Backed into a corner-The Cold War heats up:

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It seems the global turmoil continues. The recent downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 has opened yet another chapter in the Russian – Ukraine, and by extension the Russian – American, conflict.

Of course, neither side is assuming responsibility for this act, but, in usual fashion, most of the world is pointing the finger at Vladimir Putin. I suppose here in the west, we’ve been conditioned not to trust the former Soviet Union. After all, they were / are the root of all evil and Putin is perceived as an anarchist and dictator who is obsessed with reuniting the previous Warsaw pact nations to their former glory.

Assuming this is true, can one really blame him? American foreign policy has for many years attempted to spread western ideology and culture throughout the world. America has involved itself in numerous conflicts as self proclaimed saviors of peace and global policing advocates, sometimes to the chagrin of those they are trying to defend.

In recent years, they’ve been involved in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other conflicts all of which had questionable outcomes and cost American tax payers trillions of dollars not to mention the toll on human life.

Having secured alliances with former republics Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, America now has its sights on Ukraine. Until recently, Putin has remained quiet and hasn’t spoken outlandishly over America’s ambitions; however, a line must be drawn in the sand.

Allowing Ukraine to ally with the west would be the equivalent of allowing Canada to ally with Russia. Just as America would never stand for such an event to happen right on their doorstep, what makes the rest of the world think Russia would idly stand by and allow it to happen to them? Everyone is still sore about the annexation of Crimea, but, do they realize that if it fell into American hands, Russia would lose it’s only warm water naval base leaving it effectively defenseless against attack?

Given the ambitious campaigns of the west and backed into a corner, does Putin really have any choice? It’s no wonder he’s quietly trying to keep what little is left of his former republic for the sake of his own welfare and security?

One may argue that the cold war is long over, but, is it? There are clearly conflicting agendas and differing views around the world and if we can’t accept and respect these differences, we are doomed to ongoing conflict and a cold war that will never thaw.

It needs to start with a change in attitudes and American foreign policy. With so much on its plate, America would be wise to concentrate on their enormous internal problems and leave the rest of the world to fend for itself. It comes as no surprise that Americans are selective of their conflicts and chose those that will yield great economic or tactical advantage. Despite their rhetoric, peace or the loss of life is a secondary concern thereby creating a double standard.

Consider the harsh stance the western world is taking against Russia for their support of the separatists and their alleged downing of MH17. Even the UN passed a resolution condemning the act. However, most of the world is conveniently quiet and slow to criticize Israel’s constant barrage of Palestine whose death toll is double that of flight 17. While both events are tragic, clearly there is a bias.

 

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Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 – Mystery or Terror

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The disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 is intriguing and has fueled the imagination of conspiracy theorists worldwide. Did this plane go down due to mechanical failure or was it the victim of foul play?

Most of the available evidence seems to point to the latter as does the mysterious disappearance itself with still no trace of the aircraft 11 days later. There is growing speculation that perhaps the pilot/s may have somehow been involved and there is an investigation currently under way to explore this possibility.

However, there also exists the possibility that the aircraft was commandeered by others, possibly with the aid of one or both pilots.  The fact is, anyone capable of taking this plane must have not only been a skilled pilot but also someone intimately familiar with its systems as well as tracking and surveillance systems throughout the globe or at least in the general area of the incident.

Consider that the 777 is almost 200 feet long with a similar length wingspan and weighing over a half million pounds at take-off,  this is not a small plane and not one that can easily be hidden. If this plane was taken, it required long and elaborate planning and skillful, well backed resources. The next obvious question is why? Did someone simply want the aircraft for personal use, or perhaps for its value, some $100-150 million in the used market, or do they want to hold the passengers for ransom?

All plausible scenarios, but, unlikely. Stealing an airplane is not like stealing a car where you can simply grind off the serial number and keep it for yourself or strip it for parts. These items are very traceable globally and would easily be discovered. Holding hostages for ransom seems unlikely as most on board were not high profile individuals and it’s unlikely any government would negotiate under such circumstances, besides, no such ransom requests have been made.

Having dismissed the above and since no wreckage has been located thus far, there is another possible explanation. Consider that this aircraft was hijacked not for the purpose of crashing it into the ocean but perhaps for the purpose of using it for a terrorist act in the future, similar to what happened on 9/11. In the hands of terrorists, this aircraft is a guided missile that, given its range, can be targeted almost anywhere in the world including Europe or North America.

It may sound farfetched and incredulous, but consider the facts. It’s clear that whoever is behind this is very knowledgeable and quite capable. They knew how to cloak the aircraft’s position and what course to follow so as to disappear. One thing that puzzles me, however, is given the level of sophistication in the execution of the plan, why did they wait until after making the abrupt left turn over the Gulf of Thailand to switch off the plane’s communications? Is it possible that this too was a ploy to throw everyone off the “scent”? Was it a deliberate action to make us believe the plane was flying west just before losing contact and did it subsequently turn north, east or south? Given there’s no sign of wreckage yet, is it possible everyone is looking in the wrong place?

Ironically, the anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s death by American forces on 2 May 2011 is coming up. Could this Malaysian airliner be the instrument to avenge his death? Security forces around the world should take heed.

B(l)ack in the Race. (RIM)embering the past, hoping for the future:

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Despite what the critics are saying, it seems that BlackBerry is off to a great start under the leadership of its new CEO, John Chen.

I remember back in the mid 80s when I first heard of RIM and the breakthrough technology they were developing. 10 years later, my stock broker calls advising that RIM was going public. Once the IPO was announced, I immediately bought shares in the company. Regrettably, I sold them shortly thereafter, though I more than doubled my money. The stock continued to rally, much to my dismay for selling, until it peaked at over $230 and split 3 for 1 in 2007. It’s been a downhill ride and uphill battle ever since; the reason, competition from the likes of Apple and Google (Android), It seems the owners, Mr. Lazaridis and Mr. Balsillie, didn’t take this competition seriously. They believed this competition was embarking on a path that nobody wanted and didn’t feel at all threatened. Unfortunately, this was a critical error that started the chain of events leading to BlackBerry’s current dilemma. Was it poor judgment, lack of focus, or perhaps arrogance? We’ll probably never know. One thing is for certain, BlackBerry is but a small fragment of its former self losing significant market share to the competition.

Just prior to the Holidays, I was in the market for a new cell phone. I visited several resellers and much to my surprise, not one recommended a BlackBerry device. The push was for iPhone and Samsung devices. When I questioned the sales reps as to why they didn’t recommend BlackBerry, they shrugged it off saying it was a dead platform. Not convinced, I purchased a Z10. Now I’m no technology geek, but, after learning the new gesture based UI, I became very comfortable with the device and began exploring its attributes. I was very impressed with the intuitiveness and functionality of the OS. Everything worked flawlessly and as expected. I was delighted that I can connect the device to my computer and simply drag files between the two unlike Apple where you need to do everything through iTunes. I’m not knocking Apple as we have an iPad, iPod and (daughter’s) iPhone. Having the opportunity to use both platforms first hand, I can honestly say that there are pros and cons to both. For example, I marginally prefer the calendar and contacts functionality on the Apple device but love the clock and email functionality of the BlackBerry. Many will argue that there are significantly more apps available through Apple compared to BlackBerry. This is true; however, have you tried looking through the countless pages of apps in iTunes? You could spend weeks and months looking at all the offering and be numbed by the process. Maybe I’m the exception, but, I don’t need all these apps, many of which are redundant and rudimentary. There are very few apps, other than what’s already included in the phone, that are of interest to me and those I managed to find in BlackBerry world. It seems that Apple, and Android, are fixated on quantity rather than quality of apps. Let’s face it, the majority of people who own these devices use them first and foremost as a telephone and/or communication tool and for that, any will accomplish the task.

Personally, I’m disappointed that more people, particularly Canadians, are not supporting BlackBerry. Sure they made some mistakes and fell behind the competition’s offering, but, is this grounds to completely dismiss and abandon them? Do they not deserve another chance? Canadians are innovative people and we’ve developed and pioneered many new and great products in the past. For some reason, we have difficulty sustaining them and often surrender to competitors abroad who continue to thrive and prosper on our coattails. Furthermore, it’s sad that our own resellers are not supporting and emphasizing the merits of BlackBerry products and highlighting their benefits. For example, BlackBerry’s infallible encryption and security, the only one endorsed by the US Defense department. Even Barrack Obama, the US president, refuses to part with his BlackBerry. The German government, after extensive testing, endorsed BlackBerry and exclusively recommends it to all federal agencies. With the constant threat of security breaches, identity thefts and the likes, this one feature alone allows BlackBerry to stand out among all others as the safest most secure device in the world. You can play all the games you want on your iPhone or Android device, but, I feel safe and secure sending out personal messages on my Z10 all day long.

It really would be a shame to lose this Canadian icon. BlackBerry is a true pioneer who developed the technology we all take for granted and enjoy today. Surely they deserve our respect and a chance to redeem themselves and restore their once great enterprise. As a Canadian, I will support them anyway I can and I urge all of you to do the same. Yes they’ve fallen behind, but, with a little encouragement and support on our end, I have no doubt they will catch up and perhaps even surpass the competition.

C’mon folks, take the challenge, compare berries to apples. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at what you’ll discover.

Crucifying Identity for the Sake of Religion

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The recent events at York University regarding a male student’s request to not associate with female students on religious grounds raises an issue that has plagued me for many years. Freedom of Religion. Though raised in the Christian faith, I don’t regularly practice my religion nor do I shun it. I also respect the religion of others and wholeheartedly welcome them amongst us. The problem I have is when others try to impose onto us their values, traditions and beliefs in favour of our own.

As a result of complaints involving freedom of religion the Federal Government announced in 1990 that on-duty RCMP officers were allowed to wear Turbans in place of the customary Stetson headgear that has been an iconic symbol of the force since its inception in 1873.

Sometime around 2007/2008, the Canadian Armed Forces laxed their policy permitting wearing the Turban in place of the customary headdress, again, rescinding a Canadian tradition dating back several decades and completely shattering any “uniformity” implied in uniform.

In the spring of 2006, the Supreme Court of Canada overturned a previous decision and allowed a Quebec student to carry a ceremonial dagger (Kirpan) to school when all other students are forbidden to carry such items as they are deemed dangerous weapons. This ruling was upheld despite a Globe & Mail poll conducted the day after indicating 75% of the respondents disagreed with the decision.

In the spring of 2012, Toronto Police announced a formal policy allowing the Kirpan in courtrooms despite a weapons ban for everyone else and despite an attempted murder involving such a device in April 2010.

There have been other incidents; the “hats off” policy at the Royal Canadian Legion, the Turban scandal at the Quebec soccer federation not to mention Quebec’s own attempts to pass their secular charter.

The recent events at York U demonstrate this will be an ongoing issue. While I applaud the decision and satisfied with the ultimate outcome of this recent event, I can’t help but wonder why similar, defiant, decisions weren’t made in the events above. Let’s look at this objectively. If you welcomed an individual to stay in your home and he/she began rearranging your furniture, altering your schedule, dictating when you rise, when you eat or what you wear based on his/her religious beliefs, would you permit it? I’m going to go on a limb here and say probably not. My castle, my rules.  Most of us are somewhat flexible and understanding and often willing to make some concessions to help others but only to a certain point.

In many cases we welcome immigrants with open arms, often taking them away from oppression, providing food, shelter and medical care that would be unheard of elsewhere. Is it too much to expect a little reciprocity in the form of respect for our laws and time honored traditions?  Please understand my position. As said above, I fully respect the religious beliefs and traditions of others and have no issue allowing them the freedom to practice in their homes or place of worship. I do, however, take exception when these people blatantly try to impose these beliefs ahead of our own and when the imposition of these beliefs consequently results in a sacrifice on our part. It baffles me that despite continual public outcries after such decisions are rendered that the wishes and desires of these individuals still take precedence over our own.

I believe the problem stems from the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and in particular, the section pertaining to Freedom of Religion. While I’m no expert on the matter, I believe the intended purpose, for which this section was written, is clearly not the same as that for which it has been exploited over the years. Freedom of Religion is there to ensure the preservation and continuity of all faiths, and rightfully so without objection. However, it should not be used to impede or alter the identity of a culture that has fought so hard to create it. The Federal Government really needs to show some backbone and re-write this legislation so as to stop all this filibustering and gerrymandering once and for all; if not, I can assure you, many others will continue to test the waters and push our buttons to see what more they can gain.

As an immigrant who’s lived in this country most of my life, I’m very proud to be Canadian. I’m proud of this great Country’s achievements and standing in the world and I certainly welcome diversity, but, not at the expense of losing our own identity.

DIVERSITY / IDENTITY = NO (DIVERSITY over IDENTITY = NO)

Intro:

Greetings one and all and welcome to CANBranchOut. My name is Bill, I am semi-retired (..cough, unemployed and middle aged) and have lived in Toronto since the early ‘70s. I’ve toyed with the idea of creating a blog for some time but have often procrastinated in usual fashion. Like many Canadians, I am highly opinionated on several issues but alas, not often vocal, at least beyond my immediate reach of those who are tired of hearing me.

In looking up definitions for “branch out”, I come across terms like to start to do something different from what you usually do” or to expand or extend one’s interests” and finally “to start doing something new or different. Well, I believe this is very fitting as I go forth treading into unknown territory. You see, although I’m comfortable around computers, I’ve never embraced the whole social media concept, unlike the youth of our time. Sure I have an email account, which I scan hourly in the hopes that someone sent me something, but, I never delved into the fury of Facebook, Twitter or the like. Perhaps I’m a little old fashioned (who am I kidding, I am), and as much as I welcome the latest technologies, I am a little apprehensive of the consequences associated with them; social media included. There is tremendous power and vast reaching influence on the web today. That power and influence can be used, or abused, in ways to promote good and bad in society and requires discipline and responsibility to ensure ones accountability for their actions. That being said, it’s an incredible forum and indispensible resource to convey ideas, share thoughts and solicit feedback from others.

I established this blog to do just that (at least I hope I did). My goal is to express opinions and engage in dialogue on issues I believe to be important socially and culturally, that will generally be in the public’s best interest and impact most people as a whole. Now, as I said in the beginning, I tend to be very opinionated and I fully expect that we will not always agree; but hey, that’s what this site is all about, to hear one another’s opinions and engage in friendly(?) conversation (..er, debate). Being Canadian, I will naturally focus on local and national affairs but may explore international affairs at times particularly if it somehow affects this country. After all, Canadians are opinionated and very often complacent but seldom vocal. I hope this blog will in some small way help to remedy this condition.

Once again welcome and I hope you enjoy. As always, your feedback is more than welcome.