Tuesday January 09, 2018

January 8, 2018 episode transcript

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The AIH Transcript for January 8, 2018

Hosts: Carol Off and Jeff Douglas

STORIES FROM THIS EPISODE

Prologue

CAROL OFF: Hello, I'm Carol Off.

JEFF DOUGLAS: Good evening. I'm Jeff Douglass. This is As It Happens.

[Music: Theme]

JD: Tonight:

CO: A means to his chosen end. He wanted to die at home, and now, after the nursing home where he lived he fused to allow that, a BC doctor is facing a formal complaint for helping Barry Hyman get his wish.

JD: Checks and imbalances. If you are an employer who's cutting paid breaks or benefits in response to Ontario's minimum wage hike, you could face a judgment call courtesy of a new hotline.

CO: Now is the Winfrey of our discontent. After her powerful speech at last night's Golden Globes, people are clamoring for Oprah to save America from its current doldrums. Our guest is not among the clamourers.

JD: A posthumous hero's welcome. In that speech, Oprah Winfrey told the story of Recy Taylor, who was raped by a gang of white men in Alabama in 1944. Coming up, the historian who rediscovered Ms. Taylor's story tells us more.

CO: Oh the princes that were fit to be news. Eleven wealthy royals staged a protest in the Saudi Arabian palace, demanding the state once again pay their utility bills. But apparently, the regime found their complaint bit rich.

JD: And… they can't be left to their own devices. Two billion dollars’ worth of Apple investors join forces, calling on the company to make smart phones less addictive, and less of a risk to kids and their developing brains.

JD: As It Happens, the Monday edition. Radio that challenges the sacred texts.

[Music: Theme]

Back To Top »

Part one: medically assisted dying, smartphone addiction, Oprah 2020

Medically assisted dying

Guest: Ellen Wiebe

JD: He was a patient at an Orthodox Jewish nursing home in Vancouver, nearing the end of his life. And 83-year-old Barry Hyman wanted to end it on his terms. He wanted access to medically assisted death. And that is something the Louis Brier Home and Hospital opposes on religious grounds. And now, a doctor in Vancouver is facing a formal complaint because she and Mr. Hyman's family went ahead with medical-assisted dying — inside the nursing home. Dr. Ellen Wiebe is the doctor in question. She is one of Canada's leading advocates for assisted dying. We reached her in Vancouver.

CO: Dr. Wiebe, a faith-based nursing home in Vancouver has accused you of, quote, “sneaking in and killing someone in their care”. How do you respond?

ELLEN WIEBE: I respond that that care home is a home. It was the only home for Barry Hyman, and he chose to die in his home. And he had the right to make that choice. I know that the family put in a formal request to be allowed to have it done there and that it was denied.

CO: We’re talking about this man Barry Hyman, who was 83-years-old when you assisted him in his death. And can you take us back to last spring, and how you became involved. What were you asked to do for Barry Hyman?

EW: So I met him in his home with his daughter, and we discussed what he wanted. He was finished; he had enough suffering, and no longer could do the things that he cared about. And he would die, but not right away. He had some things that he wanted to do, and so he set the date much later. He had a few months. He knew that he was going to do this, but he wasn't ready.

CO: And when he did do it — when he did seek medical assistance in dying — he wanted to do it in his home his home — in what he considered his home.

EW: Yes, that's right.

CO: This is the Louis Brier home?

EW: Correct.

CO: Can you tell us anything about what he was going through? What kind of pain he was in in the end?

EW: He had lost so much. He was no longer able to speak clearly. He was no longer able to read, to do the things that he used to do. He required assistance for doing things, and he hated that. His mind was still clear, but he was so distressed by not being able to do anything but sit around.

CO: But why not transfer him to another facility? If the nursing home as opposed to assisted death, and it's not the only one, a number of homes have said that they don't want to have somebody have an assisted death within their facility. Why not transfer him to another place? The Louis Brier was willing to have that happen.

EW: Yes, I've certainly offered him. He could either be transferred to Vancouver General Hospital or to my clinic for the death. He declined. He said he wanted to die at home.

CO: How did you go about it then? Because they didn't want you doing it, did you have to be clandestine in your efforts?

EW: Well, I wouldn't say clandestine I would say private. The family wanted privacy. So we just set up a time when my nurse and I arrived, went into his room, and closed the door.

CO: The family describes him the Globe and Mail, they said that they were very nervous about it. They were helping you to get in and to smuggle the equipment. And they said they had medical equipment and lethal drugs in oversized bags. Somebody stood guard at the door to discourage nurses from coming in to give Mr. Hyman his medications. So they felt they had to do this secretly.

EW: OK. For me, I wasn't feeling that. I was feeling that that they wanted privacy and they deserve privacy. So I would not stop at the nurse's desk and chat to people before I went to my room. I just went straight to the room like I would be a family visitor.

CO: Are you legally allowed to do that?

EW: Yes. In care homes, doctors can go see patients without having special privileges. In hospitals, we are not. So I am allowed to go into a care home.

CO: The nursing home itself — the CEO, David Keselman, — said that the staff found this traumatic. For other patients, for the staff, that one moment, Mr. Hyman was alive. Next, he was dead. They didn't know why this had happened, who had arranged it, and that this is something, especially in a Jewish nursing home as he points out, where people have survived the Holocaust, that this kind of thing was emotional and traumatic for them. How do you respond to his suggestions?

EW: Well, first of all, the family wanted privacy at the time of the death. So nobody should have been aware what was going on at the time. Secondly, care homes always have deaths going on. His medical conditions were such that he could have died at any moment. He'd already had one stroke; he could easily had another one. So the idea that he died suddenly you know should not cause any trauma in a care home, which has sudden death all the time.

CO: What communication have you had with the Louis Brier home since then?

EW: We had a debriefing meeting with the administrators from Louis Brier as well as from Vancouver Coastal Health Authority. In that meeting, I was asked to promise that nothing like this would ever happen again, and I refused to promise that. I said that I would take each case individually. And if a patient said that they wanted to die at home, and I could offer it, I would do so.

CO: How do you feel about facing a formal complaint with the regulatory board with the College of Physicians and Surgeons?

EW: Well, I feel very grateful that our College of Physicians and Surgeons is run by peers, physicians who care about patients, that their main job is to protect patients and patients’ rights, and I know that they support this issue that faith-based facilities should not be trampling on patients’ rights.

CO: Mr. Keselman, the CEO of Louis Brier, said, this is a quote, “I'm sure she's a fabulous doctor and helps lots of people, but there should be a notation or something on her file after this.” What do you say to Mr. Keselman?

EW: I say that I will continue to provide the best care I can for my patients. I will try to honour their wishes as best I can.

CO: Do you think that your efforts and the publicity around this particular case will change anything?

EW: Yes. I want each of the provincial governments to realize that they have negligent, except for Quebec. Quebec has stated that all facilities that are publicly-funded must be able to provide made for their patients. And each province needs to do the same thing.

CO: And why do you think they are, aside from Quebec, reluctance to do so?

EW: Oh, there are people with money and power who would like it not happen.

CO: And not because some of these homes are fundamentally against the idea of assisted death?

EW: Yes, but one person in Canada cannot tell another person in Canada not to exercise their rights. That is simply wrong in every way.

CO: We will leave it there. Dr. Wiebe, thank you.

JD: Dr. Ellen Wiebe is a leading advocate for medically-assisted death. We reached her in Vancouver. And we have more on this story on our website: www.cbc.ca/aih.

[Music: Sad piano]

Smartphone addiction

Guest: Jean Twenge

JD: Apple is facing pressure from two of its major shareholders, about all of its minor customers. The California Teachers Pension Fund and an activist investment fund called Jana Partners LLC have written a letter, calling on the producer of the iPhone to make its technology safer for children. One of their partners in the project is Jean Twenge, a professor of psychology at San Diego State University. Professor Twenge is the author of "iGen: Why Today's Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy — and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood". We reached Professor Twenge in San Diego.

Professor Twenge, what evidence do you have that smartphones are bad for kids?

JEAN TWENGE: Well, in a recent study, we found that teens who spend five or more hours a day on electronic devices are 71 per cent more likely to have at least one risk factor for suicide. Things like depression and thinking about suicide, or actually having attempted suicide. And there's other research to suggest that most of that link goes from spending time on electronic devices to those mental health issues and unhappiness, rather than the other way around.

CO: But there are so many things that young people are dealing with now in the world we're in. How can you identify that it is from their devices that this is what the problem can be pointed to as coming from their Apple phones?

JT: Well, I think what you're asking is how can we know that the sudden increase in teen mental health problems can be traced to the phone. Because, in fact, starting around 2011 or 2012, there was a quite sudden and large increase in clinical depression and self-harm — like cutting — and in the actual suicide rate among teens. Well, that time sequence doesn't fit economic cycles. It doesn't fit the way teens spend their time in terms of how much time they spend on homework or extracurricular activities. But it does line up perfectly with the time when smartphones became common. When they went from being something that only some teens did to a virtually mandatory activity that pretty much every teen now has a smartphone, and almost all of them are on social media.

CO: Is it the smartphone or is it what they learn by being on the smartphone that's creating the problem?

JT: Well, there's a number of possibilities. So one is that it's possible that it’s the direct effects of spending a lot of time on screens and on social media, but there's also potentially indirect effects which could be even larger. So for example, teens who spend more time on their devices sleep less. And sleeping less is a huge risk factor for developing mental health issues. There's also at the same time, teens have spent more time on devices. They have spent less time with each other in person, getting together face-to-face, and socializing or just hanging out. And those face-to-face interactions are really crucial for good mental health. And teens are doing that less probably because they're communicating with each other on their phones more.

CO: I had a friend who was describing how they were hanging out with some other kids — the daughter and her friend. And the friends hardly talked at all day. And then they got home, and the daughter ran upstairs to get on the computer and talk with her friend that she didn't speak to for the entire day.

JT: That's the ironic thing. Even when teens today get together face-to-face, a lot of times they're still looking at their phones. So they're just not getting that emotional connection that you get from face-to-face interaction.

CO: When you were doing this research — when you learned this data — how did you react with your own children? What did you do?

JT: Well, there was one day I was making a graph for the book. And it happened to show that every single screen activity was correlated with unhappiness. And everything you could do that wasn't on a screen, even homework, was correlated with more happiness. And I got up from my chair, and I took my children's tablets and shoved them in the back of a dresser drawer. And I was kind of surprised: they barely even noticed that they were gone. So they ended up playing outside more and talking to each other more, and they ended up fighting more, but maybe they're learning social skills from that. I can help for it anyway.

CO: How old are they?

JT: They're 11, eight, and five.

CO: Is there something though that parents can do to mitigate the effects? I mean is there nothing else you can do except take the devices away?

JT: In fact, you shouldn't take the device away. That's interesting and I think very good news piece of research for both parents and teens. Is that the kids who don't have a smartphone at all — or not on social media at all — they're actually not particularly happy or mentally healthy. The sweet spot for happiness and mental health for teens is those who have the devices, but use them about an hour or so a day — two hours at most. So that's why I co-signed the letter asking Apple to think about this issue more clearly. To integrate a system that would make it easier for parents to not just hand their kids a smartphone with unlimited use, but that the use can be limited.

CO: What's been the reaction from Apple to these suggestions?

JT: So they don't have an official response yet. There's certainly been a lot of discussion today. There have been some people have said well, you know it should be the parent’s job to regulate the teen’s phone use. Well, the ironic thing is we couldn't agree more. That's actually exactly what we’re suggesting is that Apple make it easier for parents to be able to monitor and potentially restrict their teen’s phone use. Because at the moment, what you have a lot of time is you know a wrestling match and to take that phone out of your hands. That's not a good way to parent. Certainly, you can have a discussion with teens. And it’d be great to have some kind of way to do that easily so that phone could grow with the child. You know first, they're not going to be able to call many people or be able to do social media. As they grow older and more responsible and more mature, then you can change those settings.

CO: Professor Twenge, I appreciate speaking with you. Thank you.

JT: Thank you.

JD: Jean Twenge is a psychology professor at San Diego State University. And that’s where we reached her. And you'll find more about that story on our website: www.cbc.ca/aih.

[Music: Ambient]

Newfoundland ice

JD: He's frost-bitten and beaten up, but he’s alive. Blake Williams fell through the ice of a pond south of St. John's last week. He was trying to cut across the pond on a snowmobile. And getting to safety once he went through was extremely difficult. And it claimed the life of his uncle Maurice Jordan, who was also riding on the snowmobile. Blake Williams spoke to CBC Newfoundland from his hospital bed about what happened.

SOUNDCLIP

BLAKE WILLIAMS: Pretty stormy, like snow came in. So we tried to get home as quick as we could. Came up the pond, we thought we were hitting slush and everything started breaking away. Next thing you know we’re in the water. I looked back and the machine was disappeared in a matter of seconds. Started breaking ice as much as we could; it just didn’t feel like it was ever going to end. I didn’t think we’re going to make it, to be honest. We started losing faith, praying that my dad would help us; praying that God would help us. Talking to each other and trying help each other through it. Just kept breaking ice and it just didn't seem like it was going to end. Came to a point then that I couldn’t even lift my arms and couldn't feel nothing. I just put my belly up against the ice and just rolled over and hoped that the ice would keep me. And a lot of times it broke, and one time it just held me up, and I rolled to shore. Took off all my gear, went back on the ice with my snow pants wrapped around my uncle’s arm. I tried to get him up. I got his belly up and his leg and tried to break ice. I just couldn't hold onto the snow banks no more. I fell back into the water again. I got back up out of it, and tried to get him up again and again — probably like another 30 or 40 times. I just didn't have the strength, and he was losing energy. He could barely keep himself up. I couldn't lift him up. So I told him that I loved him, And I’d miss him; I had to leave him. Got down to the bottom of the pond, crawled up the rocks on my hands and feet. I couldn’t even lift my pants; they fell down around my ankles. Just praying, I just felt like my dad was pushing my back, and I just didn't think I was going to make it. I got to the cabin, and started singing out for help. I stayed by the fire shaking, wrapped up in blankets, and prayed and prayed and hoped for the best, until the search and rescue and everybody showed up. And then they sent them back up looking for my uncle. I hoped that he was going to be there hold onto the ice, but it never went like we wanted it to go. I didn't want to leave him. It killed me to leave.

JD: That was Blake Williams, speaking to CBC Newfoundland. He and his uncle fell through the ice on their snowmobile last week. His uncle, Maurice Jordan, did not survive.

[Music: Sad piano]

Oprah 2020

Guest: Mikki Kendall

JD: Oprah's speech at the Golden Globes last night got lots of people fired up. She focused on the bravery of women who have spoken up against those who have harassed and degraded them — and she expressed hope for real change. Here is just a bit of what she had to say:

SOUNDCLIP

OPRAH WINFREY: So I want all the girls watching here now to know that a new day is on the horizon.

JD: And her speech last night fed into speculation about Oprah running for president in 2020. Not everyone is excited by that prospect Mikki Kendall is a writer and diversity consultant. We reached her in Chicago.

CO: Mikki, why do you think people got so excited about Oprah's speech, and that they are urging her to run for the presidency?

MIKKI KENDALL: I think people were so happy to hear someone encouraging and hopeful and strong. They sort of forgot that there has to be more to being president than being a good speaker.

CO: Well, I guess they're thinking that the person who is president now didn't have many credentials for the job. So the view is that she is more qualified and would bring more to the post. So what do you say to them?

MK: I think that's an incredibly low bar. Not that she can't become qualified, but I wouldn't argue that she's qualified enough now. Nor would I have argued that the person that we're talking about as the current leader of the United States was qualified to be president. I think we need to have a bar that you know sets experience and competence as the minimum. I understand the U.S. Constitution doesn't specify, but the U.S. Constitution never could have imagined what's happening right now when it was being written.

CO: You went a step further in one of your tweets. You said Oprah is lovely. She is not qualified to be a president though. Can we stop with the cult of personality approach to politics?

MK: Yes. Because I think that's how we have the current president. You hear so many people think that he sounded like a regular guy. He sounded like one of us. How they got that from the billionaire with the gold I'm not exactly certain. But the president isn't supposed to be something you want to have a beer with or someone who you like a lot. The president is supposed to be an accomplished, intelligent, capable leader. And it’s not to say that Oprah doesn’t meet a couple of those categories; she's accomplished and intelligent. But we've seen nothing that says she's capable of running a country. We are seeing the consequences of Trump who has never run for office before or never succeeded in running for office before. He gets in, and now we have a mess. Do we really want to repeat that mess with a different political stripe? I don't personally.

CO: But as far as personalities go — cult of personality — we can look at others who are regarded as having been successful in the office: Ronald Reagan, a Hollywood actor who was President; Arnold Schwarzenegger, Governor; Jesse Ventura. These are pointed out as being people who were competent to the job from the point of view of many people. And they came from the same kind of a background — a kind of show biz background. So why wouldn't Oprah Winfrey be qualified?

MK: Well, actually, Ronald Reagan after being an actor, stands as president of SAG for two terms, spends eight years as governor before he goes on to become president. Jesse Ventura’s first political office is mayor, and then he goes on to be governor. So you have this very different backstory on these politicians when you go back and look. If someone cited to me that Eisenhower had no political experience, but he'd been a general.

CO: These are some of the names that actually were in response to your tweets about Oprah Winfrey being lovely but not qualified to be president. And they also included someone responded saying Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would be another example of someone who became a competent leader not coming from a background of politics, though he was, in fact, an MP for five years before he took over the party. What do you make of that?

MK: I think that bringing back in the fact that people have looked at personalities and not careers. And they think they know this person's back backstory. But if you go back and you look at this list, it's actually relatively rare for anyone to hold major public office without having first held local office, right? Because people will fight Barack Obama and say well he didn't have that much experience, but he spends two terms in the Illinois State Senate before he goes to the U.S. Senate for three years.

CO: We’ve just seen an extraordinary election in the state of Alabama, where Roy Moore was defeated, a liberal was elected which seemed highly unlikely. But many are pointing to how that happened, and it was black women who did that. People we interviewed at the time said this is a growing powerful force in US politics. Why would Oprah Winfrey not be someone who would represent? Aside from cult of personality, this is a woman who has struggled with her own limitations — her own childhood, which was the limitations there, ran her own business. Why would she not be a symbol for a lot of those women who will be that force?

MK: I mean I think she could be a symbol. I think, however, there are black female politicians already holding office who could be that same symbol. Nina Turner, or Kamala Harris, if we’re talking about Tammy Duckworth, if we're talking about women who have been in politics, who know the job already, who have expressed an interest in doing the job already, and who we know are qualified at various levels for various aspects of leading and governing. Symbols are great, but the president isn't like a constitutional monarchy, right? It's not like the queen, where they're supposed to stay out of politics. Inherently in the American system, the president is supposed to be leader, is supposed to be the one directing the flow of what is happening. To me, that requires you to know the jobs of the people under you. To know what it means to make this decision in Alaska that could impact Colorado, that could impact Utah, and to have to think at that scope and that scale at all times.

CO: Just go back to all the excitement generated by Oprah Winfrey last night and the speech and people wanting her to be president. We haven't heard from her one way or another. Do you think she might actually think to run?

MK: I'm actually not sold that she wants to run. She's notoriously private. And part of the election cycle, obviously, strips away almost all of your actual privacy. I'm not sure that she really wants to put herself through that. Right now, she can pick and choose when she's seen, when she's on the public stage, when she works, and she has control of her businesses and all of that. If she runs for president, that's a lot to give up.

CO: All right. Mikki, we'll watch and see what happens. And, meanwhile, I appreciate you speaking with us. Thank you.

MK: Thank you.

CO: Bye.

MK: Bye.

JD: Mikki Kendall is a writer and a diversity consultant. We reached her in Chicago.

Back To Top »

Part two: Recy Taylor, minimum-wage hotline

Recy Taylor

Guest: Danielle McGuire

JD: As you heard before the break, there was a huge response to Oprah Winfrey's speech at the Golden Globes last night. If you heard that speech, you may have heard her mention the name Recy Taylor. In 1944, Recy Taylor was a young black woman. She was raped by a group of white men in Alabama. Her attackers were never brought to justice. Ms. Taylor died on December 29th. She was 97-years-old. Over time, the attack faded from memory, it wasn't until 2011 that her story was publicized again, in a book entitled "At the Dark End of the Street: Black Women, Rape, and Resistance — A New History of the Civil Rights Movement from Rosa Parks to the Rise of Black Power." Danielle McGuire wrote that book. We reached her in Detroit.

CO: And Rosa Parks came and this is very significant the numbers of people who came to support Recy Taylor. But at the same time, a black woman sexually assaulted in Alabama in the 1940s, she would have been urged to keep quiet. Recy Taylor didn't keep quiet, and she had the support of the NAACP, Rosa Parks, and others. What is it about Recy Taylor's story that attracted others to come and say we're going to take on this? We're going to make this a cause.

DM: Well, I think part of it had to do with the fact that it was World War 2, and there were black soldiers overseas fighting for democracy abroad. And it seemed horrific that you know you couldn't get justice at home — you couldn't get democracy at home. And so the war really provided a kind of a wedge or an opening to get justice. And I think activists engaged in civil rights work at the time used these opportunities to try to squeeze any kind of justice they could get out of the system.

CO: One of the men actually confessed to having been part of the crime. Two grand juries — both of them all white, all male — refused to charge the men at all. Did Recy Taylor ever see any justice?

DM: Well, depends on what you mean by justice. There is kind of a restorative justice to the fact that she received an apology from the state of Alabama in 2011. So that was really important. That apology matter to her, and that's what should matter to us. It wasn't the kind of justice we would all want for her, which is for her assailants to be convicted and sentenced to jail. You know you would get the death penalty for rape at the time. And so you know they were able to live their lives to the fullest. And I should point out that all of her assailants said that they participated in assaulting her. It's just that some of them claimed that she consented. They all told the governor’s investigators that they had intercourse with her. And so really they all confessed, which makes their lack of punishment even more egregious.

CO: How did you get involved with the story of Recy Taylor?

DM: I was a graduate student, and I was investigating what happened to African-American women after slavery. I knew that during slavery, enslaved women were targets for rape and sexual violence. And I knew that it was systemic. And I wanted to know if after slavery ended, if the practices white men committed upon black women's bodies remained. And the answer was yes. And so I went looking for all of these cases you know before really there was any kind of digital newspapers or any kind of archives that had been digitized. And so I had to find her in the oddest places: on microfilm, and buried in archives. And I found one sentence in a pamphlet from the 1950s by a group called the Civil Rights Congress. Peeking out at the bottom of the page was a sentence about a black woman, and that was Recy Taylor. It was a thread, and I pulled it, and it took me to the archives in Alabama, where I found the governor's papers. And there were thousands of postcards and petitions in those boxes. And the governor's private investigation, where her assailant's admissions were, and where her testimony was, and where really the infrastructure of the civil rights movement was buried. It was really fascinating.

CO: She died only 11 days ago at the age of 97. But what was she like? You got a chance to meet her, right?

DM: She was fantastic. She was funny. She liked to laugh. She loved to sing. She was an avid churchgoer. She had a huge and wonderful family that she doted upon. She had a number of grandchildren and great-grandchildren and nieces and nephews and great-nieces and great-nephews, and they all love her dearly and admire her greatly. She was very welcoming to me and gracious with me, and she helped me tell her story. I'm forever grateful for being able to spend time with her.

CO: In this speech that Oprah Winfrey gave, she said that Recy Taylor lived in a society of brutally powerful men. And she says but their time is up, their time is up, their time is up. What do you think Recy Taylor would have thought of that speech of Oprah Winfrey's last night?

DM: I think she would have been absolutely delighted. You know for years and years, no one ever said Recy Taylor's name, especially in the context of the civil rights movement or as a women's movement heroine, and so to see Oprah Winfrey recognize her in this moment at this time I think would have brought then — her in particular — particular joy.

CO: Danielle, thanks for telling us about Recy Taylor.

DM: You're welcome. Thanks for having me.

CO: Bye bye.

DM: Bye.

JD: Danielle McGuire is a historian and the author of "At the Dark End of the Street: Black Women, Rape, and Resistance”. We reached Ms. McGuire in Detroit.

[Music: Electronica]

Mini update: James Damore

JD: His Twitter handle was @Fired-For-Truth. But today, the author of a controversial Google memo filed a class-action lawsuit claiming he was fired because the company discriminates against conservative white men. You may remember James Damore is a former Google engineer. He was the author of the internal memo "Google's Ideological Echo Chamber." In that memo, he questioned the company's diversity programs, and suggested that biological differences are the reason there are fewer women in tech than men. After that memo was leaked last summer, Google fired Mr. Damore. The company said he had, quote, "crossed the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace." Unqoute. Now, Mr. Damore's lawsuit claims he and a former colleague were, quote, "ostracized, belittled, and punished for their heterodox political views, and for the added sin of their birth circumstances of being Caucasians and/or males." Unquote. Here's what Mr. Damore had to say to As It Happens guest host Mike Finnerty about gender discrimination at Google, back in August:

SOUNDCLIP

JAMES DAMORE: Discrimination against women is not happening at all. There is open and encouraged discrimination against conservative thought though.

MIKE FINNERTY: So there's no discrimination against women, but there is discrimination against conservatives at Google?

JD: Yes, there likely is.

MF: But no discrimination whatsoever against women?

JD: It hasn't been shown, no.

JD: From our archives, that was former Google engineer James Damore. Today, Mr. Damore filed a class action lawsuit against Google for discrimination against conservative white men. Google has not yet responded to the suit.

[Music: Pop]

Minimum-wage hotline

Guest: Sean McKenny

JD: The backlash was faster and hotter than a drive-through coffee. Last week, it was revealed that a Tim Hortons franchise in Cobourg, Ontario was cutting paid breaks, in response to the province's minimum wage increase. The owners of that restaurant were raked over the coals for their decision. But that wasn't the only business to respond to the hike that way. Today, CBC Toronto morning show host Matt Galloway spoke with Karen Seenath, a former employee at a different Tim Hortons franchise — who quit after learning how her compensation would change.

SOUNDCLIP

KAREN SEENATH: What really broke me was the fact that people may think that it is a raise, but really you're not really getting a raise because it's going towards medical and dental benefits. And also the fact that our breaks, we would have to swipe out at the start of the break. And there would be no meal discounts for general team member status — that would be me — someone who's working in the drive thru or the store front. You'd have to purchase your food, clock out, go wait in line with the other customers, and then we wouldn't get discounted food. We used to get discounted — like at least 30 per cent. But now, no. And we have to eat it inside of the store.

MATT GALLOWAY: And so when you took all of that together, you said that the increase in the minimum wage wasn't an increase at all because all of those things would come back out of what you were making?

KS: Exactly.

JD: That was former Tim Hortons employee Karen Seenath on “Metro Morning”, CBC Toronto, earlier today. The Ottawa and District Labour Council has set up a hotline for workers to report businesses cutting paid breaks and other benefits after the province's minimum wage hike. Sean McKenny is the president of the council. We reached him in Ottawa.

CO: Mr. McKenny, you just heard Karen Seenath on “Metro Morning”, is that the kind of calls you are getting at the you're calling the “Minimum-Wage Bully Hotline”?

SEAN MCKENNY: It is. They're very similar. And I think Karen's voice, and in the voices we're hearing on the hotline, these are people that are really at their wits end. They're stressed, they're frustrated, and in Karen's instance, felt that she had no other option but to take the steps that she's taken.

CO: And what can people get out of calling you and telling you that these are the things that have happened to them since the minimum-wage went up? Our intention is to speak with those employers. The hope is that they'll change their mind — the employer will. Look, when it comes to something like a paid break, to remove that it's a real head scratcher for us, unless your beef has nothing to do with this minimum-wage increase, but rather about a whole pile of other things, and maybe rightfully so. But then they should be expressed towards the government that you're truly upset with and unhappy with not on the backs of the workers.

CO: Okay, are you suggesting that the reason why these employers are doing this cutting of the other ways of compensating them. You're saying that they're doing that not because of the bottom line that they're trying to preserve, but that it's political? They're trying to put pressure on Kathleen Wynne?

SM: There's no doubt in my mind that some are — not all. That it's more about a political battle as this plays out.

CO: What are you hearing from people? Give us some of the details.

SM: As most people have been hearing, it seems sort of standard: the removal of the brakes, the reduction of hours, the take away or cutting back of benefits, and in other incentives as well — those kinds of issues. And I want to I want to be really clear, this is not about a boycott. This is just about trying to cause those employers to change their mind. We know some have right here in our city where, initially, they had cut breaks for those workers. But because of the onslaught of messaging that they've received over the last few days from customers, they rescinded that, and they're saying that they're going to give it a try. They’re going to see where we are in another three or four months. And that's all we're saying because we think at the end of the day, those small businesses will be the ones that end up being in a better position. And we've all heard the stories. Certainly, our argument that a minimum-wage earner is not going down south and taking cruises or vacations, but they're spending their hard-earned money locally. And it's those smaller businesses that are going to prosper as a result.

CO: But what are you going to do with this information? People call you and tell you what's happening, they give details, they say what business it is that has done this — that has cut their compensation. What do you do with it?

SM: Well again, the two things that are important to us, and I continue to say is the confidentiality piece because a lot of these workers they don't want to be identified. We also need to validate that information. It's not good enough for us to get a phone call and they go out there with the name of that particular business. We want to validate that information. Once we're able to communicate with the employer, and look, if the employer decides that they don't want to speak to us — that they want to tell me to go fly a kite — that's entirely up to them. But we want to provide them the opportunity perhaps let them know that there are other ways to do this. If that doesn't work then yeah, we plan on drawing attention to the particular business. And then people can decide whether or not they want to frequent that business. That's up to them.

CO: OK, you're talking about name and shame here.

SM: Well you know look, it's a word that's come up before. And you know, frankly, it's lost upon me. I mean if an employer — if a business — is doing things that they feel that they're perfectly justified in doing. If they feel that it's legal. If they have no remorse for it. If they feel that they're perfectly within their rights where’s the sheen here?

CO: But it seems that you think that they should be ashamed of that, so it is name and shame. You want to embarrass them, right? If you get the information, and you get confirmed, you will make it public, and you will want to embarrass them, right?

SM: You know look, I have no idea how one can get embarrassed for something that they feel that they're doing that's right. The intention here is to let people know. Because I certainly want to know, and as I indicated, there are workplaces in the city that I've not been to for 20 years and I don't plan on because I know what their work practices are. It's the same thing here. If an individual knows that a particular business is behaving in a particular manner, hey, knock your socks off in respect to whether or not you want to go. Great! Then go ahead. We're not trying to prevent that, but have this information and know beforehand.

CO: OK, but at the same time, in your information gathering, are you not hearing from any businesses who say that it is about the bottom line? That they are struggling to pay them the extra money? Nowhere where you heard that people are saying that they may have to do this or to raise prices or to cut staff?

SM: They're all saying that. They're all saying that, but that's excuses. The Joyces said that in Cobourg in respect of the Tim Hortons there as well. Look, I mean it's up to people to determine whether or not there's truth with that — the same as with the others. We think that there are other mechanisms that can be used. We certainly don't buy what the Joyces had said. Who knows, maybe we're wrong. It's the same thing here. We think that the vast majority of employers can absorb this. We know it's going to be tough, and I don't mean to imply that it's simple.

CO: This is pitched as a contest between employers and these wage-earning employees, but what about consumers? I mean our addiction to cheap goods and services. Are we not part of the problem?

SM: Well you know, it'll be up to the consumer whether or not they want to continue to frequent that particular restaurant, or use the services of a particular business with the knowledge that they have in respect to some of the actions of the employer there. And at the same time, if that particular restaurant or employer decides to increase the price of a particular product by a dime or a nickel or a quarter or 50 cents, that'll be up to the consumer whether or not they'll spend that extra money. I would suggest to you that the majority of people in this city — in our province — won't have a problem with spending a bit more money ensuring that that those businesses are able to prosper. But look, the last thing that we want to create here is the closure of any business. It only benefits communities across this province when they prosper because that will create jobs — that will bring more money into the local economies. That's what this is about, and that's what we think we can be accomplished if cooler heads prevail — if we can give this a chance to play out.

CO: Mr. McKenny, thank you.

SM: Thank you.

JD: Sean McKenny is the president of the Ottawa and District Labour Council. We reached him in Ottawa.

[Music: Ambient]

Prince protest

JD: It's called "reading the room". Even, or maybe even especially, when the room is several thousand square feet, and full of gold. Last Thursday, eleven Saudi princes entered a royal palace in Riyadh, and refused to leave. They were there to protest an unjust new decree — the latest in a series of austerity measures imposed in Saudi Arabia since the price of oil tanked. These princes had remained silent when bonuses and benefits were cut for civil servants. They had not raised their voices when taxes were increased. But when this decree was issued, they had to stand up. They had to stand up for the rights of one unfairly-targeted group: themselves. Under the new decree, the state would no longer pay the electric and water bills of members of the royal family. So these eleven princes and other royals would actually have to dip into their limitless wealth to keep the lights on and the taps running. Faced with this unconscionable attack, they gathered at the palace, and refused to leave. Now, here's what I mean about not reading the room. First, non-royal residents of Saudi Arabia are not particularly sympathetic to the princes' non-plight. Second, neither is Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has already arrested dozens of government officials on allegations of corruption — and a whole whack of princes. So these particular protesting princes did not inspire a groundswell of support. And after their attempted occupation, they're otherwise occupied: all eleven were arrested, and are now facing charges of "disrupting public peace and order". So maybe, instead of demanding someone else pay for their air-conditioning, they should have just kept their cool, and absorbed the costs.

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Part three: Nova Scotia fire, Germany climate target, injured driver

Nova Scotia fire

Guest: Real Boudreau

JD: Dozens of volunteer firefighters did everything they could, but it was gone within two hours. As you may have heard on the news, yesterday morning, a house in the Nova Scotia village of Pubnico Head caught fire early. Four children were killed. Two people were able to escape. Real Boudreau's son lost his stepson in the fire. We reached Mr. Boudreau in West Pubnico, Nova Scotia.

CO: Mr. Boudreau, first of all, I'm sorry for you and for your family's loss.

REAL BOUDREAU: Thank you.

CO: How are they coping? How‘s your son coping?

RB: Little rougher today I guess. You know it's not easy to deal with something of that magnitude I guess in a small community like this.

CO: How did you hear about the fire on Sunday morning?

RB: We got a call from our son; he was asking that I go to him. He said where the incident was. And I arrived there, and we met up in my car, and he informed me at that point what had transpired. And like all of the other people who have been interviewed by a variety of media, I mean my reaction was one of disbelief, quite frankly. And it just struck us like a ton of bricks, of course.

CO: The boy that was your son's stepson — this is the boy that you know best. But there are other people in the family. I know you don't want to be personal about this because lots of information has yet to be released, but what can you tell us about this family?

RB: My understanding is that they were in this day in your world day’s world the traditional nuclear families from the ‘50s and ‘60s just doesn't exist anymore. So it was another extended family, and he was sleeping over with his cousins like he had done in the past. And he's just there visiting. And you know at the end of the holiday season, despite the fact that started school a few days before, but that's basically what it was: just a regular, supposed, innocuous evening at home.

CO: We have heard that one of the people in the fire — the man — he was able to escape, and he's the father of at least one of the children, and he is struggling to stay alive — he's in hospital. Do you know anything about him? I understand he was a lobster fishermen.

RB: I know nothing of his current condition. So it’s difficult for me to comment on that. But yes, I did know him. He was a local fisherman, very gregarious individual, always had a good word to say, and I did not know him well — I wouldn't consider him a friend necessarily — but he is certainly a good acquaintance, and a productive member of our community. Or, I should say he is a member of our community.

CO: The boy that you do know. Can you just tell us about him?

RB: He's you know rambunctious, early elementary school boy, always curious to know what this and that is, and always recognized me in any forum that we would find ourselves in. He was here on Christmas Day and the day after, as is the norm. And just a member of our extended family; we’re not blood-related to him, but nonetheless, as I indicated earlier, in this modern age, families those relationships develop, and we enjoy those. He was just a very curious, rambunctious young lad.

CO: How are people in the community responding to this?

RB: I think two words come to mind. It's pretty cliché, but nonetheless, they do apply: “shock” and “quite devastated” by all of this. So I think that pretty well sums it up at this point in time. However, we are rallying around the families and awaiting the results of the investigations, which are keenly important in order to get to the reason behind all this. And it’s important for us to do that.

CO: And we know that the authorities are saying there's no foul play suspected, but they do want to know how this fire happened. But the fact that four children died in this fire that must be very hard on other children in the community, especially as they return to school.

RB: Yeah, it definitely is difficult, especially in their school. And any schools that are nearby where children would have had any connection with him. I'm sure that they're struggling as well. I say struggling. You know curious, wanting to understand like all of us, and with time. As one of my relatives used to say, you have to respect time. And you have to take the time to do what is necessary in order to get back on track here.

CO: Have you seen the scene of the fire?

RB: Yes, I have.

CO: Can you describe it for us?

RB: There are basically just embers left. That was the last time that I had a clear view of the scene. Although I did not go about looking for it; I had to go by there. And when I was last by there this afternoon, there were four firetrucks lined up at the road — probably in order to give some privacy to the investigators to be able to complete their work, which I appreciate very much.

CO: Apparently, there was five fire departments, 40 firefighters called to that blaze, and they fought it for 18 hours before they could put it out.

RB: I'm not sure which fire departments were there, but I know that the East Pubnico Fire Department, which is part of the Pubnicos if you will of the community, and the West Pubnico Fire Department were there, and they were aided by others the identity of which I'm not sure of.

CO: But it was quite a blaze they put out.

RB: Yeah. Yeah, I was there between 1 and 1:30 on Sunday morning. So it was a blaze, yeah.

CO: And how is your son doing today?

RB: OK. He'll get through it eventually, but it's an emotional time for them. I think this morning, they were OK. But as the day progresses, and emotions are taught, and you see people for the first time since the incident you know everything comes back to the fore. But you have to deal with it. You have to let it all out. That's what we're encouraging to do.

CO: Sounds like he has you to turn to, and that's what he did first thing.

RB: His mom too, I’ll tell you. And his friends — his friends have been there for him too. I very much appreciate that.

CO: Mr. Boudreau, I appreciate you speaking with us. Thank you.

RB: Thank you for your concern.

JD: We reached Real Boudreau in West Pubnico, Nova Scotia. And there was another terrible fire today at a rooming house in Oshawa, Ontario. Two adults and two children are dead; three other people were taken to hospital.

[Music: Folk]

BBC journalist quits

JD: After 30 years of reporting in China, Carrie Gracie has made a swift exit. The BBC's China Editor resigned her post this weekend, after learning that her male colleagues were being paid 50 per cent more than she was. In an open letter, Ms. Gracie writes, quote, "I am not asking for more money. I simply want the BBC to abide by the law and value men and women equally." Unquote. Ms. Gracie is still employed by the BBC. In fact, she was back on the air this morning, for BBC Radio Four's "Today" program. She also joined “Channel 4 News” for an interview. Here's anchor Cathy Newman, asking Ms. Gracie how she felt when she learned about the pay disparity.

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CARRIE GRACIE: At first, it didn't process up here. It was a kind of body blow. On August the first, I wrote a letter to the director general — an email — saying I will not wait to 2020 for you to sort out the gender pay gap, and I will resign my post, unless I’m paid equally.

CATHY NEWMAN: It's quite a claim to make: the BBC is breaking the law.

CG: Well, I've got the experience of my own case. The BBC say that the reason for the pay gap is because of genuine material factors that make their jobs worth more than mine. But on the other hand, I speak Chinese; I've be reporting China for 30 years. The BBC repeatedly says I'm very hard to replace in China, and it's a very difficult job with lots of surveillance, police harassment, pollution, getting everybody from yak herders to Communist Party officials in front of the camera in a one-party state — that is not easy.

CN: Some people have said though that you know you are getting paid a very decent salary: 135,000 pounds.

CG: Yes, I would agree.

CN: You’re privileged to do the job that you do.

CG: I would agree.

CN: So this isn't about asking for more money?

CG: For me, the money is not the issue. The issue is the equality. The money gets in the way. I always had a problem with that. It would look in my own mind that I was asking for more money because I was asking for equality, but all I want is equality. I don't have a problem with being flexible about pay.

CN: What has been your bosses’ reaction to what you've done in the last 24 hours?

CG: Well, they haven't told me. Actually, to be fair, one boss overnight just wanted to check I was OK for the “Today” program?

CN: Are you okay to do your shift that you’re scheduled to do?

CG: Yeah, but I think that's fine. I mean we're professionals. Just go and do the job.

JD: That was the BBC's Carrie Gracie, speaking to “Channel Four News” anchor Cathy Newman earlier today. Ms. Gracie resigned her post as BBC's China Editor in protest this weekend, to take a stand against the gender pay gap.

[Music: Indie rock]

Germany climate targets

Guest: Franziska Brantner

JD: When it came to tackling climate change, Germany has been held up as one of the world's most ambitious slashers of greenhouse gas emissions. Today though, that reputation is in jeopardy. As a part of coalition talks, there are reports that the government will scrap its much-touted plan to slash C02 emissions by 40 per cent from 1990 levels by the year 2020. Franziska Brantner is an MP with the German Green Party. We reached her in Berlin.

CO: Ms. Brantner, what did you think when you heard this report that Germany's climate change goals may be abandoned?

FRANZISKA BRANTNER: I was really disappointed and really appalled. And I almost couldn't believe it that this new, probably coalition government will give up on the 2020 goals. It's not acceptable. We have those goals we have set internationally, and we need to achieve them to protect our climate.

CO: But you say you were surprised, but it seems the writing has been on the wall for this target for some time in Germany. That there were reports in the summer that Germany would miss this 2020 goal. So I mean as disappointing as it might be, is it really surprising?

FB: It's not surprising if the Social Democrats are going to enter government because in Germany, if we would want to reach the 2020 goals, we'd have to stop some of the dirtiest coal plants we still have in Germany. And the Social Democrats are defending the coal plants because of the unions there. So in that sense, it's not surprising, but it's disappointing because we had elections in Germany in September, and because there was no clear majority for any party, we had difficult coalition talks in the fold between the Conservative Party, the Liberals, and us the Greens. And we had agreed on a way to actually meet the 2020 goals. And not just to set it, but to you know to take steps that were realistically taking us to the 2020 goals.

CO: You mentioned the coalition, and this is what's behind this, isn't it? Chancellor Angela Merkel and the Christian Democratic Union are seeking to have a coalition with the Social Democratic Party. And is that where the pressure is coming from? Is it possible for the Acting Chancellor Merkel to actually have a coalition if she doesn't agree to do water down or abandoned these climate change goals?

FB: It will be difficult for her. There are also forces within the Conservative Party that want to abandon those goals. But if you have at the same time a force like the Social Democratic Party that is actively lobbying for keeping the coal plants open, then it makes it easier for those forces within the Conservative Party that have the same opinion to push that agreement through. But it's very sad because we had a plan, we had concrete steps, we had the biggest companies in Germany behind us. Everybody had sort of agreed on it. And it's sad to see that we're not trying even to make that step, even though at least in Germany, we just have again flooding all over, and we see that climate change is real. And we're not doing anything against it. It's very disappointing.

CO: But if you had this consensus and you felt this momentum and you had corporations behind you, why is it not possible to follow through? What would Germany and Germans have to do in order to actually get close to these goals?

FB: One major step would be to close down the ten dirtiest coal plants we have in Germany because they are still very old and are still producing a lot of CO2. And are at the same time, blocking renewable energy from entering the market. So we would have to change also something in our mobility. So you know it's all feasible, it would actually lead to a lot of innovation and new jobs, and it's sad that we won't get there because that needs government decisions to be taken.

CO: There are polls that show that Germans in general support these goals, and wanted to be this climate change champion. But at the same time, what sacrifices would Germans themselves have to make? And would they be willing to? I mean to change the source of energy and to have more renewables or to get rid of the coal plants that would be one thing. But would Germans be willing to change their lifestyle in any way in order to meet those goals?

FB: That actually doesn't require lifestyle changes. What it requires is, of course, that so far, we still have up to 20,000 people working in Germany in the coal industry. So we would need to find, of course, new training and new jobs for those 20,000 people. We are 80-million, so we're talking about 20,000 still, of course, I don’t want to deny that those people would have to find new jobs and a new future. And would have to finance that, but that is feasible. It doesn't touch somebody who is not working in the coal industry. If we want to go further then it becomes harder if we want to reach the 2040 goals etc and the 2050 goals. Then we talk about how do we produce in agriculture? How do we drive? What cars do we drive? Then we get into questions of you know lifestyle that's for sure. And then we need even more innovation.

CO: From an international point of view — a Canadian point of view — even what you're going to accomplish is impressive. I mean Canada is not going to reach its goals. Ambition was to cut greenhouse gases by 30 per cent to 2005 levels, and that's by 2030, so not anywhere nearly as ambitious as what Germany was going after. The United States is expected to abandon their goals altogether. So compared to other countries, Germany was doing pretty good, don't you think?

FB: No, we're slagging over the last two years, unfortunately, and we have been you know dragging on. I think a new champion really is France. Its President Macron has been quite ambitious. So no, I think the championship we will hand it over to France.

CO: We will leave it there. We'll be following this story. Ms. Brantner, I appreciate speaking with you tonight. Thank you.

FB: Thank you so much.

JD: Franziska Brantner is an MP with the German Green Party. We reached her in Berlin.

[Music: Guitar]

Injured driver

Guest: Samantha Mongeon

JD: Sabryna Mongeon spent Christmas Day in the hospital. She was lucky to have survived to make it there. In the early hours of December 25th, the 18-year-old from Gatineau, Quebec lost control of her car. But it wasn't until she stepped out of the car that the real damage was done. She was electrocuted, and went undiscovered in the cold for hours. She was so badly injured; her doctors gave her a choice: she had to have all of her limbs amputated, or she would die. She chose the surgery. Her older sister, Samantha Mongeon, is raising money to help Sabryna. We reached Samantha in Montreal.

CO: Samantha, how is your sister doing?

SAMANTHA MONGEON: I just see her, and she is in a fake coma for the moment — maybe for one week again.

CO: And she's in the hospital. Your mother is with her at her side all the time; you've just arrived.

SM: Yes, I just arrived because I have a little baby of four months, so I need to take care of him.

CO: But you want to be with your sister?

SM: Yes, so I try my best to come to see her all the time I can.

CO: How is your family coping with all of this?

SM: We try to be strong for Sabryna.

CO: Can you tell us who where she was going on Christmas Eve, when the accident happened?

SM: When the accident happened, she see the road was very dangerous. So she want to go back at my mom’s place. Then, she take a back road, and it’s at this moment she lost control of her car.

CO: The car went into a hydro pole.

SM: Exactly, she was very scared her car start fire. So she just go out of the car, and it had this moment and she'd be electrocuted.

CO: So she got out of the car because she was afraid it might catch fire. But the hydro wires that were down from the pole were live — they were hot.

SM: Yes.

CO: And her one foot was affected by this.

SM: Yes, she lost her left foot. And her hands and her foot was burned.

CO: Was burned.

SM: Exactly. And after that, she waited for hours for someone to find her. So she had frost in her hand and right foot.

CO: So on top of being electrocuted, and having the burns from the wires, then she froze — she had frostbite. Do you have any idea how long she was there after the accident before someone found her?

SM: four hours.

CO: Four hours that she was in the cold and with all these injuries.

SM: Yes.

CO: When she got to the hospital, what kind of shape was she in?

SM: Not in good shape. The hospital put her in a coma to stabilize her.

CO: As I understand it, the doctors brought her out of the coma to ask her what she wanted to do, is that right?

SM: Yes. So Sabryna be very strong. She said I want to fight for my life. I want to live.

CO: They told her though that the option if she didn't have the amputations what would happen to her?

SM: if she didn't get amputation, she gonna die.

CO: Your sister had to make that choice whether to go ahead with the amputations or not live.

SM: Exactly.

CO: She sounds like an extraordinary young woman.

SM: Oh yeah, she’s my hero. I don't know how to say that. I don't have any big word to say that.

CO: You have a crowd-funding campaign. People are giving you money to help with your expenses, is that right?

SM: Yes.

CO: How much have you raised?

SM: for now, I don't have time to check it because I'm there with my sister. But the last time is $88,000.

CO: And what will you use the money for? What does your family need with the funds?

SM: My mom needs to stay with her because she's gonna need to stop working for a while. My sister want her to stay all night and all day with her. And now, the people are just so generous. So I have extra money, and with this I can buy the right equipment for my sister — that best one — because she needs the best one. I want her to have a real life again.

CO: Your sister Sabryna sounds like a remarkable woman.

SM: She’s the stronger person I know.

CO: Samantha, I think you're very strong, and your mother sounds very strong as well. And I appreciate so much that you would speak with us. Thank you.

SM: Thank you.

CO: All right, Samantha. Bye bye.

SM: Bye.

JD: Samantha Mongeon is Sabryna Mongeon's older sister. We reached her in Montreal. At airtime, Samantha's fundraiser on the crowd-funding website Onedollargift had raised more than 117,000 dollars.

[Music: Piano]

Ray Thomas obit

JD: When you think of the great rock 'n' roll musicians, "flautists" don’t leap to mind. Ray Thomas, however, is a very, very special exception. Mr. Thomas, the founding member of the British rock group The Moody Blues, died last Thursday. He was 76-years-old. Mr. Thomas never took any lessons on the flute. His grandfather, who was a virtuoso, gave him the instrument at a young age. But he was too busy singing in choirs and learning harmonica to take it seriously. But in the early 1960s, in Birmingham, England, he started playing with R&B groups like El Riot and the Rebels, and the Krew Cats, and he began experimenting with the flute. And he found it lent itself to the creation of psychedelic sounds. And before long, Mr. Thomas and his bandmates were paving the way for a shift to a new progressive rock sound. When The Moody Blues formed in 1964, Mr. Thomas was already contributing vocals, and writing many of the songs. But it was his haunting flute that helped give the band their distinct sound. As he told Hit Channel in 2016, quote, "the thing was, the flute blends beautifully with the strings and the stuff on the mellotron." Unquote. In addition to his genre-defining work with The Moody Blues, Mr. Thomas leaves behind two solo albums, and the odd credit that only further speaks to his influence, like his backup vocals on The Beatles' "I Am the Walrus." In April, The Moody Blues will be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

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