As It Happens

July 09, 2021 Episode Transcript

full-text transcript

The AIH Transcript for July 09, 2021

[host]Hosts: Duncan McCue and Chris Howden[/host]

Prologue

 

DUNCAN MCCUE: Hello, I'm Duncan McCue, sitting in for Carol Off.

CHRIS HOWDEN: Good evening, I'm Chris Howden. This is "As It Happens".

[music: theme]

 

CH: Tonight:

DMC: Cri de coeur. Dr. RoseAnne Archibald is the first woman elected National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations; she'll tell us what she means when she talks about a "heart-centred" approach to power.

CH: Fever pitch. As South Africa struggles with a surge in COVID cases, patients struggle to get medical attention -- and our guest tells us the system isn't built to handle the strain.

DMC: Taking charge to establish a charge. Lawyer Philippe Sands explains the crime of "ecocide" -- which would put destruction of the planet on par with crimes against humanity.

CH: Back in the saddle. The Calgary Stampede returns and so does its big concert venue, and while that's music to some party-goers' ears -- critics say it's putting the cart before the horse.

DMC: On a need to know bass. The cover of  "London Calling" shows the bassist for The Clash just moments away from destroying his instrument -- but since that broken guitar is headed for the Museum of London, I guess it got a lucky break.

CH: And... flashmob. The sight of fireflies blinking together in unison may have had you blinking in disbelief. But don't worry. New science says they're flashing backs weren't necessarily an acid flashback.

CH: "As It Happens", the Friday edition. Radio that's glad someone is providing a strober second thought.

[Music: Theme]

Part 1: RoseAnne Archibald, Ecocide, Calgary Stampede


RoseAnne Archibald

Guest: RoseAnne Archibald

CH: RoseAnne Archibald is the first woman to become the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations. The former Ontario Regional Chief secured her victory after five rounds of voting when her last remaining rival conceded defeat. She has promised to make the AFN more transparent and inclusive. But as she promised to implement the organization's first whistleblower policy, more details were leaked from an investigation into informal complaints about allegations involving Ms. Archibald herself. RoseAnne Archibald is the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations.

 

DMC: National Chief Archibald, congratulations.

 

ROSEANNE ARCHIBALD: Thank you. Miigwetch.

 

DMC: There have been many women who have tried to become National Chief over the years. You're the first to succeed. What does that mean to you?

 

RA: Well, I've done this before. I've been down this road before and been

the first in many roles. And what I've learned after being the first woman Chief, first woman Deputy Grand Chief, first Grand Chief, first Ontario Regional Chief and now first National Chief is that the victory is always about other women. That it's not my personal victory. It's actually a victory for all women, First Nations, Indigenous women everywhere. And it's absolutely essential that women and girls everywhere can see themselves represented at the Assembly of First Nations in this key leadership role. And while, you know, my gender is important because I bring a certain perspective to leadership, a heart-centred approach to leadership, it's actually not why I was elected. It's the 31 years of what I like to call experiences at every political level in our system. That solid experience is why I have been selected, and it's why many chiefs place their faith in me.

 

DMC: There was one female Chief who observed that you would be like the auntie who will keep us on the right path. Will you bring a different leadership style as the Chief Executive Auntie.

 

RA: [laughing] I love that saying, Chief Executive Auntie. Yeah, Duncan, you know this from being in our communities. You know, there are the aunties who don't have names. You just call them Auntie. And I'm actually that kind of auntie [laughing] to all my nieces and nephews. And it's because I have such a deep and abiding love and care for my nieces and nephews, for my family, for my community and for all Nations. And that is the auntie energy that Chief Whetung was talking about. You know, an auntie tells you the truth. They don't hold back. And that's what I am known for, is when it's time to speak the truth, I am known to have the strength and courage to do that.

 

DMC: Let me ask you about some of the truth-seeking you were looking for earlier this year. You were pushing for an independent financial review of the Assembly of First Nations when you were Ontario Regional Chief. Will you start that independent financial review?

 

RA: Well, that actually came out of a confidential chiefs resolution in Ontario. So it wasn't me. It was an actual resolution that was leaked. When the report was leaked, the confidential resolution got leaked as well. And I'm bound still by confidentiality on that matter of the resolution, so I can't really speak to it. I will be definitely reaching to Regional Chief Hare to see how they want to proceed.

 

DMC: There was also at the same time as that review was being asked for, there was a harassment investigation into your own behaviour at the Assembly of First Nations, several complaints of bullying and harassment. What will happen with that?

 

RA: Well, you know, this was a surprise to me when that report came out. And again, I can't speak to the report because both reports are confidential. And it would be inappropriate for me to speak to them. I still have fiduciary obligations, but what I can tell you is that I am committed to creating a safe, healthy workspace for all people. I have always treated people with dignity and respect, and I've always sought to bring those values to the culture of the organizations that I've been entrusted to lead. And so, it's important for me to let everyone know that the AFN will be an absolutely safe place for everyone to work. And I think that it's also, you know, important to point out that I can't speak to the report, but there were no formal complaints made, and I actually was never interviewed, I can say that. And, in fact, this is, again, not in the report, but the process undertaken did not follow the guidelines as outlined in the AFN code of conduct. A great deal of money was spent -- almost a quarter of a million dollars -- on investigations that there were no written complaints. So no one written complaint ever came forward. But somehow, these investigations went through. And that's why I talked about feeling targeted, that this was reprisal for me, bringing forward these very difficult issues. And, you know, the reprisal and attacks on my character came. But I kept walking through that, Duncan. You know, I know who I am. I know that I have love in my heart for everyone. And so my mother was a great example of, you know, walking through any difficulty with grace and dignity and affording everybody else that grace and dignity as well. And so, you know, we have much work to do. And I'm committed, again, to making this a safe space for everyone.

 

DMC: The prime minister has committed to implementing all 94 calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Over half of them,

there has been no action yet. What of those calls is a priority for you?

 

RA: Well, the first thing that we need to do is have an action plan that is what's been missing in the 94 calls to action, is that they're... they are calls to action, yet, we don't have a strategic approach to it. What are the goals? When are we going to do this? Like, right now, what we're facing are the recovery of our little ones in former residential schools across this country. And so, those calls to action are my priority right now. We need truth before reconciliation. We have to speak the truth. People need to know the truth in this country -- that genocide has happened on... on Canadian soil. And all of these unmarked graves are the evidence of that. And they must be treated as crime scenes. It's so important that we move forward on the issues around our children, our little ones so that reparations can be made to First Nations, that healing can happen for First Nations survivors or Indigenous survivors and as well as intergenerational survivors. We need a national healing fund. We used to have the Aboriginal Healing Foundation. We need something like that for intergenerational trauma survivors. We need this country to heal, and we need to do it together.

 

DMC: National Chief, we'll leave it there. Miigwetch

 

RA: Hey, miigwetch. Thank you, Duncan. Take care.

 

CH: Roseanne Archibald is the new National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations.

[music: horns!!] 

Ecocide

Guest: Philippe Sands 

CH: Philippe Sands and his colleagues have taken a major step towards making the destruction of the planet a crime -- of the same sort as war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. Professor Sands is an international criminal court lawyer when he isn't teaching law at University College London. He's led a team charged with developing a definition of what they're calling 'ecocide'. The idea is to make it possible to prosecute those who destroy the planet we all depend on to survive. We reached Philippe Sands outside Avignon, France.

DMC: Professor Sands, what is your definition of ecocide?

PHILIPPE SANDS: Well, my definition is the one a group of 12 of us put together over six months. It is severe environmental damage which has either widespread or long-term effect, and which is either unlawful or recklessly caused. So it's a very specific set of hurdles that have to be crossed.

DMC: I note that you didn't mention climate change in that definition. Why?

PS: The group took a view that it was best not to start listing particular effects because once you start listing some, you exclude others, and you send a signal that other kinds of harm are somehow OK. But there was another reason, I think, not to mention climate change, that I was particularly attached to. I think if the definition had explicitly mentioned climate change, it would have been dead on arrival because, as you know, countries have spent 30 years negotiating conventions on climate change. And the idea that somehow they would instantly criminalize certain activity by signing on to this, I think, would have frightened a lot of countries. So the main thing we wanted to do with this text was come up with something that was plausible. And I think that has been achieved. You'll probably have taken over the secretary-general of the United Nations just a couple of days ago, basically adopted the proposal that we made and said the statute of the International Criminal Court should indeed be amended to reflect the crime of ecocide.

DMC: It could be argued, Professor Sands, that both you and I, I mean, we create damage to the environment when we burn something to create heat or when we eat food that had an impact on the environment to grow. Where do you... where do you draw the line between ecocide and the environmental damage that... that almost every human being creates?

PS: That is the key question. I'd say it's not arguable, [chuckle] but I'd say it is a fact that you and I cause damage and we contribute to climate change and no doubt many other forms of environmental harm. So in coming up with this draft, we were really focused on drawing a line which concerned consequences that really were of international concern and not just local environmental harm or minimal environmental harm. It had to be really serious and really grave. And climate change, of course, could fall within that category, as could many other. You know, toxic waste being dumped and biodiversity losses and species being killed off are the kinds of things we had in mind. But we were also conscious of a certain act which basically every human being on the planet is contributing. Does that make you and me and everyone else climate criminal? I don't think that would go down very well. So the question -- and it will be essentially in the long-term -- for a prosecutor and for judges is to decide which particular act and which actor crosses a line? So is the person who uses electricity generated from brown coal an ecocider? Or is it the person who authorizes and the wanton, reckless or illegal way a new coalfield, or new oil field, or some other form of activity? In drafting our text, we were conscious that we could not foresee every situation. And just as with crimes against humanity and genocide in relation to the Rohingya or the Uighurs or others, it will ultimately be for others. It will be for international judges to decide whether a line has been crossed in terms of the harm and who particularly is responsible for crossing that line?

DMC: Well, that is the question. Who is responsible? Can companies be prosecuted under this prospective law?

PS: The International Criminal Court -- to which Canada -- is a party only has jurisdiction over individuals. And so a corporation could not as such be hauled up before the court, nor could the government, nor could a non-governmental organization. However, individuals who work for governments or presidents or prime ministers or foreign ministers or individuals who work for corporations who are the CEO or the chief operating officer could, in theory, be subjected to that. I'm acutely aware of this. A few years ago, I did a legal opinion in relation to tobacco and addressing the question of whether a chief executive of a company that produces tobacco, knowing the harmful effects on human beings and knowing that the harmful effects are not being disclosed, could be said to be committing a crime against humanity. And the answer that I reached was yes. And the criminal law in this way, as it is in domestic law in Canada, in other countries around the world, is an incentive not to do certain things.

DMC: Well, you mentioned the word incentive. Is there a stick here? I mean, do you actually imagine that there will be convictions under a crime of ecocide, or is this just a threat that's going to shame individuals and corporations into trying to... to curb back their behaviour?

PS: Well, I think we're at an early stage, you know, what happens next is countries will have to decide whether they want to run with the definition of ecocide. They'll then have to decide whether they want to amend the statute? And I'll then have to persuade two-thirds of the states -- so we're talking about 80 countries to ratify an amendment. So that's going to take time. Nothing is imminent. But I've always thought, and this is just me speaking personally, that just as with genocide in 1945 and crimes against humanity in 1945, which of course I wrote about in my book "East West Street", which talks about the origins of those two crimes. The men who drafted those crimes did not imagine that in an instant, when these crimes became part of the statute books at the international level or in domestic law, mass murder or murder would suddenly stop. And of course, they haven't stopped. What those crimes did was they changed human consciousness. They basically said this is not an acceptable form of behaviour. And I think that's the proper way to think about the crime of ecocide, not that it will magically repair the environment from one moment to the next, but that it will make us recognize the law as one of the instruments for achieving that change -- that we need to take greater care of our environment.

DMC: Professor Sands, we'll keep watching.

PS: Thank you so much for your interest, and we wish you well in Canada. We know this issue of climate and temperatures is very real for you.

DMC: It most certainly is. Thank you.

CH: Philippe Sands is an international criminal lawyer and a professor at University College London. We reached him outside Avignon, France.

[music: jazz] 

Calgary Stampede

Guest: Jim Laurendeau

CH: It may not be Calgary's first rodeo. But it's certainly the first of its kind. After last year's cancellation, the 2021 Stampede gets underway today -- with onsite rapid testing, wider aisles between vendors, and hand-sanitizing stations galore. But plans for the Nashville North music venue are truly bucking COVID-19 prevention trends. Earlier this week, organizers announced that the venue would be among the first in the country to require proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test. And last night, fans of George Canyon and Aaron Pritchett became the first to put that plan to the test. Jim Laurendeau is the vice president of the Stampede. We reached him in Calgary.

 

DMC: Mr. Laurendeau, Nashville North is being billed as Canada's first major venue to try this. Is this really an instance where you want to be the first?

 

JIM LAURENDEAU: [laughing] Well, you know, just by nature of the timeline within which our event falls, I suppose it fell to us to be the first whether we want it to be or not.

 

DMC: Can you describe what the Nashville North venue is actually going to look like this year?

 

JL: Sure. The Nashville North venue is a canopy which covers a large area in… on Stampede Park just outside of our grandstand where the rodeo and the evening show occur. And it's a... it's a large venue. In the past, it has been an enclosed venue with... with walls on all four sides and many bars and a dance floor and a feature entertainment stage. And this year, we've made it a much more open-air experience with none of the walls around the perimeter. There still are, you know, entrances and exits from... from the venue that are demarcated. But it's a much more open-air feel this year. But all of the same features that we've had in the past. So we've got a little bit of a different configuration in the venue. We've got, I think, the best Canadian country music line-up we've ever had. And the dance floor is in place and everyone's having a great time.

 

DMC: And in the past, that place was packed. How many people are you allowing in this time?

 

JL: So our capacity in the venue will be unchanged this year because of the measures we've been able to take. Certainly, we're very encouraged by the COVID numbers in the province right now. There's a very low incidence of... of COVID and high vaccination rates. And so, we feel very comfortable with our capacity being equivalent to what it's been in the past with all of the measures that we've taken.

 

DMC: So how exactly are people being asked to prove their vaccination status?

 

JL: So when people arrive to Stampede Park, they can go to one of four locations where our health provider is set up. They're able to provide a... either a proof of vaccination, which is a faster process and... and that can be a digital facsimile on their telephone or a hard copy. And... and failing that, if they don't have a proof of vaccination for whatever reason, then they go through a very efficient rapid testing program. And a few minutes later, they've got their wristband, and that's what qualifies them to get into the venue.

 

DMC: So if they want to go through that quicker process and have some sort of proof of vaccination, do the need to have one vaccine or two?

 

JL: It's just one vaccine that's at least from two weeks previous.

 

DMC: We know that with two-dose vaccines, that first dose only offers partial immunity, perhaps especially against the variants. Should it be two doses?

 

JL: So, our goal is to create the most welcoming and comfortable environment that we can and allow people to relax and just be able to come and enjoy themselves. Our medical provider has done this in many workplaces. They're a high volume, very experienced group, and they have put together, you know, the process by which they'll validate these proofs of vaccination. And they are comfortable with the measures that we've taken this year.

 

DMC: What do you say to people who consider that asking for a proof of vaccination is a violation of their privacy?

JL: You know what? We... we opened last night, and everyone was so good-natured about it. Took a lot of comfort in the fact that coming to Nashville North feels comfortable, and you're there with other people that have also received their vaccine. And it was... it just... it wasn't... it wasn't an issue. Certainly, there are lots of other places in Calgary that folks could go if they wished to and didn't want to show proof of vaccination. And, of course, if anyone is concerned about presenting a proof of vaccination, we do have that rapid testing option as well.

 

DMC: It's not easy as we shift into slowly starting to gather with people again. And Alberta's active infection rate is still a bit higher than Ontario's. And Ontario is not moving to Stage 3 of its reopening until next week. What's your message to people who say this is just too soon?

 

JL: You know what? We know that... that coming to an event with a lot of people isn't going to be for everyone at this point. And that's OK. We want to make sure that for those that are comfortable, we're providing just the best environment that we can.

DMC: You had your opening show last night. What are you hearing from... from Albertans about what it means for them to be back to what's been called the "Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth?"

 

JL: So we opened last night with our sneak preview night called "Sneak a Peek". And we are now open today. This morning, we started with our parade, and the park is open, and it's busy. We've created a lot more space, wider alleyways and just created a lot more space in the outdoor spaces and indoor spaces on Stampede Park. And what I can tell you is absolute joy out on Stampede Park. People are having a great time with their families and enjoying what the Stampede has to offer and the great Calgary tradition that the Calgary Stampede is.

 

DMC: Mr. Laurendeau, good luck with it.

 

JL: Thank you very much.

 

CH: Jim Laurendeau is the vice president of the Calgary Stampede. We reached him in Calgary.

 

[music: "London Calling" by The Sex Pistols/punk]

Iconic London Calling Bass

CH: Starting on July 23rd, a broken bass guitar will join a lot of fancy ancient artifacts at the Museum of London. Its body is in two pieces. Its neck is snapped. It's completely unplayable. But it's not undisplayable. It's probably the most famous broken bass guitar in history -- because of a photograph taken in the split-second before it was split. It's the bass that Paul Simonon is just about to bring crashing to the stage on the cover of The Clash's "London Calling". According to the photographer, Pennie Smith, Mr. Simonon was in a lousy mood because the crowd at a New York concert was stiff and unresponsive. So he lost his temper. And as he took his bass by the neck, Ms. Smith took the picture. When Joe Strummer told her that photo would be the cover of "London Calling", she protested that it was out of focus. He insisted. And she told the Guardian that she told him, "OK, I'm not going to argue. It's your bloody album, get on with it." He did. And he was right. And now, people will flock to the Museum of London to see Paul Simonon's ruined instrument. So, to sum up: the show was a bust. Then his bass was a bust. And now the busted old bass will sit next to much older busts on bases.

[music: ambient]

Part 2: South Africa COVID Surge, Fireflies Blinking Study

 

South Africa Covid Surge

Guest: Bayanda Gumende

CH: While Canadians dare to feel hopeful that the worst of the pandemic is behind us, it's a vastly different story in other parts of the world. The World Health Organization declared that last week was Africa's "worst pandemic week ever." And there are serious concerns in a number of countries there about what's to come. More than a third of the continent's cases have been reported in South Africa. Recently, numbers there have been surging. Bayanda Gumende runs a private dialysis clinic in Johannesburg. That's where we reached him. 

DMC: Mr. Gumende, your clinic usually treats kidney disease patients. What's changed about who's been coming to you in the past few weeks?

BAYANDA GUMENDE: Yes, of course, we're treating patients with kidney failure. You know, patients who are on dialysis. But now with a third wave, you know, a number of patients presenting with COVID-19 increasing in the province that had... had changed. So we get... we get a lot of calls from people asking us to assess their loved ones, family members with oxygens because there's no beds, there's not enough ambulances, there's no oxygen in hospitals currently in the province. So that had changed. We tried to bring in some of these people, but we are unable to have all of them. So you end up having to prioritize according to who really desperately needs the oxygen concentrator.

DMC: What's that like for you to all of a sudden become a COVID-19 treatment facility?

BG: We didn't anticipate it, of course. You know, because it's not only these people from the outside, patients of our own who are already having comorbidities, diabetes, hypertension and other, you know, cardiac-related conditions, they are also infected with COVID-19. So they already require these kind of resources. But now, we've been inundated with such a high volume of people requiring oxygen and requiring assistance, help, or whatever. We are unable to have all of them. Unfortunately, some of them die. You know, there is really nothing that we can do at this point.

DMC: How would you describe the COVID-19 situation in Johannesburg right now?

BG: Oh, it's dire! We started with a third wave about two to three weeks ago. In fact, over a month ago. So we thought by now the situation would have been, you know, better. But we are still grappling and it seems it's getting worse and worse and worse. And it's puzzling even the scientists because we don't know what's going on. The country moved into much more harsher lockdown about two weeks ago. But if you look at the statistics, it seems to be getting worse. People are literally gasping for air. You know, some of them are being transported to the neighbouring provinces. Others are being flown out of the... of the province because the hospitals currently, both private and public, are overflowing. You know, it's basically, it's like a war zone. It's... it's as though now it's... it's COVID hospitals, you know?

DMC: Your Department of Health is reporting more than 22,000 new cases just today. Your country, as you mentioned, just went into lockdown. Has that helped at all?

BG: No, no, not at all! As I wasn't even aware, I'm... I'm... I'm damn exhausted. You know, I'm tired. I haven't even seen those statistics. It should have been at least less than 10,000 by now. That is why I'm saying it seems to be getting worse and worse and worse by the day. There's nothing... and people don't believe us when we tell them this. There is nothing! There is not a single bed available. You know, I saw another man waiting in the parking lot with a hand. He got injured at work, but they said to him, he's not a priority at this stage. He was bleeding profusely. He's waiting in the parking lot. There's a queue of ambulances trying to get into the casualty or the emergency room, but there is nothing we can do. People collapse in the parking lot. You know, they collapse wherever they are. You try and resuscitate those people, but it's just bad.

DMC: What is your sense of whether the Delta variant is to blame?

BG: Yeah. Yeah, and I'm helpless. You know, it's very sad. And I would say 70 to 80 per cent of my patients actually said goodbye about five, four hours ago. Another one told me so, and said, I think I can see my fate. My time is up. You know, they can see it. Unfortunately, they can foresee that this is the end of the road. And it's... it's... it's sad. It's painful. It's devastating. Families calling and, you know, it's taking a toll on us emotionally, psychologically. And, yeah, it's…. it's unbearable pain that we see.

DMC: Let me ask you about vaccines. South Africa's vaccination efforts, I mean, they're picking up, but at this point, only about six per cent of the population has received at least one dose. Who do you blame for that?

BG: Oh, that's… that's disappointing. You know, as much as we do blame the Delta variant because it has become dominant in the province, I have to blame the government. South Africa is a middle-income country. They ought to have been able to actually accelerate the vaccination program. We partially blame the Western world for hoarding vaccines. I mean, they've bought so many vaccines -- more than the population in... in those countries. Yet, the rest of Africa is unable to access vaccines since we are experiencing what we're experiencing right now.

DMC: Your president has said as much as well. Back in January, your president urged countries like Canada to stop hoarding vaccine. Do you think Western countries have done enough?

BG: No, not at all! You know, some of those vaccines, we are told and we see in the news that they are actually discarding them. Some of those have been discarded. But why does it have to get there? Why can't you donate to the rest of the poorer nations? You know, Africa is... is one of the poorest continents in the world. Why don't you donate those vaccines through the COVAX program, you know?

DMC: You just described people dying. People that you can't even help. How are you coping with everything that's been going on?

BG: You know, I was saying, you know, if I were to allow all these things to get to me, I would break. It's very hard. It's very difficult. I try to hold myself at times because we have to be strong for these people. But it's getting…. it's getting to me personally, and it's getting to the rest of us. It's too much. I had never seen something like this in my career and I had never anticipated it. Obviously, as much as I'm trying to be strong for them and to be strong for myself and, you know, for my family, it's impossible. It's getting to me the amount of people dying, even if no matter it is not any human being that will be able to stand such a thing. I'm exhausted. I'm tired, emotionally drained, and we just don't know when it's going to end. We thought by now it was going to be better, but it seems to be getting worse. I really am helpless. I don't know what to say?

DMC: to Mr. Gumende. Stay safe and good luck.

BG: Thank you so much.

DMC: Thank you.

CH: Bayanda Gumende is a dialysis technologist in Johannesburg, South Africa. That's where we reached him.

 

[music: ambient]

 

Point Roberts

 

CH: Point Roberts is not in the United States of America, but it is American. The small town is an exclave just south of Vancouver. And if they want to, residents can take an hour-long boat ride to reach the rest of Washington. But a lot of them spend their lives crisscrossing the border. Before the pandemic, they would go north for doctor's appointments, pharmacy refills, and hospital visits. And Canadians would go down to the Point to shop at local businesses during summer vacation. But this week's re-opening for fully vaccinated travellers won't change much in Point Roberts. And residents there say they've reached their breaking point. Ali Hayton is the owner of the only grocery store in Point Roberts.

 

[sc]

 

ALI HAYTON: From the beginning of this, I just kept saying, I don't need a hand out. I don't need help. I just need my customers back. Of course, that was 16 months ago now. And, you know, the well's run dry. I've tried to subsidize it myself as long as I possibly could for myself, for my employees, for the people that live there. So when that came out, I just... I pounded out an email [chuckling] and sent it to everyone in my address book. And it got some attention because people then were like, OK, wait a minute, we can't lose the grocery store because that's the only access people have not only to food but toilet paper and Tylenol and all of those things that people need to live day to day. And somehow, it got in front of our governor. He's made comments here and there, you know, over the year-and-a-half about, oh, yeah, our poor Point Roberts, but never offering to do anything. So a week ago Monday, he actually called me himself and said that they found some strategic funds in the amount of 100,000 dollars that they could use to help me stay open until the border opens, which, of course, I'm totally grateful for. But our volume is incredible when the Canadian dollar is higher, and it's a nice summer weekend, more than quadruple what it is right now.

 

STEPHEN QUINN: Yeah, and the reason, obviously, for the border closure is for the safety of people on both sides of the border. Point Roberts, however, is a total anonmy... anomaly, rather, in geography. Do you think Point Roberts should have been exempt in some way from the wider border closure?

 

AH: Absolutely! We actually were on the list to get an exemption. There were three exclaves in the United States and Canada that were on the list to get exempted. And I've been told, I don't know firsthand, but that Horgan is the one who asked that Point Roberts be removed from that list. And there was a quote back in November that said the reason we were removed from that list is because the residents had access to all the essentials of daily living, which meant through my store. But that also meant that my store was the reason our border stayed closed. But with the border being closed, my store can't afford to stay open.

 

SQ: Right.

 

AH: So it's a catch 22. And... and there is absolutely zero public health threat anymore to anyone in Canada from the residents of Point Roberts. And the answer is always no. And nobody's ever given us a really good reason. And the answer is still no from Canada and the U.S.

 

[/sc]

 

CH: That was Ali Hayton speaking with CBC host Stephen Quinn today on "The Early Edition." She owns the International Marketplace Supermarket in Point Roberts.

[music: ambient] 

Fireflies Blinking Study

Guest: Orit Peleg

 

CH: When you see a group of fireflies blinking on a warm summer night, you feel like everything's right with the world. When you see a group of fireflies blinking together, on and off, at the exact same time, you feel like maybe someone put something in the brownie you ate for dessert. For years, scientists dismissed reports of this phenomenon in Tennessee's Smokey Mountains as the result of a little too much -- let's say "excitement" on the part of humans. But to the relief of those humans, new research, published in the journal Science Advances, actually confirms synchronous firefly behaviour. Orit Peleg is one of the authors. We reached her in Boulder, Colorado.

DMC: Orit, can you describe what it looks like when fireflies light up together like this?

ORIT PELEG: It's very beautiful and it's hard to describe in words, but I can tell you that we were working this site in the Smokey Mountains and we were in the middle of a forest surrounded by thousands of little lights that are all flashing synchronously. So they are flashing all at the same time.

DMC: What was it like last year when... when you went up to the Great Smokey Park and saw it happen up close for the first time?

OP: That was quite exciting because we've been thinking quite a while about the problem of how fireflies synchronized, but at least personally, I've never seen it in real life. So seeing it for the first time was just mind-blowing. It was beautiful, emotional, and everything together. [chuckling warmly]

DMC: I am always delighted when I see fireflies, but I can't say that I've ever seen synchronous fireflies. Is it a certain species of fireflies that do this?

OP: Exactly. It's a certain species. So there's over 2,000 species of fireflies and only a few of them are known to be synchronous. The one that we worked with at the Smokey Mountains are called Photinus carolinus -- that's their Latin name.

DMC: And take me back a little bit. I mean, you're a physicist. What was it that inspired you to study fireflies?

OP: But actually, when I was a physics undergrad, I took some classes where we were taught how to understand mechanistically how systems in nature synchronize, which is a very common behaviour also for living systems, but also non-living systems like atoms. There are very heavy mathematical models that explain how synchronization occurs. But in these textbooks, they usually use fireflies as a landmark, relatable example because fireflies are, of course, very beautiful and it's maybe a little bit easier to imagine in your head a firefly flashing than an atom kind of being material. So... so the problem has been in the back of my head basically since then. And when I started my own lab here at CU Boulder, I was thinking about new problems that we can tackle as a group. And I started thinking about fireflies again. And I was somewhat surprised to find out that there's not a lot of quantitative data about firefly flashes in time and space where the flashes occur and when they occur, which makes it really hard to connect them back to these mathematical models. And there's good reasons for why this hasn't been studied before. Fireflies are quite rare. They only exist as adults who flash for about two weeks out of the year. So you really have to be at the right place at the right time to catch that behaviour. And also, I think it wasn't really possible to record their flashes before, but fairly simple off-the-shelf cameras like GoPro and cameras that we have in our smartphones, we can capture those flashes quite easily.

DMC: And what were you able to capture when... with your cameras?

OP: We have two cameras in the field site, which gives us stereo vision. It's kind of like how our eyes working so we can triangulate distance. And using this data, we were able to track the flashes and then using a computer program to reconstruct where these flashes occurred in time and space.

DMC: Hmm! So your study concludes the fireflies are synchronous. Do we know why they're doing it?

OP: [chuckling warmly] That's a really great question. We know some things, but there's still a lot of unknowns. So we know that the fireflies flash as part of their mating behaviour. So the males fly around in the air and the females are stationary on the ground. And the males are the ones that are synchronizing their flashes. So we know it happens during their mating season. So it has to do something with reproductive success. But we still don't fully understand the more global reproductive meanings of these collective flashings and how it helps the swarm as a whole. So that's something that we're hoping to tackle in the future.

DMC: And do you have any sense of what's driving that coordination?

OP: The swarm is ginormus. It's really, really big and there's thousands and thousands of individuals. So, of course, an individual firefly is able to only interact with a small part of the swarm. So what we're trying to understand is how a firefly sees or perceives the flashes that occur next to it and integrate that signal and then decide when to flash. So these are the basic mathematical models that we're trying to extend now. We're not quite there yet. This is still a work in progress, but that's very much our goal.

DMC: You mentioned that the fireflies are only synchronized for a couple of weeks of the year. Apparently, it attracts synchronous firefly viewing events. How excited do people get there about the fireflies and lighting up at the same time?

OP: [chuckling] Um, very excited. There's quite more awareness of firefly conservation, so people have to be really careful not to turn off any external light that would interfere with the fireflies. But, in the Smokey Mountains where my team has been, we saw thousands of people walking around and enjoying the fireflies. It's really quite magical.

DMC: What are you hoping this research leads to?

OP: Perhaps a few, maybe very long-term applications of these kind of synchronization algorithms. For example, our telecommunication networks, there has to be synchronization there when we have all these cell phone towers around us. And at the moment, this kind of synchronization is happening using a global... like a global hub that is basically synchronizing all the... all the clocks. But what if these cell towers could somehow synchronize just based on local interaction through their to neighbouring towers, for example? And maybe a bit more related to biology. Synchronization, as I mentioned before, is a phenomenon that occurs very widely in nature as well as in our own bodies. For example, our heart cells are synchronizing in the sense that they're all contracting together, and this helps our heart to pump blood through our body. And our brain cells and neurons are also sometimes synchronizing and that can actually have some bad side effects like epilepsy. So in the sense that sometimes there is universality in nature, we are hoping that maybe the results which we learn about fireflies could also be projected and applied to all of these different systems.

DMC: Hmm! Well, good luck with your research. Thanks for telling us about it.

OP: Thank you. My pleasure.

CH: Orit Peleg is an associate professor at the University of Colorado. We reached her in Boulder.

[music: hip-hop beat]

Ukranian Army High Heels

CH: They say shoes make the man. And in this case, they've made the man an international laughing stock. But even so, Ukraine's defence minister has been slow to walk back his plan to make female soldiers march in high heels at an upcoming Independence Day parade. That plan first kicked up controversy when the military released photos of female cadets drilling for the August 24th procession. From the ankles up they looked, you know, cadet-y. Camouflage pants. Army green t-shirts. Sensible hats. But what's below the fatigues was fatiguing: black pumps with chunky heels. The impractical, sexist edict from Ukraine's Defense Ministry had female lawmakers offering blistering criticism. As "Voice" party MP Inna Sovsun said, "It is hard to imagine a more idiotic, harmful idea" -- adding that Ukraine's female soldiers "do not deserve to be mocked." They do not. But the man who gave them those particular marching orders does. And after a lot of mockery, Defense Minister Andriy Taran announced that he's looking into alternative footwear that would "meet ergonomic characteristics and satisfy aesthetic tastes." And may we suggest that if women in the Ukrainian military don't get suitable shoes, he should get the boot. 


















 

now