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Contract between Saudi Arabia and Canada ‘frustrating’

With the revelation of the killing of Washington Post journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, in Saudi Arabia’s consulate, Turkey, there is increasing pressure for Canada to cancel its contract for sale of light armoured vehicles (LAVs) to the kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that while Canada has condemned the killing of the journalist and is not afraid to freeze permits on arms exports, the contracts that bind them to supply LAVs to Saudi Arabia are very difficult to break.

Speaking to Matt Galloway on CBC Radio’s Metro Morning on Tuesday, Trudeau explained that the way the previous Conservative government negotiated the contract made it very frustratingly difficult to suspend and prevented disclosure of conditions.

“The contract signed by the previous government, by Stephen Harper, makes it very difficult to suspend or leave that contract,” Trudeau said. “We are looking at a number of things, but it is a difficult contract.

“I actually can’t go into it, because part of the deal on this contract is not talking about this contract, and it’s one of the binds that we are left in because of the way that the contract was negotiated.”

Germany  has already stopping its arms sales in light of the incident and other countries, and  are working to figure out what kind of diplomatic and economic pressure could be applied to Saudi Arabia to make it clear that the apparent murder of the once Saudi royal family insider within the walls of the Saudi embassy in Turkey is unacceptable.

The world has of course noticed that Canada, which has had a very serious rift with the kingdom, beginning earlier this year, when the government publicly criticized the arrests of women’s rights activities, is still sanctioning the military deal.

While Trudeau said the government was not afraid to suspend military export permits like they had in the past, he explained that this contract could have more of a back lash on Canada and they were doing their due diligence with looking into the matter.

“I do not want to leave Canadians holding a billion dollar bill because we’re trying to move forward on doing the right thing. So we are navigating this very carefully and that’s pretty much all I can say on that.” said Trudeau.

Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland has made it very clear that Canada condemns the killing of the journalist and that the Saudis’ “explanations” of the killing of Khashoggi “lack consistency and credibility.”

She has also agreed with the federal government’s call for a thorough investigation in collaboration with Turkish officials, demanding a full and transparent investigation.

“We are gravely concerned by the murder of Jamal Khashoggi,” she said. “We do not find the explanations that have been offered to date to be credible or consistent. That is a serious problem for Canada.” She said.

However, while the Opposition is calling for government to invoke the new Magnitsky law  which gives the government the authority to freeze Canadian assets of foreign individuals who have violated human rights, to sanction those responsible for Khashoggi’s death, there is as yet no concrete word on whether that is the course Canada will take.

 

Island time does not exist in Germany

From my experience as an island girl from Barbados living in Germany, I had a bit of a culture shock, when it came to punctuality.

When Germans invite you out, they expect you to be there at least fifteen minutes early, or exactly at the time you are supposed to meet. A meeting time of eight o’clock is not eight-thirty. They will be upset if you’re late, and it’s seen as a rude gesture towards them, so don’t be fashionably late.

You are also expected to arrive for official appointments at least fifteen minutes early and wait your turn. If you are not there for your time slot, you have missed your chance, and someone who was there early will be allowed to go next.

I’ve even noticed my friends starting a timer for steeping tea, or cooking rice/ pasta and shockingly the teabags are taken out of the teapot exactly when the 5 or 7 minutes are up.

I have never done this.

When it rains heavily in the Caribbean, things move even more slowly, the traffic piles up and somehow there are missing buses. However, rain and weather in general is not an excuse for tardiness or not showing up for an appointment in Germany, or in the U.S.

In fact I once went to class in a Boston snowstorm in the dead of winter with a temperature of minus twenty degrees.

Coming from Barbados, where the locals all run on what we call ‘Island time’ which can be described as the relaxed and unhurried pace that life moves at, when on an island, I had to acclimate quickly to this new ‘prompt’ culture in Germany.

Took some time to get used to the prompt transportation system

After barely making it to my engagements on time, arriving five to ten minutes late and seeing everyone else there early, I made sure to plan my route beforehand using transportation apps and get ready earlier so that if there is a transportation mishap like missing a bus or train, I still have enough time to get to my destination on time (early!)

Public transportation in the Caribbean can be sporadic, very different from the strict and punctual services I have pleasantly observed across North America and Europe. I was in awe when I saw how timely buses and trains ran and how easy it was to get around, no matter the time of day (or night).

When the LED display counts down the five minutes until your bus/train will arrive….and it actually arrives, that made me so happy. I have spent hours waiting for buses in the Caribbean, with just a general idea of when it was supposed to come, not knowing when the bus would really appear and because of this lack of punctuality, being late for work or school as a result of a no-show or late bus adds validity to the “my bus was late” excuse.

Island time can be frustrating to people who are culturally influenced to be on time and some people can become upset when it is evident that the locals are not ruled by the same sense of time pressure because they are so used to prompt service and being attended to quickly.

Island time is all about being chill and relaxed

Islanders really mean no harm by their seemingly happy go lucky attitude, it is simply socialization.  Even Rihanna is notoriously late to perform at her concerts. It’s just something that islanders are used to. After all, when in paradise, you are in the chill zone.

Hameln- Travels to a fairy tale town

In Germany, there is a REAL town of Hameln, the setting of the fairy-tale, the Pied Piper, which just so happens to be one of my most memorable fairy tales as a child. I was always an avid reader as a child and I truly loved that tale.

As the story goes, in 1284, the town of Hameln was overrun with rats, so as a solution, they hired a rat-catcher to lure the rats away from the village. This man wore colorful “pied” clothing and walked through the village, playing his flute, luring the rats away with his song. He was successful, but the mayor refused to pay him for his services, cheating him out of the promised reward. A year later, the pied piper returned while the adults were in church and in revenge, played his magic flute and lured the children of the village away, never to be seen again.

In one version of the tale, it is said that the children were lured into a mountain cave. Another version has a different ending: the children were led to a river, where they drowned.

Dark, right? Despite that, I always wondered what it would be like to be in a real fairy-tale town and as an adult, my dream came true.

I visited the town of Hameln, in Germany!

As I walked through the streets of the town; my eyes wide like an excited child’s, as I took everything in, I was in awe of the dreamy feeling the town manifested.

From the cobblestone streets, the buildings …everything looked as if I were staring at a storybook page … except I was there…in real life and I imagined what it was like back in that time of the fairy-tale, and I started thinking about the different people who like me had walked up and down these narrow streets, centuries before.

Many other tourists and locals walked past me on the streets, taking photos and looking at the famous architecture. The houses were still in pristine condition and I wondered what the interior looked like, whether they were even more beautiful on the inside and when were they all built.

In a prominent position in the town square, a statue caught my attention, and lo and behold!

It was him, the Pied Piper!

I tried to hold in my excitement as I examined the statue that stood proudly on a fountain, but like the true tourist I was, I could not help but to take as many photos as possible, needing to document this amazing discovery.

Near to the statue, is a famous church in the town square with an inscription on the stained glass window which states:

In the year 1284 after the birth of Christ
From Hameln were led away
One hundred thirty children, born at this place
Led away by a piper into a mountain.”

The inscription was made to remember the terrible tragedy, I realised and as I continued my exploration, I found that near the statue, was the Pied Piper House, which also bore an inscription about the incident. For me, it was blatant proof that this “fairy-tale” was actually real!

Something that I had believed was the imaginings of a wonderful writer may indeed be based on a real life story, which only made me love the town even more.

Hameln became famous centuries ago due to the fairy-tale and today there are museums, cafes and souvenir shops in the town square, which boost tourism even more. Every day, the locals put on an open-air play depicting the Pied Piper tale with colorful costumes and it is a one of a kind, amazing experience.

Another attraction is the “glockenspiel” which is a large clock at the top of the church that plays a mechanical ballet, three times a day. The bronze doors of the clock open and show figurines of the Piper, rats and children while the chimes play the Pied Piper song.

I highly recommend visiting Hameln for a truly unforgettable historic experience. Every step I took through the Altstadt (Old town) was a step back in time, into the storybook that forever exists in my mind.

It was more amazing and picturesque than I ever believed it could be. Now I want to explore other fairy-tale towns and walk through old castles and feed my inner child some magical adventures!

Sarah Hall: making art out of renewable energy

In an age where technology seems to be getting smaller and sleeker, renewable energy is lagging behind. Even though people are constantly encouraged to live green, no one wants to see giant windmills in their parks or have metal panels on top of their roofs.

Limited resources and cost restraints in North America have created challenges for architects, engineers, and even artists in the design of sustainable buildings.

“Solar in North America often looks ugly, and then people reject renewable energy,” Toronto artist Sarah Hall says. “We have to start using as many renewables as possible, and I thought ‘well, if it’s beautiful, we can change people’s minds and help transform the industry as well’.”

Hall is one of the few innovators  incorporating renewable energy into artwork. One of her most notable pieces is “Waterglass”, a stained glass piece that can be found wrapped around the Enwave Theatre at Harbourfront in Toronto. While seemingly unnoticeable during the day, the piece comes alive at night. LED lights powered by the sun reveal 360 archived photographs of Lake Ontario, all stunningly preserved on di-chroic glass, the most expensive glass in the world at $1,000 per square foot.

The piece will create 1,750 kilowatt hours worth of electricity annually, enough to power the plug outlets within the building, according to Livio Nichilo, an engineering manager at Interenat Energy Solutions Canada. Nichilo consulted on “Waterglass” and analyzed the environmental impact of the project. He said that one of the biggest challenges was not to compromise artistic vision or technical efficiencies.

“The glass we designed for this project is the first of its kind in the world and we had to incorporate many technologies at once,” Nichilo says. “From my knowledge it hasn’t been done yet.”

“Waterglass” is one of six pieces Hall has created in North America using photovoltaic cells, which convert the sun’s rays into electric voltage. Each piece is connected into the power distribution of the building. For example, her piece “Leaves of Light” can be found outside the Life Sciences Building at York University illuminating the entranceway. Solar panels allow energy to be collected from the sun, which powers the LED lights that were placed between two beautifully painted pieces of glass.

Sarah_Hall_york0_d200
“Leaves of Light”, by Sarah Hall, lights up the entranceway of the Life Sciences Building at York.

Hall is also experimenting with bird-friendly glass that, in addition to collecting solar energy, will alter the reflections on large buildings in an effort to decrease the number of bird deaths in Canada.

About 10 million birds die in Toronto because they fly into glass buildings, particularly high-rise condominiums that are reflective and transparent. “I was astounded by that information and thought I may be able to do something in that direction and began thinking of al the technologies I’ve worked in and I knew these organic solar things were being done in the labs and I’ve never thought of using them”

The challenge is to make the glass transparent enough for people to see out of, but still opaque enough that birds won’t be tricked into flying towards it. Hall will be using organic photovoltaic cells used for this project — a relatively new technology developed by Oxford Photovoltaics in London. Once the prototype is complete, it will be tested at the American Bird Conservancy in New York before Hall can start to create proposals; although she has already provided a few sample designs.

A sample design of TD Tower in Toronto, provided by Sarah Hall.
A sample design of TD Tower in Toronto, provided by Sarah Hall.

Hall fell in love with glasswork at the age of nine. She studied in Canada, as well as in the United Kingdom and Jerusalem, and ended up opening a studio in Germany. It was there that an engineer named Christof Erban approached her with a way to integrate photovoltaic cells into glasswork. While other artists in the studio believed this would hinder their artistic abilities, Hall saw it as a challenge.

“All those guys said no. They said it would be an imposition to have a grid on their work, but I liked the idea of trying to work with that grid of technology in art and trying to change people’s mind about solar,” Hall says.

The challenge with using photovoltaic cells in art is that the designs have to be geometrical. Solar cells are square and require the use of wiring, which can hinder creative freedom.

“My artwork for many years was always geometry and organic, naturalistic work. To combine this geometry wasn’t as hard as another artist.”

Before she begins a design, Hall has to consult engineers and ensure that the electrical wires are properly introduced into the building’s systems and that they adhere to city codes. The traveling can also be tedious, as most of the work has to be done overseas. Hall’s main studio is in Germany. She had to move from Toronto because her studio on Dupont St. just wasn’t big enough for the scale of glasswork she wanted to complete.

“Germany and Austria was where the work had to be done,” Nichilo explains. “The biggest challenge was that what we were asking to do in terms of design couldn’t be completed here locally. We didn’t have the skill or equipment needed to do it.”

Unfortunately, it’s been up to artists like Sarah Hall to ensure that the architectural field is aware of its options and doesn’t shy away from using renewable energy for fear it will interfere with the functionality of a building. But at the same time, Hall is simply an artist, and above else she just wants to be creative and

“At first, there was quite a bit of scepticism taking something traditional like stained glass and moving it into an environmental positioning,” Hall says. “I also hope that other companies will get interested and figure this stuff out for themselves. As an artist … the commercial aspect isn’t the reason why I do it, but I hope that others will do it commercially — and I think they will.”