The 'better' oil
This whole "ethical oil" ad campaign (The Oil-Diamond Analogy - Aug. 1) reminds me of an episode of TV's Curb Your Enthusiasm, in which Larry David attends the funeral of a man who had succumbed to Hodgkin's disease. He is convinced that the man had suffered from what he described as "the good Hodgkin's." It turns out that the man had suffered from Hodgkin's lymphoma, which typically has a higher survival rate than the other form of the cancer, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. In the end, Larry finally concedes that perhaps "good" wasn't the most appropriate description; he settles for "better."
This is a perfect analogy for comparing Canada's oil sands to the petro-dictatorships of Venezuela, Saudi Arabia and Iran. Good? Certainly not. Better? Sure. But they're both still cancer.
Mark Bessoudo, Toronto
Instead of spending so much energy and editorial space on how to defend our controversial source of national wealth, we should be focusing a bit more of our attention on what may happen to us after this great "oil party" is over.
We must take advantage of our current source of great economic success and invest aggressively on innovation now, so we can still deserve to call ourselves an "energy superpower" in a very changed future world.
Andreas Souvaliotis, Toronto
U.S. debt deal
Re Obama, U.S. lawmakers Strike Deal To Raise Debt Ceiling (Aug. 1): Through all the wrangling debate and imperfect compromise on the U.S. debt ceiling, we have witnessed the exercise of American democracy at its rawest but also at its bloodless best.
Joe Baar, Avon, Ohio
The economics professor is quoted as saying, "Everyone in every corporate boardroom in America will be laughing their heads off." And they won't be the only ones.
The Washington-based Center for Responsive Politics reports that almost half the members of Congress are millionaires, a valuation that does not include the their property. Just 1 per cent of the U.S. population are millionaires, which means that the 99 per cent are ruled by representatives of the 1 per cent, not of the people at large.
Colin Proudman, Toronto
Shira Herzog writes that organizers of Israel's "tent protests" calling for affordable housing have been consciously avoiding the topic of the occupation (Protest At The Corner Of Rothschild And Tahrir - Aug. 1). In doing so, however, they undermine their own cause.
Housing shortages in Israel have everything to do with the occupation, in which $3-billion is spent annually on constructing settlements, expanding settlements and subsidizing unwilling buyers to move to settlements.
Given that the high cost of housing in Israel is what drives a good number of Israelis, especially Russians, to purchase homes in the occupied territories, one should not be surprised that successive Israeli government have done little to address the housing shortage.
If the tent protesters don't broaden their movement and make these links, their movement will die. If they do, Israeli leaders will have every reason to be nervous.
Jason Kunin, Toronto
No beer is an island
You got it wrong, twice, in What Makes A Country (Focus - July 30): While Japan is indeed an island and a country, England is neither. The island England finds itself in (with Scotland and Wales) is Britain; the country formed (with Northern Ireland) is the United Kingdom. England was its own country until the Act of Union with Scotland, in 1707.
Godfrey Baldacchino, Canada Research Chair (Island Studies), University of Prince Edward Island, Charlottetown
Things are much simpler when you forgo diplomacy. According to Frank Zappa, you need only two things to make a country: a beer and an airline. If you think about it, you pretty much have the four qualifications for a country of the Montevideo formula right there.
Alain Gingras, Notre-Dame-de-la-Salette, Que.
Third World birth
Having been a midwife for two decades, I read with interest and some dismay the article about technological innovations for reducing international maternal and infant mortality (Inspiration - front page, July 28).
While this challenge may produce a few useful tools, we need to remember the conditions under which most Third World women deliver babies. For example, even if we monitor maternal oxygen levels in the days before birth, there still may not be an appropriate clinic to refer the toxemic mother to in time to save her and her baby. We may use the handy windup fetal monitor but have no immediate way to deliver a distressed baby.
While we pride ourselves on the advancements Western mothers enjoy, we need to remember that these advancements were built on a solid foundation of a steady supply of healthy food, clean water, good sanitation and freedom from infectious disease. Without these bulwarks of civilization, many women and babies in the Third World will continue to enter labour in a weakened and unhealthy physical state that can be directly linked to toxemia, fetal distress, hemorrhage and death.
Louise McDonald, Wolfville, N.S.
Gary Carter, Andre Dawson and Rusty Staub's numbers were retired by the Nationals? (Baseball's Retired Numbers And Those Who Wore Them - Sports, July 30) Really? I don't remember any of them ever playing in a Washington uniform.
These three will always be stars of the Montreal Expos, no matter where the franchise has moved. There are a lot of players in the Hall of Fame who played for teams now defunct or moved - those honours didn't get changed retroactively, and nor should this one.
Karen Lajoie, Yellowknife
Kids should not
The question of whether a parent should take a small child in a trailer behind a bicycle (Should Your Kid Come Along For The Ride? - Life, July 29) could be solved by a simple road test.
The test would require the cyclist to take the position of a child for a 45-plus-minute ride while towed by another cyclist while strapped on a trailer 18 inches off the ground on a major or secondary street (cars present), positioned low enough to enjoy the benefits of car and truck exhaust, and positioned so that when a car is making a right turn, or changing lanes, and can't see the low-level trailer, he or she would have the pleasure of hearing the brakes squeal.
A pleasant experience when stationary might be the interest of curious dogs. Of course, there would be a plastic cover over the whole thing to protect from creatures and hazards, which would be an added delight when the day is hot.
I can't believe these things are street legal.
Ingunn Kemble, West Vancouver
Re Police On Alert Over Wave Of Pool Hopping (July 30): Yeah, we have a similar problem on the coast in this unseasonably cool B.C. summer - hot-tub hopping.
Dave Nonen, Victoria