April 19, 2015

James John Scott

James John Scott, July 20, 1944 – April 19, 2015

James John Scott (Jim) of Salt Spring Island passed away peacefully in Lady Minto Hospital on April 19, 2015 at 9:00am. He was born George Frederick Murray July 20, 1944 in Picton Ontario.

He is survived by his four children Justin Scott, Corbin (Jennifer) Scott, Morgain (Ramona) Scott Cuddy and Alanna Scott.

He is also survived by three grandchildren, Helena, Kyra and Liam.

Thank you to Dr. Reznick and the wonderful staff at Lady Minto Hospital.

Jim Scott: Requiescat in pace

Jim Scott, my long-time friend, ex-military man, farmer, father of four, editor, philosopher, seeker, baseball enthusiast, and the primary poster to the Salt Spring News, died this morning after a short illness.

Jim, I don’t know if there is a journey after we leave here, but I know you believed there is and, if you’re right, I hope yours is a good one.


Farewel, Dear Friend! may Guid luck hit you,
And ‘mang her favorites admit you!
If e’er Detraction shore to smit you,
May nane believe him!
And ony deil that thinks to get you,
Good Lord deceive him!!!

Robert Burns, 1786

Posted at: April 19, 2015 - 11:07 am -- Posted by: Cameron Smith -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

Last Post

Memorial stained glass window, Class of 1934, Royal Military College of Canada showing officer cadet playing the bugle call.

Memorial stained glass window, Class of 1934, Royal Military College of Canada showing officer cadet playing the bugle call.

Last Post

Playing of the Last Post is derived from the old custom of beating Tattoo. This word comes from the Dutch phrase – “doe den tap toe”, meaning “turn the taps off”.

In the days when British troops served in the lowlands, it was the custom for a drummer to march through the streets beating his drum to warn the troops to leave the taverns and return to their billets.

At the sound of the drum the Dutch innkeepers would order “doe den tap toe”.

When bugle calls were generally introduced, two posts were written. First Post symbolises the first inn to see that all soldiers had left and the Last Post symbolises the inspection of the last inn in the town.

It was then a simple step for Last Post to become associated with Military Funerals, its playing denoting the end of the day. Played at funerals, Last Post is followed by the call Rouse, a later version of Reveille which symbolises the awakening of a new life.

The closing of the day, the closing of a life and… the closing of the Salt Spring News.

Jim Scott was part of the Salt Spring News almost from the beginning. In August, 2000, almost 15 years ago, we started under the banner of The Daily Barnacle, and the site carried all of the stories of Salt Spring Island’s upstart weekly community newspaper The Barnacle, as well as a compendium of local, national and international news articles we felt would be of interest to islanders.

When The Barnacle was bought out by the long-established Gulf Islands Driftwood, we decided to keep the website going and re-christened it Salt Spring News. While we no longer had the local news that had been provided by the editorial staff of The Barnacle, we felt that we could still provide useful, interesting news to Salt Spring islanders and a growing off-island audience. We also published a small, print version of the News which was distributed free on Salt Spring for a couple of years.

Over the years, Jim contributed the vast majority of posts to the SSNews: of the 24,000 articles, 21,000 were his. He said it was what kept him sane and what kept him going. He was an educated man and this helped keep him informed about what was happening in the world, both locally and globally.

But with Jim’s death, the site now goes static: it will remain active and the archives will continue to be available and searchable, but there will be no new posts. This is the last post.

Goodbye Jim. I will miss you, your family and friends will miss you, and your many readers will miss you and the Salt Spring News.


Posted at: April 19, 2015 - 9:20 am -- Posted by: Cameron Smith -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

April 18, 2015

Weekly Headlines

Click on a headline below to go to that news item

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Is a coalition the only way to Stop Harper? Trudeau waffles: he may have just lost the upcoming election

Wednesday, April 15, 2015


Three years on, the seizure of the farmers’ Canadian Wheat Board looks to be final… and grim for the former owners

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

New World Order

The listening and monitoring “bugs” we allow into our lives will have serious consequences in the future

Sunday, April 12, 2015

All the chutzpah we could fit into one hour: master storyteller Simon Schama

How to be a Stoic

Posted at: April 18, 2015 - 7:01 am -- Posted by: SSNews -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

April 16, 2015

Is a coalition the only way to Stop Harper? Trudeau waffles: he may have just lost the upcoming election

Trudeau might be open to forming coalition with NDP, but not with Mulcair as leader
‘His style is anchored in the old way of practising politics,’ Trudeau says of Mulcair
The Canadian Press April 14, 201

Brigette DePape is a Canadian activist from Winnipeg, Manitoba who came to Canadian national attention on June 3, 2011. While a participant in the Canadian Senate Page Program in 2011, DePape stood in protest during the Throne Speech in the Senate, silently holding up a sign that said "Stop Harper!" This action led to her prompt dismissal, for breaching the non-partisan nature of the page position and disrupting the Governor General in Parliament.[2] In a subsequent interview, DePape explained that she disagreed with Prime Minister Stephen Harper's policies.

Brigette DePape is a Canadian activist from Winnipeg, Manitoba who came to Canadian national attention on June 3, 2011. While a participant in the Canadian Senate Page Program in 2011, DePape stood in protest during the Throne Speech in the Senate, silently holding up a sign that said “Stop Harper!” This action led to her prompt dismissal, for breaching the non-partisan nature of the page position and disrupting the Governor General in Parliament. In a subsequent interview, DePape explained that she disagreed with Prime Minister Stephttp://saltspringnews.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=25514&action=edit&message=10#TB_inline?width=660&height=800&inlineId=select_linklibrary_shortcodehen Harper’s policies.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau says he would “maybe” be more open to the idea of forming a coalition with the NDP if Tom Mulcair was not running the party.

Asked on Tuesday whether having someone other than Mulcair as leader would change the dynamic in terms of a coalition between the two parties, Trudeau replied: “I don’t know…. Honestly, I don’t want to get into hypotheses. Maybe, but maybe not.”

. . .

Some recent polls have suggested the possibility of a minority government in Ottawa after this fall’s election.

Mulcair reiterated his openness last month to a possible coalition with the Liberals if it is necessary to topple Stephen Harper’s Conservatives.

The Opposition leader accused Trudeau at the time of putting personal interests ahead of those of Canadians because the Liberal leader had repeatedly expressed his lack of interest in discussing coalitions.

“Whenever we have opened that door, Justin Trudeau slams it shut,” Mulcair said. “My first priority is to get rid of Stephen Harper. The first priority of Justin Trudeau is Justin Trudeau.”

Trudeau says he’s ‘unequivocally opposed’ to a coalition with NDP — a day after saying he may be open to it
Canadian Press April 16, 2015

HALIFAX — Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau says he doesn’t see any possibility of a coalition with the NDP, a day after he said he would “maybe” be more open to the idea if Tom Mulcair wasn’t running the party.

Speaking in Halifax on Wednesday, Trudeau said even if Mulcair wasn’t the leader, there are too many policy differences to make a coalition possible.

“I am unequivocally opposed to any sort of coalition,” he said, according to Global News.

. . .

A coalition? Why Trudeau has more in common with Harper than Mulcair
John Ibbitson The Globe and Mail April 15, 2015

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said Wednesday that he was “unequivocally opposed to any sort of coalition” with the NDP. That makes perfect sense. It would be far more logical for the Liberals to make common cause with the Conservatives.

Speaking to reporters in Halifax, Mr. Trudeau sought to clean up a messy quote that he had left behind the day before, in which he suggested he might be willing to co-operate with the NDP, provided Thomas Mulcair was not the leader. This seemed churlish.

Wednesday, the Liberal Leader declared once and for all that he was categorically opposed to a coalition with the NDP, in part because “there’s too many big issues on which the NDP and the Liberal Party of Canada have deep disagreements.”

He’s right. Under Mr. Trudeau’s leadership, the Liberals on most major files have become virtually indistinguishable from Stephen Harper’s Conservatives.

. . .

Progressives want to win the next election. George Lakoff tells us how.
Ryan Meili rabble.ca April 14, 2015

Why are conservatives so successful in communicating their messages? What do progressives need to do to communicate their values to large populations?

rabble.ca and our partners Canadian Dimension will be hosting renowned cognitive linguist and author of the groundbreaking Don’t Think of an Elephant, George Lakoff in Toronto this Saturday April 18 for an inspiring all-day symposium. For tickets to this exclusive event, please register here. For a taste of Lakoff, if you are in Toronto consider coming to his evening lecture on Elections, Activism and Beyond.

You’re coming to Toronto later this week for rabble.ca and Canadian Dimension. Can you tell me a bit about what you’ll be discussing?

Not sure where to begin, because there’s a lot. The question is, in general, how conservatives, in both Canada and the U.S., have taken over governing with a minority of voters and how that has worked, what mechanism they’ve used to do it, how they frame issues in public discourse, and how they’ve come to dominate public discourse.

The second part is what constitutes a conservative and progressive worldview, which is not obvious, and it links to general moral worldviews and family values of certain kinds.

Then there’s the question of why liberals have not united on these issues. You have a phenomenon in the U.S. where Hilary Clinton [declared her candidacy for the 2016 presidential election] but a lot of progressives have been working avidly against her, saying that she’s not a progressive enough candidate and pushing Elizabeth Warren to run when she won’t, rather than trying to unite progressives and liberals and come out as a united group.

Why isn’t that happening? Why is there such a divide between progressives and liberals in the U.S.? The same thing is happening in Canada where you have the NDP and the Liberals and the Greens splitting up progressive ideas allowing Harper to govern. What can be done about that?

. . .

Rogue page doesn’t regret 2011 ‘Stop Harper’ stunt
Michelle Zilio CTVNews.ca March 24, 2015

Former Senate page Brigette DePape says she does not regret holding up a sign reading “Stop Harper” during the 2011 throne speech, a stunt that made national headlines.

Speaking to CTV’s Canada AM on Tuesday, DePape said she was scared to brandish the sign, but felt the need to express her dissatisfaction with the direction of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government.

“That was one the hardest, but also best decisions of my entire life,” said DePape. “I felt I needed to do it because I felt really discouraged and disempowered by the direction was government was headed and feeling like it’s really going against the interests of the majority of people in this country.”

DePape was briskly removed from the Senate chamber by security, and lost her job as a result.

More than three years after DePape became a household name, she is on a mission to encourage young people to better engage in politics. She’s part of the 2015 Game-Changers Tour, which calls on Canadian youth to vote in the next federal election.

. . .

Posted at: April 16, 2015 - 8:53 pm -- Posted by: Cameron Smith -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

April 15, 2015

Three years on, the seizure of the farmers’ Canadian Wheat Board looks to be final… and grim for the former owners

Rowley Grain Elevator Row

David Leonard, Historian RETROactive: Blogging Alberta’s Historic Places

Rowley Grain Elevator Row

In the spring of 1909, Premier Rutherford of Alberta announced his government’s commitment to a vast program of railway expansion in Alberta. To do this, the government offered to guarantee the bonds of major railway companies to the extent of $20,000 per mile of completed track. Taking advantage of this, the Canadian Northern Railway decided to incorporate several subsidiary companies to undertake specific lines in Alberta. One of these was the Alberta Midland, which was chartered by the provincial government in May 1909 to build a line from Vegreville south through Drumheller to Calgary. One purpose was to open up new land for farming, another was to tap into the coal reserves around Drumheller which had hitherto been unavailable to the Canadian Northern or any of its subsidiaries.

By the end of 1911, the Alberta Midland line was completed. Along it, several stations were built. One of these, 25 km north of Drumheller, was named Rowley, after the Manager of the Calgary branch of the Canadian Bank of Commerce. The Bank itself had provided substantial backing to the Canadian Northern. Behind the station, a townsite was subdivided, and, before long, a community evolved, the main purpose of which was to provide services to the surrounding hinterland where mixed farming was the staple economy.

It was essential therefore that Rowley be provided with grain elevators, and, in 1915, the first one was built by the Home Grain Company. It was apparently not well constructed however, for, shortly after its completion, it collapsed. Though rebuilt soon after, another mishap occurred when an annex burst, and, not long after that, the elevator burned down. In the wake of these mishaps, two other elevators were built in 1917. These were owned by the National Grain Company and the United Grain Growers. The UGG had only recently been incorporated as a farmer-owned company, and it was a good time for it to build for, like most of the western prairies, the Rowley district was seeing high yields and much demand because the war in Europe was diverting the activities of farmers there to other matters.

The National and the UGG had a monopoly on the local grain export at Rowley until 1923, when the Searle Grain Company, formerly the Home Grain Company, decided erect another elevator on the site of their first one at Rowley. At 40,000 bushels, this would be the biggest of the village’s three elevators. It was an unusual time to build, for grain prices had recently collapsed in the wake of the post war overproduction of wheat. Also, during 1919-20, both the Canadian Northern and the Grand Trunk Railways had been taken over by the federal government and consolidated into Canadian National. This meant reduced services, and, in 1922, rail traffic between Vegreville and Drumheller were significantly reduced.

The three grain elevators in Rowley managed to survive however, and, in 1928, the UGG structure was acquired by the Alberta Wheat Pool. Formed five years earlier, in the wake of plummeting grain prices, the Pool was a business concept advocated by UFA president Henry Wise Wood which saw farmers pool their wheat in a co-operative to ensure that no member would suffer unduly in times of stress. Such stress occurred during the early 1930’s, when the price of #1 wheat fell to 32 cents a bushel and many farmers could not afford to ship out their wheat. During the end of the decade however, with Great Britain gearing for war, the demand for wheat began to rise, and, with it, productivity on the Canadian prairies. In 1940 therefore, the Wheat Pool decided to twin its elevator in Rowley with a new 40,000 bushel structure.

The three grain elevators at Rowley continued to serve the district long after the war. In 1967, the Searle elevator was sold to the Federal Grain Company, and, in 1972, to the Wheat Pool, which then owned all three elevators. In 1989 however, the CN line between Rowley and Morrin was closed down, and farmers soon began trucking their grain to Morrin or elsewhere. The elevators therefore were closed also. They remained standing however, and, in recent years, have been acquired by the Rowley Community Hall Association which is seeking to preserve them.

In June 2010, the grain elevators in Rowley were designated a Provincial Historic Resource. Their historical significance lies in their representation of the major economy of Alberta for most of the 20th century, the growth and export of grain, and mainly wheat. They are also important as landmarks in Rowley, providing structural evidence of the community dating back to 1917, when the district was prospering. The first elevator represents the main source of that prosperity, and the three of them the economy of the district in the years that followed.

U.S., Saudi firms to buy former Canadian Wheat Board
Eric Atkins The Globe and Mail April 15 2015

The company formerly known as Canadian Wheat Board has found a buyer.

A joint venture between food company Bunge Canada and SALIC Canada Ltd., a subsidiary of Saudi Agricultural and Livestock Investment Co., will pay $250-million for a majority stake in grain trader now known as CWB.

The joint venture known as G3 Global Grain Group said on Wednesday the rest of the grain trader will be held by farmers.

The stake is the final part of the transformation of the Canadian Wheat Board, whose monopoly on wheat and barley buying in Western Canada was revoked by Ottawa in 2012.

. . .

The Saudi Agricultural and Livestock Investment Co. was established by Saudi Arabia’s king in 2011 to secure food supplies for the country that imports 80 per cent of its food.

Why so many farmers miss the Wheat Board

Jake MacDonald Special to The Globe and Mail November 27, 2014

Cameron comment: There’s a lot of good information and background in the following article, of which we’ve excerpted very little. It’s fairly long (for the internet age), but highly recommended.

The debate over the Wheat Board is like the eternal argument over gun control — a sort of endless town-hall debate in which aggravated delegates keep showing up with armloads of statistics to prove that their opponents are underhanded, unpatriotic and just plain wrong. The Farmers for Justice blame current problems in the industry on the Wheat Board and its socialist legacy. The farmers who support the CWB call their opponents “The Farmers for Just Us,” and say they’ll be sadder but wiser when they figure out the Conservative Party’s agenda. Academics criticize the grain companies and their alleged history of profiteering on the backs of farmers. Left-wing bloggers blame Stephen Harper and his secret plan to sell Canada on the open market. And everyone blames the railways, which are making an awful lot of money these days, but never seem to pick up the phone when agriculture calls.

. . .

Jim Downey is a classic prairie conservative, but says it’s a mistake to see the CWB as a socialist institution. “I knew a lot of staunchly conservative farmers who loved the Wheat Board,” he says. “A lot of farmers work very hard all day. They come home, they’re tired, and they don’t want to spend the evening trying to figure out how to sell their wheat. A lot of decent people like Andy McMechan had legitimate complaints about the Board, and when they protested, the Wheat Board overreacted and disgraced itself. But a lot of decent farmers like what the Wheat Board was trying to do.”

Glenn Tait is one of them. He operates his great-grandfather’s homestead near Meota, Saskatchewan. Like many hard-pressed farmers, he is coping with the rising costs by working a spread of 2,300 acres with his father and brother-in-law. He says the dismantling of the CWB was presented to the general public as a gift to farmers, but in his opinion it wasn’t a gift the farmers—who owned the Board—actually wanted. “The Wheat Board ran many polls over the years, with a large majority of farmers supporting the old single-desk system. The government spent two years spouting inflammatory rhetoric, and tried to prevent the CWB from holding a final plebiscite on the issue.”

. . .

Andrew Paterson, 53, is the CEO of family-owned, Winnipeg-based Paterson GlobalFoods (of which Paterson Grain is part). He is the grandson of the grain baron and philanthropist Senator Norman Paterson, who in 1908, with all of $25 in start-up financing, bought and sold carloads of grain from a tiny rented office in Port Arthur, Ontario (now part of Thunder Bay). Eventually he built an empire of western elevators and a fleet of Great Lakes ships.

He says the dismantling of the CWB will present opportunities to streamline and co-ordinate his firm’s production and sales—and indeed, supporters of the Wheat Board say that by dismantling the monopoly the government transferred power to grain traders.

. . .

The old multigenerational family farm is gradually being replaced by the vast acreage managed by the partnership, the corporation or the absentee owner. Harvesting machinery keeps getting bigger, more efficient and more expensive. Basic equipment for a small farm—trucks, tractor, swather, combine and so on—might cost well over $1 million. A couple of generations ago, a good-sized farm was a square mile (640 acres). Now, 2,000 acres is considered small. Rising costs keep pushing in from one end of the bench and farmers keep dropping off at the other. Is that such a bad thing? Farming, after all, has been in a state of constant revolution since the first nomadic hunter poked holes in the ground with a stick and scattered seeds of einkorn grass. What’s wrong with corporations taking over?

“Well, for one thing, they’re not as good at it,” says Byskal. “The small family farmer is often the best farmer. He’s been on the same land all his life, and he’s got a feel for the soil. He lets the land tell him what crops to grow, and the cropschange from year to year. The corporate guy doesn’t have that same rapport with nature. He’s got a very businesslike approach. And that’s not always the best for the land, in the long run.”

Supreme Court of Canada will not hear class action lawsuit over dismantling of Canadian Wheat Board
Press Release from Friends of the Canadian Wheat Board April 9, 2015

The Supreme Court of Canada has decided not to hear the appeal filed by farmers concerning a Class Action lawsuit stemming from the Harper Government’s dismantling of the single-desk Canadian Wheat Board.

The legal action was started to hold the Harper government accountable for its decision to unilaterally end the CWB’s marketing advantages and seize the farmer-paid assets, and the farmer-plaintiffs have expressed disappointment in the court’s decision. Stewart Wells, spokesperson for the Friends of the Canadian Wheat Board (FCWB) commented “Since 2006, the legal efforts of the Friends of the Canadian Wheat Board have resulted in over 631 million dollars in extra returns to farmers. However, we are naturally disappointed that Canada’s legal system has been unable to fully hold the Federal government accountable for the confiscation and destruction of the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) in 2011. The legal system has quite simply not been able to afford justice to western Canadian farmers so far.”

. . .

In 2013/14 losses to farmers were estimated at 4 to 5 billion dollars due to the government’s highly dysfunctional marketing system. In 2014-15 alone, the spread between port prices and farm gate prices increased causing losses estimated at 3 billion dollars. Those price spreads have not returned to competitive levels so farmer losses continue to mount.

“With the single-desk Wheat Board farmers retained the beneficial ownership of their grain from the farm gate to the end-use customer and the Board was able to add value at each step of the way and then return that extra money to farmers. The quality and price discrimination advantage which was estimated at three quarters of a billion dollars annually was also likely significantly underestimated as customers are now complaining about Canadian quality and Canadian grain is reported to be lowest price on some international tenders. The dozens of grain ships waiting in Vancouver are only the most visible symptom of this mess. We have to recognize that Canada’s position in the international grain trade has now been severely damaged by Ottawa’s ideologically-based exercise in grain marketing and quality control” added Wells.

To add insult to injury, the Wheat Board assets, which were paid for by farmers and seized by the Conservative government, may be given away to private interests as the government moves to dispossess farmers of the last elements of the organization which benefitted prairie farmers for almost a century.

Posted at: April 15, 2015 - 9:31 pm -- Posted by: Cameron Smith -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

April 14, 2015


The listening and monitoring “bugs” we allow into our lives will have serious consequences in the future

IBM launches new health unit, teams up with Apple, J&J, Medtronic
Reuters Globe and Mail Monday, Apr. 13 2015

Apple watch

Apple watch

International Business Machines Corp., deepening its partnership with Apple Inc. to make use of health information gathered by millions of Apple devices, is creating a unit dedicated to providing data analytics to the health-care sector.

Its new Watson Health unit plans to aggregate health information from a large number of devices and providers in the cloud and offer insights to health companies such as Johnson & Johnson and Medtronic Inc., which can then integrate results into services they sell to health-care companies.

. . .

IBM and Apple want to share how you are with others
Dan Simmons BBC April 14, 2015

IBM has launched a health unit to make sense of the wealth of data created by the boom in fitness trackers and apps.

Watson Health aims to create “a secure, cloud-based data sharing hub” that can feed analytic technologies, it said.

It could provide diagnoses or health alerts which could also be sent to doctors, carers, or insurers for example, with the user’s permission.

IBM has teamed up with Apple and wants to launch “new employee health and wellness management solutions”.

. . .

There has been concern over personal technology being used to help diagnose an individual’s condition.

In the US, some apps that claimed to diagnose cancer, for example, have been criticised by the Federal Trade Commission.

There is also concern over the sharing of health data. Companies including Jawbone are talking to firms about how personal fitness trackers could be used to monitor a workforce.

. . .

Hackers Keep Trying New Targets in Search of Easy Data
Associated Press New York Times April 14, 2015

SAN FRANCISCO — The health care sector has become the hot target for hackers in recent months, according to researchers at Symantec, a leading cybersecurity company that says it’s also seeing big increases in “spear-phishing,” ”ransomware” and efforts to exploit newly discovered vulnerabilities in software used by a wide range of industries.

After a wave of high-profile attacks on banks and retailers over the last two years, almost 80 percent of the calls to Symantec’s global “incident response” service since December have come from health organizations, said Robert Shaker, a Symantec official who oversees the commercial service.

. . .

An image from "1984", the television commercial which introduced the Apple Macintosh personal computer.

An image from “1984”, the television commercial which introduced the Apple Macintosh personal computer. According to Wikipedia: In one interpretation of the commercial, “1984” used the unnamed heroine to represent the coming of the Macintosh as a means of saving humanity from “conformity” (Big Brother). These images were an allusion to George Orwell’s noted novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four, which described a dystopian future ruled by a televised “Big Brother”.

Excerpt: Nineteen Eighty-Four

by George Orwell, published 1949

Behind Winston’s back the voice from the telescreen was still babbling away about pig-iron and the overfulfilment of the Ninth Three-Year Plan. The telescreen received and transmitted simultaneously. Any sound that Winston made, above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by it, moreover, so long as he remained within the field of vision which the metal plaque commanded, he could be seen as well as heard. There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live — did live, from habit that became instinct — in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.

Your Samsung SmartTV Is Spying on You, Basically
Shane Harris The Daily Beast February 2, 2015

You may be loving your new Internet-connected television and its convenient voice-command feature—but did you know it’s recording everything you say and sending it to a third party?

Careful what you say around your TV. It may be listening. And blabbing.

A single sentence buried in a dense “privacy policy” for Samsung’s Internet-connected SmartTV advises users that its nifty voice command feature might capture more than just your request to play the latest episode of Downton Abbey.

“Please be aware that if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party,” the policy reads.

So be advised: If you’re too lazy to pick up the remote, you may want to keep your conversation with the TV as direct and non-incriminating as possible. Don’t talk about tax evasion, drug use. And definitely don’t try out your Violet Crawley impression.

Someone might be listening to all your Siri conversations
AJ Dellinger The Daily Dot February 24, 2015

Forget the government listening to your calls (don’t actually forget about it, it’s very important). You’ve been whispering into the ear of the biggest tech companies in the world thanks to your A.I. assistant.

In an unsurprising revelation confirming all of your worst Orwellian fears, a Redditor who goes by the username FallenMyst claims that she listens to the recorded conversations people have with Siri, Cortana, and other voice-powered search services. “I started a new job today with Walk N’Talk Technologies,” she writes. “I get to listen to sound bites [sic] and rate how the text matches up with what is said in an audio clip and give feedback on what should be improved.”

The post has blown up on Reddit, but it hasn’t necessarily revealed anything new. Apple has previously confirmed that it holds on to Siri recordings for up to two years, disassociating them from user accounts after six months and using the unidentified recordings for product improvement.

. . .

Users of Google Now, the search giant’s voice-activated personal assistant, are also recorded during their searches. The information is linked directly to a user’s Google account and can be accessed by the user so they can review previous searches at any time. According to the history page of a user’s account, “only you can see your history” and recordings can be deleted at any time.

. . .

If you’re a Google user, go listen to the audio recordings of your previous voice searches. Now imagine how embarrassing it would be to have others hear you ask Google for rash treatments.

. . .

Posted at: April 14, 2015 - 9:40 pm -- Posted by: Cameron Smith -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

April 12, 2015

All the chutzpah we could fit into one hour: master storyteller Simon Schama

All the chutzpah we could fit into one hour: master storyteller Simon Schama
Mary Hynes, host of CBC Radio’s Tapestry Friday April 10, 2015

Simon Schama

Simon Schama

It’s hard to find the right word to describe Simon Schama: scholar, raconteur, master of the Jewish joke. But one thing is certain – it’s never hard for Simon Schama to find the right word.

You need a fair bit of chutzpah to write a book and a television series called The Story of the Jews. How can three-thousand years of history be crammed into a TV script? Simon Schama has that kind of chutzpah. After all, this is the Cambridge-educated historian who’s widely known for his YouTube appearances, telling dirty Jewish jokes to a live audience. (Did you hear the one about the bear’s circumcision?)

He admits to having the soul of an archaeologist, or perhaps that of a poet, and he’s someone who can be moved to tears by letters scribbled on a fragment of ancient papyrus.

But it doesn’t take long to realize that even being interrupted by the man is an education. Mary Hynes speaks with Simon Schama about his book, The Story of the Jews.

Must Listen Moment – Master storyteller Simon Schama tells the tale of a Schama family ritual: The Friday Night Memorial Chicken.

Posted at: April 12, 2015 - 8:12 pm -- Posted by: Cameron Smith -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

How to be a Stoic

How to Be a Stoic
Massimo Pigliucci The Stone (NYTimes blog February 2, 2015

In every culture we know of, whether it be secular or religious, cosmopolitan or tribal, the question of how to live is central. How should we handle life’s challenges and vicissitudes? How should we conduct ourselves in the world and treat others? And the ultimate question: how do we best prepare to die?

For my part, I’ve recently become a Stoic. I do not mean that I have started keeping a stiff upper lip and suppressing my emotions. As much as I love the “Star Trek” character of Mr. Spock (which Gene Roddenberry actually modeled after his — mistaken — understanding of Stoicism), those are two of a number of misconceptions about what it means to be a Stoic. In reality, practicing Stoicism is not really that different from, say, practicing Buddhism (or even certain forms of modern Christianity): it is a mix of reflecting on theoretical precepts, reading inspirational texts, and engaging in meditation, mindfulness, and the like.

. . .

I arrived at Stoicism, not on my way to Damascus, but through a combination of cultural happenstance and deliberate philosophical choice. First, I was raised in Rome, and I have considered Stoicism part of my cultural heritage ever since I studied ancient Greek and Roman history and philosophy in high school. This is no different, I take it, from so many people who (at the least initially) fall into Buddhism or Catholicism because they happen to be raised in a particular cultural milieu.

In addition, as a scientist and philosopher by profession, I always try to figure out more coherent ways to understand the world (science) and better choices for living my life (philosophy). I have for many years been attracted to virtue ethics — a core of Stoic philosophy — as a way to think about morality and a life worth living. I have also recently passed the half century mark, one of those arbitrary points in human life that nonetheless somehow prompt people to engage in broader reflections on who they are and what they are doing.

. . .

Stoicism, of course, may not appeal to or work for everyone. It is a rather demanding philosophy of life, where your moral character is pretty much stipulated to be the only truly worthy thing to cultivate in life (though health, education, and even wealth are considered to be “preferred indifferents”). Then again, it does have a lot of points of contact with other philosophies, as well as religions: Buddhism, Christianity, and — I think — even modern secular movements such as secular humanism or ethical culture. There is something very appealing for me as a non religious person in the idea of an ecumenical philosophy, one that can share goals and at the least some general attitudes with other major ethical traditions across the world.

. . .

Massimo Pigliucci is a professor of philosophy at the City College of New York. He edits the Scientia Salon webzine and produces the Rationally Speaking podcast. His latest book, co-edited with Maarten Boudry, is “Philosophy of Pseudoscience: Reconsidering the Demarcation Problem.”

Posted at: April 12, 2015 - 8:09 pm -- Posted by: Cameron Smith -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

April 11, 2015

Weekly Headlines

Click on a headline below to go to that news item

Friday, April 10, 2015


The Vancouver oil spill muddies the water over future oil tanker traffic along the BC coast


Reporters Without Borders: 2015 World Press Freedom Index

Thursday, April 9, 2015


Less than half of Americans believe in climate science. That may be changing, but it may not make any difference.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015


Monsanto: Benevolent saviour or deluded psychopath?


Dyer: Iran is back: Great dismay in the palaces of Riyadh; and the ISIS threat is overblown in the west

Tuesday, April 7, 2015


Jim Scott: Wishing you a speedy recovery

Civil Society

Millenials: lazy, apathetic and uninformed, or delicate flowers protected from any hint of challenge, or engaged in new forms of collaboration?

Labour News

The Canadian Cult of the Entrepreneur

Posted at: April 11, 2015 - 7:01 am -- Posted by: SSNews -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

April 10, 2015


The Vancouver oil spill muddies the water over future oil tanker traffic along the BC coast

Mayor blames province and feds for slow response to English Bay spill
Danny Kresnyak Vancouver Observer April 10, 2015

Danny Kresnyak, Vancouver Observer

Danny Kresnyak, Vancouver Observer

It took six hours for the Coast Guard to build a containment boom around a toxic spill at a deep-water anchorage off English Bay and 13 hours before City authorities were notified. Now the City of Vancouver has advised residents to stay away from globs of toxicity washing up on shore and 3 oiled ducks are in a rescue care unit — with growing fears that all this foreshadows an approaching catastrophe.

Mayor Robertson said this morning that efforts to contain the spill failed.

“We don’t know if this is a long term hazard. Clearly it has spread further than originally reported,” he said, and the blame, he said, lies with gaps in the coordinated response by provincial and federal government.

The Mayor cited budget cuts to the Kitsilano Coast Guard detachment’s response capacity for putting Vancouver’s shoreline at risk.

“If this had been a larger spill it would’ve been a total catastrophe,” he said in an address to reporters gathered at English Bay.

. . .

Oil spill in English Bay called “scary reminder” of risks of increased tanker traffic due to Kinder Morgan pipeline
Carlito Pablo Georgia Straight April 9, 2015

The fuel spill in Vancouver’s English Bay should serve as a warning about the risks posed by oil tankers, says environmental activist Ben West.

The executive director of Tanker Free B.C. was referencing the discharge of bunker fuel from a grain ship Wednesday night (April 8).

“This is a scary reminder of the potential nightmare scenario of what could happen if there’s increased tanker traffic along our coast,” West said in a statement.

“Hopefully this incident can be contained, although it’s not good news that oil is showing up at Sunset Beach,” West also said.

West went on to mention the proposed expansion by Kinder Morgan of its Trans Mountain pipeline between Strathcona County, near Edmonton, Alberta, and Burnaby in B.C.

The project would twin the pipeline, increasing its capacity from 300,000 barrels per day to 890,000 barrels per day.

. . .

Georgia Strait Alliance reacts to fuel oil spill in Vancouver’s English Bay
Press Release April 9, 2015

VANCOUVER – Emergency crews are responding this morning to a spill of toxic heavy bunker fuel in Burrard Inlet, and reports are coming in of an oily sheen washing ashore on the beach in English Bay.

Reacting to the accident, Georgia Strait Alliance’s Executive Director, Christianne Wilhelmson, said:

“With a toxic substance like heavy bunker fuel, even a relatively small spill can be highly damaging to marine life. Today’s accident is a grim reminder of the environmental risks we face from existing shipping traffic in our waters, and raises questions about how prepared we are to deal with spills, and who will bear the costs of clean-up.

We are now over 12 hours in to the incident, and some basic facts remain unknown. How much fuel was spilled? Who is the responsible party? If this accident had happened in a more remote part of the Georgia Strait, how long would it take for response crews to arrive, and would local authorities be adequately prepared to cope in the meantime?

We need stronger spill response to deal with the threat we already face, and we need to minimize future risks by saying no to projects like Kinder Morgan’s pipeline expansion that would dramatically increase tanker traffic in our waters.”

Georgia Strait Alliance is a BC citizen’s group working to protect and restore the marine environment and promote the sustainability of Georgia Strait, and is currently campaigning to strengthen coastal community oil spill response capacity, and raise awareness about the threat posed by Kinder Morgan’s proposed pipeline expansion.

“If Kits Base was still active today crews would have been on scene at the spill in six minutes”
Shane Woodford on Facebook April 9, 2015

I have confirmed that a special pollution response boat formerly stationed at the now shuttered Kitsilano Coast Guard base is sitting empty with no crew at Sea Island base in Richmond. I am also told only a rubber boat from the Coast Guard responded to the English Bay oil spill last night. Former Kits base commander Fred Moxey says Sea Island does not have the assets to deal with a situation like this. The hovercrafts cannot go into an oil slick, and it does not have a conventional Coast Guard vessel. Moxey says the Osprey formerly stationed at Kits was dismantled and sold off then when the base was closed. Moxey says if Kits Base was still active today crews would have been on scene at the spill in six minutes with the equipment to deal with the situation.

Shane Woodford is, as stated on his Facebook page, an “Anchor, Reporter, & fill in talk show host on CKNW News Talk 980″.

Liberal Government will re-open Vancouver Coast Guard station
from the federal Liberal Party website, April 10, 2015

Vancouver – Following a major fuel spill into Vancouver’s English Bay, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and his BC team are making a clear commitment to reversing the damage of Stephen Harper’s dangerous cuts to oil spill response and marine safety resources on the BC coast.

“I used to live in this neighbourhood, and I know that any spills of this nature are of serious concern to British Columbians and all Canadians,” said Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau. “Stephen Harper’s cuts to marine safety resources and the closure of Vancouver’s Kitsilano Coast Guard Base each undermine our ability to respond to spills like this. A new Liberal government will re-open a full-service Coast Guard station in Vancouver and re-invest in marine safety and oil spill response capacity on the BC coast.”

Harper’s Conservatives have cut Transport Canada’s funding for marine safety programs by over 27% since 2009. Cuts in BC alone have included the closure of the Kitsilano Coast Guard station alongside Canada’s busiest port, the closure of three BC Marine Communication and Traffic Centres, and cuts to oil spill response coordination resources.

Posted at: April 10, 2015 - 4:40 pm -- Posted by: Cameron Smith -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post