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04/30/2003 Archived Entry: "Brad reports on Toronto"

Brad reports that the SARS scare had an impact on the computer conference he attended in Toronto yesterday, despite the fact that WHO has removed its travel alert. Attendance seemed low but -- as this was the first conference of its kind -- it was not possible to declare attendance to be "off." The exhibitors were a better indicator. Of a planned total of 53 exhibitors, 4 cancelled...all Americans. Other exhibitors cancelled travel plans for their American staff and (wo)manned the booths with Canadian employees instead. Of 51 sessions, 9 were called off, presumably because the presenter did not show; the high percentage is probably due to more than one presentation being given by a speaker. Meanwhile, on the street outside the CN Tower, where the conference occurred, scalpers were selling tickets to the otherwise "sold-out" Blue Jays game. It was sold-out because the owners were tired of looking at empty seats and, so, lowered the price to $1 -- a fact not mentioned in most articles that covered the event. It will take some while before the economic ripples of WHO's alert smooth out.

Jon Stewart's "The Daily Show" did a hilarious bit, "Bush v. Bush" --a "debate" between President George W. Bush and Presidential Candidate Governor George W. Bush, in which statements clipped from a recent Bush speech were refuted by statements made by Bush during the Bush / Gore debates. As my friend Gordon states, "Remarkable how much someone can reverse their position on core issues once they have been elected to an office."

Why is the US pulling out of Saudi Arabia? -- a step which fulfils one of Bin Laden's main demands: the withdrawal of American troops from his homeland. Time magazine offers one answer but I don't find it very satisfying, altho' I am sure much of what Scott MacLeod, Middle East bureau chief, says is true. I just don't think it is the entire truth. And while I am speaking of truth, Robert Fisk has written a very disturbing article in which he virtually accuses the US of murdering independent journalists and outright charges the military with lying about firing only in retaliation to snipers.

Meanwhile, back in Iraq..."The neo-conservative fantasy of Iraq is now meeting the real Iraq"...so writes Juan Cole in his article "Shiites in Revolt: Why Paul Wolfowitz Is in a State of Shock." One item I don't think shocks the neocons is the utter absence of WMD. I don't believe they ever expected to find any, tho' it would have been a delightful bonus (for them) if they had. Even British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has admitted that WMD may never be found. Yesterday, "he told the Commons that war was declared because the regime had ONCE been in possession of them. And he insisted they did not have to be found to justify the invasion." As Jennifer A Gritt comments in her article "Weapons of Mass Delusion" on antiwar.com, "President Bush told the world that Saddam's alleged WMDs directly threatened the U.S. Now that the war is over and no arsenal was found, where does that leave America?" I am sure they will adopt Jack Straw's line. The justification behind the invasion keeps shifting and the new justification are presented with moral certainty as tho' the earlier statements had never been made. I can't even remember the last time I heard 9-11 being referenced as the reason for war. It is a fast moving world...at least, in terms of political spin.

On the Personal Side:

Wednesday continues to be my day off from work and a good thing too. The farm is demanding attention and threatening to go wild without it. I started to seriously clean-up winter from the farm, one of my least favorite outdoor tasks. Every toy, shred of paper, bone, or can that the dogs have grabbed and taken out over the last few months lies naked, like a rebuke, now that the snow has melted entirely. (Other than the ones located near the house, I am leaving it to the rain to take care of their various favored latrines.) Yesterday I cleaned out the old hollyhock stalks -- the front of our house is blanketed with them -- and started picking up the large quantity of bark that accumulates around the wood pile area in order to spread the chips around trees and other areas I want to keep grass and weed-free. The swings of temperature make it difficult to work consistently, day after day. For example, yesterday it was 19 degrees C., T-shirt weather. Last night it was below freezing, with the new day arriving overcast and chilly. I won't do anything that requires contact with the soil but, fortunately, there are dozens of trees and bushes that need pruning back.

Best to all,

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