By Luiza Ch. Savage - Tuesday, May 14, 2013 - 0 Comments
As she takes over chairmanship of the Arctic Council, Aglukkaq spoke with Luiza Ch. Savage on her new role, her childhood in Nunavut and her take on the European Union’s bid for observer status:
Q: As someone who is of the North, who grew up there, how does that shape the perspective you bring to chairing the Arctic Council?
A: I was so very thrilled when the Prime Minister asked me if I would consider the chairmanship. I’m from the Arctic, I work in the Arctic, I live in the Arctic. Sometimes I feel—not just at the Arctic Council but at other forums—that there are people talking about the Arctic, the wildlife, the climate, without ever having ever set foot on the ground and met the people who live there year in, year out, for years and years. I am hoping that, during my time at the Arctic Council, I would be able to bridge some of those gaps and put a voice to the people who live in the Arctic.
Q: What was it like growing up in the Arctic? I understand you didn’t have electricity until you were eight years old.
A: It was peaceful. We lived off the land. My family lived around the Thom Bay area, north of Taloyoak [in Nunavut]. We moved into the community of Spence Bay in the 1970s, and that was the first time I saw structures—buildings, power, power plants. We didn’t have cars. We didn’t have roads. We walked on the tundra from the Thom Bay area to the community with our dogs and our supplies.
By Brian Bethune - Monday, May 13, 2013 at 5:00 PM - 0 Comments
In conversation with Brian Bethune on his new book, America’s best presidents—and his take on China
Conrad Black— British peer and American felon, former newspaper baron and current newspaper columnist—is also the author of two erudite and distinguished biographies of U.S. presidents. Now he’s turned to the broader sweep of the American story with Flight of the Eagle: A Strategic History of the United States. Black, who has already begun a history of Canada, wanted to correct what he saw as a common notion: that America, when it wasn’t being what Richard Nixon called a “pitiful, helpless giant,” was a happy, oblivious one, blundering its way through world history.
Q: Discussion of strategy is normally restricted to military or foreign affairs. What distinguishes a strategic history? Why write it?
A: My effort was to write something different in the vast literature on the history of the United States—if you can’t bring anything to that, you shouldn’t bother. But I think there is a widespread view that the United States just grew and grew as a power because it had half of a rich continent and attracted immigrants and it just happened. There’s some truth to that. But it still wouldn’t have happened if American statesmen had not taken, at decisive points, very important and often imaginative and courageous decisions.
On Canada’s changing aid to Haiti, the merger of CIDA and DFAIT, and the role of the private sector in development
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Friday, May 10, 2013 at 11:19 AM - 0 Comments
Julian Fantino, a former police chief of Toronto, has been Minister of International Cooperation since July 2012. In that short time, he has presided over major changes in Canadian development policy: the merger of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) with the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Development (DFAIT) announced in the recent federal budget; and changes to Canadian foreign expenditures, including the unilateral withdrawal of Canada this year from the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, and an announced freeze of new spending on aid projects in Haiti, a major recipient of Canadian aid. He spoke with Maclean’s while in Washington, where he attended international meetings, including with Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe and other donors to Haiti.
Q: In your meeting with the Haitian Prime Minister, what did you say?
A: We all got the same feedback from the Prime Minister that he wants to work closely with us to help the Haitian people out of their predicament. At the same time for us, as well as other countries, there is a concern about making sure that we are accountable for the tax dollars that are expended. There was consensus on all sides that we want to work cooperatively together. They obviously have huge challenges. The earthquake didn’t help.
Q: But you had said you didn’t want Canada to be a “blank cheque” for Haiti. Did you hear anything at the meeting that would lead you to want to start new aid projects in Haiti?
A: What we also said is that the humanitarian assistance—we never cancelled any programs that were ongoing. But certainly, there was a need to refocus going forward.
Q: What can we expect going forward on policy and aid toward Haiti?
A: You can expect two things: our response on humanitarian assistance will continue uninterrupted. In fact, we announced four-and-change million dollars of aid going to Haiti. And going forward, new initiatives will be better coordinated, and a closer relationship with the Haitian government to ensure that we are all working in sync to help the people of Haiti. And making sure we expend Canadian tax dollars in the most efficient way possible.
Q: So that suspension [you announced] had an impact then? It led to some kind of result?
A: I don’t want to go there. The “suspension” wasn’t really a suspension because we didn’t suspend anything. We just didn’t dedicate any new funding. That will now come. But it will come by way of a new focus on our Haiti strategy.
Q: But you did send a message. There was a message received . . .
A: What I said, I said. I can’t say how it was received. But I made a determination on behalf of Canada that we were going to do things differently going forward.
Q: This merger of CIDA and DFAIT, what does it mean for development policy? What actually changes?
A: What changes primarily is the embodiment of the ministry in law and the role of the minister.
Q: So are you in charge? Is [Foreign Affairs Minister] John Baird in charge?
A: That’s a good question, because we are equals under the tent. We now have three streams of foreign policy: Minister Baird is responsible for diplomacy, Minister [of International Trade, Edward] Fast, for trade, and yours truly for development. So we are expected to—and we hope we will—work well together. There is not—how can I put it to you—an “in-charge,” per se, minister. We are all working together to achieve the best possible outcomes on behalf of Canadians.
Q: A former Canadian diplomat, Colin Robertson, wrote that the merger was a good thing because CIDA had become “a policy centre with a network of clients who, in turn, developed a sense of entitlement.” He added that “the direction was not always congruent with our foreign policy. In the development world, there is a tendency towards moralism and a disdain for the urgencies of realpolitik.” Is there any truth to that? Was there a problem?
A: There was no problem. I think that there is a very fundamental need for us to coordinate our efforts with respect to what Canada does. We heard it here time and time again from the international community. You’ve got DFAIT working on projects in the same country and same location as what CIDA does, so there is a need to coordinate our efforts.
Q: So what will this mean on the ground?
A: We will create a united front on how we spend Canadian tax dollars in areas of development. It will mean more efficiencies and effectiveness. It will also mean that development will now be entrenched in Canadian law.
Q: When Canada pulled out of the UN Convention on Desertification in March, Baird called it a “talk fest.” You said that “it showed few results, if any, for the environment.” Are there other areas that Canada is reviewing our participation in that maybe we don’t need to be spending money on?
A: Let me first say that we partner with the UN on so many initiatives. This particular one was one where an evaluation was done and it did not result in very positive outcomes for how it is that we expended, I believe, 300,000-and-change Canadian taxpayer dollars. The results, the productivity, was negligible and could not be justified. And so, therefore, we feel that money can be better spent helping those in need in a much more meaningful way.
Q: Can we expect Canada to be pulling out of any other projects?
A: I haven’t embarked on any of that. But if they come to my attention, we’ll deal with them.
Q: You also announced plans for CIDA to partner with private industry in development. How is that working on the ground?
A: We are looking for partners who can help us achieve our mission, which is to alleviate poverty and lift countries out of poverty. If that can be done with wholesome partnerships where we don’t compromise our focus and our mandate, then I feel it’s just another resource we can utilize to effect our mandate: to lift people out of poverty.
Q: But there have also been incidents of corporations that have been involved in conflicts with local communities, human rights abuses, environmental damage. How is that being accounted for? What safeguards do you take?
A: All the due diligence in the world sometimes will not result in the most positive outcomes. But we have been extremely diligent, making sure that whoever it is that we partner with or engage does in fact fulfill all the expectations. Partnering with private industry, if that can achieve our goals and objectives to alleviate people out of poverty, while making sure all the ethical checks and balances are in place, I don’t see a problem with that.
Q: You were a police chief before this line of work. How does that experience affect your view of development?
A: I was involved in international issues dealing with public safety, dealing with situations in poor, developing countries, exchanges of training, other opportunities for law-enforcement people in those countries. I believe I have a pretty good handle on what the situations are like in some of these difficult, poor countries, having been there and having interacted with some of their officials.
Q: What perspective does that give you?
A: When I go to these places, I make it an absolute requirement that I meet with not only the political people, but I meet with civil society, businesspeople, human rights people, I meet with police chiefs or police commissioners, I meet with NGOs, people who are receiving services and aid. I meet with media people. I think I do my homework very well.
This interview was published in the May 6, 2013 iPad edition of Maclean’s.
By Jonathon Gatehouse - Friday, May 3, 2013 at 3:00 PM - 0 Comments
The new Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment CEO in conversation with Jonathon Gatehouse
Tim Leiweke has always been known for his sales flair and relentless optimism, qualities that served him well over the last decade as he transformed AEG, the L.A.-based arena, sports and concert conglomerate into a major player in the global entertainment biz. But as the new president and CEO of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE)—owners of the Leafs, Raptors, TFC and Toronto Marlies—he’ll have his work cut out for him as fans and his bosses (including Rogers, the owner of this magazine) look for someone to finally show them the winning way.
Q: Running MLSE is a big-deal job in Canada, but it doesn’t have anywhere near the scope of your last gig at AEG. Why did you want this position?
A: Well, neither did AEG when we started it, and so I never look at things that are fully baked and get excited about being a part of that. You always want to be a part of something that has great potential. And I am absolutely certain that there’s growth with the Maple Leafs, and it’s called the Stanley Cup. I think all would agree that there are better days ahead for the Raptors and that we have our work cut out, and I like that challenge. I think that TFC is a work in progress and, again, the best days are ahead of it. I happen to believe that there are a lot of opportunities there to grow that brand and to grow the company and, in particular, for the three teams to have much more success.
By Kate Lunau - Saturday, April 27, 2013 at 6:40 AM - 0 Comments
In conversation with physician and resuscitation researcher Dr. Sam Parnia
Cardiac arrest is the only condition that will one day affect every one of us, says Dr. Sam Parnia, an intensive care physician, director of resuscitation research at Stony Brook University school of medicine in New York and author of the new book Erasing Death. The good news is that, according to Parnia, death is reversible. Parnia is director of the Aware Study, which is looking into what happens to human consciousness during and after death.
Q: You suggest that death is not a moment, but a process. Can you explain?
A: For centuries, if not millennia, the way we have considered death has been when a person’s heart stops and, as a result, because there’s no blood flow, the person stops breathing and the brain stops functioning, so we become lifeless and develop into a corpse. That has been considered the moment of death. That was not a problem, because until about 50 years ago [with the advent of CPR], there was no way of reversing that. You and I have inherited a concept of death as an absolute moment from which there’s no return.
Advances in the last 10 years have started to shake our understanding of death. Contrary to what we thought, after a person dies, [brain] cells don’t necessarily die in just a few minutes. They can remain in a viable state for many hours. A point will come where the cells inside our brain are so damaged that no matter what we do, we can’t restore function. But that takes many hours. It’s now possible to manipulate those processes and prevent cells from cascading toward their own death, to fix the underlying problem that caused the person to die, and bring back a whole person. You’d still define a person as dead, but the big [shift in understanding] is that it’s not permanent until quite a bit afterwards.
By Jonathon Gatehouse - Monday, April 22, 2013 at 5:00 AM - 0 Comments
A conversation with author Mary Williams
Although only in her mid-40s, Mary Williams has lived several lives. Born to members of the Black Panther Party, the infamous African-American rights movement, she was raised as a revolutionary. Then came years of poverty and privation. Still in her teens, she met Jane Fonda at a summer camp she sponsored and eventually became her adopted daughter. Williams’s new book, The Lost Daughter, tells the story of her journey from Oakland, Calif., to Hollywood and back.
Q: Your parents were both members of the Black Panthers, and that movement shaped your early life.There was a lot of violence associated with that fight, but your own memories of the Panthers seem to be mostly good. Why?
A: Because it was a family. I would say that the Black Panthers were my first family. I wasn’t able to distinguish who my blood sisters were, from my Panther sisters, because we were all living in communal housing, and I wasn’t even sure, really, who my parent was because we were all parented by each other. It was very communal. There was a very strong feeling of: “you’re special, you’re wonderful, you’re part of something bigger.” There was no real sense of hierarchy. As a kid it was a very safe and empowering climate to be in.
By Ken MacQueen - Sunday, April 14, 2013 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
Dr. Abraham Morgentaler on myths of impotence, the revolution in testosterone therapy—and faking it
Harvard Professor Dr. Abraham Morgentaler, founder of a Boston clinic for male sexual and reproductive disorders, offers a glimpse behind the examination-room door at the hopes and hang-ups of his patients. His latest book, Why Men Fake It: The Totally Unexpected Truth About Men and Sex, takes the measure of manhood in the age of Viagra, Internet porn and shifting gender roles. Medicine has made huge advances in overcoming male sexual dysfunction. Now it’s time to end the myth that men are selfish sexual louts, he says. Satisfying their partner is the true goal of modern man, he says. No, really.
Q: As an undergrad you researched the effects of testosterone on the brains of lizards. If stereotypes hold it’s a short hop to the sex lives of men.
A: Women have joked for a long time that the male brain is pretty similar to a lizard brain. In fact, sexuality comes from the deep part of our brain that we do call the reptilian brain. The fascinating thing about human sexuality is this interface of primal, biological urges with thoughts, reason and culture.
Q: Can you describe your practice at Men’s Health Boston treatment centre?
A: I’m a specialist in what I call guy stuff. For 25 years I’ve been seeing men around their most intimate issues, sexual issues, reproductive issues and along the way have made a specialty out of low testosterone for men. There’s a huge part of this about how the guy sees himself as a person, how his sense of masculinity is affected by these difficulties.
By Michael Friscolanti - Saturday, March 30, 2013 at 8:00 PM - 0 Comments
In conversation with Alex Anthopoulos
Heading into his fourth season as general manager of the Toronto Blue Jays, 35-year-old Alex Anthopoulos is fresh off his busiest winter yet. Two blockbuster trades netted some of the biggest names in baseball—from Cy Young knuckleballer R.A. Dickey to all-star shortstop José Reyes—and boosted team payroll by more than US$40 million. With opening night set for April 2, fans are salivating for something they haven’t tasted in 20 years: the playoffs. Expectations could not be higher. Maclean’s caught up with the architect of the Jays’ revamped roster in Dunedin, Fla., the team’s spring-training home.
Q: Last time we spoke, two spring trainings ago, you talked about how thorough you are—almost obsessive, as you put it—in the pursuit of useful information. You said you even canvassed the team cook for his opinions.
A: I’m still the same way. But I think the one tweak or adjustment, if you want to call it that, is that I have to remember my vote should count for more. That’s not to sound arrogant. If things don’t go well, they are my decisions anyway. Sometimes when I look back, the things I regret are things that I may not have been completely sold on. What I think I’ve come to is: canvass everybody, get everyone’s opinion, but it’s really my vote.
By Kate Lunau - Thursday, March 28, 2013 at 1:35 PM - 0 Comments
Last week, science fans expressed shock at the news that the wildly popular “I F–king Love Science” Facebook page, which has over 4.3 million “likes”, is run not by a man, but a woman: Elise Andrew, a 23-year-old Brit who lives in Midland, Ont., to be precise. After Andrew posted a link to the page to promote her new Twitter profile, which included a photo of her, reader responses ranged from “F*ck me! This is a babe ?!!” to “holy hell, youre a HOTTIE!” Some had assumed IFLS was run by celebrity astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. Taken aback by the reaction, Andrews tweeted: “Is this really 2013?”
Andrew works for LabX Media Group as social media content manager. A self-taught social media mogul, she launched IFSL in March 2012, and runs the site in her free time.
Q: Tell me about how you launched IFLS. What was the idea behind it?
A: I started IFLS while I was in my last year of university [studying biology at the University of Sheffield]. I was three months away from graduation, so I really should have been focusing on other things, but I got addicted to this very quickly. I promoted it to my friends, and it just gained traction so quickly and it didn’t stop. We got thousands of subscribers in the first day. I keep expecting it to level off at some point, and it doesn’t. [When the page reached 100,000 "likes"], it scared me a little bit. At that point I was still in university, and 100,000 people just seemed a bit insane.
By Kate Lunau - Saturday, March 23, 2013 at 6:00 AM - 0 Comments
John Grotzinger talks about once-flowing rivers, the drinkable water—and when we’ll walk on the red planet
On March 12, John Grotzinger and a team of NASA scientists made a stunning announcement: Mars once had the right conditions for life, with flowing surface water so benign we might drink it. This finding comes courtesy of the Curiosity rover, which drilled and analyzed a rock sample from an ancient stream bed at Gale Crater on Mars. It’s the first habitable environment we know of, other than on Earth. As the first primitive forms of life were emerging here, it now seems possible life might have been taking hold on Mars, too. John Grotzinger is chief scientist on Curiosity, which has been exploring the Martian surface since Aug. 5, 2012.
Q: Scientists have found evidence of water on Mars before. What about this new finding tells you life could have existed there?
A: We’re excited because we’re getting a peek at what we call “grey Mars,” instead of red Mars. [Curiosity’s drill cuttings were green-grey in colour, not red like the surface of Mars, which is highly oxidized.] We’re seeing not just the presence of water, but water with a chemical composition that looks friendly toward microbial life. This is the kind of water that, if you drank a glass, you wouldn’t keel over and curl up, although I’m not sure I would want to plumb it into an urban district. We also see a diversity of minerals, which vary in their oxidation state. We think of these minerals at Gale Crater as though they were little batteries [which can give energy to microbes].
By Charlie Gillis - Monday, March 18, 2013 at 7:25 AM - 0 Comments
Mark Lynas in conversation with Charlie Gillis
Mark Lynas used to be the kind of fire-breathing activist who sneaked onto test farms and destroyed genetically modiﬁed (GM) crops. Today, he’s one of Britain’s most respected science writers and an influential voice in the battle against climate change—winner of a coveted Royal Society Prize for his 2008 book, Six Degrees. In January, Lynas sent shockwaves through environmental circles by publicly apologizing for his role in launching the anti-GM movement. (GM is also referred to as to GMO, for “genetically modified organisms.”) “The GM debate is over,” he told Oxford University’s annual farming conference. “Three trillion meals eaten and there has never been a single substantiated case of harm.” Video of his speech went viral, and he’s been living with the backlash ever since.
Q: You’ve disavowed a cause you were identified with for decades. How are you feeling about your decision?
A: It’s been traumatic, but it’s also been something of a liberation. I’ve obviously been inconsistent in my life, but so are we all. In my view, it’s better to be inconsistent and half-right, than to be consistently wrong. Even the pope doesn’t claim these days to be infallible, yet that’s what most environmental groups do.
By macleans.ca - Monday, March 4, 2013 at 7:00 AM - 0 Comments
In conversation with Defence Minister Peter MacKay on Afghanistan, the F-35 controversy and military spending
Peter MacKay has been minister of national defence since 2007, and before that served as the first foreign minister in Stephen Harper’s Conservative government. At 47, he’s a political veteran. As the last leader of the old Progressive Conservatives, he bargained with Stephen Harper to unite the right under the new Conservative banner. He has presided over the Canadian army’s historic mission in Afghanistan, but also been widely criticized for his handling of the government’s controversial plan to buy F-35 fighter jets. He spoke to Maclean’s in his Parliament Hill office.
Q: The war in Afghanistan profoundly changed the way many Canadians think about their military. But now that we’re out of combat, and committed to ending our troops’ role training the Afghan National Army in the spring of 2014, what are we likely to have accomplished?
A: I think we’ve given Afghan people hope. And I say that knowing everything stems from security in that country, as it does in most countries. Along with our international allies, along with the Afghans, we’ve built schools, immunized children, promoted women’s inclusivity in their society, in their parliament. So there are many tangible things you can point to. But the sense that young Afghans have that there’s a better future, fragile though it may be, is an enormous accomplishment.
Q: But how can we have any confidence that the Afghan National Army will be able to take over holding the Taliban at bay when Canada and other international forces, especially the U.S., finally withdraw?
A: Well, that is obviously the concern. Two questions remain. When will the Americans leave? And is the [goal of training] 352,000 combined Afghan army and police sufficient? But to me the bigger question is governance. Will the Afghan government be able to adequately fund and support that security force throughout the entire country? One scenario that has to be in the back of your mind is, if they decide to reduce that number by 100,000, do we want well-armed, well-trained young Afghans outside the military with nothing to do?
By Brian D. Johnson - Tuesday, February 19, 2013 at 7:00 PM - 0 Comments
… but first the beloved comedian fields our questions
Martin Short, 62, is popping up everywhere these days, from hosting Saturday Night Live’s Christmas show to pitching Lay’s potato chips in a Super Bowl ad. A profile in Vanity Fair canonized the veteran of SCTV and SNL as “Hollywood’s most beloved comedian.” And the Hamilton, Ont.-born entertainer, who lives in Los Angeles, will host the inaugural Canadian Screen Awards in Toronto. Replacing TV’s Gemini Awards and film’s Genies with a single show, the CSA gala will air live on CBC TV on March 3 at 8 p.m.
Q: Nice to see you christening the CSAs. But after your show-stopping song-and-dance number on SNL, you should be hosting the Oscars. Why not?
A: First, I was never asked. Second, that would be a phone call where you’d say, “Oh God, I guess I have to do it, don’t I?” It’s a tough gig. People are very critical of the person doing that job. And at the end of the day, it’s not about them. You work four months on your monologue and all they write about the next day is “How about that Adrien Brody kiss!”
By macleans.ca - Monday, February 11, 2013 at 1:00 PM - 0 Comments
Gil Kerlikowske on the perils of pot legalization, and how Canada creates drug problems for the U.S.
Gil Kerlikowske is U.S. President Obama’s director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy—more commonly known as the U.S. “drug czar.” His long career in law enforcement included serving as police chief in two border cities: Buffalo and Seattle.
Q: In the November elections, two states—Washington and Colorado—voted to legalize marijuana for recreational use. President Obama has said that the U.S. government has “bigger fish to fry” than to go after recreational users in states where it is legal. Where do things stand with regard to producers and distributors of marijuana, which is still illegal under federal law?
A: You’ll continue to see enforcement against distributors and large-scale growers as the Justice Department has outlined. They will use their limited resources on those groups and not on going after individual users.
Q: You’ve written on the White House website that “coming out of the election, we are in the midst of a national conversation on marijuana.” Is the U.S. headed for a patchwork of policies, state by state? Continue…
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Monday, January 28, 2013 at 10:15 AM - 0 Comments
In conversation with Luiza Ch. Savage
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird was in Washington this week to attend the inauguration of President Barack Obama. As Americans gathered for the public ceremony and the black-tie galas, the minister attended the Canadian Embassy’s invitation-only inaugural “tailgate” party at its plum location on Pennsylvania Avenue, which featured Beavertails, Tim Hortons coffee and some of the best views in the U.S. capital.
Q: You’re here for the second inauguration of Barack Obama. Are you going to any balls?
A: No, I’m not. I’m not a ball guy.
Q: Can you imagine a million Canadians coming to Ottawa because a Prime Minister was taking the oath of office?
A: I was just telling someone that I remember when the Prime Minister was sworn in. I think we had cookies and coffee afterward. Then there was a dinner for the cabinet that evening, with the food prepared in the parliamentary restaurant. They certainly do things much grander here in the United States. The sense of national pride is exciting. One thing that is bittersweet for me is Hillary leaving. We had a great relationship. Continue…
By Charlie Gillis - Sunday, January 20, 2013 at 12:00 PM - 0 Comments
Ken Campbell on the problem with Canada’s obsession
With $320,000, you could buy a home in a medium-sized Canadian city, or an education at an Ivy League university. Or, you could do as a growing number of parents do: spend it on personal trainers, road trips, sport psychologists and league fees in the faint hope your child will attain fame and fortune in hockey. Ken Campbell, a senior writer at the The Hockey News, and co-author Jim Parcels explore this phenomenon in Selling the Dream, a book about how hockey parents, kids and the game itself are paying a steep price for Canada’s national obsession.
Q: I was struck, as many hockey fans were, by an ad Nike ran just before Christmas, which played on a familiar and romantic notion linking pro hockey to scenes of frozen lakes and small-town arenas. How far does that imagery stand from today’s reality, as witnessed by a kid dreaming of an NHL career?
A: The dream is still pure for most people; hockey is and always will be an enormous part of the Canadian cultural fabric. But I want people, when they read this book, to realize that it’s time to dial things down a bit. Hockey has become almost too important in Canada; in a lot of ways, it’s all we have. We have athletes who excel in other sports, but the stakes in hockey have gotten so high that it seems all-pervading. People get caught up in the dream very quickly, and very easily.
By Brian Bethune - Tuesday, January 15, 2013 at 3:10 PM - 0 Comments
In conversation with Brian Bethune
The eminent American geographer Jared Diamond, 75, has spent two decades exploring the question of how human societies have interacted with their environments and resources. His Pulitzer prize-winning Guns, Germs and Steel (1997) discussed the natural advantages available to the cultures that arose on the Eurasian land mass, while Collapse examined how various societies—which may yet include our own—made bad decisions in response to the environmental hands they were dealt. Now, in his newly published The World Until Yesterday, Diamond considers whether the practices derived from the way all humans once lived still provide valuable lessons for the modern world.
Q: Are you arguing that humans have not yet adjusted to the way we now live, emotionally, psychologically and physically?
A: Physically, it’s clear: we have not. Differences to which we have not adjusted include the fact our bodies still have a metabolism appropriate to a binge-and-bust diet, where often you don’t get enough food and then when you get a feast you release lots of insulin and you store the calories as fat. That was fine for the spartan living styles of our past, but now we end up with diabetes. That’s the clearest example of our not being adjusted physically to our current circumstances. As for emotional and psychological lags, there is speculation, but it’s chronically difficult to separate genetic from cultural factors in human attitudes and behaviours. So I personally would not assert anything in those areas. I wouldn’t deny the possibility, I would just say that it’s not established. Continue…
By Katie Engelhart - Friday, January 4, 2013 at 10:40 AM - 0 Comments
A conversation with the best-ranked woman chess player
Judit Polgár is the best-ranked female chess player in history. Born in Hungary in 1976, she earned grandmaster status when she was 15. She has played, and bested, the likes of Garry Kasparov and Anatoly Karpov. She is now the only woman on the World Chess Federation’s top 100 players list. Maclean’s caught up with Polgár in London, where she was playing in the London Chess Classic.
Q: Are you nervous?
A:It’s not about being nervous. It’s about preparation.
Q: How do you prepare? Do you have a morning ritual before competitions?
A: Well, I wake up around 9:30 or 10 a.m. Then I go to the gym and have some breakfast. But then I’m preparing for my specific opponent. I study how he plays, his repertoire. You see, in chess we have styles—like in any other field. There are also fashions in the kinds of systems that people play. So I’m trying to know my opponent as much as possible. Continue…
By Ken MacQueen - Wednesday, December 12, 2012 at 10:36 AM - 0 Comments
In conversation with Ken MacQueen
Jim Sterba is a veteran foreign reporter at the Wall Street Journal and one-time war correspondent, but his latest book, Nature Wars, is about insurgency of a different sort: the resurgent population of North American wildlife and the uneasy relationship with its neighbours. Both humans and overabundant populations of deer, bear, goose, beaver, coyote and others have taken to suburban life with sometimes disastrous consequences. “We turned a wildlife comeback miracle into a mess” of fouled parks, deer-vehicle accidents and downed jetliners, he writes. He argues our Disneyfied view of animals has tipped the balance of nature.
Q: I live in British Columbia, where trees are sacred and we love our wildwood creatures. Each has their own special interest group. Yet you say we have too much wildlife.
A: Certain species are over-abundant, like white-tail deer in many parts of the country. Some are just nuisances, like Canada geese. Some are damaging, like beavers. The problem with bears is that people have such an anthropomorphized view of them because they haven’t been around bears a lot, except teddy bears, so when a bear shows up they think, “Oh, it’s a cute little person,” and they throw it a doughnut, or they let it rifle through the garbage can and take its photograph, and the bear begins to associate the smell of people with food, not fear. It’s not the bear’s fault, it’s our fault. Continue…
By Michael Petrou - Tuesday, December 4, 2012 at 5:00 AM - 0 Comments
Michael Petrou talks to Maajid Nawaz, author of Radical: My Journey from Islamist Extremism to a Democratic Awakening
For more than a decade, Maajid Nawaz was a leading member of the extremist Islamist group, Hizb ut-Tahrir — recruiting members in Britain, Pakistan, Denmark, and Egypt, where in 2002 he was arrested, abused, and jailed for four years. He renounced Islamism upon his return to Britain and co-founded the Quilliam Foundation, a think-tank that promotes pluralism and democracy, and Khudi, a Pakistani social movement with the same goals. His new memoir is: Radical: My Journey from Islamist Extremism to a Democratic Awakening.
Q: You describe a childhood in Essex, England, in which you were almost unaware that you had brown skin. How did that change?
A: I was at primary school. There was a football incident when I was punched in the stomach and told that this game is not for Pakis. All of a sudden during that year the racism kicked in, and I started feeling very different from everyone else.
Q: At first you found community and empowerment through hip-hop music. But eventually you turned Islamism. You say it was like a tool to force your enemies to respect you. It wasn’t really a religious thing for you.
A: No. I’ve often said that this was a political revolution with religious connotations, rather than a religious revolution with political connotations. My primary motivation for joining Hizb ut-Tahrir was one of a need for identity, a need to address the injustice that I saw. Basically I needed a framework to make sense of all the grievances that I saw around me.
Q: That does raise question about some of the religious-based strategies for confronting Islamism.
A: It does. I don’t think interfaith is the best way to challenge the rise of Islamist extremism.
A: Jewish leaders, Christian priests and bishops, imams, and all sorts of religious leaders getting together and discussing tolerance and harmony.
It misunderstands and therefore misdiagnoses exactly what the problem is. Islamist extremism isn’t born from religiosity. Most recruitment to Islamist organizations doesn’t occur in the mosques, and most Islamists do not respect mosque imams.
The guy who recruited me was a doctor studying at Barts (a British university). Osama bin Laden was an engineer. Ayman al-Zawahari was a pediatrician. Islamism was born from a milieu that was completely distinct from traditional theological centres of learning. In fact it was an anti-colonial struggle.
I was never religious growing up. I never really understood what Islam is at all. I joined Hizb ut-Tahrir, and most of my work was focused on the political, strategic, and tactical level. We emphasized very little of religion, to be honest.
There is a religious element to it now. The Taliban and al Qaeda are personally very devout. But even then interfaith misses the point, because they’re fighting for political dominance.
Q: What works?
A: My story is the exception. Most people, once they commit to Islamist activism, especially if they become jihadists, will never leave. And if they do leave, it will be to disengage from violence, but they will still believe in the Islamist ideology. It’s very rare for them to then both abandon jihadism and Islamism, and then even rarer for them to be willing to criticize Islamism in public. It’s not what we should be aiming for.
What we should be aiming for is preventing people joining in the first place. And that means looking at the youth bulge in the Middle East, Pakistan, and Central Asia. When they have problems, where to do they go? Who do they join? What is their vision?
Q: Does that mean that the current ranks of jihadists are a lost cause?
A: They’re not a lost cause. I think there are different objective we need to set for them. Disengagement is a very realistic objective for existing jihadists. There are always one or two who will go further. But for the bulk of them, disengagement from violence, as was done with the IRA, that’s a very realistic objective.
Q: Should governments ban Hizb ut-Tahrir?
A: I’m opposed to banning Hizb ut-Tahrir in countries where they’re not actively seeking power, such as Britain, Canada, America, Europe. In Muslim majority countries, where they have a specific and declared objective or overthrowing democratic regimes — not even governments, but regimes, the entire system — through a military coup, and where they’re actively planning that military coup, well that violates both the national law of that country and international laws.
But if they’re merely members of an organization whose franchise in a different country is attempting to do that, then there’s no direct criminal offence. And to criminalize that causes problems with issues of human rights and freedom of speech.
Q: You’re opposed to criminalizing propaganda?
A: Unless it incites violence directly.
Q: At the Quilliam Foundation, you’ve received some hostility from people one might assume would be your allies: non-Muslim liberals. What’s going on?
A: Let’s keep in mind that Quilliam was founded toward the end of the neo-conservative era and George W. Bush’s tenure. The left wing took the view that even to address the subject of Islamism meant serving the neo-conservative agenda. And of course the right wing took the view that Islamism needed to be addressed to serve the neo-conservative agenda.
It was very polarized. And into this mix we came. And we said we wanted to turn neo-conservatism on its head. In other words, we don’t want to bring democracy at the barrel of a gun. We don’t want to bring a supply led approach to democracy by trying to impose it from the top down. But rather we think we need to create demand for democracy from the grassroots.
We have consistently been oppose to human rights violations, rendition, occupation, torture. But the same reasons why we’re opposed to all those things — i.e. from a human rights perspective —oblige us to be opposed to Islamist excesses as well: such as the view that women must be stoned to death; women cannot be heads of state; homosexuals must be killed; non-Muslim minorities must be discriminated against; you must impose beards on men; you must impose headscarves on women.
Q. How do you feel about the future of political Islam and liberalism when you look at the ascendency of the Muslim Brotherhood in places like Egypt?
A: In the long run, I’m optimistic. This was a necessary step for the evolution of these societies. The fact that these uprisings have removed brutal dictators is a good step. But in the short term what that means, sadly, is that we’re going to have a new challenge. That’s how to come to terms with those who, as a result of being the most organized in society for a long time, won the elections. And that’s the Islamists.
Let’s be frank. They didn’t win by an overwhelming majority. In their strongest country, Egypt, they had to go to a second round of voting. And even then, Hosni Mubarak’s former prime minister was second. And that tells you the level of the protest vote that was against the Brotherhood. Everybody hates Mubarak, yet they were wiling to vote for one of his former acolytes just to keep the Islamists out. I think that bodes well for the future.
Q: Tell me about your work in Pakistan.
A: Islamist social movements have been working very diligently with young people to shift their vision of what the social contract should be — from one of democracy to one of theocracy. And that permeates into every institution in society, whether it’s the military, educational institutions, or even secular parties.
So what we’re trying to do is create an alternative social movement that over the long term can once again pull back that debate to bring about a consensus as to the social contract needing to be democratic, not theocratic.
Khudi is a mirror of the 13 years of experience I gained inside an Islamist organization, and an attempt to replicate that with a democratic culture and democratic values — which means that we’re not going to see results in the next five years. It’s a 10- to 20-year process before we even start seeing anything.
Q: Why did you pick Pakistan?
A: It was the country in the world where the most need was. The Taliban had taken over large chunks of the country. I thought if I can do it there, I can do it anywhere.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
By Aaron Brophy - Monday, December 3, 2012 at 5:00 AM - 0 Comments
The winner of a Star of Military Valour in conversation wtih Martin Patriquin
Pte. Taumy St-Hilaire is decidedly nonchalant about saving the lives of two people he will never know. In April 2011, the Montreal native and member of Quebec’s vaunted Royal 22e Régiment, the Van Doos, was engaged in a firefight in the Afghan village of Chalghowr in the Panjwai district when his battalion was attacked—and St-Hilaire did what his instincts and training told him to do. The results of one heroic deed, for which he can barely bring himself to take credit, earned him the Star of Military Valour this month. He is one of only 18 people to receive the Canadian military’s second-highest honour.
Q: Tell me about yourself. I understand that you got into the Canadian Army after playing high school football.
A: Yeah, and I didn’t like the way my life was going. At 18 I was taking football pretty seriously, full-time, and working on the side. I hadn’t finished high school yet, and I was living in Montreal alone. It was like I was going nowhere. I felt a bit lost. And yet I still wanted what I got out of football, like team spirit and competition. Continue…
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Friday, November 16, 2012 at 10:20 AM - 0 Comments
In conversation with Canada’s ambassador to the U.S.
Gary Doer, the former premier of Manitoba, has been Canada’s ambassador to the United States since 2009. He has been at the forefront of pushing Ottawa’s agenda in Washington, including the proposed Keystone XL pipeline that would bring bitumen from the oil sands to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast. Another proposed project—a new bridge between Detroit and Windsor—got a boost on Election Day when Michigan voters rejected a ballot initiative that would have hamstrung the project. And, on Jan. 1, Washington is facing the so-called “fiscal cliff”—half a trillion dollars of expiring tax breaks and scheduled budget cuts which, if allowed to take effect between 2013 and 2021, could tip the U.S. economy into another recession.
Q: During the election campaign, were you reaching out to Mitt Romney to lay the groundwork for continuity on issues of interest to Canada? How does that work?
A: There is a fine line. You are obviously dealing with the elected government of the day. As for people on the other team, you follow their platforms and you go to the conventions to find out what their thinking is on issues that are important to Canada. For example, you could pick up at [the Republican National Convention in] Tampa fairly easily that there was a split among delegates on Afghanistan. That is important given Canada’s commitment to remain in Afghanistan until 2014. Continue…
By Martin Patriquin - Wednesday, October 31, 2012 at 9:40 AM - 0 Comments
The commissioner of official languages on Montreal’s language shift, a bilingual Olympics and the PQ government
For the francophone population, it’s a sobering statistic: according to 2011 census data released last week, people who speak immigrant languages will soon outnumber Canadians whose mother tongue is French. Yet Graham Fraser, the commissioner of official languages, sees an enduring vitality of the language both within and beyond Quebec’s borders. He learned to speak French in the trenches: as a 19-year-old university student, the Ottawa-born Fraser worked on an archaeological site in Quebec where he “had the sense of being a foreigner in my own country,” as he wrote in his 2006 book Sorry, I Don’t Speak French.
Q: The census suggests that “other” languages will overtake the number of French speakers in Canada. Given that, is the French language in danger outside of Quebec?
A: We’ve actually seen an increase in the number of francophones outside of Quebec. It’s gone over a million, after years of decline. We’ve seen the growth of [French] schools and school boards across the country in every province, as well as of francophone institutions in almost every province. And the thing to remember about “other” languages is that it varies among a whole range of languages. People don’t speak a common “other” language, like Spanish in the U.S. The other thing to remember is that over three generations, people choose to adopt the majority language of the province where they are living. In 1951 there were 450,000 Canadians who reported that they spoke Ukrainian at home. By 1981 that 450,000 had become 45. That is the natural pattern of immigrant languages. That has not been the case with French.
Q: There’s a large increase in the number of French speakers in Alberta. Can you explain that to me?
A: It speaks to the economic boom. We are seeing francophones from Quebec and New Brunswick moving to Alberta like everyone else, and we’ve seen an increase in the francophone population outside Quebec. What I find distressing is that nationalists in Quebec as well as certain columnists outside of Quebec have used these census numbers to present a narrative of decline. It’s self-evident that the percentage of mother-tongue French speakers would go down, because as a country we decided we are going to welcome 250,000 newcomers every year. Since the last census, we’ve welcomed 1.25 million newcomers, 80 per cent of whom don’t have English or French as their mother tongues. Not only is it not surprising, it is arithmetically impossible to maintain the same level of English or French spoken at home when you are welcoming this number of newcomers.
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Wednesday, October 10, 2012 at 11:20 AM - 0 Comments
The minister of international trade talks with Luiza Ch. Savage
Ed Fast, the minister for international trade, is overseeing the Conservative government’s aggressive trade agenda that is opening new markets to Canadian exporters, and raising questions about everything from drug patents to environmental regulations. As Canada and the U.S. mark the 25th anniversary of the bilateral Free Trade Agreement, Ottawa’s strategic focus is shifting to the high-growth countries of Asia and Latin America, and to a new generation of trade agreements that cover services as well as goods.
Q: When I came into the room, I didn’t realize that it was you playing the grand piano. Do you play often?
A: I don’t play as much as I used to because of my schedule. Music has been a part of my life since I was a toddler. There were eight kids in my family and my mother made sure we each played at least two instruments. I play piano, violin and guitar, but piano is the instrument I love. I learned to play it from age 6, and when I became a teenager I learned to improvise. It’s something that’s really freeing. It’s a great stress reliever.
Q: This week marks the 25th anniversary of free trade with the U.S., but you’ve been travelling everywhere from Brazil to Burma. Are our trade patterns shifting? What does the future look like 10 years from now?
By macleans.ca - Friday, October 5, 2012 at 5:06 PM - 0 Comments
Older, mostly male, and, increasingly, out West