Monthly Archives: December 2018

Manitoba paddlers hope banner year sets pace for future

WINNIPEG — Each stroke splashes a smile on Nadya Crossman.

Every one sparking memories of a whirlwind year on the water.

“I couldn’t believe it for a long time,” Crossman said.

The 18-year-old competed at the Canoe Sprint World Championships in Italy this past summer. It was her first international meet as the first Manitoba woman to crack the Canadian crew.

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“It was all the Olympics level athletes,” Crossman said. “Everyone I watched as a little girl was competing right next to me. It was cool to see.”

But Crossman wasn’t the only provincial paddler to make waves this year.

“This summer was crazy,” provincial paddling coach Jerome Seremak said. “Our kids were going all over the world, racing from one weekend to another. It was very busy.”

The Manitoba Paddling Association had one of its most successful seasons ever. It’s athletes not only competed at home and abroad but also won.

“All the years of establishing our programs and facilities, this is almost like the harvest of the work,” Seremak said.

Among those grabbing gold was Maddy Mitchell. The Winnipegger won all twelve events she paddled in at the Western Canada Summer Games. Her profound podium performance set a new record for the most first place finishes at the multi-sport event.

“I’m really proud of it,” Mitchell said. “Years from now, I can look back and my name will still have that record.”

A challenge for other Manitobans to try and match.

“I look up to them a lot,” first year paddler Sandra Page said. “It’s a big inspiration for me to keep paddling and keep trying hard.”

With hopes of one day making it to the ultimate level – the Olympics.

©2015

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Professional Lego builder’s life-sized Homer heading to Edmonton Expo

WATCH ABOVE: Eric Maccallum and Jason Bedard join Global Calgary with details on Maker Faire Calgary on September 12 and 13 at the Spark Science Centre.

CALGARY – Like any kid who grew up in the 1980s, Calgarian Eric Maccallum started playing with Lego as soon as he could get his hands on it. But unlike the rest of us, he’s since become a professional Lego builder, turning the hobby into an art form.

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“It was just one of the toys my parents really encouraged me to play with when I was younger,” Maccallum said Wednesday, his 36th birthday. “I really enjoyed it because you can make any kind of toy out of it, and when you’re bored, you can break it back down and rebuild it.”

Maccallum was working part-time at a Lego store in Calgary when he finished up university with plans to go into finance. He visited a grand opening of an Edmonton store, and met a master builder from the U.S. who’d created an eight-foot tall Yoda.

“That really inspired me,” he said. “Once I talked to this master builder and what he found in his career and where it has gone, it really made me do a 90-degree turn and decide, ‘I think I’m going to start using Lego as a medium to do artwork.’ It worked out really well. I’m more excited to be doing this than any other possible job I’d thought about.”

Calgarian Eric Maccallum’s giant Tigger Lego creation.

Eric Maccallum

Maccallum also teaches classroom workshops and parties, teaching Lego building to young and old alike.

His Homer Simpson Lego figure has earned much attention; it will be featured this weekend at Calgary’s Maker Faire (at the TELUS Spark Science Centre) before heading off to the Edmonton Comic and Entertainment Expo Sept. 25 to 27.

“He travels in a crate in pieces. His head detaches…all models do that.”

Maccallum said Homer took about 200 hours to create from design to completion.

“I’ve made things bigger—but they’ve taken less time—but they’re more flat,” he said. “Only Homer’s head is symmetrical. The rest of the body…is not symmetrical so he took a bit more time to do. Normally a model like Tigger – that took about 120 hours and he’s just a tiny bit shorter.”

The designer said there should be about 100,000 Lego pieces for guests to enjoy this weekend at the Maker Faire, and suggests anyone interested in his future projects check his website or Facebook page here.

Calgary’s Eric Maccallum with his Homer Simpson Lego creation.

Eric Maccallum

©2015

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Terminally ill Alabama dad gets to see son play baseball one last time

WATCH ABOVE: A Prattville, Alabama father with stage 4 colon cancer got the chance to see his 11-year-old son play baseball for what may be the last time. Kacey Drescher reports.

A Prattville, Alabama father who has colon cancer is getting the chance to see his son play baseball for what may be the last time.

Gary Parrish was diagnosed with the stage 4 cancer and metastasis to his liver in June. Three months later, Parrish’s doctors stopped his treatments because his body wasn’t responding to the medications.

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The declining health of Parrish has taken its toll on his 11-year-old son, Ryan. Parrish, a baseball enthusiast, went to every one of his son’s games last year.

“When [Ryan] first got out here, he didn’t have a whole lot of focus and I found out why,” said the boy’s baseball coach, Caison Whatley to WSFA News.

“He’s got a whole lot more on his mind than we could ever have,” he added.

That’s when Whatley decided to do something for the Parrish family they’d be able to remember forever – Whatley went to the city and asked for the recreational baseball season to be pushed up by a week in order for Gary Parrish to see his son play one last time.

“We want to give Ryan something to cherish for the rest of his life and this may be it,” said Whatley.

With Ryan wearing number 21 – the same number his dad wore as a young athlete – he stood on top of the pitching mound, hoping to get “just strikes.”

“[My dad] might not be here for all the other games and tonight’s very special because he gets to come,” said Ryan.

“It’s not all about the wins. It’s about what you can do for that child, give him everlasting memories.,” said Whatley to WSFA.

©2015

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Migrants finding little sympathy in Hungary for their plight

WATCH ABOVE: Hungary’s treatment of Syrian refugees has been called ‘shameful’ and ‘humiliating’ by a international human rights group. Jackson Proskow reports on the struggles refugees are having trying to find a new place to call home.

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BUDAPEST, Hungary — A makeshift camp of thousands from the Middle East, Asia and Africa has been dismantled at Budapest’s Keleti train station, and its inhabitants have left for Germany. But the loathing of them lingers in Hungary, which hopes to build a border fence strong enough to keep out future waves of asylum seekers.

“We need the fence,” said Istvan Szabo, a 43-year-old lathe operator having a beer at a bar next to the station, where hundreds seeking refuge in the European Union still line up daily to buy tickets to Western Europe.

The tent city sprang up last month when the government blocked the asylum seekers from traveling by train to Austria and Germany. Authorities finally gave in last weekend and sent buses to take them to the border with Austria.

Szabo, like many in this socially conservative land of 10 million, says he doesn’t understand why they’ve come.

“If they couldn’t solve their problems back where they live, why do they think they’re going to be able to solve them here?” Szabo said.

Such lack of sympathy is a striking feature of the massive march this summer from Turkey through southeastern Europe. Many of the trekkers interviewed by The Associated Press say their worst experiences have come in Hungary, where farmers hiss at them in disapproval and the government leaves their care mostly up to unpaid volunteers.

READ MORE: Hungarian video journalist trips refugees running from police

WATCH ABOVE: Video journalist caught on camera tripping and kicking fleeing refugees in Hungary

A recent opinion poll sponsored by the Budapest think tank Republikon found that just 19 percent believe Hungary has a duty to take in refugees, while 66 percent deem them a threat and should not be let in. The Ipsos survey of 2,000 people, published Aug. 27 as the Keleti camp was growing, had a margin of error below 3 percentage points.

The findings reflect a country where ethnic minorities barely exist outside Budapest and right-wing beliefs dominate in small towns that strongly support the ultranationalist Jobbik party.

“Many Hungarians are racist. They lack self-confidence and see their identity under threat. And our government exploits these feelings to boost its own popularity,” said Zsuzsanna Zhohar, 36, who has helped lead volunteer efforts to give food, water, medical aid and other help to those passing through Hungary.

“It can be hard to convince Hungarians that these people don’t want to take our jobs, our homes, our women, our dogs,” she said, laughing at the absurdity of the idea.

Yet Hungary at times has become a theater of the absurd, with police expending great effort to marshal the migrants to specific spots, only to watch them walk straight out again to snarl traffic.

Government billboards warn the newcomers to respect the country’s laws and culture, but the signs all are in Hungarian, which virtually none of them can read.

Then again, it’s hard to find one intending to stay in Hungary anyway.

“The government says they don’t want immigrants here and they can’t take our jobs away,” said satirist Gergely Kovacs, a 35-year-old graphic designer.

“But the truth is that nobody wants to come here. Every immigrant would spend just three days here if we kept the borders open. There’s no need to hate them because they’re leaving as quickly as possible.”

Kovacs’ tongue-in-cheek political movement, the Two-Tailed Dog Party, has mocked Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s anti-immigrant campaign by erecting similarly designed billboards. One of them, in English, notes the hypocrisy in decrying immigration when hundreds of thousands of Hungarians have sought better-paid employment in Western Europe since the country was admitted to the EU in 2004.

“Come to Hungary,” the billboard advises asylum seekers. “We’ve got jobs in London!”

Many Hungarians struggle to get by, and that helps to sour their outlook on the foreign influx. In 2011, Orban seized the public’s private pension funds worth $13 billion to cover government debt and help the country exit an International Monetary Fund bailout. Its sales tax is 27 percent, the highest in Europe, and Hungary has one of the lowest average wages in Europe, barely $600 a month.

READ MORE: 13,000 migrants reach Austria after Hungary eases train travel

“The volunteers were throwing food and clothes at the migrants, and they wouldn’t give me a stinking sandwich. Why are they so generous with them and not with me?” said Korneliusz Lecz, a former chemical engineer who is homeless. As he sat near Keleti station, he blamed the refugees for an ailment in his left eye, saying they had brought “contagious diseases.”

Near the border with Serbia, farmers express resentment of people running through their fields of corn and sunflowers. They wonder how the migrants could afford to pay smugglers more than $3,000 for the journey.

“They are not poor. I am poor,” said Denes Csonka, 55, sitting next to his small fields of melons, cabbage and sun-scorched corn stalks near the border town of Roszke. “Yet I have seen them almost every night taking food from my fields and trampling my crops. They are taking food from my own mouth, and they do not even ask before they do it.”

Such frustrations find their grass-roots voice in Jobbik (pronounced YOB-ick), which has become the No. 2 party in opinion polls as it assails Orban’s Fidesz party for being too soft on immigrants and minorities, including Gypsies, gays and Jews. On Saturday, Jobbik activists demonstrated for sterner action, waving signs that read, “Deportation, not work permits!” and “Border closures! We don’t want immigrants!”

“Whoever is a liberal is scum,” said Levente Muranyi, a 75-year-old former Jobbik lawmaker at the rally. He called left-wing support for aiding migrants “tantamount to treason.”

He said Germany’s open door for Muslims fleeing war in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan would leave Hungary besieged by Islam from both west and east, even worse than when Hungary battled eastern invasion by Ottoman Turks from the 15th to 17th centuries.

In pictures: Hundreds of migrants leave Hungary on foot

Jobbik activists sometimes go to the Serbian border and shout abuse in the face of startled asylum seekers. On Tuesday, a camerawoman for a Jobbik-linked web TV channel took the hostility a step further. Journalists filming scuffles between police and migrants captured Petra Laszlo on video as she kicked a young man and a teenage girl in the knees and tripped a running man carrying a young boy. Her station fired her after the video appeared on social media.

Julia Lakatos, an analyst at the Center for Fair Political Analysis, a Budapest think tank, said Hungary was no more racist or xenophobic than other parts of Eastern Europe; it just has little experience with refugees.

“It’s a gut response to fear the unknown,” Lakatos said. “My personal experience is that people are really frustrated, there have been hard times in Hungary, and they are searching for a scapegoat. But anyone who came into contact with the refugees, that experience changed their minds. Personal experience overrides fears.”

Csaba Toth, strategy director of Republikon, the research institute that commissioned the opinion poll, said he didn’t think support for sheltering asylum seekers would ever rise above 30 percent. Most Hungarians “tend to agree with the government view that the migrants are potentially dangerous, they’re certainly unwelcome, and they want them to leave for Germany,” he said.

Toth noted that Orban’s quips that would be deemed racist elsewhere are well- received domestically, such as when he said Hungary’s tiny resident Muslim community could provide all the specialty foods Hungarians crave.

“We are truly glad that there are kebab shops on our avenues. We like buying lamb from Syrian butchers at Easter,” Orban said Monday. “We are going to honor this Muslim community in Hungary, but we don’t want their proportion to grow suddenly.”

Orban is determined to build the 13-foot-high (4-meter-high) fence along the 110-mile (175-kilometer) frontier. But analysts don’t see how Hungary realistically can block the flow.

Kovacs, the satirist, says he has a better idea: Build an overpass above Hungary “so immigrants could just walk right over us in the clouds. We wouldn’t have to see them, and they wouldn’t have to see us.”

©2015

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