Premium, Long-Form Journalism
Independent, No Advertising!

When Oscar Pistorius was found guilty of the lesser charge of culpable homicide instead of murder in the shooting death of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, Judge Thokozile Masipa acknowledged that millions of South Africans worry about crime but, unlike Pistorius, they don’t sleep “with a gun under their pillow.” Now a businessman and author who spent most of his adult life in that country tells us why many white South Africans do, in fact, sleep with a gun next to their bed out of fear of home invasions in a country with a history of troubled race relations and a reputation as the crime capital of the world for firearm homicides.

  • 4,686 Words
  • 14 Photos
  • 1 Illustration
  • 1 Chart

There were big headlines aplenty in 1971: Richard Nixon taking the U.S. dollar off the gold standard and announcing he would be the first U.S. president to visit the People’s Republic of China; Joe Frazier beating Muhammad Ali in one of the greatest heavyweight boxing championships of all time; and the New York Times publishing the first installment of the classified Pentagon Papers. Flying under the radar that year was the election of a big, raw-boned cop as mayor of Lake George, N.Y. Robert Blais, seen in a 1957 photo (above) early in his police career, is still going strong as mayor of that Adirondack town, burnishing its reputation as one of the premier tourist meccas in America.

[How a journalist found his way back to Lake George: See February 11, 2016 Notes From The Editor.]
  • 2,229 Words
  • 12 Photos
  • 1 Illustration

With his re-election to a second term in the White House, Barack Obama continues to defy pundits who may now be questioning whether he is more a pragmatist than the raving socialist his opponents have made him out to be. It’s the same kind of conundrum Pierre Elliott Trudeau presented for critics who attempted to typecast the former Canadian prime minister as a communist. An analysis of issues ranging from health care, abortion and birth control to gay rights, cannabis and foreign policy proves that Obama and Trudeau, born two generations apart in neighbouring countries, have more in common than you might think.

[Yousuf Karsh photographed Trudeau and other giants: See April 18, 2012 Notes From The Editor.]
  • 13,487 Words
  • 36 Photos
  • 3 Illustrations

When freelance writer Natalie Edwards passed away, she was remembered by close friends as a funny, beautiful lady with limitless energy, a self-deprecating sense of humour and finely honed artistic instincts coupled with a love of nature. Now one of her closest confidantes relates how Natalie hid favorite books with inscriptions around the house as she shares with readers her memories of a friendship that continues to surpass earthly boundaries.

  • 7,785 Words
  • 13 Photos
  • 2 Illustrations
SIDEBAR

An intrepid, cool granny opts to get inked!

Photo: ihorga/iStock/ Thinkstock

By NATALIE EDWARDS

Writing from Toronto

Shopping for fabric in the garment district seemed like a normal grandmotherly activity, but Natalie forgot it was Easter Monday. After parking Bucky the Buick, she strolled past two closed fabric stores and then saw the tattoo parlor, its door wide open. Perhaps now was the time to have the recycling symbol of three green arrows tattooed on her shoulder to remind the world that when she died she wished to donate her organs to save lives? She steeled her nerve and crossed the threshold, likely the oldest person to ever get tattooed for such an altruistic cause. This is her first-person story.

  • 2,982 Words
  • 4 Photos

A middle-aged woman suffering from arthritis, insomnia and fatigue is referred by her rheumatologist to a clinical psychologist conversant with chronic illness. The patient’s story is similar to others the psychologist has heard about doctors well trained to treat acute pain who are at a loss when dealing with chronic pain. The woman, who also suffers from diabetes, confides that her family doctor pooh-poohed a new perplexing symptom she reported to him. This is the story of one psychologist’s emotional, bonding journey alongside her patient, leading her to conclude that “I am my sister’s keeper.”

[Chronic pain seen through a doctor’s eyes: See November 20, 2015 Notes From The Editor.]
  • 2,901 Words
  • 6 Photos
  • 2 Illustrations

Jonathan Truchon, 22, is intimate with the sterile cut of surgical steel. The young man from Châteauguay, Quebec, has left more than his fair share of body parts in the cold, kidney-shaped surgeon’s basin, including 85 percent of his cancerous liver. But when you’ve beaten cancer repeatedly, starting at 18 months of age, you don’t think of yourself as a victim. “Warrior” might be a more apt description, winning every medical battle, one at a time.

[Cancer warrior emphasized living, not dying: See January 4, 2016 Notes From The Editor.]
  • 4,098 Words
  • 15 Photos

Dr. Thomas Borody of Australia enjoys the highest remission rate of any doctor in the world when it comes to treating Crohn’s patients. Now he and U.S.-based Dr. William Chamberlin, who like Dr. Borody treats Crohn’s as an infectious disease, talk about the antibiotic formulas they use, their success rates, and their views on the future direction of Crohn’s treatments. Microbiologist Dr. Saleh Naser of the University of Central Florida explains why the connection between MAP bacterium and Crohn’s continues to confound most microbiologists and gastroenterologists.

[More options than ever for Crohn’s patients: See June 8, 2015 Notes From The Editor.]
  • 12,765 Words
  • 29 Photos
  • 4 Illustrations

Within the last decade, elite scientists around the world have made a positive link between Crohn’s disease and a bug called Mycobacterium avium paratuberculosis (MAP), seen magnified approximately 50,000 times under an electron microscope in the photo to the left. MAP originates in cattle where it causes Johne’s disease, but it has recently been proven that many Crohn’s patients also are infected with MAP, which is probably the cause of their chronic gut inflammation. Now a scientist, who has spent 30 years studying MAP, explains how these new scientific findings open the door to expanded use of antibiotics to treat, and possibly cure, Crohn’s disease.

[Thinking outside the box about Crohn's disease: See February 16, 2015 Notes From The Editor.]
  • 8,500 Words
  • 27 Photos
  • 4 Illustrations

Now more than three decades since Reaganomics took America by storm, income disparity in that country is at its highest point in more than a century, a nefarious trend shaking the roots of Western democracies, including Canada and the United Kingdom. An Oxfam International report released in January 2015 predicted that the richest 1 percent of the population would own more than half the world's wealth by 2016. A veteran journalist who was himself homeless for 14 months explains the key events of the last 50 years which have permitted the laissez-faire capitalism of the world’s only superpower, the United States, to dominate the world, banishing many in the middle class to poverty and bringing some of the most vulnerable members of society to their knees.

[Income disparity as seen from the street: See December 9, 2014 Notes From The Editor.]
  • 10,037 Words
  • 29 Photos

A Jewish teenage girl shivers in the dark from cold and fear as she burrows into the icy sands of the Iranian desert to avoid detection. A dozen bearded men chanting “Allahu Akbar” pass nearby. If discovered, she will be seized and returned to face torture and execution by Islamic fundamentalists. But she escapes, making her way to freedom in Canada, where she now speaks out about the human rights abuses of women under both the last Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi (inset photo), and the ayatollahs who replaced him.

[Bohemian Rhapsody in Iran? Roots but no flowers: See September 16, 2014 Notes From The Editor.]
  • 7,028 Words
  • 19 Photos
  • 2 Illustrations

On April 13, 1970, an explosion crippled the Apollo 13 spacecraft, threatening to doom its three astronauts to a certain death 200,000 miles from Earth. After several days of intense analysis and feverish activity in the U.S., when the final crunch came the day before the spacecraft had to return to Earth, NASA still needed the answer to one critical mathematical equation in order to bring the crew home safely. Now for the first time, we learn that NASA sought that answer from only one source: the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies. Dr. Roderick Tennyson gives readers a first-person account of how he and his fellow UTIAS aerospace scientists came up with the answer in less than eight hours.

  • 8,603 Words
  • 19 Photos
  • 5 Illustrations
SIDEBAR

Nondescript building hides UTIAS treasure

By RODERICK TENNYSON

Writing from Toronto

When NASA needed an answer to a mathematical equation to save its Apollo 13 astronauts, why did it place all its trust in the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies (UTIAS)? The answer dates back to the late 1940s when the University of Toronto became the first post-secondary educational institution in Canada to establish an aeronautical engineering program. The U. of T. allowed its new faculty to operate with a high degree of autonomy, which fostered an environment of innovation and exceptionally high standards. This, in turn, produced world-class aerospace scientists, a fact that did not go unnoticed by NASA.

[Walking the wing of the legendary Avro Arrow: See July 30, 2014 Notes From The Editor.]

Despite denunciations of terrorism by Muslim moderates, the predominantly Christian Western world continues to harbor prejudices against Islamic culture, fed by a cliché-prone news media which headlines terrorist groups, as well as oppressive, totalitarian regimes and practices. A reading of the Quran shows that, like the Bible, one of its principal messages is peaceful, harmonious coexistence. It’s time for open-minded Western society to stop allowing its perception of all Muslims to be influenced by a violent, fundamentalist minority.

Parsing the line between religion and culture: See April 29, 2014 Notes From The Editor.]
  • 3,887 Words
  • 12 Photos
  • 3 Illustrations

Almost 70 years after the Second World War ended, the subject of collaboration with the Nazis by the elite of Parisian society is still a verboten subject. On at least one occasion, author Tilar Mazzeo was warned not to write about it. What happened at the Hôtel Ritz, where the German High Command set up headquarters in September 1940, should have been an easy story to tell in her new book titled, The Hotel on Place Vendôme. Instead French bureaucrats blocked her every attempt to find the hotel registry with the names of guests who had wined, dined and bed their Nazi captors. Now a best-selling, non-fiction author gives us a glimpse into the challenges of researching the dirty secrets of war.

Barman’s cocktail mix: Nazis on the rocks

Frank of the Ritz looked elegant and suave in his white bar coat and pince-nez, but he wasn’t afraid of getting his hands dirty when it came to working with the French Resistance against Nazi occupiers of his beloved Paris. Known to be a gambler, Frank, who was an Austrian of Jewish heritage, would both take and place bets on everything from horses races to current events, such as Charles Lindbergh’s first solo trans-Atlantic flight in May 1927. But that was nothing compared to the biggest gamble of his life when he got involved with the July 20, 1944 plot by Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg to assassinate Adolph Hitler by planting a bomb at his command post in Prussia.

READER BONUS

We have included an exclusive excerpt from Chapter 7 of The Hotel On Place Vendôme — The Jewish Bartender and The German Resistance — courtesy of TILAR MAZZEO and HarperCollins Publishers.

[Author mixes non-fiction with champagne: See April 2, 2014 Notes From The Editor.]
  • 3,774 Words
  • 14 Photos
  • 1 Illustration

Western politicians, such as President Barack Obama, say Russia is on the wrong side of history in its support of the Crimean people deciding through a referendum whether they wish to separate from the Ukraine and rejoin Russia, their ancestral homeland. But those living inside Crimea tell a different story, demanding that the Ukraine and the world respect their wishes as expressed in the referendum of March 16, 2014. Now a Soviet-born citizen from Crimea with both Ukrainian and Russian bloodlines and a Canadian passport shares his unique historical, political, social and religious insights into the Ukrainian crisis.

[Legal comparison with Quebec referendums: See March 13, 2014 Notes From The Editor.] [The ballot questions in Crimea: See March 17, 2014 Notes From The Editor.]
  • 7,351 Words
  • 20 Photos
  • 2 Illustrations

Like a loyal NATO partner, Canada has followed the U.S. into combat in Afghanistan under the guise of building a peaceful civilian society through financial assistance and training programs for the Afghan military and police. But all it has done is prop up a system of warlords, drug smugglers and corrupt politicians, bleeding the Canadian treasury of billions and bringing our young warriors home in body bags or shattered in body and spirit.

['Sports Guy' morphs into serious foreign policy critic: See Jan. 24, 2014 Notes From The Editor.]
  • 4,995 Words
  • 15 Photos
  • 1 Illustrations

“Was I a man or a jerk?” Saul Bellow [inset photo] asked a longtime friend shortly before the world-famous novelist, who was married five times, died in 2005. English literature professor Ann Weinstein, an acknowledged “Bellowphile”, answers that question in spades after reviewing Greg Bellow’s enlightening 2013 book, Saul Bellow’s Heart: A Son’s Memoir, and sharing with readers insights gleaned from 40 years of study and her own very unusual relationship with the Montreal-born, Chicago-raised novelist, considered one of the literary giants of the 20th century.

['Dear Mrs. Weinstein, Why must you complicate my life?' See June 25, 2013 Notes From The Editor.]
  • 5,162 Words
  • 12 Photos

Linda Shohet was having a great Christmas vacation with family in Atlanta before she returned home to discover a frozen pipe had burst and her insurer was refusing to pay for costly damages because her home policy required daily visits during a winter absence. Unlike most consumers who feel abused, Shohet fought back, hired a lawyer, went to court and won her lawsuit against Aviva Insurance. The ruling could help millions of other Canadians with similarly restrictive home insurance policies.

[See Feb. 4, 2014 Notes From The Editor for background.]
  • 4,868 Words
  • 13 Photos

You may not have heard of a low-key company called Forensic Technology, but if you’ve ever watched a CSI show on the CBS television network, you’re aware of the kind of crime-solving techniques the company has pioneered in relation to ballistics. Behind the scenes, their technology is being used to match guns and bullets in a high-profile murder investigation involving former NFL star Aaron Hernandez. And it helped solve the brutal underworld execution of internationally-acclaimed Argentinian singer and songwriter Facundo Cabral in Guatemala City in the early-morning hours of July 9, 2011.

  • 6,377 Words
  • 16 Photos
  • 1 Illustration

It’s no fun losing your testicles in a shootout with Canada’s toughest cop. But then again, Det.-Sgt. Albert Lisacek was never known as a guy with a sense of humour during his 25 years with the Sûreté du Québec. Now the outspoken Lisacek tells the real story of cops’n’robbers in the ’60s and ’70s, including what happened just before infamous killer Richard Blass was shot dead by police, the last moments of Machine Gun Molly and his near-death experience with Jacques Mesrine, Public Enemy No. 1 in France.

[Dogged researchers bring new facts to light: See July 4, 2012 Notes From The Editor.] [A great man's passing marks end of era: See Nov. 21, 2012 Notes From The Editor.]
  • 17,127 Words
  • 66 Photos
  • 2 Illustrations

There is a debate raging in communities across Canada – and beyond – as to whether artificial fluoridation of public drinking water is either ethical or legal in the face of disagreement in the medical and scientific communities as to its possible harm, risks and benefits. It’s likely that the next legal challenge will be fought based on the precautionary principle requiring the exercise of restraint unless and until fluoridation can be clearly justified.

  • 2,652 Words
  • 4 Photos
  • 2 Charts

It’s a sports phenomenon sweeping the world: a punk subculture of fishnets, tank tops, spandex and short-shorts stirred in a frenetic cocktail of full-body contact skating. Women's flat track roller derby attracts athletes ranging from the ordinary to the stars, such as Smack Daddy (inset) of Montreal Roller Derby, voted tournament MVP at the first-ever Roller Derby World Cup, and Suzy Hotrod of New York City’s Gotham Girls Roller Derby. It's more than a sport; it’s a lifestyle. Join us at the rink and at the bar to find out why these gals love to play and party hard!

[Roller Derby chicks are photog magnets: See Sept. 11, 2012 Notes From The Editor.]
  • 9,066 Words
  • 41 Photos

A September snowstorm blew in the day we arrived in Whitehorse. Other tourists were fleeing as we arrived. Were we foolhardy "outsiders" tempting Mother Nature’s mood swings with a three-month, car tour of the frigid North? The road sign as you enter the Yukon reads, "Larger Than Life". We discovered that it refers to more than the scenery!

  • 4,355 Words
  • 19 Photos
  • 1 Illustration

You have to figure that a professional who goes only by his first name and is fully booked must be good at what he does. So it was that my husband and I were referred to Garth, a Canadian artist, historian and tour guide living and working in the Eternal City for the last three decades. We stayed at his Home-in-Rome and partook of hidden treasures through his keen eye, knowledge and experience. To paraphrase the Star Trek mission statement: Garth boldly took us where few tourists have gone before!

  • 5,949 Words
  • 19 Photos

Globe-trotting, adrenaline junkie Franck Hiribarne, a fishing celebrity on network television in France, has never met a dangerous critter he didn't want to caress: razor teeth, big fangs and sharp claws turn him on. He returned to Canada recently for a fifth attempt to catch a musky, the largest member of the pike family which had always eluded his previous efforts. Witness the drama when two legends – obsessed expert angler and alpha piscatory predator – collide in dark icy waters.

[Writing and fishing both require patience: See Jan. 9, 2013 Notes From The Editor.]
  • 5,344 Words
  • 20 Photos

Veteran journalist Brad Flory gives a first-person account of losing his job at a daily newspaper, part of the massive corporate cutbacks convulsing the media industry throughout North America and beyond. Summoned to a meeting with the “boss”, the staff had a premonition of bad news when the public address system announced that doors to the building had been locked and the phones cut to prevent outside distractions. With his unique sense of humour, Flory explains how opportunity knocked on that dark day.

['A gift of laughter and a sense the world is mad': See July 23, 2013 Notes From The Editor.]
  • 1,575 Words
  • 1 Photo
  • 4 Illustrations

The bureaucrats say they have proof of my guilt. If I go before a judge, I’m sure to lose and my parking fine will increase. They make me feel like the “punk” in a Dirty Harry movie. But I want my day in court. What crosses my mind is the Chinese proverb which says, “Be careful what you wish for.”

SIDEBAR

Best Canadian city to get a parking ticket?

By WARREN PERLEY

Writing from Montreal

Which city among Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver affords its motorists the most favourable treatment of parking tickets? Officials in one of those three cities have started thinking like entrepreneurs. We’ll tell you who gives the best deal.

SIDEBAR

Parking Ticket Geek is Chicago’s Robin Hood

By WARREN PERLEY

Writing from Montreal

If you want to beat a parking ticket in the Windy City, he’s your go-to guy. “Rip the cash out of the city’s dirty, greedy hands,” is his mantra. With an 85 percent success rate, the Parking Ticket Geek is a hero to thousands of Chicago motorists. He’s considering expansion to other cities, perhaps even Toronto. The Geek took time out from his busy schedule to share ticket-busting secrets with beststory.ca.

  • 3,714 Words
  • 10 Photos

A massive, three-dimensional debris cloud encircles our Earth, posing a danger to everything in orbit, including satellites, the Global Positioning System and astronauts. Future launches involving space travel are jeopardized by the risk of collisions, which are happening with greater frequency. Join us on a journey stretching back four decades, explaining how the problem grew so dire and how space scientists are now dealing with this threat to human life, which includes the unexpected launch of a rogue rocket by North Korea on December 12, 2012.

[Dream date? Tour CN Tower master control: See Dec. 14, 2012 Notes From The Editor.]
  • 7,235 Words
  • 20 Photos
  • 12 Illustrations

These days, hunting, fishing and ecotourism are mainstays of the Yellowknife economy, but there are reminders everywhere of the colourful bush pilots and gold miners who opened up this pristine region in the Northwest Territories of Canada, known as the Land of the Midnight Sun. It's still not uncommon to see float planes on Great Slave Lake ferrying visitors to and from remote wilderness adventures.

  • 3,509 Words
  • 22 Photos
  • 1 Illustration

For more than 40 years, most people have known Daryl Hall as an impressive solo musician and the illuminating half of the best selling duo of all-time, Hall & Oates. Lesser known, his span as a history buff enamored of antique restorations is equally impressive. Hall, the musical and architectural perfectionist, takes us on a personal tour of his restored 24-room, Colonial-era estate in upstate New York, where he shares his philosophy of musical zeitgeist and architectural tradition.

  • 4,450 Words
  • 12 Photos
  • 48 photos in Robert Nowell's Gallery

Kelly O'Connor belts one out at Diamond Tooth Gertie’s Casino in Dawson City, the oldest and most northerly gambling hall in Canada and a crowd favourite among the tourists who cram the Yukon every August to partake in red-hot festivities commemorating the 1896 Klondike Gold Rush. Live entertainment, games, sports, culture, history and nature. Care to try your hand at gold panning?

  • 3,685 Words
  • 19 Photos

Tom Lynch was tall, lean — rangy some might say — in faded blue jeans and shirt, a cowboy hat that shaded his eyes, and beat-up old cowboy boots that had been set into a lot of stirrups. The first time I saw him, he was doing just what the country songs say real cowboys do. He was out mending fences…. Join us for a trail ride with the “cowboy poet” of the TL Bar Ranch.

  • 3,631 Words
  • 11 Photos

Duddy Alt, who passed away at age 90 on June 18, 2013, talked openly for the first time about the horror of a little known massacre of Jews at Balf, Hungary just weeks before the end of the Second World War in the spring of 1945. Alt took four Nazi bullets to the body and one through the head. A few hours later, advancing Soviet troops found the young weightlifter barely conscious in the slimy ditch where he had fallen face first. This is the account of one survivor's odyssey to hell, and what we can learn from the Nazi horrors to prevent modern-day genocides.

  • 9,144 Words
  • 22 Photos
  • 1 Map

In Europe and North America, between one in three and one in four pregnancies ends in abortion, meaning abortion has become part of the norm. But abortion is a human tragedy, and we must consider its impact on both the individuals involved and society, especially its foundational values. It’s time for ethics and law to catch up with science as it relates to abortion. That requires understanding complex factors that have not been addressed.

  • 6,823 Words
  • 10 Photos
  • 1 Graphic

The Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile, the governing body of motorsport worldwide, lifted its total in-season test ban for F1 in 2012 in favour of very limited testing to try to improve competition. But when the final flag came down in late November 2012, Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull Racing was still world champion for the third year in a row, raising more questions for the 2013 season.

  • 1,838 Words
  • 6 Photos

American men, growing up secure in their Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms, have the requisite nerve to deal with the “big box” shopping experience. But Canadian men are shovellers of snow and mowers of grass. We’ve been habituated by our mothers, girlfriends and wives to do as we’re told. So how do you expect me to deal with predatory, bargain-hunting females elbowing their way through the Walmart aisles? This is one weak man’s tale of horror and survival!

  • 1,572 Words
  • 1 Photo
  • 1 Illustration
Photo: © 2016 Thinkstock/iStock/AVNphotolab
POSTED: APRIL 29, 2016 UPDATED: August 4, 2016

Physician-assisted death

Analysis by WARREN PERLEY
Writing from Montreal

Bill C-14, legislation known as Medical Assistance in Dying, became law across Canada on June 17, 2016 after an emotional two-month debate in the House of Commons and in the Senate, where a minority of parliamentarians from all political parties, including the Liberals, tried unsuccessfully to convince the Liberal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to expand the criteria for seriously ill patients who would be eligible under the new law for assisted suicide from doctors and nurse practitioners.

The legalization of physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia represents a radical change to Western cultural values and is one of the most profound and sensitive issues of the 21st century. As a service to help our fellow Canadians understand how they could be impacted by this new law, we have written an extensively-researched legal analysis on it, which we have made available to our readers FREE of charge in celebration of BestStory.ca’s 4th anniversary on April 18, 2016.

7,162 WORDS
18 PHOTOS - 1 illustration

The story behind stories

Notes from The Editor