Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Bill C-51 protest at Canada Place

“What does democracy look like?” screamed Sioban Vipond, the secretary for the Alberta Federation of Labour, as she raised a fist to the sky.
“This is what democracy looks like!” the crowd screamed back.
Several hundred people turned out for the Edmonton protest starting at Canada Place on March 14, part of a  nationwide rally against Bill C-51, the Anti-Terrorism Act. The national day of action drew out thousands of people across Canada in 46 cities and was carried out peacefully.
Bill C-51 is the Harper government’s response to recent attacks on military personnel and Parliament by criminals influenced by ISIS propaganda videos. Since these two incidents, the Harper government said the new powers granted to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) are necessary.
However, opponents of the bill — which include Amnesty International, Federal Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien, B.C. Premier Christy Clark, former Prime Ministers Joe Clark, Jean Chretien, Paul Martin and John Turner, the Mohawk Council of Kahnaw√†:ke, five former Supreme Court justices, over 100 law professors, as well as Green Party Leader Elizabeth May and Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair of the NDP — have complained the bill does not provide Canadians with enough oversight of the new powers CSIS would wield, and are greatly concerned by the vague definition of what “terrorism” is in the bill. Protesters are concerned that the provisions would be used to target activists. They want the bill overhauled and properly debated – a request that the Harper government has been resistant to.
“This bill is truly a threat,” explained Craig Scott, the NDP critic for Democratic Reform, who spoke at the Edmonton rally. “Not just to constitutional rights, not just to the rule of law, but also to our very democracy because you have to remember that this bill is a massive deepening and expansion of the surveillance state.”
The bill makes a large number of changes to the workings of government departments, which will now be able to share information with each other, including with Revenue Canada. 
“Information could be shared between 17 government departments, and this includes a long, open-ended list — it can be added to by the cabinet at will,” Scott pointed out. “Terrorism is only one of eight areas in which information can be shared. They have not included in that sharing circle the review bodies of any of the security agencies.”
Other changes include the ability of CSIS to limit the travel of suspected terrorists. Opponents point out that this provision already exists and that Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, the Parliament shooter, only opted to attack Parliament after being denied a passport due to concerns he was going to join ISIS. 

Other major changes include the criminalization of inciting violence online, such as with a Twitter or Facebook account, and the enabling of CSIS to be more active in its investigations. Currently, CSIS is only able to operate in an intelligence-gathering capacity; it is unable to make decisions on what to do with intelligence.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Destinations for the avid adventurer

While indeed the advent of modern technology has brought people around the world together, it has also grounded people to their homes. Spectacular dungeon crawlers and creepy post-apocalyptic worlds can draw us in with their wild and imaginative places to explore. An endless barrage of television and movies fill our eyes with wonder at the megalithic labyrinths of our imagination.

However, there are such fantastic places here on Earth, and with a little effort you too can explore these strange and sometimes fearsome places. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but instead a primer for your imagination. While Mt. Doom itself may be a few too many dimensions away, the Door to Hell in Turkmenistan, for example, is as ferocious, and its radiating heat and aroma of burning methane and sulphur will stay with you for years to come.

Maybe a giant burning pit belching out noxious fumes isn’t quite what you are looking for. Fair enough. How about crystals? How about the largest crystals in the world? The Crystal Cave of Giants was discovered completely by accident by a mining operation, and the determined can make the trek to nearly a thousand feet into the underworld to see these magnificent Gypsum crystals. A word of caution – the cave is close to a magma chamber, which makes temperatures and humidity in the cave similar to a sauna. A person can’t be in the chamber for more than 10 minutes without suffering serious health problems. A second hazard is that the crystals are apparently razor sharp. Not for the clumsy.

[Source: www.stormchaser.ca]

What’s that? Spelunking a thousand feet down to sit in a steam bath of knives isn’t your thing either? Why the hell not? Okay fine. What about S.C.U.B.A diving? In the Mediterranean? In Egypt? The sunken city of Heracleion, named after Heracles who is said to have visited the city himself, predates the lost city of Alexandria and is actually not that far off from it either. Unlike Alexandria, however, Heracleion survived well into the 8th century C.E before suffering a similar fate to its neighbour. The gentle embrace of the sea has preserved much of the city perfectly, and as a result is probably one of the greatest swims on the planet.

[Source: www.eqtrip.com]

Another alternative adventure lifted right from a movie can be found in comfortable and cosmopolitan Paris. Alongside the Louvre, Eiffel Tower and the Bastille, any visit to the great city should include a visit to its catacombs. You see, by the end of the 18th century, Paris was out of room to bury its dead. Cemeteries were full; some being expanded into mass graves and the juices from the decomposing bodies was entering the groundwater and leading to outbreaks of all sorts of horrible diseases. Moreover, centuries of mining limestone to build the city from underneath the city resulted in a veritable ant-hill of underground passageways, some of which were caving in under the stress of buildings and mass graves. The solution was obvious – turn these catacombs into an underground open crypt using the piles and piles of bones they had, and then sell people tickets to see them! The catacombs opened for public viewing in 1874, and has been a hit destination for goths and metal heads ever since.

For more information on these and other real life dungeons, ancient ruins and adventures, check out the map below.