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Letters: ‘How on Earth did Taylor think birds mate?’

Maclean’s readers write in


 

Merkelmania

Thank you for the breath of needed fresh air you provided in your profile of Germany’s Angela Merkel (“The new leader of the free world,” International, March 2). It was nice to feel a bit of hope at the end of the article. If only more of the world’s testosterone-clogged leaders followed her example of frugality, modesty and strong diplomatic style.

Michael King St. Clair, Mill Bay, B.C.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper passes himself off as a statesman when he claims to have bluntly told Russian President Vladimir Putin to “get out of Ukraine.” German Chancellor Angela Merkel, on the other hand, has a closely connected perspective of the region and understands the long history of conflict that is in play. She has not forgotten that George H.W. Bush and Helmut Kohl promised Mikhail Gorbachev that if Germany reunited, NATO would not expand eastward. The U.S., ever since the Monroe Doctrine, feels the same way about Russian (or any European) expansion in the Americas. Merkel knows Russia has not forgotten its long history of being invaded, dating back to the Mongol invasion of 1240. So when the West tries to bring Russian border states into NATO, we ignore this history at our peril. New-found “statesmen” like Harper need to be reminded they’re playing with fire—a fire that can generate a few million degrees of heat.

Robert Lawrence, North Bay, Ont.

With Merkel’s country firmly tethered to a Russian gas line that, in a fit of pique, Putin could simply turn off, how much clout does she really have?

Hans-Jürgen Kirstein, St. Albert, Alta

Shame

Regarding the recent beheadings by Islamic State (“Barbaric,” Bad News, March 2), if those misfits of humanity truly believe in their own righteousness and the validity of their horrific acts, why do they feel the need to cover their faces when committing their gruesome executions?

Mel Walters, Kelowna, B.C.

Viva Obama

Hurrah for Barack Obama! While he grants legal status to upstanding Mexican immigrants (“Obama unleashed,” International, Feb. 23), our Prime Minister is hastily pushing through Parliament (with a clear goal of re-election) a bill designed to “fight terrorism” and fuel fear. Obama’s efforts demonstrate progressive leadership; limiting greenhouse-gas emissions and reducing U.S. reliance on coal are both actions taken with the future in mind. Obama’s agreement with China to curb carbon pollution is a phenomenal accomplishment in the right direction. Meanwhile, Harper’s anti-terrorism tirade threatens to slam the door on peaceful, democratic protests by Canadian citizens who believe environmental stewardship is essential to human survival, and that the construct of economy is totally reliant on how we treat “externalities” (such as the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the soil that grows our food). How interesting that, freed from re-election finagling, Obama can take the long view and work toward a better future for all Americans (and Canadians, too).

Karyn Woodland, Metchosin, B.C.

A foreign education

Luxurious $2,500-per-month “student housing,” which your article aptly links to the “consumer model” of education (“A degree of luxury,” Student Issue, Feb. 23), is another indicator of the slippery slope Canadian universities are headed down. Your 2013 University Rankings issue (Nov. 11, 2013) reported the efforts being put into capitalizing on the “economic windfall” of foreign students who are wealthy enough to pay jacked-up tuition fees. UBC, which already has a very high percentage of such students, recently spent $127 million to open Vantage College where, their website promises, a privileged few will be offered “round-the-clock support, innovative teaching and mentorship”—quite a different experience from what Canadian students can expect! As educational institutions adapt this for-profit mindset toward foreign students, there will inevitably be pressure to lower standards for admission and graduation.

Ronald McCaig, Port Alberni, B.C.

Not the Dutch Reformed doctrine

I must take exception to your broad statement regarding “members of churches in the Dutch Reformed tradition” (“The real vaccine scandal,” Society, Feb. 23). There are many Reformed Christians in the Dutch tradition who fully support vaccination. I feel as though my denomination has been lumped together with a minority of Dutch Reformed Christians who have chosen not to vaccinate. The article would have been more accurate, had it specified “members of some denominations in the Dutch Reformed tradition.”

Henry Jonker, Victoria

Bungling or bribery?

Justin Trudeau’s plan to use “targeted federal funding” to ensure the provinces meet “a national standard” for carbon pricing betrays a basic disregard for provincial jurisdiction (“Fun with carbon pricing!” National, March 2). If the officers of a corporation or interest group approached a provincial government with a similar proposal, offering monetary reward contingent on the passage of particular legislation, they would be promptly arrested.

Jonathan Skrimshire, Pincher Creek, Alta.

Well, that’s one solution

Regarding the reluctance in the U.S. to bring Wall Street bankers behind the financial crisis to trial (“Getting off easy,” Economy, Feb. 23), imagine the law being applied equally, where the rich and powerful are tried and treated like “common” criminals. Preposterous, isn’t it? From the bankers’ point of view, what’s the worst that can happen? A fine. Isn’t the aim of al-Qaeda to bring down the financial system of the free world? These bankers almost succeeded in doing that. Doesn’t that make them de facto terrorists? The U.S. government shoots terrorists, doesn’t it? There’s a deterrent that could solve a future problem. I bet that would dominate conversation over at the bankers’ club over brandy and cigars.

Dave Coates, Burford, Ont.

Calling all Cortlands

Let me tell you about an apple that’s never mentioned in all the hoopla over a supposedly non-browning apple (“How about them apples?” Society, March 2). I have in my orchard an apple variety called Cortland, a cross between a Ben Davis and a McIntosh. This variety is a late-season apple, ripening best after the first frost or two, which stores very well and happily for more than six months in my cool room, if necessary. It has a sweet flavour, is sub-acidic, has a white flesh, is juicy, firm, crisp and tender. What is most remarkable is that it does not oxidize on cutting; it will not turn brown, even after three days on a countertop, and will stay this way even longer before natural drying of the surface makes the experiment further unnecessary. I have to wonder why this apple hasn’t been mentioned as a natural alternative to a genetically engineered non-necessity. The Cortland grows quite happily in the Columbia Valley where I live, but also in the Okanagan, where the final product is larger as a result of a longer growing season. Maybe there is no need to invent a new wheel—or apple, in this case.

Bryan Kelly-McArthur, Moberly, B.C.

Colonial medicine

I am the 56th elected chief of the Six Nations of the Grand River Territory in Ontario. Scott Gilmore’s column “Out of sight, out of mind” (National, Feb. 2) was no doubt well-intentioned, but may have actually done more harm than good. Gilmore writes, “If we don’t have a race problem, then what do we blame? . . . Elders like Chief Ava Hill, cynically willing to let a child die this week from treatable cancer in order to promote Aboriginal rights?” The child who tragically passed away was not from Six Nations, but a different Ojibwa community, the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation. While there was a similar case involving a young girl from Six Nations, that girl is alive and there have been reports that she is free from cancer. Gilmore automatically presumes that traditional medical treatment is not treatment. There was nothing cynical about the actions taken by myself or the Six Nations Elected Council to protect one of our children from being taken away from her loving family. Forcing a First Nations child to undergo unwanted, mainstream medical treatment is an affront to the dignity and autonomy of the child, our culture and our nation. The Six Nations Elected Council stood up for the collective rights of the Haudenosaunee people and proved that our use of traditional medicines is integral to our culture. The paradigms that pit traditional-medicine practices against Western medicine is another method of imposing colonial rule. Solving the race problem in Canada requires Canadians to be open to learning and understanding our shared histories while seeking solutions, instead of pointing fingers and laying blame. If Gilmore had taken the time to discuss the issue he accuses me of adding to, he could have avoided promoting further misunderstanding and mistrust of indigenous peoples, and perhaps taken the first step toward solving Canada’s racism crisis.

Chief G. Ava Hill, Six Nations of Grand River, Ohsweken, Ont.

A cock and bull story

As a farmer in close contact with nature for more than 50 years, I am frequently amazed and amused by the lack of knowledge of nature exhibited by many urban writers. But Peter Shawn Taylor’s review of Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road? (Books, Jan. 12) had me bent double with laughter when he stated that a male chicken, a rooster, does not have a penis. All life forms above amoebae and fungi reproduce by the delivery of male sperm cells to female ova. In animals, birds, insects and some fish, the delivery of the sperm is made by a penis inserted into the appropriate female body orifice. In male birds, the penis is carried inside the body and is released through the anal opening only when the bird is mating. How on Earth did Taylor think birds mate to produce offspring?

Leonard Paramor, Arden, Man.


 
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