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Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Fabian Manning, one of three defeated Conservative candidates appointed to the Senate.

Michael David Smith

An option, sir

It's too bad that Stephen Harper didn't think back to one of his political forebears, Brian Mulroney, and one of the famous lines in Canadian political history, before deciding to appoint three losing Tory candidates to patronage positions in the Senate (Harper Spokesman Rejects Criticism Of Senate Appointments - May 20).

"You had an option, sir."

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Michael Farrell, Oakville, Ont.

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Stephen Harper's appointment to the Senate of three defeated Conservatives makes a mockery of our democracy. Two of the "new" senators, Fabian Manning and Larry Smith, resigned from the Senate to run for the Commons. Failure has its rewards and both are back in the Senate. The last time this happened was more than a century ago.

Senators get an indexed base salary of over $132,000, an office, a staff of two or three, generous travel and expense privileges, but with very little need to show up for work. They can stay until 75, then "retire" with a generous pension. With no electoral accountability, they enjoy job security that is the envy of most Canadians.

This is nothing short of democratic fraud. Canadians should demand a "Triple A" Senate - abolish, abolish, abolish. The Senate has no place in a modern parliamentary democracy.

Lorne Nystrom, Privy Councillor, Regina

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Is there any other country with a bicameral parliament in which the second chamber has no representatives of the Official Opposition?

Julian Brown, Kingston, Ont.

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Explain it to me

I've been living in Canada for 10 years; obviously, I still have to get used to Canadian terminology (A Long Road To The Perfect Cottage - May 20). Could somebody explain to me why a 3,000 square foot mansion is called a "cottage"?

Monika Starke-Moull, Waterloo, Ont.

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Lines in sand

Drawing lines in the sand is old hat to American presidents (Obama Draws A Line In The Sand, Prods Israel To Accept '67 Borders - May 20). But it is also tricky business. Barack Obama's invitation to return to the boundaries between Israelis and Palestinians before the 1967 war deserves serious attention, especially given the winds of change blowing through the Middle East.

But these winds have a history of erasing any and all lines drawn in sand. The only way Mr. Obama's initiative will succeed is for Israel to join wholeheartedly in the peace process.

Geoff Smith, Kingston, Ont.

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Israel must strengthen its defences while Barack Obama is in office and wait for a freedom-loving U.S. president to support its existence as the only liberal democratic state in the Middle East.

Jiti Khanna, Vancouver

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Barack Obama's call for Israel to accept a peace agreement based upon the "1967 lines with mutually agreed upon swaps" is no different than the Clinton parameters of 2000 and Bill Clinton was (rightly) thought of as a great friend of Israel. It should not be forgotten that no deal can be completed without the Palestinians coming to grips with there being no refugee "right of return" to Israel and an appropriate division between Jewish and Arab Jerusalem. Mr. Obama just repeated what all those - Israelis and Palestinians included - truly interested in a negotiated settlement have for some time accepted as a given.

Simon Rosenblum, Toronto

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Go, Canucks

Gary Mason (Canada's Team? - Sports, May 19) entertains the notion of a "national antipathy" toward the Vancouver Canucks. It might be a little nerve-wracking to watch Roberto Luongo reach for the odd puck that inches across the goal line. Or hard to stick with the earnest Sedin twins when they seem a little too sedate for playoff hockey. But next to the hapless San Jose Sharks, the Canucks are exemplary.

If hockey fans across the country have stopped watching the playoffs, it's due in part to the disappointment hangover that comes when teams such as the Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators end their seasons in early April. Hockey families have learned to move on to soccer and baseball; any "spite and jealousy" will be long gone.

If captain Henrik Sedin gets to hoist the Stanley Cup, it'll be a new hit on YouTube. Everyone will be there. Some with heavy hearts; many in Luongo hockey shirts, dancing with fireworks.

Julia Elliott, Ottawa

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End is nigh?

People shouldn't be surprised that the May 21 apocalypse fervour has taken greater hold in the U.S. than in other countries, including Canada (Apocalypse Soon - As In Tomorrow - May 20). Keep in mind that this is a nation that had someone like Sarah Palin in serious contention for the second-highest job in the land; a place where some people still think Donald Trump has both good hair and good sense; a land where the likes of Newt Gingrich can still get a hearing, despite the more than $250,000 bill he and his third wife - who makes the Stepford Wives look like potheads living on a commune - ran up at Tiffany's.

All this apocalypse talk ought to make for great end-of-world cocktail parties throughout the U.S.

Mary Stanik, Minneapolis

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Some may see this latest group as harmless and fringe, but there are millions of others who believe in some sort of "apocalypse" brought on by a supernatural deity. Some of these people hold positions of political power - it makes you wonder if they are truly responsible enough to be making rational decisions on matters that will actually affect the future of humanity, such as war and climate change.

This latest doomsday group has largely been marginalized by society, and rightly so. But for the sake of us all, shouldn't a belief in any kind of divinely attributed apocalypse be marginalized, whether there is a precise date assigned to it or not?

Mark Bessoudo, Toronto

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Young gamblers

According to the International Centre for Youth Gambling Problems and High-Risk Behaviors, one in 10 high school students have gambled for money online (Experts Warn Against Government-Backed Online Gambling - May 19). As well, more than half are playing on "practice" sites that train them to be lifelong gamblers. Any increase in the profile of online gambling will lead to more young people gambling. Unfortunately, young people are more likely than adults to become problem gamblers and are more likely to suffer the negative consequences of problem gambling. There is an urgent need for young people to be educated about the risks and consequences of online gambling, a need which will only grow as provincial governments expand their gaming operations onto the Internet.

Matthew Johnson, director of education, Media Awareness Network, Ottawa

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Bit by bit

Re Nova Scotia Hospitals Ban Tim Hortons Doughnuts (May 20): Double-double toil and trouble brewing. The fast-food fans will not like this one Tim bit.

Ken DeLuca, Arnprior, Ont.

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