NEWS BYTES

It's for Shiela to know

Despite the prime minister's reported request that all ministers and their political staffs release the details of all their expenses, Sheila Copps, and others of her ilk, continue to insist on keeping their own counsel. One reporter's request under the Access to Information Act brought him the news that Copps had run up a bill of almost $180,000 for travel, hospitality and "other" in the 22-month period ending last Oct. 3. The "other", amounting to $81,000 of the total amount, was not explained.

The American hammer is heavy

Key breast cancer tests can no longer be done in B.C. because its premier caved in to American interests on a patent issue last year. This caused the cost of the test to skyrocket to $3,500 -- more than the B.C. government is willing to pay. On the federal scene, the government rolled over when the U.S. shut down its sale of Canadian ambulances and automobiles to Iraq. So instead of buying tens of thousands of Canadian-made vehicles, the business went to Japan and elsewhere.

Human shields in Iraq

Together with a few hundred others, U.S. veteran Ken Nichols O'Keefe is volunteering to go to Iraq to bear witness for peace and justice. They are choosing to risk death beside innocent Iraqis -- not in support of Saddam Hussein, but to show the Iraqi people that most people in the West do not support this criminal war. O'Keefe also sees it as a personal penance for having fought with the U.S. Marine Corps, using depleted uranium against Iraqis, in 1991. He renounced his U.S. citizenship in 1999. He says he honours the principles and laws of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in this latest stand. "And if I should die in Iraq, it will be as a man at peace with himself because he saw the truth and acted on it," he says.

Canada Post anomaly

Although Canada Post has a small packet rate for items mailed to the United States, there appears to be no such rate within Canada. We recently posted a smallish paperback to Ottawa from Nova Scotia. The cost was $6.65 (plus 15 per cent HST). We could have sent the same package to any U.S. destination for $2.80 surface mail and $4.25 by air.

An anti-war American government

On Jan. 21, the City Council of Corvallis, Oregon, approved a resolution supporting peaceful solutions to the proposed war with Iraq. Because such an attack by the U.S. would be "unjust, unneeded and in contravention of international law"; and because Corvallis citizens are committed to democratic process; and because a preemptive U.S. attack would further isolate the U.S. from the rest of the world; and because all peoples should work co-operatively; it was resolved to oppose any preemptive attack against Iraq, while giving unconditional support to U.S. military men and women living at home and abroad.

Now tracking what books Americans read

Freimut Duve of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe wrote to U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell to demand an explanation after learning that U.S. citizens are being tracked by government agencies to learn what they read. Booksellers say they were told not to tell their customers that the U.S. government was demanding their lists. So if a citizen buys a book that is critical of the government, that person can be identified, Duve says. In a like manner, library lists and newspaper subscriptions are secretly scrutinized. U.S. spokesman Douglas Davidson said this is a result of Sept. 11 and the law allows only the surveillance of suspected terrorists and spies. Duve expressed concern that other countries, such as Britain, might copy the U.S. example.

Almost half say 'ethnic origin' Canadian

The Sun newspaper chain gives credit to their many readers for creating a new category of ethnicity for Canadians who want to label themselves "Canadian". Up to the 1991 census, Canadians who wanted to identify their ethnic origin as such in the census had only a box marked "Other" in which to say so. Only 0.5 per cent had done so in the 1986 census, but after the encouragement of Sun columnists, this number jumped to 4 per cent in 1991. When this growth was recognised by listing it as a separate category in the 1996 census, the numbers exploded to 31 per cent. By today, 39.4 per cent of our citizens have listed "Canadian" as their ethnic origin.