Historic cellphone recall due to excessive radiation

In the wake of the ‘Phonegate’ hearings in France, for the first time in history a cellphone has been recalled due to emitting potentially unsafe levels of radiation. ‘Phonegate’ was similar to ‘Dieselgate,’ except in this case, it was cellphones—not diesel cars—that were proven to have higher emissions than claimed by their manufacturers. European manufacturer Orange recalled its Hapi 30 cellphone following hearings in Paris in which Dr. Marc Arazi led a team of international experts examining data released by French agency National Frequencies Agency (ANFR). Dr. Arazi had petitioned ANFR for several years to get the data released, finally resorting to court action. Among international experts at the hearings was American epidemiologist Dr. Devra Davis.

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Cellphones aren’t quite so smart when you actually consider the health risks.

The Hapi 30 is “a rather basic flip phone model that the operator Orange sells under its own brand name and is manufactured by the French company Mobiwire,” according to an Alerte Phonegate media release. “In mid-March, Orange began to warn the affected users, that is, 0.3% of its customers, according to the operator, which would represent around 90,000 persons. By letter, they are being offered a free exchange of their cell phone against another model.” Tests conducted by ANFR revealed a specific absorption rate (SAR) that exceeds the authorized limit. The SAR is the measurement used to quantify the energy of radiofrequency radiation absorbed by the user of a cell phone. It is limited to 2 W/kg at the level of the head (“SAR head”) and at the level of body (“SAR trunk”). The Orange mobile phone Hapi 30 exceeds the limit at the level of the trunk (2.1 W/kg). Orange issued a statement that, “This mobile phone presents no health risk,” insisting that it meets emission standards “in situations of ordinary use, when the flap is open.”

However, the Orange mobile phone may only be the first such unit recalled. “We have recorded some other phones that exceed limits,” says Gilles Brégant, Director-General of ANFR. The agency is in the process of enforcing compliance with other manufacturers. Brégant promises to publish the name of the models at the conclusion of the procedure, which would take several months.

The European Union has legislation known as the RED directive (directive 2014/53/EU) that can impose fines on cellphone manufacturers that fail to meet mandated emissions standards. Sadly, in North America, neither Health Canada nor US regulatory agency the FDA has shown any such interest in protecting consumer health.

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Dr. Marc Arazi

Dr. Arazi, a physician and former French politician, has been campaigning tirelessly to get both French and European regulatory agencies to enforce and improve standards. Largely due to his efforts, stricter standards are being enacted. Dr. Arazi—like many international scientists—has pointed out that the current SAR-based testing regime is ineffective and a poor standard to base public health regulations upon. “A change in the method of measurement, which applies to smartphones and other cell phones placed on the market since April 2016, has led to the emission measurements of the trunk at a maximum distance of 0.5 cm from the body,” notes the Alerte Phonegate coalition. “Previously, manufacturers could make measurements at a distance of 2.5 cm. These few centimeters change everything: they were allowing manufacturers to display much lower values, and therefore to comply more easily with the standards.”

Further making history have been the discoveries of the $25 million 2017 US National Toxicology Program (NTP) study revealing increased heart tumours and brain damage in rats exposed to radiofrequency radiation emitted by cellphones. Although an attempt was made to soft pedal the results in the mainstream media, “the experts recommended that tumors in tissues surrounding nerves in the hearts of male rats, called malignant schwannomas, be reclassified from some evidence to clear evidence of carcinogenic activity… NTP researchers also looked for noncancerous health effects in rats and mice. The panel agreed that there were increases in damage to brain tissue in exposed male and female rats, which further supported the classifications of cancerous effects in the brain.” NTP Senior Scientist John Bucher “stressed that the goal of the study was to establish the potential health hazard of exposure to cell phone RFR. He said that to detect a potential effect, the rodents’ whole bodies were exposed to levels equal to and higher than the highest level permitted for local tissue exposure in cell phone emissions today.”

For a summary of the NTP study, visit the US National Institutes of Health website here: https://factor.niehs.nih.gov/2018/4/feature/feature-2-cell-phone/index.htm

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Two New Poems

Introduction: I wanted to post these two ‘new’ poems (recent would be a better description since they were actually written last year) in recognition of them receiving honourable mentions in the Pandora’s Collective 2018 poetry contest.

Pandora’s Collective, established in 2002 by Bonnie Nish and Sita Carboni in Vancouver, BC, has done yeoman’s work fostering the Canadian West Coast literary scene, with regular readings, writing prompts and workshops, and fundraising events. Bonnie in her personal struggle to recover from head trauma has done a great service to the world by using her writing skills to enlighten us about the challenges of this life-altering, often-crippling condition. “From a small acorn the mighty oak grows,” and so it’s been with Pandora’s, which has hosted many fine poets and writers in the 16 years since its inception. http://www.pandorascollective.com

And have a look at the other winning poems here: http://www.pandorascollective.com/poetry-contest.html

Centrifugal Stump lo-res

‘Centrifugal Stump’ by Sean Arthur Joyce

Confession

Carnage of a day’s work,

chainsaw chuckled asleep.

Through the walls—

green tang of cut

fir, tatters fallen

in the yard, stray

waifs of cedar who

happened to be

in the way.

My furtive attempt

at ritual, stalking flashlit

over leaf mulch—moonlight

striking gold

from orbiting sap

alive as honey

on the sawed stump.

 

©2017 Sean Arthur Joyce

Dead Crow 2016 lo-res

‘Dead Crow 2016’ by Sean Arthur Joyce

Roadkill

Rushing to catch the ferry,

did I stop long enough

to carry the feathered, bloody rags

 

of your body to the side of the road?

No. Did I place a coin beneath your tongue

to pay Death’s ferryman?

 

No. I’ve become like the rest

of my heedless race, all flying

in a blind whirl to some wafer-thin

 

morsel of Nirvana

just around the next bluff.

My tongue has grown numb

 

from too much fractured speech

spun out across the air

in so many directions,

 

I’m no longer certain which way is home.

Dead Crow, did the spirit

leave my body long enough

 

to linger beside yours—stunned

and blown apart, desperate

to find your way back to the nest?

 

Yes. Something inside me

dragged a wing, half-broken,

all the way home.

 

©2017 Sean Arthur Joyce

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Catching Up on the Canuck Blues

If you think the hippest, hottest bands are coming out of Los Angeles, you are mistaken! More power to Jack de Keyzer, come show the Americans what we’ve been missing! —Kathy Pellizzi, Los Angeles Film & Music

It’s not every day you stumble across a national treasure—or two. But that’s just what happened to me the other day when Brian Slack’s Zeb Productions landed four new CDs in my mailbox: The Best of Jack de Keyzer, Steve Strongman’s No Time Like Now, and two albums by Mike Goudreau & the Boppin’ Blues Band: Sweet Blues and Alternate Takes Vol. 1. But first, a disclaimer: clearly I’m no authority on the Canadian blues scene, or I would have heard of these great players long before now. In fairness to myself, the celebrity-brained media tends to obsess over the same few stars over and over. Canadian artists have always had to swim upstream against the tide of the American-dominated music industry. So while Jeff Healey, Colin James, Powder Blues, Downchild and a handful of others are household names….

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‘The Best of Jack de Keyzer Volume 1’ is a must-have for blues lovers. Courtesy band website.

Jack de Keyzer is clearly one of the hardest-working names in Canuck blues, with an average 120 shows per year. His 24-year track record covers eight albums plus the new one. De Keyzer maintains a furious touring schedule, performing gigs from “Alert, Arctic Circle to Puerto Escondido, Mexico; from Athens, Greece to Hornby Island, BC.” Again, a mystery to me how I missed this guy! De Keyzer’s own liner notes on The Best of provide a useful synopsis of his long career, with 16 of what he considers his best tracks. I agree. The result is 70 minutes of pure listening joy. This guy is Albert King, BB King, Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughan all rolled into one. He fires with the same unflinching intensity as the best of them. Mesmerizing. The album covers blues, soul, jazz and even a hint of rockabilly from his early days in the biz. And how many blues lyricists do you know who can effortlessly work Shakespeare into a song without sounding pretentious? (Music is the Food of Love) Some of his own descriptions of the songs are the best. Of the song Blues Thing he writes: “somewhere between Hi, Stax, Memphis and Whitby, Ontario.” (Just in case you thought the blues was antithetical to Canadian suburbia.) “Engine Trouble is one of my most popular tunes and this is the original version recorded at famed Liquid Sound, Toronto, which eventually had to close because of flooding and leaking pipes!” De Keyzer gets a nod from me for the Best Liner Notes nomination. My least favourite songs are the rockabilly Rock ’n Roll Girl and the country-tinged Nothing in the World. But that still leaves 14 tunes that sizzle off the speaker grille. This is virtuoso playing at the level of the blues greats (see namechecks above) and makes The Best of Jack de Keyzer a must-have album for any blues lover. http://www.jackdekeyzer.com

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Canadian bluesman Steve Strongman’s ‘No Time Like Now’ is superb. Courtesy band website.

With such a deep-rooted tradition as the blues, it’s increasingly a challenge for artists to put their unique stamp on it. What hasn’t been done? Not much. Yet Steve Strongman manages it somehow on his new roots blues album No Time Like Now, with a special guest appearance by Randy Bachman on BTO’s classic You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet. Strongman surrounds himself with tasty players who know when to hang fire and when to light it up, including drummers Dave King and Adam Warner, bassists Rob Szabo and Alec Fraser, and keyboardist Jesse O’Brien. The title track kicks off the album in strength, with a rock groove that nicely blends acoustic and electric guitars and a stompin’ vocal chorus. Strongman is adept at creating memorable choruses and every original on this album is memorable in its own right. There’s a clear talent for uncluttered, controlled power in his arrangements. Examples include Bring the Hammer Down, Money in the Bank, Love, Love, Love and, well, pretty much everything here. What’s impressive is Strongman’s ear for just the right flourish at the right moment, whether it’s a gospel-style chorus, a blues harp, a dash of funk (I’m A Man) or a touch of overdriven dobro. There’s not much show-offy soloing here. But when he lets ’er rip, he’s no slouch on the fretboard either. Strongman gives tribute to his blues forebears in Old School: “If you really want to learn, you gotta go to the old school.” Oh yeah. More reflective tunes like Good Times demonstrate Strongman’s impressive emotional range. Sometimes is positively haunting and The Day They Carry Me Away is a ballad par excellence. The mix throughout is pristine, with great resonance and separation. This is all killer, no filler. No Time Like Now, along with The Best of Jack de Keyzer, is my pick for Best Canuck Blues of 2018 (so far). https://www.stevestrongman.com

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Mike Goudreau & his Boppin’ Blues Band rip it up on two fine new albums.

You could add to that pick Mike Goudreau. At times Sweet Blues reminds me of BB King’s big Chicago show band, with Goudreau’s hard-driving horn section. His Boppin’ Blues Band is a well-oiled machine keepin’ the toes tappin’. Swing is king on this album. Every tune is delivered with sheer gusto and professional polish. Goudreau is as well known for an impressive list of TV theme songs as for his albums. His influences are eclectic to say the least: the Beatles, Chuck Berry, Stones, Johnny Cash, Nat King Cole, Louis Armstrong, Sinatra, Albert King, Freddie King, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Powder Blues and Downchild. But Goudreau is no mere tribute artist—his guitar style is recognizably his own, a beautifully forged reinvention of its sources. Equally proficient at jazz and blues, Goudreau says: “I get bored doing just one type of music. I love jazz for its beautiful melodies, chords, and improvisation. I love blues for its energy, soul and milking its three-chord structure. I enjoy playing rock ’n roll too. But no matter what music I play it has to SWING!” A quick look at his discography confirms his wide-ranging curiosity in blues and roots music. Never having been much of a horn lover, I actually prefer Alternate Takes No.1, culled from Goudreau’s archive of unreleased material. More straight-up blues numbers like Should Quit Your Drinkin’ allow his guitar to step out front and talk to us oh so sweetly. He turns on a dime to a reggae groove in Mend My Broken Heart, switches to the piano-driven honky-tonk of Got Your Letter, then gypsy jazz á la Django Reinhardt on Easy to Love, all effortlessly. And on it goes through 16 unstoppable tracks. Too often, albums of unreleased material are just an excuse to keep the cash flowing, but not here. Both his new albums are highly recommended for blues lovers. http://mikegoudreau.com/bio/

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Canada Now Has a National British Home Child Day

It’s just one more reason to celebrate being Canadian. On February 7, House of Commons motion M-133, sponsored by Conservative MP Guy Lauzon (Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry), passed unanimously 294–0 in Parliament. The motion declares September 28 national British Home Child Day. It’s a long overdue recognition of the more than 100,000 boys and girls brought to this country as child immigrants and indentured labourers between 1869–1948. It’s estimated that there are four million descendants of British Home Children living in Canada today—or about 1 in 9 of us.

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Early group of girls at Prince of Wales Fairbridge Farm School in Duncan, BC. Courtesy Ron Smith / Fairbridge Chapel Society

The text of Lauzon’s motion reads: “That, in the opinion of the House, the government should recognize the contributions made by the over 100,000 British Home Children to Canadian society, their service to our armed forces throughout the twentieth century, the hardships and stigmas that many of them endured, and the importance of educating and reflecting upon the story of the British Home Children for future generations by declaring September 28 of every year, British Home Child Day in Canada.”

They were known as ‘home children’ because many of them came from orphanages and charity homes in Britain. In the early years of the program, children as young as 5 were sent to live on Canadian farms. All were required to sign indenture contracts that terminated at legal age. Later legislation passed in 1925 banned child immigrants under age 14, but this was often ignored by the philanthropic organizations shipping boatloads of kids to Canada. Philanthropists like Dr. Barnardo cultivated support—both financial and moral—for their organizations at the highest levels of society, including the British aristocracy. So it wasn’t hard to get Canadian immigration officials to look the other way.

I worked with NDP MP Richard Cannings (South Okanagan–West Kootenay) to draft his speech to the House of Commons representing the federal NDP Party’s support for the motion. Since then, the other parties in the House have each had their opportunity to speak to the motion, and all did so with great respect for the legacy created by these generations of former child immigrants. It was wonderful to see the cross-partisan support from all political parties, though as Cannings told me on the phone, “this is what’s known in politics as a ‘motherhood’ issue, and they tend to pass fairly easily.”

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A popular portrait of Dr. Barnardo, whose organization emigrated some 30,000 children to Canada.

Liberal MP Serge Cormier (Acadie–Bathurst) said in his speech to the motion that, “The thinking that led to the decision to uproot those children from their lives in England and send them to another country, thousands of kilometres away, seems absurd to us today. The story of their lives in Canada is happy for some and sad for others. Moreover, the background of a large number of them will forever remain unknown. Many were initially ashamed and, once they were adults, they decided to forget. They have never told their families how things went after they arrived in Canada.” He commended the efforts of BHC activists Perry Snow, Lori Oschefski and John Willoughby. Many others could be added to this list, including Peterborough octogenarian Ivy Sucee, recipient of the Queen’s Jubilee Medal for her efforts. Cormier provided some useful historical details proving that federal and provincial governments were partners in the child immigration scheme. “Initially, the children’s travel expenses were greatly subsidized in Canada. Nova Scotia provided $5 for young children and $10 for older ones. Ontario provided $6 and the federal government provided $2 for every child that the charitable organizations brought into the country.” Yet these children were also expected to pay back the cost of their passage from Britain, and were often solicited for donations by Barnardo’s out of their meagre earnings. “In fact, the apprenticeship agreements (were) brutal reminders that the children were not considered to be family members, but servants,” said Cormier.

For some of the MPs who spoke to the motion, the BHC story is personal. “The story of the British home children struck home with me through my uncle who never spoke about it,” said Conservative MP Phil McColeman (Brantford–Brant). “I found out about the British home children in 2008 when I first came to the House of Commons. A minister at the time, Greg Thompson, suggested that I should learn more about this issue. Through that research, I found the story of my uncle. With further research, I found the story of many others.” It’s a common refrain amongst BHC families—not finding out anything until one’s middle age or even later, and underscores the need for the topic to be taught in all Canadian public schools. McColeman’s uncle Ken Bickerton, who came to Canada, was separated from his brother, who was sent to Australia. One’s view of BHC history is often coloured by the experience their forebear had, whether positive or negative. Brutally hard labour in primitive conditions and all weathers, beatings and in some cases sexual abuse were not uncommon. Some of the lucky ones prospered in their new country, such as Joe Harwood and LV Rogers, two of the BHCs I profile in my book Laying the Children’s Ghosts to Rest. For McColeman, “they would never have had lives they had if they had not come through what many believed in that time period… to be something necessary to rescue them from poverty and life without hope in Great Britain…”

Barnardo's Peter St. home Toronto

Barnardo’s Home in Toronto, Peter St. with boy’s band and staff.

NDP MP Linda Duncan (Edmonton–Strathcona) said it was “remarkable how many members in the House of Commons are touched by this issue and who come from a line of children who were emigrated to this country, were not well treated, and should be recognized in history.” Duncan alluded to the House of Commons motion passed last year (February 16, 2017) apologizing to the BHC and their families for the poor treatment many of them received. She cited “motions tabled by former NDP MP Alex Atamanenko and the current member for South Okanagan–West Kootenay, both calling for a formal apology.” So far BHC families have had to be content with the House of Commons apology rather than an apology from a head of state representing the government, as was done previously in England (2010) and Australia (2009). As Duncan correctly pointed out, “Canadians were falsely led to believe these children were orphans who had been living on the streets of British cities, but in truth only 2 percent were. Most of the children came from intact families that had fallen on hard times. It was because of a lack of a social safety net that these families had no other choice than to surrender their children.” She noted that one receiving home for the children was less than a kilometre from the House of Commons, at 1153 Wellington Street West. “It is hoped that by designating this day Canadians will become better informed of the treatment of these children and this will contribute at least in a small way to the healing process for those home children still with us and their families.”

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Joe Harwood c. 1889, a Barnardo’s success story.

At the close of the sessions speaking to the motion, Guy Lauzon rose to thank his colleagues for their support. “Despite writing a vital chapter in the story of Canada, many Canadians have never heard a whisper of their stories. In my opinion, and that of thousands of Canadians right across this wonderful country, the Government of Canada should undertake whatever means it has at its disposal to help preserve and highlight this important part of our history. When we look at the suffering and strength of these wonderful people, we have to honour them by remembering them on one day each year.”

Judy Neville, whose brother Jim Brownell was the Ontario MPP responsible for shepherding that province’s British Home Child Day into legislation, was among the families who only learned late in life of family members who had been BHCs. Neville was a key part of that initiative through her membership in the East Ontario British Home Child Family group, which has established a seasonal BHC Museum at the Aultsville Station in Upper Canada Village. “Last evening watching the historic vote live from the House of Commons on my laptop, I was in tears,” Neville says. “My hope going forward is that we (Canadians) will collect, preserve and share the stories of these children and make sure this is taught in History classes across Canada.” In a previous statement she commended the pioneering efforts of Dave and Kay Lorente of Renfrew, Ontario, who established British Home Child Canada in 1991, well before the subject was generally known. The group initiated BHC reunions in every province in Canada. In 2010 they were invited to the official apology ceremony in London, England by former Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

“The newly established national British Home Child Day is one more important step in the right direction towards getting the BHC recognition of their immeasurable contribution to Canada, especially during its formative years,” writes Lori Oschefsky, who established the British Home Children Advocacy and Research Association. “This accomplishment firmly cements the BHC’s place in Canadian history. We as a nation cannot forget their collective contributions nor can we forget those who suffered greatly and those who lost their lives far too early.”

Best of all, September 28 is my birthday! I now have twice as many reasons to celebrate.

LINKS:

British Home Child Canada http://canadianbritishhomechildren.weebly.comBritish Home Children Advocacy and Research Association http://www.britishhomechildren.comLaying the Children’s Ghosts to Rest. https://www.radiantpress.ca/news/2017/11/23/laying-the-childrens-ghosts-to-rest-mentioned-in-parliamentEast Ontario British Home Child Family https://www.facebook.com/groups/446540058699295/

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Queens of the Gutbucket Blues

In case you were wondering what had happened to the long lost ghost of Janis Joplin, she’s alive and well. Well, metaphorically—or is that metaphysically? —speaking. Her whole-bodied, gut-wrenching, full-throated passion has become something of a rarity in singers these days. That’s why it’s so exciting to hear new blues-rock artists like Mandy Lemons of Low Society and Lex Grey of The Urban Pioneers. Janis’s guiding spirit is certainly large enough to be ‘reborn’ in contemporary singers with their own unique range, power and passion, hinting at what she would have been capable of had she lived a long life. Added to this metaphysical sisterhood is the fabulous Sarah Benck of the Rex Granite Band, though to be fair, Benck’s clear, rich timbre is more evocative of vintage Bonnie Raitt than Janis. And if Janis is the mother of these Queens of the Gutbucket Blues, Keith Richards is their father.

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The legendary Janis at work. Courtesy Austin Songwriter.

Like Janis, these gals were savvy enough to partner up with smokin’ guitar players capable of a down ’n dirty electric slide. On Low Society’s Sanctified, the Rex Granite Band’s Spirit, Matter, Truth, Lies, and Lex Grey and the Urban Pioneers’ Usual Suspects, the atmosphere seems steeped in the free-flowing, bourbon-fueled spirit of the Exile on Main Street sessions. It’s a welcome return to form for the white blues via its Sixties and Seventies heyday. These queens of what I call ‘Gutbucket Blues’—blues that strips away the show-biz gloss to get at the raw, beating soul at its heart—are carving out new territory in a well-worn track.

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Mandy Lemons of Low Society belts it out. Courtesy band website.

On Sanctified, Sturgis Nikides commands a mean slide guitar, the perfect foil for Mandy Lemons’ gutsy vocals. Included amongst the album’s original tunes is John Prine’s timeless Angel from Montgomery. It’s a risky choice given how often this song has been covered, but Lemons infuses it with smoldering intensity. In the oddly-named Raccoon Song, she belts out the mojo with a pleasingly original take on John Lee Hooker’s famous vocal flourish, “how, how, how.” Lemons drops to a sexy simmer on The Freeze before riding the locomotive of Sanctified, a repurposed Train I Ride with vocals that blow its forebear off the tracks. It takes real talent to make songs we’ve all heard a thousand times sound original again, and Low Society pulls it off again with I’d Rather Go Blind, the song made popular by Rod Stewart and The Faces. Lemons manages it with her foot steadily on the gas pedal yet never losing control of the car, as Stewart and the boys could sometimes do live. But the real revelation here is Nina, the band’s tribute to Nina Simone. Nikides plays an eloquent, understated dobro and the passion in Lemons’ voice builds to a crescendo of raw, controlled power. It’s one of the longest tracks on the album but not a second of it is wasted. For more information visit https://www.screaminblues.com/bio

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The Rex Granite Band featuring the incredible Sarah Benck. Courtesy band Facebook page.

Rex Granite provides the smoky electric slide that allows Sarah Benck to propel her voice into the stratosphere. This woman has the most incredible set of pipes I’ve heard in ages, recalling early Bonnie Raitt circa Give It Up, before she turned to more commercial efforts. And Benck knows how to use her instrument, from the slight restraint necessary to propel rockers like Stop Doing What You Want and Cadillac Car to the slow, sweet burn of Curtis Mayfield’s Please Send Me Someone to Love. It’s a stunning performance by Benck, whose vibrato is used to breathtaking effect. The band almost veers into Prog Rock territory with Granite’s slide providing muted atmospherics on numbers like Sail Away and Spirit/Matter/Truth/Lies, a welcome diversion in contemporary blues, which too easily bogs down in note-perfect tributes to its past heroes. Benck’s voice would probably be capable of singing any genre with equal ferocity. It has a crystal clarity and at the same time a gutsiness that is perfectly suited to the blues but never descends to parody. Wisely, she opts for passion, pulling out all the stops yet always fully in control. Spirit/Matter/Truth/Lies is a consistently powerful album.

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Lex Grey captures the spirit of Janis.

But if you’re listening for a voice that most closely resembles the passionate rasp and purr of Janis, you want Lex Grey. Grey is the New York to Janis’s San Francisco. Like Janis, Grey’s songs on Usual Suspects are gritty with urban disillusionment and heartache. Yet she manages to avoid the maudlin sentimentality of so many broken-hearted songs. “I’m not your dirty secret anymore,” she sings in Dirty Secret. The metaphors are sometimes coarse, like Chow Down, but it was Janis who taught female singers to be unapologetic about liking sex. (It wasn’t all that long before Janis—1959, to be exact—that Pearl Bailey’s album Pearl Bailey Sings for Adults Only had to be released on record only and would certainly never have had airplay.) The Urban Pioneers also tip their collective hat to the late great Stevie Ray Vaughn with SRV, smoothly emulating his Texas shuffle. But Grey’s tour de force—and if the band’s PR team knows what they’re doing, the top single from the album—is Renegade Heart. The lyrics here are both original and poetic, with the opening verse: “The tree outside looks like a man / reaching with his bleeding hands / scratching letters in the sand.” And when she sings “my heart’s in flames,” it’s no mere pose—you feel it with her. Throughout the proceedings on Usual Suspects, Lex Grey never gives less than everything, and then some. For more information visit http://lexgreymusic.com.

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Bill Lynch releases CD featuring top Kootenay musicians

Some labours of love take a lifetime of experience to create, and are all the better for it. Bill Lynch, the Nelson-based musician best known for his work with blues band Lazy Poker, has just released his first album, Would You Speak On My Behalf. It features a Who’s Who of Kootenay musicians, drawing from a wide spectrum of genres and instrumentation. Slocan, BC-based guitarist and songwriter Jon Burden is featured prominently on the record, as is Kaslo, BC-based keyboard player Tom Thomson.

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Bill Lynch performing in the Slocan Valley, 2010. Photo Sean Arthur Joyce

Lynch is an Irish immigrant who has lived most of his life in Canada but found his inspiration early in the blues. The Lynch family suffered the premature loss of his father when Bill was only 12 and music became a source of healing. In Ireland music is woven into the fabric of daily life, with many Irish not just passive listeners but performers. The only place with a comparable tradition of grassroots music in Canada would be the Maritimes.

“I remember when the Blues came to Ireland – I was young and it was startling, the notes that bent and twisted the old familiar scales, the lyrics without euphemism or innuendo that spoke of the stuff of real life, love and loss and sex and joy, and all of it performed with an attitude – an attitude stripped of sentimentality.”

But Lynch’s eclectic new record isn’t exactly a blues album. Lynch has travelled widely during his life – the Middle East, Central Asia, India, the Balkans, and Cuba, and these influences subtly creep into the record. Only two numbers on the CD, the traditional song Corinna, Corinna and Please Leave My Kitchen, are blues. Even these are done with an off-kilter 13-bar structure, something blues greats like Charley Patton and Robert Johnson were known for. Please Leave My Kitchen, inspired by post-concert parties in Lynch’s own kitchen, is of course a kind of musical answer to Johnson’s classic Come On In My Kitchen.

“There’s a certain rigidity that comes with putting things in multiples of four that wasn’t there in the early days of blues,” says Lynch. “Charley Patton and Robert Johnson used to sometimes shorten a verse to nine and a half bars. The version of Corinna, Corinna I do is in 13 bars. I went with them because they suited the songs and people don’t notice it because it feels natural.”

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Jon Burden & Bill Lynch performing in the Slocan Valley at Cedar Creek Café, Winlaw, BC, 2010. Photo Sean Arthur Joyce

Lynch writes all but one of the 12 songs on the album, and displays a deft hand at creating beautiful guitar melodies and arrangements. He credits Jon Burden, whose guitar playing “has the biggest vocabulary I’ve met. Jon’s influence is all over this album.” There are distinct traces of folk music throughout. The title track was inspired by Lynch and Burden figuring out that one of their blues heroes, Albert Collins, used an F minor open tuning. The resulting song has a chiming, almost Indian sound to it. The song Would You Meet Me There has an underlying Cuban element, while You’re Not Ready and Chasing Shadows have R&B style horn sections driving the groove. Song For a Country Girl has a 1930s jazz feel to it. Unsurprisingly then, when I ask him about his musical influences, Lynch is determined not be pigeonholed.

“I think we’ve all been influenced by everything—by world music, folk, blues and everything. When I was asked to classify it for the online music platforms I ended up going with ‘roots folk,’ although I hate to classify music that way.”

Bessie best *

Actor, singer & playwright Bessie Wapp at Silverton Winter Blues Boogie in 2012. Photo Sean Arthur Joyce

According to Burden, the recording started with just himself and Lynch laying down tracks with vocals and guitar, but soon expanded to include a cast of 20 musicians. What changed? “I was sitting listening to it with some friends who have produced a number of albums over the years and there were suggestions flying around the room. And someone said, imagine a cello on that one. And another one said, imagine some soprano voices on that song. And I said, well we have all of these people here.” Lynch started making phone calls and everyone he called said yes. That includes musical luminaries like soprano Noemi Kiss, who performs in opera houses across Europe, yet makes her home in sleepy Argenta, BC. Multi-talented Bessie Wapp adds accordion and vocals with an Eastern European shimmer. Allison Girvan – whose brilliance shines as both singer and conductor of the Corazon Youth Choir – lends her pristine vocal talents.  Earthy blues singer Aryn Sherriff – a frequent performer at the annual Silverton Winter Blues Boogie – lends a soulful edge where needed. Ubiquitous hornmeister Clinton Swanson provides a brassy gloss to the songs along with trumpet player Donnie Clark and trombone player Keith Todd. Nelson, BC-based composer Don Macdonald provides a warm, folksy violin. To mention only a few of the worthy musicians on Lynch’s long guest list. “I wonder why other musicians in the Kootenays haven’t done that, because I’ve only scratched the surface, we have so many good people here.”

Clint Swanson 2017

Hornmeister Clinton Swanson at Silverton Blues Boogie, 2017. Photo Sean Arthur Joyce

His lyrics have the same no-nonsense honesty of his blues heroes. Given his Irish roots it’s not surprising that one of his major influences in songwriting is poetry. Lynch says the Irish often claim English poet Gerard Manley Hopkins as their own, “for complicated reasons.” What he draws from Hopkins is his use of sprung rhythms that don’t conform to the standard poetic meters. Over the phone, he reads me Hopkins’ poem Pied Beauty, beautifully illustrating the point. “His very interesting ways of breaking up rhythm were fascinating to me since childhood. I felt like I’d like to play guitar the way Hopkins writes, with those broken rhythms. On Please Leave My Kitchen, I feel like I have that rhythm, like a hobbled horse stumbling along.”

The production values on the album are second to none. Given the challenges faced by Nelson recording engineer Rick Lingard – some songs have up to 10 musicians performing – the mix never degrades into a sonic mush. The clarity and separation of instrumentation are clear yet bring every song into a smooth unity of sound. Mastering was done by Outta Town Sound of Winnipeg.

Would You Speak On My Behalf can be purchased online at iTunes or CD Baby or listened to free at Spotify. For those who still prefer to have an actual CD, these can be purchased locally at Taghum Shell, Packrat Annie’s and Otter Books in Nelson and Figments in Kaslo, with more retail outlets to come. For more information or to order visit http://www.billplynchmusic.com.

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Phonegate Interview with Dr. Marc Arazi

JOYCE: Explain to us how you first learned of the Phonegate scandal. What was your personal connection to the issue?

DR. ARAZI: First, I read the report of the National Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety (ANSES) published on July 8, 2016, entitled ‘Exposure to Radiofrequencies and Child Health.’ In this report, there was information from the National Frequencies Agency (ANFR) on tests conducted in 2015 on 95 cell phones from mobile phone stores. The overall results showed that the Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) for the trunk and extremities of 9 out of 10 phones was above the limit value (2 W/kg) when the phones were tested in contact with the body (0 mm distance from the skin). Some mobile phones exceeded 3 to 4 times the limit values. I therefore immediately wrote to and called ANFR and ANSES to request the measurement results carried out by ANFR. I received a refusal from ANFR, which was trying to gain time. In September 2016, I requested the Commission for Access to Administrative Documents (CADA) to obtain the results.

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Smart phones aren’t quite so smart when you actually consider the health risks.

Since 2004, as a physician, I have been concerned about the health issues related to mobile phones. Until 2014, I was spokesperson for a non-governmental organization advocating better protection for mobile phone users and people living near relay antennas. (NOTE: The NGO is known by its French acronym PRIARTEM, dedicated to educating about the risks of “electromagnetic technologies.”) From 2009 to 2013, I participated as negotiator in the Grenelle des ondes as part of the Grenelle de l’Environnement debate in France bringing together representatives of national and local government and organizations to reach a position on a specific issue.

JOYCE: How did the Phonegate story first break in Europe? The media? Or a whistleblower who went public?

DR. ARAZI: Between July and December 2016, at first, no French media reported on the subject despite many press releases and reminders. At the end of December 2016, following the notification of CADA confirming the obligation of ANFR to provide the test results, three media finally published articles, first, the site Le Lanceur (a French investigative journalism site), then on 23 December 2016, the newspaper Le Monde and the magazine Marianne. The term “Phonegate” was first used by the journalist Pierre le Hir of Le Monde in his article. The subject remained limited to France until May 2017. Thanks to the assistance of a volunteer from Switzerland who began to translate the press releases and articles into English, the American organization, Environmental Health Trust (EHT https://ehtrust.org), whose president is Dr. Devra Davis, contacted me and issued an initial press release in the United States in June 2017. Following this, the EHT invited me to a scientific conference in July 2017 in Jackson Hole (Wyoming). This has given international visibility to my action as whistleblower. Since then, other volunteers are translating press releases relaying information to several European countries, most recently Spain.

JOYCE: For those of us not technically-minded, can you explain why the SAR standard is an unreliable method of determining radiation risk? (For further details on SAR standards I recommend reading Dr. Arazi’s blog article: http://arazi.fr/wp2/2017/12/phonegate-the-health-and-industrial-issues-of-a-global-scandal/)

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French physician Dr. Marc Arazi.

DR. ARAZI: The control standards for SAR are not a reliable method for determining the level of radiation simply because the distance at which the SAR trunk and body extremities are measured is not realistic. In Europe, until June 2016, the distance was between 15 and 25 mm from the skin. In everyday use, however, the mobile phone is in direct contact with the hand or near contact in a pocket. This is even truer when we talk about children’s use. It is for these reasons that in its July 2016 report, ANSES requested the public authorities to take action to establish a new SAR measurement protocol. For its part, in May 2016, ANFR intervened with the European Commission in order to give a warning at European level, specifying that the measurements for the SAR extremities be conducted at 0 mm from the skin and for the SAR trunk, at a few millimeters from the skin (such a lack of precision is in my view in order to avoid legal responsibility of the manufacturers).

Since 1996, Americans and Canadians have benefited from a slightly more restrictive regulation than Europe and a large part of the rest of the world, thanks to: 1) A lower threshold of 1.6 W/kg (watts per kilogram); 2) A calculation based on 1 gram instead of 10 grams in Europe; 3) A conversation time of 30 minutes compared to 6 minutes in Europe. On the other hand, the distance is 15 mm, which means that mobile phones sold in North America, if tested in contact with the skin, largely exceed the threshold limits. This clearly has consequences for the already high threshold levels in Europe. For example, a smartphone measured at 7 W/kg by ANFR is above 21 W/kg under the measurement conditions of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) (that is, a multiple of between 2 and 3 according to Professor Om Ghandi and Dr. Devra Davis).

JOYCE: There have been repeated instances of industry-biased consultants being appointed to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) ICNIRP panel. Do you see any indications this situation will improve in the near future?

DR. ARAZI: Given the public health issues and the experience of previous health scandals—tobacco, asbestos—I do not think this situation will change. The mobile phone industry is one of the most important economic powers today. In France, it owns many media: television, radio, press, Internet. This does not facilitate dissemination of information on the Phonegate scandal. This is just as true in all countries of the world. The recent release of the recommendations of the California Department of Public Health, however, is rather good news. Finally, after eight years of action by Dr. Joel Moscowitz, Director of the Center for Family and Community Health at Universitiy of Berkeley’s School of Public Health, Californians are now informed of the risks of keeping a mobile phone against the body and the head. Incidentally, the headquarters of companies like Apple and Google are located in California.

JOYCE: France has been progressive in banning cell phones from public schools and universities. In your opinion, what does the French government—and the European Union—need to do next to better protect the public?

DR. ARAZI: The ban concerns primary, junior and secondary schools (up to age 14) and not universities. This decision clearly goes in the right direction. It is in line with the report of the scientific experts of ANSES which in July 2016 wanted to dissuade young people under age 14 from using mobile phones.

At the same time, it is essential to launch campaigns at the French and European levels on the uses to be avoided in order to protect the health of users, especially the younger ones. But this would not be enough if at the same time the mobile phones most at risk were not removed from the market, particularly those exceeding a SAR value of 2 W/kg and which are currently being used by tens of millions of people.

NOTES: The Grenelle de l’environnement is an open multi-party debate in France that brings together representatives of national and local government and organizations (industry, labour, professional associations, non-governmental organizations) on an equal footing, with the goal of unifying a position on a specific theme. The aim of the Grenelle Environment Round Table (as it might be called in English), instigated by the former President of France, Nicolas Sarkozy in the summer of 2007, is to define the key points of public policy on ecological and sustainable development issues over the following five-year period. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grenelle_Environnement)

The Grenelle des ondes (formerly Grenelle des antennes-relais) is a debate initiated by Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, Secretary of State for the Digital Economy in 2009. It dealt with electromagnetic waves, mobile telephony, and WiFi and responded to the concerns of the public sensitized by the many controversies aroused by associations supporting the existence of health risks of telecommunications.

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