Amanda Todd

Simply put, if you’re a parent of kids – boys or girls – you need to watch the incredible investigation (totally depressing, but essential watching) by CBC Fifth Estate on the online sextortion, harassment, and shaming to the point that Amanda Todd took her own life. All this despite several critical warning signs by both Amanda and her family to authorities including the RCMP.

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Well just moments ago while I was, err, relaxing on the couch and watching parliamentary debate from the House of Commons about government cuts to respond to the economic crisis starting to hit Canada and there was a flash about police fighting attackers with machine guns and grenades. Since the text on the screen didn’t indicate where it was going on, and it was CBC Newsworld, at first I presumed it was somewhere in Canada… kind of unbelievable, but who knows. I then checked several other sources and now the news is fully breaking about multiple shootings and attacks at luxury locations in Mumbai (Bombay) India.

So, those who know me a bit better know that I have roots in India and have been thinking about returning soon to rediscover my roots there… and have tried to make preliminary travel plans. My mom would often mention that the most dangerous places could be the ones considered most luxurious (and supposedly safe)… since they are the most relished targets both for their clients and more so for what they represent – western excess.

And today it’s happened (or is happening)… There have been attacks at both of the most luxurious hotels in Mumbai, the Oberoi Mumbai and the Taj Mahal Palace. These are hotels that have rooms starting at about USD $300 per night and going much higher. The first reports say that 80 persons have been killed, more than 250 injured (sources: BBC UK News and CNN) and IBN that the gunmen are now holding western hostages who had British or US passports at those hotels.

A senior anti-terrorist chief, Hemant Karkare, was killed in the attacks. He was basically the #1 guy in Mumbai fighting terrorist groups…

These are pictures of these luxurious hotels although I suspect they don’t look so pristine at this very moment:

The Oberoi Mumbai Hotel

The Taj Mahal Palace and Tower

Apparently, they also attacked the trendy and popular Leopold Café located on the Colaba Causeway.

To put things in perspective, USD $300 = approximately 15,000 rupees… for one night at these hotels. According to the Labour Bureau of the Government of India, the average *monthly* wage for a Mumbai resident is about 5000 rupees ($100)…

So… for a Western visitor to any of the large Indian cities (Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkatta, etc) is it perhaps safer to *not* stay in these high-end luxury hotels? I’m thinking a B&B with a local family may be a bit less luxurious, but more fun, more real and… less of a target!

A group called Deccan Mujaheddin is claiming responsibility… that name isn’t familiar to me and there are variations: deccan mujahedeen or Deccan Mujahideen. I’m sure the intel services are working hard on this…

Some sources for the latest news on this:

Live Twitter Updates from Mumbai

IBN Live Streaming Video from Mumbai (surprising stable considering the situation – they’re streaming via an Akamai CDN; bravo!)

IBNLive

Mumbai Metblogs – liveblogging it and updated every 2-3 minutes…

Wikipedia Article on the Mumbai Attacks – also being rapidly updated.

BBC News International

CNN

I just watched a truly disheartening and frightening CTV W-Five episode covering a subject that is often not discussed – far less so by the Federal ministers on Parliament Hill just blocks from one of the worst drug, prostitution and homelessness problems anywhere in the nation. None of them, including Public Security Minister Stockwell Day, accepted to meet with CTV W-5 saying they were “too busy”…

They hounded the Premier of Ontario, but he also brushed off a reporter and hustled into a building…

Personally, I am not surprised by this report. I’ve been to Ottawa many times over the last 20-25 years; my ex-wife and much of her family were from there, as was my late stepfather.

In January 2008 I began a series of about a ½ dozen business trips, one every month or so, to the National Capital Region and usually stayed in hotels in the Downtown, or Byward Market area. The Byward Market is a charming 3-4 square block neighbourhood which, by day is a nice selection of multicultural restaurants and farmer market type stands. It’s next to one of the largest shopping centre’s in the Ottawa metropolitan area; the Rideau Centre Shopping Centre.

Now being a Montrealer, I like to explore a city’s nightlife and evening culture – we have a massive choice of cafés, lounges, showbars and nightclubs in Montreal – around the market.

A few of the times I stayed in hotels (including the Econolodge and Marriott Courtyard Inn) near the Byward Market. Those are both nice hotels; granted the Econo Lodge Downtown at 475 Rideau street is pretty much no-frills motor inn more than hotel with rooms straight onto an inside parking lot that is directly onto Rideau street across from a 7-11 and in the vicinity of churches, residential homes and … well a little pic of the Econolodge :

Econo Lodge Downtown Ottawa at 475 Rideau Street

What struck me most the first time was the number of vagrants, obviously mentally ill homeless people, drug users, congregating around the many missions and shelters in that area. It struck me as so “un-Ottawa like” which has always had a relatively pristine reputation of being a clean, if stoic, family town.

The name of the CTV W-Five episode is Capital Shame and was originally aired this spring I believe… and one revealing quote:

“One of my officers who emailed — I think at 1:54 in the morning,” recalls Police Chief Vernon White. “He said that’s he’s done, he doesn’t know what to do anymore after he drove around for a couple of hours with a prostitute who said she wanted help and he could not get her help and dropped her off at the same corner. I mean, I’ll tell you the frustration in that email — I think is what you hear in our officer’s voices everyday.”

I mentioned nothing to my business colleagues while I was there (doing IT training and coaching sessions)… but by the third trip I jokingly mentioned that I was staying in a neighbourhood that seemed “err” a bit “ghetto ish”…

I got quiet understanding nods of agreement, and people telling me that Ottawa (especially the downtown area near the market) has built up a critical problem.

Taxi drivers, with whom I enjoy exchanging the “real deal” with whenever I travel, confirmed that pretty much every night, 50% or more of people on the streets after 9pm were in some sort of serious trouble (mental, physical health, homeless, male/female prostitutes, drug addicted, or all of the above)….

This is obviously not ALL what Ottawa is about, but it’s more than a tragic reality that literally overruns the area around the Market. I have never seen such a high density of depraved and desperate souls in Montreal in the 32+ years I’ve lived around here.

I think the only Canadian city that may compare is Vancouver in certain spots?

But this is in the capital of our great country – less than 1-2 blocks from the Parliament Buildings?

Pleaselet’s not let Ottawa become Washington, D.C. …

See the entire CTV W-Five episode Capital Shame online (about 20 minutes playing time)

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