Monday, September 20, 2010 | Categories: Episodes
Retracing insult from injury. The government finally agrees to improve benefits for wounded soldiers -- but the Veterans Ombudsman says there's much more to be done.
The pain post-campaign. Afghanistan's weekend vote wasn't just plagued by violence -- according to an election observer, it was plagued by irregularities.
Breathless anticipation. An American medical journal takes a pharmaceutical giant to task for failing to provide a sample of its asthma medication to researchers.
How un-freezing could create a deep freeze. A feature interview with Israeli journalist Gideon Levy -- who tells us what will happen to Mid-East peace talks if Israel's freeze on settlements is lifted.
Be-smooching their reputations. Two gay men establish a new pecking order -- breaking a world record by kissing non-stop for thirty-three hours.
And...where the streets have no shame. The un-civic-minded people of Denny enthusiastically accept the Carbuncle Award for "most dismal town in Scotland".
As It Happens, the Monday edition. Radio that hopes it will prove to be a shot in the armpit.
VETS FUNDING: STOGRAN
Lost limbs; post-traumatic stress disorder; hearing loss; chronic mechanical lumbar pain; anxiety disorders: these are just some of the reasons why Canadian soldiers are leaving the ranks of the military and applying for disability payments.
Yesterday, the federal government announced it is planning to respond to longstanding complaints from those soldiers, by increasing the amount of financial support that's available for disabled veterans.
One of the most vocal critics of the Department of Veterans Affairs has been Colonel Pat Stogran, the Veterans Ombudsman. We reached him in Ottawa
JUAREZ PAPER CARTEL PLEA
There's a Mexican proverb that says, "the truth should not offend... it should only inconvenience."
But lately, the truth is doing more than inconveniencing journalists in Mexico. It's also killing them.
Last week, a journalist in Ciudad Juarez became the latest victim in the country's war against drugs, when he was shot to death at close range outside a shopping mall -- a fatal message from the drug cartels.
And this weekend his newspaper responded with a message of its own, when it published an editorial addressed to the cartels, asking them the question -- "What do you want from us?"
Gerardo Rodriguez is an editor-in-chief for the El Diario organization.
FTR: CHAREST ON BASTASRACHE
It has the makings of a Canadian TV drama: cryptic notes, a handwriting expert, and allegations of Liberal party meddling. And if that sounds simultaneously intriguing and a little dull --- well, I did say a Canadian TV drama.
I'm talking about the Bastarache Commission in Quebec City. That's the inquiry looking into allegations made by former provincial Justice Minister Marc Bellemare that Liberal party fundraisers pressured him to name three judges to the bench. Mr. Bellemare also says that Quebec Premier Jean Charest knew all about the pressure his rookie justice minister was under.
This week, Jean Charest himself is set to speak before the commision. And last Friday, he was asked if there would be any surprises when he does so. Here's what he had to say, for the record.
MOST DISMAL PLACE
It isn't easy being the best.
I'm not talking about myself, necessarily -- although I do happen to be a former CBC pie-eating champion. And that was a stressful time. But as tough as it is to be the best at something, it's equally challenging to be the worst...and far less rewarding.
Not everyone sees it that way, mind you. This year, residents from the town of Denny, Scotland collected the Carbuncle Award for the most dismal place in the country ... but only after they asked organizers to grant them the trophy.
Brian McCabe is a member of the Denny Town Regeneration Group. We reached at his home, in "the most dismal place in Scotland."
If you're lucky, at some point in your life, you've kissed someone a lot over a short period of time. I mean the kind of intensive, prolonged kissing that makes your lips feel numb and squishy, like a pair of loosely-attached Gummi worms. The kind -- you may want to cover your kids' ears at this point, or your own ears, if you're opposed to the French style of kissing -- the kind where your tongue starts to ache like you've been doing push-ups with it. The kind where you simultaneously don't know how you'll manage to continue, or whether you'll ever stop.
That kind of kissing can cause mouth trauma, which can only be treated with a strict regimen of ice-packs, salt-water rinses and Chapstick. But it's usually worth it. I mean, how can you look back at an extended smooching session with anything but awe and delight?
I assume that's how Matty Daley and Bobby Canciello feel today. It's likely impossible to get a very articulate response out of either of them, since their lips are probably swollen to the size of pool noodles. But their hearts are probably soaring -- because, pending the recognition of Guinness, they just broke the world record for "longest kiss".
The record fell last night around 7:30 -- but the kissers did not. They remained standing. That's one of the rules: they had to stand without support the entire time. Their lips also had to be in contact the entire time. They had to stay awake. They weren't allowed to go to the bathroom. And there were no breaks.
They fulfilled all those requirements. And in the end, Matty and Bobby kissed for more than thirty-three hours. Which also means they didn't use the bathroom for thirty-three-plus hours. They did a cleanse beforehand. And, presumably, afterward.
Matty and Bobby, if you're wondering, are both men. They're college students, and they're just friends. But they are both gay -- and that's why they did it.
They call their kissing campaign "Our Lips Are Sealed". Among other things, the campaign supports equal rights for people in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities. And as for their chosen approach -- well, as the two men put it on their website: "...a kiss is the loudest thing we can say with our lips, without ever having to say anything at all."
It does speak volumes -- even if, today, the two men can't speak beyond a pained "Mmmmph" sound. And it's a remarkable accomplishment. Recall your longest kissing session, and its painful aftermath -- and when you salute Matty Daley and Bobby Canciello, you won't just be paying lip service.
AFGHAN ELECTION PROBLEMS
They warned there would be violence. And the Taliban were true to their word.
There were hundreds of attacks as Afghans went to the polls on Saturday. There are reports that at least twenty-one civilians, three election workers and eight soldiers were killed. But the threat of violence didn't stop four million Afghans from casting their ballots in the country's second parliamentary election since the Taliban were removed from power.
Preliminary results are expected on Wednesday. But already there are allegations of voting irregularities and fraud -- echoes of last year's controversial presidential election.
The Free and Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan is the country's main independent observer body. It fielded almost seven thousand election observers across the country. Jandad Spinghar is the foundation's Executive Director. He is in Kabul.
It's a thorny question: When large pharmaceutical corporations develop a drug, for which people have volunteered in clinical trials, should they then share that drug with other scientists researching the same disease?
This week, government-funded researchers announced the result of a study comparing the efficicacy of various drugs in controlling adult asthma. In order to compare the drugs, of course, the scientists needed examples of the various drugs available, as well as an identical placebo. All the drug manufacturers involved complied with the request, except one: British firm GlaxoSmithKline refused to offer its drug, or a placebo -- so scientsts had to spend nearly a million dollars making a copy.
This has the editors of the New England Journal of Medicine feeling ill, and they have published an editorial today criticising GlaxoSmithKline.
Jeff Drazen is the editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine. We reached him in Barcelona.
BLIND WOMAN SUES FEDS
It's difficult for most of us to imagine life without the Internet, and Donna Jodhan's no different. Except that she's blind.
She can still browse the World Wide Web with the help of special technology, but one essential website has proven to be a challenge -- the one run by the Canadian government.
Ms. Jodhan has filed a lawsuit against the government, citing discrimination. And instead of trying to accommodate her, the government has decided to defend itself. A hearing is scheduled for tomorrow, in Superior Court.
We reach Donna Jodhan in Toronto.
TALKBACK SWANSEA CORRECTION
The city of Strasbourg has had a long and tumultuous history. Indeed, its long and chequered past can be read in its stunning architecture.
Once a free republic in its own right, the historically Germanic city state was annexed by the French in 1681 -- and recognised as such in the 1697 Treaty of Ryswick. And for nearly two hundred years, Strasbourg prospered under French rule, as its industry, commerce, and even its arts scene flourished.
But with the advent of the Franco-Prussian war in the late nineteenth century, Strasbourg's identity shifted again. After being heavily bombed, it became part of the newly-formed German Empire in 1871. Subsequently, Strasbourg was thoroughly rebuilt and redeveloped, with its Germanic roots firmly thrust back to the forefront.
The German Lutheran University -- which was suppressed during the French Revolution -- was reopened to promote German culture, with a new moniker: the Kaiser Wilhelms Universitat.
But this re-branding of the city was short-lived. Following the end of World War One and the abdication of the Kaiser, Strasbourg was reattributed to the French as part of the 1919 Treaty of Versailles -- only to fall back into German hands in mid-1940, following Hitler's invasion of France.
For four years, Strasbourg remained part of the Third Reich, but as the Allies pushed forward against German lines, the city again changed ownership. Strasbourg was liberated by Allied troops in November 1944 and immediately passed back into French rule. Where it has remained ever since.
The city of Swansea, on the other hand, has always been in Wales -- as Talkback kindly reminded us.
DATELINE: NEFERTITI BUST
This is a story about beauty and the bust.
More than three thousand years ago, before the Miss Universe pageant, before Angelina Jolie assayed the role of "Lara Croft", and before Christina Hendricks played a sultry redhead on "Mad Men", there was one woman who the perfect example of beauty and femininity.
She was Queen Nefertiti -- ruler of the Egyptian empire with her husband, Pharaoh Akhenaten. And aside from being the most powerful woman in the world, she was also considered the most beautiful. Her oval face; long, slender neck; high cheekbones and perfect nose made her the object of desire for men and the object of envy for women. Even her name is believed to mean 'the beautiful one has come.' And for these past three millennia we've had proof of her beauty because of a well-preserved limestone bust of her face that has survived all these years.
But new research indicates that maybe Nefertiti wasn't such an otherworldly looker after all. A team of scientists carried out a CT scan on the bust and found a second limestone model underneath, which was the template for the bust -- and this one was less than flawless. It indicated that Nefertiti had a bent nose and wrinkles around the eyes. A careful examination of Nefertiti's sister's features indicated that she, too, had similar imperfect features.
So it seems that the royal sculptor took some creative liberties when creating his rendition of the Queen. Kind of like an ancient facelift or Photoshop session, you might say. Meanwhile, the lead scientist who discovered the imperfections says that Nefertiti was still a beautiful woman and the bust is "a real portrait of a real woman." And he's right. Because we all know the course of true beauty never did run smooth.
FOR THE RECORD: SHIMON PERES
Some of the Middle East's biggest players are in the United States this week, hoping to save the latest round of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
The two sides have reached a deadlock, particularly on the issue over settlements. That's because this Sunday, a ten-month freeze on settlement-building could be lifted -- meaning Israel will go ahead with the construction of private homes and other buildings in the West Bank.
For Palestinians, this is an encroachment on land they want for a future state. And today, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas threatened to walk away from the talks, should the freeze be lifted.
This morning, as leaders began to gather in New York and Washington, Israel's president Shimon Peres talked about the negotiations so far. Here is part of what he had to say at the United Nations, for the record.
Gideon Levy is a writer with the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. He's been following the latest round of peace negotiations. Mr. Levy is in Montreal, where tonight he will begin a speaking tour that will take him across the country. Earlier today, he spoke to Carol from our CBC studio in Montreal.