Opening Notes

Opening Notes

BARBARA WICKENS April 1 1996
Opening Notes

Opening Notes

BARBARA WICKENS April 1 1996

Opening Notes

BARBARA WICKENS

Right whales— in the wrong place

With only 320 northern right whales still in existence, the deaths of five earlier this year off the Florida-Georgia coast was a devastating blow to the endangered species. Animal rights activists have linked the deaths to U.S. navy exercises in the coastal waters, which are also the whales’ calving grounds. According to Vancouver-based Greenpeace, the whales suffered injuries consistent with underwater explosions, including damaged eardrums and lungs. As a result, Greenpeace spokeswoman Catherine Stewart last week called on Canadian naval vessels to withdraw from NATO war-game exercises taking place this week in the area. At least, she says, the seven-nation NATO games should be postponed until the whales move north to their feeding grounds off

Says Stewart: “We see no reason why NATO can’t wait two weeks.” However, Canadian military officials, noting that no explosives are to be used in this week’s exercises, say they agree with an American report that absolves the U.S. navy of blame in the deaths. Lt.-Cmdr. Russ Portolesi, a Halifax-based environment officer, adds that a recent study concluded that naval activity does not harm the ecosystem. Besides, Portolesi insists, sailors are as charmed as anybody by marine wildlife. “When there are whales about, everybody goes up on deck with their cameras to take pictures.” The problem, according to Greenpeace, is that they are there to watch in the first place.

Walk softly and carry a big scoop

Quebec City freelance radio journalist Denis Bernard, 40, vows to continue his fight to have himself and other blind people exempted from his city’s poop-and-scoop bylaw. Although he argued in mid-March that Quebec City is the only major North American city without such an exemption, city councillors turned him down. “The law is completely absurd,” he insists. “With the slush and snow on the streets here, you’re never sure what you’re picking up.”

DIPLOMATIC POUCH

Last week’s contribution to public civility:

During a March 16 NBA game, Chicago Bulls forward Dennis Rodman head-butted a referee. The flashy rebounder made it clear he knew what he had done. “They can suspend me and make an example out of Dennis Rodman—I don’t care,” he said after the game. NBA vice-president Rod Thorn did just that. He levied a $27,000 fine and suspended Rodman for six games— which all told will cost the player more than $270,000.

Dial toll-free for Canadian clichés

There are enough clichés to make a Canadian wince—but they work. In a 90-second travel infomercial that was broadcast on two French television stations in March, a Frenchman—wearing a beaver-fur hat—enters a bistro and waxes eloquent to friends about his vacation in Canada. He breathlessly describes his trip, while TV viewers watch images from his “adventure,” including snowshoeing, dogsledding, the Rocky Mountains, autumn colors, whales, the Montreal Jazz Festival, cowboys, and Indians. A number then flashes on the screen offering free travel information on Canada. The ad, which Canadian advertising agency BCP produced for Air Canada and the Canadian Embassy in Paris, generated an immediate response. Jean Langevin, general manager of BCP’s Paris office, said phone operators received 34,000 calls in the first two weeks, double the objective. Stereotypes aside, it is hard to argue with success.

Displaying Olympic spirit

Lindsay Gauld’s Olympic dream came crashing down near the beginning of the 200 km road race in Munich in 1972. Knowing he would finish out of the medals, the then-24-year-old Winnipeg cyclist still climbed back on his bike and finished the race. Today, Gauld is showing the same grit as he fights the Canadian Olympic Association, which sent him a registered letter last week threatening court action if he does not remove the name “Olympia” from his sixstore chain of Olympia Cycle and Ski shops. As well, the letter instructed him to send all his business cards, stationery, and even the shops’ outdoor signs to the COA’s Toronto office. The COA said it will then send Gauld a bill for his past “unauthorized use” of the name. Says COA chief executive Carol Anne Letheren: “We have no choice—we have to be protecting our trademarks."

Yogurt with a kick

For a quick pickup, many Muscovites down a container of so-called Russian yogurt— actually, a belt of vodka that sells for just 3,500 rubles, or about $1, and comes in a tin-foiltopped plastic cup that resembles a yogurt container. “Even a little bottle is too much for two women, but 100-gram portions are just what we need,” said Nina Tarasyuk, one of two Ukrainian market vendors selling pork outside Moscow’s railway station last week. De-

spite such endorsements, local health officials warn that drinkers could be getting more thar they bargained for: spot health checks have re vealed the presence of chemical preservatives and chlorine in the drinks. And that is not all “Vodka spoils more quickly when it is stored ir plastic containers,” says Raisa Tulovskaya, researcher at the city’s food inspection office “People could get poisoned drinking this stuff.” Moscow plans to ban the mini tipples but, until then, consumers could be playing Russian roulette with their Russian yogurt.

Separation anxiety

T)eleased from 27 IXyears’ imprisonment in 1990, and elected South African president in 1994, Nelson Mandela nevertheless suffered as a result of the breakdown of his marriage to his wife, Winnie. Following her

sies, as well as an affair, he petitioned for divorce. Last week in Johannesburg, Judge Frikkie Elof ended the 38year marriage after a hearing in which Winnie Mandela declined to testify. Some excerpts from

implication in a stream of controver-

the testimony of Nelson Mandela:

• “I am determined to get rid of this marriage. It exists only on paper.”

• “Ever since I came back from jail, not once has the defendant entered the bedroom whilst I was awake.”

• “I told her, There are so many issues, many of them sensitive, that I would like to discuss with you.’ But she always refused.”

• “I appeal to [the court] not to put any questions to me

which may compel me to dent the image of the defendant and bring a great deal of pain to our children and grandchildren. I am not keen to wrash our dirty linen in public.”

Movies make a big splash in Calgary

Some movies really make a splash—but none more than the ones showing at public swimming pools in Calgary.

The city’s parks department recently began offering Family Float-In Movie Nights to indoor oools full of people hoboing around on tubes in vater warmed to a toasty 52° C for viewing combrt. Movie nights, which eature family films that ire rotated among 12 fity facilities, are the same price as regular )ool admission—$4 per idult or $9 per family. It :osts $2 to rent a single ube, while double tubes ind floating lounge chairs are also availible for $3 each. Terry Geib, marketing co•rdinator for city facilities, says the idea ame from a similar program in Tempe, triz. In an era of nearly limitless choice in

recreational activities, the movies are meant to win families over to swimming. Says Geib: “Sometimes, parents have been away from the pool and they forget how much fun it was.”