By Paul Wells - Tuesday, May 31, 2011 - 10 Comments
This commencement address by Atul Gawande, the practicing physician who writes about medicine for The New Yorker, has been getting a lot of attention. It paints a perhaps-dispiriting portrait of modern medicine as a matter of frequent routine practiced by large interactive teams. Not a lot of room for Dr. House in this world:
“There is resistance, sometimes vehement resistance, to the efforts that make it possible. Partly, it is because the work is rooted in different values than the ones we’ve had. They include humility, an understanding that no matter who you are, how experienced or smart, you will fail. They include discipline, the belief that standardization, doing certain things the same way every time, can reduce your failures. And they include teamwork, the recognition that others can save you from failure, no matter who they are in the hierarchy.
“These values are the opposite of autonomy, independency, self-sufficiency. Many doctors fear the future will end daring, creativity, and the joys of thinking that medicine has had.”
Gawande, of course, thinks creativity still has its place in this world. David Brooks, who has lately shown limited interest in explaining in explaining how politicians work and more interest in figuring out how societies do, extrapolates Gawande’s lesson to a broader argument: Individualism is overrated.
By Jesse Brown - Tuesday, May 31, 2011 at 5:36 PM - 6 Comments
The remote control was supposed to kill off TV ads—audiences would just click away during commercial breaks. And we did, but only enough to make ads louder and more abrasive. Later the VCR was feared to be the commercial’s mortal enemy. We would all just tape shows and fast-forward through the ads. And we did…now and then. The same fears (and hopes) emerged when TiVos and DVRs hit the market. Now we wouldn’t need to pre-tape a whole show—just the first five or ten minutes worth, and then zip past those annoying adverts. But still, no dice. Turns out only 2% of ads ultimately get skipped over this way. Seems we like to watch TV as it comes, and “time-shifting” hardware has proven no match for the 30-second spot.
So what will kill the commercial? Phones.
AdAge reports on how spooky eyeball tracking technology was used in a recent study to measure how often TV viewers get distracted from ads, and by what. 60% of disruptions came by way of viewers’ smartphones. As Brian Monohan writes, “the challenge is not moving one’s thumb to push fast-forward, but rather moving one’s head to look at their smartphone.” Laptops, video games and other “companion media” also had an impact, but nothing near so damaging as phone use.
This is not so surprising. Before smartphones, the ad’s biggest competition was in fact the human being—we would wait until a commercial break to interact with the people we watch television with. In that sense, nothing is really changing—we’re just reading emails and checking social media instead of chatting with our friends and families. But whereas it was frustratingly impossible for advertisers to transfer their ad dollars from TV spots to sponsored live human conversations, GMail, Twitter and Facebook will happily sell brands access to our ad-time chatter.
Look for new “smart” ads that know what shows we’re watching and position their messages accordingly.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, May 31, 2011 at 4:39 PM - 54 Comments
On the eve of Parliament’s return, we return to our episodic consideration of the House, this time to consider the frequently discussed, but poorly specified, question of civility.
In theoretically good news, the 41st Parliament promises to be a civil one. In theory.
The official opposition is presently promising to pursue a civil tone, even banning its members from heckling. Most of the leading candidates to be Speaker have publicly committed to establishing a more civil House. Various observers have even mused that the Prime Minister, luxuriating in the comfort of a majority government, might be somehow less prone to partisanship. This is all well and good and we should encourage these feelings no matter how much precedent makes it difficult to believe that anything will come of any of this.
But we should also, while we’re at it, come to some agreement on what exactly we mean by “civility” and what reasonably we should expect of Parliament in a robust democracy. Keeping in mind that decorum should be the least of anyone’s democratic concerns at the moment—that civility is more symptom than disease—if we are to deal with the problem, we should first agree on what precisely the problem is. Continue…
By macleans.ca - Tuesday, May 31, 2011 at 3:04 PM - 2 Comments
WHO group looks at cancer risks associated with wireless devices
Using cell phones and other wireless devices may put people at greater risk of brain cancer, according to the cancer agency of the World Health Organization. The 31 scientists who gathered at a meeting of the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer classified radio frequency electromagnetic fields as “possibly carcinogenic to humans,” though they say more study is needed to be certain. Other substances in that group include pesticides and gasoline engine exhaust. The other classifications are probably carcinogenic, probably not carcinogenic, and carcinogenic.
By macleans.ca - Tuesday, May 31, 2011 at 2:08 PM - 18 Comments
Khadir calls Will and Kate “parasites”
A member of Quebec’s National Assembly has decried the use of public funds in hosting Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, in the province. In an interview with the Journal de Québec, Amir Khadir, a Québec Solidaire MNA, called the royal newlyweds “parasites” whose visit to Montreal and Quebec City on July 2 and 3 is a “waste of public funds.” Anti-monarchist demonstrations are being planned by Réseau de résistance du Québécois and Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste. Monique Gagnon-Tremblay, Quebec’s Minister of Foreign Relations and Minister of La Francaphonie, has officially welcomed the royal couple on behalf of Quebec, saying the province will cover part of the visit, which is an opportunity for the province to showcase itself to the international press.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, May 31, 2011 at 1:59 PM - 13 Comments
In response to Stephen Harper’s proposed Senate reforms, the Quebec government says it will see the Prime Minister in court. Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty suggests it would be best to simply abolish the Senate. Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter says reform has to involve the provinces, but equally wonders about the Senate’s reason for being.
“My position on the Senate in the past has been that I think the House of Commons is elected for the purpose of representing the people of the country,” he said. “The upper house is not necessary.”
By macleans.ca - Tuesday, May 31, 2011 at 12:41 PM - 2 Comments
Bettman, Manitoba Premier in attendance for announcement
The National Hockey League is returning to Winnipeg. A deal has been reached that allows True North Sports and Entertainment to purchase the Atlanta Thrashers and relocate the franchise to the capital of Manitoba, where professional hockey has been absent since the Winnipeg Jets moved to Phoenix in 1996. True North chairman Mark Chipman made the announcement on Tuesday at Winnipeg’s MTS Centre, with Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman in attendance. Bettman said the league prefers franchises not to be relocated but that “it’s nice to be back in Winnipeg after all these years.” Outside, the party already seemed to be starting as fans gathered to celebrate the announcement in the city’s downtown core. The relocation of the team is pending an approval by the NHL’s board of governors, which is expected to happen later this month.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, May 31, 2011 at 12:12 PM - 34 Comments
Liberal MP Stephane Dion counsels Jack Layton.
In its opinion on the secession of Quebec, the Supreme Court of Canada mentioned the words “clear majority” at least 13 times, and also referred to “the strength of a majority.” However, the Court does not encourage us to try setting the threshold of this clear majority in advance: “it will be for the political actors to determine what constitutes ‘a clear majority on a clear question’ in the circumstances under which a future referendum vote may be taken.”
By macleans.ca - Tuesday, May 31, 2011 at 11:57 AM - 0 Comments
Rate stays at 1 per cent amid uncertain economy
Canada’s central bank announced on Tuesday that it would keep the country’s interest rate at one per cent, holding the lending rate steady for the sixth time in a row. According to numbers released last week by Statistics Canada, the Canadian economy didn’t meet its growth expectations during the first quarter of the year, expanding at an annual rate of 3.9 per cent. The Bank of Canada also said that, while they are opting to keep the interest rate steady, policymakers should be wary of inflation, which occurs as a result of having a low benchmark-lending rate. As the expected economic recovery moves forward, economists from Scotiabank are expecting the central bank to raise the interest rate, which has been held at one per cent since September 2010.
By Jaime Weinman - Tuesday, May 31, 2011 at 11:56 AM - 20 Comments
Ben Shapiro, a conservative activist and pundit who’s been a frequent presence online, has written a new book called “Primetime Propaganda: The True Story of How the Left Took Over Your TV.” And to my surprise, Shapiro’s interview about the book in the Independent makes it sound somewhat interesting. Not because I agree with him that Hollywood is attempting to brainwash us or that these messages are evil; that’s just not something I agree with. But because he actually seems to have bothered to go out and talk to some – often retired – makers of mainstream U.S. television, and because there is a grain of truth there: TV, especially good TV, is not devoid of a point of view on social and political issues. (Update: Then again, Shapiro’s own announcement of the project makes it sound a lot worse; it has an air of victimology combined with a vaguely threatening tone toward people who said nothing more shocking than that their ideas are reflected in their work.)
Shapiro considers it a sign of a nefarious secret agenda that Friends had gay-friendly messages, and he considers it a smoking gun when co-creator Marta Kauffman admits that casting Newt Gingrich’s lesbian sister was a take-that to Gingrich. He even notes that cheesy shows like MacGyver had an Agenda, that there was an anti-gun message to the show as a whole and various environmental and political messages encoded into the stories. And he’s not wrong that these things happened. Friends has a point of view when it deals with gay issues; any show that deals with military or legal issues has a point of view on those issues, and so on.
The term “propaganda” is a loaded and mistaken term, but many shows attempt to use their success and their broad audience to influence social attitudes. Will & Grace was entertainment first and foremost, but it was also trying to influence attitudes. And one reason the Parents’ Television Council gets so het-up about TV is that they know it can influence attitudes, or at least help cement them. TV in the late ’90s didn’t single-handedly create society’s changing attitudes to gay issues, but someone whose attitudes were changing could look to TV for reinforcement of those new attitudes. Shapiro’s panic over Sesame Street may seem weird, but from his point of view, it’s not; Sesame Street was founded on certain issues – like giving city children more of a voice on TV after decades of kids’ TV that was mostly about the suburbs – that may or may not be “liberal” but are certainly not devoid of political purpose.
So I get that Shapiro might look at TV, which is made mostly by people with socially liberal attitudes, and get upset. But first of all, there’s no alternative to television with a social or political point of view, not if you want Continue…
By macleans.ca - Tuesday, May 31, 2011 at 11:39 AM - 2 Comments
Heritage Minister says visit will rival Expo ’86 in scale
Canadians should prepare for a massive Canada Day celebration at Parliament Hill when Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge make their first official visit to Ottawa, says Heritage Minister James Moore. “The royal visit will be on a size and scale like nothing Canada has seen perhaps since the royal visit that happened in 1986 for the opening of Expo ’86 in Vancouver, when Prince Charles and Princess Diana visited,” said Moore on Monday. The royal newlyweds will arrive in Ottawa on June 30, and will tour Montreal, Quebec City, P.E.I., Yellowknife and Calgary before departing on July 8.
By macleans.ca - Tuesday, May 31, 2011 at 11:24 AM - 2 Comments
Local news reports signs of torture on his body
Pakistani journalist Saleem Shahzad was found dead near his abandoned car in Islamabad after he went missing on Sunday night. Soon after his disappearance, Human Rights Watch made a statement saying they believed Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the ISI, had arrested him. According to local news reports, there were signs of torture on his body. Two days before his disappearance, Shahzad wrote a story about al-Qaeda attacked a naval base in Karachi because of the arrest of two naval officers with alleged ties to the terrorist group. Pakistan is a notoriously dangerous place to work as a journalist, and Reporters Without Borders claims media freedom has been eroding there for years. In 2010, 11 journalists were killed in Pakistan, according to the organization.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, May 31, 2011 at 11:10 AM - 6 Comments
Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter counsels Jack Layton.
“When we were the third party with three seats, we had to yell and scream and kick to get a single line in the newspaper,” Mr. Dexter said in an interview. “When that world changed in 1998, when we became the Official Opposition, we didn’t immediately recognize that. We thought we still had to talk with that loud voice in order to be heard,” he said.
“All of the sudden you had to realize that you had to be able to reel it back in; you were now being listened to, so you didn’t have to yell. You were being listened to; they were examining, measuring, weighing everything you said.”
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, May 31, 2011 at 8:57 AM - 62 Comments
Raffi has some requests of the Prime Minister.
Apologize to Canadians for being in contempt of the House — the true reason your minority government was brought down, and a rightful concern for Canadians, which you’ve dismissed as mere “bickering.” Have the humility and courage to say, “I’m sorry.”
By John Parisella - Monday, May 30, 2011 at 5:56 PM - 2 Comments
Or will the party lead the leader?
The latest poll puts non-candidate and former NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani at the top of the heap of Republican presidential contenders. A month ago it was Donald Trump. And earlier this year it was Mike Huckabee. In a month’s time, perhaps Sarah Palin’s bus tour of the Northeast will have catapulted her to the top. (Probably not.)
Meanwhile, more serious candidates like former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty (who announced last week) and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney (who will announce this week) will be among the frontrunners and will most likely battle each other through the primary season. Yet neither of them polls particularly strongly against the marginal/celebrity personalities the GOP is attracting. Newt Gingrich, an otherwise strong candidate, has had a disastrous start since declaring. His stumbles only add to the party’s woes. Why is the Republican field scoring so badly among the GOP’s supporters? Barack Obama is a formidable opponent, but the economy will likely emerge as the deciding issue come November 2012, and here the president is vulnerable. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, May 30, 2011 at 5:32 PM - 4 Comments
Next in our series on the prospective speakers, Barry Devolin, the MP for Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock. His answers are after the jump.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, May 30, 2011 at 3:22 PM - 13 Comments
Stephen Harper visits Afghanistan.
“The biggest single success of this mission, and this is the big picture: We came to Afghanistan, the world came to Afghanistan, because Afghanistan had become such a terrible and brutal place that it had become a threat to the entire world. And whatever the challenges and the troubles that remain, Afghanistan is no longer a threat to the world.”
He added: “Afghanistan is still a violent place, a dangerous place for its citizens, and we’re working to improve things for them. But this country does not represent a geo-strategic risk to the world. It is no longer a source of global terrorism. This is a tremendous accomplishment, one that obviously serves Canadian interests.”
By macleans.ca - Monday, May 30, 2011 at 3:21 PM - 24 Comments
Kasra Nejatian returns to Immigration Minister’s office despite office letterhead controversy
Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has re-hired Kasra Nejatian, his former senior aide who was forced to quit after the minister was accused of using his public office for partisan purposes, The Globe and Mail reports. Nejatian allegedly used Kenney’s ministerial letterhead in a package outlining the Conservatives’ fundraising strategy for ethnic outreach, which was mistakenly sent to NDP MP Linda Duncan instead of Conservative MP John Duncan. While Nejatian quit following the controversy, it appears to have had little effect on the minds of voters on May 2. Kenney took responsibility for the error, which he said would not have happened had ne not been in representing Canada during a state funeral in Islamabad at the time. “Kasra is very talented and will be a very positive contributor to our government,” said Kenney’s spokeswoman Celyeste Power. “We’re happy to have him back.” It is expected that Nejatrian will become the Kenney’s director of communications.
By macleans.ca - Monday, May 30, 2011 at 3:04 PM - 15 Comments
Postal workers in legal position to strike as of Thursday night
Workers at Canada Post are prepared to go on strike if they do not reach an agreement with their employer by Thursday night. The President of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, Denis Lemelin, said on Monday that the union’s urban members are prepared to go on strike, since it is their “only real bargaining lever with Canada Post.” He said the strike is related to the “major concessions” demanded by Canada Post, including a 22 per cent wage reduction for new employees and the elimination of a sick leave plan that’s been in place for over 40 years. A spokesperson for Canada Post told Postmedia News that the Crown corporation’s offer is “very fair.” The workers are legally allowed to strike as of Thursday night at 11:59 p.m.
By Jaime Weinman - Monday, May 30, 2011 at 2:01 PM - 13 Comments
Diane Wild of TV, Eh? has a great post about her decision to switch from watching TV via regular channels (literally) to online streaming. She has a look at what options are available in Canada, where the amount of content we can get online is significantly less than in the U.S. (due to Hulu and other sites being blocked, and Netflix offering less than it does in the States). She finds that although there is less selection, “I’m (legally) watching as much as I ever do.” She then looks at the alternate-content availability and delivery for four major Canadian channels: CTV, CBC, CityTV and Global, and lets us know some of the shows that are available and how conveniently they are available.
This is part of the future of TV content to some extent; whether it completely supplants regular TV depends on a lot of factors that I can’t predict (not just caps), but a lot of people are going to be making the choice Diane made. So the convenience of delivery and breadth of selection isn’t just going to be a thing that TV networks can leave to the side.
For now, most people are still in the habit of watching “live,” and networks are dependent on various things to keep a lot of us in that habit: one of the reasons networks have embraced Twitter is because, as Diane notes, Twitter leads to real-time discussions of episodes and creates pressure to be watching a show as it’s broadcast. But social media trends have a habit of not lasting very long, and whatever comes along after Twitter loses popularity could be a less real-time, more long-term type of thing. Even Twitter is hamstrung by the difference in time zones, where people from one region can’t discuss a big plot twist with their friends from another region. And so the next social media fad, whatever it is, could be less friendly to real-time television viewing, and more friendly to at-our-convenience viewing. Meaning the arguments for watching TV shows when they first air may not have much weight five years from now.
By macleans.ca - Monday, May 30, 2011 at 1:23 PM - 4 Comments
Oilsands account for more pollution than all of Canada’s cars
A climate change report prepared by the federal government for the UN deliberately omitted data showing that Canada’s oilsands accounted for a 20 per cent increase in emissions, Postmedia News reports. The 567-page report prepared by Environment Canada for the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change left out numbers indicating that greenhouse gas pollution from the oilsands has increased to account for 6.5 per cent of annual emissions, and has surpassed Canada’s auto emissions levels. But the report does shows a six per cent decrease in overall emissions, which it attributes to the economic slowdown and Ontario’s reduction of coal-fired electricity production. Environment Canada produced the missing data at the request Postmedia News, while Mark Johnson, a department spokesman, could not say who’s decision it was to omit the data from the report. “The information is presented in this way to be consistent with UNFCCC reporting,” said Johnson.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, May 30, 2011 at 1:18 PM - 36 Comments
Alex Himelfarb considers the revolution in crime policy that is about to pass the House.
Our greater openness to these “tough on criminals” policies and the reluctance of the opposition to take them on may reflect a more profound debasing of our politics, what the American critic Benjamin DeMott has called “Junk Politics”. In his articles and books, DeMott is not calling for more civility, politer politics; he doesn’t mind a good fight, it seems. His concern with contemporary politics is bigger than that; it resides in its refusal to lead citizens to higher ground, to challenge us, to inspire us to find our better selves. Instead, he says, it panders to our worst sentiments. personalises everything, derides experts and evidence, tells us that we are great as we are, that we have every right to feel morally superior. It divides the world up into good and bad, black and white. Nuance kills. This world, to paraphrase sociologist Orrin Klapp, is destructively divided up into heroes – “hard-working, law-abiding tax payers” ; villains – criminals, terrorists and would-be terrorists; and fools – all the elites and so-called experts who are soft on crime and soft on terror. This view gives not much space to idea of redemption or, for that matter, to compassion and brooks no debate on what the evidence might tell us or about the costs of punishment.
By Angelina Chapin, Barbara Righton and Paul Gallant - Monday, May 30, 2011 at 12:25 PM - 1 Comment
From a cartoon-maker to a crime-fighter: these four Canadian firms are excelling in the global market
The HSBC International Business Awards, created in conjunction with Business Without Borders, Maclean’s and Canadian Business magazine, celebrate the very best of Canadian companies, large and small, which are doing business globally. Selected from over 60 entries by an independent panel of business experts, this year’s four winning firms were chosen for their global growth, the merits of their international business strategies and their ability to overcome challenges as they sell their Canadian goods and services outside our borders.
HSBC International Business of the Year, Small and Medium Enterprise
In Steven Mussey’s field, people say funny things all the time. At least the curly-haired doctor thinks so. That’s because Mussey, who has a Virginia-based internal medicine practice, thinks the U.S. health care system can be laughable. After a long day’s work, he likes nothing more than to make animated videos illustrating his frustrations. His most recent shows a doctor explaining to a woman that her grandfather’s heart operation was complicated by a Nerf gunfight between himself and the nurse. It took him 2½ weeks, and annoyed the physicians who saw it online.