Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Another Side To A 'Very Dangerous' Summit

THE WORDS had barely been uttered by Mahmoud Abbas, when a chill went up and down my spine. "We need East Jerusalem to be our capital," said the Palestinian leader, who has sometimes been referred to as "Yasser Arafat in a better-fitting suit."
As a former Middle East bureau chief for a major news-gathering organization, based in Jerusalem, when Abbas mouthed those words, it brought the message home, loud and clear to me of his fractured government's intentions. Then he followed it up with a caveat of "and to establish open relations with West Jerusalem."
While the rhetoric, which involved not only the Palestinians, but Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert, and the "orchestra conductor" U.S. President George Bush, seemed innocent enough during the opening of the Annapolis "peace" summit, the Palestinians have already marked out the Jewish homeland for their use.
In the past, as historians will tell you, Arafat and his henchmen, which included Abbas, had the objective of driving Israel into the sea, but apparently now have taken a different tact and are trying the diplomatic route to achieve their objective.
However, the dangers of such rhetoric could take on Biblical proportions.
On Nov. 4, 1995, former Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated at the end of a rally in support of the Oslo agreements at the Kings of Israel Square in Tel Aviv. And then there's another PM, Ariel Sharon, who has been comatose since Jan. 4, 2006, following a massive stroke. Sharon had endorsed the Road Map for Peace, and had opened a dialogue with Abbas.
Whether there is a connection between Rabin's death and Sharon's present condition is still a matter of conjecture, but countless Biblical scholars and even politicians agree that Bush, Olmert and Abbas are confronting the All-Mighty.
Since a multitude believe Jerusalem (both East and West) to be God's Holy City and belongs to the Jewish people, and not the Muslims, there will always be war over it.
Bill Wilson, a senior analyst based in Washington, D.C., was quoted prior to the summit, as saying, "Spiritually, President Bush and his administration are at cross-purposes to prophetic passages in the Bible that pertain to Israel. Bush is insistent on Israel giving up its traditional Biblical lands for a peace agreement with so-called Palestinians."
The use of the words, "so-called Palestinians," seems to be quite contentious for some say there's no such place as Palestine, which has become a catch word within the Bush contingent. Some claim those in Gaza, including the terrorists such as Hamas, and from the West Bank are just displaced peoples from Jordan and elsewhere in the Middle East.
Wilson also pointed out Gaza had deteriorated into a "lawless base of terror" and would never be able to co-exist in harmony with Israel. In addition, the analyst believed Bush had only moved a "spiritual stronghold" from the Middle East to Annapolis.
The Bush-Olmert-Abbas summit, which also involved more than 40 nations, has all the elements for disaster.
Bill Koenig, a respected Washington newsman and a possible U.S. presidential candidate in 2008, in his newsletter outlined major "Acts of God" that coincided with the timing of U.S. pressure on Israel to give up The Land.
Briefly here are three of them:
* Oct. 30, 1991: U.S. President Bush (the father) opens the Madrid Conference concerning a "peace plan involving Israel's land." On the same day, "the Perfect Storm," including 100-foot waves hit the New England coast, causing heavy damage to Bush's Kennebunkport home;
* August 23, 1992: The Madrid Conference moves to Washington, D.C. and talks resume. On that day, one of the worst natural disasters, Hurricane Andrew, lashed Florida, leaving 180,000 homeless and causing $30 billion in damage;
* May 3, 1999: This is the same day in Israel that Arafat is scheduled to declare a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as the capital. That same day, winds clocked at 316 mph sweeps across Oklahoma and Kansas.
Coincidence? Perhaps.
As the Annapolis summit opened, two Israeli quake experts, Shmuel Marko and Oded Katz, said: "We know that the area between the Kinneret and the Dead Sea was subject to several large quakes, in 31 BC, 362 BC, 549 BC and 1033 AD. Another major one is coming soon."
Another 'Act of God'?

Friday, November 23, 2007

November 22, 1963: A Time Of Sorrow and Tears

THERE ARE TIMES of total recall. November 22, 1963 was definitely one for me. That day, or perhaps, week stands as vividly in my mind as if it were yesterday. Maybe, even more so as one ages.
It was a day, some 44 years ago, when the dreams of what seemed to be the entire world, were shattered in a million little pieces and tears flowed like rain. They still do today and were flowing as I began to write this column.
Some 44 years ago, John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas.
Where were you? Did you, too, have tears in your eyes?
For me, I was half asleep in my hotel room at the Sheraton-Connaught, across the street from the Hamilton Spectator, where I had worked the overnight sports desk. In my foggy brain, I still hear a funeral dirge from the black-and-white TV set at the end of my bed.
Why would there be funeral music?
There had been a bulletin from CBS News that "three shots were fired at President Kennedy's motorcade in downtown Dallas ... The first reports say that President Kennedy has been seriously wounded by this shooting. More details just arrived ... these details about the same as previously, President Kennedy shot today just as his motorcade left downtown Dallas. Mrs. Kennedy jumped up and grabbed Mr. Kennedy, she called 'Oh no!", the motorcade sped on. United Press (International) says that the wounds for President Kennedy perhaps could be fatal. Repeating a bulletin from CBS News, President Kennedy has been shot by a would-be assassin in Dallas, Texas. Stay tuned to CBS News for further details."
Suddenly, my head cleared and CBS' "voice of reason," Walter Cronkite took off his glasses and his words pierced my very soul as it did millions upon millions of others:
"From Dallas, Texas, the flash, apparently official: President Kennedy died at 1 p.m. (CST) some 38 minutes ago."
The loss of our innocence and the Camelot expectations of my generation seemed to be dashed in a matter of seconds. Although in future years others would be glued to TV sets concerning Nixon's fall from grace and later the dramatic O.J. episodes, none could be compared to the heartbreak, which surrounded Cronkite's emotional words and the quiver in his voice.
In recounting a Wikipedia report, Cronkite actually told a TV interviewer in 2006: "I choked up, I really had a little trouble ... my eyes got a little wet ... Fortunately, I grabbed hold before I was actually (crying)."
Dressing quickly I wandered across the street to the newspaper and stayed there during that crushing Friday and into Saturday, assisting in putting the front sections of The Spec together. It was like a morgue as veteran newsmen held back the tears until the editions rolled off the presses.
That Saturday night, the bars were packed; even hardened editors were crying in their beer (or their drink of choice) and some staggered along the streets to their respective homes while even sympathetic policemen, for at least a few nights, ignored any indiscretions.
On Sunday afternoon, the football stadium was packed with Tiger-Cat fans, but it was noticeable that the transistor radios were tuned, not only to the local broadcaster, but to bulletins concerning the Kennedy assassination. After all, the world was in love with the Kennedys, and, in particular, with JFK's wife, Jacqueline.
And then came a double shocker and my mind drifted away from watching someone fling a football when a bulletin announced that JFK's assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, had been shot in the basement of the Dallas jail.
Later, I learned of what veteran and respected reporter, Peter Worthington, remembered about that terrible day and the aftermath. In his 1984 book, Looking For Trouble, Worthington recalled that "most people who were around at the time can remember with almost total recall what they were doing the precise moment they heard the news that (President John Kennedy had been shot in Dallas) that Friday noon of November 22, 1963."
Worthington's recollections included him being sent to Dallas and being an eye-witness as Jack Ruby shot Oswald. In an excerpt, Worthington wrote: " ... a squat man in a fedora plunged from the crowd toward the group and suddenly there was the muffled crack of a shot. I felt the shock waves of the discharge hit my abdomen, and afterward Detective Lowry and I compared notes and remarked that we were lucky the guy was a good shot ..."
So not only Worthington, the outstanding journalist whom I had the privilege of working with at the Toronto Telegram and the Toronto Sun, and myself, as well as millions of others, have total recall concerning that weekend of a time when the entire planet mourned. Conspiracy theories still abound some 44 years later, but one thing is for certain: The dreams of Camelot died with dramatic suddenness on that November day in Dallas.

Wandering Griff Comes Home, Alive and Sore!

BULLETIN (Friday, Nov. 23, 2007): After six days of wandering in a fire-scarred and mountainous area of British Columbia, Griff came home late Thursday afternoon, exhausted and sore, but very much alive.
His soreness will heal and he'll be back to his normal rambunctious self in a few days, and, perhaps, his wandering days are finally over after such a trying ordeal.
On Thursday afternoon, he collapsed when he finally arrived at a nearby motel's front yard, hungry and dehyrated.
His family appreciates the great concern for his safe return of the local neighbourhood and beyond.
Below is the newspaper column which appeared on Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2007:
He drools while chomping at any semblance of food. In other words, Griff's a hulking, lovable lug of a St. Bernard -- and he's missing.
While the world ponders the latest from the resident Ahmadman, The Missus has been crying and Susan has been holding her head in her hands. Bill B. and the Ol' Columnist, meanwhile, have been sulking while spinning our wheels in the backroads of B.C.
Yes, Griff (or Griffey to some) has been among the missing since Saturday morning and his family is already in mourning. Of course, there have been reports from insensitive residents that if he had been chasing deer up in the mountains, they would have turned on him and killed him. When I heard that word, it shook me to my boottops.
Then another claimed that if a nearby "bitch" was in heat, Griff would have been solicited for his "services." Of course, I didn't bother to tell them he'd been "fixed."
This tale of woe began Saturday morning around the Ol' Homestead. There was the usual visitations to the back stoop; the little Lab named Sadie, stalwart Benny, known as The Philosopher, and the "wanderer" Griff all expected a (dog) biscuit or two or a dozen. Griff slobbered as he woofed down his share and then he and Sadie left.
At noon, I asked the question: "Where's Griff and Sadie?"
Everyone had a blank look on their faces.
Then the suggestions came. "Maybe, they wandered down by the river," said one. It had been something that his family had often feared since Little Sadie always tagged along with her friend, Griff.
The hours passed by, and as darkness settled in around Whispering Pines, there was no sign of either one of them.
Then the search party continued patrolling the area, shining flashlights into fields and as the winds picked up, a chill went through my bones as I drove along Highway 97 towards Falkland. No sign of either one of them.
On my return to the Ol' Homestead, Bill B. told me: "Sadie's home." Then he quickly added, "But there's no sign of Griff."
Sadie was exhausted as she showed up, whining at the door. She hadn't been down by the river since her shiny black coat wasn't wet, but her feet were tender and she was hungry from her day-long ordeal.
"Let's get some sleep," someone suggested, knowing full well that was the last thing on our minds.
As a feeble light welcomed Sunday morning, the search began anew.
The cries of "Griff, Griff," could be heard throughout the entire Pines' area. Our green "chariot" again searched the ditches, under area bridges and even among the cattle in numerous fields ... no sign of Griff.
"At least Sadie came home," one said. There was no relief in that statement.
Throughout Sunday, the Ol' Columnist pasted up posters with a picture of a short-haired St. Bernard in the neighbourhood, which read: "Where's Griff ??? Beautiful St. Bernard Missing Since Saturday In Whispering Pines Area. Call 379-2757 or 379-2980."
Monday the search slowed to a crawl; no one had seen the lovable lug with a tattoo inside one of his sensitive ears. He had vanished.
Then I began to find out more about one of the world's most favorite breeds. On a number of websites, the St. Bernard is identified as being very ancient and especially famous for rescuing lost travelers near the hospice of Great St. Bernard in the Swiss Alps. Those lovable dogs are also known for their acute hearing, which far exceeds human beings.
If that is true, can you hear me calling: "C'mon home, Griff, your family misses you."

Friday, November 16, 2007

When Both Mess and I Had Hair

IT BEGAN IN CHURCH. Yes, there I was sitting in the pew and I felt someone looking down on the crown of my head. It was then I envisioned millions of eyes staring from on high at the bald circle where there once had been masses of hair.
The last of one's manhood seemed to be weighed in the balance and I was found wanting.
That's when I could hear jeers concerning my noggin,' spitting out derision: "Hey, Baldy, where'd your hair go?" and also "Can we use your head for a bowling ball, Buster?"
The shame of it all.
I once had locks upon locks. There was a treasured photo, which incidentally, was taken only some 25 years ago, give or take a couple of years, showing this then-fashionable executive editor (Edmonton Sun) with curly hair and a black beard, soliciting television viewers to call in offers to a Superband Seat Sale. However, if you could look over my shoulder, there was a young, blond-haired man on the telephone.
Now who is that? Ah, now I know. It's none other than the great (and now bald) superstar Mark Messier and sitting next to him, the now general manager of the NHL Edmonton Oilers, Kevin Lowe, who still has a full head of hair to this day.
So what happened to Messier's hair, and mine. It seemed to have gone with the wind.
In pursuing my plan to mow the remaining hair on my head, I started to thumb through a recent copy of a Vancouver (or was it the Kelowna newspaper?) and there was a bald Messier, one of hockey's senior statesmen at age 46. He's a recent inductee into the Hockey Hall of Fame -- looking distinguished with a bald pate.
Would The Missus really understand if I took the electric razor to my noggin'?
After all, I remember, she almost went ballistic some years back when I was preparing for a movie role as a dastardly villain. After shaving my locks the bumps became evident and she claimed that I looked like Godzilla's brother. "You better grow your hair back or you can find another place to live. I did and swore on a stack of dictionaries never to do such a deed again, even for money.
When I went researching about hair loss words such as "androgenetic alopecia" came to the fore and then I happened to start reading through The Times of India website and came upon a list of things I could do to stimulate hair growth such as:
* Soak fenugreek (what in the Sam Hill is that?) in deep pot of water throughout the night. Massage the liquid into the scalp and wrap with a cloth for three hours. Repeat every day for one month.
* Massage the scalp with uncooked egg yolk, leave for one hour and wash.
* Smear castor oil on the scalp and the hair roots but not on the hair, wrap the hair with a newspaper, tie with a cloth and leave overnight, wash in the morning. Repeat every 7-10 days (results will come after 6-7 treatments).
All those treatments I couldn't handle, so I think I'll just shave my head. After all Dr. Phil and that game-show host from Toronto did and they're successful. And then there's Superstar Mark Messier.
Whether The Missus accepts my new look, only time will tell. If she doesn't my next 100 columns will arrive from some remote outpost.
Hey, does anyone have a spare room for rent?

Friday, November 9, 2007

The dream never dies, just the dreamers

BOTH LYLE HARRON and Hayseed Stephens were dreamers. One was my best friend; the other was the man I most admired. And both had a passion for Israel and that in the Last Days, oil would be discovered in that Biblical land.
Harron and Stephens believed such a "miracle" find would occur when the world was facing its final days with enemies confronting it on every side.
The reason I thought of these two men was the fears, which has sent shivers across the world, that Israel's bitterest enemy, Iran, was closing in on nuclear weaponry and the posture of its vile dictator, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, could be an imminent warning to not only Israel, but the rest of the planet. And another bulletin had Israel planning a pre-emptive strike on Iran's nuke facilities.
In quoting from Thursday's London Times, both the U.S. and Western allies believe Iran is not using its nuke program for electrical production purposes, but as a "cover for weapon development."
And what could be a saving point for Israel, which has always been the No. 1 target, and followed by the U.S., would be the world's "lifeline" -- oil.
When I met Harron for the first time near Edmonton in 1984, I thought he was kind of peculiar, only because of what he wore -- everything in red, even his socks. I would later learn such a dress code signified the "Blood of Christ." However, he had a belief that oil in Israel would be significant in the troubled days ahead..
This one-time bank manager and his kind and compassionate wife, Doreen, were heavily involved in oil exploration near Netanya, Israel, and in traveling throughout the world; spreading the Gospel and showing kindness and love for their fellow human beings.
In November, 1990, Harron was my guide throughout Ethiopia and then in opening my eyes to The Land, traveling to the "Good Fence," which separates the war zone of Lebanon and Israel and also to the south and the Dead Sea and the great fortress, known as Masada.
We would later travel throughout Israel in 1999 when I was the Middle East bureau chief for a major news-gathering organization, and based in Jerusalem.
And then there was respected Texas oil man, Harold (Hayseed) Stephens. In 1998, he told me that he expected a $30-million, six-to-eight-month project to uncover the world's largest oil field atop a salt dome at the southwest end of the Dead Sea.
"Until now, Israel's Islamic enemies have possessed nearly 75 per cent of the world's oil reserves with Israel's supply only a fraction of that," I wrote at the time, adding, "It's reported that Islamic nations such as Saudi Arabia, all sworn enemies of the tiny Jewish state, have trillions of barrels while Israel has only enough oil to supply itself for about one and a half days and depends on other countries for the remainder."
After a tragic car accident involving his family cut short his playing days with the now-defunct New York Titans, Stephens returned to Texas to make his fortune in the oil business and to the fast life of gambling and booze. However, in January 1978, Stephens, who had been "partying" for days, had an experience like the Apostle Paul on the Damascus Road.
A meeting in 1982 played a key role in establishing Stephens' relationship with Israel and the Jewish people. Stephens said he felt to give then-Israeli PM Menachen Begin a large, Texas cowboy hat and it was then that Begin, unknowingly, spoke prophetic words: "Maybe, you will be the one to come and find oil in Israel."
Two hours later, Stephens recalled the Lord spoke to him, telling him the "greatest oil field in the world," lay beneath the southwest end of the Dead Sea.
While Hayseed Stephens passed away in May, 2003 and Lyle Harron in August, 2006, the "dream" of finding oil in Israel has never died. And with such searing present-day threats from the likes of Ahmadinejad, this would be the ideal time for such prophecy to be realized.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Of Benny and Little Sadie With The Dirty Nose

THE RITUAL begins at 7 in the morning. Benny, the floppy-eared Philosopher, and his companion, Sadie, the sprightly 'little girl' with the dirty nose, arrive at the Ol' Homestead's back door. Several hours later, Griff the Wanderer, might choose to pay a visit. In the doorway, Molly, the Sophisticated (Cat) Lady, peers out with a certain disdain. Of course, I'm writing about dogs and a cat that truly are a part of my family.
Just when this scribbler was about to "pontificate" on the latest happenings in Pakistan and also about a Saudi cleric, who explains "wife beating" with a toothpick (I'm not kidding you), Mark R. Levin, a well-known radio talk show host and lawyer, appeared on TV. And what was he talking about? His latest book: Rescuing Sprite, which has been described as a "stunningly intimate look at the love between a family and a dog."
So Levin, who had earlier written a bestseller called Men In Black: How the Supreme Court Is Destroying America, and is a "talker" on WABC in New York, has a way with words, but his heart was showing when he wrote about Sprite and an inseparable companion named Pepsi. Yes, both were named after the beverages.
For me, this love affair with animals began during the WWII years in Pictou, Nova Scotia. With my father working under the boats and my mother trying to keep this once-little tyke, Kerwood, from getting into too much mischief, a constant companion was a dog named Sport.
Wandering through fields and along country backroads, Sport was my closest friend, and then he stopped by a nearby army base, and my parents told me later he had been fed some tainted meat. It was the first heartbreak of my young life.
And then there was a separation from the animal kingdom. At the end of my road in Bass River was a "monster" of a dog, which eyed me like a bone, particularly when I was trying to pedal past him on my one-speed bicycle.
Also in my neighbourhood was a collie named Pal, but for whatever reason he "attacked" my baby brother, Garry (now a Winnipeg psychologist). His life was, undoubtedly, saved by heavy winter clothing.
So two bad experiences sidelined my "love affair" until moving to the Ol' Homestead in the mid-1990s. In the intervening years, there have been the likes of Abby, Kay-a, Brutus, Amos, and a black Lab named Jake, whom The Missus and I had helped nurse back to health.
"Skakey, shakey, Jake-y" was a common phrase as this "family member" tried to dislodge wax (or other substances) from his ears. However, now Jake has passed on, and I still miss his pleasant personality.
That brings me to the threesome of Benny, who often listens to my troubles without ever judging me, and Sadie, the one with the dirty nose, and hulking Griff. As I said they are this man's best friends.
Which leads me back to Levin and his heart-warming dog story, in which he was traumatized by Sprite's death and of friends such as Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, which were able to support him through his time of grief.
As a dog lover, I can hardly wait until Rescuing Sprite hits the bookstands.
"Now, Benny and Sadie, let's go for a walk ... Hey, does anyone know where Griff has gone?" Molly the Sophisticated (Cat) Lady just turned up her nose and walked away and I thought I heard her meow: "Peasants."

Friday, November 2, 2007

Grumps' Grumblings: When O stands for Owe

IF GRANDPA REACHES was running the 2010 Winter Olympics, he would be growling: "Knock it off!"
But the old shaman from the aging flick, Thunderheart, isn't involved, but someone has definitely conned British Columbians (probably both you and me) to fork out C$883 million ($914 million) for just a place for some button-downed and over-priced media types to plunk their (fat) rearends.
A definite shell game of Olympic proportions. And, if Canadian taxpayers had any gumption, they would be yelling in groves that they're being robbed blind by some slicksters in pinstripes.
Probably, you've read the story, but I had been oblivious to this travesty until running across a Reuters report out of Vancouver; and there in black and white it read right in the lead paragraph: "The rush to build Vancouver's new convention centre, which will be home to the media during the 2010 Winter Olympics, has caused the project's costs to skyrocket ..." Yadda, yadda, ya!
Now, I know the media, the report referred to, has to include those prime-time and pampered TV types, but closing in on a billion bucks for squatter's rights seems downright ludicrous. What are the lounges outfitted in refined gold with matching personal liquor cabinets and side dishes of filet mignon? For that cost overrun they should be.
Perhaps, there's a payoff after the short-lived Games are finally over, but let one of those Olympic tub-thumpers tell you the countless benefits of such a convention centre and then check your pockets (or purse).
Now, this Ol' Columnist enjoys the finer things of life (at least I can dream about them), but there was a time when I covered major events such as a string of Super Bowls, Indianapolis 500s, NHL playoff games and major-league soccer extravaganzas, and they all did cost mega-dollars, but close to a billion for international broadcasters and other media is enough to give the provincial auditor an Olympic-sized ulcer. And throw in a thumping heart murmur as well.
The luxury penthouse to house thousands of yahoos from parts unknown might be swell in telling their grandchildren what luxurious working conditions they were given in downtown Vancouver, but at who's expense?
Of course, my false teeth started to grind even more when I realized the plans for this centre began in 2002 and the Ottawa and Victoria politicians apparently offered a projected budget of C$495 million.
Now five years later, it's up to C$883 million and you can bet, with inflation and design changes, it'll be even higher when the Games begin.
And for what? Prestige? No, for the right to say to our children and grandchildren that we couldn't afford to pay for it in our lifetime, so kiddies, you'll have the privilege of dealing with it down the road.
Once upon a time -- back on Nov. 13, 2006 -- the price tag was a measly $615 million, according to a Vancouver Sun reporter, and Tourism, Sports and the Arts Minister Stan Hagen was seeking a further provincial handout.
Don't you just love it when they start throwing around a million or a hundred million of your money?
So why did the price tag suddenly go through the stratosphere? Well, one bigwig claimed it was all so complicated and then there was something called "the perfect storm" whistling through the construction industry.
Since I have a headache from bantering about figures from C$495 million to $883 million and counting, I think I'll move on to what's waiting when the actual 2010 Winter Olympics begin.
Hidden away in all this backslapping and glad-handing was B.C. acting auditor general Arn van Iersel's terse report from Thursday, Sept. 14, 2006 in which he said the cost of Vancouver's version of the Big Owe would be a minimum of $2.5 billion and $1.5 billion would come from the province -- that's You and Me again. The Big Deal was, originally, supposed to cost, I think, in the neighbourhood of C$1.6 billion with the B.C. brass tossing in something like $600 million.
Van Iersel, at the time, claimed the pencil-pushers apparently sidestepped such things as Sea-to-Sky Highway upgrades ($775 mil); the B.C. Olympic Secretariat ($41 mil) and $8 mil for rapid transit to the athletes' village.
Just think, only three years away from watching the luge or the biathlon or my favorite, the bobsleigh showdowns.
C'mon, Uzbekistan.
MYTH CONCEPTIONS (From Uncle John's Bathroom Reader) -- Myth: The Great Wall of China is visible from the moon. Truth: No manmade objects are visible from that far out in space. According to astronomers, it's about as visible from the moon as a popsicle stick would be from 240 miles away ... Myth: S.O.S. stands for "Save Our Ship." Truth: It doesn't stand for anything -- it was selected as a distress signal because it's easy to transmit in Morse code: 3 dots, 3 dashes, 3 dots.