Jim Taylor's Columns - 'Soft Edges' and 'Sharp Edges'

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30

Oct

2016

Treating a mass murder as a mystery novel

Author: Jim Taylor
A Canadian nurse has been charged with murdering eight seniors in care homes over a seven-year period. The victims’ families are in shock, of course. So is the community of Woodstock, ON, where seven of the murders took place. But the details are sketchy. We know the name of the alleged murderer -- 49-year-old Elizabeth Tracy Mae Wettlaufer. We know the deaths occurred between August 2007 and August 2014. We know the names and ages of the victims. We know that seven of them received a fatal dose of a drug. The drug may have been insulin. As a nurse Wettlaufer would have had access to supplies of insulin. Even so, the choice of drug is actually irrelevant -- any drug, no matter how valuable for health, can be administered as a fatal dose. But the facts available, up to the time I wrote this column, tell almost nothing about why Wettlaufer might have done what she’s accused of.
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26

Oct

2016

The rising pace of extinctions

Author: Jim Taylor
Algae, insects, and Bengal tigers are not the only things threatened with extinction.
You may have heard already that Canada’s premier newsmagazine, Macleans, will become a monthly publication in January. Its owner, Rogers Media, has decided to scale down its print offerings. Chatelaine and Today’s Parent are cut back to six times a year. Flare, Sportsnet, MoneySense and Canadian Business will be available only as digital versions. 
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Categories: Soft Edges

Tags: extinctions

23

Oct

2016

Why humans keep doing risky things

Author: Jim Taylor
For a few hours on the night of October 13, the little municipality of Lake Country gained national exposure. At 9:32 p.m., a twin-jet Cessna Citation took off from Kelowna International Airport, headed for Calgary, with four people on board. One of them was Jim Prentice, former federal cabinet minister, former premier of the province of Alberta. Eight minutes after taking off, the plane crashed. The evidence suggests that it went straight down. All four were killed instantly. The news media went wild. The next day, the Calgary Herald devoted the first eight pages of its main news section to Jim Prentice. Investigation of the cause of the crash would probably take a year, the federal Transportation Safety Board said. Although the Cessna Citation has one of the best safety records among private planes, this one carried no black box, no flight data recorder.
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Categories: Sharp Edges

Tags: plane crash, risk

19

Oct

2016

Try substituting “trust” for “faith”

Author: Jim Taylor
We have two possible routes out of Kelowna, heading home. One route takes the main highway. The other takes Glenmore Road, a more leisurely two-lane alternate that winds through a forested valley.
I prefer Glenmore Road. So do many other drivers. At rush hour, Glenmore can turn into an endless line of cars following each other’s taillights.
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Categories: Soft Edges

Tags: trust, faith

16

Oct

2016

Unkind fate stomps on the down and out

Author: Jim Taylor
I have to wonder -- why does fate seem to choose those who are already struggling to suffer through new disasters? I take Haiti as a case in point. It was already the poorest nation in the Americas. The UN calculates that 75 per cent of the people live on less than $2 a day. In 2004, tropical storm Jeanne caused 3,000 deaths in the northern part of the country. The 2010 earthquake left 300,000 dead, with another 1.5 million people internally displaced. International aid sent to help the country rebuild had its own setbacks -- a cholera epidemic unofficially traced to a camp for peacekeepers from Nepal has since killed 9,000 more Haitians. And two weeks ago, Hurricane Matthew scored a direct hit on the western peninsula. With at least another 1000 deaths. And an estimated 20,000 homes destroyed. If it were me, I'd be tempted to wave my fist at the heavens and scream, "Enough, already!"
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Categories: Sharp Edges

Tags: hurricane, Haiti

12

Oct

2016

Picking verses to fit our preferences

Author: Jim Taylor
It never fails to amuse me, to puzzle me, and sometimes to infuriate me -- what various people treat as absolutely authoritative in the Bible.
Every Christian church in the world, as far as I know, considers the Trinity foundational. Yet only one verse in the whole Bible refers to the baptismal formula, “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Everywhere else, the notion of a divinity that can be known in three ways is implied, not spelled out.
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Categories: Soft Edges

Tags: verses, preferences

9

Oct

2016

Hillary Clinton barred from old boys’ club

Author: Jim Taylor
As the news stories pile up about police shootings of black men in the U.S., there can no longer be any doubt about the country being deeply rooted in racism. As Hillary Clinton said, when she addressed a black church in Charlotte, North Carolina, “Because my grandchildren are white… they won’t face the kind of fear that we heard from the young children testifying before your city council." Clinton was referring to the children who spoke to the Charlotte Council after the police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott. There was a catch in Clinton’s voice. It was either genuine emotion, or exceptional acting. But the reactions to Clinton herself embody something else, perhaps even deeper than racism. The U.S. is also undeniably sexist.
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5

Oct

2016

Getting close to royalty

Author: Jim Taylor
Last week the future King of England visited B.C. Prince William and his wife Kate Middleton came to Kelowna. Their presence caused traffic jams, road closures, and exceptional security precautions.
So many police were assigned to shepherd the royal couple that it would probably have been an ideal time to rob a bank. But I guess the robbers were lined up along the streets with everyone else, hoping to catch a momentary glimpse of the someday king and queen.
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Categories: Soft Edges

Tags: royalty

2

Oct

2016

The second half of communication

Author: Jim Taylor
The newspaper for which I write these columns tells me that it sometimes run short of letters to the editor. I can’t personally remedy that shortage. But because I was partly responsible for them starting a “Letters to the Editor” page, many years ago, I feel some obligation at least to consider the matter. Letters to the editor are, I contend, the essential second half of communication. The first half is the message sent out, by whatever means. Including blogs, FaceBook, and, yes, handwritten letters. It’s one person talking. The second half is the other person responding. If no response is possible, communication might as well fall on deaf ears. I don’t know about you, but I lose interest very quickly whenever I encounter speakers who are interested only in hearing their own opinions.
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