CAROL OFF: Hello I'm Carol off.
JEFF DOUGLAS: Good evening, I'm Jeff Douglas. This is As It Happens.
CO: While dealing with the deal, you'll just have to deal. Despite Donald Trump's threat to scrap the trillion-dollar trade agreement, a former Mexican NAFTA negotiator says Canada’s Prime Minister and Mexico's President should stay calm.
JD: Fighting fiction with fiction. Viet Thanh Nguyen has written novels and essays revealing the distorting lens the U.S. applies to the Vietnam War. Now, his work has won him a MacArthur "Genius" Grant.
CO: Editor-of-"chief". A representative of the Toronto school board told us why it's eliminating that word from all of its job titles, and it seems most of you think that idea is a joke. In some cases, literally.
JD: A mist opportunity. Well, I assume it's thicker than a mist, but it is a spray that helps make buildings earthquake-resistant, and for the first time, a student's invention is being applied to a Vancouver school.
CO: It's fine to be a fan, but don't be so shingle-minded. Fans of "Breaking Bad" keep throwing pizzas onto an Albuquerque family's home, and after hitting the roof, they're taking steps to prevent more pies from hitting their roof.
JD: And...the times should be a-changin'. A reporter discovers that everyone in Labrador is part of a criminal conspiracy, because they're illegally, if unknowingly, setting their clocks to the wrong time zone.
As It Happens, the Thursday edition. Radio that guesses if you don't do that time, you haven't done the crime.
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Part 1: NAFTA: Mexico, Labrador time
Guest: Luis de la Calle
JD: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is in Mexico tonight, talking NAFTA with the Mexican President. Their dinner follows Mr. Trudeau's trip to the White House yesterday, where President Trump first threatened to walk away from the trade deal, and then speculated about the possibility of cutting Mexico out to begin talks with Canada one-on-one. Luis de la Calle is no stranger to unpredictable negotiations. Mr. de la Calle was one of Mexico's original NAFTA negotiators. We reached him in Mexico City.
CO: Mr. de la Calle, in their moments together, what do you think that Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Peña Nieto will share in the way of anxieties?
LUIS DE LA CALLE: Well, we have a common problem. His name is Donald Trump. I mean I guess the discussions will be around how to handle the new way that the U.S. is looking at things.
CO: And what do you think… what can they do about their common problem?
LDLC: Well, I mean Canada and Mexico have to make the rational argument. I mean we are right in supporting integration, open boarders, more global trade, more North American competitiveness and I think we have to make a strong case to Mr. Trump, his team and everybody else in the U.S. that an integrated North America is in the best interests of everybody.
CO: But that's the argument for decades. And that's what, first of all, the first agreement with Canada and U.S. together, then NAFTA. That seems to have been a consensus. Now, you're dealing with someone who is volatile and unpredictable, who says he wants to scrap NAFTA — he doesn't see the value.
LDLC: Yeah. Well, I don't think he's unpredictable. I mean I think he's quite predictable. I mean we know where he is. And his standing on international trade issues has been against open trade for a long time. So I don't think we’ll convinced Trump directly. We have to convince everybody else that he's involved in North American trade. I mean the governors of all the states in the U.S., the farmers, the entrepreneurs that export to Mexico and Canada, the think tanks, members of Congress. Because the stakes are quite high and they need to make clear to Mr. Trump and the White House that pulling away from NAFTA is not a good idea. It’s not a good idea for the U.S. and for Mexico or Canada.
CO: That’s the relationship that is this three way relationship. But the one between Canada and Mexico I want to talk about for a moment. Because what we're seeing is well, first of all, Mr. Trump saying to Prime Minister Trudeau well, maybe we can work something out between us. It’s Mexico that we have the problem with. We're hearing that from different sectors. You know maybe Canada and the U.S. can have a deal and cut Mexico out. What does that mean to you? What alarm bells go off when you hear that?
LDLC: Well, I mean Donald Trump doesn't like Mexico. I mean we know that for a long time. But I mean the realities of negotiations are a bit different. The Canadian and the U.S. economies are much more similar to each other than the Mexican and the U.S. economy. We tend to compliment the U.S. and also Canada because of weather, youth of our workforce, the number of workers we have available. So the U.S. tends to compete against Canada on many sectors, and tends to complement Mexico in many ways. So at the negotiating table, oftentimes, the more difficult subject matters are between Canada and the U.S. more than between Mexico and the U.S. So I mean I think Canada should be also concerned if the negotiations turn bilateral, as opposed to trilateral.
CO: But the chief reason why Donald Trump has said he wants to scrap NAFTA is because of a balance of trade deficits. The United States has as a deficit with Mexico; it has a surplus with Canada. It’s doing its doing much better in Canada than we're doing in the States by a small amount, and that's different from Mexico. If it comes down to that — if it comes down to Mr. Trudeau saying well, maybe I got to pull the plug on Mexico and make a deal with the United States — don't you think he'll be tempted?
LDLC: My view is that the responsibility of the geopolitical, political-economic and social responsibility of quitting NAFTA should be entirely on the shoulders of Donald Trump. And if he chooses to do that and the Congress allows him to do it, I think Canada and Mexico should think carefully as to whether we want to continue with NAFTA because Article 22.5 provides that if one party quits, the agreement remains in place between the other two.
CO: But you started out talking about the Canadian issue. And Canada gets tempted to say look, we better we better cut and run here. Don't you think they’ll do that?
LDLC: I hope not. I hope not. Because I think there's three reasons why we should keep NAFTA between Canada and Mexico in the U.S. left. I mean Reason number one, is that the entire infrastructure of NAFTA would remain in place in Mexico and in Canada, even with all the U.S. Secondly, Mexico would become a very important market for Canada. I mean Mexico is the largest market for U.S. soybeans, pork, poultry meat, corn, wheat from the Midwest and you produce many of those things in Alberta, in Quebec and Ontario. And Mexico would be a willing customer for your products. And finally, I mean there is a chance that if we preserve the NAFTA between Canada and Mexico maybe in four years’ time, the U.S. will come back and knock the door and say I want to be back in, and we may accept it.
CO: We've heard from Mexico's Foreign Minister, who says that Mexico is much bigger than the North American Free Trade Agreement. And Mexico has been making it clear that there is a line more than in the sand. It's firm and they will walk away if they have to. What do you think would make Mexico walk away from NAFTA?
LDLC: I don't think we'll walk away from NAFTA. I mean we might walk away from the negotiations, but I mean I think the responsibility of walking away from NAFTA should be on the U.S. exclusively. The impact on Mexico will be a function, not only of what the U.S. does, but mostly — 90 per cent I would say — in terms of the reaction we have on our side. The purpose NAFTA — the regional purpose of the NAFTA — was to open up the Mexican economy that was relatively closed. And we have to reaffirm investors, consumers and Mexicans that the Mexican economy will remain open. And we’ll continue opening up the Mexican economy with countries like Canada, of course, the European Union, Japan and the Pacific Alliance in South America. And we’ll do that regardless of the outcome of the negotiations with the U.S.
CO: Mr. de la Calle, I appreciate speaking with you. Thank you.
LDLC: Thank you, Carol. Nice talking to you.
JD: Luis de la Calle was one of Mexico's original NAFTA negotiators. We reached him in Mexico City.
From Our Achieves: Hostage release
JD: Linda and Patrick Boyle had been waiting a long time for this particular phone call. Their son, Joshua Boyle, a Canadian, along with his American wife and their three children, had finally been rescued from captivity. Here's what Linda Boyle told the Toronto Star in a video statement.
LINDA BOYLE: We got a call about 1 o'clock this morning, saying that they were going to be over in five minutes. And we were told the wonderful news that our family had been rescued. And then 20 minutes later, we were allowed to actually talk with Josh. That's the first time in five years we got to hear his voice. It was amazing. And he told us how much his children are looking forward to meeting their grandparents, and that he would see me in a couple days. So we're waiting for that.
JD: That was Linda Boyle, speaking to the Toronto Star today after her son was freed. The family was rescued by Pakistani forces with the help of U.S. officials. They had been held hostage by the Taliban-linked Haqqani network for five years. And last December, As It Happens reached Linda and Patrick Boyle for an interview. The Haqqani network had just released a video of the couple and their two young sons. Guest host Helen Mann asked the Boyles what it was like for them to watch that video.
PATRICK BOYLE: Oh, it was wonderful! It's just incredible to see our grandsons for the first time, and to see all four together as a family for the first time. Obviously, there were mixed emotions because while we're seeing them be normal, little boys, caring for each other and interacting and making faces and picking their noses. We're hearing Joshua’s leg-chains jangling. We're listening to their mother describe being defiled.
HELEN MANN: That's a terrible juxtaposition, seeing these little faces and then hearing that story.
PB: This is a story of juxtapositions for four years.
HM: Linda, how about you? Tell us about seeing the video, and the feelings that that went through you?
LB: I think just because of that previous video, I had actually purposely turned the volume off for the first time to watch it through. So I was just focusing on them and looking at them and I was just enjoying my grandchildren, actually looking at them for the first time. And so I watched that first and then it was just that sort of frightening, it shocks you and I guess it was one of them who heard the leg-chains. And on my gosh, they're shackled, and you know it's like oh, they look like such a beautiful family. And then the reality hits you.
HM: Looking at their faces, what you could see of them, what is your sense of their well-being? How they're doing.
LB: They're certainly healthier looking than the first two videos we were sent a couple of years ago. I think I found both of them a lot of… how would I describe it? Defiant anger, and I actually see that as a good thing because I think that's what keeps them strong and keeps them going. I think without that, they would just break. Josh, in one of his letters, says you know I guess we're lucky the whole family does have a sense of humour and we try and use that, especially in tough times to get us through. And he does talk in one of his letters about them just not understanding the irreverence of the Irish. And then in the next sentence he says by the way, I’ll need dental work. So it's a sad one because, obviously, he's referring to you know being beaten or whatever for that attitude. But, at the same time, it actually I know it’s that strength that keeps them going.
HM: So you recognize the son that you know in these videos?
PB: In these videos and in the letters, absolutely.
LB: Yes, absolutely.
PB: That is our Josh, and that's certainly the Kate we knew.
HM: Have you had any sense in the communications you've had from Joshua and Caitlan what their day-to-day lives are like.
LB: Well, we only got the first letter a year ago, and then a second letter a few months after that — nothing since, other than these two terrible videos. But it's been harsher than anybody imagined. It's where even when I let my thoughts go to how bad it could it be, I think it's passed beyond that.
JD: That was Patrick and Linda Boyle, in conversation with guest host Helen Mann last December. Well today, the Boyles learned that their son, Joshua Boyle, along with his wife and his three young children, were released from captivity after five years.
[Music: Sad piano is sad]
Listener Response: TDSB chief
JD: It was a pleasant conversation, but it did set off a title fight. On last night's program, we spoke with Toronto District School Board representative Ryan Bird. He told us about the TSBD decision to remove the word “chief” from job titles. Mr. Bird called the move “a proactive measure”, and he framed it as another step in the school board's work to improve Indigenous education, and truth and reconciliation. After that interview aired, many of you called Talkback to make sure you weren't listening to another CBC program.
[Sound: A loud beep]
FEMALE CALLER: I had to ask myself if I was listening to your radio satire news “This is That”? Are these people serious?
MALE CALLER: Life is imitating art here, because I thought I was in the middle of an episode of ‘This is That”.
FEMALE CALLER: It sounded like a skit from “This is That”.
MALE CALLER: If you're going to do a promotion for “This is That”, you should give us some advance warning.
FEMALE CALLER: I thought that I was listening to “This is That”, I can’t believe this person. Banning the word chief!
MALE CALLER: Without hyperbole, I've just experienced the longest period of “is this a joke?” authentically in my life. Thinking maybe this was Jeff and Carol hosting a special edition of “This is That”. Crazy!
JD: A small sample of the dozens of listeners who called us to make sure we weren't accidentally playing an episode of “This is That”. For some of you, however, confusing us with a satirical program was not your chief concern. Some listeners question the school board's decision, because it wasn't based on requests or complaints from within Indigenous communities. And many of you shared the view of indigenous writer and educator Robert Jago who, tweeted that the school board was using Indigenous people as, quote, “an excuse to act stupid.” Unquote.
[Sound: A loud beep]
FEMALE CALLER: Hi, my name is Trish Vahngart, I'm calling from Toronto. What a ridiculous decision! These people have lost their minds! Political correctness has gone way too far. Chief is a perfectly good word, and people should just stop using it in that derogatory way if that's what they think is happening.
[Sound: A loud beep]
MALE CALLER: Hi Carol and Jeff, it's Wayne Douglas calling from Thunder Bay. I just had to call. For my money, the only thing that your guest did with all of his attempts to try to rationalize and explain his idiotic move was to prove that he is chief: Chief Nitwit.
FEMALE CALLER: This is Penny Gill from Dundas, Ontario. We have students, mass numbers, plummeting. There was a suggestion that there be much more updated current positive information about Indigenous peoples history and contributions. Teachers said they need a lot more help with that. Focus time, money and effort on things that need to be addressed. This is absolutely ridiculous!
FEMALE CALLER: Hi As It Happens, my name is Janice Horne, I'm calling from Montreal. Actually, I would like to ban the word “proactive”, which he must've used about 100 times in his interview. The people at the Toronto District School Board should maybe learn a little bit about words and Indigenous history. And instead of being so proactive, actually talk to maybe some First Nations people and ask them if they think that the word chief should be banned from our vocabulary. I just can't believe it! Political correctness gone crazy!
JD: Well, thank you to everyone who called. You can find our interview with Ryan Bird about the TDSB’s decision to nix the word chief from job titles, and more comments on our website: www.cbc.ca/aih. You can also find us on Facebook or Twitter: @CBCasithappens. Email us: email@example.com. Or give us a call, we do love to hear your voicek, 416-205-5687.
Guest: James McLeod
JD: For over 80 years, it appears thousands of people in Labrador have been breaking the law — most of them probably unaware of it. Their crime: setting their clocks to Atlantic Time, instead of Newfoundland's quirky half-hour time zone. James McCloud is a reporter for The Telegram. He broke the story about Labrador’s illegal clock-setting habits earlier this week. We reached him in St. John's.
CO: James, what is illegal about setting your clock to Atlantic Time in Labrador?
JAMES MCLEOD: Well, it seems like the Newfoundland and Labrador government just never got around to recognizing that Labrador exists, at least from a time zone point of view. For the last 82 years, there's been a law on the books that sort of formally says what the Standard Time in Newfoundland and Labrador is. And at no point in our history has the government sort of gotten around to acknowledging that most of Labrador doesn't observe the same time as Newfoundland.
CO: OK, let’s sort this out. There’s a Newfoundland Standard Time and there's Atlantic Standard Time. Tell us where it begins and ends in Newfoundland and Labrador?
JM: Anyone who's listened to CBC Radio will know that Newfoundland has its funny little in half-an-hour time zone. That’s why everything is 6:00, 6:30 in Newfoundland. Officially, formally, the law says that the whole province of Newfoundland and Labrador is covered by Newfoundland Standard Time, which is three-and-a-half-hours later Greenwich Mean solar time. There is a little provision in the law that says the cabinet can pass regulations. They can fiddle with the lines and make exceptions for part of the province if they want. It just seems like they never actually got around to doing that. So nearly all of Labrador, by convention, going back certainly decades, I don't know when they started recording time in Labrador. But they basically always observe Atlantic Standard Time, which is half-an-hour behind Newfoundland. The government I guess just never caught up with that in terms of law. So in the course of some research I was doing I discovered this. And the fact that for the last 82 years, all the laboratory and who have been setting their clocks to Atlantic Standard Time have sort of been breaking the law.
CO: So and when you let them know is because you broke this story about all these scofflaws that are leaving Labrador. What was their reaction when they learned that they've been setting their clocks wrong? Do they care?
JM: Well, it's something between a shrug and a grumble. Labrador is a part of the province that's sort of least-densely populated. It's almost in some ways equivalent to living in like the Northwest Territories or the Yukon. In that food is more expensive, the roads in a lot of cases aren't as good, there's resource projects that people up there are often unhappy with you know where the profits are going. So this was sort of just another example of you know the government in St. John's has forgotten about us and doesn't care about us than. We're used to it because it happens with everything else.
CO: Who wouldn’t want to be part of that funny little half-hour time zone? I mean there are very few of them anywhere in the world, aren’t there?
JM: That's kind of how I stumbled across this. I was trying to figure out why Newfoundland is on this half-hour time zone at all? We are the only one in the Americas, although India and a few other countries in the Eastern Hemisphere are also on these half-hour time zones. But it barely makes sense for Newfoundland to be honest. The whole reason why Newfoundland is on a half-hour time zone is because the train system was headquartered in St. John’s, and St. John's all the way on the far eastern edge of the island. So it kind of makes sense for the capital city. But the farther west you go, the less sense this strange little half-hour time zone makes. And it certainly makes no sense for Labrador.
CO: It's one of those wonderful little distinctions I mean that just separates Newfoundland from well everybody else, right? That they've got this this half-hour time zone. Do people like it? Do they have a problem with it?
JM: Oh yeah, no, it's definitely a point of pride. I've heard politicians here sort of say it's free advertising every time the CBC announces the time of a program. You know just a little reminder to everyone else in Canada that Newfoundland exists. And actually, you know not recently, but back in the 1950s in the 1960s, there were two different attempts to move Newfoundland onto Atlantic Standard Time. And both times, the population just freaked out and the government was flooded with objections. And you know in the face of the backlash, they kind of backed down and said OK, OK we'll keep the half-an-hour.
CO: Well, now that you have broken this story and revealed that Labrador is breaking the law. How is the government responding? What does the ministry in charge of clocks in Newfoundland and Labrador?
JM: That is sort of the strangest part to me. Technically, this falls under the Department of Municipal Affairs for I have no idea what reason? But when I got a hold of the minister, the reaction was sort of yeah, we’ll look at maybe fixing that at some point. But you know it hasn't been a problem for the last you know however many decades, so it's not that urgent. So it may continue for a while longer yet that most of the people living in Labrador will be breaking the law whenever they set their clock. The lawyers that I've talked to sort of say you know yes, technically, what's happening up there is a violation of the law. But it's very unlikely that you know a half-an-hour would make a significant difference in a legal dispute or anything. So it's unlikely to ever come before a judge — it hasn't lived 82 years at least.
CO: I guess as they say, time and only time will tell.
JM: Yes, but you know at the moment it is I suppose a timely story.
CO: We could keep going, but we won't because I know there would be so man pun on this show because of this clock story that we can’t even begin. But James, it's great to talk to you. Thank you.
JM: Thank you very much.
JD: James McLeod is a reporter for The Telegram. We reached him in St. John's.Back To Top »
Part 2: MacArthur Genius Grant: Nguyen, “Breaking Bad” house
MacArthur Genius Grant: Nguyen
Guest: Viet Thanh Nguyen
JD: Viet Thanh Nguyen has won awards for his fiction and nonfiction. Last year, his debut novel “The sympathizer”, won a Pulitzer Prize. So it's obvious he's talented. Now, we know he is a genius… officially. Mr. Nguyen is one of 24 people selected as a 2017 MacArthur Foundation Fellow, known as a “Genius Grant”. It recognizes people whose work shows extraordinary originality and creativity, and it comes with nearly $800,000 Canadian. Mr. Nguyen was born in Vietnam; his family fled that country in 1975 and arrived in the United States as refugees. We reached Viet Thanh Nguyen in Los Angeles.
CO: Mr. Nguyen, first of all, big congratulations.
VIET THANH NGUYEN: Thank you so much.
CO: What was it like to get that phone call?
VTN: Well, of course, it was shocking and surprising. And I had to sit down for the duration of it. And even a month later, it still kind of a numb feeling.
CO: So the MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant said that they selected you in part for, this is a quote, “challenging popular depictions of the Vietnam War, and exploring the myriad ways that war lives on for those it has displaced.” Can you expand on that? Is that an accurate description of what you do?
VTN: Absolutely, that's fair enough. I mean the Vietnam War has been remembered by Americans mostly as an American war in terms of how it affects them. And the reason why that's important to the rest of the world outside of the United States is because the American view of the war has been exported globally everywhere, so that even people around the world who disagree with the American war are nevertheless only exposed to that perspective. And it's really only in Vietnam that you get a Vietnamese point of view on that. But even there we have a problem because the victorious Vietnamese have erased the defeated Vietnamese, and that population would include the Vietnamese refugee community overseas, of which I'm a part. So it's been very important for me to contest these American and Vietnamese perspectives. Not to say that they are completely wrong, but you know to criticize them in the same way that I would criticize even the perspectives of the Vietnamese refugee community. So finally, in a novel like “The Sympathizer” what that means is I set out to try to offend everybody, and in that way I hope to arrive somewhere closer to a truth.
CO; And in “The Sympathizer”, which is an extraordinary novel, you have this unnamed man, a spy, who comes from Vietnam to the United States, but is a man of two minds in every way. He's these two nationalities, two cultures, two worlds and plays on that. And that's essential to do the writing you're doing, isn't it? When you come to United States you're two people in one, aren't you?
VTN: Yes, and that was very, very much my personal autobiographical experience. But I think I've spoken to so many people of immigrant and refugee backgrounds, Vietnamese and not, who felt similar. I think most of us are not driven to the same kinds of extremes that my spy happens to be. But I think it's a very common plight for immigrants, refugees, newcomers to experience this duality very strongly initially, and oftentimes, very persistent throughout their lives.
CO: You mentioned the war in Vietnam from the American point of view is not just that it was in their history and in their experience. It's a huge part of their identity, isn't it? It's part of their culture and mythology. It’s part of songs and music. It's part of movies: “Apocalypse Now”, “The Deer hunter”, “Platoon”, all told from the point of view of what it meant to Americans and what damage it did to them. But war has this enormous effect on people, doesn't it? That's part of what you get to in like the refugees and in “The Sympathizer”.
VTN: Part of my conviction is that wars don't end simply because we declare an end to them. So this war ended technically in 1975, but the emotional consequences of the war would continue on for decades for everybody who was involved in it, whether they were soldiers, or civilians or even in the United States, people who were witnessing the for the war from afar. And I grew up with in a Vietnamese refugee community, in which it was very obvious that the war had not finished and that people were still fighting it amongst themselves. And you certainly get that sense in the United States that the Americans are still continually revisiting this experience, so much so that Ken Burns could produce an entire 18 hour documentary on this war 40 years later. And that may not be the last word on it as far as Americans are concerned.
CO: One of my favorite scenes in “The Sympathizer” is when your name is man is recruited to help a movie director to create a film about the war where he's going to use Filipino refuge as the extras. But really what he wants are just backdrop — some kind of scenery. And it's extraordinary what he goes through with his men. Where does that scene come from?
VTN: Part of it just came from my imagination. But a lot of it was based on what I found out about the making of “Apocalypse Now”, which is not the only movie that inspires that scene, but it's certainly one of the most important ones. And I suspected even before I did the research that “Apocalypse Now” might have used Vietnamese refugees to play the Viet Cong. And, lo and behold, that was actually true. And this just pointed to the absurdity of the entire situation — both of the war that was being depicted, but also the war that was being imagined. And the absurd place that the Vietnamese found themselves in. And again, because the American imagination of this war is how most of the world sees this war, it just felt obvious that I had to go here and satirize and undermine this American point of view.
CO: And we should point out this novel “The Sympathizer” is both a thriller and a satire, and quite extraordinary to put those two things together. I just want to ask you about what you're doing in Donald Trump's America now? How do you write about that? How do you talk about that given the reaction? Given what is happening to refugee policy? I know you've had quite a bit to say about that.
VTN: Well, I drink a lot, that helps. Besides that, I think I try to write what I can on various kinds of public venues. And in the function that I have as someone whose words can get published to draw attention to the plight of refugees and immigrants, and to their necessary, but also conflicted place in American society. This is a country that has placed immigrants at the heart of its mythology of the American dream. But has also periodically gone through spasms of anti-immigrant xenophobia, and we're going through that now. The hopeful part about this is that looking over the long view of American history, Americans have over time embraced more and more people from other countries. And we can do so again, but only through consciousness of our own history and through protracted political struggle. And that's the reality in which we're living right now.
CO: What would you like Americans understand about refugees?
VTN: I’d like Americans to understand that their own origins, at least Americans who are descended from the settler colonizers, their own origins are with refugees. Pilgrims are refugees. But, of course, the perception of refugees is very much a negative one in the United States and in many countries because they're not immigrants. They're perceived as being people who are unwanted, who are desperate, who are pathetic. But my experience with refugees is that they're actually heroic. The Vietnamese people who took to the oceans to escape from Vietnam knew that their chances were bad and their chances were about 50 per cent of survival in terms of crossing that sea. But, nevertheless, they undertook that. And whatever we think of the pilgrims, they also undertook enormous risks to come across the ocean as well. So we need to recognize that refugees are among the best people that we have not the worst.
CO: Just finally, this award comes with about… well, from in Canadian dollars, about $800,000. Do you have any plans?
VTN: You know that sounds better in Canadian dollars than American dollars.
CO: You could buy more drinks with that.
VTN: Right, exactly. I don't know yet, except that I'm going to use some of it to support an arts organization called Diasporic Vietnamese Artist Network that I helped start, and their blog, Diacritics, which I founded, which talks about Vietnamese and Vietnamese diaspora arts, culture and politics. I just have been too busy to take care of it. I'm going to hire editor to run it for me.
CO: Well, congratulations again, Mr. Nguyen. And thanks for speaking with us.
VTN: Thanks so much, Carol.
CO: Bye bye.
VTN: Bye bye.
JD: Viet Thanh Nguyen is one of this year's 24 MacArthur Foundation Fellows. We reached him in Los Angeles.
“Breaking Bad” house
Guest: Frank Sandoval
JD: Third season of AMC’s “Breaking Bad”, in which Walter White arrives home with a pizza for the family. Unfortunately for him, spoiler alert, his wife Skyler rejects him, because she just found out he is cooking meth. What comes next is one of the show's most iconic scenes: Walter white leaves, he throws the entire pizza on his rooftop in frustration. Since that scene aired, fans have been traveling to that same house to re-enact it. The problem: real people live inside that house. And they are so fed up that they have taken drastic measures. Frank Sandoval runs a local tour company. He has had to help the family several times by stopping people from throwing pizzas. We reached Mr. Sandoval in Albuquerque.
CO: Frank, how long have you and this family had to deal with these “Breaking Bad” fans throwing pizzas on their rooftop?
FRANK SANDOVAL: You know it actually started right after I would say midway through season four. Prior to that, you know it was coming up to speed. And you know I would say right about midway through season four we noticed. And we started doing tours about six months after the finale in season five. We worked on the show, our tours are run by people who actually worked on the show. And so we had met them and you know we built a very good friendship and a relationship with them and we noticed that it seems to get more popular as years go by. So I would say about two-and-a-half years ago is when they really started noticing.
CO: And how often do pizzas get hurled onto the roof?
FS: Well you know I think the word is out don't go there now, becayse they're well in tune. I would say probably the last time that we pulled the pizza down was about you know a couple of months ago. We actually pulled up and we saw some people who had just tossed the pizza on the roof. And I literally chased them down to get their license plate, but you know I couldn't catch them. But what ended up happening is the owner of the house actually caught a couple of people and made them get rid of the pizza and actually made them sit on the sidewalk. And you know she was going to call the police because I mean it's just getting ridiculous. I mean people just throwing pizzas on the roof. And it didn't stop with pizzas. And so I would say it's a regular basis. And you know a couple of months ago, we did a pull five pizzas off the roof. We carry a ladder on our RV, because they're an elderly couple and what we did is we actually climbed on top and there were three older pizzas sitting in the back of the roof that they didn't see.
CO: Now, do “Breaking Bad” fans realize that this is a real house that a real couple lives in?
FS: You know about 95 to 97 per cent of the people are very good. They have distinguished a correlation to reality and fiction. And so they're very good ant they're very respectable. It’s that three to five per cent of folks that you know really don't get it. I don't know if they just you know think the show is real, they have the intent to just say I'm going to do this and no I'm going to stop me and go throw a pizza. And it doesn't even stop there, she actually has had people park in the driveway just to take their picture with their car in front. And then she would come out and tell them to move and they would get very upset and they would refuse to move. And in some instances, they actually had to tell people to leave and call the police because they were free to move their car. So it's went from pizzas, to cars, to rocks — people taking rocks from the front yard. I know one time I pulled up and we had a full tour, I saw a guy on the property and the homeowners weren't home. And he was putting rocks in bags and refused to move. So you know we literally, physically removed him and called the police.
CO: He was just collecting souvenirs?
FS: I don't know why they take rocks? One person told me they saw a saw one on e-bay that was supposedly signed by Bryan Cranston. And I know this for a fact; they never signed rocks at the house. So if you're buying stuff off e-bay you know those guys didn't sign any rocks as far as we know, so they could be making it up just to make money.
CO: Now it seems that the family — the couple — has decided the only thing to do is to put up a great big, huge six-foot fence around the whole house.
FS: yeah, you know I mean it's sad that it has to come to that. But you know now they're fearing for their safety when you can't even sit down and have dinner and someone's looking in your window. They have enough signs that say please stay off the property. But, like I said, it's at three to five per cent that challenges it and wants to do it anyways. And we don't know why they do that? And so, at this point, you know that they've actually decided to put up a fence all the way around the house. And you know I actually looked up have other film locations had the same issue? And “The Goonies” house, they had to put up a wall and they put up a tarp. “The Sopranos” house had the same issue. And so it's unfortunate, but it happens I guess.
CO: Well, as you point out, there are those people who can't distinguish between a television show. Of course, I mean these days you know life does seem like one big reality show, doesn't it?
FS: It does. I mean you're not kidding me with everything going on. It's like living a reality show. I tell my wife I said are you sure we're not in a big giant movie like “The Truman Show”? You know it's just amazing you know to see you know how there are a few fans that can take it to a level that could be unhealthy.
CO: All right, Frank, we'll leave it there. I’ll let you get back to your tour. Thanks so much.
FS: Thank you guys so much. Thank you. We really appreciate you guys. Thank you so much.
CO: Bye bye.
JD: Frank Sanddoval runs Breaking Bad RV tours. We reached him in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
JD: “It's what I do for a living. It's what I do for love. I've put hundreds of hours, and my girlfriend’s put all her money into the car. To say don't play you stereo is Central Saanich is depressing.” The words of Dustin Hamilton, a BC man who has poured his heart and soul into his car’s sound system, and just wants to let them poor back out while he drives. But according to the noise complaints from people who live where he drives, his heart and his soul are way too loud. Corporal Dan Cottingham of the Sentral Saanich police says, quote, “People are saying their pictures are rattling on the wall and coffee cups are falling off the table. Little kids wake up crying in the middle of the night because the stereo scares them.” When Mr. Hamilton ignored warnings, he was hit with a punishment he believes is way off base… and the treble. Police ordered him not to play music in his car in central Saanich. More than that, in today's Victoria Times-Colonist, reporter Louise Dixon explains, quote, “Hamilton is prohibited from driving his PT cruiser at all in Central Saanich, unless he's taking his girlfriend to work and back. Dustin Hamilton has been to court to fight that order. Dustin Hamilton lost. And he'll be back in court in a couple of weeks to face a mischief charge. In the meantime, despite the risk to her hearing, his girlfriend Katrina Jourdenais continues to stand behind him, and sit beside him. And she seems on rattled by being constantly rattled. She got a new job at a place where Mr. Hamilton is permitted to drive. Just so they can drive together, with the stereo cranked. As she told Louise Dixon, quote, “I grew up in this town. I'm born and raised here. We've always had bass.”Back To Top »
Part 3: Earthquake spray, gas balloon record
JD: They just spent part of the summer in Montreal for vacation. As they're about to go home, things went south. And not in the way they had intended. Nadia and Ghassan Alasaad, and three of their four kids live just north of Boston. They all carry U.S. passports. The parents were naturalized — born in Iraq and Morocco — the kids born and raised in the USA. After their six day vacation in Canada, the family re-entered the United States at the Quebec-Vermont border, where they were pulled over for a secondary inspection. It lasted hours. Now, the Alasaads and ten other plaintiffs are taking their case to court. They are suing the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Patrol, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Jessie Rossman is the family's lawyer. She is also an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union in Massachusetts. And earlier today, she told Mike Finnerty, host of CBC Montreal's “Daybreak” what happened to the Alasaads at the border.
MIKE FINNERTY: Can you walk us through what happened to Nadia and Ghassan, and their kids as they crossed back into the U.S.?
JESSIE ROSSMAN: Nadia and Ghassan, as you said, were coming back from a family vacation, which unfortunately, turned into what can only be described as a parent's nightmare on their return. When they got to the border crossing, they were pulled into secondary inspection. Ghassan was actually taken into a separate room for questioning. His smartphone, which was unlocked, they saw agents searching manually that phone. And after about five hours of being held, the agents asked them and ordered them to open Nadia's smart phone, which had been locked. And the family objected for several reasons, one of which is that Nadia, according to her religious beliefs, wears a headscarf in public and doesn't let other non-related family members see her without her headscarf on. There were photographs on her cell phone without her headscarf and she didn't want strangers seeing it. There were also conversations between her and all of her kids that she didn't want exposed to a stranger's eyes. But they were told that their phone would be confiscated if they didn't turn it over. And, in addition, their daughter was very sick. Their 11-year-old daughter had a high fever and had been getting worse and worse three hours of detention. And so they really felt coerced into ultimately turning over the password to their phone.
MF: Jessie, I used to work at the Canadian border for Canada Customs at the time. And we were always instructed on the front line that if someone is a Canadian citizen returning to Canada that you absolutely cannot prevent them from returning home, unless you suspect they've got a forged document. I assume that's the same thing in the United States?
JR: What we believe the fourth amendment says and we think that there are court cases to support the arguments of our plaintiffs is that the Fourth Amendment, which is our protection from unreasonable search and seizure here in the U.S., continues to apply at the border. And the argument that our plaintiffs are making is this: if there is suspicion — there is probable — cause to believe that someone crossing back into the country has committed a crime and that there's evidence of a crime, then the agents would have authority to search their devices if they got a warrant, which is generally what happens in the United States. But absent that, these suspicion-less searches of our electronic devices violates the constitution. They can be highly invasive searches. They're humiliating. They're also unconstitutional and that's why our plaintiffs are bringing this lawsuit.
JD: That was Jesse Rossman, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union in Massachusetts. She was speaking to Mike Finnerty on CBC Montreal's “Daybreak”.
Guest: Salman Soleimani-Dashtaki
JD: Sometime in the next few weeks, a Vancouver elementary school is going to begin protecting its kids with an anti-earthquake spray. The spray does not stop earthquakes. It will be applied to the school's walls. It is the result rather of years of work by a Ph.D. student at the University of British Columbia's engineering faculty. His name is Salman Soleimani-Dashtaki. We reached him in Vancouver.
CO: Salman, what's the biggest danger to people during an earthquake?
SALMAN SOLEIMANI-DASHTAKI: You know it's people falling and debris because the structural engineers have building great work recently, and buildings usually don't collapse structurally. But non-structural components, so light fixtures and you know kind of masonry walls that crumble down.
CO: But it’s inside the buildings? It’s not the earthquake, it's the buildings?
SSD: It's the buildings, exactly. The buildings.
CO: What did you set out to try and solve when you came up with this spray?
SSD: I was looking at some of the common practices out there, and I realize what we do when we do s seismic upgrade of our school buildings in British Columbia. When it comes to masonry walls, we just you know take them out and replace them with something else. You know we use masonry walls for partitioning because they’re very good sound barriers. They're very good heat isolators. So we divide this space using masonry cinder blocks. And they are the ones that are most at risk because with even lower levels of shaking, they just crumple down. The building is still standing, but the walls are down and the debris are thrown at the students, teachers and other building occupants.
CO: So what are you proposing? Describe what the spray is, first of all, and what does it do?
SSD: So the material is called EDCC “Eco-friendly Ductile Cementitious Composite”, and its use as a hybridized system, so it is ductile because it can take a lot of the formation. We used different types of fiber with different combinations, different lengths and types. So the material, instead of fracturing and breaking in a brittle manner, will keep deforming and taking stresses and essentially bend instead of fracturing.
CO: There’s a kind of elasticity to this material then?
SSD: Yeah. And that's you know from a technical perspective, that is the key when it comes to and earthquake shaking. You want the building to deform and dissipate energy, instead of shattering.
CO: Without getting too technical, describe how it would work?
SSD: How it works is this material is a spray on system, so you take a very, very thin plaster of this material. So inside the corridor of a building, you just remove like lockers against the wall, the surface needs to be just cleaned and then you do a very thin layer — about 10 millimeters thick — of this material. You spray it on all the walls and then what it does it just increases the deformation limits that the wall can take before it to collapses.
CO: So it's like almost like a membrane?
SSD: It is like a membrane. It’s actually acting like a membrane, which keeps the wall intact, moves back and forth with the masonry blocks. So the mortar joints will crack, they move as the bricks open and close, but they stay intact so they don't fall apart.
CO: And if they if they weren't covered in something like this what happens? They start to shake and they pop out?
SSD: What happens is usually there is one or two maximum crack across the wall and the whole wall goes through is what we call “rocking”. So it goes a few cycles in out, in out and just crumples in either side…
CO: And lands on people?
SSD: Yeah, exactly. And debris usually gets thrown quite far away.
CO: In the case of schools, this is landing on kids — children.
SSD: Exactly, you know that's what we've seen in other earthquakes and around the world as well. Look at the Christchurch earthquake in New Zealand. That's exactly what happened. There was a lot of masonry buildings and that's what caused most of the fatalities and injuries because debris will land on people.
CO: All right, in theory this sounds great. Have you tested it? Does it work?
SSD: Yes, at UBC, we've done a number of tests from the smallest-scale material level all the way to full scale. So we’ve tested 20 walls in half-scale tests. But we also tested 10 full-scale, three-meter high walls on shake tables, exposing them to actual ground motions, so four of them without the retrofit, and six of them with a sprayed EDCC in different configurations. And we could shake them to magnitudes of 9.1-9.2, and they stay intact, they just ride with the shake and stay in place.
CO: And so are the school boards in the municipalities buying your product?
SSD: So this is now officially-recognized and approved retrofit technique for masonry walls. And this is actually going into a public elementary school in the next week or two in the Oak Ridge area of Vancouver. And at the same time, this is being applied in another building — another school building, a big one — in India, in the north part of India with a very high seismic zone. So it's essentially UBC technology, Canadian technology, is being applied worldwide, which is very interesting and exciting actually.
CO: You say it’s UBC technology. This is your engineering faculty, but you're just a student. So is the school pretty proud of you?
SSD: Yeah, I certainly feel part of this great team of researchers and amazing people I've been working with the past long time. And I'm so proud of being part of this team and part of UBC for sure.
CO: All right. Thanks, Salman.
SSD: No problem.
JD: Salman Soleimani-Dashtaki is a Ph.D. candidate in the Faculty of engineering at the University of British Columbia. We reached him in Vancouver.
JD: Even if you're one of those people who treats books like they're sacred, I'm betting there was one whose pages you would dog-ear, you'd rip right out maybe — pages on which you’d circle pictures of cool toys, as kind of a gentle hint to your parents. Around this time of year, the Sears “Wish Book” would land with a thud on coffee tables across this country. Families gathered around the catalog to pick Christmas gifts for friends, for relatives, for themselves. Now, that tradition is no more. With the company planning to close all of its stores across the country, the “Wish Book”, and other Sears catalogs are just memories. And so the CBC's Melissa Tobin went to a seniors’ residence called Nightingale Manor, in Gander, Newfoundland to speak with a group of women who reminisced about the catalogue that wants to find their homes.
MELLISSA TOBIN: Do you remember what it was like when the catalog would arrive in the house?
WOMAN: The quality of the goods was very good from Sears. It was superior to anything we could get here. And people would sit down in of the catalogue and order all their Christmas presents.
MT: What kind of things were you ordering from the Sears catalog for Christmas for your kids then?
WOMAN: Clothing mostly.
WOMAN TWO: RC cars and things like that.
WOMAN THREE: I know at one point we ordered the hockey game, right? And I hid it, but they found that while I was out. And they were experts by Christmas morning.
WOMAN TWO: It I gave you ideas about how other people lived sort of. What they were ordering, because you would be talking to your neighbours. And they would be telling you I ordered such and such from the catalog, you know? And usually, the next thing, you would be ordering pretty well the same thing.
MT: This is the first year that there are no catalogs. This is the first year there is no “Wish Book”.
WOMAN ONE: We’re very disappointed.
WOMAN Two: In 10 years time, people will say what are you talking about the Sears catalogue? They won't know what you mean.
JD: was CBC Newfoundland's Melissa Tobin, speaking with residents of Nightingale Manor, a seniors’ residents in Gander.
From Our Archives: Apartheid Activist
JD: Today, tears of joy and applause rang out in a packed courtroom in Pretoria, South Africa. It was a landmark decision relating to an anti-apartheid activist who died in custody almost five decades ago. The judge's ruling confirmed what many had long argued: that Ahmed Timol had been murdered by police officers. Mr. Timol was a 29-year-old campaigner against white minority rule. He was detained in Johannesburg in 1971, and just days after his arrest, he died, after falling from the 10th floor of police headquarters. Security police have long maintained that Mr. Timol took his own life to avoid confessing his crimes. His family campaigned for decades to reopen the investigation. Back in August, As It Happens spoke to Imtiaz Cajee, the nephew of Ahmed Timol, as a new inquest was underway. Here's part of that conversation with guest host Piya Chattopadhyay. This is from our archives.
IMTIAZ: CAJEE: Look, we've had absolutely no doubt for the last 45-46 years that my uncle could have never committed suicide. Ahmed Timol was already the 22nd person to have died in police detention. I've always looked at the photographs of his body. My grandmother's vivid details of the marks and bruises and torture on his body. It was not new to South Africa at that particular time.
PIYA CHATTOPADHYAY: What have you learned from the testimony pathologist at this inquest?
IC: We've had two different pathologists who definitely confirmed that there were a number of marks and bruises on his body that were prior to him falling. He had a broken left ankle, his left jaw was broken, his head was beaten into, his face was badly disfigured. And all these marks and bruises was prior to him falling.
PC: And what about his fellow detainees? What did they say about their own detentions?
IC: In all their testimonies, they were deprived of sleep. They were not given food. They were physically beaten and mentally tortured. Now, if these three detainees, who had absolutely no involvement in setting up of the underground cells, if this is the torture that was meted out to them, then you can only imagine Ahmed Timol, the leader of the cell. Who openly confessed to be a member of the Communist Party and openly declared specific details about his operation.
PC: Mr. Cajee, why is it so important to you that this inquest take place some 46 years after your uncle's death?
IC: Look, I think it's very important for us to preserve and to honor his legacy and dignity. I think that is the one particular reason. We want the annals of history to correctly reflect that Ahmed Timol did not commit suicide. And I think most importantly, in a current South Africa, his death and the deaths of so many other people should inspire us as a people and as a nation to build our beloved country.
JD: From Our Archives, that was Imtiaz Cajee, speaking to guest host Piya Chattopadhyay on this program back in August. He was speaking about the inquest into the death of his uncle, Ahmed Timol. The judge presiding over the case has since praised Mr. Cajee for his efforts in reopening the case, and urged other families to come forward. This was the first inquest to specifically look into deaths in police custody in apartheid South Africa. It is hoped that it will inspire the reopening of other cases.
Guest: Laurent Sciboz
“The Super Bowl of balloon races”, that is how the National Post described the annual America's Challenge Gas Balloon Race. Competitors start in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and just see how far they can go. Well this year, a pair from Switzerland has been hailed the unofficial winners. As a formality, race organizers still do have to verify their equipment. But the team had a record-breaking race that covered 3,666-kilometers. The team had guessed the might end up somewhere in Quebec, and they were close. To tell us where they did land, we reached one of the balloonists, Laurent Sciboz.
CO: Laurent, congratulations.
LAURENT SCIBOZ: Thank you.
CO: Now, where exactly did you finish the race? Where did your balloon come down?
LS: Just in front of Labrador City — a few kilometres north of Labrador City.
CO: Did you know you were landing in Labrador when you came down?
LS: Yes, absolutely, because we used a Swiss software with old maps in the iPad. And we had all of the maps and topographic maps to be sure of where we are. I think this is the first time in Labrador and maybe Newfoundland to have a gas balloon landing.
CO: I suspect you're right. This is the first gas balloon that's landed in Labrador, especially the one that came from New Mexico.
LS: Yes, you're right. Absolutely, yes.
CO: What was your favorite part of this 60 hours of flying? What did you fly over that was most exciting for you?
LS: The most exciting was for me to cross the Superior Lake. The Superior Lake was like a blue sphere. It was so great. We flew through the Superior Lake to the north of Canada at full speed at 15,000 feet.
CO: Wow! And now when you finally came down, you're just in this little basket, right? You and your friend Nicola and your supplies, what did you have left in the way of food or water?
LS: Yes. We had sufficient water and food and our basket is a very small one for competition. It’s only one square metre. And one of the pilots is in bed and the other pilot is in command.
CO: And the other balloonists, second place was a team from Poland, and they came down at the Quebec-New Brunswick border. And then there was an American team that came down in Vermont. But you went all the way to Labrador. Did you know that you were leading?
LS: Yes because we have a constant contact by satellite with the first of command in Switzerland, where we are very good meteorologists. We use all the experience of solar impulse radar. They flew all around the world with a solar airplane. We used the same tactics to follow the wind.
CO: Why did you come down? Why did you finally decide to end your flight in just above Labrador City?
LS: Yes, yes, because it was the end of sandbags. To drive that gas balloon, we use only sand and it was the sandbags. We were on our last, and we need at least three or four bags for landing. It was time to reach the ground. Labrador City was a nice spot because after all that, there was no way without any human activities.
CO: Now, you know that the local fire chief, I guess people in Switzerland contacted the Labrador City fire chief and said there is a balloon that's come down in your neighbourhood and he thought it was a joke. How do you how did your friends in Switzerland convince people in Labrador City to come and rescue you?
LS: On the phone book because we need some help to take the balloon out because that was a few kilometers of Labrador City. Unfortunately, there were no roads. We didn't know that before landing and they helped us to take the balloon and all the materials in the city. There are a very strong support of public services in Canada. It’s a good friendship between Switzerland and Canada.
CO: Now, is everyone showing you these sites? Are you touring around, getting to see everything there is to see?
LS: Yes, we had a very welcome hospitality in the town. And there is a lot of people, especially when we got a lot of interviews from the local newspaper and the National Post in Canada. I know we are a very strong supporter from the population in Labrador City. It was very great for us because we come there like E.T. in another planet because we didn't know nobody. This is an incredible situation.
CO: Laurent, congratulations again. And thanks for speaking with us.
LS: Yes, thank you very much. Thanks to all Canadian people for their hospitality. Thank you very much.
CO: All right. Take care. Bye bye
LS: Yeah, bye bye.
JD: Laurent Sciboz is a Swiss gas balloonist. We reached him in Labrador City.
[Music: TV song]
JD: On the NBC show “The Good Place” the great Ted Danson plays a kind of mystical being who presides over a neighborhood in the afterlife. A neighborhood that is full of frozen yogurt shops. And at one point, the lead character asks him what the deal is?
FEMALE VOICE: What is it with you and frozen yogurt? Have you not heard of ice cream?
TED DANSON: Oh sure, but I've come to really like frozen yogurt. There's something so human about taking something great and ruining it a little, so you can have more of it.
FEMALE VOICE: That is very human.
JD: It's true... unless you're vegan or lactose intolerant. Ice cream is pretty much perfect, except that it's so great you're tempted to eat more of it than you should. Solution: a product that is essentially less good, but you can eat more of it because it's marginally less bad for you. Now, companies have done this slight ruining with pretty much every product on the shelf. And the main effect is massively improved health… for the companies, which is probably the main explanation for the latest miracle of modern agriculture: A low-fat avocado. The Spanish company Isla Bonita has just announced its existence. It looks like an avocado and has, according to the website, green, smooth and shiny skin and a soft and pleasant pulp. It ripens faster than a regular avocado, and turns brown less quickly when cut. But here is the main selling point: while it's 100 per cent natural, it contains 30 per cent less fat than most commercially available avocados. Now, it is true that regular avocados are high in fat. And for a moment, let's put aside the fact that it's mono and saturated fat, which is anti-inflammatory, good for your heart and full of nutrients. OK, that moment's over. So let's put that fact right back in front of us, then combine that fact with the fact that regular avocados are awesome. These facts raise a question: what kind of creature take something great and ruins it a little, just so we can have more of it?
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