Cui bono? Uri Avnery on the Syrian poison gas controversy

Cui bono – “who benefits” – is the first question an experienced detective asks when investigating a crime.

Since I was a detective myself for a short time in my youth, I know the meaning. Often, the first and obvious suspicion is false. You ask yourself “cui bono”, and another suspect, who you did not think about, appears.

For two weeks now, this question has been troubling my mind. It does not leave me.

In Syria, a terrible war crime has been committed. The civilian population in a rebel-held town called Idlib was hit with poison gas. Dozens of civilians, including children, died a miserable death.

Who could do such a thing? The answer was obvious: that terrible dictator, Bashar al-Assad. Who else?

And so, within a few minutes (literally) the New York Times and a host of excellent newspapers throughout the West proclaimed without hesitation: Assad did it!

No need for proof. No investigation. It was just self-evident. Of course Assad. Within minutes, everybody knew it.

A storm of indignation swept the Western world. He must be punished! Poor Donald Trump, who does not have a clue, submitted to pressure and ordered a senseless missile strike on a Syrian airfield, after preaching for years that the US must under no circumstances get involved in Syria. Suddenly he reversed himself. Just to teach that bastard a lesson. And to show the world what a he-he-he-man he, Trump, really is.

The operation was an immense success. Overnight, the despised Trump became a national hero. Even liberals kissed his feet.

But throughout, that question continued to nag my mind. Why did Assad do it? What did he have to gain?

The simple answer is: Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

(“Assad” means “lion” in Arabic. Contrary to what Western experts and statesmen seem to believe, the emphasis is on the first syllable.)

With the help of Russia, Iran and Hizbullah, Assad is slowly winning the civil war that has been ravishing Syria for years, He already holds almost all the major cities that constitute the core of Syria. He has enough weapons to kill as many enemy civilians as his heart desires.

So why, for Allah’s sake, should he use gas to kill a few dozen more? Why arouse the anger of the entire world, inviting American intervention?

There is no way to deny the conclusion: Assad had the least to gain from the dastardly deed. On the list of “cui bono”, he is the very last.

Assad is a cynical dictator, perhaps cruel, but he is far from being a fool. He was raised by his father, Hafez al-Assad, who was a long-time dictator before him. Even if he were a fool, his advisors include some of the cleverest people on earth: Vladimir Putin of Russia, Hassan Rouhani of Iran, Hassan Nasrallah of Hizbullah.

So who had something to gain? Well, half a dozen Syrian sects and militias who are fighting against Assad and against each other in the crazy civil war. Also their Sunni Arab allies, the Saudi and other Gulf Sheikhs. And Israel, of course. They all have an interest in arousing the civilized world against the Syrian dictator.

Simple logic.

A military act must have a political aim. As Carl von Clausewitz famously said 200 years ago: war is the continuation of politics by other means.

The two main opponents in the Syrian civil war are the Assad regime and Daesh. So what is the aim of the US? It sounds like a joke: The US wants to destroy both sides. Another joke: First it wants to destroy Daesh, therefore it bombs Assad.

The destruction of Daesh is highly desirable. There are few more detestable groups in the world. But Daesh is an idea, rather than just an organization. The destruction of the Daesh state would disperse thousands of dedicated assassins all over the world.

(Interestingly enough, the original Assassins, some 900 years ago, were Muslim fanatics very similar to Daesh now.)

America’s own clients in Syria are a sorry lot, almost beaten. They have no chance of winning.

Hurting Assad now just means prolonging a civil war which is now even more senseless than before.

For me, a professional journalist most of my life, the most depressing aspect of this whole chapter is the influence of the American and Western media in general.

I read the New York Times and admire it. Yet it shredded all its professional standards by publishing an unproven assumption as gospel truth, with no need for verification. Perhaps Assad is to blame, after all. But where is the proof? Who investigated, and what were the results?

Worse, the “news” immediately became a world-wide truth. Many millions repeat it unthinkingly as self-evident, like sunrise in the east and sunset in the west.

No questions raised. No proof demanded or provided. Very depressing.

Back to the dictator. Why does Syria need a dictator? Why isn’t it a beautiful US-style democracy? Why doesn’t it gratefully accept US-devised “regime-change”?

The Syrian dictatorship is no accidental phenomenon. It has very concrete roots.

Syria was created by France after World War I. A part of it later split off and became Lebanon.

Both are artificial creations. I doubt whether there are even today real “Syrians” and real “Lebanese”.

Lebanon is a mountainous country, ideally suited for small sects which need to defend themselves. Over the centuries, many small sects found refuge there. As a result, Lebanon is full of such sects, which distrust each other – Sunni Muslims, Shiite Muslims, Maronite Christians, many other Christian sects, Druze, Kurds.

Syria is much the same, with most of the same sects, and the addition of the Alawites. These, like the Shiites, are the followers of Ali Ibn Abi Talib, cousin and son-in-law of the prophet (hence the name). They occupy a patch of land in the North of Syria.

Both countries needed to invent a system that allowed such diverse and mutually-suspicious entities to live together. They found two different systems.

In Lebanon, with a past of many brutal civil wars, they invented a way of sharing. The President is always a Maronite, the Prime Minister a Sunni, the commander of the army a Druze, and the Speaker of Parliament a Shiite.

When Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982, the Shiites in the south were the lowest on the ladder. They welcomed our soldiers with rice. But soon they realized that the Israelis had not come just to defeat their overbearing neighbors, but intended to stay. So the lowly Shiites started a very successful guerrilla campaign, in the course of which they became the most powerful community in Lebanon. They are led by Hizballah, the Party of Allah. But the system still holds.

The Syrians found another solution. They willingly submitted to a dictatorship, to hold the country together and assure internal peace.

The Bible tells us that when the Children of Israel decided that they needed a king, they chose a man called Saul who belonged to the smallest tribe, Binyamin. The modern Syrians did much the same: they submitted to a dictator from one of their smallest tribes: the Alawites.

The Assads are secular, anti-religious rulers – the very opposite of the fanatical, murderous Daesh. Many Muslims believe that the Alawites are not Muslims at all. Since Syria lost the Yom Kippur war against Israel, 44 years ago, the Assads have kept the peace on our border, though Israel has annexed the Syrian Golan Heights.

The civil war in Syria is still going on. Everybody is fighting against everybody. The diverse groups of “rebels”, created, financed and armed by the US, are now in a bad shape. There are several competing groups of Jihadists, who all hate the Jihadist Daesh. There is a Kurdish enclave, which wants to secede. The Kurds are not Arabs, but are mainly Muslims. There are Kurdish enclaves in neighboring Turkey, Iraq and Iran, whose mutual hostility prevents them making common cause.

And there is poor, innocent Donald Trump, who has sworn not to get involved in all this mess, and who is doing just that.

A day before, Trump was despised by half the American people, including most of the media. Just by launching a few missiles, he has won general admiration as a forceful and wise leader.

What does that say about the American people, and about humanity in general?

This article originally appeared on Gush-Shalom.org.

Go to Source

Canada wins Singapore Sevens all-American final

SINGAPORE: Canada beat the US 26-19 to win their maiden World Series Sevens title on Sunday and cap a day of extraordinary upsets that culminated in the first ever all-American final.
The Canadians regained their composure after squandering a 19-0 lead as their North American neighbors leveled the final at 19-19 to score the winning try through Lucas Hammond less than two minutes from the end, denying the US their second tournament success after winning at London in 2015.
“We made a couple of mistakes but the character of the team came through,” Canadian coach Damian McGrath told AFP.
“This is huge for Canadian rugby. We’ve lost $1 million in funding, our 15s results have been poor, so this just gives us a shot in the arm. It’s a big deal for us.”
For the US, it was a bittersweet moment. The Eagles made the final after losing in the semis at each of the last three World Series tournaments but coach Mike Friday told AFP the Americans lost the final because they gave Canada too big a start.
“The long and short of it is this, you can’t gift anyone 19 points and expect to win a cup final,” Friday said. “They were always going to get another chance and even though we got back to 19-all, the game was really lost by us in that first five minutes.”
Canada had never won a World Series title before and earned their way into the final the hard way, beating traditional powerhouses New Zealand 26-14 in the quarterfinals then England 17-5 in the semis.
The US also upset rugby’s established giants by beating Olympic champions Fiji 24-19 in the quarters then Australia 40-7 in the semis but their slow start cost them dearly.
Canada scored three tries inside the first five minutes through Matt Mullins, Harry Jones and Mike Fuailefau but a lapse in concentration let the US back in.
Perry Baker, the leading tryscorer for the series, scored a brilliant solo try to ignite the US comeback and then Stephen Tomasin dived over in the corner to cut the margin to 19-12 at halftime.
“We had more chances but we needed to execute and we just didn’t do it.”
Baker scored again shortly after the re-start to tie the scores as the US seized the momentum but Canada re-settled and got the winner through Hammond to seal the victory.
“It’s awesome,” Hammond told AFP. “It’s pretty emotional for all of us because it’s been a long time coming.
“It shows how far the sport has come, not just in Canada but also the States and it’s only going to get better from here.”
South Africa extended their lead in the championship standings to 25 points with two rounds to go despite finishing sixth, the first time this season they have not made the final.
“We were very fortunate to extend our lead,” South Africa coach Neil Powell told AFP.
“If you had said to me coming into Singapore that we’d extend our lead by another two points we’d have gladly taken it but we’re not happy with our performances. We made a lot of mistakes and we were own worst enemies.”

SINGAPORE: Canada beat the US 26-19 to win their maiden World Series Sevens title on Sunday and cap a day of extraordinary upsets that culminated in the first ever all-American final.
The Canadians regained their composure after squandering a 19-0 lead as their North American neighbors leveled the final at 19-19 to score the winning try through Lucas Hammond less than two minutes from the end, denying the US their second tournament success after winning at London in 2015.
“We made a couple of mistakes but the character of the team came through,” Canadian coach Damian McGrath told AFP.
“This is huge for Canadian rugby. We’ve lost $1 million in funding, our 15s results have been poor, so this just gives us a shot in the arm. It’s a big deal for us.”
For the US, it was a bittersweet moment. The Eagles made the final after losing in the semis at each of the last three World Series tournaments but coach Mike Friday told AFP the Americans lost the final because they gave Canada too big a start.
“The long and short of it is this, you can’t gift anyone 19 points and expect to win a cup final,” Friday said. “They were always going to get another chance and even though we got back to 19-all, the game was really lost by us in that first five minutes.”
Canada had never won a World Series title before and earned their way into the final the hard way, beating traditional powerhouses New Zealand 26-14 in the quarterfinals then England 17-5 in the semis.
The US also upset rugby’s established giants by beating Olympic champions Fiji 24-19 in the quarters then Australia 40-7 in the semis but their slow start cost them dearly.
Canada scored three tries inside the first five minutes through Matt Mullins, Harry Jones and Mike Fuailefau but a lapse in concentration let the US back in.
Perry Baker, the leading tryscorer for the series, scored a brilliant solo try to ignite the US comeback and then Stephen Tomasin dived over in the corner to cut the margin to 19-12 at halftime.
“We had more chances but we needed to execute and we just didn’t do it.”
Baker scored again shortly after the re-start to tie the scores as the US seized the momentum but Canada re-settled and got the winner through Hammond to seal the victory.
“It’s awesome,” Hammond told AFP. “It’s pretty emotional for all of us because it’s been a long time coming.
“It shows how far the sport has come, not just in Canada but also the States and it’s only going to get better from here.”
South Africa extended their lead in the championship standings to 25 points with two rounds to go despite finishing sixth, the first time this season they have not made the final.
“We were very fortunate to extend our lead,” South Africa coach Neil Powell told AFP.
“If you had said to me coming into Singapore that we’d extend our lead by another two points we’d have gladly taken it but we’re not happy with our performances. We made a lot of mistakes and we were own worst enemies.”

Go to Source

Afghan interpreter seeks safety in Canada

“Disappointing” and “unacceptable.”

That’s how federal Conservative leadership candidate Erin O’Toole describes the “terrible” response from Canadian Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen to an Afghan interpreter’s fear of assassination for serving Canada’s troops.

Karim Amiry, 28, now living in Kabul, Afganistan, served with Quebec’s Bulldog Company of the Royal 22nd Regiment from 2009-11. Taliban insurgents have threatened to kill him and Amiry now wants to come to Canada.

“Afghan Interpreter Karim Amiry feared for his life,” says O’Toole.

The Durham MP — a former veterans affairs minister, a lawyer and a one-time Canadian air force officer — knew what to do.

“I immediately hand delivered a letter to the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship and spoke to him about this case.”

It didn’t work.

“Weeks later, I received a truly disappointing response that indicates he does not take the matter as seriously as his predecessor,” said O’Toole.

In his Feb. 1 letter, O’Toole wrote: “Mr. Amiry, as one of the many Afghan interpreters seeking refuge in Canada, has received a threat letter from the Taliban. I now fear that Mr. Amiry’s life is at imminent risk because of his work for Canada.”

Instrumental in encouraging previous immigration minister John McCallum to bring Afghan interpreter James Akam from a refugee camp in Germany a year ago, O’Toole was looking for similar action.

“It is to that end that I request for ministerial Intervention to assist Mr. Amiry and his family,” wrote O’Toole. “The work of interpreters, like Mr. Amiry, in gathering intelligence and building connections to the local population likely saved many Canadian lives in Afghanistan, at great risk to them and their families.”

But he did not get back the response he was expecting.

“Your support for Mr. Mohammad has been noted and I appreciate the circumstances which prompted you to write,” Hussen wrote back 47 days later. “The Government of Canada has acknowledged the contribution certain Afghan nationals made to the Canadian military, during our combat and civilian mission in Kandahar, Afghanistan.”

The minister explained that “certain Afghans who faced extraordinary personal risk as a result of their work in support of Canada’s mission in Kandahar could apply to come to Canada through the Afghan Special Immigration Measures program” which brought in approximately 800 applicants.

“However, the special measures were ended in September 2011, and unfortunately, Mr. Mohammad can no longer be considered for immigration under this program. Mr. Mohammad may wish to review the eligibility requirements for Canada’s other immigration programs, which can be found on our website.”

Thanking O’Toole, the minister ended his letter: “While I regret that my response cannot be more favourable, I hope that you will understand my department’s position on this matter.”

O’Toole does not understand it at all.

“When I approached (former) minister McCallum about James Akam, he got it right away,” said O’Toole. “What I received back from Minister Hussen was an almost standard form letter. I am pretty disappointed. It was a terrible display. Like something coming from a nameless bureaucrat. And this guy is a refugee himself.”

Hussen is a Canadian success story. Having come from war-torn Somalia as a child and growing up to be a lawyer and mentor, the MP is now a cabinet minister. Hopefully Canadians can change his mind and that of Trudeau, who goes to great trouble to bring in anti-Islamophobic Motion-103 but closes the door on Muslim men who fought on our side against Islamic terror.

O’Toole has “great respect” for Hussen which is why he is perplexed.

“I find it unacceptable,” he said “of the current government’s failings on this important issue.”

He figures there are about two dozen verifiable applicants with military files who “are the ones who accidentally got left behind and slipped through the cracks of the program.

“These guys helped our troops” said O’Toole. “These people’s lives are at risk because they helped Canada. That is why there are threats against them.”

Amiry and other interpreters tell me they are still in hiding in an increasingly hostile environment in Afghanistan thanks to the Taliban and ISIS.

O’Toole says the solution is simple.

“We just need a one-time extension to bring over all of the documented interpreters who qualify so we have not left anybody who served with our troops behind,” said O’Toole.

A request for an interview with Hussen was not granted but a government spokesman said that while “humanitarian and compassionate” considerations are made on a “case-by-case basis” there are “no special measures for Afghan interpreters are planned at this time.”

O’Toole says blood that comes from that decision is on the Trudeau government’s hands.

Go to Source

CanadaAfghan interpreter fears assassination for serving Cdn troops, wants to move to Canada

Joe Warmington, Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 6:48 PM ET

“Disappointing” and “unacceptable.”

That’s how federal Conservative leadership candidate Erin O’Toole describes the “terrible” response from Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen to an Afghan interpreter’s fear of assassination for serving Canada’s troops.

Karim Amiry, 28, now living in Kabul, Afganistan, served with Quebec’s Bulldog Company of the Royal 22nd Regiment from 2009-11. Taliban insurgents have threatened to kill him and Amiry now wants to come to Canada.

“Afghan Interpreter Karim Amiry feared for his life,” says O’Toole.

The Durham MP — a former veterans affairs minister, a lawyer and a one-time Canadian air force officer — knew what to do.

“I immediately hand delivered a letter to the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship and spoke to him about this case.”

It didn’t work.

“Weeks later, I received a truly disappointing response that indicates he does not take the matter as seriously as his predecessor,” said O’Toole.

In his Feb. 1 letter, O’Toole wrote: “Mr. Amiry, as one of the many Afghan interpreters seeking refuge in Canada, has received a threat letter from the Taliban. I now fear that Mr. Amiry’s life is at imminent risk because of his work for Canada.”

Instrumental in encouraging previous immigration minister John McCallum to bring Afghan interpreter James Akam from a refugee camp in Germany a year ago, O’Toole was looking for similar action.

“It is to that end that I request for ministerial Intervention to assist Mr. Amiry and his family,” wrote O’Toole. “The work of interpreters, like Mr. Amiry, in gathering intelligence and building connections to the local population likely saved many Canadian lives in Afghanistan, at great risk to them and their families.”

But he did not get back the response he was expecting.

“Your support for Mr. Mohammad has been noted and I appreciate the circumstances which prompted you to write,” Hussen wrote back 47 days later. “The Government of Canada has acknowledged the contribution certain Afghan nationals made to the Canadian military, during our combat and civilian mission in Kandahar, Afghanistan.”

The minister explained that “certain Afghans who faced extraordinary personal risk as a result of their work in support of Canada’s mission in Kandahar could apply to come to Canada through the Afghan Special Immigration Measures program” which brought in approximately 800 applicants.

“However, the special measures were ended in September 2011, and unfortunately, Mr. Mohammad can no longer be considered for immigration under this program. Mr. Mohammad may wish to review the eligibility requirements for Canada’s other immigration programs, which can be found on our website.”

Thanking O’Toole, the minister ended his letter: “While I regret that my response cannot be more favourable, I hope that you will understand my department’s position on this matter.”

O’Toole does not understand it at all.

“When I approached (former) minister McCallum about James Akam, he got it right away,” said O’Toole. “What I received back from Minister Hussen was an almost standard form letter. I am pretty disappointed. It was a terrible display. Like something coming from a nameless bureaucrat. And this guy is a refugee himself.”

Hussen is a Canadian success story. Having come from war-torn Somalia as a child and growing up to be a lawyer and mentor, the MP is now a cabinet minister. Hopefully Canadians can change his mind and that of Trudeau, who goes to great trouble to bring in anti-Islamophobic Motion-103 but closes the door on Muslim men who fought on our side against Islamic terror.

O’Toole has “great respect” for Hussen which is why he is perplexed.

“I find it unacceptable,” he said “of the current government’s failings on this important issue.”

He figures there are about two dozen verifiable applicants with military files who “are the ones who accidentally got left behind and slipped through the cracks of the program.

“These guys helped our troops” said O’Toole. “These people’s lives are at risk because they helped Canada. That is why there are threats against them.”

Amiry and other interpreters tell me they are still in hiding in an increasingly hostile environment in Afghanistan thanks to the Taliban and ISIS.

O’Toole says the solution is simple.

“We just need a one-time extension to bring over all of the documented interpreters who qualify so we have not left anybody who served with our troops behind,” said O’Toole.

A request for an interview with Hussen was not granted but a government spokesman said that while “humanitarian and compassionate” considerations are made on a “case-by-case basis” there are “no special measures for Afghan interpreters are planned at this time.”

O’Toole says blood that comes from that decision is on the Trudeau government’s hands.

Go to Source

Canola oil: From Canada’s fields to the world’s kitchens

Part of a series about people, products and discoveries that changed the world.

Among the 25 ingredients in chef Jason Bangerter’s terroir salad are marigolds, wild berries and ground black almonds, all grown within a short walk of his kitchen.

Foraged flowers and herbs supply bursts of citrus and pepper, he says, while seeds lay a crunchy base.

But it’s the canola sorbet he spoons into the middle of the plate that ties it all together: a soft and buttery bearer of the sweet and savoury in a dish he serves at Langdon Hall, an inn and spa in Cambridge, Ont.

Mr. Bangerter makes the sorbet with canola oil, not olive oil, because it’s Ontario-made – the only ingredient in the dish that isn’t grown on the 75-acre estate – but also for its special taste.

“You have that fresh cold-pressed canola flavour as the igniting point,” he says. “You get a really big … almost like a toasted corn flavour. It’s just so unique and interesting.”

It wasn’t always that way. Before there was canola, there was rapeseed, canola’s smelly, bad-for-you cousin.

The small, dark seeds were crushed for their oil, which for centuries had been used for everything from cooking and lamp oil to lubricants in the steam engines and ships that powered the war effort.

Harvested canola seed from the Chorney farm in East Selkirk, Man.

But today what’s known as canola is grown on 8.2 million hectares of Canadian farmland and found in doughnut deep-fryers, chicken feed and fine kitchens such as Mr. Bangerter’s. By acreage, canola rivals wheat, comprising 25 per cent of farmers’ fields compared with wheat’s 27 per cent. (In 2000, there were twice as many acres of wheat as canola.)

That’s all due to the work of Richard K. Downey, a plant breeder and federal government scientist from Saskatoon.

In the 1960s, he transformed rapeseed into a healthful, edible crop by breeding out the nasty traits – the erucic acid (bad for the heart and other organs) and the glucosinolates (bad for the livestock that ate the crushed by-product known as meal.)

Canola oil is low in saturated fat, high in monounsaturated fat and smokes very little in a frying pan.

The processed kind – not the cold-pressed canola Mr. Bangerter uses – adds little taste to food.

Like most other vegetable oils, canola oil is processed using chemicals – hexane and bleach. This and the fact the Canadian crop is now genetically modified to resist drought and insects makes it unpopular in some countries, and in parts of the Internet.

Still, Canadian farmers in 2016 harvested canola worth about $8.6-billion, making it the most valuable field crop by revenue. Canola production has doubled in the past 10 years, to more than 18 million tonnes in 2016, as global demand has soared.

A field of ripe canola sits ready for harvest near Lethbridge, Alta.

“We’ve seen huge growth of canola over the last 20 years or so,” said Michael Burt, the Conference Board of Canada’s director for industrial economic trends.

Dr. Downey first came across rapeseed (as it was then known) while working in the fields of the federal Dominion Forage Crops Laboratory in Saskatoon as a 14-year-old during the Second World War. Canada and its allies had lost access to a valuable source of rapeseed lubricant from Asia, and Ottawa was asked to begin growing the crop in greater numbers. So Dr. Downey began his first of several summers in the plots, weeding around the plants and eventually cross-breeding different varieties to find a strain best suited to the short Prairie growing season.

“When the first [seeds] came it was not well-suited. It was very late [to ripen] and the yields were reasonably good but there was a lot of improvement to be made in the oil content and maturity,” Dr. Downey, 90, said by phone.

It turned out a Polish immigrant in the area had a garden full of the stuff, grown with seed he had brought from his homeland, where summers are also short and early maturing crops are favoured. This wound up being the variety much of the Prairies adopted.

Encouraged by a government-guaranteed six cents a pound, farmers had planted 80,000 acres of the yellow-flowered crop by 1948.

By the late 1950s, Canadian rapeseed oil was being used for more than machine lubrication. It was being eaten by people, especially in Ontario, at a time the country imported 95 per cent of its cooking oils. Ontarians were not alone – people had eaten and cooked with rapeseed oil in China, Japan and other countries for centuries.

However, the federal government responded to a study that questioned the safety of eating rapeseed oil by – temporarily – ordering it off the shelves of grocery stores. Rapeseed, it turned out, contained something not present in other vegetable oils: erucic acid, which caused lesions on the hearts and other organs of lab rats.

A cyclist passes between two canola fields on an afternoon trail ride near Cremona, Alta.

Ottawa’s ban did not last long. But Dr. Downey, who had built his career spreading rapeseed throughout Canada, soon found himself working with another scientist in Saskatoon, Baldur Stefansson, on a new task: making it safer to eat.

By 1968, Dr. Downey had developed a low-acid rapeseed. By the mid-1970s, the pair of researchers had come up with three more varieties, each one better yielding and with low acid and glucosinolate (the chemical found unhealthful for livestock).

“The oil and meal that the crushers extracted were sent to the nutritionist and the margarine industry, as well, to prove to our customers that it had it had all the advantages we said it did. They all said, this is great stuff,” Dr. Downey said.

But now that the stuff was palatable, it needed a name to match.

“The industry said, we don’t like phoning up our customers to say, ‘We’ve got some low erucic, low glucosinolate rapeseed for you.’ It was way too much,” Dr. Downey said.

The western Canadian oilseed companies got together in the early 1980s and settled on canola – can for Canada and ola because it sounded a bit like oil, he said. “So that was that.”

Richardson International Ltd., a Winnipeg-based agriculture and food company, is just one Canadian company that has ridden the rising wave of new global demand for canola as a cooking oil, animal feed and biodiesel.

Richardson Oilseed is one of Canada’s oldest and largest fully-integrated crushing, refining, processing and packaging operations of Canola and its products. A worker in the company’s test lab is shown checking a sample of canola oil.

“We’re handling eight times what we were in 2005,” said Aaron Anderson, Richardson’s assistant vice-president of grain merchandising.

China is now the biggest buyer of Richardson’s canola, accounting for more than Japan and Mexico combined in 2015.

Also driving Chinese demand for Canadian canola is the Asian country’s failure to grow enough of its own to become self-sufficient in the crop, said the Conference Board’s Mr. Burt. “It’s a niche where they do need to import a certain amount to meet their domestic needs, so we’ve been successful at exploiting that opportunity,” Mr. Burt said in an interview.

Rapeseed, the smelly, unhealthful oilseed, has all but vanished. But not the name. It’s still called rapeseed in most countries, a quirk Dr. Downey attributes to professional pettiness.

Growers and seed companies “have used our material to breed that but they don’t call it canola, officially, because they were jealous. They don’t like the ‘can’ in front. They don’t like to acknowledge that all this came from Canada,” he said.

Dr. Downey’s canola is grown worldwide. But neither he nor the federal government patented any of the varieties they developed. As he sees it, any inedible rapeseed would only limit the market for the good old Canadian type. And the more countries that grew it, the better.

“We did this for the common good and it’s really paid off for the whole country,” he said.

Go to Source

Canadian men make history, win Singapore rugby sevens

SINGAPORE — Canada made men’s rugby sevens history Sunday, winning a Cup final on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series for the first time.

And the Canadians did it the hard way at the Singapore Sevens, defeating No. 4 New Zealand 26-14 and No. 3 England 17-5 before dispatching the fifth-ranked U.S. Eagles 26-19 in the final.

Series leader South Africa and No. 2 Fiji were upset in the quarter-finals.

Canada, which came into the weekend ranked ninth in the standings, raced into a 19-0 lead in the final but the Eagles roared back with 19 points of their own before Lucas Hammond scored the winning try with less than two minutes remaining.

The tournament victory came in Canada’s 140th event on the circuit.

The Canadians said a 35-7 thumping at the hands of Olympic champion Fiji on Saturday — their only loss in six games — had proved to be a turning point.

“We took a licking from Fiji yesterday and took a licking from the coach, from the players and ourselves and we showed up today and showed the world that we can beat anyone,” said captain John Moonlight. “We beat three of the top five teams here so we’re flying.”

“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” he added. “I’m so proud of the guys and how hard we’ve worked over the past year.”

Coach Damian McGrath led Samoa to an upset tournament win in Paris last season. Now he has done the same with Canada.

“It’s incredible,” said McGrath, an English native who took over Canada this season. “Last night we were beaten by Fiji so we had a little bit of soul-searching and then we came back and beat some of the best teams in the world. This will show that Canadian rugby has so much to offer.”

The Cup win moved Canada up two places from ninth in the overall standings after eight stops on the 10-event circuit.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” said Nathan Hirayama, Canada’s all-time leading sevens scorer with 1,047 points. “A lot of us have been on the scene a while and we came through some dark times, but to come away with that win was special.”

It was also a statement from a Canadian team whose Own The Podium funding for the 2017-18 fiscal year was taken away earlier this year after a season that saw the team fail to qualify for the Olympics.

The Canadian men have been on a roll of late.

Singapore marked the fourth straight tournament — and fifth in the last six — that Canada had reached the Cup quarter-finals. The Canadians’ best result this season prior to Sunday was fourth in New Zealand in January.

Canada had tied for seventh in the three events prior to Singapore.

The Canadians had a dream start in the final against the fifth-ranked Americans on early tries by Matt Mullins, Harry Jones and Mike Fuailefau.

Mullins opened the scoring when he beat two tacklers down the sideline and reached the line before speedster Perry Baker could run him down.

A fine support run from Jones led to the second try from a pass from Moonlight and a converted try by Fuailefau made it 19-0 after the Americans turned the ball over at the breakdown following the ensuring restart. A Canadian kicked it ahead and Fuailefau was first to touch it down.

The American forwards then helped turn the tide, winning the ball at the breakdown and setting the stage for tries by Baker and Stephen Tomasin that cut the lead to 19-12 at the break.

“Remember that self-belief that brought you here,’ McGrath told his players at the break.

But the Americans struck first with Baker using his pace to beat Moonlight and Hirayama and tie the game at 19-19 early in the second half.

The winning try came on the heels of a desperate Canadian defensive stand at the goal-line with Fuailefau and Jones preventing Tomasin from touching the ball down.

The U.S. turned the ball over after the ensuing scrum and Canada patiently worked its way down the field in several phases, completing some dozen passes before Hammond found a crease in the U.S. defence and raced through it.

After going 2-1 Saturday, when they opened with wins over Russia and Hong Kong, Canada faced an old foe in New Zealand in Sunday’s quarter-final. The Canadians ran the All Blacks close in a 15-14 loss in Vancouver last month but their overall record against New Zealand going into Sunday’s clash was 2-32-1.

Canada ignored the statistics, however, and led 19-7 at the half on the strength of two tries by Hirayama and one by Fuailefau. A try by New Zealand’s Trael Joass cut the lead but Hirayama’s third of the match sent Canada into the semifinal.

England led 5-0 at the half on a Ollie Lindsay-Hague try. But Canada reeled off second-half tries by Isaac Kaay, Justin Douglas and Fuailefau to keep progressing.

England won the bronze medal, beating Australia 14-12 while Wales defeated Scotland 24-12 to win the Challenge Trophy.

The U.S. had upset Fiji in one quarter-final while Australia beat Series leader South Africa in another.

It marks the second straight year that Singapore produced a surprise winner. Kenya downed Fiji there last season for its first ever Cup win — also in its 140th event on tour.

Paris hosts the next tournament May 13-14.

Canada has won three events on the women’s sevens circuit, lifting the trophy most recently in Sydney in February.

Go to Source

Markets need active investors more than ever

(Illustration by Sam Island)

(Illustration by Sam Island)

I am a firm believer in stock picking. I think stock picking, with the right process and the right temperament, works. Stock pickers, at least the ones I track, in the long run tend to outperform. As a result, the growth in exchange-traded funds, which are investment funds that trade like common stocks and normally “passively” track an index, has been troublesome to me. The number of ETFs listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange has more than doubled since 2011. Pundits forecast these trends to continue, both in terms of asset growth and number of new players entering the marketplace. And the advent of robo-advisors will intensify the shift from active to passive management.

So, is active management doomed? I do not believe so. The more investors use ETFs and robo-advisers, the larger the mispricing of individual securities and the larger the opportunities for active managers—such as value investors—to outperform.

Markets need active investors

If ETFs and robo-advisor companies become popular enough to attract the majority of investable funds out there, they will distort financial markets. Financial assets will be severely mispriced. Such investment vehicles have low costs simply because they forgo the research and trading that active managers carry out. ETFs or robo-advisors do not determine prices. They simply accept what active investors have arrived at after extensive bottom up research on stocks. Who would analyze stocks and determine their fair prices if everyone owned and traded autopilot investments like ETFs or what robo-advisors peddle? Who would mind the shop? If we eliminate active managers, the financial system cannot exist, as someone needs to make prices informative. Berkshire Hathaway’s Charles Munger agrees. As he has put it, “If you pushed indexation to the very logical extreme you would get preposterous results.”

Additionally, as Lasse Pedersen of AQR Capital Management explains: “If most investors were passive, the liquidity in individual securities would vanish as investors would only trade overall indices,” Mr. Pedersen writes in “Sharpening the Arithmetic of Active Management.” “The collapse of liquidity and the lack of active management would make the process much less informative. When the secondary market is illiquid and uninformative, buying in the primary market becomes much riskier, which in turn raises firms’ cost of finance.”

Active management, therefore, will not disappear. Information collection will continue to be valuable.

Closet indexers

And it is not only what is officially indexed that can be a problem, you also have what is unofficially indexed: the closet indexers, which represent an enormous pool of capital. In Canada it’s estimated that about 40% of mutual funds are closet indexers. In the U.S., the figure is much higher. There is going to be a shakeout with many closet indexers exiting the space.

And how about robo-advisors? Are they a threat to active management? And will they survive in their current form? True, computers take the human factor and emotions out of the equation and focus mostly on diversification. But can a diversified portfolio simply run by a committee of robots replicate everything a stock picker can do?

Robo-advisors have no barriers to entry. At the end of the day, most of them will not be profitable and will not be able to stay in business. Banks with superior distribution, trust and brand name will break into the field and eventually wipe many of the smaller players off the map. But robo-advisers will not disappear as banks will be in this business instead of them. TD, in addition to BMO, have already jumped into the robo-advisor market.

Good active managers will also survive and will still make a good living out of active management. There is plenty of evidence for that.

It’s time for value investors to shine

Marcin Kacperczyk, Clemens Sialm and Lu Zheng published two articles in The Journal of Finance in 2005 and 2007, in which they found that the more concentrated a fund was—in other words, the less diversified—the better it did. The outperformance resulted from selecting the right sectors or stocks, not from market timing. Martijn Cremers and Antti Petajisto, in a 2009 Review of Financial Studies paper, reported that those U.S. funds that deviated significantly from the benchmark portfolio outperformed their benchmarks both before and after expenses.

And in a 2015 study at UCLA titled “Fundamental Analysis Works” co-written by Söhnke Bartram and Mark Grinblatt, the authors show that one can earn risk-adjusted returns of up to 9% a year “with rudimentary analysis of the most commonly reported accounting information.” Such abnormal profits are a result of fundamental analysis and taking advantage of market inefficiencies.

Moreover, humans will need guidance that is provided by a human, especially in an environment of increased volatility in the months and years ahead. A slowdown in economic growth around the world, particularly in China, as well as a slowdown in productivity, lower population growth, aging baby boomers, higher taxes and lower government spending will lead to an increase in stock-market volatility. An expensive market and declining earnings growth in an environment of artificially low interest rates that have encouraged leverage both at the individual and corporate level will also contribute to rising volatility, both realized and expected. In this environment, stock pickers, such as value investors, will shine.


George Athanassakos is director, Ben Graham Centre for Value Investing Ivey Business School. This article originally appeared in the agenda for the Ben Graham Centre’s 2017 Value Investing Conference, which takes place in Toronto on April 19, 2017

CanadaBONOKOSKI: Buy low, sell high, and other dope on legalized pot

Mark Bonokoski, Postmedia Network

, Last Updated: 3:19 PM ET

In the bull-bear world of stock-market traders, the smell of fear ultimately tightens sphincter muscles and triggers sell-offs.

Within minutes of Justin Trudeau’s Liberals tabling their pot legislation, for example, the TSX began dumping some of its publicly traded marijuana stocks.

The lack of clarity in the Liberals’ spanking-new Cannabis Act got speculative investors nervous, which led to a feeling of financial uncertainty, which led to an unloading of stock.

Whether pot or pork bellies, a commodity is a commodity.

While the Liberals would love to say that the legalization of recreational marijuana has everything to do with it being 2017, and finally time to light up and lighten up, the reality is that it comes down to what most decisions come down to.

And that’s money. Big money.

But the government cannot get greedy.

Now dollars-for-doughnuts betting would likely have former Toronto Police chief Bill Blair loathing being called the Trudeau’s government’s “marijuana czar.”

But, as an MP and parliamentary secretary to the justice minister, the ex-top cop who spent a career hauling druggies off to court, including “gangsters in a stairwell,” providence now has him in charge of untying the criminal tether of dope smokers.

A few days before the pot bill was tabled, the C.D. Howe Institute wrote a memo to Blair outlining its concerns that the government must choose either revenue or regulation.

It had to be one or the other.

At first blush, it would appear the Liberals’ legislation is heavy on regulation — with age limits, stiff penalties for selling pot to minors, restrictions on packaging, and heavy fines for non-compliance.

Details on cost and taxation, however, thus far don’t exist.

So there is yet no price point.

According to C. D. Howe policy adviser Rosalie Wyonch, projections for 2018 will see 4.6 million Canadians consuming 655 metric tonnes of marijuana.

“That’s a lot of marijuana for both federal and provincial governments to tax to generate a windfall of tax revenue,” wrote Wyonch. “Due to the existence of a prolific black market, however, there has to be a trade-off.

“This means that governments much choose a regulated market or large revenue generation — but not both.”

Heavy taxation, of course, will play into the black market that currently has total dibs on marijuana sales, and will undermine the government’s efforts to take control.

Wyonch estimates that applying only HST — the combined federal and provincial sales tax — to marijuana priced close to present street levels will result in the government’s control of 90% of the market and approximately $675 million in annual tax revenues.

But, if the government wants bigger money, and pushes taxation to bring in, say, $1 billion, it would lose half the market and approximately 300 metric tonnes of consumption to organized crime.

It’s all about price point, which is why governments are grappling with a burgeoning contraband tobacco business where 200 cigarettes can be purchased for as little as $20 instead of $110-plus for the same number of smokes legally purchased at a convenience store.

“(Even) a one-dollar premium between legal and illegal weed will result in about 35% of the market being unregulated,” says Wyonch. “This gives all the more reason for the government to be cautious about levels and types of taxation.”

In other words, if the Trudeau Liberals primary concern is squeezing out organized crime from the marijuana market, they had better be smart about pricing and taxation.

They must also realize organized crime is not stupid.

It undoubtedly already has a game plan — as in cheaper, better, with creative packaging, and with no ID ever required.

And all tax free.

markbonokoski@gmail.com

Even Canadians are skipping trips to America after Trump travel ban

The cancellations came quickly and in rapid succession. Within days of President Trump’s first executive order restricting travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries, a number of European travel groups pulled their plans, amounting to a loss of 2,000 overnight stays for Hostelling International USA.

The ban would complicate travel for citizens of the countries cited — among them Iran, Syria and Libya. But Canadians and Europeans and others were dropping their plans, too. As group organizers put it, people suddenly had an unsettling sense that the United States wasn’t as welcoming a place as it once was.

The result was a wave of withdrawals. “Getting those cancellations all at once, that was startling,” said Russ Hedge, chief executive of HIU, which oversees 52 hostels across the country. “We’ve never seen something like that.”

From hostels to major hotel chains such as Marriott, tour group operators to outfits that cater to business travelers, the toll of Trump’s proposals on the nation’s tourism industry has been swift. Some say long-term damage has been done.

And it could be compounded by recent reports of Trump administration plans to implement “extreme vetting” of foreign travelers. Visitors — including those from allies such as France and Germany — could be pressed to turn over mobile phone contacts, social media passwords and financial records, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

“The travel ban is only a negative at this point,” said Michael Bellisario, an analyst for the investment bank Robert W. Baird & Co. “It hurts travel, regardless of whether we’re talking about one of the six banned countries or not,” he said, referring to the second, revised entry ban.

Demand for flights to the United States has fallen in nearly every country since January, ­according to Hopper, a travel-booking app that analyzes more than 10 billion daily airfare price quotes to derive its data. Searches for U.S. flights from China and Iraq have dropped 40 percent since Trump’s inauguration, while demand in Ireland and New Zealand is down about 35 percent. (One exception: Russia, where searches for flights to the United States have surged 60 percent since January.)

The result could be an estimated 4.3 million fewer people coming to the United States this year, resulting in $7.4 billion in lost revenue, according to Tourism Economics, a Philadelphia-based analytics firm. Next year, the fallout is expected to be even larger, with 6.3 million fewer tourists and $10.8 billion in losses. Miami is expected to be hit hardest, followed by San Francisco and New York, the firm said.       

The administration’s travel ban deals a blow to an industry that has only recently recovered from a $600 billion loss following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

“In the aftermath of 9/11, at first people didn’t feel safe coming here, and then they didn’t feel welcome,” said Jonathan Grella, an executive vice president at the U.S. Travel Association. “Our industry still refers to that as ‘the lost decade.’ There is a very real risk that that could happen again.”

Broad-based apprehension

As anecdotal evidence mounts, industry experts say it’s increasingly clear that travelers from all over — Canada and Mexico, Europe and Asia — are rethinking their plans to visit the United States.

Marriott International, the world’s largest hotel chain, has noted a 15 percent drop in bookings from Mexico to the United States. Meanwhile, bookings from the Middle East to the United States fell about 30 percent in February. The strong dollar, executives said, contributed to a decline in international travel to the United States.

Mike McCormick, executive director of the Global Business Travel Association, said that following Trump’s first travel order, there was a “pronounced drop in bookings,” resulting in estimated losses of $185 million.

“It hurts the industry,” he said. “You have discretion in moving meetings and events to other places. They don’t have to be in New York or Chicago or here in the U.S.”

Fifteen miles from the White House, the Sheraton Tysons Hotel is now offering a free Apple Watch to anybody who books a meeting. “We’re doing everything we can to get through this storm,” said Chris Zindash, the hotel’s director of sales and marketing.

Concerned guests have been calling for weeks, he said, and a group from Asia recently backed out of a long-planned visit.

“There is a lot of apprehension,” Zindash said, “a lot of fear that people will arrive here and the gates will be closed.”

At Hostelling International, among the first to cancel was a British-based youth group that had planned a trip for 400 to the East Coast this summer. The three-week gathering, called Merit360, was to culminate in presentations to the United Nations.

But then Trump issued his first travel ban. Nearly 80 citizens of the affected countries had already paid their deposits for the annual trip. The year before, when Barack Obama was president and there were no such bans in place, nearly 200 of the organization’s 550 participants had failed to acquire proper visas for their trip. This year was bound to be much worse.

“This has been a setback on so many levels,” said Marlou Herm­sen, chief operating officer of World Merit, which oversees the program. “When the first ban was announced, that’s when we thought: It’s real. We’re not welcome anymore.”

Two-thirds of participants voted to move the gathering to Britain, with plans to meet with Parliament in London instead of the United Nations in New York.

Grella, of the U.S. Travel Association, says it’s not so much the executive orders that bother him, but the fact that the U.S. government hasn’t made an effort to reassure international travelers.

“All it takes is a little rebranding: ‘Here’s who’s no longer welcome for the time being, but for everybody else, yes, we’re open for business,’ ” Grella said. “The ripple effects of this are very real. We’ve unnecessarily ruffled a lot of feathers.”

Border businesses

Since Trump announced the ban, Marie Aguado has canceled three trips: business travel to Los Angeles, a visit to see her brother in Austin and a family vacation to Disney World.

“We’re afraid to leave,” said Aguado, an American who lives in Mexico City with her French-born husband and two daughters. She asked to be identified by her middle and last names for fear of government retribution.

“I’m dead serious about not going home,” she said. “When the ban happened, I was thinking of my children.”

Aguado’s oldest daughter was born in Dubai. The other was born in Mexico City. Both are also French citizens.

“I was just thinking they’re going to see my daughter was born in the Middle East,” she said. “And then what’s going to happen? I got totally freaked out and said to my brother, ‘I’m not coming to see you anymore. Come see me.’ ”

Just one more wrinkle, she said: Her brother’s wife is a green-card holder from Ukraine.

“They’re afraid to travel, too,” Aguado said.

That fear of leaving — and re-entering — the United States has led to a slowdown in traffic to Mexican border cities, which have long been popular destinations for shoppers and those seeking cheaper health care.

Francisco Vazquez Michel, a Mexican dentist in the border town of Nogales, said that 80 percent of his clients are Mexicans or Hispanics living in the United States, who cross the border for less-expensive care. Now about half as many as usual are coming, he said.

“They are very afraid, and it’s fear that Donald Trump put into Mexicans,” he said. “One day, not long ago, all of our appointments [were] canceled in one day, because the rumor went around that if people crossed, they would lose their visas.”

The president of the Nogales chamber of commerce, Carlos Jimenez Robles, said that the number of shoppers crossing into Mexico had dropped by 40 percent.

“We have seen a hardening by border agents, where they have more questions for people, more doubts about who people are,” Jimenez said. “Not only with tourists, also with American citizens.”

‘We’re not anti-American’

Not everybody reported an immediate slowdown in business.

“It hasn’t made a difference to us,” said Nayan Patel, owner of the Georgetown Inn in Washington. “America is still America — we’re still a democratic country full of opportunity — and that’s enough to get people to come here.”

Small World Vacations, a travel agency in New Jersey that specializes in Disney vacations, hasn’t noticed much of a drop-off, either. It has received just one cancellation this year, from an Iranian American with a German passport. He didn’t want to leave on a Disney cruise to the Bahamas out of fear he wouldn’t be allowed back into the country, said Sue Pisaturo, the agency’s founder.

“We do get our share of international travelers from every country — even countries I’ve never heard of — but so far it’s business as usual,” she said.

That’s not the case, though, at Westmount High School in Montreal. Seniors there had been planning their graduation trip for months.

“We usually go to New York but decided this year to go to Washington,” teacher Sabrina ­Jafralie said. “The kids were overjoyed.”

They were drawn to the capital, she said, by the new African American History museum and were interested in visiting the Holocaust Museum.

One hundred students signed up. Then the Trump travel ban hit. Jafralie, who is Canadian-born but whose father emigrated from India 40 years ago, realized that four of the students were from Iran. They held Canadian visas but weren’t Canadian citizens. Students from Pakistan and Sri Lanka also expressed concern.

They had read a number of media reports about people being stopped at the U.S. border for long interrogations. A Montreal-area woman wearing a hijab was blocked from going on a day-long shopping trip to Vermont, while a Canadian-born woman of Indian descent was told she would need a visa to enter the United States for a weekend spa visit.

After long, sometimes agonizing discussions with her students — Jafralie teaches ethics — they agreed to go to Toronto instead.

“We decided that we were not prepared to leave any students behind,” she said. “It’s not a political boycott on our part. We’re not anti-Trump. We’re not anti-American. We’re anti-not-being-together. We’re a family, and we travel together.”

Allan Freeman in Ottawa and Joshua Partlow in Mexico City contributed to this report.