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A Nobel for attempted peace?

Despite its noble attempt to reward President Barack Obama's considerable promise ( Obama Accepts Nobel Peace Prize As 'A Call To Action' - online, Oct. 9), the Nobel committee should be in the business of rewarding actual achievements - not just the potential - of nominees. Such a prize, in other words, should be awarded not on the basis of "Yes we can" but on "Yes he did."

Justin Williams, Toronto

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I sincerely hope Barack Obama goes down in history as a great president; it will be good not only for America but also for Canada and the rest of the world. That being said, I'm a little puzzled at the Nobel award. Mr. Obama has shown an interest in reaching out to countries that don't have America on their Christmas card list, hoping that approach will bear fruit.

But you don't win awards for your prize apples if the only thing you've done is pruned the tree and fertilized the ground. Perhaps he may deserve it in the future, but, right now, it's a wee bit premature.

Joe Gilgunn, Victoria


Barack Obama's winning of the Nobel in the expectation of his future accomplishments discounts the value of the achievements of those who have won the award in the past.

John R. McClement, Regina

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Critics, no doubt, will complain that the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Barack Obama is entirely premature. But if that prize were awarded solely on the basis of outcome, not effort, it would have precious few winners.

Nelson Smith, Toronto


Is there no end to the accolades one can pick up simply for not being George Bush?

Eric LeGresley, Ottawa

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Savvy investors might wish to take advantage of my new proposal: I am offering futures on my Nobel Peace Prize winnings for contributions to humanity that I am only now contemplating.

David Castle, Canada Research Chair in Science and Society, University of Ottawa


Don't get me wrong. I would have voted for Barack Obama in 2008. But as someone who participates in humanitarian work and has a visceral understanding of peace-building, I draw the line at his winning the Nobel Peace Prize.

What has me so riled up is the knowledge that, for the second year in a row, the Nobel committee shortlisted Denis Mukwege, medical director of Panzi Hospital in eastern Congo. Dr. Mukwege is a man I deeply respect. But don't take my word for it: Ask the thousands of Congolese women he's saved by repairing their bodies after they've been raped with extreme violence. He has won several humanitarian prizes this year for his courage.

In a country that has seen some of the worst carnage and sexual violence in modern history, Dr. Mukwege is waging peace like no other. He told me recently in Bukavu, after accepting the UN Human Rights Prize in January, that when he returned to Congo, he was greeted at the border by thousands of fellow Congolese. A parade ensued.

A humble man, Dr. Mukwege doesn't need the Nobel Peace Prize. But he deserves it. Maybe the Nobel committee will get it right next year. Three times, after all, is a charm.

Brad MacIntosh, Sunnybrook Research Institute, Toronto


Some will deride the Nobel committee for awarding the peace prize to Barack Obama. But the power of words should never be underestimated. Avoiding or reducing animosity between humans often begins with the right choice of nouns, verbs and adjectives. By eliminating belligerent rhetoric from his vocabulary, Mr. Obama is, in effect, bringing about peace by first conquering the war of words.

Giselle Déziel, Cornwall, PEI

Naked on the street

Letter writer Nikhat Rasheed ( Burka Faceoff - Oct. 9) says "the state has no business in the bedrooms or the closets of the people." Agreed. But then comes this: "But how we choose to present ourselves to the world is part of our fundamental right of expression." Clearly, one does not present oneself to the world in a bedroom or a closet.

Every society has a range of behaviour in which free expression is tolerated - some narrow, some wide. But they're never without limits. In Western societies, where the range of tolerance for the dress code is among the widest, most people still find both complete nudity and full cover on the street inappropriate.

While our businesses and institutions generally bar entry to people without shoes or shirt, they still want (or need) to see the person's face. So on what basis should Western society accept the plea of free expression when the upper boundary of tolerance and practicality is breached with full cover?

Jan Vrana, Pointe-Claire, Que.


I can think of four occasions where covering up your face would be warranted: when up to no good (robbing a bank, for instance); in goal; at Halloween; and when it's 50 below with the wind chill.

Sandra Fairman, Toronto

Here's to Toronto (sort of)

I just want to say something to Bruce Parsons ( Eat Your Heart Out, Mr. Smith - letter, Oct. 9) and his pity for those of us in Toronto who can't find a job in Portugal Cove, Nfld. I have been to Portugal Cove more than once to catch the ferry to my father's birthplace - Bell Island. There seems to be a total of seven full-time or part-time jobs to be had in Portugal Cove - four (presumably government employees) at the ferry terminal to Bell Island and three in the only other place of employment I could see: a very nice little restaurant (but with limited parking).

Since those jobs are already taken, the other 30 or so million of us residing outside of Portugal Cove will just have to make do with working, and parking, in cities such as the reviled Toronto.

J. Rees, Toronto

Ringing down the curtain

Re Jude Law's Hamlet Is No Vanity Project (Review, Oct. 7): Last week, I went to the Broadhurst Theatre in Manhattan to see Hamlet, and an electrifying moment still resounds: Jude Law begins the famous "To be, or not to be" soliloquy (pause), and then some idiot's cellphone rings. A gasp sounds throughout the theatre but, within seconds, Mr. Law continues his brilliant performance.

Most of J. Kelly Nestruck's review hits the mark, but I, for one, appreciated the lovely pure voice of Ophelia (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) as a counter to the outrageousness of the first act's cellphone intrusion.

Here's a solution to that problem, by the way: Use a screening device to collect all electronic toys before theatregoers take their seats.

Carol Taylor, Kelowna, B.C.

Here's to loitering

Re Learning And Loitering (editorial, Oct. 9): Let me see if I understand this. First we're advised that school uniforms will improve the behaviour of students and thus create a better learning environment. Next we're told that the uniforms must not expose bare legs, as this can be a distraction. Now we're advised that police in the hallways will create a safe learning environment. Why not take this to its logical conclusion? Make the students wear orange coveralls, apply leg irons and put bars on the windows and doors.

Michael J. Evelegh, Dundas, Ont.


I have three teenage children and, in their respective schools, all the students seem to do is "hang out" - that is, loiter: chatting, laughing, doing what kids do. This tends to occur before classes start, between classes and during breaks and lunch periods. What else are they supposed to do, and where should they go?

And what about the students who smoke about a yard beyond the school property limits? There seem to be about 50 of them, all loitering in one place. Would the police believe they have reasonable grounds to demand IDs?

If your editorial complained about students who were loitering and causing a disturbance, or loitering and acting in a suspicious manner, I would agree completely. But to allow police to approach any group of students just standing around is a grave assault on our freedoms.

John Valean Baily, Guelph, Ont.

Life-saving services

Toronto Emergency Medical Services chief Bruce Farr is promising a full review of his department's "staging" policy in the wake of what a provincial investigator has deemed a "preventable delay" in response time to a fatal heart attack ( 38 Minutes - Oct. 9). Here's the first question: Why would you pair two rookie paramedics in one ambulance?

Tony Zamejc, St. Catharines, Ont.

Collateral damage

In your article Smitherman Reconsidering Mayoralty Bid In Wake of eHealth Scandal (Oct. 9), a source is quoted as saying that Ontario Deputy Premier George Smitherman has "got to weigh what sort of collateral damaging he's facing from the eHealth issue" in deciding whether to run for mayor of Toronto. Of course he doesn't. Collateral damage occurs to bystanders.

Michael M.J. McGrath, Kingston, Ont.

And the most annoying word ...

Re At The End Of The Day (Social Studies, Oct. 9): Anyway, at the end of the day, it is what it is, you know, so, yeah, whatever!

Sheila Zerr, Burlington, Ont.

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