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Sexual assault the focus of Broom’s live podcast fundraiser

From The StarPhoenix

Looking back at a year of interviews with regular people about their day-to-day lives, Shawn Broom had an unhappy realization.

“A lot of our — especially female — guests have at some point in the conversation brought up the fact that they were raped or sexually assaulted, or they know someone who was,” said Broom, creator and host of The Story of U podcast.

“Obviously I knew it was a problem in society, but I didn’t realize how prevalent it was and how far-reaching it was.”

That epiphany is the reason for A Night of Hope and Healing, a Regina Sexual Assault Centre fundraiser scheduled for Tuesday night at the Artesian.

The panel discussion about rape and sexual assault will feature four guests, three of whom were part of a past podcast episode.

“Part of his goal is to address stigma,” said Kate McEvenue, a panellist and counsellor at the Regina Sexual Assault Centre.

“Hopefully having these honest conversations, it will encourage others to be a little bit more open-minded and a little bit more understanding of what a person’s life can be like, especially after a trauma.”

While her counterparts will share their personal experiences with sexual assault, McEvenue anticipates she’ll talk more from a professional perspective, offering information and advice.

According to Statistics Canada information: 1,196 sexual assaults were recorded in Saskatchewan in 2016; 95 per cent of sexual assaults are not reported to police; and, one in three women will experience sexual violence in their lifetime.

Slipping Away

Jo Aubin has Alzheimer’s.  He’s 38.  This story by Maclean’s Shannon Proudfoot will leave you in tears.

Robin Giles felt like she was missing a joke. It was Christmas morning in 2012, and she and her husband, Joël, were going through familiar traditions in their apartment in London, Ont. Later they’d go out to visit friends and family, but for now, it was just the two of them and their cats.

They opened their stockings first, and Robin was becoming more puzzled with each object she pulled out: They were utterly random. Jo had always been a thoughtful gift-giver. One year for Christmas, he gave Robin a beautiful set of bound Paddington Bear books, a nod to her childhood favourite. He’d often come home from work with an album for her, or a treasure he found at a used bookstore. Today, though, her stocking was filled with CDs she already owned, and a used container of hand cream, as though Jo had bought a store tester. She kept thinking there was a punchline or a theme she wasn’t seeing.

She and Jo put on coffee and made cinnamon buns, but when they started opening presents, Robin’s bewilderment deepened. Jo’s gifts to her were a pile of used DVDs—titles that held no sentimental value. One was Tin Cup. “I remember thinking, ‘What the f–k? I don’t like golf or Kevin Costner,” Robin says. As she recalls this, she and Jo laugh at the memory, but, in the moment, it was deeply unsettling. “I don’t get it,” she said to Jo. “Am I missing something?” He was at a loss, unable to explain.

“I remember being really upset that Christmas—not because of the material stuff, but because it just felt weird,” Robin says. “It felt really weird.”

Something was wrong. This wasn’t Jo.

That Christmas, Joël Aubin was 36 years old and already battling hard to work around an erosion process that was hard-wired into every cell of his body. He had dominantly inherited Alzheimer’s disease, the result of a genetic mutation that snakes through family trees. The disease itself is rare, and Jo is a nearly unheard-of aberration because of his age. He wouldn’t know he had the disease for another 18 months—but he’d seen it all before: His mother was 47 when she died of the same illness. Jo’s teenage world had been ripped from its frame then, but he had grown up with no idea that he had a 50/50 chance of inheriting the same fate. Alzheimer’s disease would fray his marriage before fundamentally changing it, shrink Jo’s world to the size of his neighbourhood and forge his friends and family into a tight support system. And it would lead Jo to resolve to avoid a long goodbye like his mother’s, and to choose when his story would end.

It’s lonely being Guyana

From the New York Times

The area’s relative obscurity is not just name-related. With a combined population of less than 1.5 million, the Guyana Three are hardly a hotspot for news. If you know three things about French Guiana, it’s probably these: there’s a pepper (and a Porsche) named after its capital, Cayenne; the notorious French penal colony of Devil’s Island was located off its shore; and it’s the site of the European Space Agency’s spaceport, at Kourou. Suriname? Two things: the Netherlands traded it with the English for New Amsterdam, and it’s the only Dutch-speaking country outside of Europe. Guyana? The Jonestown Massacre of 1978.

But as a set, the three entities are a significant anomaly, and a case study in the way that geology and the environment can combine with geopolitics to shape a region’s history.

Since Belize won independence in 1981, French Guiana is the last territory on the American mainland controlled by a non-American power. But in fact, all three Guyanas are Fremdkörper in Latin America: they are the only territories in the region without either Spanish or Portuguese as a national language. These are coastal countries, culturally closer to the Caribbean.

Moreover, these shores are cut off from the rest of the subcontinent by dense rainforest. And that jungle remains virgin by virtue of the Guyana Shield, a collection of mountain ranges and highlands seemingly designed to conserve the interior’s impenetrability [6]. The shield is best known for its tepuis: enormous mesas that rise dramatically from the jungle canopy and are often home to unique flora and fauna (tepuis feature prominently in Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Lost World” and, more recently, the animated film “Up.”)

But the ultimate scapegoat for the loneliness of the Guyanas is Pope Alexander VI. It was he who decreed the Papal Line of Demarcation in 1493, dividing the new world between the Spanish and the Portuguese. The line ran halfway between the Portuguese-held Cape Verde Islands and the new Spanish possessions of Cuba and Hispaniola. This border was meant to put an end to the bickering between the two Iberian powers, giving Spain rights to all lands west of the line and Portugal to anything east of it. Divide and conquer, indeed.

It gives you an idea of why Guyana, French Guiana, Suriname, and Venezuela are so isolated from the rest of the world.

With a suicide rate higher than North Korea, why is Guyana the world leader in self-inflicted death?

Why is Guyana the global leader in suicides?

So why do people in my home country of Guyana kill themselves so often.

Guyana, a largely rural country at the northeastern edge of South America, has a suicide rate four times the global average, ahead of North Korea, South Korea, and Sri Lanka. Neighbouring Suriname was the only other country from the Americas in the top 10.

There seem to be a number of reasons that Guyana tops the list, including deep rural poverty, alcohol abuse and easy access to deadly pesticides. It apparently has nothing to do with the mass cult suicide and murder of more than 900 people in 1978 at Jonestown, the event that made the country notorious.

“It’s not that we are a population that has this native propensity for suicide or something like that,” said Supriya Singh-Bodden, founder of the non-governmental Guyana Foundation. “We have been trying to live off the stigma of Jonestown, which had nothing to do with Guyana as such. It was a cult that came into our country and left a very dark mark.”

Just before the WHO published its report last month, the foundation cited rampant alcoholism as a major factor in its own study of the suicide phenomenon, which has been a subject of concern in Guyana for years. In 2010, the government announced it was training priests, teachers and police officers to help identify people at risk of killing themselves in Berbice, the remote farming region along the southeast border with Suriname where 17-year-old Ramdat Ramlackhan committed suicide after quarreling with his father, Vijai.

More recently, the government has sought to restrict access to deadly pesticides, though that is difficult in a country dependent on agriculture. In May, authorities announced a suicide-prevention hotline would be established and Health Minister Bheri Ramsarran said he would deploy additional nurses and social-service workers in response to the WHO report.

I think there are some other factors that I blogged about before like the fact that violence against women is widely accepted.

Drug submarine is found in Guyana

So down in Guyana

Narcotics Submarine Seized in Guyana

Authorities in Guyana have discovered a submarine they believe was going to be used to ferry drugs across the Atlantic.

The submarine is 20 metres long and powered by a diesel engine, anti-narcotics unit director James Singh said Friday.

“It is the first time we have discovered a submarine on the Atlantic side and this is startling,” he said. “This seems to be a huge operation by groups which are setting up shop here.”
The submarine was found in Guyana’s northwest coastal Waini Region near the Venezuelan border. Singh said he believes it could have been headed to Europe or Africa. No one has been arrested.

Animal Care at SeaWorld

Animal care at SeaWorld

The incredibly sad and bizarre tales that staff share from their experiences in animal care at SeaWorld

I was on night watch when Nootka had a stillborn. The supervisors determined that they had to take the baby immediately. I was told it was for Nootka’s health and safety. Nootka was in the back pool, which is long and rectangular. They dropped a net the width and depth of the pool, and I saw her push the baby over the top of the net after carrying it around for a while. As she pushed the baby around, they were trying to get it from her—not just one guy, a swarm. 

I asked, “Please, can’t she just have a minute?” She was vocalizing and distressed. There was a shallows on the perimeter of the pool. Most of the guys were in the shallows, using nets and poles to get the calf close enough so they could grab it. I remember Nootka did get the calf back a few times, and in the end it was a very fast heave to get it out of the pool. Nootka was panicked. It was gut-wrenching to watch. 

She about killed a couple of staff. She was mad. But they took the calf, and she did everything she could to get it back. There was no honor or care. There was nothing. They just pulled the calf and threw it in the back of a truck. And they put Nootka in the med pool [a small side pool with a floor that can be raised], and that’s where she stayed the entire night. I’ll never forget it. She cried and cried for her calf. 

Hardest Job in the World?

That belongs to Irfaan Ali, the Minister of Tourism, Industry, and Commerce in Guyana who has to promote Guyana amidst news like this.

Four fishermen from Guyana are feared dead after an apparent attack by machete-wielding bandits who boarded their boat at sea, authorities said Wednesday.

Agriculture Minister Leslie Ramsammy said the attack reportedly occurred off the coast of neighboring Suriname.

The fishing boat’s captain told police that he jumped into the Atlantic as the vessel was being boarded by men with machetes. He told investigators his four crewmates were attacked and apparently dumped overboard.

No bodies have been recovered. But police say the blood-spattered boat was recently found drifting at sea.

Guyana’s fishermen have complained for years about pirates who seize catches and equipment – even their boats. Some of the attacks have been deadly off the coasts of Guyana and Suriname, neighbors on the north shoulder of South America.

Guyana’s government has cracked down on sea piracy in recent years, increasing maximum penalties from five to 25 years in prison.

Authorities have also pushed to have radios and global positioning systems placed on fishing boats to help the country’s coast guard locate vessels during emergencies. But many fishermen have not complied because of the cost.

Earlier this year, the U.S. government donated three go-fast patrol boats to help Guyana’s military battle sea bandits as well as drug and gun smugglers.

On Wednesday, Ramsammy called for greater cooperation between Guyana and Suriname in combating piracy.

Guyana’s third world problems

It’s hard to believe that Guyana is still unable to do basic civic governance.

A total US$31.6 million, which is being provided by IDB and the European Union’s Caribbean Investment Facility (CIF), is to assist the Government of Guyana as it seeks to correct deficiencies, including inefficient equipment, less than adequate operation and management practices as well as high energy costs.

According to an IDB, 50% to 70% of the water produced by Guyana Water Inc (GWI), estimated at 123,241,062 m3 in 2013, goes unaccounted for despite advancements in annual billing, while the current sewerage arrangement covers 48,000 people living in Georgetown. This figure represents just 6.5 per cent of the national population, as the vast majority continue to use septic tanks and pit-latrines.

When asked why the PPP/C administration has taken so long to address these deficiencies, Minister of Housing and Water Irfaan Ali told Stabroek News that steps were initiated to improve GWI’s efficiency some years ago. He admitted, however, that there have been challenges along the way.

With regard to reducing losses, Ali reiterated that the system is old and inefficient but also said that many of the problems are caused by customers. He said many persons continue to tamper with the system, going as far as breaking pipes so as to redirect the flow of water. He noted that several mining operations in Region 8 are known for perpetrating such acts. When this happens it compromises the integrity of the distribution system, opening it up to contamination.

Ali also said there are instances of meter tampering, which means persons are not paying what they ought to for the water they use. The minister added that persons opt not to pay their bills. GWI has stated before that many customers illegally reconnect their water without paying arrears.