Saturday, September 29, 2007

Daily Digest September 30, 2007



OTTAWA CITIZEN - Rising up for freedom

TORONTO STAR - A better plan for public schools

NATIONAL POST - Memories of 1812

The PM's welcome meeting

SUDBURY STAR - Taxpayers deserve a break

        Tory's platitudes; PC leader's image as crime fighter is borrowed from 1994 New York

         Unimpressed voters unlikely to turn out

WINNIPEG FREE PRESS - Surfeit of surplus

SASKATOON STARPHOENIX - Use surplus to invest in productivity

         Picture of courage

CALGARY HERALD - Bad advice for women

VANCOUVER SUN - Governments have to be cautious lest the good times stop rolling

        The devil will be in the details of Campbell's climate change plans

VANCOUVER PROVINCE - Harper now should reduce business and income taxes

VICTORIA TIMES-COLONIST - Day should check crime facts

         Forest-land deal shortchanges B.C.
        Decision to pull property from tree farm licence great for company, bad for residents


Private firm trains Canadian troops
Forces send soldiers to Blackwater outfit under scrutiny for killings in Iraq

Taliban's deadliest weapons lie in wait

Canada pushes for high-profile envoy to Afghanistan

Netherlands to increase troops

Logistics support in Afghanistan among military's toughest jobs

Afghan president seeks peace with Taliban after suicide bomb

Karzai ready for talks with Taliban

Any co-operation with Taliban must come with conditions: MacKay

Bordering on paranoia

Cross-border bargains lure more shoppers south

Middle class folks just scraping by

Fear imports, not GM deal

Williams' R&D fetish

Burmese monks become spiritual warriors

China's role is key
But don't hold your breath that it will step in to end the Burmese unrest

The PM touted Canada's `middle power' status this week. What, exactly, was he talking about?

Doctor shortage to worsen, conference told

Shedding light on the darkest of crimes

Air force fights illegal fishing

Stelmach calls for calm amid royalty debate

Alberta must show oil sector who's in charge

Auditor General's turn to roll out the barrel
Report on Department of Energy's review systems likely to echo royalty review panel's stern findings

Declining Tory popularity leaves Alberta with a fractured political landscape

Ontario Liberals on course for majority: poll

There's still time for parties to pin down swing voters

With 11 days to go, the PCs need a second act quickly

Ontario leaders play loose with the real cost of juice

Tory defined by his political past
Hard-working and energetic, Progressive Conservative leader had for decades been the driving force behind the candidate rather than the contender himself

McGuinty tells PM he wants 1¢ of GST

Tory, Wynne square off Sunday in debate in high-stakes riding

Tory denies faith-based school issue hurting party

Election fever on the rise, while political optimism down

Tories revised expense return after questions
Elections Canada records show TV ad costs shifted categories

Two Tory scandals that aren't going away

Layton plays down B.C. NDP turmoil

Bloc leaflet attacks 'war mentality'

Grits put their new leader in awkward position

Liberal defence critic goes on unauthorized fact-finding trip to Afghanistan

Bloc Quebecois leader wants Canada to cut back on oil dependence

RCMP launches ad campaign to boost recruitment

Afghan protests spark fears
Security officials worry about influence on young people in Canada

Agencies team up to thwart terrorism

Bush, Harper and Friends: An Environmental Production in Five Acts

Japanese outraged by rewriting of Okinawa history

The whip-thin line between pleasure and piety

False passports vs. false ideas

PR:Debunking the fearmongers

MMP only creates more problems

Why Tory screwed up

Birth of a notion: How to make life better for our kids

Lots of cash but not for Toronto

The people are not nothing

Decline of the empire
Once the heartland of Confederation, Ontario's influence in Canada has been steadily eroded. Robert Sibley asks, What is Ontario's role in the future of Canada?

"Ontario's (relatively, if not absolutely) diminished economic prospects." 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next page

 Intention good, but a failure anyway
Wanting freedom is not the same as wanting others to have the same freedom you have.

Out of the semi-dark age: let rationality reign
Irrational behaviour, pervasive among us, unfortunately drives politicians' economic, environmental and social policies

Our obsession with looks isn't just vain, it's deadly

Be honest, guys: Do you do housework?
Claims of a 50-50 split are more like 80-20 -- in favour of women

Is Alberta becoming a petro-tyranny?


Le Bloc veut réduire la dépendance du Québec face au pétrole

Climat: Gilles Duceppe dénoncera l'approche du gouvernement Harper

Denis Coderre entend se rendre en Afghanistan par ses propres moyens

Stéphane Dion n'a pas l'intention de démettre le dg du PLC, Jamie Carroll

Kaboul la vulnérable

Les dommages collatéraux de la mission afghane

Un plan Bush pour remplacer Kyoto

Qu'est-ce qui cloche avec Dion?

Des élections n'aideraient pas les libéraux


Election fever on the rise, while political optimism down

        Let's make some assumptions:
                                            federal general election writs have been issued;
                                            you are a non-party supporting Canadian voter;
                                            you are reviewing the "+"s and "-"s of the 01/06-09/07government;
                                            you start by writing down the most positive and most negative actions.

        Maybe no one receiving to-day's Digest will care to do so. If you are, write them down and send them in.

        This is a poll of sorts I reckon, but with no leading questions.

        It'll be interesting (to me at least) to see what if anything much comes in.


Subject: a new angle on the childcare debate

This survey was prepared by Beverley Smith, past president of Kids First Parent Assoc of Canada and longtime activist for women's and children's equality rights.

It is being distributed this week. It may provide you with a quick take on a new way to look at childcare.

Beverley Smith

From: Peggy Merritt

Hi Joe:  I can't help but reflect that in these days of credit card
mentality where large credit card lines of credit and the
accompaning interest payments prevent people from having any vision
of their future..... why is it that the Conservative Government is
castigated for paying down Cannada's wopping debt of over 500
billions of dollars thus saving a wopping interest payment. Of
course surpluses represent over taxation mainly on gasoline and
other necessities but thank God we have some responsible people at
the helm who are looking to make Canada's future a financially
secure one! Peggy Merritt

From: Dorian Baxter
Subject: Re: Daily Digest September 29, 2007

Dear Joe:
It has been a long time since we communicated and I just wanted to thank you so very much for all your assiduity in getting this info out to have no idea how much your time and effort is appreciated.....many, many thanks indeed!

From: Robert Ede
Subject: Section 36 & Dalhousie Law Journal article

It seems this piece is utilized by quite a few 'left-ies" and rights-seekers:
I've requested a copy from Dalhousie Law Journal editor and will fwd if successful
My personal view predicts the article is a flawed extrapolation justifying the authors case on one particular issue and others have adapted this extrapolation in other cases - it's now become a 'cited reference' (another case of AN authority becoming THE authority) ( Ed note -perhaps like the 'hockey stick' climate graph?)
IMHO, I don't see S.36 in this "standard setting" or "basis point for future reference" light.
It is simply what it is on the face of it - entrenching Equalization's principle (whether you agree with THAT is another question) ie reasonably comparable province-provided (with fed subsidy ) services, at reasonably comparable levels of (provincial) taxation
- anything else and everything else is being read-in by activists and agenda-pushers

Robert Ede,
From: Jacob Pempel
Subject:  MMP _ The Ontario proportional representation proposal makes a lot of sense
I like it.
Some correspondents wax angry and eloquent about
the Ontario referendum on a MMP, declaring it to be a
corporate power grab by providing for appointed members
in parliament, or otherwise sabotage our democratic wishes.
That's nonsense.  Check it out.

The Ontario proportional representation proposal
makes a lot of sense. The first of two ballots is
for a first past the post winner with the highest
number of votes.

The second ballot is for the party which you favour,
for a well publicised list approved and nominated
by that party(not necessarily its leader).

The end result is very close to a rep by pop
proportional representation for the voters who
cast the two ballots, one for a person and one
for a party. You get the advantage of both systems.
I know that I would sometimes cross party lines
to express my wishes.
Check it out.

An improvement might be a rule to ensure that
each party very democratically prioritizes the
names on the list. Politics in each party may
ensure this as well with the MMP as given.

However, no mathematical voting formula can
ever guarantee that only good and true and
smart people will seek and win election. Any
system can result in both good and bad choices.

The arithmetic formula of democratic elections is
less important than the nomination of many very
good persons for us to vote for. We need a formula
for more good people to be nominated and even more
to join the campaign to elect them. As it is, a very
small percentage of our citizens is now involved
in party policies and election nominations.We
need a few million campaigners on the street
to campaign for the right nominees.

That formula to achieve that eludes all of us.
A pity.
...Jacob Rempel

Subject: Ethanol, schmethanol
From: Stratos Psarianos

My feelings exactly ...

Advanced biofuels

Ethanol, schmethanol
From The Economist print edition

Everyone seems to think that ethanol is a good way to make cars greener. Everyone is wrong

Illustration by Stephen Jeffrey
Illustration by Stephen Jeffrey

Get article background

SOMETIMES you do things simply because you know how to. People have known how to make ethanol since the dawn of civilisation, if not before. Take some sugary liquid. Add yeast. Wait. They have also known for a thousand years how to get that ethanol out of the formerly sugary liquid and into a more or less pure form. You heat it up, catch the vapour that emanates, and cool that vapour down until it liquefies.

The result burns. And when Henry Ford was experimenting with car engines a century ago, he tried ethanol out as a fuel. But he rejected it­and for good reason. The amount of heat you get from burning a litre of ethanol is a third less than that from a litre of petrol. What is more, it absorbs water from the atmosphere. Unless it is mixed with some other fuel, such as petrol, the result is corrosion that can wreck an engine's seals in a couple of years. So why is ethanol suddenly back in fashion? That is the question many biotechnologists in America have recently asked themselves.

The obvious answer is that, being derived from plants, ethanol is "green". The carbon dioxide produced by burning it was recently in the atmosphere. Putting that CO2 back into the air can therefore have no adverse effect on the climate. But although that is true, the real reason ethanol has become the preferred green substitute for petrol is that people know how to make it­that, and the subsidies now available to America's maize farmers to produce the necessary feedstock. Yet such things do not stop ethanol from being a lousy fuel. To solve that, the biotechnologists argue, you need to make a better fuel that is equally green. Which is what they are trying to do.
Designer petrol

The first step on the road has been butanol. This is also a type of alcohol that can be made by fermenting sugar (though the fermentation is done by a species of bacterium rather than by yeast), and it has some advantages over ethanol. It has more carbon atoms in its molecules (four, instead of two), which means more energy per litre­though it is still only 85% as rich as petrol. It also has a lower tendency to absorb water from the atmosphere.

A joint venture between DuPont, a large American chemical company, and BP, a British energy firm, has worked out how to industrialise the process of making biobutanol, as the chemical is commonly known when it is the product of fermentation. Although BP plans to start selling the stuff in the next few weeks (mixed with petrol, to start with), the truth is that butanol is not all that much better than ethanol. The interesting activity is elsewhere.

One route might be to go for yet-larger (and thus energy-richer) alcohol molecules. Any simple alcohol is composed of a number of carbon and hydrogen atoms (like a hydrocarbon such as petrol) together with a single oxygen atom. In practice, this game of topping up the carbon content to make a better fuel stops with octanol (eight carbon atoms) as anything bigger tends to freeze at temperatures that might be encountered in winter. But living things are familiar with alcohols. Their enzymes are geared up to cope with them. This makes the biotechnologists' task that much easier.

The idea of engineering enzymes to make octanol was what first brought Codexis, a small biotechnology firm based in Redwood City, California, into the field. Codexis's technology works with pharmaceutical precision­indeed, one of its main commercial products is the enzyme system for making the chemical precursor to Lipitor, a cholesterol-lowering drug that is marketed by Pfizer. Codexis controls most of the important patents for what is known as molecular evolution. This designs enzymes in the way that normal evolution designs organisms. It creates lots of variations on a theme, throws away the ones it does not want, and shuffles the rest in a process akin to sex. It then repeats the process on the survivors until something useful emerges­though, unlike natural evolution, there is a bit of intelligent design in the process, too. The result, according to Codexis's boss, Alan Shaw, is enzymes that can perform chemical transformations unknown in nature.

Dr Shaw, however, is no longer so interested in octanol as a biofuel. Like two other, nearby firms, he is now focusing Codexis's attention on molecules even more chemically similar to petrol. The twist that Codexis brings is that unlike petrol, of which each batch from the refinery is chemically different from the others (because the crude oil from which it is derived is an arbitrary mixture of hydrocarbon molecules), biopetrol could be turned out exactly the same, again and again, and thus designed to have the optimal mixture of properties required of a motor fuel.

Exactly which molecules Codexis is most interested in these days, Dr Shaw is not yet willing to say. But Amyris Biotechnologies, which is also based in California, in Emeryville, and which also started by dabbling in drugs (in its case an antimalarial medicine called artemisinin), is slightly more forthcoming. Under the guidance of its founder Jay Keasling, it has been working on a type of isoprenoid (a class of chemicals that include rubber).

Unlike Codexis, which deals in purified enzymes, Amyris employs a technique called synthetic biology, which turns living organisms into chemical reactors by assembling novel biochemical pathways within them. Dr Keasling and his colleagues scour the world for suitable enzymes, tweak them to make them work better, then sew the genes for the tweaked enzymes into a bacterium that thus turns out the desired product. That was how they produced artemisinin, which is also an isoprenoid.

Isoprenoids have the advantage that, like alcohols, they are part of the natural biochemistry of many organisms. Enzymes to handle them are thus easy to come by. They have the additional advantage that some are pure hydrocarbons, like petrol. With a little judicious searching, Amyris thinks it has come up with isoprenoids that have the right characteristics to substitute for petrol.

The third Californian firm in the business, LS9 of San Carlos, is cutting to the chase. If petrol is what is wanted, petrol is what will be delivered. And diesel, too, although in this case the product is actually biodiesel, which is in some ways superior to the petroleum-based stuff.

LS9 also uses synthetic biology, but it has concentrated on controlling the pathways that make fatty acids. Like alcohols, fatty acids are molecules that have lots of hydrogen and carbon atoms, and a small amount of oxygen (in their case two oxygen atoms, rather than one). Plant oils consist of fatty acids combined with glycerol­and these fatty acids (for example, those from palm oil) are the main raw material for the biodiesel already sold today.

LS9 has used its technology to turn microbes into factories for fatty acids containing between eight and 20 carbon atoms­the optimal number for biodiesel. But it also plans to make what it calls "biocrude". In this case the fatty acids would have 18-30 carbon atoms, and the final stage of the synthetic pathway would clip off the oxygen atoms to create pure hydrocarbons. This biocrude could be fed directly into existing oil refineries, without any need to modify them.

These firms, however, have one other competitor. His name is Craig Venter. Dr Venter, a veteran of biotechnological scraps ranging from gene patenting to the private human-genome project, has been interested in bioenergy for a long time. To start with, it was hydrogen that caught his eye, then methane­both of which are natural bacterial products. But now that eye is shifting towards liquid fuels. His company, modestly named Synthetic Genomics (and based, unlike the others, on the east side of America, in Rockville, Maryland), is reluctant to discuss details, but Dr Venter, too, is taken with the pharmaceutical analogy. Indeed, he goes as far as to posit the idea of clinical trials for biofuels­presumably pitting one against another, perhaps with petroleum-based products acting as the control, and without the drivers knowing which was which.

Whether biofuels will ever be competitive with fossil fuels remains to be seen. That will depend on a mixture of economics and politics. But the political rush to back ethanol, just because it is green and people have heard of it, is a mistake. Let a thousand flowers bloom, and see which one wins Dr Venter's Grand Prix.