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Jewish sites desecrated

Erin Thompson's list of Syria's "treasure house of history" being destroyed in the current conflict mentions "Greeks, Romans, Persians, Christians and Muslims" (Syrian heritage looted, Oct. 10).

Anyone aware of media reports coming out of Syria will also be aware of sites important to Jews being damaged and destroyed, including the 1,800-year-old Jobar Synagogue in Damascus, linked to the journeys of the biblical prophet Elijah.

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Earlier this year, Syrian rebels photographed the destruction of that active spiritual centre by Syrian government shelling. One of the most ancient synagogues in continuous use anywhere in the world has now been reduced to ruins.

Another Syrian site at risk is the remarkable synagogue in Dura Europos. The discovery of this virtually intact structure with its extraordinary wall paintings led to a revolution in thinking about the religious and cultural heritage of the Jewish people and demonstrated their creative interaction with other western religious cultures.

Thompson should improve her education so that she doesn't unwittingly contribute to efforts to erase Jewish history from the ancient Near East.




Ignoring the residents

One year after a major gas explosion in St. Boniface, it's disheartening to read that little if anything has been done to deal with the environmental and safety threats to local residents from heavy industrial operations in the area (Storage rules don't apply, Oct. 4).

Over the past three or four years, despite petitions and concerns raised by nearby residents, the city has continued to issue permits to expand existing operations and to allow new ones, such as scrap-metal processing facilities, to locate close to residential neighbourhoods.

At the same time, heavy truck traffic in the area has increased tenfold particularly along Provencher Boulevard. It appears that during the permitting process, no consideration was given to locate these industrial operations to more appropriate sites away from existing neighbourhoods.

History has shown that more regulation, monitoring and assurances from industry will not eliminate the risk of serious accidents. Residents in these older neighbourhoods have a right to live in a safe and clean environment.

City council needs to listen to residents' concerns and relocate these heavy industrial operations to alternate available sites.




Spill endangers water

Re: Oil opposition unabated (Oct. 8). The discussion about the shipment of oil by rail to Churchill has, so far, failed to include any mention of what happens after the crude reaches the port.

A spill along the rail line would be a minor disaster compared to what could happen to oil tankers transiting Hudson Bay and the Northwest or Northeast Passages.

These waters are among the most hazardous in the world for shipping and Canada has no realistic provisions in place to deal with a major oil spill in the Arctic. Remember the Exxon Valdez.




Student indoctrination

It would be interesting to find out if St. John's-Ravenscourt social studies teacher Matt Henderson spends any of his class time presenting his students with current financial facts rather than simply indoctrinating them into believing that Canadian taxpayers owe aboriginals a living in perpetuity (Proclamation is still relevant, Oct. 7).

Maybe instead of simply drumming ancient history into his students' heads, he should make them aware of the tens of billions of taxpayer dollars that annually pour out of the Canadian treasury and from mining, hydro and forestry companies to support aboriginals. He might also want to point out the huge amount of this money that is wasted by mismanagement by aboriginal chiefs and councils.

I'm willing to bet that you won't see any of these things being taught in Henderson's class.




As fair as tax can be

Re: The most unfair tax (Letters, Oct. 9). The one-percentage-point increase in the PST is as fair as taxation can be. Consider the following guestimates.

A family with income of $30,000 has, after income taxes and non-negotiable and non-taxable expenses (housing, food, utilities, etc), roughly $5,000 to be spent on sales-taxed items. At seven per cent, that comes to $350. The GST, at five per cent, is later refunded. Add one percentage point and the payee coughs up another $50. Total tax, $400.

A family with income of $300,000 will pay approximately $8,500 PST (based on spending of $170,000) and another $8,500 in GST. The one-percentage-point increase will add $1,700 to the PST, or a total tax of $18,700.

Yes, it is hard for low-income families to give up $300, but progressive governments make sure they receive much more than that value in services.

One wonders who the provincial Tories are really trying to help: those contributing $300 or those contributing $18,700?




To raise the sales tax is one thing, but when the premier blatantly lies about it during the election campaign, it's another. This shows the lack of respect he has for the citizens of Manitoba.



Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 11, 2013 A12

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