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December 5, 2010: Canadians in Afghanistan - Engineering Search (Doc) - Girls Night Out

Canadians in Afghanistan- Canadians have been fighting and dying in Afghanistan for nearly 10 years now, longer than any war in our history. By the time the last soldier leaves, Canada will have been involved with the country and its tormented people for nearly 15 years. In this hour, Canada's ambassador to Afghanistan, Christopher Alexander, will speak to us about corruption - Karzai style; mission creep; and why we are still in Afghanistan.

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Engineering Search, Documentary - Someone once asked if God was, in fact, Google. It may not be the divinity but it has become in the last few years almost an autonomous nation state. In our Middle Hour, Ira Basen explains how Google became all-powerful.

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Girls Night Out- We'll look at the scourge of so-called date rape drugs.

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Elsewhere in the program: A tribute to the Beatles; your mail on euthanasia; and a thought or two on the death of John Lennon and the birth of a son.



Hour 1

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Michael's Essay

This week Michael reflects on the loss of an icon and the birth of his son.

Canadians in Afghanistan

At nine years and counting, it's the longest war ever fought by Canadian soldiers.

And even when an end appears to be in sight, it seems to shift farther and farther down the road as we get closer to it. NATO forces have now been fighting in Afghanistan longer than their ill-fated predecessors from the Soviet Union.

And this month, the federal Conservatives and Liberals agreed to extend the Canadian presence in Afghanistan until at least 2014.

One hundred and fifty-three Canadian soldiers have died so far in support of the mission. And recent polls show that 60 % of Canadians are opposed to any kind of military presence in Afghanistan.

Four years ago, when NDP leader Jack Layton suggested negotiations as a way to end the conflict, he was derided by the Conservative government for being a Taliban sympathizer - they even called him "Taliban Jack."

But this year, with no apologies to Mr. Layton, Prime Minister Stephen Harper unambiguously endorsed NATO's new policy of trying to talk to the Taliban in order to finally end the war.

But now that policy has been exposed as something of a mirage - it turns out that the key Taliban negotiator was an impostor who didn't represent the Taliban at all. On the other side of the table is the official government of Afghanistan. Its president, Hamid Karzai, maintains his power through electoral fraud and his administration is considered one of the most corrupt on the planet today. His brother, the influential provincial chief of Kandahar, is known even by the Americans as a corrupt narcotics dealer.

On top of all of that, if the initial purpose of the war was to destroy Al Qaeda, it may have had the opposite effect. The leaders of the organization are most likely hiding out in Pakistan. And many observers believe that the war itself has been a good recruiting tool for the terrorist group, whose ranks have grown since 9/11.

From 2003 and 2005, Christopher Alexander was Canada's Ambassador to Afghanistan. After that, he served as Deputy Representative of the UN Mission there. And he's now back in Canada, where he'll be a Conservative candidate in the next federal election.

Mail Pack

We got quite a lot of mail in the aftermath of our program last week.

In Quebec, a special legislative committee is holding hearings on a whole range of "end of life " issues. So we decided to hold our own hearings of a sort. And the result was our special public forum: 'How Will We Die? Euthanasia and the Politics of Death.' We held that at the medical school at McGill University in Montreal. It was a lively discussion. Here's some of what our listeners had to say about it.


Hour 2

Engineering Search - Documentary

It happens billions of times every day. Somebody somewhere types something into a search bar on their computer screen. Maybe they're looking to book a trip, or buy a book, or find some information, or answer a question that's been bothering them. In 2010, search is how we have come to navigate the worlds of commerce and information online. Increasingly, search determines what we know, what we buy, even what we think.

And of all those billions of searchers around the world, nearly three quarters of them will do their searching on Google. If search rules the web, then Google rules search. And that fact has given the company an enormous amount of economic clout. It has made the Google algorithm, the top-secret computer program that runs the search engine, the most important piece of intellectual property in the world. With so much at stake, it's no wonder that the clamour for more public scrutiny and even regulatory control is getting louder every day.

Ira Basen brought us, Engineering Search: The Story of the Algorithm that Changed the World.

Dr. Rob Buckman - Open Letter

Medical oncologist, Dr. Robert Buckman, wrote into the Sunday Edition with his thoughts on euthanasia.

Girls Night Out

It was a sickening attack on so many levels. On a mid-September night, someone slipped powerful sedative ... a so-called date rape drug ... into the drink of a 16-year-old girl at a barn party in Pitt Meadows near Vancouver. The teenager was then carried into a nearby field where she was allegedly raped in front of a cadre of onlookers. At least one took pictures, which were subsequently posted online. Police say they may never be able to get all photos of the alleged assault off the Internet.

While Canadians mark the 21st anniversary of the Montreal Massacre tomorrow, we're going to take a look at one particularly troubling aspect of violence against women ... so-called date rape drugs like Rohypnol, or roofies, and GHB. The drugs, both of which are illegal in Canada, are used by sexual predators because they quickly incapacitate victims then disappear from their system, usually within 16 hours. In late November, police in Edmonton seized four litres of GHB, the largest bust of the drug in the province's history. Not long ago, young girls were warned not to have too much to drink at parties. Now, the warnings have become even more sinister. The drink itself may be a worry. But what's IN the drink may be even worse.

The Sunday Edition's Sandra Ferrari headed out to Toronto's Entertainment District on a busy Friday night to hear what club goers have to say about the drugs.

We also heard from, AJ Januszczak - a woman who knows firsthand how dangerous GHB can be. She recently released a book called, Through My Eyes, the Past Comes Calling.

Bonnie Levine is the executive director of Toronto Victim Services, a non-profit organization that works closely with the Toronto Police Service. And Daisy Kler is a crisis worker at the Vancouver Rape Relief and Women's Shelter. She joins us from our studio in Vancouver. Both guests weighed in on the issue.

Please Apply Online - Personal Essay

Jobs aren't any easier to come by, but you don't see "unemployment lines" anymore. People barely hand out resumes! In the new world, most job seekers are hidden at home, hunched over a computer, their fingers tap tapping.

Jordan Marr brings us the darkly comic story of his own computer work search. It's called, Please Apply Online.

Beatles Pack

Almost fifty years ago, they were stampeding to buy a concert ticket or sneak a glimpse of or perhaps grab a lock of hair from one of the Fab Four. It was the height of Beatlemania.

It may have ebbed and flowed during the years since, but it is one of those phenomena that it seems is always with us in one form or another. And the craze has entered a new phase. For the last couple of weeks, music fans have been stampeding to their computers and IPods to download Beatles tunes after the entire catalogue was made available on ITunes for the first time.

And sales are booming. Which just goes to show that everyone's favourite Liverpudlians had something that never goes out of style. Their songs continue to be interpreted and re-interpreted by musicians in just about every genre.

Before we drive some of you crazy by playing covers of Beatle tunes instead of the real thing, we will play the real thing.

According to last count, the most downloaded Beatles tune worldwide was "Here Comes the Sun". "Hey Jude" came out on top as the Brits' favourite.

In this section of the show, we played you a few of our own favourites.

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