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Ripples escaped from his pet carrier and camped out in the wiring of a cockpit, grounding a flight from Halifax to Toronto for more than four hours. Today’s topics: the aid puzzle; scat, cat; divorcing a serial killer; minced meat ... and more

The aid puzzle

Not all aid has been inefficient, many roads do go somewhere, many people throughout the world have better housing and cleaner water thanks to aid. Scott Gilmore (Prosperity Depends On Entrepreneurs, Not Aid – Jan. 26) makes a few good points but should take care not to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Studies have shown that developing-world entrepreneurs do not always have an innate entrepreneurial spirit. Most are simple shopkeepers; it is their lack of opportunity to do anything else that forces them to sell a few goods on the side. When the time comes to expand, they often don't have the skill to do so.

Encouraging entrepreneurs is a good thing, but it is only one piece of the puzzle, not the entire picture.

Sean Irwin, Brandon, Man.


"Delivering aid" is an unfortunate choice of words, implying a one-sided, non-consultative approach. My experience, spanning 46 years and seven African countries, is that successful development assistance depends on long-term (one to two decades) community-based programs, implemented collaboratively by relatively equal, mutually respectful partners.

The three-year project model is a quick fix favoured by reluctant donors always looking for the exit. As a continental strategy for Africa, it's a rude and counterproductive hello-goodbye game. Many well-conceived projects fail simply because their life span is too short.

Entrepreneurs can be effective change agents, but they seldom emerge from subsistence farming villages. When good roads connect farmers to markets, a country's internal economy begins to grow. Then, entrepreneurs may emerge and help diversify the economy.

Burris Devanney, Halifax


This strange-bedfellow situation – NGOs and corporations – arises not only from the shrinking pool of funding available to NGOs, but a brilliant move by the Canadian extractive industry to sidestep regulation (Do Aid Organizations Take The Corporate Bait? – Jan. 25).

The concept of a tripartite agreement between CIDA, the mining industry and a few NGOs emerged precisely in the context of the National Roundtables on Corporate Social Responsibility that mobilized NGOs, academics, rights activists and some industry players across Canada to push for the introduction of mechanisms to monitor these companies' overseas activities and ensure that companies are held legally accountable for environmental and human-rights abuses. The Roundtable report was ultimately shelved by the government.

Instead, Canadian taxpayers find themselves funding corporate social responsibility projects on behalf of some of the wealthiest corporations in the world. Talk about being sold the Brooklyn Bridge.

Gwendolyn Schulman, Montreal


For decades, if not more, mining companies have been vilified for their collective lack of social responsibility and aid. In recent years, there has been an extraordinary push in the industry for a variety of initiatives to improve the lives of those in the areas of operation, as well as to drastically reduce any other impacts.

Attacking companies for making moves to right the very wrongs for which they were previously attacked is juvenile and narrow-minded. Kudos to all corporations, mining or not, for any and all steps toward a better society.

Pat Lee, Vancouver


Scat, cat

Ripples, the cat who escaped in the cabin of an Air Canada jet, not only held up a flight, but could have put passengers with severe cat allergies or asthma at risk (Frisky Feline Freezes Flight By Hiding Out In Cockpit Wiring – Jan. 26). I love cats, but they should not be allowed in flight cabins.

Paula Salvador, Toronto


This story belongs in the "what are they thinking?" column. What are the costs associated with this ridiculous escapade? Airlines indulge pet owners like this? The owner suggested the cat was the most upset (on a 5:40 a.m. flight that was delayed for more than four hours). That might be an exaggeration compared with how the passengers felt. It's more likely the cat was lucky it got off the plane alive.

Greg Hart, Calgary


Give her a break

Having an open court system is important, but I can't say I'd be too devastated if the media – in this particular case – simply ignored the divorce proceedings surrounding the wife of serial killer Russell Williams (A Defence Of Openness – editorial, Jan. 26). Give the woman a break. She has suffered enough.

John Clench, Vancouver


Fair, free elections

I believe I was called "anti-Islam" in state-controlled media so as to alienate the Bersih movement for free and fair elections from its Muslim supporters, in particular the Islamic party PAS (In Malaysia, The Threat Of A Clean Election Stirs Fear – Jan. 25). It also exposed me to potential harm.

I wish to make clear that at the time of the Bersih Rally, on July 9, not a cent of donated foreign funds had been used. The funds were used months later for the purpose for which they were given – a project on the delineation of boundaries.

The movement for free and fair elections represents the aspirations of ordinary Malaysians for a better Malaysia that upholds the rule of law and promotes corruption-free, transparent government. Those who seek to undermine these noble aspirations allege quite wrongly that we are instruments of foreign agencies. In doing so, they insult us and disregard our fundamental rights as citizens, to seek clean elections, clean government and a healthy democracy.

Ambiga Sreenevasan, chairperson, Bersih, Kuala Lumpur


Billions, made legal

While it is true that, overall, crime rates are down, street gangs and organized crime groups, often fighting with rival groups or gangs, continue to flourish (Canadians Get It: Crime Is On The Decline – Jan. 26).

This year, gang violence in Vancouver and Montreal, for example, has already brought shootings in the street and firebombs. This is, in part, because people want products or services that are prohibited or tightly regulated by government. An end to the prohibition of marijuana, as suggested by the Liberals, would get at organized crime and street gangs where it hurts – in their pocketbooks – since the value of annual marijuana sales in Canada is measured in the billions.

James Dubro, Toronto


That Stuff nights

My mother made this (Loose Mince – Jan. 25) often for her brood of six children. I always thought it was a concoction she had dreamed up and "perfected" over the years, so I was surprised to see it in print as an "official" recipe – although I'm not sure if Lucy Waverman's name of "Loose Mince" is more or less appealing than what we called it: "That Stuff," as in "Oh No! Not THAT STUFF again!"

Thanks for bringing back "fond" memories of That Stuff nights.

Sue Clark, Union Bay, B.C.