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Friday, April 29, 2011

Sun News struggles with numbers and truth

Ezra Levant — The Source
The Sun Media story claimed, and we are using claimed in its correct sense, that the new Sun News network has been on roll. I saw the story by Terry Davidson in The London Free Press. My local paper obediently carried the filler supplied by Sun Media and QMI.

The story was headlined New network buoyed by viewer stats. It went on to say, "Around 37,000 viewers across Canada tuned in to watch the news channel when it launched April 18 . . . " No one disputes that number. The problem is that today is April 29, not April 18, and the numbers have plummeted with each passing day.

The London Free Press tells us The Caldwell Account, hosted by Theo Caldwell, had 20,000 views coming out of the starting gate. What The Free Press doesn't say is that Theo wilted fast. Marketing Mag Canada reports:

"Sun News commentator Theo Caldwell was drawing 11,000 viewers at 7 p.m. last Friday, CBC News Network had an audience of 263,000 viewers across Canada. [Even the American network] CNN’s estimated audience in Canada at 7 p.m. on Friday was 38,000 viewers."

The numbers in the Free Press story are old news. But then some of the stunts being pulled by the Sun News network to attract viewers are pretty stale. Ezra Levant, host of The Source, in a blatant attempt to create controversy, broadcast the infamous cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad that sparked riots around the world.

Despite the Islamic faith's prohibition against any depiction of Muhammad, these cartoons were published in a Danish newspaper in 2005. The New York Times reported "at least 200 died and many more were injured."

This did not stop Levant from displaying the cartoons on The Source as part of  free speech segment. This is not the first time Levant has displayed the cartoons. He first published them years ago in the The Western Standard. The topic was red hot then and he succeeded in stirring up the correct amount of controversy.

The Vancouver Sun spoke with Chris Waddell, director of the school of journalism at Carleton University, who said it's hard to understand why it's important. What can you say? It's recycling a very old story.

A week after launch, Levant’s show was down to 19,000 viewers. This is a big drop from the 40,000 viewers The Free Press story linked to Levant's show.

Will Sun News succeed? It is too early to tell. Personally, I'm not pulling for them.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Downtown Core Summit a success!

London Mayor Joe Fontana makes an enthusiastic pitch for the future of downtown.
London Mayor Joe Fontana kicked off the Downtown Core Summit by posing a challenging question to the crowd of more than two hundred assembled at Covent Garden Market Wednesday: "Are we ready to rebuild downtown London?"

And for many in the large crowd, the answer was a resounding "yes."

The attendees were drawn from the ranks of business and government, and even from the general public. Possibly the largest property owner in the core, real estate mogul Shmuel Farhi, was there. But this group was not as diverse as one might think: They all shared a love of London and a desire to see the downtown a healthy, vital part of the city again.

The focus of the event was London's aging city hall. Should the decades old building be kept and its useful life extended by leasing downtown office space; Should the present building be patched up and enlarged; Should the city simply build a new city hall? These were the three options originally on the table.

But Wednesday night's brain-storming session may have enlarged the number of options. For instance, Alan Cowey, CEO of Ashfield Group Inc., has his own creative vision for the core. His dream proposal sees city hall being moved to the site of the present London Life complex. He would retain the elegant, historic facade but gut the core of the aging complex. The new city hall would rise from this hollow shell.

London Life today may no longer require the large footprint of its present operations and would be encouraged to move a short distance and build new.

Bud and Paul Gowan watch Alan Cowey sketch his dream.
Cowey's dream was infectious. He had the others at his table, among them Phil McLeod , Bud Gowan and his son Paul, all hunched over the aerial map of downtown London that decorated every table, while he gave form to his well-thought out vision. He quickly and dramatically put his creative thoughts to paper using a large felt-tip pen perfect for his large, dramatic ideas.

Drawing heavy lines through Clarence Street above Dufferin Avenue and through Kent Street as well. Cowey said he'd close these. Clarence is a dead end already, he explained.

But the Downtown Core Summit was not a dead end; With the caliber of people attending, it was clearly a beginning.

Councillor Judy Bryant closing the very successful Downtown Core Summit.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Causation or correlation: Dan Brown

Dan Brown, the former online editor and Internet guru at The London Free Press, wonders who else, other than Dan Brown himself, has noticed that since Bob Rae left the NDP to join the Liberals the NDP has trended higher and higher in the polls. Meanwhile, the Liberals, in Brown's words, "have been sucking canal water."

I, for one, hadn't noticed the trend and therefore had not thought of old Bob as the cause.

A quick check on the Internet indicated to me that a lot of others hadn't noticed the Bob Rae-inspired trends either. This was not surprising as the trends didn't seem to be there to be noticed. In fact, some of the polling organizations I consulted saw the NDP as recently breaking out of a rut. None seemed to see the NDP's present surge as the culmination of a long, steady climb going back years.

Frank Graves, the founder of EKOS Research Associates Inc., recently said: "Ontario has been a pitched see saw battle between the Conservatives and the Liberals. The Conservatives have tended to hold the edge." It was only "recently a dramatic rise in the NDP suggests those ridings may be in doubt." Note the word recently. No long term trend going back to Bob Rae departure from the party.

In fact, The Globe and Mail suggested: 
"Some question whether Bob Rae’s tumultuous five years as an NDP premier [in Ontario] could be what’s holding Jack [Layton] back." 

That's right, the Globe and Mail thinks old Bob's distant actions as the premier of Ontario may be an albatross around the neck of the NDP in the province.
I found a really neat site PollingReport.ca and contacted Kelly John Rose to discover if it was possible to create a graph showing federal polling results from around the time Bob Rae left the NDP for the Liberals till today. He e-mailed me: "If you change the numbers in the URL, it will adjust accordingly."

I did and the following is the result.

Chart from PollingReport.ca.

So, what do you think? If you want to see the actual graph, try this custom link to PollingReport.

In what I think of as the good old days, questions like Dan Brown's were kicked around at editorial meetings. It was "brain storming." The questions from the session were handed to a reporter to research and write a story filled with the interesting information. Today the question is just tossed out with no one at the paper doing a thing. The question is dropped straight into the lap of the reader.

I have to thank Kelly John Rose for putting a lot of work into his polling info on the Net and for his quick reply to my query. His is a fine site and a great resource.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Now a blood clot has formed

Finding the time and the energy to post a steady stream of blogs has proven difficult in the past months.

About six weeks ago I had an ICD surgically placed in a pocket in my chest. It is just under the collar bone on the left side of my body. All seemed to go well: No infection, no seroma, no hematoma. Then, just days ago, my left hand turned red and the red colour spread up my left arm. The hand turned from red to purple and the hand and arm began to swell.

I had a blood clot on the lead from my ICD. The clot could not reach my heart as it was too large to slide between the lead and the venous wall. It was stuck. This protected me from the dangers posed by a blood clot free in my body but it did interfere with my blood flow.

The doctors considered giving me a clot-busting drug but because of my history of micro-bleeds in the brain, they held back. A discussion with the neurology department at the LHSC in London, Ontario, confirmed that I should not be given clot-busting drugs. It was even felt that my daily dose of Aspirin was possibly inadvisable. But as I obviously have a propensity for forming clots, and as the Aspirin has not caused any known adverse reactions in the years that I have been taking it, I have been left on the mild anti-clotting agent.

There seems to be little to do but wait. Possibly the clot will dissolve on its own. Possibly my body will build new veins around the blockage with my body encasing the clot in some scarlike tissue on the wall of the affected vein.

For now I simply must put up with the discolouration and the swelling. I wear a compression bandage for a great part of the day to try and force the gathering fluids back into my body's systems.


Thursday, April 21, 2011

Memories of the Northern Lights

In The Land Of The Northern Lights from Ole Christian Salomonsen on Vimeo.

Many years ago I made a night crossing in my sailboat of northern Lake Huron with three friends. After midnight the North Lights appeared. First, they appeared low on the northern horizon. Then they spread along the horizon, heading east and west. As they moved along the horizon, they also extended farther and farther into the middle of the once dark, night sky above. When half the sky was claimed, the lights then conquered to the remaining half of the sky. At the height of the activity the shimmering, dancing, mostly green lights filled the sky. It was one of the most amazing sights I have ever witnessed.

For a window into that night, check out the embedded video.

I must thank Laura Arnold for tipping me off about this video via a Facebook link. Thank you, Laura.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Reporting "Foul play not suspected"

My late friend's art had clues revealing mental illness.
Recently, the Western Journalism Project London ran an online story Youth suicide: Breaking the silence.

Having worked for newspapers since the early '70s, my interest was immediate. I cannot count the number of stories that I have been involved with that were silenced when it became clear suicide was the cause of death.

As a general rule, neither paper at which I worked reported suicides in any depth. Give no details was the working rule. Even suicide attempts were off limits.

Once I turned in pictures of a young girl lying injured on pavement near London's Harris Park. She was being comforted by passersby as they awaited the arrival of an ambulance. Very dramatic stuff. The pictures never ran. The girl had injured herself jumping from a roadway overpass in a failed suicide attempt.

Now, I am reading that media outlets, traditionally afraid of provoking copycat suicides by reporting suicides without constraints, may be dropping the somewhat self imposed ban. Is this true? Larry Cornies, professor of journalism at Conestoga College, believes it is:

“We’re in it,” said Cornies. “We have come from this era where we saw it (suicide) as a great taboo and we’re now beginning to understand suicide much more as a mental illness and we’re adjusting our plans accordingly.”

"The copycat argument that has been used so often in the past doesn’t hold as much sway as it used to,” he said.

If Cornies is right, I hope the media has considered the guidelines for reporting suicide published by the Canadian Psychiatric Association (CPA). According to the CPA, there is solid evidence showing that media reporting of suicides is linked to copycat suicides among young people under 24 years of age.

This is not a new position. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States reported the same thing back in 1989. A national workshop addressed suicide contagion and made recommendations to reduce the number of suspected media-related suicides.

Both the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention (CASP) and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) have provided the media with specific guidelines on reporting suicide. Unfortunately, many reporters are not acquainted with the guidelines. I wonder if the journalism students at Western know about the guidelines.

A quick check of media reports revealed many, possibly all, in the MSM media in Canada handled the suicide of the former student with traditional care. CBC News reported that the young, missing student "suffered from a medical condition that could be harmful to her health." CTV said the young woman had "been found dead. . . . foul play is not suspected."

Suicide: Quick reference card (Australia)
Why the journalism students would report "We’re now beginning to understand suicide much more as a mental illness" puzzles me. When I was in art school in the '60s, I knew a young man who took his life; It did not come as a surprise. Everyone, students, faculty and family, all had worried about his mental health and apparent depression. In fact, one art instructor had arranged a meeting with a mental health doctor but the student killed himself the weekend before his appointment.

In Australia the government has the Mindframe National Media Initiative providing accurate information about suicide and mental illness. The goal is to influence the portrayal of these issues in the news media, on stage and in film.

In Great Britain  The Media Wise Trust has released Sensitive Coverage Saves Lives --- a move to improve the portrayal of suicide in the media.

I'm proud to say that both the Sault Daily Star and The London Free Press both generally followed the guidelines on reporting suicide while I was employed at those papers.

The media is not always insensitive.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A little food with that sugar?

 Cool demonstration.

Watch Jamie Oliver graphically illustrate that kids are getting too much sugar in their diets. And some of that sugar is coming from an unsuspected source: flavoured milk!

Monday, April 11, 2011

These should never see a landfill. Never!

Note steam sealing lip on decades-old Lifetime cookware.
My wife just inherited some stainless steel cookware: Lifetime brand.

I took one look at this stuff and told her, "This cookware is better than your Paderno." My wife disagreed. Her stainless steel cookware is marketed as "Paderno: Pots for eternity." She pointed out that this stuff only promises to last a lifetime.

Whatever, the point is that both companies made promises they could keep; Stainless steel pots can last indefinitely. The only thing that can immediately shorten the life of a stainless steel pot is extreme heat. Twist the heat control to max on your range and you run the risk of overheating your pot. If our stove's maximum element setting was half of what it is now, I'd be happy; And our pots would be happy.

With all the talk of green, let's hear it for well-make stainless steel pots. Buy 'em once and use 'em thousands of times. Take care of 'em and hand 'em down from generation to generation. And if the next generation doesn't want 'em, sell 'em. I figure the full set that my wife inherited would fetch at least a hundred dollars if she decided to sell. (She gave them to a friend.)

Lifetime cookware was originally made by West Bend out of Wisconsin. The West Bend company was known for quality and so it is not surprise that the Lifetime brand originated with them. Today the cookware is still being made in the United States but now it is Regal making the famous West Bend, Wisconsin, line.

So what makes the Lifetime so good. The weight, the multi-ply construction, the quality of stainless steel and the design --- the heavy lids sit in a groove to trap steam. Their handles are their weakness. Paderno handles are stainless steel and spot welded to the pots and lids. On the plus side for Lifetime, the handles are still readily available for even these decades old pots. Still, I like the durability of the Paderno solution.

So what is the best cookware? Neither. Try Teknika by Silga out of Italy. This stuff is carried by David Mellor Design. (I got an email from a chap in British Columbia who also carries the Silga line. Here is a link to his Tuscan Kitchen in Victoria, BC.) This is beautiful cookware built for professional cooks. Heavy, high quality, stainless steel construction, multi-ply bottoms, fashionable stainless steel handles spot-welded to never loosen, and steam-sealing lid rims. Perfect.

My wife and I own one and it the best. One of her favorite chicken dishes, is started over a stove top element and moved to the oven to finish. When done, the pot always cleans up very easily. Although I do finish with a dab of stainless steel cleaner. I like the added shine.

The thing is, with just a little care, there is no reason for any of these products to ever end up in a landfill. (Our Paderno is now approaching three decades of constant use.)

We have a Teknika frying pan; It is a fave with expert cooks using our kitchen.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Look at my shadow! I'm a big girl!

Fiona thinks she is a big girl. She is 19-months going on 19 years. This is probably not quite true. I never had children of my own and so I'm just so surprised at the all the thinking that clearly goes on in young heads.

This is Fiona's first spring. This is her first foray into the outside world on her own two feet. And Fiona is quite enchanted with the world she is discovering. She can't get enough of the outside.

Yesterday I was doing the dishes and Fiona wandered out of the kitchen and into the front hallway. I could hear her puttering about and wondered what she was up to. Before I could dry my hands and take a look, Fiona appeared carrying my large coat. That coat is bigger than she is but she carried through the kitchen and handed it right to me. I knew what was up. She wanted to go outside.

I dried my hands and started putting on my coat when Fiona appeared again. This time she was carrying my shoes. I put them on, but before I could lace them up she was back. This time carrying my camera bag.

I slipped the camera bag strap over my shoulder and looked down to see Fiona. She was holding out my house keys. The kid's amazing.

Content that I had everything, Fiona waited patiently by the front door for my assistance in getting her into her coat and shoes.

19-months and she already knows enough to make sure granddad has his house keys. Like I said, "The kid's amazing."

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Now I'm getting spam!

I called the ad questionable and wondered why newspapers don't treat their advertising business with more respect. Advertising is how newspapers make money. Accepting questionable ads, and often placing them in prominent positions in the newspaper and on the companion Website, lessens the value of the newspaper ad franchise.

As I wrote in the previous post,

"The ad prominently displaced on the opening screen of The London Free Press Web page read, "View your credit score now". Just go to Free Credit Reports in Canada. It was clear this was a free service; There was no charge."

Well, I did go and I'm sorry. I worked through a number of screens but when asked for my credit card number I stopped. Today I got my first spam from these Free Credit Report people.

It makes me feel very uneasy that one of the companies that tracks our credit history and rates our credit worthiness may be behind this. You see, credit reports are free in Canada, if you don't count the cost of the stamp and business envelope necessary to send in a request for the information on file. To find out how to obtain a copy of your credit records for free, see my last post.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Questionable ads question a newspaper's integrity.

The ad prominently displaced on the opening screen of The London Free Press Web page read, "View your credit score now". Just go to Free Credit Reports in Canada. It was clear this was a free service; There was no charge.

Interested, I clicked; I got a screen asking for my name, complete address plus e-mail. This seemed reasonable. How else could they provide my credit score? Reasonable or not, I balked. I noticed the name TransUnion in the top right of the screen.

I googled "TransUnion" and discovered this was a major player in the credit reporting business in Canada. The other company is Equifax Canada. I also came across a CBC News in Depth report: "Checking your credit rating".

The first thing I learned from the CBC was that credit reports are free:

"You can ask for a free copy of your credit report by mail. . . . Complete details on how to order credit reports are available online." (Here are the links: TransUnion and Equifax Canada.)

So, what's up with the whole Free Credit Reports in Canada stuff? What's with the ad on The London Free Press Web site? Before continuing, I decided to do a little googling. I found a post on the blog Moo's virtual world: Privacy Protection Plus is a fraud. This privacy protection name was a new wrinkle, but interested I read on:

I read the blogger's post and then scanned the comments:

"I renewed my classmates.com account using my Visa. . . . 1st mistake. I don't recall being asked about any Privacy Protection or 24-hour Assistance. Just received this months bill and that I was being billed 19.95 for Privacy Proctection and another 19.95 for 24-hour Assistance. I called my credit card comp and they couldn't help me as it is Sunday. I tried contacting the company Privacy Proctection and again they are closed. I can't go online cuz I don't have a username and password. . . . what a scam. . . . I tried contacting Classmates and that was hopeless. I am not impressed with their underhanded techniques. How dare they allow another company to have access to my personal info and especially my credit card info? . . . ya I am PO'd and will be dealing with this first thing in the morning. Then I will be canceling my credit card.