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Published: Tue, 21 Feb 2017 00:00:00 -0500

Last Build Date: Tue, 21 Feb 2017 06:54:23 -0500


Canadian Effort to Bring Patients Banned from U.S. Faces Restrictions on Sick People Entering Canada

Fri, 03 Feb 2017 20:15:00 -0500

Among the people banned from entering the United States for at least the next six months are many patients who had arranged for healthcare services in the country. The United States has among the best (and still the freest) healthcare systems in the world, and is the destination for many sick people with the need for specialized care often not available in their home countries. More than 30 patients have been identified by hospitals around the country as being now unable to travel to the U.S. to receive care for which they had arranged. Canadian officials are stepping in, ostensibly to help these patients, especially those that are children, access healthcare in Canada instead. "These children are being turned away solely because of where they were born," Ontario health minister Dr. Eric Hoskins said in a statement, according to Buzzfeed, which in its headline characterized Canada as stepping in despite Hoskins being a provincial minister. "As Ontarians, we have an obligation to respond when we know we have the ability to help." What Buzzfeed doesn't mention is that Hoskins will likely have to get some kind of exemption from the Canadian federal government to actually get the patients into Canada. That's because Canada bans entry by foreign nationals who are sick, not only when they are "likely to be a danger to public health or public safety" but also if they "might reasonably be expected to cause excessive demand on health or social services," meaning if your illness is pricey you may not get in. This has led to a number of high-profile immigration rejections by Canada, including of a South African doctor who wanted to settle in Canada but was denied because her child's autism would cost taxpayers too much money, and a Costa Rican family whose child had Down's Syndrome. Canada's draconian immigrant health policies are a reminder of what makes the American system so special, on immigration and healthcare. The U.S. has historically been more open to immigrants than countries like Canada that know how to posture when a political opportunity is present. A largely still private, if not heavily regulated, healthcare system means the government does not have to find itself making decisions on how to treat human beings based on how much their ailments cost. President Trump's executive order, largely built on previous troubling policies and ideas, challenges America's special systems. His immigration policies are centered around the idea of "America First." For now, many people find that palatable, that the U.S. should "take care" of Americans before it takes care of foreigners. This is the start of a slippery slope, one neither party has been shy about before but which Trump approaches with unique non-chalance and without even lip service to the idea of America as a free country. First the government insists it'll "take care" of Americans first, eventually it will insist on which Americans to "take care" of first, relying on criteria like what you "contribute" to society or the State, and eventually, as the Canadian example illustrates for us, how much you cost the government. The idea that government owes Americans something other than staying out of their way and not violating their rights has been popular in the U.S. for a long time—Trump embraces this nanny state paternalism unabashedly and without pretense to higher ideals. Patients unable to access healthcare for which they had already arranged are also an example of how President Trump's travel ban interferes not just with the lives of foreigners but Americans too—a government action has thwarted contracts into which free people entered voluntarily. The history of U.S. government, especially in recent decades, has largely been about inserting itself into the voluntary, peaceful relationships people have with each other, often under that guise of "taking care" of us. It's not less of a significant deterioration in the freedom of association, already in poor shape in this country, when it extends to foreigners. Neither do previous government attacks on that freedom ju[...]

Brickbat: Cracked

Thu, 02 Feb 2017 04:00:00 -0500

(image) A police officer in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada gave Dave Balay $465 ticket for having a cracked driver's license. Balay notes the crack is a small one and does not obscure his photo or any information.

Brickbat: Out of Sight

Wed, 11 Jan 2017 04:00:00 -0500

(image) An Alberta judge has ruled that the city of Grande Prairie did not violate the free speech rights of an anti-abortion group when it banned their ads from transit buses. The ads featured photos of fetuses and read "Abortion kills children. End the killing." The judge said the ads could traumatize women who have had abortions or who plan to have one.

Brickbat: You Know What I Find Offensive?

Thu, 29 Dec 2016 04:00:00 -0500

(image) Canada's Status of Women Minister Patty Hajdu calls a proposal proposal by a Conservative Party politician to legalize pepper spray so that women can better defend themselves "offensive to women." She says the proposal "places the onus on women to defend themselves rather than focusing on addressing and preventing gender-based violence."

Montreal Bans New Restaurants to Protect Incumbents

Sat, 24 Dec 2016 08:00:00 -0500

About fifteen years ago, my girlfriend Roxanne and I drove from my parents' house in Massachusetts to Montreal for a weekend vacation. We'd both been to Montreal previously, but had never traveled there together. While in the city, we spent some time seeing the great sights—Mont Royal, Tim Horton's, Canadian Tire—and ate a bunch of great food, including what Roxanne to this day insists is, hands down, the best filet mignon she's ever eaten. We also checked out the colorful turf at Olympic Stadium, where we took in an Expos game. I picked up one of the team's great T-shirts—which I still own, and which features the 'Spos logo atop this team's perennial question: ''Why not us? Why not now?'' When the year ended, the World Series again wasn't theirs. Why not the Expos? Why not now? As had always happened, they simply weren't good enough. (A 1994 baseball strike—when the Expos most certainly were good enough—dashed the Expos' hopes for a World Series victory. But that's a story for another day). Soon after we saw the Expos play, the team left Montreal for good, settling in Washington, D.C., where it's continued to be a talented and perennial also-ran. Sadly, the restaurant where Roxanne ate her legendarily great steak, Sans Menu, also closed in recent years.As with the Expos inability to compete, perhaps competition from Montreal's vibrant dining scene was to blame for Sans Menu's closure. If that's the case, then it's possible, as recent reports indicate, that Sans Menu may have closed too soon. That's because lawmakers in Montreal have moved to crack down on new restaurants, in an odious attempt to protect existing ones. "Montreal has one of the highest restaurant per-capita ratios in North America and the amount of places to eat is worrying local politicians," reads a Canadian Press piece from earlier this week. If that sounds awful and weird, that's because it is. Studies of the best places to eat often conclude that the more restaurants a city has per-capita, the better its restaurant scene. It's no surprise that the more choices a consumer has, the better off that consumer is. Montreal does have an impressive number of restaurants. Data shows Montreal trails only New York City in terms of restaurants per capita in North America. As in New York City, that competition is great for Montreal's consumers. But it puts pressure on incumbent restaurateurs. So lawmakers have decided to side with the latter. The worry expressed by lawmakers has turned into a ban on new restaurants from opening within 25 meters of an existing one along the city's Rue Notre Dame, the street the now-shuttered Sans Menu once called home. Notably, the action comes as "a number of commercial and retail properties remain empty" in this same part of Montreal. The law "risk[s] turning the city's restaurant scene into a heavily bureaucratized nightmare like the province's construction industry," says the head of Quebec's restaurant association, who notes that real threats to the industry come from "road construction, high property and licensing taxes, as well as the potential for a $15 hourly minimum wage." Predictably, though, some protectionist restaurateurs support the measure. "In Montreal you can apply for a restaurant permit and get it immediately—that's a problem for me" says David McMillan, a supporter of the restrictions, whose high-end restaurant, Joe Beef, is an intended beneficiary of the ban. He's not alone. "I don't believe in the free market anymore," says restaurateur Carlos Ferreira. "We have to protect the good restaurants." Ah, yes. The "good" ones. That's clearly an objective question upon which government can and should rule. This reprehensible backlash against competition in the restaurant industry is, I believe, the logical conclusion of years of so many dumb arguments against food trucks. For years, many restaurateurs have claimed that they should be protected against competition from food trucks. To that argume[...]

The Good and the Bad in Canada's Proposed Marijuana Regulations

Wed, 14 Dec 2016 10:45:00 -0500

Yesterday the task force charged with advising the Canadian government on how to legalize marijuana unveiled its recommendations, which are not quite as consumer-friendly as anticipated. Here are some of the good elements: Age limits. The task force recommends a minimum purchase age of 18, although it says jurisdictions with a drinking age of 19 (British Columbia, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick, plus three territories) might want to "harmonize" the two rules. The minimum purchase and consumption age in every U.S. jurisdiction with legal marijuana is 21, which means most college-age cannabis consumers are still breaking the law. Possession and sharing. The report says adults should be allowed to possess up to 30 grams (an ounce) in public, which is the limit in seven of the nine U.S. jurisdictions that have legalized marijuana so far. It also says "social sharing" should be legal. Home cultivation. All but one of the U.S. jurisdictions with legal marijuana allow consumers to grow their own, a policy the task force endorses, recommending a limit of four plants per household. Sales. The report says marijuana products should be available through direct-to-consumer deliveries, which only some of the U.S. jurisdictions allow, as well as storefronts, although it recommends separating cannabis sales from tobacco and alcohol sales. Edibles. The task force says foods and beverages containing THC should be allowed, as long as they do not also contain caffeine or alcohol, do not exceed legal limits on dose per serving, and do not appeal to children too much. Consumption outside the home. The task force recommends that provinces be allowed to "permit dedicated places to consume cannabis such as cannabis lounges and tasting rooms, if they wish to do so." That might open the door to cannabis cafés where people can consume marijuana purchased on the premises, or at least establishments that let customers consume marijuana they bring with them. Here are some of the worrisome recommendations: Advertising and promotion. The task force thinks advertising and promotion should be banned with very narrow exceptions, similar to the Canadian policy for tobacco. It also wants the government to mandate plain packaging, limited to "company name, strain name, price, amounts of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) and warnings and other labelling requirements." At the same time, the task force wants to "encourage a diverse, competitive market that also includes small producers"—a tall order when businesses can barely communicate with consumers. Taxes. The report says taxes should be based on potency, which is not necessarily a terrible idea, assuming that there must be special taxes on cannabis at all. But it also says taxes should be aimed at discouraging consumption: "Taxes should be high enough to limit the growth of consumption, but low enough to compete effectively with the illicit market." Since you can be sure that black-market dealers won't be jacking up their prices in the hope of minimizing sales, that will be a tough balancing act. The task force itself notes "the experience in Washington, where a high tax at the start of legalization, combined with a shortage of legal product, strengthened the existing illicit market." Driving under the influence. The task force recommends research aimed at establishing a scientific basis for a "per se" drugged driving standard based on THC blood levels. Although the report concedes there is no such basis so far, it may nevertheless encourage legislators to impose a limit that is unscientific and unfair. There is no guarantee that legislators will take the task force's advice. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said he plans to introduce marijuana legislation this spring.[...]

Justin Trudeau's Praise of Fidel Castro Gets 'Three Pinocchios'

Mon, 05 Dec 2016 15:00:00 -0500

Canadian Prime Minister and woke bae Justin Trudeau earned some well-deserved mockery for his fawning statement praising long-time Cuban dictator Fidel Castro upon his death last week. Among Trudeau's more guffaw-inducing platitudes were his description of the self-declared Maximum Leader who ruled over his island nation as "a larger than life leader who served his people for almost half a century." Conceding the tyrant who denied his subjects any rights of free expression or the ability to leave the country without permission was "a controversial figure," Ottawa's pretty-boy-wonder breathlessly declared Castro "made significant improvements to the education and healthcare" of Cuba. Reason contributor Marian Tupy took on this oft-repeated claim by Castro supporters and apologists, but the Washington Post's "Fact Checker" columnist Glenn Kessler focused specifically on Trudeau's statement, ultimately awarding the prime minister "Three Pinocchios" for his willful gullibility. Kessler writes: Trudeau appears to accept outdated Cuban government spin as current fact. The reality is that education and health care were already relatively vibrant in Cuba before the revolution, compared with other Latin American countries. While the Castro regime has not let that slip — and given greater access to the poor — it is a stretch to claim Castro was responsible for "significant improvements," especially more recently. Many other Latin American countries made far more dramatic strides in the past six decades, without the need for a communist dictatorship; Cuba simply had a head start when Castro seized power. Noting that "police states generally are not known to provide accurate numbers," Kessler concedes it is hard to definitively compare the Cuban government's stated accomplishments with other countries that were able to instill social welfare reforms while also maintaining a modicum of economic and political freedom. That said, Kessler cites data compiled by Carmelo Mesa-Lago, a Cuba specialist affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh, which shows that "from 1989 to 2014, the number of hospital beds [in Cuba] declined 29 percent, hospitals fell 37 percent and family doctors plummeted 61 percent." Kessler adds: Reporters have also documented that Cuban hospitals are ill-equipped. A 2004 series on Cuba's health-care system in Canada's National Post said pharmacies stock very little and antibiotics are available only on the black market. "One of the myths Canadians harbor about Cuba is that its people may be poor and living under a repressive government, but they have access to quality health and education facilities," the Post said. "It's a portrait encouraged by the government, but the reality is sharply different." As far as education, Mesa-Lago is quoted as saying, "Cuba probably has the best-educated population in the region, but the considerable investment in human resources is partly lost due to the low wages paid and lack of incentives that force professionals to emigrate or stay but abandon their state work and shift to private nonprofessional activities that allow them to survive." This is a long way of saying that in impoverished communist Cuba, a great many highly educated people are better able to provide for themselves as cab drivers and cooks than as doctors and scientists. But Trudeau, convinced of Castro's "tremendous dedication and love for the Cuban people," has no time to look into how the deceased ex-dictator broke his country while living like a king. According to Kessler, the prime minister's office declined to cite any facts to back up the statement on Castro, but did offer, "Canadians have had an unwavering commitment to the Cuban people for decades" and that Trudeau's statement would speak for itself.[...]

Canadian Panel Reportedly Recommends Low Marijuana Taxes and Purchase Ages

Fri, 02 Dec 2016 06:30:00 -0500

The task force charged with advising the Canadian government about how to legalize marijuana delivered its report this week. Although the report won't be released to the public until December 21 or thereabouts, National Post columnist John Ivison has the scoop on its major recommendations. It sounds like the panelists learned from some of the mistakes made in Colorado and Washington—in particular, the policies that have helped preserve a black market. "The key recommendation of the panel charged with outlining the framework for Canada's legal marijuana regime is that the system should be geared toward getting rid of the $7-billion-a year black market," Ivison writes. "All the other recommendations flow from that guiding principle." The task force cautions against prioritizing revenue from marijuana taxes, which has been a major selling point for legalization measures in the U.S., because high tax rates make legal merchants less competitive with black-market dealers. "To eat into the black market," Ivison says, "the report is expected to recommend prices should be lower than the street price of $8-$10 a gram." That's $6 to $7.50 in U.S. dollars, which is substantially lower than the prices typically charged by state-licensed retailers in Colorado and Washington. Grams at Medicine Man in Denver, for example, currently range from $12 to $14 (including taxes). Uncle Ike's in Seattle offers a "cheap pot" special for $7 a gram, but prices otherwise range from $10 to $19. Concerns about a lingering black market also inform the task force's recommendations concerning a minimum purchase age. "Provinces will set the legal age for marijuana consumption," Ivison writes, "but the report is likely to recommend the limit be the age of majority—18 in six provinces; 19 in B.C., Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the three territories—which would keep many young people from turning to criminal sources." In the U.S., by contrast, all eight states that have legalize marijuana for recreational use have set the minimum age for buying, possessing, and consuming cannabis at 21, the same as the purchase age for alcohol. That decision exposes adults younger than 21 to criminal penalties for harmless activities (such as passing a joint) that are legal for their slightly older friends and siblings. It also helps keep the black market alive as a source of pot for college-age cannabis consumers who are not allowed to patronize legal retailers. Another consumer-friendly policy reportedly recommended by the task force would allow home delivery of cannabis by mail, the way medical marijuana is currently distributed in Canada. Home delivery was not part of the first four state legalization initiatives approved in the U.S., but it was included in the measures that passed in California and Massachusetts last month. Each Canadian province will decide whether marijuana should also be available from storefronts. Ivison notes that Ontario might sell marijuana at its provincially owned liquor stores, although that idea is controversial among people who worry about encouraging consumers to mix bud with booze. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government won't necessarily follow the task force's recommendations. It is expected to introduce legislation next April, and legal recreational sales could start as soon as January 2018.[...]

Did an Anti-Cyberbullying Law Allow Montreal Police To Spy On a Journalist?

Wed, 02 Nov 2016 12:18:00 -0400

The Montreal Police Department spied on a journalist's phone for months, and they did it legally by obtaining 24 surveillance warrants which police used to track his location through the phone's GPS, and also keep an eye on his incoming and outgoing text messages. La Presse columnist Patrick Lagacé was quoted by The Guardian as saying, "I was living in the fiction that police officers wouldn't dare do that, and in the fiction that judges were protecting journalists – and hence the public – against this type of police intrusion." The Ottawa Citizen reports Lagacé also said, "I'm not an investigative journalist and they did this to me," adding, "this is now free game and not taboo anymore." What was so important that both the police and justice of the peace felt the concept of a free press was standing in the way of public safety? An internal police investigation called Projet Escouade, which involved investigating allegedly corrupt officers accused of fabricating evidence in drug-related cases, and which has led to five officers' arrests. The police's spying on Lagacé's phone revealed that one of these officers had been in contact with Lagacé. Montreal Police Chief Philippe Pichet gave a press conference on Monday where he reportedly paid lip service to the importance of a free press but also defended his department's actions because "We do have a responsibility to investigate all types of crimes involving officers," adding, ""What is important for me is that all regulations were followed." Lagacé responded to Pichet's press conference by telling the Ottawa Citizen, "Lives were not at stake, this was not a question of national security," and asserted that his writing about the alleged corruption "made them look bad, that's why they decided to go after me in the way they did." Lagacé added, "There is a real witch-hunt going on at the Montreal police department. It has been going on for years, they have been trying to find out who dare speaks to reporters." Montreal's Mayor Denis Coderre called the matter "troubling" and the city's public safety commission will be examining the issue, but will do so behind closed doors and away from public scrutiny. The Guardian notes: The Canadian Journalists for Free Expression said it had sent a letter to the mayor of Montreal and the city's police force demanding that the practice of spying on journalists be condemned. "It really fits an extremely troubling pattern around policing and security agencies in Canada," said Tom Henheffer of the organisation. Recently Québec police seized the computer of a reporter from the Journal de Montréal over concerns that he had illegally obtained information for a story. Their actions followed revelations that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police had followed two journalists for nine days without any kind of authorisation and came as the [Royal Canadian Mounted Police] RCMP is engaged in legal action aimed at forcing Vice Media to hand over background materials relating to a series of stories on a suspected terrorist. The judge's justification for approving the warrants remains a mystery until November 24, when the warrants are scheduled to be made available to the public. CBC News interviewed Christopher Parsons of the Canadian Telecom Transparency Project at Citizen Lab, who said that the spying might not have been made "legal" by anti-terrorism statutes, as some suspect, but an anti-cyberbullying law called Bill C-13 that permits police to "track an object, person, or transmission of data if the authorities have the suspicion or belief that doing so could assist an investigation." From CBC News: Parsons said that Bill C-13 was "sold to the Canadian public as necessary to stop cyberbullying," but applies to the general public. "These orders that were used to conduct surveillance on the journalist and his respective sources[...]

Brickbat: Find Your Own Path

Fri, 28 Oct 2016 04:00:00 -0400

(image) In British Columbia, retired road engineer David Pacey has pleaded not guilty to two counts of damaging flora, fauna or a natural object in a national park. Pacey has repaired and cleared of debris some five kilometers of existing trails in Kootenay National Park. He says officials at Parks Canada are just angry with him for doing the job they should be doing.

Socialist Regional Government in Belgium Torpedoes EU-Canada Free Trade Deal

Mon, 24 Oct 2016 15:50:00 -0400

(image) The European Union has failed to get approval for a trade deal with Canada (CETA) after one of the five regional governments in Belgium rejected the deal, which would have been the first the EU struck with a country in the G-7. The other 27 member states of the EU all consented to the deal.

All the other member countries approved the trade deal, but Belgium's federal government needed approval from its regional parliament and the French-speaking socialist government in Wallonia refused to endorse it, citing concerns about its impact on employment and consumer safety. It also claimed the deal jeopardized "social and environmental standards and the protection of public services" and objected to non-government arbitration.

The Belgian federal government held a crisis meeting of regional leaders, where Paul Magnette, the minister-president of Wallonia, said his government would not budge. "Every time you try to put an ultimatum it makes a calm debate and a democratic debate impossible," Magnette told reporters in Brussels. "We don't need an ultimatum. We will not decide anything under an ultimatum or under pressure."

An EU-Canada summit was planned for Thursday, where Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was supposed to sign the accord. His trip to Brussels may be delayed if the EU can't secure Belgium's support for the deal before then.

The EU and Canada have been negotiating the trade deal for seven years. If the EU is unable to approve it, it will call into question negotiations with Japan and the United States, both of which have been ongoing since 2013, and more broadly the EU's ability to operate as a cohesive free trade bloc that can enter into trade agreements with other countries and blocs.

Anti-free trade parties have been on the rise across Europe as America's major party presidential candidates have also embraced anti-free trade rhetoric and policies despite its crucial role in increased prosperity worldwide.

The U.S. Might Be About to Declare War on Canada Over Lumber

Mon, 17 Oct 2016 10:05:00 -0400

2016 has been an absolutely dismal year for the prospects of free trade, what with the two major party presidential candidates working to outdo each other on who can be the most protectionist. Last week things got even worse with news that a trade war is brewing between the United States and—wait for it—Canada. On Wednesday the U.S. Lumber Coalition—which represents this country's timber industry—put out a press release saying that it had "no choice but to move to initiate trade cases against" Canada for the allegedly unfair practices of its logging industry. These actions came on the heels of the expiration of the U.S.-Canada Softwood Lumber Agreement (SLA) on October 12. The SLA was signed back in 2006 as means of ending a decadeslong trade conflict between the United States and its northern neighbor over the supposed dumping of cheap Canadian lumber onto the U.S. market, to the detriment of American loggers. The U.S. lumber industry's complaint centers around "stumping" fees Canadian provinces charge timber companies to log on publicly owned land. American loggers assert that these fees are too low and thus amount to an unfair subsidization of a domestic industry. Since 1986, the U.S. Department of Commerce has tended to agree with American loggers, imposing trade duties that at times have reached as high 27 percent on Canadian imports. But this has prompted counteraction from the Canadians, who have repeatedly dragged the U.S. before North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and World Trade Organization tribunals. Both bodies, in turn, have ruled multiple times against the U.S.'s protectionist actions. The most significant of these ruling came in March 2006 when a NAFTA panel ordered the U.S. to refund to Canada some $5 billion in import duties. These international rebukes at last brought the U.S. to the table, and in July of that year, American and Canadian officials signed the landmark SLA. Under the terms of the deal, Canadian provinces would adopt a series of self-imposed duties and quotas designed to limit Canadian exports to at most 34 percent of the U.S. market. In exchange, the American timber industry agreed to drop its complaints over those notorious stumping fees. For a blessed 10 years under this managed trade deal, relative peace prevailed, but with the expiration of the accord last week, that delicate calm looks like it's about to to shatter. The result is likely to be higher prices for U.S. consumers, along with mill closures and job losses north of the border. And all this is happening under President Barack Obama, a man who at least pays lip service to free trade. It's hard to imagine the prospects for open lumber trade will get better under either of his likely successors.[...]

Brickbat: Candy from Babies

Wed, 12 Oct 2016 04:00:00 -0400

(image) Parents of students in Ontario's Durham school district are furious that teachers are taking food they have sent to school with their children away from them. They say foods including raisins, chocolate milk, granola bars, banana bread and Animal Crackers have been taken away from their children because a teacher said those foods are unhealthy. And since it's individual teachers making the decisions about what is and isn't healthy, foods that are OK in one school may be banned in another and foods that may be OK in one classroom of a school will be confiscated in another classroom in the same school.

Brickbat: Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!

Tue, 04 Oct 2016 04:00:00 -0400

(image) Officials at Toronto's Jackman Avenue Junior Public School recently let parents know just how upset they are with their children. Specifically, students are tossing juice boxes into the garbage instead of recycling bins. And when they do manage to put them in the bins, they leave the straws in. Jackman has the school district's highest "EchoSchools" rating, and officials don't want any children screwing it up, so they have banned juice boxes.

Brickbat: Ewwwww

Mon, 26 Sep 2016 04:00:00 -0400

(image) An Ontario high school teacher is under investigation after allegedly telling a student to "lick me where I fart." Jennifer Elizabeth Green-Johnson reportedly has a history of disciplinary actions taken against her by the local school system and the provincial teacher licensing body, including a 30-day suspension in January. According to press reports, she slapped one student on the head and told him to grow some balls, called another a "bloody pedophile" and called various other students stupid, gay, idiots and a bitch.