By Stephanie Findlay - Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - 4 Comments
While it’s an industry in its infancy, wine apps are growing in popularity
Last year, VinTank, a “digital think tank for the wine industry” based in Napa, Calif., released a report that reviewed 75 wine-related iPhone apps. Last month, VinTank did a redux of the report—this time the number of apps on the market had soared to 452.
A small industry has sprung up around smartphone apps for wine. Some better than others, says Paul Mabray, VinTank’s chief strategy officer, who notes, “there’s a ton of trash out there.” Mabray suggests the best wine apps are the ones with a specific function and a simple interface. Some of his favourites include: Cor.kz, a bar-code scanning app that pulls up info on 750,000 wines, and Nat Decants, described as a “personal sommelier in your pocket,” run by noted Canadian wine writer Natalie MacLean. (It also has a label scanner for wines sold in B.C., Ontario and Quebec.)
The wine app industry is still in its infancy. “There is a tendency for the application to be myopically focused on the oenophile,” says Mabray. He predicts wine apps will soon be more like Instagram or Foodspotting—visual apps where you can post pictures and trade notes with friends. “I’m looking forward to following what wines my friends are talking about,” says Mabray. “More like Facebook, or Twitter.”
By Stephanie Findlay - Tuesday, May 24, 2011 at 9:35 AM - 0 Comments
A recent B.C. complaint is the latest in a series of controversies relating to the rights of migrant agricultural workers in Canada
The United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW), a union that represents food industry workers in Canada and the U.S., filed a complaint to the B.C. Labour Relations Board against the Mexican government and a Mission, B.C.-based farm, for allegedly blocking the return of a seasonal Mexican worker to Canada for his involvement in a union. The UFCW claims it has a Mexican government report blacklisting Victor Robles Velez, who had worked the last four years at Sidhu & Sons Nursery Ltd., for his union involvement. “The Mexican consulate has gone to the farms and injected themselves in the democratic process by telling workers and threatening workers that if they unionize or vote for a union they’ll be sent back to Mexico immediately,” says Wayne Hanley, the UFCW president. The hearing for the complaint, filed last month, is expected to take place in the next couple of weeks.
The Mexican consulate in Vancouver and the owners of the farm categorically deny the charges. “Absolutely not, there is no blacklist,” says a consulate spokesperson, adding the consulate has “absolute respect for the workers’ right to join the unions.”
The B.C. complaint is the latest in a series of controversies relating to the rights of migrant agricultural workers in Canada. Last month, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld a controversial ban on collective bargaining rights for migrant agricultural workers in Ontario, a decision critics say benefits employers and leaves foreign workers vulnerable. Andy Neufeld, a communications director with the UFCW, says that, if proven, the B.C. complaints have national, even international, consequences. “We’re talking about a government’s interference with their citizens’ rights,” says Neufeld, adding, “It would be surprising if somehow we were special out here in B.C. and this was an isolated incident.”
By Stephanie Findlay - Wednesday, May 18, 2011 at 9:50 AM - 0 Comments
A court case, aimed at protecting migratory birds from reflective office towers, could prove precedent-setting
Bill Malis describes the sound as a “a thud. And it’s a gross thud.” The Telus call-centre employee is recalling the first time he heard a bird crash into the Scarborough, Ont., office tower where he works. It was the spring of 2005, and Malis, who had recently started a new job at Consilium Place, an office complex consisting of three mirrored high-rises, was outside on a smoke break. “I dropped my cigarette and was like, what just happened? I picked the poor little guy up—luckily it was okay—and ran across the street to let him loose in the field.”
Malis, who has the manic energy of Jim Carrey but is five foot nine and favours rockabilly-style shirts and pants, started making his rescue missions a habit. Almost every day since, before his shift begins at 7:30 a.m., Malis has patrolled the grounds around the office towers rescuing stunned birds. He makes Consilium Place sound like a zombie adaptation of Hitchcock’s The Birds. “It’s happened, birds falling into people’s meals,” says Malis, who usually finds “beaks, legs, heads, everywhere on the property over the summer from all the hawks and seagulls ripping the birds apart.”
Now, six years since his first rescue mission, Malis, 42, is a key witness in what could be a precedent-setting case against Menkes Developments, the owners of Consilium Place. On March 4, Ontario Nature and Ecojustice, two independent environment organizations, launched a private prosecution against Menkes, which could lead to big fines for using reflective windows that they allege has caused the death or injury of some 800 migratory birds over a nine-month stretch between 2008 and 2009.
By Stephanie Findlay - Monday, May 16, 2011 at 9:50 AM - 14 Comments
A controversial magazine cover is causing a spat between Germany and Greece
An international spat between Greece and Germany was sparked when Venus de Milo, a Greek marble statue of Aphrodite—arguably the most famous armless goddess in the world—made a controversial appearance on the cover of the German magazine Focus. The problem? Her right arm was intact and she was flipping readers the bird. The magazine’s cover story—“Swindlers in the euro family”—explored German concerns regarding the bailing out of debt-stricken Greece, and outlined the nation’s supposed “2,000 years of decline,” including tax fraud and failed construction projects.
The cover was condemned by the Greek president shortly after it hit newsstands in February 2010. And now, more than a year later, six Greek citizens are taking legal action against Focus—alleging the cover was defamatory, libellous, and responsible for the denigration of Greek national symbols. Along with nine other employees of Focus, Helmut Markwort, the magazine’s founder, is due to appear in an Athens court on June 29. Despite facing two years in prison if found guilty, Markwort is unfazed: “I’m not on the run, and I’m also not afraid that I will have to go to prison.” He says he has a “clean conscience” and that he was simply doing his “journalistic duty.”
By Stephanie Findlay - Friday, May 13, 2011 at 7:15 AM - 0 Comments
The province has called in the troops to battle the Assiniboine River
Hours after the Manitoba government declared a provincial state of emergency this week to deal with “unprecedented and historic” flooding of the Assiniboine River, Steve Ashton, the minister of emergency measures, announced the government’s decision to break Assiniboine dikes and release “controlled” water—an unusual plan that speaks to an increasingly unmanageable situation. The release of 2,000 to 6,000 cubic feet per second of water will affect 150 rural properties. Ashton said it wasn’t an easy decision, but it was a necessary one: an uncontrolled release would put 850 homes at risk.
Since early April, the floods—underestimated by faulty river gauges, and caused by a series of wetter-than-average springs—have displaced about 2,000 people. And the government has estimated that the final bill for damages could be $100 million. (The 2009 flood cost Manitoba $70 million.)
The same day a state of emergency was declared, some 800 members of the Canadian Forces arrived. Their job? Help top up existing dikes, fortify previously unprotected properties, and deploy mobile flood protection equipment to high-risk areas. Brandon, Manitoba’s second-largest city, is one of the high priorities. On May 7, the water level in Brandon measured 1,181 feet, the highest it’s been since 1923. An evacuation order was issued this week for those in about 900 homes and businesses in “the Flats, an area south of the river in Brandon. (Winnipeg, with three major water diversions, remains relatively safe.) “It’s a murky, muddy mess,” says Matt Goerzen, an editor for the Brandon Sun.
Shawn Atleo, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, says First Nations communities are disproportionately hurt by the floods since their poor diking systems are “nowhere near” able to displace the water. He says “major policy issues” must be addressed. But for now, it’s a race against time as the flood-fighters try to mitigate the effects of a rising Assiniboine.
By Stephanie Findlay - Monday, May 9, 2011 at 11:50 AM - 4 Comments
Pippa’s show-stealing behind, the frowning flower girl and Bea’s batty headgear dominated Web chatter
When Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles got married in 2005, Facebook had just extended its membership eligibility to high school students, YouTube was in its nascency, Twitter didn’t exist, and no one really knew how to live-stream video. Fast-forward six years, to a brave new world. Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding set online viewership records, dominated social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, and created instant Internet stars.
The big winner? Live-streaming video providers. Livestream, which provided online video for the Associated Press and CBS, said the royal wedding was its most popular stream ever, with 300,000 concurrent viewers. Yahoo also saw big gains: its royal video stream exceeded the record set by Michael Jackson’s funeral by 21 per cent. “Consuming video on the Internet is an increasingly complementary choice to broadcast TV, even when the event is available on TV,” according to Jennifer Donovan, spokesperson for Akamai, another Web streaming service. (The official royal channel provider, YouTube, expected an unprecedented 400 million viewers, though the numbers aren’t yet in.)
Major television networks, too, are finally leveraging social media to their advantage. Indeed, being on every platform—namely Facebook and Twitter—is becoming a necessity: “It’s about providing people with information they want in the format they want it,” says Wendy Rozeluk, a Google representative in Toronto. “One of the advantages is the ongoing commentary that people can make, as well as the participation people can have with an event.”
By Stephanie Findlay - Wednesday, May 4, 2011 at 1:45 PM - 4 Comments
He was a confidant to his friends and a devoted brother to his sister. No one was allowed to make any cracks about her.
Anthony Joseph McColl was born in Gatineau, Que., on March 11, 1992, the first of two children to David, a manager at an Ottawa travel agency, and Monica Thibault, a social worker at an Ottawa health centre. He quickly stood out for his strength. Still in the hospital—he was being monitored in an incubator for fear of being diagnosed with diabetes like his mother—his father was doing his first diaper change when the newborn grabbed hold of the metal rail. “He just managed to grab hold of it and he was about to pull himself off the change table,” says Dave. “He was incredibly strong.”
With big cheeks, a mop of strawberry-blond cherub curls and a boisterous spirit, toddler Anthony was energetic, physical and gregarious. His family nickname, Ant, was incongruous with his bigness. “People would say, ‘Why isn’t he talking?’ ” says Monica, who says strangers would peg him at seven or eight. “Sorry to disappoint you,” she’d say, “but he’s three.” In 1995, sister Alanna was born. “He would rub my tummy and talk to her,” says Monica. “He wanted to help me give her first bath.”
Exposed to art by his family (his father was an avid photographer), Anthony became interested in things Japanese, drawing from Miyazaki films and characters from Yu-Gi-Oh! and Pokémon. His interest in the arts would span from music—he became a vocalist in a screamo band—to video. In his early teens, without any formal training, he and three of his closest friends began work on Bow chicka wow!© productions. The 15-year-olds would use the camera Anthony’s parents lent him to “film and make dumb jokes,” says Nicolas Moncion, one of the friends. “It was his camera so he was the one doing the edits—that showed a lot of his leadership skills. The video turned out great.”
By Stephanie Findlay - Monday, May 2, 2011 at 10:45 AM - 0 Comments
He’s made a political about-face, but Trump still backs Canadian-style universal health care
When Donald Trump published The America We Deserve, a political manifesto of sorts in 2000, the business tycoon outlined a very un-Republican policy agenda, including much praise for how Canada deals with the sick. “We must have universal health care,” wrote Trump. “I’m a conservative on most issues but a liberal on this one. We should not hear so many stories of families ruined by health care expenses.” He continued, “Doctors might be paid less than they are now, as is the case in Canada, but they would be able to treat more patients because of the reduction in their paperwork.”
Along with the book, the host of Celebrity Apprentice, who now tops some polls as the leading Republican candidate for 2012, has made untold statements over the past decade that could discredit his bid, including frank critiques of George W. Bush and the Iraq war. He even donated to Barack Obama’s campaign. But he’s since made a political about-face. He’s taken up the birther cause, questioning Obama’s U.S. citizenship, backed the invasion of Iraq, and has reversed his stance on abortion—Trump is now pro-life.
So does The Donald still love Canadian-style universal health care? After all, he made his stance pretty clear back then: “The Canadian plan also helps Canadians live longer and healthier than Americans,” he wrote. “There are fewer medical lawsuits, less loss of labour to sickness, and lower costs to companies paying for the medical care of their employees.” Speaking to a crowd of Tea Partiers a couple weeks ago in Boca Raton, Fla., Trump said he’d “fight to get rid of Obamacare, which is a total disaster.” Though he didn’t say it, perhaps he has a made-in-Canada alternative in mind.
By Stephanie Findlay - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 at 12:00 PM - 1 Comment
The PM looks set for re-election. But will Turks stomach his alleged attacks on media freedom?
Can Recep Tayyip Erdogˇan win Turkey’s upcoming parliamentary elections this June? Just months before the election, Erdogˇan , the leader of the ruling Justice and Development (AK) party, a moderate Islamist faction, is campaigning hard. And though it’s his eighth year in power, it’s likely the incumbent prime minister will be victorious yet again.
In Erdogˇan’s favour, the Turkish economy—dubbed the “Anatolian Tiger”—remains strong. The IMF predicts that it will grow between four and five per cent in the next year. But there are trouble signs, A March 7 report by Moody’s said that the Turkish economy has “substantial external vulnerabilities, including a large current account deficit.” Earlier this February, the IMF said Turkey has become dangerously vulnerable to “excessive domestic demand and volatile short-term capital flows.” Still, given the turmoil in Arab states, Turkey and its thriving free-market economy have emerged as a poster child in the tumultuous Muslim world.
But while Erdogˇan may be popular at home, he’s been angering others abroad. Last month, in a bid to stir up nationalist sentiment among voting Turks in Germany, he soured his relationship with Berlin when he told a 10,000-strong crowd in Düsseldorf, “Nobody will be able to tear us away from our culture. Our children must learn German, but they must learn Turkish first.” (Germany is effectively the fourth largest Turkish electoral district, behind Istanbul, Ankara, and Izmir; between 1.1 million and 1.3 million Turks live there but are eligible to vote in the elections.) It was not the first time Erdogˇan has ruffled foreign feathers: three years ago, in Cologne, he declared that assimilation was a “crime against humanity”—irking Germans who say that his words work against integration efforts in Germany and are counter-productive.
By Stephanie Findlay - Friday, March 4, 2011 at 10:08 AM - 2 Comments
Moscow opts to regulate the drink as alcohol
The state Duma is taking beer to task in Russia. In the past, the beverage was regulated by a 2005 law that classified it as a foodstuff. As such, its distribution did not require state licensing, and it could be advertised at night on TV and sold 24 hours a day in kiosks and supermarkets. Last week, however, Moscow almost unanimously adopted a bill that recognizes beer as alcohol. Beginning July 1, there will be new regulations for the drink that include restricted nighttime sales, and, like vodka, making it illegal to sell at street kiosks. The size of beer bottles is also set to decrease from 500 ml to 300 ml.
The new legislation is part of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s campaign to curb alcoholism and underage drinking in the country (another proposed bill is a nationwide ban on alcohol sales from 11 p.m. to 8 a.m.). Russians are among the highest imbibers in the world: last month, a report released by the World Health Organization found that Russians drink an average of 15.7 litres of alcohol a year, compared to the world average of 6.3 litres. One in five Russian male deaths is caused by alcohol. And yet, the new beer legislation will only apply to suds stronger than five per cent—just a modest proportion of beer sales—leading some to criticize the legislation as too soft.
By Stephanie Findlay - Tuesday, March 1, 2011 at 3:23 PM - 1 Comment
Scientists fear Russian researchers may have contaminated Lake Vostok
Even in the best-case scenario, polar drilling is risky, complicated by roving icebergs, lethally cold temperatures and long periods of darkness. And then there are other problems, as the latest Russian attempt to drill into Antarctica’s Lake Vostok—at 10,000 square kilometres one of the world’s largest sub-glacial lakes—shows.
Discovered in 1993, Lake Vostok is under four kilometres of ice and provides a paleoclimatic record dating at least 400,000 years back. Experts believe that undiscovered ancient microbial life exists in the unique environment. But last week, Russian scientists announced that the expedition had to be stopped short because of the encroaching winter. However, the drilling team didn’t want to lose the progress that they’d made—they were just 29.53 m short of their goal—and so dumped kerosene down the 3720-m-long borehole to prevent it from freezing.
Other scientists now worry that the purity of the lake has been ruined, and that the unique ecosystem that lies beneath the ice could be irreversibly damaged. Sadly, it’s not the first time Lake Vostok has been contaminated. In a 2007 Russian drilling attempt, when a drill bit broke off, scientists poured anti-freeze into the hole. That expedition was abandoned completely.
By Stephanie Findlay - Thursday, February 24, 2011 at 9:26 AM - 3 Comments
The high court in Mumbai rules that astrology is a science
Last week, the high court in Mumbai ruled that astrology is a science. That decision came in a case involving a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking action against astrologers. The PIL, filed by Janhit Manch, a judicial NGO, questioned the validity of predictions by “swamiji, tantrik and mantrik who in the garb of their spiritual robe, claim to cure acute ailments by mantra or by so-called precious stones,” and was designed to “check and curb the widespread superstitions prevailing among the masses.” Included in the PIL’s evidence were astrologers’ wrong predictions for Indian prime ministers, including Indira Gandhi and Charan Singh.
But in dismissing the suit, the judges took on record an affidavit submitted by India’s ruling Union government that said astrology does not fall under the purview of the 1954 Drugs and Magical Remedies (Objectional Advertisements) Act, which would ban any articles, ads, and practices related to the subject. “Astrology is a trusted science and is being practised for over 4,000 years,” says the affidavit filed by the deputy drug contoller in India, reported the Times of India. In fact, the judges recalled a 2004 court directive to consider adding astrology to university syllabi as a subject.
By Stephanie Findlay - Thursday, January 20, 2011 at 8:40 AM - 8 Comments
The backbone of today’s university is the ill-paid, overworked lecturer
In 2000, 36-year-old Leslie Jermyn went to teach her first course as a sessional lecturer at the University of Toronto. For $4,550, she taught 100 students a two-month first-year anthropology course. Though Jermyn would go on to teach courses every summer for the next 11 years, the job was never guaranteed, and every year she experienced “gut-wrenching tension” waiting to ﬁnd out whether she’d won a new contract. “Often I was hired within two weeks of the start time of the course,” she says. For years she had no benefits and worked out of a shared office, furnished with one desk and one telephone. In 2007, after she had been teaching upwards of 800 students a year for three years straight, she argued to the dean that the department needed a regular teaching position. That didn’t work, and Jermyn says she knows why: “I’m cheaper without benefits.”
Jermyn’s lot is similar to that of many North American university undergraduate teachers today. A November 2010 report titled “Employees in Postsecondary Institutions” released by the U.S. Department of Education concludes that the proportion of university instructors who have tenure or are on the tenure track fell below 30 per cent in 2009—a big drop from 1971, when 57 per cent were on the tenure track or had tenure already.
In Canada, the numbers tell a similar story. A 2010 Statistics Canada survey of full-time teaching staff in universities shows that there were 20,685 tenured professors in 2009, down from 26,487 in 1999. Meanwhile, over the same period the number of sessional staff rose from 2,865 to 3,135. Estimates from the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT), a 65,000-strong academic staff union, say that between 40 and 60 per cent of undergraduate teaching is done by sessional lecturers who often cobble together a living earning between $5,000 and $7,000 for a four-month course, sometimes travelling between two or three universities in one term. The joke in academic circles is they’re “roads scholars.”
By Stephanie Findlay - Monday, January 17, 2011 at 1:01 PM - 35 Comments
How mandatory minimum sentencing could make it worse for women in prison
If the views of Julian Fantino, the former chief of the Toronto and Ontario police forces and now a Conservative MP, are anything to go by, the Conservative government is hell bent on sending more people to prison. “In some cases, the Charter has been exploited and the rulings that have followed have, in fact, benefited some criminals, absolutely,” said Fantino, in a TV interview last November. His attitude echoes the Conservative government’s anti-crime philosophy, which has resulted in legislation like last February’s Truth in Sentencing Act, which removed the two-for-one credit that prisoners received for time served prior to their conviction.
Now the Tories are proposing the establishment of mandatory minimum sentences for a flurry of offences. For example, Bill S-10, which was on the agenda in the House of Commons and Senate in December, would impose mandatory minimum sentencing for growing marijuana (currently, the law sets only maximum penalties). It’s an expensive venture. This week the Harper government announced that it intends to invest $2 billion over five years to absorb the influx of inmates.
This stance has confounded criminologists and opposition politicians alike, who say the hardline agenda will drive more people into prison for longer, and flies in the face of StatCan reports that show police-reported crime rates have been falling. And, critics say, mandatory minimum sentencing would worsen an already increasing problem in Canada’s justice system: the boom in women in federal prisons.
By Stephanie Findlay - Thursday, January 13, 2011 at 12:00 PM - 1 Comment
The government of President Ha Jintao cracks down on overseas spending
Sparked by public outrage over government corruption, Beijing has promised to crack down on excessive spending by government officials on overseas seminars and functions—expenses that cost Chinese taxpayers 400 billion yuan ($58 billion) a year. Speaking specifically about lavish parties—at some, revellers have reportedly died due to excessive drinking—Wu Yuliang, secretary-general of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, says the government is committed to eradicating “the extravagance and waste.”
Last year, 113,000 officials were punished for corruption, but only 4,300 cases were deemed worthy enough to be investigated for potential legal action. And critics have low expectations that the government’s anti-corruption plan, laid out last month in a 39-page report, will result in big changes. “If your leaders are already corrupt and you want those leaders to fight corruption, then in reality I don’t think this is sincere,” says human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang. “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
By Stephanie Findlay - Thursday, December 16, 2010 at 8:40 AM - 0 Comments
The economic crisis and a regional election drubbing leaves the beleaguered PM battered
This could be the beginning of the end for Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero. The local branch of his Socialist party was beaten by the conservative and nationalistic Catalan party Convergència i Unió (CiU) in regional elections in Catalonia late last month, dealing a major blow to Zapatero’s government as he attempts to tackle the country’s floundering economy and sky-high levels of unemployment. The CiU won 38 per cent of the vote, clobbering the Socialists who took just 18 per cent, although the CiU failed to get a majority in the regional government.
By Stephanie Findlay - Thursday, December 2, 2010 at 3:00 PM - 1 Comment
Recent terrorist attacks in Russia’s North Caucasus have attracted the attention of analysts
An increasing number of recent terrorist attacks in Russia’s North Caucasus have attracted the attention of analysts who point to a growing role of Arab fighters and even preachers in the region. “North Caucasus jihadis’ linkage to the global jihad is now at a level in which clerics have become influential and are sought out for fatwas and advice,” writes Murad Batal al-Shishani, a political analyst at the Jamestown Foundation, a Washington-based political think tank, noting what appears to be the spreading influence of Arab Salafist ideologues.
Among the recent examples of an Arab presence is the highly publicized but not unique death of 24-year-old Jordanian Anas Khalil Khadir, who was killed in Chechnya in June after joining jihadist groups there. And in August, Jordanian Salafist ideologue Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi and Syrian cleric Abu Basir al-Tartusi condemned the fracturing of jihadist groups in Chechnya and the North Caucasus, advocating they unite under the militant Chechen Islamic leader Doku Umarov.
That’s not to say that Arab terrorists are overrunning the region. Paul Crego, a specialist on the Caucasus and cataloguer at the U.S. Library of Congress, says that the “Arab fighter,” though a real threat, doesn’t mean there’s a unified Caucasus jihad movement. And Arabs ultimately act as individual players, aligning themselves with different militant Islamic factions within the region.
Crego acknowledges that “there has been some radicalization of the Islamic movement in the North Caucasus, and outside influence from Islamic militants.” But, he notes, “if you took away all jihad, whether global or local in the North Caucasus, you would still have the issue of people who have been treated very badly by imperial Russia for the past two centuries.” And for that, he says, “I don’t see an easy resolution.”
By Stephanie Findlay - Thursday, November 25, 2010 at 3:00 PM - 1 Comment
Princess Di chose the stone that her son’s new fiancée wears with pride
On Friday, Feb. 6, 1981, on the grounds of Windsor Castle, Prince Charles proposed to Diana—sans ring. It came two weeks later on Feb. 22, when he and Diana were having an intimate evening with the Queen. Diana described being presented with a choice of potential gems in Andrew Morton’s 1992 book Diana: Her True Story. “A briefcase comes along on the pretext that Andrew is getting a signet ring for his 21st birthday and along come these sapphires. I mean nuggets! I suppose I chose it, we all chipped in. The Queen paid for it.”
The ring in question was a large oval sapphire surrounded by 14 round diamonds and set in 18-karat white gold, worth $67,000 and made by jeweller Garrard & Co., the official crown jewellers at the time.
Just two days later, on Feb. 24, following a private lunch with the Queen, Lady Diana Spencer and Charles officially announced their engagement. On the grounds of Buckingham Palace, the future princess of Wales posed for photographers awkwardly, placing her hand across her body assuming an uncomfortable, defensive position. Tina Brown, author of The Diana Chronicles, wrote that her department-store outﬁt, picked days before off a rack at Harrods, was “air-stewardess blue with a matronly print blouse tied by a large pussycat bow that made her look like a zaftig Sloane on the frontispiece of Country Life.”
By Stephanie Findlay - Thursday, November 25, 2010 at 8:40 AM - 3 Comments
Gov. Henri Falcón may be the opposition’s great hope in the 2012 presidential election
Henri Falcón, the governor of Venezuela’s western state of Lara, is picking up momentum. His name is being tossed around by analysts as a potential candidate to run against Hugo Chávez in the 2012 presidential elections. And with the failure of Chávez’s United Socialist Party to reach a two-thirds majority in the national assembly elections held this September, the opposition, including Fatherland for All, of which Falcón is a member, is strengthening.
Elected governor of Lara in 2008, and a former mayor of the state’s capital city of Barquisimeto—he was elected twice, in 2000 and 2004—Falcón joined Chávez’s party in 2007, but broke ranks this February to join Fatherland for All. In his open resignation letter to Chávez, Falcón wrote that the president’s party was permeated by “bureaucracy, an absence of discussion, clientelism, factionalism, and a badly understood concept of loyalty.” In response, Chávez’s party has accused Falcón of colluding with the opposition and business groups in Lara. “He’s a traitor—let the people from Lara know it,” said Chávez on his weekly television show in March. “I know it, maybe like Christ knew that Judas was the traitor.”
By Stephanie Findlay - Thursday, November 18, 2010 at 11:20 AM - 0 Comments
With more women at most schools, young men have never had so many dates. And boy, they’re playing the numbers
“If you strike out everywhere else, just come to the Mount,” says Cody Brown, a congenial second-year student at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax. The reason is simple: the Mount’s student body is 79 per cent women. “It’s a great ratio,” says the 19-year-old enthusiastically. “A phenomenal ratio.”
Though the Mount is an extreme example, female-dominated campuses are an increasing reality at universities across the country. According to Statistics Canada, 57 per cent of the student body in universities is female. Of the 69 schools Maclean’s surveyed in its 2010 university guide, 24 institutions have a student body that’s over 60 per cent female. And it’s not just Mount Saint Vincent where the females make up more than 70 per cent of the population. It’s the same at NSCAD University and Université Sainte-Anne.
The trend is welcome news for women who want to focus on homework instead of being incessantly courted, and men who like all the attention. But as the female-to-male ratio skews, dating must adapt.
By Stephanie Findlay - Thursday, November 11, 2010 at 5:00 PM - 0 Comments
He was drawn to farm work at an early age, and could make an ordinary herd of dairy cattle look just like a show herd
Ralph Ronald O’Neil was born on Aug. 27, 1959, to Eunice and Richard O’Neil, a homemaker and a farmer in the eastern Ontario town of Winchester. He had three older brothers, Robert, Clarence and Allen, and a younger brother and sister, Brenda and Rick. As kids, the O’Neils would play baseball and hockey, and fish for sunfish and perch in the St Lawrence River. Even then, Ralph had a “love for horses and cows,” and since he was 13 he worked on farms, says his 54-year-old brother Bob. “He, like the rest of us, quit school when he was 16,” says Bob. “He just didn’t like it.”
One evening, when Ralph was 21, he was strolling along a street in Winchester and ran into his aunt. She was walking with her friend, Heather Moodie, a 31-year-old from Ottawa who had started a natural food store in Winchester. “She introduced me to Ralph, and he was such a cute little thing,” says Heather. “There was just something about him—he had a great sense of humour and a twinkle in his eye.” Ralph swung by his aunt’s house later that night, and he and Heather were together ever since.
About a year into their courtship, Heather had returned to a job in Ottawa because her business had folded. With the couple trying to maintain a long-distance relationship, Ralph proposed over the telephone. “He couldn’t wait to see me,” says Heather. They were married on March 25, 1981, in Heather’s mother’s living room in Ottawa.
By Stephanie Findlay - Thursday, November 11, 2010 at 9:40 AM - 2 Comments
Tarek Al-Khatib, a Swedish immigrant, has formed a political party to represent immigrants’ interests
In reaction to the success of the Sweden Democrats, a far-right populist political party that in last month’s federal election won 20 seats in the 349-member parliament, Tarek Al-Khatib, a Swedish immigrant, has formed a political party to represent immigrants’ interests. Known as the Svartskalledmokraterna, or the “Wog Democrats,” the party’s aim is to challenge the Sweden Democrats’ anti-immigrant and anti-Islam platform. “We have to defend ourselves through greater political activity,” Al-Khatib told the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel, adding that Sweden’s shift to the right sends a “clear warning signal” to immigrants in the Nordic country.
That Sweden needs a political party that supports foreigners’ interests may be an understatement. In recent weeks, the country has seen a rash of shootings against foreigners in Malmö, the third largest city, where almost half the population are immigrants. They were the latest in a string of shootings over the past year in Malmö: 16 in total, resulting in numerous injuries and the death of one woman. Given the atmosphere of fear, the Wog Democrats appear to be gaining momentum: since its recent inception this month, the party says more than 1,000 people have expressed interest.
By Stephanie Findlay - Thursday, November 11, 2010 at 8:00 AM - 1 Comment
“Valuable forest being sold to private developers, will be an unforgiveable act of environmental vandalism”
In an attempt to raise billions in funds for Britain’s “Big Society,” David Cameron’s government is allegedly planning to sell half of Britain’s government-owned forests–including the stomping grounds of Robin Hood and Maid Marian: Sherwood Forest. The land will be sold to private companies that will build holiday villages, golf courses, and begin commercial logging operations: legislation that governs protection of the forests, some of which dates back to the Magna Carta of 1215, will likely be changed to grant private firms the right to log.
The Telegraph reports that a third of the land would be transferred to private ownership between 2011 and 2015, and the rest would be sold by 2020. The revenue from the forest sales will be directed toward government departments that were worst hit by Britain’s new austerity program, under which government spending is to be cut by 19 per cent. Opposition to a forest sell-off is mounting: “If this means vast swathes of valuable forest being sold to private developers, it will be an unforgiveable act of environmental vandalism,” said Green MP Caroline Lucas.
By Stephanie Findlay - Thursday, October 28, 2010 at 3:40 PM - 0 Comments
Anyone 16 or older can register in a special licensing program, which allows them to drive in their communities
In Nord-du-Québec, the region north of the 55th parallel, anyone 16 or older can register in a special licensing program, which allows them to drive in their communities. Until now, there has been little need for a provincial licence, since roads in this region are not connected to the rest of the province’s roads, explains Audrey Chaput, media relations officer for the Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec. But changes to improve training are in the works, the result of more roads being built linking the communities to the main road network. Not to mention issues of safety: the rise in the number of young drivers on the road—up 26.6 per cent since 2004—has coincided with a spike in problems. During the first six months of 2010, the local police in Kuujjuaq, one of the communities in the region, opened 505 files for impaired driving, compared to 263 in 2008.
To address the issue, the Kativik police force, the Kativik school board and the Quebec Ministry of Transportation are creating a certified driving school in Nunavik so drivers can get their provincial licence, the class 5 permit. The Kativik regional government will cover the costs of the course, which will be run by the school board. It will include 24 hours of classroom theory and 15 hours of instruction behind the wheel, says Julie Grenier, a communications officer with the Kativik regional government.
The course will be mandatory, and the goal is to phase out the territorial permits. There is a concerted effort by Nunavik organizations to have a safe road environment, says Debbie Astroff, a public relations officer for the Kativik school board. “That’s why we’re working so closely with the [Transportation Ministry] right now to try and address the problem,” says Grenier, “because we know it is a problem.”
By Stephanie Findlay - Thursday, October 14, 2010 at 5:00 PM - 3 Comments
His family all worked in the medical field, but he took a different road, trying music, and then video-game design
Brian Raymond Wood was born on March 3, 1977, in Denver to Edward and Janice Wood. For the first couple of weeks, newborn Brian always had a frown on his face. “We called him grumplet,” laughs Ed. But after six weeks his frown turned upside down, and he became a smiling, easygoing tot.
Brian was an imaginative child, and when he was able to read he took to fantasy stories. In middle school he began playing Dungeons and Dragons, a fantasy role-playing game, and Atari, an early video game console. “Eventually, of course, he ended up with a Game Boy,” says Ed. He also liked real-life adventures. Brian was in Indian Guides, became a Cub Scout, and then graduated to a Boy Scout troop, often taking part in “high-adventure” treks. But it was in high school that he really came into his own. After trying out for the football team and not liking it—he said it was “too rough,” says Ed—Brian decided to audition for a school play. He discovered his singing voice, and would go on to act in high school musical productions like 42nd Street, Time Out for Ginger, and The Pajama Game. “We were hiking on the 55-mile trek in New Mexico, and here Brian was leading the group along, singing The Sound of Music,” laughs Ed. He also took up fencing, which he did competitively for a while.