By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, June 28, 2012 - 0 Comments
NDP MP Mike Sullivan proposes a stolen cellphone registry.
A local MP and police in northwest Toronto are calling for a national stolen cellphone registry to stop an epidemic of thefts in their area and across the city. Mike Sullivan, MP for York South-Weston, says the CRTC must act quickly to create a registry of identification numbers from stolen cellphones and ask providers not to reactivate phones on that list…
The U.S. Federal Communications Commission, along with major wireless carriers AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile, announced in April they would create a national database of identification numbers that are unique to each phone. Cellular carriers will use the list to permanently disable stolen phones. Until now, U.S. carriers have only been disabling SIM cards, which can be swapped in and out of phones to turn them on for service.
By Gustavo Vieira - Thursday, February 23, 2012 at 8:35 AM - 0 Comments
The Brazilian city is poised to start using nine digits after the area code
Not seven, not eight, but nine digits after the area code. That’s what dialing a cellphone number will look like for the 22 million people who share the same area code in the giant metropolitan area of São Paulo, Brazil. And that’s because they simply ran out of combinations for the existing eight-digit format there. Being the economic engine of a booming Brazilian economy, São Paulo already has more than 40 million mobile numbers. All of Canada, by comparison, has about 25 million; adding the extra digit instead of creating more area codes was the way Brazilian authorities decided to avoid confusion between local and long-distance calls for the people of the 64 municipalities that make up greater São Paulo and its surroundings. While users will have their calls rerouted automatically for six months as they get used to the changes, mobile phone companies will pick up the $180-million tab to implement the new numbering system. It may seem expensive, but in fact it’s a sound investment for these companies that have to keep up with São Paulo’s current appetite for phones, tablets and other mobile gadgets: 340,000 new numbers every month.
By Julia Belluz - Wednesday, January 4, 2012 at 10:49 AM - 0 Comments
Radiation can give life and take it away. Sunlight, therapy to kill malignant tumors, powerful x-rays, and radio waves are all forms of radiation. Lately, much has been made of the health risks related to another source of invisible waves: WiFi.
In recent years, politicians and leaders in the health field have tried to do something about the perceived threat of exposure to radio-frequency (RF) electromagnetic fields, on which WiFi, cell phone networks, radio signals, microwave ovens, and cordless home phones depend. Public fears about RF fields may have hit a fever pitch when, last summer, the World Health Organization designated them as a “possibly carcinogenic” agent—alongside others like coffee—for which evidence of harm is uncertain. Since then, we’ve heard our nation’s doctors raise concerns about the health risks related to cell phones; politicians, such as Elizabeth May, warn publicly about the potential harms posed by WiFi; and frightened parents say they’d move their children away from the invisible threat, as schools impose bans on wireless internet.
But what do we actually know about the health effects of RF exposure—and, in particular, the health risks related to WiFi?
Different technologies give off different amounts of radiation, explained Dr. Patrizia Frei (PhD), a research fellow at the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, who has conducted reviews on the health effects of RF exposure. “While mobile phones cause mostly localized exposure to the head,” she said, “WiFi usually causes far-field whole-body exposures which are usually much lower.” According to the UK’s Health Protection Agency, “the signals are very low power, typically 0.1 watt (100 milliwatts) in both the computer and the router (access point), and the results so far show exposures are well within the internationally-accepted guidelines from the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection.”
By Alex Ballingall - Thursday, October 13, 2011 at 8:20 AM - 290 Comments
Some Canadians go to great lengths to escape waves of radiation from electronics that are considered harmless
As the mother of two young girls, Samantha Boutet does what she believes is necessary to protect her family. That’s why, with the spread of radio frequencies from increasingly common wireless technology, Boutet is a refugee in her own land. The naturopathic doctor and her two daughters are relocating more than 600 km east of their home in Maple Ridge, B.C., to a small cabin in a remote valley in B.C.’s Kootenay mountains.
The decision was spurred by a series of health problems affecting her older daughter, Amelia, which started in Grade 4. For more than a year, Amelia suffered from deep headaches, nagging nausea, inexplicable muscle soreness, tingling extremities, and insomnia, Boutet says. Eventually, after visiting a number of specialists, the family doctor diagnosed Amelia with electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS), a medical condition that involves a range of non-specific symptoms attributed to electromagnetic frequencies (EMFs), much like those described by sufferers of multiple-chemical sensitivity, another environmental illness believed to be caused by low-level exposure to chemicals. “I felt really bad because her body was telling her there was something wrong, and I was telling her there couldn’t be, and I couldn’t understand why she was behaving the way she was,” says Boutet.
EMFs are invisible radioactive frequencies emitted from radio towers, WiFi routers, cellphones, wireless laptops, TV remotes—even the new smart meters that measure water and electricity use and beam information to the utilities. These non-ionizing radioactive waves travel through the air at much lower frequencies than ionizing radiation (which includes X-rays and gamma rays) and are widely considered harmless. And due to the proliferation of technology that releases them, others like Amelia, now 11, feel as if their health is being compromised. They can either live with their pain, or flee to backcountry refuges. “It’s not that I’m just worried,” Boutet says. “My older daughter will be deathly sick, so we have to leave.”
By Alex Ballingall - Tuesday, July 19, 2011 at 8:20 AM - 0 Comments
When a cop pulls up behind you on the side of the road, what…
When a cop pulls up behind you on the side of the road, what do you typically expect to happen? At best, a gentle warning; at worst, some time in the slammer. In Fredericton, it appears you may be treated to a free pizza courtesy of the local Pizza Hut—if you’re following the rules.
The Fredericton Police Force launched an initiative last week giving free pizzas to drivers who choose to pull over when ﬁddling with their cellphones. Police take their licence plate numbers so they can mail drivers coupons for a free, medium, three-topping pizza from Pizza Hut. Drivers’ names will also be entered in a draw for a Bluetooth headset.
“Our officers are really excited about it,” Const. Rick Mooney of the Fredericton Police Force tells Maclean’s. “I think it will create dialogue around the issue.” The issue is distracted driving, which Mooney blames for 80 per cent of vehicle collisions. On June 6, New Brunswick enacted a new law stipulating a fine of $172.50 for those caught texting and using their phones without headsets while driving. Ever since, Mooney says, police have noticed a number of people pulling to the side of the road to use their phones. The free pizzas, he says, are meant to reward the public and encourage more discussion about distracted driving. “Why not try something different and actually put a thank you out there and tell people we appreciate that?” Mooney says. “Hopefully we’ll see some good results.”
And if they do, what’s next—candy canes for sober drivers at Christmas?
By macleans.ca - Thursday, July 7, 2011 at 1:45 PM - 0 Comments
The Canadian military heads for the far North while Manitobans stare at a massive bill for flood cleanup.
Boots on the snow
Canada is planning its biggest summer military exercise in the far North. More than ever, a grand show of force in the Arctic is vitally important. Russia recently announced that it plans to send two new military brigades to the Arctic and is boasting of plans to build a year-round port there. Tensions between Arctic nations are on the rise over the drawing of borders in this resource-rich part of the world. And while flag-planting displays may seem trivial, when it comes to Arctic sovereignty, Canada needs to use it or risk losing it.
The Greek government has prevented a likely tragedy by stopping a flotilla of pro-Palestinian protesters from embarking for Gaza. An attempt to break the Israeli blockade last summer ended in a confrontation on the high seas that left nine dead. With both sides bent for a repeat showdown, the results this year could have been even worse. The Greeks are offering to work with the UN to ferry the ship’s cargo—food, medicine and building materials—to the Gaza Strip’s many needy. A bit of reasonableness that should serve as an example to the radicals on both sides.
A liberating decision
Ottawa reversed course and approved trials for a controversial procedure used to treat multiple sclerosis called “liberation therapy,” which involves opening blocked neck veins. Canada, which has among the highest rates of MS in the world, said last year it would not fund the trials due to concerns about the procedure’s efficacy and safety. Advocates, though, argue it is life-saving. The trials may finally provide some much-needed answers.
Cellphones don’t cause cancer after all, according to a major academic review of research by experts in Britain, the U.S. and Sweden. The report comes two months after the World Health Organization said the devices should be classified as “possibly” carcinogenic (along with pickled vegetables and coffee). Such cancer scares haven’t curbed appetite for the technology. The last wireless patents held by Nortel were bought for US$4.5 billion by a consortium including RIM, Apple, Ericsson and Microsoft.
Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian dictatorship, one of the Middle East’s most repressive regimes, continues to plumb new depths as it confronts pro-democracy protesters. This week its security forces opened fire on peaceful crowds in several towns, wounding dozens and killing at least three. With the West focused on removing Moammar Gadhaﬁ from power in Libya, Assad seems to feel untouchable. And to our collective shame, he appears to be right.
A couple of months back, Treasury Board President Tony Clement was criticized for tweeting a comment on a CRTC decision that was effectively a change in government telecom policy. Now he’s been caught out sharing photos of Will and Kate snapped at a private reception. Clement says he’s done nothing wrong, but clearly his desire to self-publicize is getting the better of him. Facing similar aggrandizers, the BBC is reportedly considering adding a clause to its contracts with its talent to prevent tweeted leaks and spoilers. But it all pales compared to the numbskull who hacked the Fox News Twitter account on July 4 and shared the “news” that Barack Obama had been assassinated. Can’t we all ﬁnd better things to do with technology?
This case has no clothes
An Ontario court this week heard arguments about whether laws preventing public nudity are unconstitutional. Lawyers for Brian Coldin, who was arrested when he showed up naked at a Tim Hortons drive-through, argue police should have discretion when enforcing nudity laws. In Coldin’s case, restaurant employees testified they felt “uncomfortable” seeing his genitals on display. If anything, this case offers an all-too-clear example why nudity laws exist and shouldn’t be fiddled with.
Researchers writing in the American Journal of Public Health say they have calculated how many deaths may be caused by poverty each year: 133,000 in the U.S. That’s not to say money guarantees good health. A Canadian study found low-income, urban children are more likely to walk or bike to school and are therefore in better shape than their more privileged counterparts.
By Colin Campbell - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 at 11:13 AM - 0 Comments
PayPal, the online payment-processing system made popular by eBay, its corporate parent, is betting…
PayPal, the online payment-processing system made popular by eBay, its corporate parent, is betting that its future may not be online, but in the real world. PayPal is planning a push into retail stores with a system that would involve swiping cellphones at registers to make payments, rather than using credit or debit cards. The company, which has 95 million users online, estimates expanding into physical stores could double its revenues to $7 billion within two years.
PayPal isn’t the only firm anxiously eyeing this market. Google and Apple are now reportedly working on cellphone payment systems—using a technology called near-field communications—as are cellphone makers like Research In Motion and Nokia. The systems could be useful for consumers who always have a smartphone in hand. But for cellphone companies looking to be the next Visa, it’s a market potentially worth tens of billions of dollars.