By Menzoid

Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines. The 2012 Honda Indy Toronto kicks off today. Talk about kicking asphalt! The Indy combines a bunch of wonderful elements into one package – state-of-the-art cars; the great outdoors; barbeques; beer. Indeed, the race can attract more than 70,000 spectators over the weekend. And the Honda Indy generates more than $50 million annually in economic revenue for the GTA through ticket sales, job creation, and tourism activities.

So what’s not to love?

Um… not so fast, Mario.

You see, the Mean Greenies apparently aren’t just content with derailing mega-billion pipeline projects. Nope. They’re now targeting fun events such as auto racing, too. Indeed, apparently the Birkenstock Brigade wants the Honda Indy and all the millions it generates to zoom-zoom outta Hogtown. Those race-cars kinda get in the faces of those who love bicycles and windmills. Then there’s the carbon footprint. No sir. Can’t have that.

It brings to mind the anti-Indy crusade led by the Toronto Red Star’s cooky columnist, Joe Fiorito awhile back. Carbon Joe says the time has come to replace the Indy race.

“Let me remind you that the Indy races are a thing of the past; performance car races serve no useful purpose unless it is to wreck machinery, ruin eardrums and waste fossil fuel.”

In fairness, Joe’s not against all car racing, mind you. Rather, wants Toronto to hold “the most technologically advanced electric car race in the world, with huge prizes and glorious honour for the winners. It would be fast. And thrilling. And quiet.”

Joe especially likes the quiet part – you see, he lives near the Indy track. NIMBYism 101, folks. Say, why don’t we just turn the Honda Indy into an electric slot car race held within the Automotive Building? Low carbon footprint. Tiny electric toy cars. Just don’t sit in the cheap seats to watch this nail-biter.

Notably, Say-It-Ain’t-So-Joe is an equal opportunity tech-hater. You see, this visionary also wants Toronto to axe another big tourist draw – the Canadian International Air Show.

Yes, just like the race cars, jets are noisy and they cause pollution. And then there are overtones of militarism.

Writes the Star’s poet laureate: “The sound of warplanes over this city is the sound of death. It’s time we killed the air show. Canada has no need of American fighter jets, nor do we need to thump our chests on a holiday weekend best suited to the quiet appreciation of the corn dog. We are not at risk of invasion.”

Anyone up for Corn-dog-a-palooza?

P.J. O’Rourke best summed up the anti-fun insanity and the threat to our freedom in his 2009 book, Driving Like Crazy. In the chapter entitled, “The End of the American Car”,

O’Rourke laments in verse:

“The Feminists grabbed our women;

The liberals banned our guns;

The health cops snuffed our cigarettes;

The bailout has our funds;

The laws of Breathalyzing put an end to our roadside bars;

Circle the Fords and Chevys, boys – they’re coming to take our cars.”


Bottom line: support your local auto race and air show, folks. While you still can.

The faces of the dead in Syria’s unrest

By Babak Dehghanpisheh, Published: July 4 – WASHINGTON POST


BEIRUT — Sakher Hallak went all out last year during his first trip to the United States.

He visited his brother in Philadelphia, checked out Times Square in New York and even hit Miami Beach.

Hallak, 43, ran a successful ­eating-disorder clinic in his native Syria, and he had come to the United States for a medical conference. Before he returned, Hallak discussed with his brother the unrest gripping their homeland.

“He told me not to worry about him,” the brother said.

A few weeks later, Hallak’s body was found dumped outside Aleppo, Syria’s largest city. It bore the marks of extreme torture.

Day by day, the death count in Syria climbs as headlines mark dozens of men, women and children shot and stabbed in Houla, or entire families killed in Qubeir.

But beyond the numbers, scant attention is paid to the individuals who have lost their lives in what officials with the United Nations have described as a civil war.

Much of the killing has occurred out of the world’s sight. Syria has become, by some measures, the most dangerous place in the world for journalists, and the vast majority of international coverage of the conflict comes from outside the nation’s borders. U.N. observers, meanwhile, recently put their mission on hold, citing the risk.

No one knows exactly how many Syrians have died, but one of the most conservative counts puts the toll at more than 14,000, with others citing figures of more than 18,000. Among the nations across the Middle East that have been convulsed by popular revolts, ­Syria seems destined to be the bloodiest of the Arab uprisings.

There is no group among the diverse sectarian and ethnic mix in Syria that hasn’t been affected by the violence. Sunni Muslims, Alawites, Kurds, Druze and Christians have all lost family members, in every corner of the country. And the situation appears to be worsening, with world leaders desperately grappling for solutions that remain elusive more than 15 months after the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began.

“Every time someone says there is a turning point, the international community still does not act,” said Radwan Ziadeh, a senior fellow at the U.S. Institute of Peace and the director of the nonprofit Damascus Center for Human Rights Studies. “The situation is going to get worse until the international community decides to take action.”

Meanwhile, the conflict claims more victims every day: Dalal Auf, a 15-year-old high school student who loved to draw; Ahmad Sadeq, a pro-government preacher who sermonized against the opposition until he was cut down by bullets at age 36; Basilious Nassar, a 30-year-old Christian priest who taught Byzantine music.

Based on interviews with friends and relatives of these three victims and four others, The Washington Post has compiled a short profile of each. The circumstances of the deaths were checked against a report by the Damascus Center for Human Rights Studies and the Syrian Network for Human Rights. Both organizations document the violence in Syria and have an extensive network of contacts inside the country.

Together, the accounts offer a window into the human dimension of a conflict in which the names of the dead, and the details of their lives, have been familiar only to the loved ones left to grieve.

‘It’s unbearable’

When Sakher Hallak, a Sunni Muslim, returned to Syria after his U.S. visit last year, things didn’t go as planned, according to his brother, Hazem. Hallak was briefly detained at the airport and told to report to military intelligence headquarters in his native Aleppo.

On May 23, 2011, military intelligence agents grilled him about his trip to the United States. What was this medical conference all about? Whom had he met? Why had he gone?

He returned for more questioning the next day and assured his family that it was just routine procedure. But on May 25, Hallak, a father of two with a third on the way, was spooked. He asked his mother to pray for him as he once again went in for questioning, his brother said.

Hallak didn’t come home that night, and his family began to panic. On Thursday morning, a close friend called the intelligence headquarters and was able to talk to Hallak, who said he was okay.

A little later, Hallak posted a picture of flowers on his Facebook page and sent a greeting to several friends. That was the last message anyone received from him.

The following day, a motorcycle rider spotted a pair of shoes in a dry creek bed about 15 miles outside Aleppo. The rider went for a closer look and saw a man’s bloody body.

The official autopsy report said Hallak had died by hanging, implying that he had committed suicide. But other doctors at the scene noted signs of vicious torture. His arms, fingers and ribs were broken. His eyes had been gouged, and there were bruises from beatings. There were also signs of genital mutilation and multiple drill holes in his skull. “They drilled him while he was alive,” Hazem Hallak said of his brother. “It’s a very horrific way of dying.”

Even now, Sakher Hallak’s family members say they have no idea why he was killed. They say he was not politically active and did not have ties to the opposition.

His body was wrapped in a white burial shroud that covered the signs of torture before his family was allowed to see him. Two police officers stayed with the family members as they grieved, and the officers insisted that the body be buried the same day.

Hallak’s wife gave birth to a baby girl two weeks after his death. “It’s unbearable,” Hazem Hallak said. “I never thought this kind of pain actually exists.”


By Chris Doucette, Toronto Sun

Tuesday, July 03, 2012  

TORONTO - Mike Greer and his wife Joanna moved into their new house in West Rouge two years ago believing it was the perfect place to raise their kids — Xander, 5, and Tyra, 3.

But living in their dream home in the city’s east end soon became a nightmare as they found themselves being terrorized by belligerent, pot-smoking teenagers who have no regard for the law or concern for human life.

“Last week they firebombed my house,” a frustrated Mike Greer told the Toronto Sun Tuesday. “I don’t know how we’re suppose to live like this.”

Soon after moving into the home on Friendship Ave., near Port Union Rd. and Lawrence Ave. E., Greer realized teens often partied at West Rouge Public School next-door, especially during the summer.

They drink, smoke dope and get into fights regularly in the school parking lot and out back.

Early last summer, the phys-ed teacher noticed marijuana smoke wafting into his kids’ rooms and decided he had to do something.

“I should be able to read my children a bedtime story without their bedrooms filling up with pot smoke,” he said.

Greer approached the youth sitting with their bongs in a doorway on the north side of the school and “politely” asked them to go elsewhere.

But rather than abide by his wishes, the teens told him they were on “public property” and there was nothing he do about it.

That was the first of many times he has tried to reason with the clean-cut, well-dressed teenage boys, who he believes live in the area.

When his house was egged for the first time that summer, Greer didn’t think much of it.

But then in November, all four tires were slashed on one of his cars.

“That’s when I knew we were being targeted,” Greer said.

The partying dissipated last winter, but trouble started up again when the weather warmed up in March and April.

Over the May long weekend, Greer said vandals scratched two of his cars and slashed his tires again.

That same weekend, the playground at a nearby daycare was set on fire, as were bags of lawn clipping along the street and garbage bins at the school.

Greer realized the situation was becoming dangerous and once again called police. It was the first time officers responded to his house.

But Greer said police told him there was little they could do unless they catch the teens in the act of committing a crime.

Near the end of May, Greer met with an officer from the Community Response Unit, a representative from area Toronto Councillor Ron Moeser’s office and a TDSB trustee to discuss prevention for this summer.

Lighting at the school was improved, a gate was erected to stop vehicles from entering the parking lot and police stepped up patrols.

Greer also installed infra-red cameras at his house. But the problems only escalated.

One June 24, his home was egged again. Cameras caught the vandal’s image but his face was covered.

Last Saturday, things turned scary when a Molotov cocktail was tossed at his home. Fortunately the bottle smashed off one of his cars and the flames did not catch.

“We are so at a loss of what to do at this point,” Greer said. “It’s disheartening.”

Police said they are “actively investigating” the fire-bombing incident.

“Evidence was sent for forensic testing and we are waiting for the results,” Const. Wendy Drummond said.

She said police are “fully aware” of the situation and future incidents will be treated with a higher priority.

Moeser, meanwhile, said he plans to meet with the 43 Division superintendent as well as the TDSB trustee to discuss further options.

“It’s really unfortunate that anybody has to go through this,” he said. “It’s such a nice area, but a few bad kids can really make life hell for people.”

Several other neighbours said they also have had trouble.

“This is not just some kids getting into some mischief,” said Geoff Evenden, whose wife and young son were almost run down by some of the teens. “It’s out of control.”

Greer recently began spending nights in his car parked in the driveway, unsure of how else to protect his family.

“People’s lives are being ruined and it needs to stop,” he said, appealing to the youth involved. “It only takes one or two kids to stand up and say ‘This isn’t right.’”

Greer also pleaded with parents to pay closer attention to what their kids are up to.

“They may be telling you they’re sleeping at a friend’s house,” he said. “But how do you know they’re not sitting beside my house smoking weed and carving up my cars?”


A West Rouge neighbourhood has been plagued by unruly teenagers partying behind an elementary school. One resident in particular has been terrorized by the youth since he stood up to them just over a year ago.

  • May 2010: Mike Greer, his wife Joanna and their kids, Xander, now 5, and Tyra, now 3, move into their new home on Friendship Ave.
  • May 2010: Greer realizes immediately that area youth like to party at the elementary school next door, West Rouge Public School.
  • June 2010: The family’s house is egged for the first time.
  • June 2011: Greer notices pot smoke wafting into his children’s bedroom windows from the schoolyard and asks the teens to go elsewhere.
  • Summer 2011: Greer’s house is egged a couple of more times as youth continue to drink, smoke dope and fight on school grounds.
  • October 2011: Calls Toronto Police to report a school bus being broken into by six youths.
  • November 2011: All four tires on one vehicles are slashed and Greer realizes his home is now being targetted.
  • March/April: Parties resume as weather warms up and problems with teens persist.
  • May 19: Toronto Police visit Greer’s house for the first time after two of his cars are scratched and tires slashed. That same long weekend, the playground at a daycare is set on fire, as are bags of lawn clippings along the street and garbage bins at the school.
  • May 28: Greer meets with Toronto Police community response unit, a representative from his city councillor’s office and a TDSB trustee and is told lighting will be improved at the school and patrols will be stepped up in the area.
  • June: Greer installs infrared cameras out front of his house that record 24 hours a day.
  • June: TDSB puts up a gate up to stop vehicles from entering West Rouge Public School.
  • June 24: Surveillance cameras capture Greer’s house as it is egged again.
  • June 30: A Molotov cocktail is thrown at Greer’s house from the from schoolyard, out of sight of the cameras.
  • July 2: Greer’s house is egged again after repeated threats of “We’ll get you” from teens.
  • July 3: Greer contacts the Toronto Sun.