Here are my thoughts on today’s headlines. Everything but the titles is written by yours truly.

For today’s headline; a look at China…

Building canal network to divert water to capital ‘on par with the Great Wall’ by Barbara Demick:

China’s capital is in desperate need of water, so the government has planned an elaborate system of canals to reroute the country’s entire water system to bring water to Beijing.

Opposition to the longterm project says that not only will the rerouting of rivers cause harm to the country’s ecosystems, but it will also “rob” other parts of China of their water supply.

And the project is expensive.

In recent years, water has been referred to as “blue gold,” hinting that because of its unequal distribution throughout the world and its necessity to survival, it will, like gold, become a highly sought after “commodity.” A present day example of the value of water: China is literally re-plumbing its entire nation, uprooting hundreds of thousands of people and spending $62 billion to satisfy Beijing’s needs. Now that is a lot of gold.

But is it worth it?

Evidently it’s not a matter of whether or not the country goes into debt versus mass de-hydration, but whether or not the project is more practical than “buying” water or trading for it.

Should the project not prove as successful as planned, the results could be disastrous. And not just because of the debt or lack of water, but because of the people’s faith in the government.

To quote the article in the Vancouver Sun, citizen Yao Ziliang said that “of course, [the project] will bring water to Beijing. The party would not lie to us.”

What will happen, to both the people and the government, if the party can’t bring water to Beijing?

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Here are my thoughts on today’s headlines. Everything but the titles is written by yours truly.

Mother, daughter strive to discover father’s identity by Neal Hall:

Olivia Pratten, born as a result of artificial insemination, has been trying to get access to the sperm donor’s records for years without success.

Along with her mother, she is trying to get the government to institute legislation that would preserve gamete donor records, and is trying to have the Adoption Act struck down as she argues it doesn’t afford children of gamete donors the same rights as adopted children (with regards to accessing their donor parents’ records).

According to the article in the Vancouver Sun, Pratten’s mother said that a psychology study showed that children of gamete donors learning about their donor parents is imperative to the formation of their identity.

While the issue discussed in the article focuses primarily on whether or not donor records should be preserved for patients’ access, not discussed was the issue of privacy.

I admittedly do not fully know the privacy rights of donors, but the problem isn’t just a legal one: it has moral implications.

It is important that offspring of gamete donors know their donor parents’ medical history, etc., but, to quote the article on what Pratten’s mother said, the point that “offspring of gamete donors have a need to learn about their donor parents in order to be able to properly develop their identity” was compromised 28 years ago when Shirley Pratten decided to use artificial insemination as a means of having a child.

It would seem as though sperm donors, who are donating and not signing up to have a child of their own, should have some privacy rights.

Au contraire, if privacy is a big issue for the donor, there is no obligation to donate in the first place.

The question that should be visited is whether any individual in general has any right to access information on another individual, regardless of parentage, as well as the concept of “parent responsibility:” what defines a parent, what are their responsibilities towards their offspring, and whether or not gamete donation is a no-strings-attached process where the one parent assumes all of the parenting duties.

Police reprimanded for 2005 tethering of drunk teen in cell by Sandra McCullock:

I am including this article in today’s headlines because I remember hearing about the incident when it first happened about five years ago.

An adjudicator ruled this week that two Victoria police officers committed an abuse of their authority when they tethered Willow Kinloch, 15 years old at the time, in a cell, hands cuffed behind her back, and legs tied together and strapped to the door for four hours.

The incident baffled me then and continues to baffle me now: why is it that two fully-grown police officers felt the need to completely immobilize an intoxicated 15-year-old girl? Could they really not handle her between the two of them?

The way they dealt with the situation would suggest that they were dealing with a 250-pound, armed, dangerous and extremely volatile individual. But that simply was not the case.

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Here are my thoughts on today’s headlines. Everything but the titles is written by yours truly.

Britons spending almost half the day plugged in by Neil Midgley:

About 45 per cent of the average Briton’s waking hours are spent using some type of technology, whether it’s surfing the Internet, watching television, listening to the radio or texting friends, according to Ofcom’s annual Communications Market Report.

If we assume that the average sleep time is eight hours, then half of the 16-hour waking day is spent plugged in.

That’s eight hours spent communicating with friends and reading, listening and watching the news, among other things.

Needless to say, it seems like the world is shrinking in size as we grow closer through technology.

Research team develops method to test police Tasers by Matthew Pearson:

Researchers have established a specific set of procedures that can be used to determine whether Tasers and other conducted-energy weapons used across the country are functioning the way they are supposed to.

The testing system is a result of the difference in beliefs of the manufacturers and commissioner Thomas Braidwood who, in his 2009 report, concluded that “conducted-energy weapons do have the capacity to cause severe injury or death.”

Taser International maintains that the weapons pose no danger if deployed correctly and in accordance with their specifications.

The testing procedures are thorough, an example being that the maximum and minimum electrical pulses should be reported to ensure that they fall within the weapon’s average electrical range.

It’s nice to see that precautions are being taken to ensure that the weapons Canadian police are using are void of defects, but it almost seems as though these safety measures are being put in place to prevent any future lawsuits directed at Taser International.

The emphasis of studies regarding Tasers should be shifted away from the weapon itself, and redirected towards the people actually deploying them.

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Here are my thoughts on today’s headlines. Everything but the titles is written by yours truly.

Federal government’s selective belief in statistics is criminal by Peter McKnight:

According to the General Social Survey, the amount of crimes being reported to the police is declining, down three per cent in 2004 from 1999.

Numbers don’t lie: if 37 per cent of criminal incidents were brought to the attention of the police in 1999, and only 34 per cent were in 2004 (according to the GSS), then the conclusion to be drawn from the statistics is that less crimes are being reported to the police.

These statistics do not necessarily mean that crime rates are down.

As McKnight pointed out in the article, the reliability of the GSS needs to be taken into account, as do the differences between the GSS and the Uniform Crime Reporting Survey, both of which are used to collect data on crime.

Statistics merely show the results of research; how they are interpreted is another story.

If the Conservatives are justifying a $9.5 billion decision to build new prisons on a couple of numbers that can be interpreted to show that crime rates are declining, maybe it’s time to begin monitoring the reasoning process leading up to such expensive decisions.

Forest fire budget at a 10-year low, and B.C. is already over by Todd Coyne:

This year, the B.C. government set aside $51.7 million to fight forest fires.

Last year, the Liberals allotted $61.7 million, but spent $382.1 million fighting fires, according to the Vancouver Sun.

The cost of fighting fires for 2010 has already exceeded the allotted budget; Finance Minister Colin Hansen confirmed the expenses had reached $56.5 million.

If it cost the provincial government over $380 million to fight forest fires last year, why is this year’s budget less than one seventh of that cost?

There is no way the Liberals could have expected that $50 million would be enough funds, which raises yet another question:

Let’s pretend for a moment that the overall provincial budget is $1 billion. (Again, we are merely pretending.)

And let’s say that last year, the government spent one tenth of that, $100 million, on fighting forest fires.

This year, they decided to allocate $50 million, knowing the costs would be exceeded.

However, to balance their budget, the government would have to take the $50 million no longer going towards fighting fires, and put it somewhere else.

By the end of the day, the total expected expenditures would equal $1 billion: by the end of the year, the actual expenditures would look quite different.

On paper, the government balanced their total budget, but they essentially allocated $50 million needed to cover the cost of fighting forest fires to another expense.

So to conclude my complicated thought process: $50 million (forest fires) + $50 million (taken from last year’s budget) + $50 million (the additional money eventually spent on fighting fires, not accounted for in the budget) = $150 million.

That is some magic trick, making money out of thin air…

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Here are my thoughts on today’s headlines. Everything but the titles is written by yours truly.

Free tool allows instant analysis of trends, Google economist says by Tracy Sherlock:

Thanks to Google’s new data-analysis tool, the world’s information, statistics and trends are now universally available and can be easily called-up with the simple click of a button.

By going to www.google.com/insights/search, Internet users can search for data on any subject, making fact-finding and credible research that much easier.

A similar article from PBS recently acknowledged the growing demand of readers and citizens to have access to raw data.

Check out How news organizations should prepare for data dumps by Martin Moore to learn about the interesting data-related projects headed by The Guardian and the New York Times: http://tinyurl.com/2d2k5ck.

Canada’s doctors demand major changes by Meagan Fitzpatrick:

The Canadian Medical Association will be meeting in Niagara Falls later this month to discuss how to better meet the Canada Health Act’s principle of providing universal health care to all Canadians.

Proposals to be discussed include building more long-term-care facilities and establishing more pay-for-performance incentive-based programs, according to the Vancouver Sun.

In its annual report, the CMA disclosed that the Health Act principles are not being met, and that the accessibility of medical services continues to be a major problem.

As the baby-boomer population is nearing retirement, there are more citizens leaving the workforce than entering it. Where will the money needed to create and maintain more facilities come from?

Will income taxes be raised? Will the age of retirement be pushed back?

There is without a doubt a need for major changes, but perhaps those changes are needed in the political system.

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Here are my thoughts on today’s headlines. Everything but the titles is written by yours truly.

How the Supreme Court keeps information from us by Peter McKnight:

The right to information is not acknowledged in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, meaning that it doesn’t exist.

Having access to public or government records falls under “freedom of expression:” in other words, the only way to gain access to information is “where the access is necessary to permit meaningful discussion on a matter of public importance,” according to the Supreme Court.

Another thing that doesn’t exist is a clear and concise definition of the words “meaningful” and “importance.”

What all of this means, is that access to information will be granted on a case-by-case basis.

It also means that what is considered “meaningful” and of  “public importance” can be interpreted to include a wide and varied number of cases, or to exclude almost any case.

At the heart of Facebook is an old-fashioned kaffeeklatsch by Shelley Fralic:

An interesting observation: the fastest-growing demographics on Facebook are women aged 35 to 50 and people over the age of 55, according to David Kirkpatrick, author of The Facebook Effect.

As older generations begin using newer technologies and social networking sites, will new media apps, sites and technologies be created to cater to the baby-boomer population?

Fortress Toronto: Loss of civil liberties part of an absurd price by Craig McInnes:

The G8 and G20 summits are underway in Toronto, with the help of $1-billion in security measures.

The six-kilometre long, three-metre high security wall complete with metal sheeting and concrete blocks, and over 10,000 police officers to guard it, is just a little menacing. However, the most menacing measure to protect the world leaders was not a part of the $1-billion budget.

From June 21 to June 28, police can arrest anyone who comes within five metres of the wall and refuses to provide identification or submit to a search.

The person “trespassing” on public property does not have to have been doing anything suspicious either.

But isn’t this a violation of our civil liberties?

Of course it is, but that doesn’t matter: the Ontario government passed the regulation June 2.

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