Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2006
While I fully support the separation of church and state that has long granted all Americans the freedom to honor and observe their own religious traditions, I also believe strongly in the power of prayer. And I am not afraid to admit that or to ask my God for help.
My less than stellar choices and the twists and turns of life have often landed me in a prayerful mode with my higher power, and I continue to be blessed in ways too countless to list.
When I heard this week that our governor was asking for prayer for rain and an end to the heat and drought gripping the state, I was first surprised and maybe taken aback a bit and then pleased to join in what I hope has been a collective chorus to the heavens seeking divine intervention in breaking this spell of horrific heat and dryness.
Gov. Mike Rounds did not order citizens to pray nor did he impose any penalties on those who choose not to pray. Therefore, I don’t really think it such a big deal to ask for some prayer and reflection.
It seems that we have become very defensive and quick to offend on religious issues and other moral topics, and anything that smacks of something to which we do not ascribe is immediately to be fought.
I fear that some of this stems from the abortion debate still raging in our state and nation. There has been some blurring of the lines between church and state in many situations, and some people have been unfairly labeled and condemned on both sides of this highly charged issue. Some have felt God was on their side in this argument and in others.
Look at the conflict in the Middle East. Which god is right in that ancient battle? To whom should an Israeli child pray? And the Palestinian or Lebanese mother? Whose prayers will be answered?
Surely one child’s life is as precious as the next. Each has a right to life, do they not?
But is that really the same philosophical mystery we face when we hear our governor ask for prayer? I don’t know for sure, but I suspect it’s a bit different.
My colleague argues that the governor should worry less about prayer and worry more about getting some aid for drought stricken farmers and ranchers. Not a bad idea, but the two courses of action are not mutually exclusive, nor did I hear anywhere that Gov. Rounds would simply pray for rain.
It’s easy to make a target out of a governor or any other official who speaks from the heart. I believe Rounds spoke from the heart when he asked for some healing rain from the heavens.
Is asking for prayer really so bad? And did Rounds cross the line when he proclaimed a special week for prayer?
Some of the same people who are objecting to this call for prayer are supporting a buffer zone around the state park at Bear Butte largely because of its sacred status to Native Americans. The butte is a sacred site for prayer. Should we forbid that prayer on state maintained property?
I don’t know how one can hold a view supporting that sort of public protection of religious tradition and then chastise Rounds for his low-key call for prayer. Just who does it hurt?
When I first learned much about Gov. Rounds he was simply an alternative candidate in a Republican primary that had become quite nasty between the frontrunner and the most financially well backed opponent. Rounds was far behind in the polls.
But South Dakota voters rejected the negativity and the aggression that marked the communications between those candidates and chose Rounds. That was a loud message.
We want our governor to reflect the best that we are. And with his call for some prayer, I think this governor was attempting to honor just one avenue for hope and for intervention.
Let’s not beat up on him for this. In fact, how about if we say a prayer for him every now and then?
I will hope the governor spends a few moments every day seeking heavenly guidance for the challenges he faces daily. That would be reassuring to me.
I see the proclamation for prayer as a huge step up for the Rounds administration from a previous summer’s proclamation of a G. Gordon Liddy Day (of Watergate fame) in South Dakota. That proclamation was apparently signed in error and ultimately withdrawn. I see no need for any similar course this time.
It’s no mistake to seek help from the heavens where ultimately the healing balm of rain will come. Money from Washington will not solve every drought-related hurt.
In a ruling that has national implications for every athletic department in the country, a federal judge has declared that a coach has the right to take part in the age-old practice of “taking a knee.”
On July 25, 2006, U.S. District Judge Dennis Cavanaugh ruled that officials at East Brunswick High School in East Brunswick, N.J., may not prohibit their head football coach Marcus Borden from exercising his First Amendment right to respectfully participate in his players’ voluntary, student-led prayers by silently bowing his head and taking a knee as the prayers are said.
Pre-game, student-led prayer has been a regular part of the game of football since before Coach Borden started leading the team in 1983. In fact, East Brunswick High’s practice of player-initiated, pre-game prayer has been in effect for over 25 years, with more than 2,000 former East Brunswick football players opting to voluntarily pray before taking the field on game days.
The prayers are a simple, solemn request for safety and honor on the field. But the practice quickly became a target for official school censure after some parents complained about a prayer that was offered at a pre-game pasta dinner. Quick to jump on the “thou-shalt-not-offend bandwagon,” school officials passed a policy in October 2005 prohibiting representatives of the school district from participating in student-initiated prayer. This policy effectively barred Coach Borden from bowing his head during team prayers. But school officials went so far as to order Borden, who also teaches Spanish and has held a post at East Brunswick High for 23 years, to stand still rather than bending a knee and bowing his head while his players recited pre-game prayers. The penalty for disobeying was disciplinary action, including the loss of his job as a coach and tenured teacher.
School officials justified their actions by insisting that while student athletes have the constitutionally protected right to pray, that privilege does not extend to coaches, who are public employees and whose participation would violate the “separation of church and state.” Borden responded to the prohibition by tendering his resignation in protest. But after thinking further about the matter, he changed his mind, rescinding his resignation so that he could continue coaching. At the same time, believing that he was taking “a stand for every high school football coach in America,” he also filed a lawsuit asking the courts to review the school’s prayer policy.
After making headlines, Borden’s case was watched closely by athletic directors all over the country who had been instructed to cease praying with their players. The impact was felt nationwide. According to Grant Teaff, executive director of the American Football Coaches Association, more than 50 percent of high school football coaches nationwide engage in team prayer.
Although school officials in this instance were lacking in common sense, U.S. District Judge Dennis Cavanaugh was not. In siding with Coach Borden, Judge Cavanaugh ruled that the school district had violated Borden’s constitutional rights to free speech, freedom of association and academic freedom when they prohibited him from silently bowing his head and “taking a knee” with his players while they engaged in student-initiated, student-led, nonsectarian pre-game prayers.
And what were these prayers that have caused school officials so much anguish? According to Borden, prayers typically followed along the lines of: “Dear Lord, please guide us today in our quest in our game, our championship…Please let us represent our families and our communities well. Lastly, please guide our players and opponents so that they can come out of this game unscathed, no one is hurt.”
In the big picture, the school’s attempt to forbid the small gestures of respect that Coach Borden wanted to show his football team is part of a national trend in which school and other government officials use the First Amendment Establishment Clause (or the so-called “separation of church and state” clause) as a justification for suppressing the rights of individuals whenever matters of faith are involved.
Religion is often treated like a four-letter word, especially by those in the public schools. This ruling sends school officials a clear message that there is a time and place when religious expression is both appropriate and constitutionally sound—and it’s okay if representatives of the school such as teachers and coaches want to acknowledge it.
After all, when you consider all the negative influences that surround our young people—drugs, alcohol, premarital sex, violence, etc.—wouldn’t you breathe a little easier knowing that they had at least one role model to look up to who understands the importance of teamwork, responsibility and concern for one’s fellow human beings?
I know I would.
Thursday, Apr. 6, 2006
Missouri House members overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment Wednesday night intended to ensure students can pray privately and voluntarily at public schools.
Supporters say the amendment generally would uphold court precedents about prayer in school. But they insist a specific, state constitutional protection is needed to safeguard the freedom of religious expression found in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
The amendment received first-round House approval by 134-17 vote.
“I think faith is under constant attack,” said House Speaker Pro Tem Carl Bearden, R-St. Charles, the lead sponsor of amendment.
The proposal would go before Missouri voters in November if it clears a final House vote and also passes the Senate before the legislative session ends May 12.
The Missouri Constitution has since 1875 declared people have “a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences.”
The newly proposed amendment would add prohibitions against the establishment of an official religion, similar to what is in the U.S. Constitution, while declaring “a citizen’s right to pray or to express his or her religious beliefs shall not be infringed.”
While prohibiting state-composed or coerced prayer, the amendment says the state “shall ensure public school students their right to free exercise of religious expression without interference, as long as the prayer or other expression is private and voluntary … and in a manner that is not disruptive nor in violation of other policies, rules or standards.”
Prayer at school also would have to abide by the same parameters placed on any other free speech.
Some Democrats questioned the need for the amendment, since courts have upheld private, voluntary prayer at school, as well as the right of religious groups to use school buildings after hours just as other clubs can do.
“I have taught for 22 years. Never in my time in the classroom, being a teacher or observer or a school board member, has anyone prevented Muslims, Jews or Christians from praying,” said Rep. Barbara Fraser, D-St. Louis, who voted against the amendment.
“This is a political issue – not a moral one,” Fraser said. “It is an effort that is clearly intended to get out the vote” of religious conservatives, presumed to be more inclined to vote for Republicans.
Republican House members denied such accusations. They also defeated a Democratic attempt to refer the measure to the August political primary ballot, where voter turnout is typically lower than the November general election. Democrats argued that if the issue was important, it should be settled as soon as possible.
House Speaker Rod Jetton said the constitutional amendment is necessary because “there are people who are trying as hard as they can to keep people from being able to pray voluntarily in public.”
Jetton, R-Marble Hill, said his own daughter had wrongly gotten the impression from a teacher while in third grade that she wasn’t allowed to pray in school – even privately before eating her lunch.
The proposed constitutional amendment also requires public schools to conspicuously display the text of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Sunday, Oct. 23, 2005
ALL you mutterers with knitted brows, listen: it’s time to get happy. We’re talking $35 million worth of feel-good, throw-your-shoulders-back giddiness. The future is yours, don’t despair, things might be in the dumps but this is the land of Beethoven, Einstein and all those giggling little garden gnomes.
Such is the message trilling through Germany’s largest-ever public service campaign. The aim is to lift the country out of its funk with a blitz of inspirational TV messages from famous soccer players, actors, figure skaters and various wild-haired geniuses. It’s a sappy endeavour whose background music is not Bach or Brahms but a jingle from Forrest Gump.
This nation seems less in need of platitudes than a collective Prozac. Unemployment is high, consumer confidence is low, the government came together only after weeks of public bickering. Germans have a high quality of life and their country is the world’s leading exporter but they’ve been unable to shake off a deepening national gloom.
“Germans, in general, are heavy thinkers and not so relaxed about their lives and the future and all that stuff,” said Oliver Voss, an advertising executive working on the campaign. “But these are hard economic times and we’re still suffering from the cost of reunification. All this leads to mental depression. What we’re trying to do is reinforce confidence that Germans themselves can change things.”
The campaign motto is “Du bist Deutschland” (You are Germany). Appearing until January in cinemas, magazines and on television, the ads tell Germans they are pugilist Max Schmeling, race car driver Michael Schumacher, Olympic figure skater Katarina Witt and many other famous and not-so-famous citizens, living and dead. Germans are also asked to picture themselves as butterflies and Porsches.
“Achieve what you are capable of achieving,” says conductor Justus Frantz in the crusade sponsored by 25 media companies, who have donated about $35 million.
Oliver Kahn, goalkeeper of the national soccer team, shares his own tonic: “I’ve experienced many heavy defeats as a sportsman that sometimes sapped my courage. But, again and again, I told myself to go on and not give up.”
Harald Jaehner isn’t buying it. An editor at the Berliner Zeitung newspaper, Jaehner wrote the other day that the ads are “self-intoxication” that trivialise the country’s underlying economic and political problems.
“It’s awful the way Germans wrestle with themselves. Worse still when they suddenly stop,” he says.
“Anyone who has unwittingly fallen prey to the new campaign Du bist Deutschland will have been reminded of this bit of folk wisdom. There you are sleepily sprawled in front of the telly, all ready to hit the hay and then it comes: ‘You are the miracle of Germany,’ the screen blares and yes it does mean you and me . . . I, Germany, will not be duped by such tricks.”
The campaign has spawned a number of website satires in a country that might brood but is certainly suspicious of public pop-psychology. “You are what you eat,” says one. “Do you think after all those decades people of other nations would not identify you according to what you eat? Forget it. You are a Kraut. You are a potato. You are Germany.”
One internet missive pictures fascist architecture with Adolf Hitler imagery: “You are Germania. Do you have dreams? Do you have aims? Do you have energy? Then do not give up. Believe in yourself. Triumph of the Will. You are Germans.”
But the ads have inspired. “I really got goose bumps. With each second of the spot I had more and more the feeling that my prayers have been heard and someone expresses exactly what I feel,” Maike Kraeft-Schlechtweg, from the hard-pressed northern town of Kiel, wrote to campaign sponsors. “Thank you for this manifesto, for the magic of hope and the belief that we’re not stuck in a dead end.”
Monday, Oct. 3, 2005
A Tory MP turned lifesaver when he helped rescue a drowning man as he returned from a night out.
Lichfield MP Michael Fabricant and architecture student Jack Shelley teamed up to drag the wet and shivering man out of a city centre beauty spot.
Eighteen-year-old Jack was walking home in the early hours when he heard a man crying out from Minster Pool in the centre of Lichfield.
He saw the man, who later identified himself only as Ian from Birmingham, clinging on to the side of the pool and ran for help where he found Mr Fabricant getting out of a taxi.
The pair dragged the middle aged man out of the water and kept him warm until police and paramedics arrived. The man was conscious but suffered severe hypothermia.
The MP played down the rescue and said that anyone would have done the same. “We ran down and dragged him out from the bank, we went a bit into the water but we did not have to wade in.
“It was then just a question of calming him down, trying to keep him warm. Anybody would have done it in my position,” said the MP.
Mr Shelley, of Nether Beacon in the town, said he was on his way home from a night out with friends when he heard the cries for help.
The student said: “He was intoxicated, he was incapacitated almost. It wasn’t the the cold, it was the alcohol that was keeping him from climbing out.
“But he was too big for me to pull out on my own so I tried to find someone to give me a hand. The first person I happened to see was Michael Fabricant, which everyone seems to find really funny. I didn’t even recognise it was him at first.”
Friday, Sep. 23, 2005
It was almost inevitable New Zealand’s election would turn into a dog fight when you look at one of the country’s 2.83 million voters – Toby the Jack Russell terrier.
Toby became a registered voter when his owner, Peter Rhodes of Queenstown, completed an enrolment form in the dog’s name, giving his occupation as “rodent exterminator” and his age as 28.
He signed the form with a squiggle and Toby’s paw print before returning it to the Electoral Enrolment Centre, the Otago Daily Times reported.
Rhodes, an aviation safety specialist who said he was making a humorous point about local government bureaucracy, was shocked to receive written confirmation of Toby’s enrolment in the Otago electorate on New Zealand’s South Island.
Voting is not compulsory in New Zealand and Rhodes said Toby had elected not to vote.
“The only roll he’s interested in is a dog roll, not the electoral roll,” Rhodes told the paper.
Electoral Enrolment Centre manager Murray Wicks was more angry than amused that an application filed by a dog had slipped through the centre’s checking system.
“It’s an offence, and whoever’s done it will be in the hands of the police,” he said.
Wicks said Rhodes could be charged with misleading a registrar of electors, making a fraudulent enrolment and making a false declaration, “to name a few” possible charges.
The outcome of the election remained in the balance Friday. The ruling Labour Party holds a one-seat, election-night majority over the opposition National Party pending coalition talks and the counting of absentee ballots, but neither of the major parties has an outright majority.
Friday, Sep. 16, 2005
Six countries have pledged almost US$150m (£80m) to a proposed new United Nations emergency fund.
The fund would allow the UN to respond to natural disasters and other emergencies within a matter of days rather than weeks it can take now.
The British government has promised almost half of the total sum.
The pledges came during the World Summit in New York, and the proposed fund will be debated by the United Nations later in the year.
“When a crisis comes, it is to the United Nations that we look,” the UK’s International Development Secretary Hilary Benn told reporters.
“The UN presses the fire alarm; but in order to get the engine out of the station, it has to pass round the hat to put petrol in the tank and water in the hoses.”
The proposed new fund, known as the Central Emergency Response Fund, would replace a current arrangement under which the UN can give loans for emergency operations with one which disburses grants.
The total envisaged is US$500m (£280m) per year, 10 times the sum available now.
At the World Summit, six countries pledged a total of US$145m to the fund’s first year; Britain’s share is US$70m (£40m), and Sweden’s US$40m (£20m).
The other partners are Norway, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Luxembourg.
Swift and certain
Jan Egeland, the UN’s Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, welcomed the move.
“Our responses are very uneven,” he said, “and it often takes time for us to get money to teams in Niger, to anti-locust teams, to Darfur before mortality goes up.
“Now we will be able to say ‘let’s go’ in three to four days rather than three to four weeks.”
Mr Egeland also said it would enable the UN to deal with crises which are currently beyond its capabilities.
The six countries anticipate further pledges of support before the end of the World Summit, possibly from African nations.
The proposal, which relates to a clause in the World Summit draft outcome document to improve “the timeliness and predictability of humanitarian funding”, will go to the UN General Assembly for approval in November.
Friday, Aug. 5, 2005
Here’s a lemon law with a sweet taste to it.
Salem Mayor Stanley J. Usovicz, together with Ryan Decker, 8, Dominic Serino, 11, and the owner of Classy Chassis sausage stand, signed a resolution yesterday that would allow the two boys to operate a lemonade stand at Salem Common.
“First and foremost, it seems to me that it is an American right for a kid to open up a lemonade stand and there was a way that common sense could in fact prevail in this situation,” Usovicz said yesterday.
Decker and Serino were ordered by police Saturday to shut down their lemonade stand for lack of a sales permit, after an employee of Classy Chassis complained the two were infringing upon his customer base.
Under the new resolution, the boys became subcontractors for the sausage vendor and will operate their stand with a legal permit.
“It wasn’t so much a compromise as it was a corporate merger. I think there were a number of hurt feelings on both sides, but the boys were completely thrilled,” Usovicz said.
A clause within the permit states that it is only applicable during the months of July and August, so as not to interfere with school hours that will resume in the fall.
“I think this really represents Salem’s commitment to small business at any level,” Usovicz added.
Sunday, Jun. 12, 2005
I have a million really good reasons for 100 percent of us to vote in 2006, but before I tell you what they are, we should dispense with the holier-than-thou notion that using money as an incentive to get citizens to participate in a democracy is a disgrace and an abomination.
If former gubernatorial candidate Mark Osterloh has his way, one lucky voter in the 2006 general election will become a millionaire. A group called Arizonans for Voter Rewards is collecting signatures to have the initiative placed on the ballot. If approved, the new law would “establish a voter reward random drawing every two years with a first prize of one million dollars or more.”
As far as I’m concerned, such a program would only be a disgrace and an abomination if I did not personally win the million.
Osterloh tried this idea in 2003 but failed. This time he claims to have the financial backing needed to get the 122,612 valid signatures to make the ballot.
Even better, he said that the new law would apply to the very election in which it is decided. In other words, if the voters of Arizona approve it in 2006, then one of them will become an instant millionaire.
But only if opponents don’t convince conscientious citizens that such a program is undignified and would encourage people to vote for “the wrong reasons.”
Heck, a survey of our elected officials easily proves that the majority of those who vote in our lovely state already go to the polls for the wrong reasons.
“We spend millions of dollars every year on failed ‘Get Out the Vote’ drives,” Osterloh said. “Here we can spend one million and get everybody.”
He said that those wanting to sign initiative petitions should look for signature collectors at local libraries or state Motor Vehicle Division offices. Or they can contact the group at P.O. Box 35037, Tucson, AZ 85740. Petitions don’t have to be turned in to the secretary of state until July 6, 2006.
But what of those who say that voting is an honor, a privilege and a duty? I asked.
“I’m not trying to create saints,” Osterloh said. “I’m trying to create voters. I’m not trying to create the perfect patriot; I’m trying to get people to the polls. When you do that, you get closer to what democracy is supposed to be about.”
More than 2 million Arizonans voted in the last presidential election, a record 77 percent of eligible voters. Osterloh says that his plan will create more new voters and bring out even more of those who already are registered.
Each of us won the lottery when we were born in the United States, of course. We are the grand-prize winners in an international DNA lottery. The children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of those who risked everything to come to America. In a perfect world, that would be more than enough incentive for anyone to vote. But it turns out that the United States, while great, is not part of a perfect world.
The prize money and administrative costs for the drawing would be taken from unclaimed state lottery winnings under the initiative’s plan.
The lottery itself would hold the drawing, Osterloh said, adding, “They have the expertise. It’s simple and effective.”
Osterloh also doesn’t expect the federal government to try to prevent the law from taking effect because, he said, “It isn’t buying or selling votes. We could care less about party affiliation or philosophy. There are no exclusions, no discrimination.”
As we all know, the only Americans currently in a position to accept large amounts of cash in exchange for votes are politicians. Why should they have all the fun?
Friday, Jun. 3, 2005
Live 8 organiser Bob Geldof has repeated his desire for a million people to descend on Edinburgh for a rally against poverty.
Geldof had urged protesters to go to Edinburgh for the rally on 6 July to coincide with the G8 summit.
But police chiefs raised concerns about the appeal and how the city could cope.
Geldof told the BBC it was “a fantastic figure” and people should travel to Scotland even if they do not visit the Scottish capital.
He said Edinburgh was “sophisticated” enough to handle large numbers of people.
Geldof conceded he “hasn’t a clue” how many people will respond to his plea.
Asked whether he wanted a million people to gather in Edinburgh, he said: “I would love that and I think it’s a fantastic number.
“Martin Luther King changed his country with it and the anti-apartheid marchers throughout the world often had that sort of figure.
“Edinburgh gets those sorts of numbers every year at the Edinburgh Festival. They don’t all have to be in Edinburgh, there’s great festivals happening around that.”
On Thursday, Edinburgh’s deputy lord provost Steve Cardownie accused Geldof of being irresponsible and senior police officers have expressed concern about the impact on resources.
Lothian and Borders assistant chief constable Ian Dickinson said a million people in the Scottish capital was not a possibility.
However, Geldof said that during meetings with First Minister Jack McConnell and senior police officers he had stressed the event would have a celebratory theme.
He said it would be similar to street music festivals in Ireland.
“It’s going to be the day, the week when this country actually did do something beyond phenomenal and that is to stop people dying on our television screens every night for ever,” said the musician.
“Edinburgh is a highly sophisticated city and is able to take in large amounts of people and marshal them. It’s going to be fantastic.
“We’re going to Edinburgh to celebrate the day that this country actually did lead the world on behalf of the poorest people on the planet.”
On Thursday, fellow Live 8 organiser Midge Ure urged people not to panic about the numbers expected at the gathering.
He said: “Bob could have said 10 million, he could have said a billion, Mars is going to crash into Scotland, it doesn’t matter. It was a symbolic call for people to stand up and be counted.”
During a briefing in Edinburgh on Friday, Chancellor Gordon Brown said the G8 summit offered the UK a chance to help the poverty-stricken.
He said: “This year, the year of the UN special summit, as well as Britain’s presidency of the G8 summit in Gleneagles, is our chance to reverse the fortunes of a continent and it’s an opportunity to transform the lives of millions.”
The Church of Scotland urged people to remember the message behind the Make Poverty History coalition march on 2 July.
The Right Reverend David Lacy, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, said: “The march and rally on 2 July are about ensuring that people in poor countries can choose the best solutions to end poverty and protect the environment.
“They are about asking the UK Government to enact laws to stop big business from profiting at the expense of people and the environment.”
Saturday, May. 7, 2005
As a young private from Gaspe, Que., Charles Bouchard wasn’t aware just how big a piece of history he was watching unfold on May 5, 1945, when he stood guard outside the brick hotel where the Germans surrendered Holland to a Canadian general.
But on Thursday, as he stood outside the De Wereld Hotel and watched more than 100,000 Dutch residents turn out for a military parade to mark Liberation Day, the significance of that brief meeting was everywhere.
“The streets were empty, but we had guards at each end,” recalled Bouchard, 80, who served with the Royal 22nd Regiment.
“I remember the Germans seemed to be quite nervous, that’s the impression I had.”
Bouchard said he hoped Gen. Johannes Blaskowitz, German commander-in-chief in the Netherlands, would surrender and the war would be over, but he was kept out of the loop.
“We didn’t know what was happening, we didn’t know we were in the process of helping make history. I only realized it several years later when I learned that it was here that the surrender was worked out.”
But that meeting in the hotel’s dining room, in this town about 100 kilometres southeast of Amsterdam, led Blaskowitz to agree to the terms of a surrender, ending five years of Nazi occupation in Holland that killed more than 230,000.
Bouchard had witnessed the hardships first-hand, crossing back and forth the enemy line to deliver food in the weeks before victory in Europe was declared May 8.
Thursday, it was a vibrant, healthy and grateful Dutch population that welcomed Bouchard and veterans from several Allied ranks represented in the parade.
Thirteen Canadian veterans officially attended the event, which was preceded by a private service attended by Dutch Prince William Alexander, but several others marched under banners such as the Royal Canadian Legion and the Canadian Liberation 60 Band.
The crowd applauded long and loud, hanging out windows, waving, and jumping off the sidewalk to snap photos.
Red, white and blue confetti rained onto aging veterans as they proudly marched, their arms swinging and heads held high.
One veteran insisted on abandoning his wheelchair for a few hundred metres, gripping a uniformed friend’s hand tightly for support before eventually returning to the chair.
Marike Bakker, a 35-year-old homemaker, was one of several people to secure their curb-side positions a full eight hours early.
“I feel very emotional,” said Bakker, a camera draped around her neck.
“I think these veterans are going to die soon, so we as younger people must understand what happened in the Second World War.”
One Canadian watching the day’s events unfold from his Edmonton home was the translator at the armistice table.
Dr. George Molnar, who landed the job in his intelligence role with the 1st Canadian Division, recalls the mood in the room as somewhat sombre.
“They (Germans) behaved as the professional soldiers they were,” Molnar, 82, told The Canadian Press in a telephone interview.
“They were downhearted, but everyone had known what was coming.”
Molnar was unable to attend the VE-Day ceremonies in the Netherlands, a week-long series of events involving some 1,500 veterans from Canada.
Gov. Gen. Adrienne Clarkson, who attended the event, said this week of commemoration in Holland and the degree of respect for Canada is understandable given the circumstances the Dutch were facing.
“To suddenly see themselves being relieved by young and good-looking troops, that’s what keeps the memory alive,” Clarkson told reporters before the parade.
“When they say ‘Thank you Canada,’ they’re saying thank you to the spirit of Canada.”
Veterans Affairs Minister Albina Guarnieri, who had returned to Canada after greeting the veterans at the airport due to fears about a non-confidence vote in the Commons, flew back to the Netherlands on Thursday and caught up with the veterans at a military tattoo.
She will be joined by Prime Minister Paul Martin, Conservative Leader Stephen Harper, NDP Leader Jack Layton and Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe on Monday, when they put their political bickering aside to spend a few hours with the veterans before they head back to Canada on Tuesday.
Monday, Mar. 21, 2005
Breakthrough technology allows voters with vision and hearing impairments to cast ballots without assistance.
AutoMARK Voter Assist Terminal is a touchscreen machine using large print, synthetic speech, function keys marked with braille, earphones.
Such sleek, computerized equipment provides a privacy for impaired voters that has been missing.
“It’s an issue of respect,” Cerro Gordo County auditor Ken Kline said today while a machine was demonstrated.
“They can use this machine without assistance and their ballots cannot be discerned from any other voter,” he said.
AutoMARK is programmed in seven different languages, does not allow an over-vote, and has provision for write-in ballots on a keyboard screen.
“This machine even allows a quadraplegic, using a wand or a sip/puff device to mark their ballot,” said Dan Erker of Election System & Software.
When finished, the machine prints out a paper ballot “so these votes will be counted with all the other ballots from that precinct,” Erker said.
Federal law mandates that, by January 2006, every voting precinct in the country have at least one terminal that allows hearing and visually impaired voters to cast ballots without help.
Cerro Gordo County needs one of the terminals for each of the 26 precincts “and at least one for a back up,” Kline said, putting the price tag at about $135,000.
Thursday, Jan. 6, 2005
Some 4,350.00 Angolan citizens who as refugees in DR Congo and Zambia were last year repatriated to the eastern Province of Moxico by the UNHCR and the Government, said Wednesday the provincial director of the Ministry of Welfare and Social Reintegration (Minars), Alberto Calumbi.
In the same period, said the source, about 184 returned home voluntarily through the bordering municipalities of Luau, Alto-Zambeze and Bundas.
He also informed that the voluntary repatriation process, which was interrupted in November due to the rains befalling this region, will resume in the dry season.
Without mentioning numbers, Alberto Calumbi said that in the referred two neighbouring countries there are a lot of Angolans who have manifested the will to come home.
In the current year, the Ministry of Welfare and Social Reintegration will continue to support the returnees and other vulnerable groups.
Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2004
A school which has only two pupils will be allowed to stay open, it was announced today.
Shetland Council threw out proposals to close five rural primary schools and one secondary school at a meeting in Lerwick today.
Among those was Scotland’s smallest secondary school which sits on one of the islands of Skerries.
Parents and children gathered at Lerwick Town Hall this morning to state their opposition to the school closure plans.
The islands of Skerries lie 24 miles north east of Lerwick and represent a fishing community with a population of 70.
Shetland councillor Drew Ratter said: “There was a proposal to stop providing secondary education at Skerries School and they decided on a narrow vote to carry on providing secondary education at Skerries.”
He said that although the provision of secondary education at Skerries had hung in the balance, at no time was the primary part of the school ever under threat of closure.
The local authority currently delivers its education service through a network of 34 schools but said this is no longer financially viable.
Thursday, Oct. 14, 2004
In a fighting Life rays of hope are countables.
Today I will count my Rays of Hope.
Congress approved $14.4 billion in disaster relief for farmers and others who suffered losses from this year’s hurricanes and for farmers hurt by drought, floods or natural disasters in 2003 or 2004.
The legislation, which was attached to the annual military construction bill, sends $11.5 billion in aid to businesses, farms, individuals and government installations damaged by hurricanes and storms in Florida and other East Coast states. It also provides $2.9 billion for farmers hurt by droughts, floods and other weather-related problems in other areas.
Like the disaster bill passed in 2003, farmers must have lost at least 35 percent of their crop to drought, flood or other natural disaster either in 2003 or 2004. Benefits will be in addition to proceeds from federal crop insurance claims.
Funding will be provided through the Crop Disaster Program, Quality Loss Program and Livestock Assistance Program. Growers cannot collect more than 95 percent of what they would have earned from an average crop on the payments, which are expected to being reaching farmers by the end of the year.