CAROL OFF: Hello I'm Carol.
JEFF DOUGLAS: Good evening. I'm Jeff Douglas. This is As It Happens.
CO: Fleeing the place he fled to. One year ago, we spoke to a Syrian teacher and activist who abandoned his home in Aleppo for Idlib province — and now, with pro-government forces moving in, he says he may have to run for his life again.
JD: It's no place like home. After the Trump administration ends temporary protected status for people from El Salvador our guest will be forced to return there after spending 18 years and having three children in the U.S.
CO: Korea opportunities. North Korea announces it will send a delegation to the Olympics in South Korea next month — and if two figure skaters get to compete, they'll owe Montreal coach Bruno Marcotte a "merci".
JD: Korea counselling. Meanwhile Washington is reportedly pondering targeted strikes if North Korea tests any more weapons. But Daniel Ellsberg says even limited attacks could have limitless consequences
CO: And jousters for all. For the first time, a woman has the lead role in a production of Medieval Times — and tonight, the woman who would be queen explains what it's like to preside over the knight shift.
JD: And… He expressed himself, now he'll explain himself. A Miami Herald reporter is accused of grocery misconduct for going through the express lane with too many items — and then the judges came out of retirement to issue a decision. As It Happens: The Tuesday Edition. Radio that guesses the cart has stacked against him.
[Music: Theme]Back To Top »
Part 1: Idlib Latest, Figure Skating Coach, Express Lane
Guest: Abdulkafi Alhamdo
JD: Pro-government forces in Syria are moving in on the country's last rebel-held province. That province — Idlib — became home to many Syrians who had previously fled from other war-torn parts of the country. Now the U.N. says more than 60,000 people are on the move again. Since Christmas Day, eight hospitals in the region have been targeted. Medical staff members have been wounded and killed. And activists say whole villages in the southern countryside of Idlib province have been abandoned by residents. Abdulkafi Alhamdo is a former resident of Aleppo, a teacher and an opposition activist. We reached him back in December of 2016 when he was fleeing Aleppo for Idlib province. And that is where we reached him today at his home.
CO: Abdulkafi can you describe what it's like? You’re in the northern countryside of Idlib province, what are the conditions there?
ABDULKAFI ALHAMDO: In fact, the northern countryside of Idlib is witnessing a huge wave of displacement. Of course, they are receiving the displaced people from the southern countryside of Idlib. In the northern countryside you see, you know, convoys of lorries and trucks — those people who are fleeing the bombs — the hell from the southern countryside of Idlib. People just want to receive people, to feed them — all houses are crowded. Some houses have three or four families.
CO: And those people who have come from the south of Idlib, from the countryside, what are they telling you about why that area is now under siege?
AA: The Syrian regime is trying to advance into the Abu al-Duhur Military airport. If the regime reached the Abu al-Duhur Military airport theu could make an advance and they will be able to besiege more than 400 villages with a population more than 500,000 people. So they have two problems now, the heavy bombing their villages and the expected siege. A lot of people who are there cannot flee because they don't have cars. And some people cannot leave.
CO: When we spoke with you more than a year ago, December 2016, it was terrible what you were doing. You were you were trying to get out of Aleppo at that time, you were going to Italy because it was the last safe place that you could go to as the Syrian army advanced. Now this is happening in Idlib as well. What will you do?
AA: Idlib now is the last place people are displaced to. I mean, most people who are in this area are displaced from their original area — from Homs, from Damascus, from Hama, from Deir ez-Zor. Those people came here as the place to flee to. Now we are afraid of, you know, another displacement but this time where, how. Whenever my wife asked me ‘what should we do?’ I still don't know, really I don't know. And she know that I don't have an answer, nevertheless she repeats the same question every day or maybe more than once a day. The borders are closed. All the other areas are besieged by similar regimes. We couldn't resist in Aleppo until the last moment to surrender finally. What can we do? No one knows.
CO: Now the situation in Idlib and this final battle’s in Syria. You have the rebels, whom I believe you support, but they are caught between — their fighting al-Qaida on one front. They're fighting the Syrian government on the other front — that it just doesn't seem that they will hold for much longer. Is that your impression?
AA: For sure. Fighting Syrian regime, fighting ISIS and some groups which are related to al-Qaida, it's problematic for the rebels and they don't have any support from outside, as if the world wants us to be defeated because this is really what's going on here.
CO: And these rebels, the moderate rebels whom you support. Can they possibly win? Is there any possibility for that?
AA: Look the problem is how to manage life for those people who are in their area. I mean, it's a heavy burden for them. How can they manage to make a civil life and how can they defend these areas? I mean, the rebels might not win but at least they try. And this is what we can do and really appreciate what they do for us.
CO: Abdulkafi you have been outspoken about this. You do interviews like this, you insist that we give your full name, you don't want to hide your identity. Are you at all concerned that if the Syrian government is successful, whoever takes over Idlib, are you threatened? Is it dangerous for you now?
AA: If the Syrian regime took this area, there are two choices for me, either I’m dead or I’m outside Syria. I cannot be here at the place of the Syrian regime because I have nightmares that I am in the Syrian regime area or in the prison of the Syrian regime. This year this nightmare cannot leave my mind. A lot of nights I wake up afraid. My wife's asking me what happened, I said ‘Just the same dream.’ She knows what it is. Believe me this is the worst dream the worst nightmare for me — worse than death itself.
CO: How old is your daughter now?
AA: The next month she will exactly three.
CO: And can you — your wife keeps asking you ‘what are we going to do? What are you going to do? Can you get out of Syria?
AA: It's a difficult issue now. For example, today a girl was killed on the borders, she was the age of my daughter. She was 2 years old, she was killed by a bullet because she was trying to cross to Turkey. I mean, it's so dangerous. I know that it's dangerous for me, but for sure I'm going to try because in both cases and it will be death.
CO: Abdulkafi please be careful and we'll stay in touch with you.
AA: Thank you, thank you very much. Believe me we’ve lived this life for seven years and we know that now we are alive but we really hope now to see our children living their freedom. This is not what I hope. I have more concerns about my daughter, about my wife more than about myself.
CO: I hope you see that day when your daughter and your wife can live with that kind of peace and freedom. And I appreciate you speaking with us. Thank you.
AA: Thank you, thank you very much.
CO: Good night.
JD: Abdulkafi Alhamdo is a teacher and an opposition activist living in the northern countryside of Idlib province. That is where we reached him.
[Music: Ambient Electric Guitar]
Figure Skating Coach
Guest: Bruno Marcotte
JD: They made some quick diplomatic progress on the Korean Peninsula today. Representatives from Seoul and Pyongyang sat down for their first formal talks in over a year. Almost immediately they agreed that North Korea would send a delegation to the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in the South next month. Now only two North Korean athletes have qualified for those games. Ryom Tae Ok and Kim Ju Sik — a figure skating pairs team. And if they do compete in Pyongyang they will owe that achievement, in part, to Montreal figure skating coach Bruno Marcotte. We reached Bruno Marcotte in Montreal.
CO: Mr. Marcotte, how do you feel knowing that these two athletes, Ryom Tae Ok and Kim Ju Sik, may get their chance to compete in the Olympics?
BRUNO MARCOTTE: I think it's great. I think it's great news for them. It's great news for figure skating, because at the end of the day when you think about the Olympics you think about one of the biggest sporting events in the world. So you want the best skaters to be attending the competition. And this team earned the right to take part in this competition by qualifying last September in Germany. So I'm excited about that.
CO: And how did you come to meet them?
BM: A couple years ago I was a competition called the Four Continents, and that's the first time I saw them. And I was like ‘OK cool’ a team from North Korea never seen those guys before. So I paid close attention. I was not that impressed but I thought it was great, you know, to have somebody from a new country competing. Then last year I took part of a called the Asian Games with a South Korean couple. And I couldn’t believe how much people prove in such a small gap of time. So I went to talk to them, approached them and just told them how impressed I was, and they were really flattered, and they told me they knew who I was and that they’ve kind of been following my career as a coach.
CO: And so what were you able to do to help them?
BM: Well, to help basically they approached me to come and train in Montreal. And the reason why wanted to come train in Montreal is because they wanted to train with with Eric and Meagan. They wanted to get a program done by my sister to Julie Marcotte. The one thing I was able to help them with is basically their consistency are the way thry deliver the elements. And also the one thing that I was working hard on was for them to believe how good they are and hoe good they could be.
CO: You also coach South Korean skaters and it's interesting that North Korea and South Korea a great divide between these two countries and two entities I guess, the South Koreans. And so you brought them together didn't you? Because they speak the same language, they have the same culture. How did you find that relationship?
BM: Well, I think it's there's always curiosity, right? When you talk about an athlete in the same event they share the same passion, they share the same goal. And even though their lifestyles are different, what they do is quite similar. So when they were here in Montreal they were able to share a training site together and they would speak but they were not hanging out off the ice but they did hang out on the ice.
CO: You wonder though, when you're watching these skaters who share so much, have so much in common, and yet there is this divide isn't there. And you wonder if you could thaw the relations between the two pairs of skaters, maybe there's a chance of having some reconciliation on the peninsula.
BM: I think it goes Johan a lot further than the sport and figure skating. But when it came down to it, was the obvious thing is that their life was skating and they were going to do everything in their power to maximize the time they were here. So it was hard to get a feel of how they feel about what's happening or what might not be happening. The relationship that I had with them was the same relationship I had with a team from Canada or a team from Japan.
CO: Ryom Tae Ok and Kim Ju Sik, they have as I understand, qualified — they are the only North Korean athletes to qualify for the Games. But does that mean necessarily that they will compete in them? I understand that the North Korean National Olympic Committee didn't meet a deadline of October 30th. What do you know about whether they will be accepted to compete?
BM: It seems like, from what I read that was what I've been told, is I think the ISU, the International Skating Union, I think they will facilitate that if the North Koreans choose to go and compete the skating federation will find a way to make this possible
CO: So North Korea says that they will send a delegation of athletes, observers, performing artists, journalists. What do you think it will be like to see them enter the arena and enter the stadium on that march that they begin the event with? How do you think that will be for those two skaters?
BM: I think it's going to be a moment of pride. You know, it's not of achievement, just of pride because I don't think going there is ultimately what we only want to do. Ultimately, they want to be one of the best skaters in the world. So I think it's for them just the beginning of something better and greater.
CO: There will be, undoubtedly, a lot of expectation, a lot of pressure on those two artists. You say that you don't see the politics in it, and maybe they don't, but there will be politics. So do you think they can cope with that kind of pressure?
BM: I think, so I think the pressure every day. I think every athlete has lots of pressure. The pressure is different for everybody. On some Canadian athletes the pressure is to be able to pay for training, for some other people it’s the pressure not to let their country down. I think pressure is pressure — it's normal. But I think that the coaching staff will do a good job to make sure to keep them away from any distractions, so the thoughts in their heads are only about what they have to do with skating-wise.
CO: Will you be with them? Will you sit with them when they get their scores?
BM: I hope so. Well I will find out in the next couple of days, but I would like that.
CO: We'll be watching. Mr. Marcotte, Thank you.
JD: That was skating coach Bruno Marcotte. We reached him in Montreal. And later on in the program we will hear about the so-called ‘Bloody Nose’ strategy Washington is considering if North Korea tests another missile. Our guest Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers, believes that could be an extremely dangerous response.
[Music: 90s Hip-Hop]
Guest: David Ovalle
JD: If you wish to use the express lane at the grocery store there is a limit of items. You may have fewer than that number of items, but you may not have more than that number of items. It's right on the sign. It could not possibly be simpler and yet sometimes after you've counted and double counted your own items to make sure that you are following that understandable and easily followed rule. You can't help but notice something — that the person in front of you has more than that number. Why do they do that? What kind of person? No, you might even go so far as what kind of monster would hold everyone up like that? Well, recently David Ovalle was that monster — but he made an interesting argument as to why he broke the rules of the express lane. Mr. Ovalle is a crime and courts reporter at The Miami Herald. We reached him in Miami.
CO: David, take us back to this shopping trip of yours and you were buying groceries, you entered the express lane. What did the cashier say to you?
DAVID OVALLE: I think I had 13 items and I made the calculated decision that I thought I could skate by on this technicality that the four of the items were buy-one-get-one, or BOGO as they're known. And so, you know, which technically would have made it at like 9. So I go in and the cashier very nicely said ‘I'm sorry sir but you know this is too many items here.’ So it's kind of a little bit of an awkward stand off, because I didn't know what to do should I pick up my items and go to a regular checkout line. And then finally she just started ringing them up as I'm explaining ‘Look this is a buy-one-get-one,’ She said ‘No, no it doesn't work that way. Look I'm really sorry. You know that the manager is kind of cracking down on and having us do this.’ So, you know, she was kind of sheepish about it and I understood. But it was it was kind of an awkward thing, I've never heard anything like that happen to me before.
CO: You thought you could skate and you still believed that you were right and you were in the right lane on this one. So you took to Twitter and posed the question. This is the question you put on Twitter: “I counted a couple buy-one-get-one-free items as one, which would put me under. Am I wrong? What did you expect to get in response to that tweet?
DO: Oh, I was kind of hoping for validation and it turns out Twitter failed me. They the Internet has rained down judgement on me. I mean, it was good-natured, you know, it was a lot of people basically just saying ‘No man you're wrong, you're that guy.’ And a lot of, you know, former cashiers or people who are still cashiers basically saying I was a jerk. And because I cover criminal courts for Miami a bunch of lawyers started chiming in. And so it kind of became this running gag on Twitter that I was appealing the verdict from a judge because a judge had actually messaged me to say no BOGO is equal two items. And it all kind of culminated when this local blogger, who is a defense lawyer in town, wrote this five page opinion that was brilliantly done, exactly in the style of how our appeals court would do it with the actually researched case law and everything. In the end the final part is, you know, the supermarket has the right to force strict enforcement of the 10 item rule. It does not always do so. Ovalle may have ruined this for the rest of us. For those foregoing reasons the appeal is denied.
CO: And the appeal is quite brilliantly done, as you point out, that third district court of appeal state of Florida and you being the defendant and the public supermarkets being what you were going against, and the decision by these judges is not just — this is one the rulings — the court finds no reason to disturb the finding and decision of the cashier and thus holds the defendant, David Ovalle, was in fact in the wrong line. Ovalle’s cart had more than 10 and he was not eligible to use the express lane. Case closed.
DO: Case closed. And they were also relying on several Amicus tweets that were filed in the matter.
CO: There were other things that did come out in this appeal, which is that the ten items or less sign is in fact in ungrammatical.
DO: Yes. Yes, there it was a well-researched, very thoughtful opinion. You know, I think this got so much response because it's something that's always sort of — it's a relatable thing. Many shoppers have been those shoppers who are trying to skate by like me or other shoppers who are sneering at the person in front of them saying ‘That guy has too many you know items in their in their cart.’ So it was one of those things I wasn't expecting it is not the type of thing I normally write about, and I'm still waiting for the supermarket to clarify their policy for me. But they seemed to get a kick out of it. So I think they'll help me figure it out soon enough.
DO: I'm sure people listening it's as probably as it was in our story meeting this morning when we talked about your case, which is that people are divided between those who say ‘Well yeah, well, you know, it's just roughly, it doesn't have to be exactly 10 or less, or 10 or fewer as the grammatically correct way of saying it should be, you can sort of play with that. And others who were adamant that this is the strict rule and that we heard, even from those who challenge others in line, when they see that they've got more items in their care than they should. So have you heard from a lot of people?
DO: Yes. It divided our newsroom as well. Everyone was complaining to each other about it. And I'm not going to lie, I've been that guy who's been counting other people's things in line. But in this case I'm like well skate by on a technicality. So, you know, it's there's a lot of gray area and it, of course, it's always that Russian roulette of, you know, what line are we going to get when we get to the checkout so maybe we can go to the express lane. But yeah, no, I think I think it's something that everyone has an opinion about. But I think what did me in was that the item was cases of water. So I think it was so physically big that the cashier, it sort of caught her eye a little bit more than it had been a couple yogurts or something.
CO: So you couldn't get away with it?
DO: Couldn't get away with it — didn't get away.
CO: One of the conclusions of this appeal denied, “Ovalle’s specious arguments are precisely why Miami Herald reporters should report the law and not make it.”
DO: Yeah, I think I doomed it for the rest of us. So anytime someone else tries to go to the express lane with some BOGOs, I think, you know, you can just hold up this opinion and say get to the regular line. Quit trying to cheat the system.
CO: And will we ever see you in line with more items and you should again?
DO: No. And I actually — it was funny I had a colleague who now works for the New York Times — you know, admit to me I kind of counted up on my items I felt guilty about it. I made sure to go into the regular Lane. So no I’ve reformed my shopping habits.
CO: All right. Well, I'm sure we're going to hear from people. David good to talk to you. Thanks.
DO: Thank you. Appreciate it.
JD: By David Ovalle is a reporter with The Miami Herald. We reached him in Miami and we would like to read more about this story and see the appeal ruling head on over to our website: www.cbc.ca/aih.Back To Top »
Part 2: Salvadoran Deportation, Daniel Ellsberg: Nukes
Guest: Vanessa Velasco
JD: For nearly two decades they have been allowed to live and to work in the United States. But this week people from El Salvador with temporary protected status in the United States were told those days are over. The Trump administration is ending the temporary protected status program or the TPS program, put in place after a pair of earthquakes in El Salvador in 2001. Nearly 200,000 Salvadorans will have to leave the United States by next year and return to a country that is still struggling with extreme violence and poverty. Among them is Vanessa Velasco. She and her husband have lived in the United States since 2000. They have three American born children. We reached Ms. Velasco at her home in Brentwood, California.
CO: Vanessa what does this decision by Donald Trump concerning the temporary protected status, what does it mean for you?
VANESSA VELASCO: Well, for me it's you know just come and shattered our world. My family, we never thought we’d be in this position. And right now our whole life is completely changed.
CO: You have been in the United States since 2000 is that right?
CO: And you're under this temporary protected status for Salvadorans since then?
VV: Yes, since 2001.
CO: Did you think it was going to come to an end? You've built a life there, you've got children. Did you think that this was temporary? It is called the Temporary Protected Status, but you've been there for almost 20 years.
VV: Yes, we have been here 17 years with this temporary status. So we thought that may be something will come and give us a more permanent solution. But we never thought it would be terminated. And we have to face the decision to leave in about a-year-and-a-half.
CO: And when you heard that the Trump administration had decided to terminate this program and to send everybody out of the country, how did you feel? How did you react when you heard that news?
VV: I was sad but we already tried to prepare ourselves emotionally. You know the lase month we started to see what is happening with other countries and we know the Salvador well we're not going to be having special treatment. So yesterday just was like ‘OK now we have a deadline. It's time to think. What are the options we have? It’s time to fight with whatever we've got to try to keep our families together. That's what my first instinct was — right now the fight is on. I already cried too much. I already depressed myself too much thinking, right now is not the time.
CO: How old are your children?
VV: 17, 12 and 4.
CO: And how have you told them the news of this?
VV: I went to their room and told them first hand before, you know they hear it from someone else. We put them together. I told them that the news has come and we assured them, you know, we're going to do everything we can to be together and we're going to not let nothing bad happening to them. It's like just reassure them, you know, that that's what they need at this moment so they don't panic. Because they are kids, they are still in the school, they have projects. We don’t want them to start to break emotionally.
CO: Can you describe your life that you've had for these past these past 17 years, how have you lived? Describe how you put roots down in the United States?
VV: Well, in 2003 my husband, due to TPS, started with a company and he started to succeed and everything. So by 2003 we were homeowners. I home schooled my kids to a charter school and I was able to, you know, to stay with them and see them grow when my husband was working, succeeding. And we have a really nice middle class life in the U.S. We own our home, we have our cars, the kids are involved in the sports, were involved in the community and everything. So it’s like we made this our home.
CO: Do you feel that you are Americans?
VV: Yes, definitely.
CO: There are apparently 49,000 Salvadorans who are TPS holders, or Temporary Protected Status holders, like yourself just in California and a lot of them have children. The estimation, according to some in California, is that they would lose $2.4 billion in gross domestic product without the people from El Salvador who work in that state. Do you think there is any chance that there will be pressure put on the government, that there will be a reprieve or a change of mind before September 2019 when you're expected to be deported?
VV: As a TPS beneficiaries start to active and start to spread all the good things, all the benefits that each state has. Because we are active people, we produce and we buy. We were trying to appeal to that economic point and the humanitarian point too. It’s not much time but is still some time we may see some hope.
CO: But what would be the problem with going back to El Salvador? What do you feel that you'd be returning to that you don't want to go back to?
VV: Just to be returning to a country that I’ve never been to since we left. And, you know, those things are not better, people are still fleeing. The first thing is the violence. Guns are taking over our cities, our communities. Extortion, poverty, lack of opportunities, no employment — that's what we are fleeing. If we say if there is no any other way that we can to stay here or go to another country, I have to come back over there. These are the same things that we left, we're going to start all over again with it.
CO: We're also hearing that there are Salvadorans who would like to come to Canada to make a claim, even an asylum claim, rather than go back to El Salvador. Is that something you are considering?
VV: Well we're consider all the options that we can have. It's like I would like to go and my husband’s union has connections in Canada. My eldest daughter speaks French, and of course, because our country is the last option that we have. We have kids and putting kids through that is unacceptable as parents.
CO: Vanessa I hope things work out and you can keep your family together.
VV:Thank you so much.
CO: And thank you for speaking with us.
VV: Thank you.
JD: We reached Vanessa Velasco in Brentwood, California.
[Music: Acoustic Guitar Strums]
JD: We have all had uncooperative roommates. Say one who never washed the dishes, never vacuumed or left empty cans of Alphaghetti all over the kitchen, since that was apparently all he ate. And when I asked him to put them in the recycling he said he was busy, he was studying, but I know for a fact he was just watching reruns of Next Generation in his room. Anyway, no matter how awful our roommate may have been, at least he did reply when we spoke to him and paid the rent. Unlike CLOi who costs money and gets sullenly uncommunicative when you need her most. Yesterday LG gave its keynote address at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The CES is an enormous trade show where all the tech giants demonstrate how their latest superfluous gadgets will marginally improve the lives of all those rich enough to afford them. In LG’s case one of those gadgets was a so-called ‘smart home robot’ named CLOi. Robot? Yes. But CLOi is either not smart or CLOi is a jerk. Here are a few awkward moments from the presentation yesterday by LG's vice president of marketing David VanderWaal.
DAVID VANDERWAAL: Let me show you how LG AI can transform an everyday routine like laundry. CLOi what's my schedule?
CLOI: You need to go to the gym at 10:00 a.m. today. Power up, power up. Smart learner has set the washer to the sportswear setting.
DV: Sounds like the perfect setting for my workout gear. Thanks CLOi. CLOi. Am I ready on my washer cycle? Even robots have bad days. So if we had the washing cycle ready to go…And we're gonna see a variety of tags here. We can leave notes for our family members. We could also check the expiration dates of food ingredients. So in this case we're going to go to find out that we've got chicken in the refrigerator and it's expiring in three days. It looks like we should use the chicken. CLOi. Are you talking to me yet? What recipes could I make with chicken? OK we're going to search recipes and we're going to find buffalo chicken pizza. Buffalo chicken pizza sounds good…
JD: That was David VanderWaal, V.P. of Marketing at LG attempting to demonstrate the company's new smart home robot CLOi yesterday at the enormously important consumer electronics show in Las Vegas.
Guest: Daniel Ellsberg
JD: As we heard earlier on in the program, North and South Korea reached a minor diplomatic breakthrough today, in that North Korea will be sending a delegation to next month's Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Apparently though, Washington is not thinking about diplomacy through sport — or about diplomacy at all. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Trump administration officials are debating what they're calling a Korean “bloody nose strategy.” The paper describes the proposal as a plan that would answer Pyongyang's next nuclear or missile test with a quote “targeted strike.” That is the kind of strategy that Daniel Ellsberg says set him on the path to leak the Pentagon Papers. Mr. Ellsberg a new memoir is called The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner. We reached him in Berkeley, California.
CO: Mr. Ellsberg. What goes through your mind when you hear reports that the Trump administration is working on a bloody nose strategy to launch targeted strikes against North Korea?
DANIEL ELLSBERG: It tells me that the administration is desperate that talks between South Korea and North Korea, without the U.S. involved should succeed in derailing U.S. policy, which is supposedly aimed at denuclearizing North Korea altogether. That aim is almost certainly totally infeasible, and if that's a condition of talks it means there will be no talks. If it's a condition of success in the talks there will be no success.
CO: We heard Kim Jong Un today, he's saying that the United States is his only target for his nuclear arsenal, and that he claims he has the capacity to attack the United States with nuclear weapons. What alarm bells go off for you? What do you think is going on in Pentagon circles? What plans might they be making if that's the kind of noise we're getting from North Korea?
DE: Surely they are considering the Pentagon the possibility of disarming North Korea entirely of its nuclear weapons, both against the United States, if any, and against South Korea and Japan where they undoubtedly have very large capability. Almost surely they're being told by our intelligence that there's virtually no chance of disarming their entire arsenal with any confidence at all, given the many, many tunnels in North Korea and their ability to hide mobile missiles and warheads in those tunnels. Probably nothing less than a ground invasion would provide even a modicum of confidence that you'd gotten them all, and it might take months to do that. It would be another Korean War, except this one would involve probably a two way use of nuclear weapons. In short, it would be an unparalleled catastrophe with millions dying within days or weeks — something that's never happened. So the military are almost surely to come up with some alternative to that under presidential pressure. They would say ‘well rather than a full scale attack, we could hit just the missile site, just a test zone.’ Well, what is possibly the purpose of doing that? The unspoken purpose would be to derail the South Korean - North Korean talks that have just started for the first time in over a year, taking the focus away from the United States and its threats and moving toward a resolution which the Trump administration has recklessly defined as inadequate. Namely a solution that leaves North Korea with some or all of its current fission warheads but averts it from getting H-bombs or ICBMs. It may have prototypes of both of those. And the reason by the way that they have it, is very clearly, to deter the U.S. from the kinds of attacks the U.S. has been exercising and threatening for years, namely invasion of North Korea, assassination of Kim Jong Un, so-called decapitation of the regime against their command and control. North Korea has been saying now, and preparing for a long time, to respond to any such limited attack with a full scale attack, on the grounds that eventually it would escalate and it's better for them to escalate sooner rather than later. That too is a crazy idea, a desperate crazy idea, but not more crazy or desperate than NATO planning has always been.
CO: Your book, your latest book, The Doomsday Machine, it's very chilling to read what you saw in those days in the sixties about the cold calculation of numbers of people who would die if there should be a nuclear war. Do you think that the Pentagon chiefs have those numbers now, they actually have calculated the numbers of people who might die if there is a so-called “limited nuclear war” with North Korea?
DE: Almost surely they have made those calculations and the very fact that Lindsey Graham made this public statement that these casualties — and he said thousand — he might well have said hundreds-of-thousands or even millions. But he said thousands of deaths would all be over there. Well, that's the kind of cold maniacal calculation that was true in the early 60s and later. And by the way, on a smaller scale during Vietnam, every time there was a real prospect of negotiations some military dreamed up — and civilians went along with them — a bloody nose to show how tough we were and to show the terms must reflect our demands in the end. And time after time negotiations were aborted by an attack by the U.S. closer to the Chinese border or to Hanoi than ever before. For that matter the Second World War, in the Pacific, may well be said to have started with the Japanese hoping to give the U.S. a bloody nose at Pearl Harbor. Of course, it brought the U.S. into the war full scale and determined to win.
CO: What would you like to see some brave person leak from the Pentagon that at this point?
DE: Well, I am sure there are estimates and calculations, inside the Pentagon and the CIA, that spell out the catastrophic consequences of a North Korean response to a very limited U.S. attack, as well as their response to a bigger attack. And those calculations, I'm sure, will show what the president is considering would involve more violence in a day or a week than the world has ever seen in human history. The deaths of hundreds-of-thousands to millions — several millions of people — within a matter of days or a week. Something that's never been seen and would be a precedent, I'm sorry to say, for small limited nuclear wars in the future, having broken that taboo against carrying out nuclear threats that has persisted so long. So for them I would want someone with access to such studies to make it clear to Congress and to the public what is being contemplated in the hopes of mobilizing a very fast public response, as there was, by the way, to the president's attempts to keep all the immigrants out of the country when people flooded the airports. The discovery that we are contemplating initiating a war instead of negotiations between and the north and south, I would hope would mobilize a similar result and keep the president from this stupid reckless move.
CO: Mr. Ellsberg, I appreciate your insights today. Thank you.
DE: OK thank you.
JD: Daniel Ellsberg is the man who leaked the Pentagon Papers. He's also the author of the new book The Doomsday Machine: Confessions Of A Nuclear War Planner. We reached him in Berkeley.
Donnelly Rhodes Obit
JD: Back in the glorious 1980s that theme music signaled the start of a half hour of heart-warming environmentally friendly programming — Danger Bay. The show was set along the B.C.’s Sunshine Coast and it featured a brother and a sister who will always being rescued by the show's anchor — their single parent dad Grant “Doc” Roberts played by Donnelly Rhodes. Donnelly Rhodes died yesterday in Maple Ridge. He was 80 years old. With him went one of the Canadian screen’s great voices. Donnelly Rhodes lent that voice to some of the productions that put Vancouver on the map as a place to make great television, shows like The X Files, Da Vinci's Inquest and more recently Battlestar Galactica and The Romeo Section. But in 1986 Mr. Rhodes was best known for Danger Bay and that is when CBC Radio's Erika Ritter put him on her show Dayshift to talk about cruising the B.C. coast with his partner in their old pilot boat and stopping off at places like Telegraph Harbour.
DONNELLY RHODES: It's a lovely quiet little bay. There's a small marina there with a store and you can get fuel and then you can take your dinghy and just take a short trip out to Clam Bay, and when the tide goes out you can dig up a pail of clams or you can knock off some oysters off the rocks which Diane did and then had oysters on the half shell with the white wine for lunch.
ERIKA RITTER: Tell us about some of the wildlife, apart from marine life, apart from oysters and clams and that kind of wildlife?
DR: Marine life, of course, you know, you see killer whales. It's incredibly exciting to see whales in the wild. You know, they just come up all of a sudden and everybody just gets, their adrenaline just gets rushing, and they rush around the boat going ‘Wow.’
ER: And the whales spout and do all those things.
DR: Yeah they're beautiful, they're absolutely beautiful.
ER: In the minute or so that we have left, tell me where is Danger Bay, which is a place that you see a lot of on your weekly show.
DR: There is no actual place called Danger Bay. But we film it all around Vancouver, you know, you can be in the wilderness five minutes out of Vancouver. Today we're up Indian Arm and off in the bush just up there on the watershed. And there are black bears up there. We saw them on the way to work and I saw two deer and a fox this morning.
ER: This sounds like an ideal job for a man who likes wildlife and sailing.
DR: That's a fantastic job.
JD: That was the late Donnelly Rhodes in conversation with CBC Radio's Erika Ritter in 1986. The Da Vinci's Inquest and Battlestar Galactica, and of course, Danger Bay star died yesterday in Maple Ridge, British Columbia. He was 80 years old.Back To Top »
Part 3: California Mud, Medieval Times Show
JD: Has the Fleming family in Kerry, Ireland ever considered hiring exterminators? Now that's not a question I just throw out to just anyone. I asked the Fleming's because, well, we interviewed them back in September when a bat flew into their house and then flew around their house. They had yet another invader to deal with this week. You will remember the Fleming's, their home video shows their son Tadhg egging on his Derry, kind of like “Catch him Derry, Derry.” You remember them. Derry is standing on a chair in his socks trying to capture a bat with a tea towel. Well, this week the Fleming's had a mouse to reckon with. And this video shows Tadhg in the bathroom this time searching for the mouse. And then he enlists Derry to help him. Here's what that sounded like — involving as you can imagine, a bit of language.
TADHG FLEMING: I see you somewhere. Ahhhh!!!! Jesus Christ Derry. Derry, Derry! Quick there’s another animal. There’s a mouse in here, I’m telling you. Close the door or he’ll be out. There’s a mouse in there I’m telling you.
DERRY FLEMING: There’s not. There’s nothing there.
TF: Jesus, Dad! There he is, there he is. Christ, did he bite you? He went underneath there, I seen it he went straight under. Suzie! Here quick, he won’t get away from us this time. Here I’ll hold up the jacket. Did you catch him?
DF: No, there’s nothing there.
TF: Look, there he is!
TF: I seen him he’s going over there now. He has the whole place upside down.
JD: Tadhg Fleming and his dad Derry trying to catch a mouse at their home in Kerry, Ireland. And unless as Tadgh suggested there, they start locking the doors and windows, well, we look forward to more family wildlife videos.
[Music: Whimsical Banjo]
Guest: Howard Cannon
JD: As we go to air officials say at least half a dozen people are dead in southern California. Heavy rains have caused flooding and mudslides in the area that was recently hit by wildfires. Howard Cannon is a resident of Montecito. He has been evacuated from his home. We reached him in Santa Barbara California.
CO: Howard, what does it look like in your area since all this rain started coming down?
HOWARD CANNON: Muddy, very muddy. I am now — I have evacuated my area and I'm down in Santa Barbara proper on the beach. And so it's very nice here, we're just on the beach, but back in the suburb of Santa Barbara, Montecito where I live, they have had catastrophic mudslides last evening and flash flood warnings continue today. And so we're not sure where this ends up, but Montecito, which was in this morning is one of the major creeks came way out of its banks and flooded the interstate 101 with this muddy, silky very dark ashy substance went into many, many homes, and so it's wreaked havoc on a lot of folks homes in Montecito.
CO: What about your home? Do you know what condition it's in?
HC: I do not. I live up on the mountain. The area went under a mandatory evacuation yesterday and the most recent data we have is that we will not be allowed back into our house until tomorrow or the next day.
CO: Wow. And so when did you leave? What kind of notification did you get in order to depart?
HC: They announced on Sunday that there would be the evacuation. They already knew about the amount of rain that was headed our way. And the problem being, of course, was after we had the fires, the very bad fires in the last month, there's really nothing that can anchor the soil right now. So once they knew that this big rain event was headed our way, there was a lot of concern about how much of that soil would run down the hillside. And so it was Sunday they announced a mandatory evacuation. The sheriff's department knocked on my door at about 2:00 yesterday and said ‘You know we're doing a mandatory evacuation, but we can't physically make you leave your home.’ And we said ‘Hey we're leaving anyway,’ and we ended up leaving the house at about 4:00 o'clock yesterday.
CO: Do you know anyone who decided to stay?
HC: Yes. The lady who lives in my guesthouse, a lady named Victoria with her cat, who I've known for 12 years and is a dear friend. She and several other neighbours said they didn't think it was going to be that big a deal. And she subsequently left at 5:30 A.M. this morning with the cat, because the storm got so bad, everything was bad. We had a gas line rupture on our road that burned up another house. We had mass water, mass everything, and she got in a jeep and she got out of there. 5:30 this morning.
CO: Wow. Because we've been hearing and seeing the houses have been swept from the from their foundations in that area.
HC: Absolutely. Absolutely. The reason why we were able to get some photographs of it this morning, was a friend of mine called me who lives on a creek bed, a gentleman named Robert and his grandkids, about seven of them and three dogs, called me and he said we are in a bad, bad shape. And so we went running from the Santa Barbara Inn up to his house to see how we could help, and we didn't get within a quarter mile of this house when the fire department stopped us. The fire department is doing a great job and I said ‘We've got a distress message from this gentleman who's got all of his family on the second floor of this house,’ and he said they said ‘Great, give me the phone.’ And they talked to Robert for a few minutes and then about 30 to 45 minutes later I took a ladder down to his house, got all of his group out of the second floor and evacuated them.
CO: That's fire department is no stranger to you, I guess in Montecito, Santa Barbara Were you evacuated during the fires in December?
HC: Yes. First of all — the fire department — God bless them. I mean, we had a mandatory evacuation on the fire from December 10 to December 23rd, and I was here all prior to that and the fires and the smoke and ash were just they were incredibly strong. You'd wake up in the middle walk around your house and be concerned about whether your house was on fire. But then finally on December 10th they said no more and they made everybody leave and everybody, because you couldn't breathe and the quality of life was so poor. So yes the fire department has done a great job throughout the whole thing. And if you were in this community you’d see nothing but banners and signs everywhere that say thank you firefighters. And believe me we do, they’ve done a great job.
CO: As you mentioned these heavy rains, the floods, they're blaming the mudslides on the fact that there is no vegetation to hold the water as it rains because of having that burned down. So how devastated was your area? What devastation could you see from the fires before all this rain started?
HC: We had no vegetation left on the hills above us. Montecito is kind of a seaside community very nice, everybody waters their lawn, so you have wonderful trees, hedges, bushes, plants. And frankly right behind it is a national forest and it looks like the moon now. Your point is exactly right, there is no vegetation left and that is got to be the biggest contributor to what happened last night and it's still going on here today, in terms of the mudslides.
CO: It sounds like you're keeping your spirits up. How is your family holding up?
HC: We’re fine. I've got a buddy of mine out here from Memphis, which is where I'm originally from. A lot of great neighbours and my family's fine, everybody's fine and I mean, I think we're all thankful to live in this community we're thankful that the firefighters have done such a great job. So and by the way I'm in a pretty good hotel right now and I'm about to go drink some beer, so even despite what's going on I think everybody here is still doing the best to have a good time with it.
CO: All right we'll leave it there. Thank you.
HC: You got it. Joy talking to you.
JD: Howard Cannon is a Montecito resident who has been evacuated from his home. We reached him in a hotel in Santa Barbara, California.
JD: Who killed Daphne Caruana Galizia? The Maltese journalist was the target of a car bomb back in October. Ms. Galizia had been a harsh critic of Malta's government, and in particular, its Prime Minister Joseph Muscat. Before her death she alleged that a company owned by the daughter of the president of Azerbaijan had transferred $1 million to a company owned by the wife of Malta's president. Now in a BBC interview yesterday Prime Minister Muscat defended himself in the face of some sharp questioning from reporter John Sweeney. Here's part of that interview.
JOHN SWEENEY: What's been the effect of her assassination on your on standing sir?
PRIME MINISTER JOSEPH MUSCAT: Well, that definitely because that's not something that any prime minister would want. She was a very vociferous critic of many people, I might have been on the top of that list, and this doesn't look good on me.
JS: One week after Daphne’s assassination where were you and what were you doing?
JM: One week?
JS: One week?
JM: I wouldn’t know, honestly.
JS: You were in Dubai selling passports for 650,000 euro.
JM: I wasn't — we don't sell it. We have, as other European jurisdictions, other European countries, systems by which, and programs, and ours is the most transparent and open program. People can invest in our country, can have residence and even citizenship.
JS: Who's buying these passports?
JM: Well, various people, wealthy people. Wealth doesn't buy you the right to citizenship.
JS: It helps if you’ve got I hate how you got 650,000 euro though.
JM: It helps, but it doesn't mean that you can get access to our program.
JS: Too small to have a problem with money laundering?
JM: I don't feel comfortable saying no we don't have any problems or yes we have problems. I'd say we have as many problems as any other jurisdiction — be it the city of London, be it Luxembourg, be it the Netherlands — when it comes to making sure that we comply with the rules.
JS: The charge in a nutshell, is that you will the Artful Dodger of Europe.
JM: Well, if that is the charge, I am definitely not guilty of that.
JS: After Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination, her son Matthew wrote “If institutions were already working there would be no assassination to investigate and my brothers and I would still have a mother.” What do you say to that?
JS: Well, I have made it's very clear that I would never take issue with people who have lost their mother in such a brutal assassination. I've said myself, that if my mother was killed in such instances I would say much worse things than that.
JD: That was Malta's Prime Minister Joseph Muscat being interviewed by BBC reporter John Sweeney.
[Music: Ambient Bass]
Medieval Times Show
Guest: Allyssa O’Donnell
JD: Allyssa O’Donnell is an actor. She is currently playing an historic role in more ways than one. Ms O'Donnell is a performer at the Medieval Times dinner and Tournament in Schaumburg, which is a suburb of Chicago. And in this particular production she plays the lead — Queen Maria Isabella. That is significant because it is the first time the show has had a queen as its lead role instead of a king. We reached Allyssa O’Donnell in Chicago.
CO: Hello, can I address you as Queen Maria Isabella?
ALLYSSA O’DONNELL: You may. You can also address me as Alyssa.
CO: Alyssa, you are the first in Medieval Times female lead.
AO: I am yes. It's very exciting.
CO: Well, why is it exciting what does that mean?
AO: It means that we, finally at Medieval Times, have a queen in charge of the kingdom. So she is the sole ruler of the realm. She is not beholden to anyone and she rules the way she sees fit.
CO: Can you describe for those who don't know what a Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament is? What exactly happens there?
AO: Absolutely. So, as you said ,it's a dinner and tournament, so when you come to medieval times you are given a crown, which is the color of your knight of the realm, your kingdom that you're supporting. So you come in and you sit with the section of the other people that are also supporting your knight and you then will cheer on your Knights of the round throughout the entire tournament.
CO: And there's jousting.
AO: It is a jousting show, yes. There’s staged combat, there's jousting, sword fighting, they use bolas and many other weapons and they do horsemanship, they jump off horses — it's very exciting.
CO: And you're eating greasy fried chicken while you're doing all this, while you're watching?
AO: It's actually, it's a four course meal and there is chicken. There's also a baked potato, garlic bread, dragon blood soup or tomato bisque and a pastry.
CO: Sounds very medieval
CO: So now in this show, I mean, there's a script right of some kind? What roles do women usually play in the show?
AO: So I have done two shows at Medieval Times. So when I first started, and for the first four years that I worked at Medieval Times, I played the role of the princess. The plot of that show was that she was, you know, the king's daughter helping preside over the tournament and the kingdom that her father had gathered. And so in the new show I am now the sole ruler, so I am now the queen and I'm the person inviting my nobles from near and far to come see this grand tournament that I've created.
CO: And there is no king?
AO: There is no king in this new show, yes. She is married a ruler of the realm.
CO: And the knights, the ones who are jousting, are they still all men?
AO: Yes they are.
CO: No female knights out there?
AO: Not at this time.
CO: Well that has to change, right? Because, I mean, isn't this fairly consistent with medieval times themselves? I mean, there were female monarchs, there were female knights, female armour has been found from medieval times, as the exception rather than the rule, but they did have a role didn't they in medieval times?
AO: Absolutely, I think we're really excited and very hard to have a queen, and who knows what future shows could include?
CO: How is the audience responded to the queen being the big cheese.
AO: I have had so much outpouring of love with the audience responses lately. I always make sure I — after the show we do a meet-and-greet — so I will always ask ‘What was your favorite part of the tournament? And, of course, you know, everyone still loves the jousting, it's still very exciting. Everyone is ready to see that, it’s something that you don't see every day. But I've gotten so many good like sharp 11-12 year old girls coming up to me saying ‘I like the way you stood your ground.’ And I had a grandmother come up to me the other day saying ‘It's so wonderful seeing a strong woman up there on the throne and having to share this with my grandchildren.’ So it's just it's been really exciting.
CO: Give us some lines that show how you demonstrate your authority over medieval times.
AO: Well, at one point in the show I say ‘The power to make war or to allow death as price of defeat at this tournament lies, not with you Lord Cedric or you Lord Marshall or any other man in this realm. It lies with the Queen and the queen alone. And I am the queen here.
CO: How do those girls in the audience respond when you give that line?
AO: They lose it every time and it's so wonderful. It's just so great to hear everyone on board, excited, ready for not only a woman in charge, but a woman who does what she believes is right. There's a moment in the show where everyone else is encouraging her to go against what she believes in, everyone's encouraging her to do this one thing, and she looks at everyone and realizes that even though everyone around her believes this she still knows what's right and so she has the courage to stand up and say no, I will fight for what I believe in. So I think just having the ability to be a strong voice for change and for standing up for yourself is very exciting and what excites me about the role.
CO: Was this rewrite of this show with the queen now in this position was this something that has come about since all the changes that are going on in Hollywood and in the show business?
AO: This show has been in the works for over a year now. So I think that it is very timely and I think it primarily came from guests who have been saying we’re ready for a woman in charge. So I think that yes it comes at a great time. But I think it's also about the guests asking for this for such a long time.
CO: Do you know if this Medieval Times show will be in Canada? The same dinner theater exists in this country. Is the script going to be consistent?
AO: Yes. So how the rollouts work, it started in Dallas was the first castle to have the new show and then it is going to be installed in each new castle over the nine Medieval Times across the United States and Canada. So there will be the show in Canada, yes.
CO: Well break a leg.
AO: Thank you so much.
CO: Thank you Alyssa.
JD: Alyssa O'Donnell is a performer with Medieval Times. We reached her in Chicago. And if you would like to see some photographs from that show visit our website: www.cbc.ca/aih.
[Music: Bass Heavy Hip-Hop]
Alan Bleviss Obit
ALAN BLEVISS: We call Heinz tomato juice the thick one. We get it so thick and rich by using our own special juice tomatoes, because the thicker a tomato juice is, the better it tastes. And Heinz is thick. How thick? Thick.
JD: That is a clip from Heinz tomato juice ad from the 1970s. An actor pours out a can of that frothy red liquid and then to prove just how thick that juice is, they stick a stock of celery in the glass. And like magic it stands up straight. But as you heard real magic in that ad is Alan Bleviss, he provides the equally thick and creamy baritone. Alan Bleviss died late last month. He was 76 years old. You may not know his name, chances are you have heard his voice. After breaking into the business with a spot for Canada Dry Ginger Ale, the Edmonton-born voice actor lent his honey-toned pipes to hundreds of commercials and trailers for Hollywood blockbusters like Scarface and Dirty Dancing. But Mr. Bleviss’ real bread and butter was political ads. He did a string of ads for Pierre Trudeau and then he moved south and he was go-to talent for the Democratic Party, working on campaigns for big names like Al Gore and Bill Clinton. In 2012 Mr. Bleviiss was featured in freelance journalist, Sarah Richards, documentary Voices For Sale Or Rent, which aired on The Current on CBC Radio. Here's an excerpt from that documentary in which Alan Bleviss explains why so few negative ads work.
ALAN BLEVISS: Because they don't know what else to do. Because I don't think they're creative. There are a few political consultants who know how to do negative ads. And they can do them so they don't know they're negative. They sound humorous, they sound funny or they even sound positive in a way, in a negative way.
SARAH RICHARDS: He gives an example back in 2006 Bleviss was doing ads for the governor of Michigan. She was up against Republican Dick DeVos, the son of one of the billionaire founders of Amway.
ALAN BLEVISS: He spent $27 million to win — I think it was 27 million — to win the governorship of Michigan, when Michigan is in the hole with all these troubled automobile — with the automobile industry and businesses leaving etc. etc.. He was a shoe in. We did an ad which was like 15 seconds. I think it was 15 or 10, and we said something like — and I’m making it up because I don't know the facts and I don't remember the script exactly but — so-and-so DeVos invested $200 million to build a factory in China. If you had $200 million would you invest it in China? You think China needs a governor? So it's a negative ad, but all it is, is the facts. And it says what would you do?