[Asbestos] The Story of a Dead Sailor, His Widow and a Bunch of Boneheaded Politicians – by Serge Schmemann (New York Times Editorial Observer – September 3, 2011)

The New York Times has the third highest weekday circulation in the United States (after USA Today and the Wall Street Journal) and is one of the country’s most influential newspapers.

Robert Keyserlingk died in December 2009 of mesothelioma, a cancer usually caused by exposure to asbestos. Mr. Keyserlingk, a neighbor and good friend on the Canadian mountain lake where we spend our summers, had been a history professor and a wonderful gardener. Forty years earlier, he was a cadet in the Canadian Navy, in an era when the plumbing and wiring in naval vessels were routinely coated with asbestos.

In the 2 1/2 years he struggled with his disease, he and his wife, Michaela, a textile conservator, became involved in the political campaign against the continued mining of asbestos, specifically chrysotile, or white asbestos, in Canada, and its export to the third world.

This summer, to Mrs. Keyserlingk’s surprise and in a rather peculiar way, her continuing campaign was thrust into the limelight. The Conservative Party, which is currently governing Canada and has steadfastly supported asbestos mining, sent her a sharp notice demanding that she cease using the party’s logo on the modest Web site for her campaign. It threatened “further action” if she did not comply.

Mrs. Keyserlingk had put the Conservative logo on her site and on ads for it, with a red “Danger” sign and the legend, “Canada is the only Western country that exports deadly asbestos!”

The Conservative salvo at a 72-year-old widow of a man she called a “true-blue” Conservative quickly spread through blogs, newspapers and television. People from across Canada, including physicians and politicians, began sending letters of support — and checks, all of which she returned.

“They couldn’t have done anything better,” Mrs. Keyserlingk said of the Tories. To the party, her reply was: “I am delighted that someone in the Conservative Party of Canada is finally reacting after years of work by chrysotile asbestos victims.”

The logo remains. Conservative officials have ceased replying to queries about asbestos.

All of which made me wonder when, exactly, the Conservatives are going to get the message.

For the rest of this article, please go to the New York Times website: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/03/opinion/the-story-of-a-dead-sailor-his-widow-and-a-bunch-of-boneheaded-politicians.html?_r=1

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