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Collateral damage

So Omar Khadr finally goes on trial (The Khadr Trial - Aug. 9). He remains the only citizen of a Western country held at Guantanamo whose government has not taken steps to repatriate him. Every possible legal argument has been advanced on his behalf to the federal government by his lawyers and supporters, to no avail.

Given the failure of these arguments, let me appeal to Prime Minister Stephen Harper on the lowest possible level - self-interest - in the faint hope of getting through to him. Mr. Harper, do you really want to go down in history as the leader of the only Western country that did not repatriate its citizens from Guantanamo?

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If you will not be moved by the fact that Omar Khadr was a child soldier, that he was tortured in Afghanistan, that a third of his life has wasted away in Guantanamo, that he is collateral damage in one of George Bush's international adventures, then be moved, sir, as you think of your legacy. Reflect on how your own children may feel when, at some future date, they read the unremittingly negative accounts of your response to this tragic situation - and remember that "the quality of mercy is not strained."

Donald Grayston, Vancouver

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Omar Khadr was 15 years old when the grenade that killed U.S. Army Sergeant Christopher Speer was thrown. Nobody has stated that that they saw him throw the grenade. He was not the only person who could have thrown the grenade. Even if he had done so, it is not a war crime to throw a grenade in combat. Grenades have been used for more than a century, and are meant to be used against hostile combatants who are perceived but unseen.

When was the last time a U.S. soldier or marine was charged for throwing a grenade in combat?

Richard Hooe Macy, Ottawa

Service with a frown

Re Clement's Senseless Argument (editorial, Aug. 9): If it can be assumed that governments with the most complete and accurate information can serve their constituents better than those armed with lesser information; and if it can also be assumed that Canadians generally want good, not bad, service from their government, who are these anti-mandatory census people seeking lousy service from their government? Haven't we had enough of that already?

Bruce Penton, Brandon

A CBC convert

As a now dedicated listener of CBC Radio 2, I must disagree with your letter writers (Wishful Thinking? - Aug. 9). By changing the format of Radio 2, Richard Stursberg has produced the most creative radio programming in Canada (although I could do without the Saturday opera). It's the only station that's on in my house and car.

Patrick Sullivan, Richmond, Ont.

Looking for answers

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Christie Blatchford is premature in her claim that there is nothing to be learned from a public inquiry into the Pickton case (It's Doubtful There Are Lessons To Be Learned From A Pickton Inquiry - Aug. 7). The relevant question is, are police confident a tragedy like this could never happen again? If the answer is not a definite yes, then an inquiry is warranted.

Significantly, the Vancouver Police Department has supported the call for a public inquiry. Both the VPD and the RCMP eventually implemented reviews of their investigations, but these reports are not yet public. As a former VPD detective inspector with involvement in the missing women investigation, I know problems occurred within both agencies at individual, organizational and structural levels. More than eight years after Robert Pickton's arrest, the Lower Mainland's balkanized policing structure still creates barriers to effective communication, decision-making and accountability.

In the Vancouver area, there are still unsolved serial murders of sex-trade workers. While these are difficult investigations, I have faith in the ability of Canadian policing to meet the challenge. A properly focused public inquiry into the Pickton case could help accomplish that objective.

Kim Rossmo, chair, Department of Criminal Justice, Texas State University, San Marcos, Tex.

The tyranny of democracy

While I agree with her sentiment, Anne Rowe perpetuates a fallacy when she writes that enforcing the law without prejudice is a "hallmark of democracy" (Mayor Of All - letters, Aug. 9). In fact, democracy can and often has been tyrannical. Democratic Germany, after all, gave the Nazis the largest share of the popular vote twice in 1932, while recently the United States and its allies have flouted the rule of law in prosecuting the "war on terror."

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Nor does respect for the rule of law necessarily guarantee people's rights. While such respect has been a hallmark of liberal democracy, even in such societies laws that protect minority rights can be repealed, allowing for, as John Stuart Mill put it, "the tyranny of the majority."

Geoff Read, assistant professor of history, Huron University College, London, Ont.

In the bunker

Considering he was the golfing golden boy, Tiger Woods has fallen from sport sensation to barely scraping a placement above dead last (Fight For Top Spot Becomes A Race To The Bottom - Sports, Aug. 9). Athletes can't stay on top of their game forever. In a field of expertise that favours the young, sooner or later a fresher, younger player will make an appearance, and the reigning champion will become the "remember when" player, known for whatever they did during their proverbial 15 minutes of fame.

Tiger was a great golfer. Unfortunately, he has not only lost his placement in the upper echelon of golfing experts, but his actions off the golf course have besmirched his legacy. What a waste.

Deanna Soloninka, Toronto

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Scouting for enjoyment

I'm a leader in the 6th Central Surrey Scout group in B.C. Your article It's Not Your Leave It To Beaver Scouts Any More (Focus - Aug. 7) gave a somewhat dismal picture of Scouting in the 21st century. To an outsider, the article gives the impression that Scouting in Canada is all but finished save for a few closed immigrant groups.

While I am aware that national enrolment in Scouting has declined over the years, our local 6th Central Surrey group is thriving. I currently have three sons in Venturers and my daughter will start Beavers in September. None of my kids have been roped into Scouting; they can quit any time they want, but they have chosen to stay.

I'll avoid the usual comments about building community leaders, etc., and instead just say that we have fun. Lots of it.

Mike Zecchel, Surrey, B.C.

Global upheaval

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How interesting and appropriate that Neil Reynolds's appeasing study of heat-wave-related deaths is published on the same day as the news of devastating floods causing thousands of deaths across large parts of Asia (Hot Enough For You? Do What We Always Do: Adapt - Aug. 9). When it becomes more broadly understood that climate change is not about our weather getting warmer - in fact, it's about floods, storms, volatility and unpredictability of weather - then perhaps humanity might respond with some more urgency.

In the meantime, we continue to behave like that oblivious frog in a slowly boiling pot of water, by discussing heat-related deaths in North America instead of worrying about global conflict triggered by mass human migration.

Andrew Souvaliotis, Toronto

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Neil Reynolds says we shouldn't be concerned about global warming because individuals will adapt their behaviours to higher temperatures. No social scientist would dispute that. What matters, though, is how systems react, and the prognosis there is much less rosy. The global food system, for instance, is very sensitive to sustained temperature changes of even a few degrees, as we're seeing in Russia this year. All the air conditioning in the world won't solve that problem.

Nathan Young, Ottawa

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Well, Neil Reynolds's article about how humans will surely adapt to rising summer temperatures is a straw-man argument if I've ever seen one. I don't think that anyone disputes that humans will be able to adapt to the direct influence of warmer summer days. However, this is just one metric of climate change, viewed in isolation from the larger system. It's the indirect effects of climate change that we should be worried about.

While Mr. Reynolds scoffs at the idea that we should be worried that "the past decade was 0.6 C warmer than the 1960s decade," it's a fact that glaciers, oceans, forests and agricultural land are all sensitive to even these minute changes in temperature trends. This, in turn, will greatly affect us and make it more difficult for us to adapt.

Mark Bessoudo, Toronto

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It is not sufficient for the author to note that people who die in heat waves don't matter because they were on their deathbed anyway. Systematic research at the University of Chicago has revealed that the people most likely to die in heat waves (as in other natural disasters) are poor and/or socially isolated. Is the author proposing we just throw these kinds of people on the garbage heap, ignoring the social (and preventable) determinants of their death?

Lorne Tepperman, Toronto

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Earth to Neil Reynolds: The reason it's called global warming is because not everybody lives in North America. No doubt the survivors of the recent floods in Pakistan and China eagerly await the arrival of really efficient air conditioning. If only they had a place to put it.

Rosco Bell, Regina

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