Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Poem of the Month (August, 2011): NATURAL DISASTERS

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A doodle on the 1992 cyclone in Bangladesh
Doodle (Dhaka: November 21, 1992) © Jerome D'Costa


Natural disasters come, natural disasters go

Unexpectedly, beyond any human reach.


To some, disasters come from God

As trials or punishments,

To others, they are part of

The Nature’s cycle of vagaries.


For the last few decades,

Natural disasters are occurring

At a frequent rate,

With ominous ferocity and calamity.


Some say, mankind with its greed and self-centeredness,

Mistreating the Nature and its environment

In a naked and unabashed manner.


As citizens of this world

We need to lead our lives most responsibly

So that our man-made global warming

Might not trigger the Nature’s frequent furies.




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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Photo Meditation of the Month (August, 2011): THE FEET


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A female person's foot
Photo (Toronto: August 8, 2011) © Jerome D'Costa 
 
The feet -- our feet -- are a wonderful creation of God. These, like the feet of other animals, give freedom to human beings. The feet make us what we are.

The feet made a great contribution to human civilization. Movement and running from one place to another, jumping, dancing, kicking, and the like made mankind’s actions more varied and colourful. Two simple feet created understanding and bridged friendship between one person and another, between one racial group and another, though many a time these created conflict and misunderstanding through their improper use.


The feet also played an important role in food preparation in different parts of the world. In grape-wine-making countries, people used their feet to crush grapes for fermentation. In rice-producing countries, women use their feet in sun-drying process of newly harvested rice and also in de-husking rice with the dhenki (wooden dehusker).
 
Women’s feet, especially young women’s feet, play a great role in men’s realm of romance and love. Many poems have been written in various languages eulogizing the beauty of women’s feet. There have been conflicts and, even battles, between suitors to win the favour of elegantly feeted women. 

The feet also have a role in expressing respect and loyalty to persons. Even today, in some Eastern cultures, younger ones greet, pay respect and express loyalty by bending down and touching the feet of elderly people. 

On the other hand, the feet are also used as weapons – in kicking and thrashing someone. In domestic violence cases it can be seen that many a husband’s feet were used against their wives. Some of the policemen, in some countries, use their boots in kicking the hell out of citizens deemed as threats. The police, as a form of punishment, also use their feet for kicking arrested persons. 

The same feet, used in a different way, serve as a symbol of degradation and dehumanization. Shoes were thrown at U.S. President George W. Bush in Iraq and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao at the University of Cambridge, U.K. Ordinary citizens kicked and trampled upon statues, posters and photos of Iraqi President Saddam Hussain and Libyan President Moamar Gaddafi. 

In fine, we should be grateful to God for our feet that help us move about, rush to help others in distress or disaster, create beautiful dances, and the like. The simple feet then can be elevated to a higher plane.



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Sunday, August 28, 2011

Catholic Archdiocese of Boston Publishes List of Clergy Accused of Sex Abuse

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Cardinal Sean O'Malley, Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Boston
Photo courtesy: news.bostonherald.com

Cardinal Sean O’Malley, the archbishop of the Archdiocese of Boston in the state of Massachusetts, USA, published an online list of priests who have been accused or found guilty of child sex abuse in the last 60 years.

In a letter of August 15, 2011, the archbishop wrote, “The archdiocese is continually evaluating its policies and practices to ensure that our child protection and abuse prevention efforts are further strengthened,” reports the Catholic News Agency (CNA).

The cardinal further said, “Having met with hundreds of survivors, I know firsthand the scars you carry. And I carry with me every day the pain of the Church’s failures.”

“My deepest hope and prayer is that the efforts I am announcing today will provide some additional comfort and healing for those who have suffered from sexual abuse by clergy and will continue to strengthen our efforts to protect God’s children,” he wrote.

It is noteworthy that in the past several decades, the Archdiocese of Boston had been covering up hundreds of priestly sex abuse cases regarding children and, ultimately in the first half of the 2000s, these criminal activities and cover-ups exploded in the news media. The Catholic bishops of the USA then were forced to come up with measures to punish the culprits and take precautions on the prevention of further clergy sex abuse.

For further details, you may read the following:




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The Quotation of the Week (August 28-September 3, 2011)

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Two pigeons among the fallen leaves at College Park, Toronto
Photo (Toronto: November 4, 2010) © Jerome D'Costa




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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Bangladeshi Imam in Toronto Arrested on Charges of Sexual Assault on Children

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News on Imam Mohammad
Masroor of Toronto

News courtesy: National Post
(Toronto: August 25, 2011)
(To read the above news,
you may click on the image)

Mohammad Masroor (48), a Bangladeshi imam (leader of the group prayers in a mosque) of Baitul Mukarram Islamic Society mosque on Danforth Avenue, Toronto, has been arrested on August 10, reports the National Post. He faces 13 charges for sexual assault on five young male and female children under his care for Quranic studies both in the mosque and at their homes. The police appealed to the public to come forward and report any other sexual wrongdoing of this imam against children.

The arrest was quite a surprise to the Bangladeshi Muslims who regularly attend prayers under the leadership of Mohammad Masroor. This was a more painful news in their holy month of Ramadan when Muslims try to live sacrificial and holy lives by fasting and prayers.

One Bangladeshi Muslim told the reporter of National Post, “I don’t believe it. I know he’s a good guy. His character is good all the time.”

Another Muslim commented, He is “easy to approach, friendly, jokes around with everyone. He has kids of his own, he has like three kids, so he’s a family guy.”

The police also mentioned that Imam Masroor belonged to the Tablighi Jamaat, an Islamic movement that tries for spiritual revival among Muslims at the grassroots level and its members travel far and wide as sort of “missionaries.” Tablighi Jamaat, although originally founded in India in the late 1920s, at present has a strong presence in Bangladesh. Imam Masroor in the past went on preaching missions, among others, to India, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, France, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Singapore, USA, and lastly in Toronto.

National Post again reported today that Imam Mohammad Masroor used aliases (false names) in his past travels abroad. He carried different passport in the names of Junaid Salman, Abdur Rahim, Abdul Karim Abdul Aziz and finally Mohammad Masroor. The police believe that he might have committed similar crimes in his past missions.






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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Canadian Federal Politician Jack Layton Dies

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New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton
Graphics (Toronto: 2011) Joachim Romeo D'Costa

Some of the last words of Jack Layton two days before his death
Photo (Toronto: July 2, 2011) © Jerome D'Costa

The New Democratic Party (NDP) Leader Jack Layton, who recently took leave of his position due to health reasons, died on August 22. He is being mourned all over Canada by his relatives, party members and other Canadians -- both foes and friends alike.

Ever cheerful and enthusiastic Jack Layton gained further renown during the past country-wide election. As always, he spoke for the common people, the poor and the disadvantaged. He enthused the youth so much so that many of them participated in the voting for the first time and quite a number of youth joined politics for the first time and got elected as NDP members of the Parliament. He boosted the image of the NDP as a party to be reckoned with.

The powerful as well as the common people expressed their appreciation of the efforts made by Mr. Layton. Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper in a condolence message said: “On behalf of all Canadians, I salute Jack’s contribution to public life, a contribution that will be sorely missed. I know one thing: Jack gave his fight against cancer everything he had. Indeed, Jack never backed down from any fight.”

Governor General David Johnston said: “Mr. Layton was held in great esteem by Canadians for his passionate dedication to the public good….His fundamental decency and his love of our country serve as examples to us all, and he will be greatly missed.”

Former Toronto Mayor David Miller said: “As a councilor [of Toronto Municipality], his leadership in fighting against homelessness and for our environment both resulted in permanent change for the better. He has left a national legacy.”

Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced that Mr. Layton would be give a state funeral on August 27 at Roy Thomson Hall, Toronto. This honour is given to a few in Canada.

Jack Layton was born in Montreal, Quebec in 1950. In the mid 60s, he organizes a campaign in the city council to get a youth centre built, but he was unsuccessful. In early 70s, he helps Michael Goldrick to get elected in the city council. This is how he gets attracted to politics. In 1972, he joins Ryerson University as a political science professor and involves himself in local politics. In 1982, he got elected to the city council. Two years later, he obtains his PhD in from York University, Toronto. In 1990, he was the deputy mayor of Toronto. In 2000, Mr. Layton’s book Homelessness: The Making and Unmaking of a Crisis was published. In 2003, he wins federal NDP leadership. In 2004, he becomes the federal MP from the NDP. Two years later, in another election he and 29 other NDP members become federal MP. In 2010, he is diagnosed to have prostate cancer. On May 2, 2011, the NDP under his leadership wins a total of 103 seats in the federal Parliament and the party gains the official Opposition position. On July 25, 2011, he steps down temporarily from the leadership of the NDP due to a new form of cancer. Almost a month later, he dies.

The legacy of Jack Layton will live on, especially among the youth who were inspired by his dedication to the causes of the common persons and the unceasing enthusiasm he carried with him.

Two days before his death, Jack Layton showed his usual concern, love and hope for Canada and the Canadians by writing a long letter, which can be termed as his last testament. This letter was publicly revealed after his death. Among many things, he wrote: “Canada is a great country, one of the hopes of the world. We can be a better one – a country of greater equality, justice, and opportunity. We can build a prosperous economy and a society that shares its benefits more fairly. We can look after our seniors. We can offer better futures for our children. We can do our part to save the world’s environment. We can restore our good name in the world. We can do all of these things because we finally have a party system at the national level where there are real choices; where your vote matters; where working for change can actually bring about change….” Then he concludes his letter by saying: “My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.”




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Sunday, August 21, 2011

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Doodle: AN UNKNOWN ANIMAL

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An unknown animal came up in my doodle
Doodle (Dhaka: February 29, 1992) © Jerome D'Costa


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Thursday, August 18, 2011

PhotoSpeak

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A child in fashion!
Photo (Toronto: May 19, 2011) © Jerome D'Costa


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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Niagara Falls: A Japanese Female Student Accidentally Plunges to Her Death

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Ayano Tokumasu, a cheerful 19-year-old Japanese international student in Toronto, on a visit to the Niagara Falls on August 14 evening, climbed on the security railing adjacent to a stone post for a better view of the Falls as well as being photographed by her companion. While climbing down from the railing, she lost her footing and plunged 80 feet down into the river with fast-moving currents. The police and firefighters, until writing of this report today, could not locate her body yet. She is presumed to be dead.

This is the seventh accidental death in the last 100 years that the Niagara Falls became a popular tourist spot. There were few foolhardy daredevils who willingly jumped into the Falls and most of them survived death. It is noteworthy that about 20 to 25 persons every year, climbing over the rails, jump into the Falls and commit suicide.


Ayano Tokumasu is presumed to be dead after she fell over the
Niagara Falls security railing into the raging river below

Photo courtesy: Facebook

The Canadian side of the Niagara Falls
Photo (June, 1998) © Jerome D'Costa

On the right, the U.S. side of the Niagara Falls
Photo (June, 1998) © Jerome D'Costa

The Niagara Falls Security Barrier System: An Invitation to Disaster

I visited the Niagara Falls several times. Every time I went near the security railing or fence, I had a concern about the security of the sightseers. I would see parents letting their small children sit on the steel railing, some people could be seen leaning over the railing for a better view of the Falls and so and so forth. The whole security barrier system itself is an invitation to disaster. The Niagara Falls authority played a role of “see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil.”

When the security barrier was erected decades ago, Canada was an innocent place – people were more simple and blindly obedient to warning signboards like the ones still hanging on to the security barrier. Presently, the milieu is completely changed. With an increasing number of visitors, both Canadian and international, the Niagara Falls area in Summer is a crowded place. Moreover, immigrants from different countries react differently to warning signs and rules. Some immigrants, when in their own countries, did not bother about rules and regulations that much as their government oversight was lax or nil. In addition, the reality TV programmes of daredevil and foolhardy acts have some influence on people, too. Now going out of the way is a new fashion and thought to be an achievement.

Under the circumstances, the Niagara Falls authority must take active decision on making the security barrier system more effective and up-to-date. They should also heed to the Murphy’s Law. It was common sense that anything untoward might happen any time with the existing security barrier in the Falls area.

We suggest some improvements in the security barrier systems in the Falls area:

  • A secondary barrier (heavy steel netting) be built below the present barrier so that any person jumping or falling down may be secured there.
  • All stone posts should be of pyramid or conical shape so that people cannot sit or stand on them.
  • Patrol of the Falls area be increased.
  • From time-to-time, automatic announcements be made to the visitors to the Falls over the loudspeakers about security rules and regulations.

The present state of the security barrier system
in the Niagara Falls -- does it look safe to you at all?

Photo courtesy: thestar.com

One of the warning signs on the security barrier
-- is this type of waring enough?

Photo courtesy: www.petergreenberg.com



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