 bright, hard-working high school students who dedicate time after school learning how to start a business, from businesspeople.
Early in the program, the class was tasked with inventing a product to manufacture and sell. One of the most engaged and serious girls in the class suggested:
“We should invent a process to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.”
“That already exists,” I pointed out tactfully. “The process is ‘photosynthesis.’ Plants do that: they take carbon dioxide out of the air and produce oxygen and sugar.”
The class stared at me blankly. “Is anyone taking Biology?” No hands went up. “Chemistry?” I asked hopefully. Nothing.
“Are no sciences required? What is one class that everyone takes?” I asked.
“English!” the class chorused.
OK…so everyone can read terrifying media articles about climate change, but no one realizes carbon dioxide is not toxic. Good to know.
This conversation took a frightening turn as we discussed creating a board game: one boy suggested it should have a post-apocalyptic survival theme. Players would compete for resources in a world destroyed by climate change.
“Miss, could one of the options be ‘suicide’?” a student asked.
“Yeah!” another chimed in enthusiastically. “And if you knew you were going to die, you could use your next three turns taking out as many of your enemies as possible before you go! We could call it, ‘Escape from Toronto.’”
“Whoa!” I jumped in. “Suicide is not an option, the world is not ending, and I don’t know where you would escape to that is better than Canada – most of the world wants to come here. How about we create the rules so that you can leave all the resources you collected to your allies if you die, to give them a better chance to survive?”
The students liked this idea, and turned to discussing what the resources should be: food, shelter, medical care, magical superpowers. The basics.
This conversation haunts me. Why are we instilling young people with fear when we should be imbuing them with confidence?
These kids need to wake up every day thinking, “Anything is possible!” not “We are all doomed.”
Why work hard, create a plan, invest in skills, or develop relationships when you don’t expect to be here 12 years from now?
What kind of adult would poison the minds of young people with the idea that they should live in fear? It is criminal. It is beyond abuse – it is a murderous attack on their hopes of achievement before their dreams can even be conceived.
The only thing we have to fear, speechwriter Napoleon Hill famously wrote, is Fear itself. Yet, we are allowing fear merchants unfettered access to the minds of our kids.
Enough is enough. This has to stop. Parents, teachers, businesspeople, journalists, artists, and athletes need to tell young people: “You have a future, and it can be great! Study hard. Work hard. Think positively. Believe.”
This week, we are trying to absorb the news that a high school student in Hamilton was stabbed to death in front of his mother, by two students who clearly believed they could get away murder.
Where would young people get the idea they can get away with murder, on school grounds, in Canada?
From us. They got the idea from us adults; from our poisonously weak thinking, our recklessly irresponsible words, and our terminally ineffectual actions.
If it’s true that “the thought is ancestor to the deed” (and I believe it is), we need to drop everything and adjust our thinking immediately.
Last night, I attended my first meeting as the new chairperson of a communty group in Jane-Finch which has worked for over a decade dealing with gun violence.
At a crucial point in the evening, I realized that this hard-working, well-intentioned group of people was basing its decisions and actions on wrong, negative information leading to lack of action and near-helplessness.
I stopped the meeting: “All of you ,” I insisted, “have got to CHANGE THE WAY YOU THINK.”
This radical suggestion caused a bit of a stir, but we forged ahead.
Our thoughts and words are a matter of life and death. Now, more than ever.
On January 20th, 2016, I delivered a deputation at the monthly meeting of the Toronto Police Services Board.
At the time, I was merely personally and professionally outraged that politicians and bureaucrats were not only abdicating their responsibility to regulate ground transportation to ensure the safety of riders, they were rolling out the red carpet for law-breakers.
Even I would not have predicted the explosion in gun crime and violence we have seen since then.
My name is Rita Smith, and I am the executive director of the Toronto Taxi Alliance. However, I am not speaking on behalf of the TTA; I am speaking as a communications professional with 30 years’ experience at all levels of government and business.
You may recall that about 12 years ago, Toronto was being subject to an annual event at the end of the CNE.
Young people who were often drunk or high would run through the Ex grabbing stuffed animals, knocking over signs and generally creating mayhem that then spilled outside the Ex.
I recall an interview with the police chief at the time, and the firm message he delivered when he committed to preventing another episode of chaos:
“The criminal element is not in control of this city. The police are in control of this city, and we will stop this.”
And they did.
Fast forward to 2016, and citizens of Toronto are hearing a completely different message, one that does not inspire confidence.
Instead of hearing that police have the power and the intention to enforce the law, both the Mayor and the Chief of Police have told media “We cannot enforce the law against Uber.”
This is an incredible occurrence, unlike anything I have ever seen in my lifetime.
I have lost track of the number of times people ask me, “How can the Mayor say he can’t enforce the law?” or “How can the Chief of Police say he is powerless to enforce the law?”
From a communications point of view, this message is devastating.
Because EVERYBODY hears you say it: not just taxi drivers and Uber drivers.
Drug dealers heard it. Thieves heard it. Gang members heard it…shooters heard it.
No doubt, they rejoiced in hearing it!
Parents and kids heard it too. It did not inspire confidence.
Toronto has just experienced several bad months in terms of violence, shootings and murders.
Chief Saunders has referred to this as a “spike,” some kind of anomaly.
I suggest you need to look to your language, and stop making public declarations of the fact that you are incapable of enforcing the law.
Find a different reason for why you are choosing not to enforce the law against Uber.
But for Toronto’s sake, please stop using this one.
Our thoughts and words are a matter of life and death. Now, more than ever.
Private citizen and spokesperson for no one but herself Rita Smith commends the province of Ontario on announcing the first-ever Minister of Mental Health and Addictions in its June 20th cabinet shuffle.
“I hope that in the hours and days ahead we will see the entire community of mental health professionals and organizations step up to congratulate the province and the new minister on this important step forward in Ontario’s history,” says Smith, who was part of the launch of the Mental Health Commission of Canada under then-Health Minister Tony Clement in 2008.
“This announcement by Premier Doug Ford is welcomed and appreciated certainly by individuals caring for family members and loved ones suffering mental illness and/or addiction issues,” says Smith, who has a considerable amount of non-professional experience in supporting folks who have been thrust unexpectedly into the chaotic maelstrom of attempting to find care for loved ones who urgently need it.
“While we are thanking and congratulating those who deserve it, I would also like to commend the Ontario Provincial Police for providing Mental Health First Aid training and De-escalation Training as part of its Mental Health Strategy.
“Every Canadian can take Mental Health First Aid training through the MHCC and local partners, and everybody should,” Smith goes on to nag. “The current mental health crisis is not something we can pay police and healthcare workers to make go away, or to deal with on our behalf while we do other things.It is incumbent upon every one of us to be as informed about mental health first aid as we are about physical first aid.”
Smith offer special congratulations to Ontario’s first Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Michael Tibollo who, she says, “is the most perfect person on the planet to serve as Ontario’s champion for mental health supports.”
“I am pretty sure I can speak for anyone who ever ran late in a meeting with Michael Tibollo while he went off on a mental health tangent: this Ministry could not be in better hands. God help the staff that stand in his way or tell him ‘no,’ but it will all be for the greater good, I am sure.”
And while she has your attention, Smith wants to re-iterate what she has learned in all the years of hoping to help loved ones struggling with mental illness.
“As important as it is to get a professional diagnosis – and it is crucial to have a professional in your ‘circle of care’ – following these five basic life rules will help you cope, recover and get back on track no matter what your diagnosis is:
Eat healthy food;
Get 20 minutes of aerobic exercise per day, in the sunshine if you can;
Get a good night’s sleep – work on your sleep routine
Avoid substances like alcohol and drugs
Spend time with family members who love and support you.”
“Thank you, Premier Ford and Minister Tibollo for this long-overdue appointment. Your work will help a lot of people.”
I actually wrote up the process for Brandied Fruit in response to a Facebook request – short and sweet, but this is basically it. Start in June! There is no “making Brandied Fruit” at Christmas.
“Sue, it’s not a recipe so much as a process. It is different every year, depending on what berries I can get and when I find the time!
Basically a cup of rum or brandy and a cup of sugar poured over berries in season, start with that. 3 or so cups of berries.
The lid is left on loosely, not sealed. Sit it in a cupboard or counter (not in bright sun) until new berries come into season.
By then the first batch will be sitting in a pile of liquid, sugar, brandy, fruit juice. Wash the new berries and add to the jar. Every now and then you might slosh in some more brandy and more sugar.
As the summer goes on I have to dump everything into a giant mixing bowl and divide it out into MORE jars as I add more berries. These 4 jars will grow to 8 or 10.
Generally the order of the summer goes:
peaches (skin removed, cut in big chunks).
You can add gooseberries and wild blueberries if you can get them.
Some people add pineapple, I did that once it was good but not “Ontario.”
In a perfect world all the fruit is local but I got great raspberries and blackberries on sale Sunday so I started an impromptu batch! Still waiting for local strawberries.
Use cheap brandy, I usually use Ontario Small Cask brand. Rum is also good. The liquid starts to get fizzy and ferment-y, that’s fine, just don’t seal the jars tightly to allow the gas to escape.(These jars are never heat processed; the preservation is in the brandy and the sugar.)
When you are done adding fruit, pack the jars away until Christmas….you won’t believe the flavour! It’s quite magical.”
(I researched and wrote this article five years ago. Recent reports show that many parents have still haven’t gotten the message – which means, Science has still failed to deliver it.)
In February, there were news reports of California families hosting “Measles Parties” to intentionally expose their children to the potentially fatal disease in order to gain immunity while avoiding the measles vaccine.
Here in Canada, a recent poll by Angus- Reid showed that nearly nine-in-ten Canadians say vaccinations are effective at preventing disease for the individual who receive the vaccine (88%) and for the community as a whole (86%); and yet, the same poll found that two-in-five Canadians (39%) agree that “the science on vaccinations isn’t quite clear.”
In attempting to understand what vaccine-doubting or even measles-promoting adults could possibly be thinking, Landmark Report spoke with Canadian virologist and post-doctoral research fellow Dr. Logan Banadyga, and Dr. Baruch Fischoff, professor of Social and Decision Sciences and Engineering and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University.
Neither man could fathom what such parents were thinking, but both pointed squarely at communications by the scientific community – or lack of such communications – as a major contributor to the incredible, entirely preventable situation North Americans now face.
Westerners may believe that measles and mumps are relatively benign diseases, because science has not made a concerted effort to communicate the more serious risks, Fischhoff believes.
“People view the diseases merely as an inconvenience because they don’t know of complications that can arise; the medical community knows these things, but other people generally aren’t aware… we haven’t provided them with the evidence, or communicated the risks. The risk of blindness and death, my guess is that very few people know about that,” Fischhoff points out.
“I can guarantee you that most scientists don’t think about communications at all, because they don’t trust communications people, or they don’t trust journalists,” Banadyga says. “Most scientists think it’s easier to avoid them in the first place; and then we end up in situations where people listen to Jenny McCarthy.”
Banadyga conducts research in virology in western Montana and has dedicated his life to fighting infectious disease; he is particularly concerned with children’s health.
“We know from decades of research that vaccines are one of the most effective public health measures that we have ever undertaken,” he points out.
“So rationally, vaccines are a great idea. We have the data to prove that. It’s not just a bunch of scientists or big pharma getting together and deciding that they could make money off this. We know how to improve quality of life and it improves children’s’ lives – that’s a FACT.
“When you think about these Californians who are having measles parties – people have been doing this with chicken pox for years – you think, ‘You are exposing your child to a disease to which that kid does not have to be exposed and sure, they’ll probably survive if they get measles, but they’ll still get sick, they could potentially get very sick, and they could potentially die.
“You’re exposing them to that virus for no other reason than the completely fallacious belief that you think vaccines are causing more harm than good.” Science, he believes, has not done enough to combat such emotional beliefs which often trump rational thought.
“Part of the North American challenge is that the current generation has no direct experience of diseases like measles and mumps,” he says. “Now we have the case of these parents who are considering vaccines for their children and they have no experiences of these diseases. So their decision is easier to make, because they don’t see the kinds of havoc that these diseases caused in the first place.”
Banadyga believes there has to be a concerted effort to get these messages across to parents. Currently, “the message isn’t strong enough; or it’s not being absorbed clearly enough; or perhaps not enough of an effort is being made to deliver the message.”
Fischhoff agrees that the communications effort has been found lacking: “Scientists, like everybody else, overestimate how much of what they know is common knowledge. This is called ‘the common knowledge effect.’ If you think people know something, you don’t bother repeating it. I think scientists have dropped the ball for a very understandable reason: most scientists don’t have access to the public, so everything the scientist says goes through the funnel of the media.”
“We also,” Fischhoff adds, “overestimate how well we read people’s minds.”
Both Banadyga and Fischhoff commented on the frustration and exasperation scientists and even doctors feel in attempting to communicate well-documented, factual evidence to parents who cling to irrational beliefs.
“Scientists generally communicate in situations in which they are the boss, such as the classroom. We get pretty good at communicating complicated material, but that doesn’t mean we listen to the needs of people who actually need this information.”
Banadyga stresses the importance of family doctors who will listen to parents’ fears and take the time to allay them: “I think physicians are beginning to learn that this you can’t approach this subject as a cold-hearted machine and say, ‘Vaccines are the only way to go and if you don’t vaccinate your kids, you’re stupid.’ That’s going to turn a lot of people off.”
Risk Communications Sidebar
Dr. Baruch Fischhoff, professor of Social and Decision Sciences and Engineering and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University is one the pioneers in the development of Risk Communications, a precise process in which testing how a message is received, understood and acted upon is a critical component in decision-making. He was instrumental in assisting the Public Health Agency of Canada in developing its Strategic Risk Communications Framework, which was released in 2006.
“Tested messages really are the ‘gold standard’ in effective communications, and I don’t know if that is being done anywhere right now,” he says. “We’ve had 40 years of Risk Communications research in support of communications and decision making. I think we know how to communicate these things in a comprehensible and respectful way; I think what’s missing is simply use of the practice…people are just shooting from the hip.”
When public health officials fail to test their messages, Fischhoff says, “they are not doing their jobs.”
“If they don’t have message-testing procedures, then they’re just digging the hole deeper…they could do $500 million dollars’ worth of damage with a $50M campaign, if they don’t test their messages.”
Unlike one-way communications processes like DAD (decide, announce, defend) or persuasion campaigns, Risk Communications includes:
identifying the risk information that is most critical to decisions about risk;
characterizing the dimensions of risk that matter most to decision makers;
helping people make difficult risk choices and weighing competing outcomes;
communicating information about the magnitude of risks (and benefits), as well as the processes that create and control them;
describing people’s mental models of risks, in order to identify the critical missing pieces between what they know and what they need to know;
evaluating the success of communications programs.
“Although it would be nice to know more about all of these things,” Fischhoff wrote in the Strategic Risk Communications Framework, “this knowledge has limited value unless it can be translated into operational terms, usable by organizations with front-line communications responsibilities.”
Health Canada announced its new Food Guide in January, and first and foremost, I congratulate all the scientists, researchers and staff who worked for a decade to get the job done.
The rollout is an absolutely enormous project, a job I had the privilege of undertaking with a fantastic team in 2007.
The Food Guide – which is a GUIDE, not the law, not carved in stone, not meant to dictate the same diet for 35 million different people – has been part of life in Canada since 1942.
In 2007, our group of stakeholder scientists and nutritionists numbered over 600. The Guide had been researched, discussed and argued for 13 years. It was the source of much controversy and dispute; journalists were (and are) highly suspicious of Canada’s Food Guide ever since it was revealed in the early 1990s that the number of eggs recommended had been influenced by the egg lobby.
I can vouch for the intense desire food lobby groups have had over the years to influence the Guide: in 2007, brand new in my job as the Director of Communications to the Minister of Health when my phone rang. I picked it up; it was a man I had never met before. He introduced himself as the lobbyist for the soft drink industry.
“We are very disappointed that Health Canada has decided to label soft drinks as an “occasional item,” he blustered into the phone.
“We are very disappointed that childhood obesity has tripled in the last 15 years,” I responded without hesitation.
Not surprisingly, I never heard from him again; I still laugh thinking about that call.
In one meeting, as we wrestled with the fact that we were doomed to upset SOMEBODY no matter what the Guide recommended, I grew frustrated with the talk of “the meat lobby this” and “the egg lobby that.”
“Why are we worrying about the most expensive things people can buy, when really we should be encouraging them to eat more of the most nutritious and inexpensive foods? Who stands up for broccoli?!” I wanted to know.
Staff kindly humoured my fevered ideas about inventing Broccoli and Carrot mascot costumes and sending them to schools and sporting events. We never did any of those things, but it was a great rollout nevertheless.
The Food Guide is the second-most requested document the federal government provides. Only Income Tax forms are requested more often.
In 2007, the new Guide was in such demand, our first print run was 4 million copies. We had not only a printing press on stand-by, but a PAPER MILL on stand-by. The pressure to get the Guide finalized was immense. Scientists, nutritionists and journalists were still arguing the day we went to press (as they are still arguing now) but somehow, they were able to come to enough of a consensus to get the thing done and distributed.
In 2007, some of the big new changes included making fruits and vegetable the basis for a healthy diet. Now, in 2019, Health Canada is recommending fully half of “the plate” be fruits and vegetables. It clearly states that water should be the drink of choice; and that culture is important and we should eat together. These are great advances!
Of course, I disagree with the grain recommendations, but then, it wouldn’t be Canada’s Food Guide if we weren’t arguing about it.
There are A LOT of videos on YouTube that can get you started on Keto; I’ve watched hours and hours of them. Some are so complex you almost need a degree in biochemistry to stay awake for them; others are extremely short and simple.
I will post a few of the most helpful ones that I’ve found below. Before I do that, I’ll give you my short summary of “The Keto Experience.”
I was never hungry, and have never felt in any way deprived, on the Keto diet.
Our grain-based diet is a horrible, harmful lie.
A high fat, low carbohydrate diet seems counter-intuitive and maybe for some people, it is. However, for myself and several others in my family (diabetes runs in my family) have found ENORMOUS success on this diet – including all measurable blood metrics including cholesteral, tri-glycerides, HDL and LDL.
Once you get your mind around the idea of “no white” (no rice, pasta, bread or potatoes) everything else is pretty easy.
Tons of green vegetables are a lot more palatable when you can flavour with fats (fry in bacon fat, top with butter or toss with salad dressing). You’ll come to enjoy it!
You are probably already eating all the protein you need; once you start paying close attention to protein (as I did) it was not hard to make sure I got enough.
For several months, I tried to keep my daily carb intake below 20 grams. This took effort and A LOT OF LABEL READING! You’ll be shocked at all the places you find carbs, which will surprise you. (Even in sugar-free gum? C’MON……)
You will need to give up virtually every fruit except berries. Fortunately you can get those all year (fresh in summer, frozen in winter) so you’ll be OK. Apples, oranges, melon and grapes are out, full stop.
Juice, pop, beer, wine, Gatorade….all forms of liquid sugar will be GONE from your diet. On the bright side, water from the tap is a lot cheaper! Herbal teas (hot or cold) are also flavourful and inexpensive. Coffee is still good! And you get to put real cream in it.
When I lost 60 pounds and reached my goal, I looked around for something to add to my diet to maintain my weight and settled on seeds: roast melon seeds (which feel crunchy and salty, like chips) and Chia seeds in my breakfast shakes. This seems to be working.
Here are two of my favourite videos to get you started:
And here are my best, most useful recipes. Some I videoed years ago; others I have developed just recently specific to a Keto Diet. For fun, I’ll start with delicious Sugar-Free Chocolate, so that you can see there are LOTS of great things to eat while losing weight on this diet.
I’ll update this post with new recipes in the weeks ahead. Good luck!
Sugar-free chocolate – a hands-down favourite recipe! This is low carb but NOT low calorie (the recipe is half butter. And it tastes like it!) Eat it as a treat, not a meal, and you’ll be fine on your Keto diet.
Fruity Fluff – thick, rich, tangy with strained 6% fat yogurt and frozen berries. Better than ice cream!
Chia Puddings and Shakes – use one of nature’s “superfoods” to add fiber & omega 3s to your diet.
Shiritake Noodles – put your favourite pasta sauce on this! Tomato sauce, meat sauce, clams, creamy or cheesy sauces, everything you love works on these low calorie, low carb noodles.
The Smithopoulos Greek Dinner – every item on this menu is a perfect Keto food (just skip the rice or pita bread). The video for Tzatziki also details how to strain yogurt with cheesecloth, which you will want to do for the Fruity Fluff recipe above. Opa!! (Oh also – one of the few videos in which you can see me before my weight loss.)
Perfect Eggs – Hard boiled or soft boiled
Did you know that the USDA has removed cholesterol from its list of dietary substances of concern? Eggs have ALWAYS been good for you; and if you are on a Keto diet now, eggs are virtually the perfect food. Eat the whole egg, yolk and all.
How to fry an egg – on a Keto diet you are not only allowed but ENCOURAGED to fry your eggs in a bit of butter. You can also eat bacon and eggs.
Mussels – are almost pure protein and so easy to prepare (they do not need to be pried apart like oysters). I dip my steamed mussels in soy sauce and wasabi mustard and eat with pickled ginger like a rice-free sushi/sashimi experience.
Pho – replace the rice noodles with Shiritake noodles. With that small change, Pho is a perfect Keto dish!
Vitamin Supplements on a Keto Diet
I figure it’s less a matter of what you take (you can always switch products anytime) as a matter of finding a system/process/routine that works for you, which is what I was able to develop over a period of a few months. I really HATED the handfuls of vitamins and avoided taking them whenever possible; I actually enjoy the supplement beverages, made ahead of time and chilled in the fridge. Find out what YOU like, and what you WILL do –
Keto Slaw – this really helps when you are trying to eat 8 cups of green vegetables per day.
While most squash (and carrots) are “out” on a low-carb diet, high-fiber, low-net carb Spaghetti Squash is fine to eat and very nutritious. You can use it as a replacement for spaghetti with your favourite pasta sauces, or as a replacement for high-carb squash in your favourite squash recipes – a double win!
I have found the biggest challenge people face using Spaghetti Squash for the first time is that they tend to under-cook it. In order to get the long, stringy strands you want for your recipes, the squash needs to be thoroughly baked – easily 90 minutes or more at 350 degrees for an average size squash.
Here’s a video I made some time ago to help you figure out the basics:
Roast vegetables are a real mainstay on a Keto diet! I ate two ziploc bags today while on the road….you can add cauliflower, broccoli, onions, celery, red green or orange peppers – the variations are endless! It’s a bit of a trick to cut the pieces to sizes which allow everything to cook to roughly the same doneness. You don’t want anything to be too soggy if you plan to eat them out of a bag, but they are also great for stir-fries, pasta sauces and just as hot vegetables with dinner.