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Terrorism Not a Kenyan Problem

Yesterday’s removal of a ban on British Airways flights to Kenya, together with the lifting of a travel warning on vacations to the country has come a month too late.

Britain says there has been an improvement in the security situation – meaning the harrassment of traders in Eastleigh has been stepped up, and the move to sabotage the miraa industry – by banning flights to and from Somalia – is succeeding.

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Now, it remains for America to tell its citizens that Kenya is no longer one of the most dangerous places to be. Last week, the US temporarily closed its embassy in Nairobi, citing terrorism fears – and has not reopened it. Those in the Kenya tourism industry will tell you, though, that America and Britain are no longer important markets for them.

That Britain and the US have fairly reliable intelligence networks cannot be gainsaid. On that account alone, they have cause to be circumspect when they receive information about an imminent terrorist attack. For this reason, their travel advisories are relied upon by citizens of other countries other than their own. But the reasons for issuing them remain suspect.

America and Britain would rather Kenya had tanks rolling at its airports, that everyone dropping into a bar for an evening beer was frisked for TNT, and that a law on terrorism was in the statute books. Both countries would rather Kenya had people being tried for aiding terrorists – regardless of whether or not there is evidence to convict them.

In the absence of these things, America and Britain have chosen to spread fear and despondency about being in Kenya – with the result that the tourism industry is teetering on the brink of collapse, and the air travel industry is looking at massive losses in coming months. Parliament calls it economic sabotage.

The superpowers may have a right to ask that the Kenya Government takes certain steps to protect them and their interests – after all, they attacked Iraq without anyone’s approval – but the decision to acquiesce to these requests remains discretionary.

It is not unlikely that the argument – over whether or not Kenya is doing enough to prevent terrorism – could go on for much longer than its negotiations with the International Monetary Fund on the resumption of aid.

In the event that Kenya is unable to satisfy the two countries’ security demands, and it will not, their citizens and interests will never be safe. The sooner this acknowledgement is made, the better for everyone concerned.

If Kenya is unsafe for America and Britain, the logical thing to do would be for the two countries to move their embassies and businesses elsewhere – not bad-mouth the country to the rest of the world. It is Americans and Britons who may be inviting insecurity into Kenya – because their presence beckons terrorism.

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The two nations have enemies who seem determined to pursue them to the ends of the earth.

On that account, Kenya should not be getting stressed about how safe Americans and foreigners are. It should be worrying about reducing insecurity internally, so that its citizens can do business and live in an atmosphere of peace. Foreigners can only enjoy this peace incidentally.

Terrorism is not a Kenyan problem. And it is not a global problem. That is only the propaganda that badly behaved superpowers sell to the world.

The only reason that restrained Kenya from asking the US to close its embassy in August 1998, after more than 200 of Kenyans were killed in a terrorist attack was in order to send a message to the terrorists.

Sending the Americans away at that time would have handed victory to Osama bin Laden, who had double-bombed their embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam in a space of seven minutes.

Although the Kenyan casualties were higher than those suffered by America, and the damage to local property was more devastating than what the Nairobi embassy building suffered, the country had little choice but to stand with America. Repairing Cooperative House, which suffered “collateral damage” in the bombing, only ended last month – five years after the attack.

It was not lost on the Government or the people of Kenya that Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda network had not targeted Parliament Buildings, or State House, or the Nyayo monument at Uhuru Park. The terrorists’ war was – and still is – with America, Britain and now Norway.

Kenya, as a good friend of America, and as a nation that rejects the use of terrorism to achieve any end, chose to stand with America. And with Israel, and with Britain, and with many other countries that are considered legitimate targets by a host of terrorist organisations.

As payment for its kindness, Kenya has been roundly condemned for its lax administration of immigration affairs, for letting aircraft from anarchic Somalia fly in and out of its airports, and for not caring enough about security. Now, it is listed among the 15 places most likely to be attacked by terrorists – alongside Israel, Saudi Arabia and Morocco.

The very nations that Kenya has stood up for have been advising the world to avoid this country because it is unsafe.

Kenya has no quarrel with America or Britain. Its people have not even considered throwing Molotov cocktails at their embassies yet – a habit that is rampant in many developed countries. Kenya is a very tiny, poor country trying to solve its numerous problems and should be allowed to continue without the kind of superpower sabotage being perpetrated in the name of preventing terrorism.

Regardless of what diplomats and Government ministers tell one another at cocktail parties, the common Kenyan is extremely tired of bearing the burden of friendships that cost too much and yield too little. And that with America, especially, are beginning to fray Kenya’s patience.

America does not need to have its embassy in Nairobi. There are many secure towns and cities in neighbouring countries, such as Entebbe in Uganda and Arusha in Tanzania, where America – and any other country that feels unsafe on Kenyan soil – can go and operate from.

If there is any lesson to be learnt from the British Airways flight ban and the closure of the American embassy, it is that Kenya needs to adopt a hard line in dealing with terrorists, and even harder one when dealing with the nations that attract them.

by Kwamchetsi Makokha

 

=> View: The colony of Indigo: Opinion: A former bookseller takes aim at the mega- deal

The colony of Indigo: Opinion: A former bookseller takes aim at the mega- deal

How is it that, after four decades of a diverse and flourishing literary culture in Canada with a healthy network of independent booksellers, the country is now a consumer colony for a single Toronto-based book-retail monopoly, Indigo! Books and Music Inc.?

The unchecked aggrandizement of multinational publishing, distribution and retail corporations has led to a concentration of power in the hands of fewer and ever more ruthless individuals. But the terrifying implications of Indigo’s domination of the distribution of cultural and intellectual materials in Canada passes largely unremarked, and one publisher even suggests that “it will stabilize the Canadian book industry.” Any outcry about disappearing local bookstores is seen as nothing but nostalgia.

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=> Next: Minding the books: an entrepreneur indulges his love for literature

Who now remembers the old wisdom about not putting all one’s eggs in one basket? True, the Competition Bureau is investigating Indigo’s takeover of Chapters Inc., but does anyone expect that, with such powerful friends in government, it will be overturned? Not likely. Jean ChrAtien was among the first to phone and congratulate Indigo’s Heather Reisman.

Heritage Canada has a program to support Canadian publishers, many of whom have been receiving tattered unsold books in lieu of payment from Chapters for

some time. No doubt there will be more desperate pleas from the publishers for assistance when, as I expect, it is discovered that Chapters is in much worse shape than anyone thought and the turnaround will take much longer. Ironically, nobody — neither Heritage Canada nor provincial or municipal governments — came forward with offers of help to independent bookstores when they were desperate, although it is these independent bookstores whose passion and knowledge helped create the Canadian book industry.

The predatory practices so much in vogue nowadays were anathema to most independent booksellers. Chapters had no such qualms; for boss Larry Stevenson and his people, bookselling was a military campaign. Their take-no-prisoners business plan crushed many independents and secured market domination. But even with that, they continued to lose money in their stores, online operation and wholesale division.

There were early warning signs about Reisman with her first foray into the book world: her attempt to bring Borders Group Inc., a large American retailer, into Canada. Fortunately, though laws for the protection of Canadian culture are almost toothless, Industry Canada turned her down. So, in what was seen in the trade as a fit of pique, she opened Indigo. At the time, people were just relieved to have some competition for Chapters.

Last month, the country briefly faced the truly horrifying spectre of a single national bookstore chain, “FutureStuff,” selling Palm hand-helds and DVDs and books on the side. Now, without a whimper and with the usual “cautious optimism,” Canadians acquiesce to the cultural dictatorship of a corporation that hasn’t so far been particularly successful and is clearly just as happy to sell shawls and champagne flutes as books. And because books will be the least profitable part of Reisman’s “cultural department store,” they may well get lost in her fictional woods.

But maybe this will be good news for the remaining independent bookstores. For consumers, the competition between Chapters and Indigo has been a boon, but they may find that the sale is now over. With little competition, there is no reason for Indigo to continue to offer discounts. Furthermore, it is unlikely that readers will find regional interests well served by the chain’s Toronto buyers.

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Writers and publishers must now walk on eggshells. Who dares to say anything negative about Indigo? It would be suicide. The possibilities of market censorship and market chill are real. (And if I ever write a book, I’ll be sure to publish it under a pseudonym.)

We should have read Indigo’s motto more carefully — “The world needs more Canada,” a sentiment that, apart from the awkward grammar, really means: now Canada has more Indigo and Indigo has more Canada. And, within a few years, “the world will have more Canada” — when the chain is sold, at a discount, to Borders or Barnes & Noble or Amazon.com.

Celia Duthie was president of Vancouver’s independent Duthie Books from 1984 to 1999. She now lives with her family on Galiano Island in the Gulf of Georgia.

Minding the books: an entrepreneur indulges his love for literature

The idea for Canada’s richest literary prize for fiction came to Jack Rabinovitch and Mordecai Richler back in August, 1993, after an afternoon in Grumpy’s Bar in Montreal. Rabinovitch, a wealthy Toronto-based property developer who tends to prefer the company of writers and artists to that of tycoons, was looking for a way to commemorate his wife, Doris Giller, The Toronto Star‘s assistant book editor, who had died of cancer four months earlier. The result was the Giller Prize, an annual $25,000 award for the best English-language fiction published in Canada. The first winner, announced at a lavish banquet in November, 1994, was The Book of Secrets by Toronto writer M.G. Vassanji. “It created a tremendous difference for me, both in terms of sales and recognition,” Vassanji said last week.

Next week, the second Giller winner will be announced, at a black-tie dinner on Nov. 7 for more than 250 people in Toronto. And once again, Rabinovitch is footing the bill. “This is one dinner you can’t buy your way into,” notes Toronto literary agent Beverley Slopen. “I invite my friends,” confirms Rabinovitch. “I don’t have anyone I don’t want.” Rabinovitch also pays for the advance publicity, which includes newspaper ads, posters and shelf stickers for 500 stores across Canada. It is the kind of publicity, notes Slopen, that no Canadian publisher can afford, given the industry’s slim profit margins. This year, the five finalists are Timothy Findley, Barbara Gowdy, Leo McKay Jr., Rohinton Mistry and Richard B. Wright.

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Rabinovitch, a self-confessed jock who is a ferocious handball and tennis player, seems an unlikely patron of the arts. “He comes across like a character out of Damon Runyon,” says his friend Joey Slinger, a Toronto Star columnist. “Inside, there’s someone who knows what good art and good literature is all about.” Even his choice of a jury to choose the finalists and the winner is carefully planned: this year, it consists of Richler, literary scholar David Staines and novelist Jane Urquhart. Richler estimates that they have plowed through at least 65 novels and collections of short stories.

Few Canadian entrepreneurs offer as much support to artists. Most of Canada’s literary prizes–such as the Governor General’s Literary Awards or the Ontario government’s Trillium Book Award–are largely funded by taxpayers. One exception is the $50,000 Lionel Gelber Prize for nonfiction, which is open to international writers. But no other English-language fiction prize matches the Giller for lavishness and for the support given to runners-up. “It’s original, generous and done with considerable panache,” comments Richler.

Jack Rabinovitch is an unlikely philanthropist. His parents emigrated from Ukraine in 1926, settling in Montreal. His father sold newspapers for years before saving enough money to open a restaurant. Rabinovitch went to Baron Byng High School, where Richler was a year behind him. His girlfriend, Doris Giller, went to nearby Commercial High.

After graduating in English from McGill University in 1952, Rabinovitch accepted a $75-a-week job writing speeches for grocery magnate Sam Steinberg. In 1960, after working his way up to a vice-presidency at Steinberg’s, Rabinovitch went to work for Ottawa’s Loeb family to help them open new stores. That made him realize how profitable real estate could be. He eventually went into business for himself, making a fortune with apartment buildings and a shrewd investment in cable television. But the price was high–he hated living in Ottawa, and his first marriage was falling apart. In 1970, his wife and three daughters stayed in the capital while he returned to Montreal. One of the first things he did was to call his old high-school sweetheart, Giller, who was books editor at the now-defunct Montreal Star.

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By 1973, he and Giller were married and living in Toronto. “Doris was loud and mischievous and didn’t show no respect to all the big-shot developers Jack was in business with,” says Slinger. “And Jack just stood back and watched her, enchanted by everything she did.” By then, Rabinovitch was working for Trizec Corp. Ltd., a real estate company then owned by the Reichmann and the Bronfman families. Peter Bronfman says it was he who suggested Trizec hire Rabinovitch. “He’s very bright and very well read, particularly for a business person,” Bronfman says. “Let’s face it–most of us have our faces buried in facts and figures. But he also reads Shakespeare and can even do crossword puzzles.”

Rabinovitch stayed with Trizec for 20 years, escaping in 1992 before it crashed into bankruptcy. But he remains a force in the real estate world. “He’s very tough, very wise, very shrewd,” says his Montreal-based partner, Robert Theriault. “His timing is always perfect.” Today, Rabinovitch is running a new venture with Toronto business- men David Ehrlich, Bruce Bronfman and Walter Zwig to buy promising properties for investors who can afford a minimum $1-million stake.

No one, certainly not Rabinovitch himself, will say what it has cost him to set up this annual tribute to his late wife, but what is certain is that he spends every cent of it with gusto. When the Giller jury meets to pick the winner, they do it over a long lunch at the Le Mas des Oliviers, Richler’s favorite Montreal restaurant. “Toronto prides itself on being a world-class city, but it took two people from Montreal to set up this gift to Canadian letters,” says Richler with delight.

 

–> Similar Posts: TURN UP THE MUSIC – the power of music books

TURN UP THE MUSIC – the power of music books

Denise Donlon looks to the floor beside her upholstered pale grey armchair, searching for something. She, too, is wearing grey, a lightweight suit in a darker tone with a white cotton top. She’s looking classy and self-possessed. She’s just been reminded that she’s often called a cheerleader due to her role as Canadian music promoter extraordinaire — and, not finding what she’s looking for, she lets loose her trademark throaty laugh. The joke, it turns out, is at her own expense as she reveals, with mock relief, what she was pretending to forage for: “I’m a bit old for the pompoms.”

The image of the statuesque 45-year-old Donlon doing jumping jacks and cartwheels is a bit of a hoot. (Not that she’d be incapable — she looks as though she could still perform a half-decent cartwheel.) But while Donlon sees it as her job to promote Canadian musicians, she gets her ya-yas out a lot differently. And with a lot more respect.

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Even before she took the helm at Sony Music Canada last November, Donlon was one of the most powerful people in Canada’s music business. She was the frontline personality at MuchMusic, the music-video channel broadcast into seven million Canadian and almost 40 million U.S. households. At Much, she could make or break a performer’s career, and is credited with launching those of many well-known Canadian artists, including Jann Arden, the Barenaked Ladies, Moist and the Tragically Hip. The recipient of countless awards and accolades, Donlon is one of the handful of Canadians who form the framework of the music business in Canada, says Brian Robertson, head of the Canadian Recording Industry Association. “She’s played a tremendous role.”

As president at Sony, Donlon is now in a position not only to make or break careers but to create them — and launch artists out into the world. “It is more encompassing in a lot of ways because you can really start at ground zero,” she says. The Sony label in Canada, which includes on its roster such stars as Celine Dion, Leonard Cohen and Our Lady Peace, vies for second place — behind Universal Music Canada and its 30-per-cent market share — with Warner Music Canada and EMI Music Canada. The label is, of course, part of the Tokyo-based entertainment conglomerate Sony Corp., which boasted sales last year of $90 billion. Revenue figures aren’t broken out by country, but industry stats show that Sony holds roughly 15 per cent of a $726-million pie in Canada — a pie that is shrinking due to the ever-growing popularity of online music downloads.

  • Donlon’s key mission, as she sees it, is to capitalize on her company’s global muscle. She says she’s building relationships with her Sony colleagues around the world so that when the next “real deal” emerges here, it can shine globally: “Our job and our task, as a major label, is to find the talent, nurture it and get it up to bat.” Coming soon from Sony’s current roster, she says, is the “undeniably good” Jarvis Church, aka singer Gerald Eaton from the Toronto-based sextet Philosopher Kings, who is set to release a solo CD. Project Wyze, a new band that does “pumping hip-hop mixed with hard-core, live guitar riffs and beats (using the best electric acoustic guitar),” according to its promo material, is just about to release misfits.strangers.liars.friends. And Amanda Marshall’s second album, Tuesday’s Child, is, Donlon says, “amazing.”

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The success of Canadian artists is partly a function of this country’s expansive geography, Donlon declares. Musicians cross Canada “10 times in broken-down vans, you know, across the snow-covered plains, to small and, hopefully, ever-increasing audiences,” she says. And then she gets into a riff of her own: “You know, you play your gig, you get in the bus, you drive drive drive drive drive, you get off, you do some press promos, retell your stories, do your gig, get back on the bus, drive drive drive drive drive — ummm, so yeah, you have to have the heart and legs for it,” she says. “So when they get up to bat, they generally hit a run.”

With roadie on her CV, Donlon knows firsthand what it’s like to tour with a band. Doing advance work for little-known artists, she came to the attention of Moses Znaimer, founder of Toronto’s CityTV and one of the masterminds behind Much Music. “The thing that’s obvious and remarkable about her is her range,” he says. “It’s rare to find someone who has the understanding of a performer and is still a good administrator.” Znaimer hired her for Much in 1985 as the Rock Flash News anchor, but she soon graduated to host/producer of a music and pop-culture show called The New Music. By 1997, Donlon was running the place and given the title of vice-president and general manager.

  • Donlon has not been afraid to be political, or to put issues she considers important in front of young viewers. Issues such as literacy, for which she developed Between the Covers, a program that asked rock stars about the role books played in their lives. “Denise has made a much bigger contribution than many would ever guess,” says broadcaster and journalist Peter Gzowski, a friend and fellow literacy fund-raiser and advocate. Much viewers were, in her words, “a very young audience, very willing to engage and really build with that I-can-change-the- world kind of dream,” and she wanted to tap into that energy. She introduced election coverage to Much, and put to party leaders questions that included her audience’s real interests — Does Stockwell Day know who is the Real Slim Shady? Would Joe Clark allow his children to go to a rave?

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A year ago, Donlon joined doctors Samantha Nutt and Eric Hoskins, of the Ottawa-based humanitarian group War Child Canada, on a trip to Sierra Leone, where she visited a refugee camp with 30,000 amputees, many of them children. “It was life-changing, as you can imagine,” she says. Much was a founding sponsor of the group and now, Sony is involved. Recently two of Sony’s recording artists, Chantal Kreviazuk and her husband, Raine Maida of Our Lady Peace, went to Sierra Leone on a separate trip, again with War Child Canada (they also visited Iraq on a journey Nutt and Hoskins chronicled for Maclean’s in February). “You don’t have to do it in a big grand way every day, but you can assist in ways that are consistent,” Donlon says. “You can change the world with music.”

That may even be true. Yet what’s certain is that the music world is itself in the midst of dramatic change. The domestic industry has never been stronger — Canadian artists Alanis Morissette, Shania Twain, Sarah McLachlan and Dion have buoyed global sales. But the Internet, and its capacity to deliver copyrighted music for free, has wreaked havoc in the business. “The industry has been on a roller-coaster ride for the last two or three years,” says Robertson of CRIA. Via Napster and now its look-alike cousins, music listeners can download music from each other, making CDs at little cost. And Canadians are doing it more than just about everyone else — a fact Donlon is acutely aware of, especially in meetings with her Sony counterparts from other countries. “I go, ‘Hey, we won!’ ” she jokes, her fist punching the air. “We reeeeally didn’t,” she laments.

Along with the Taiwanese, Canadians are at the top of the list — 76 per cent of 18-to-24-year-old Internet users download music files, according to polling firm Ipsos-Reid. The United States is sixth, at 73 per cent. One reason Canadians are out in front is that this country is highly wired: 31 per cent of Internet households have a high-speed connection to the Web, more than twice the percentage of U.S. homes. “The numbers are alarming,” Donlon says. “Are we taking a hit? Absolutely.”

The hit has seriously affected sales. Figures for Sony Music Canada are not made public but industry-wide numbers show CD purchases began to decline last year, and then took a steep dive in 2001. In May, CD sales were down 20 per cent from the year before, according to CRIA. At the same time, sales of CD-Rs, the blank CDs used to record new material, are on a dramatic upswing. In 1999, 45 million were sold in Canada; last year, the number more than doubled to 95 million. The association is projecting 130 million for this year. The technological advances came fast and furious, says Robertson. In response, the industry now is “playing catch-up” with plans for online subscription services, he says. This fall, two industry-backed online delivery systems will be available: MusicNet, a joint offering from AOL Time Warner Inc., Bertelsmann AG and EMI Group; and Pressplay, owned jointly by Sony and Vivendi Universal, parent of Universal Music Canada. Pressplay will offer both a subscription service — for a monthly fee, music lovers will have access to a listening library — and direct downloading, in which consumers will be able to buy and keep a piece of music.

For Donlon, the issue is not about recording-industry revenues. “Having creators compensated for the work they do is an issue we need to champion,” she says. “We have to have an actual conversation about intellectual copyright and how we’re all shareholders in this.” A lot of people don’t equate downloading copyrighted music for free with walking into a store, putting a CD under their coats and walking out, she says. “It is the same,” she asserts, her voice turning edgy. “It is stealing.”

Donlon admits that, as a 13-year-old, she, too, made her own cassettes, taped off the radio. Education, she says, is part of the answer. “People want their artists to be able to continue to put food in their mouths so they can continue to make records,” she says. Another part is, in her words, “simple human ergonomics.” She recalls how time- consuming it was for her to make her cassettes and how she’d regularly clip off the ending. “You know, it lasted awhile — a month — until I got bored and it was too much work. And I’d rather actually own the piece of work.”

Sony Music Canada, where the work gets made, is located at a sprawling property in the suburban northern end of Toronto. The building includes a manufacturing operation, state-of-the-art studios, writing labs, a soundstage — a far cry from the broken-down bus of the early days of Donlon’s career. Her office is spacious, a living room-style setup of chairs and a sofa at one end, an imposing wall of black shelving behind the exec desk at the other. Photos of rock stars and movie stars, including one of John Travolta giving Donlon a hug, line the wall. A skylight sheds natural light onto the muted tones of grey and cream. It has the trappings of a major success. But Donlon, who’s been hanging around musicians her whole adult life — she’s married to one, Canadian singer-song writer Murray McLauchlan, and they have a nine-year-old son — eschews the star status for herself. She has said she doesn’t feel up to the accolades. She clearly takes her work seriously, but not herself.

She readily admits she felt like an impostor on her arrival at Sony: “Oh, completely, yeah. The learning curve is steep.” And then she pokes fun at herself again: “I can tell you a lot of things about polycarbonate resin compounds.” That, and just about everything else that goes into making music.