1. Cumberland RDA fraud
“Lawyers for the RCMP and Nova Scotia’s ombudsman squared off in court in Amherst Thursday over a request by fraud investigators for confidential files related to the Cumberland Regional Development Authority,” reports the CBC’s Shaina Luck:
The RCMP wants the Nova Scotia Office of the Ombudsman to turn over everything it has related to its 2012 probe of questionable financial reporting at the now defunct development agency.
Much of the information is already in the hands of police, however, the ombudsman is resisting a formal production order that seeks what’s left.
The office, which reviews and investigates public concerns about provincial and municipal organizations, argues it is governed by “unique” legislation that allows people to come forward in complete confidentiality.
If police are subsequently able to seize all files dealing with a particular case, then it “undercuts the entire premise of the office,” according to Roderick Rogers, the lawyer representing the ombudsman at Thursday’s hearing.
2. Never ending, never forgotten
“Work began in Halifax on Thursday to ensure Canada’s most recent war, the Afghanistan War, is never forgotten,” reports Julia Wong:
The words “And in Afghanistan” are being added to the war memorial that sits in Grand Parade.
The current inscription reads “In the city archives are treasured the names of thirteen hundred and sixty men and women whose sacrifice is perpetuated by this memorial. Also in memory of those who died in the Second World War and in Korea, 1950-1953”. Soon the words “and in Afghanistan” will be added to the cenotaph.
We should probably increase the size of the base and lift the cenotaph by 20 or 30 metres so there’s room for all the future wars.
3. ’tis the season
Halloween is just around the corner. You know what the means, right?
Yep, a plethora of food tampering stories:
Police are advising the public of a potential rice krispies square tampering incident.
On October 14, a woman called police to report that she had discovered a paperclip when she bit into a Kellogg’s Rice Krispies Treats bar she had purchased approximately three months ago at the Braemar Drive Superstore in Dartmouth. The bar came in a box of eight individually wrapped bars. Fortunately, she wasn’t injured and the incident was reported to the Superstore by police.
Police ask that anyone who finds any foreign objects in food refrain from throwing out the food, the object and the food wrapper/packaging. Please contact police so the items can be passed along to investigators.
Funny, a few years ago, when I found a razor blade in a frozen pizza I bought at the same Superstore and dutifully reported it to the cops, no one issued a press release. Loblaw’s eventually offered me a $100 voucher, which I declined because I wasn’t trying to make any money on the incident but rather, ya know, get somebody to stop putting razor blades in frozen pizzas. Loblaw’s and the cops were of the opinion that the razor blade entered the pizza somewhere downstream, i.e., not in the production process and probably not in the store, i.e, I think they think I somehow stupidly put the razor blade there myself, but they didn’t come right out and say so. Because the razor blade was inside the cellophane, I still think it must have happened in the factory, which was in France. I have no idea why we import frozen pizza from France.
Which is to say, I don’t think most of these “food tampering” incidents are tampering at all. I think they’re straight up industrial accidents, workers being careless, factory processes not being followed. It’s the danger inherent with processed foods — I’ve never discovered a razor blade in those oh-so-delicious locally grown tenderloin steaks I buy at Meat Mongers.
And then there’s, how to say?, lying. Last year there was a rash of “candy tampering” incidents just after Halloween. It’s been demonstrated time and again that cases of Halloween candy tampering are mostly, albeit not entirely, hoaxes. Snopes’ Barbara Mikkelson has an interesting take on it, and suggests the origins of the hoax lead right to Eastern Canada:
To my mind, these cases constitute a different class of tampering than poisoning for a couple of reasons. First, the expected level of harm is severely reduced: poison is an attempt to kill; a pin in an apple is an attempt to frighten or injure. Professor Joel Best reported that he’s been able to track about eighty cases of sharp objects in food incidents since 1959, and almost all were hoaxes. Only about ten culminated in even minor injury, and in the worst case, a woman required a few stitches. Compared to “eat something and die,” a couple of stitches barely registers on the scale.
Second, the motivation for “pins and needles” tampering is different. As I said before, poison is an attempt to kill, but hiding a needle in an apple is almost always a prank, not a serious attempt to cause harm. (In those instances where such an insertion could be traced back to a specific person, it was almost always some kid intent on freaking out either his little brother or his parents or getting the community in an uproar as his version of a cute Halloween “trick”). Pranking (especially when it’s a scary or slightly mean one) is part of Halloween, and the various kids or young adults who’ve tampered with treats most likely never fully considered the potential consequences of the joke prior to embarking on it. (When presented with a matchless opportunity to throw a scare into a pesky kid brother, who stops to think that Junior might get hurt?)
As author Jack Santino noted in his history of Halloween, “pins and needles” rumors began to supplant “poisoned candy” rumors in the mid-1960s, and nearly all such reports of such rumors proved to be hoaxes:
Beginning in 1967 the focus of the legend shifted dramatically from poison to razors and sharp objects hidden in apples. The emergence of the razor blade motif remains to be studied, but it apparently spread rapidly in several areas of the eastern seaboard and Canada: The New York Times reported thirteen cases from isolated communities in New Jersey and noted “several” others in Ottawa and Toronto. Outrage was so strong in New Jersey that the state legislature passed a law shortly before Halloween 1968 mandating prison terms for those caught boobytrapping apples. This did not forestall the discovery of thirteen more apples with razor blades that year in five New Jersey counties.
In many cases, The New York Times story noted that “children were cut,” but the more detailed accounts include suspicious details. In one case a boy came to his parents with an apple containing a razor blade. He had bit into an apple, he said, but not quite deeply enough to contact the blade. In another, the child said he found the blade while cutting out a rotten spot; in a third case, the razor was found when a child turned an apple over to his father for peeling. In all these detailed cases, the child was not injured, and because he was the immediate source of the apple, it seems possible that he was also the source of the blade. As Best and Horiuchi (authors of the Razor Blade) note, more than 75 percent of reported cases involved no injury, and detailed followups in 1972 and 1982 concluded that virtually all the reports were hoaxes concocted by the children or parents. Thus this legend type seems to have grown out of a tradition of ostensive hoaxes relying on an understood oral tradition, rather than on any core of authenticated incidents.
Halloween of 1982 was the year it all went crazy. That year saw a number of tragic and random non-Halloween poisonings of both foodstuffs and medicines, including the Tylenol poisonings that killed seven people. Although the “crazed madman tampering with kids’ Halloween treats” had been an established bogeyman for at least the previous fifteen years (I recall in the late 1960s my mother chopping up every apple I brought home from trick-or-treating and then making pies from them), it was in the aftermath of the Tylenol poisonings that a sudden spate of Halloween tampering reports erupted. It’s as if the murder of those seven unfortunate people opened a forbidden door and now others were free to experiment with playing God, to dispense either life or death as the whim struck them.
I examined last year’s “candy tampering” incidents at length and concluded:
There has never been a confirmed case of candy tampering in Nova Scotia nor, so far as I can determine, even a report of one before this year. Is it likely that suddenly, all at once this year, five or six people in Nova Scotia suddenly decided to put pins and needles in candy?
And why would that criminal and perverse behaviour be restricted to Nova Scotia and a few small towns out west? Why aren’t there candy tamperers in the metropolises of Toronto, Montreal, or Vancouver? Why don’t perverted people in New Brunswick stick needles in candy?
This looks to me like a textbook case of social contagion…
Here in Nova Scotia, the candy tampering reports started with single 14-year-old girl who supposedly found a pin in her candy but instead of telling her mother, put a photo of it on Instagram. I’m guessing that this started as a joke, but the girl quickly lost control of it — “the mother of her friend saw the photo and called police,” Global tells us.
After that initial report, other people — many of them also children — watching the same provincial media reports, started finding needles. All of the incidents were reported by people who could conceivably be watching the CBC Nova Scotia TV news. None of the incidents were reported by people who would likely be watching CBC New Brunswick TV news. (Likewise, all the people reporting tampered candy in North Bay were likely watching the same media outlets.)
And many of the incidents involved long chains of reporting: the mother of a friend. A neighbour dropping by to visit. Parents eating their children’s candy. All possible, sure, but when the reporting chain gets this long, it’s good to be skeptical.
Since all the media reports last year about local “Halloween candy tampering,” I’ve called the cops every couple of months to ask them how that investigation is going. Inevitably, someone eventually gets back to me and tells me they’re still looking at it, or something was sent off for DNA testing, or the file has been shifted somewhere else, and maybe one day they’ll have some statement about it. From the looks of it, truth be told, it’s not worth the cops’ time. They’ve got real crime to investigate.
4. Wild Kingdom
The CBC’s Phlis McGregor takes a look at exotic birds ending up in Nova Scotia:
[David Currie, the president of the Nova Scotia Bird Society] says from time to time, an odd individual bird species shows up in the province. He says the star bird at the moment is the crested caracara, a non-migratory bird, normally found in Florida and Mexico. It’s almost as big as an eagle. It’s mostly black with a white head with black crest, and has a black tail with white on its long wings. Currie says it’s a scavenger-type bird, related to falcons and raptors.
He believes this particular individual has been in the province for more than two years. It’s been spotted from Cape Breton to Yarmouth, with the latest sighting in the Gaspereau Valley.
“It’s just been stuck here in the province not being able to find its way, or maybe it’s enjoying our province,” said Currie.
While interesting, I can only think of the tragedy of these birds, blown off course, ending up alone in a strange and cold world, eking out a solitary living as best they can until cruel nature, red in tooth in claw, runs its course. But then again, I guess that happens to everyone who comes here.
1. Yarmouth Ferry
The Yarmouth Vanguard seems to be preparing its readers for a possible cut-off of provincial funding for the Yarmouth ferry.
2. Cranky letter of the day
Three years ago, the King’s Wharf developer paid over $500,000 for the installation of crossbucks, flashing lights, bells and barriers at the King Street crossing in Dartmouth.
At that time, an agreement was signed. It stipulated: “The Road Authority (HRM) shall initiate proceedings to obtain anti-whistling at this location as of the date of opening of the crossing … The Railway (CN) hereby agrees to support the Road Authority’s request for anti-whistling.”
That was three years ago.
Since then, residents of downtown Dartmouth have been abruptly startled out of their sleep by the harsh blasts of CN’s whistle at all hours of the night.
Even after the Halifax Regional Municipality finally implemented an anti-whistling bylaw at the crossing over two months ago, CN Rail has yet to follow through on its agreement with HRM and with the King’s Wharf developer.
I have been a resident of Dartmouth for over three years and I would love to continue living here, but for that to happen I need to work, and for me to work, I need sleep. If CN continues to blast its whistle every night, I will have no alternative but to move away from downtown. I am not the only resident of Dartmouth who feels the same way.
Dartmouth is currently undergoing a revival. I truly feel CN’s unwillingness to abide by its agreement to stop whistling at the King Street crossing will significantly hinder Dartmouth’s development.
Leanda Delaney, Dartmouth
Police Commission (12:30pm, City Hall) — Councillor Linda Mosher wants to ban motorized bicycles from the Chain of Lakes Trail. Someone could get hit and hurt, she says.
No public meetings.
Chemistry Patents (1:30pm, Chemistry Building, Room 226) — Patricia Folkins, with Bereskin & Parr – Intellectual Property Law in Toronto, will be presenting.
Cowboys & Indians (3:30pm, Room 1108, Mona Campbell) — Philip DeCicca, from McMaster University, will speak on “Cowboys & Indians: Evidence from a Quasi-Natural Experiment in Cigarette Brand Loyalty.”
Federal Liberal candidate Andy Filmore is apparently living in a van parked illegally in the No Parking zone outside the Dal Student Union.
I’ve mostly stayed out of the federal election. I figure there are other reporters who know the beat better than I do, and I don’t know that I have much more to offer. Personally, I’ll be happy with any election result so long as Stephen Harper’s Conservatives don’t form a government, but even then I worry that no matter who forms the next government, they won’t willingly set dictatorial powers aside — see how Barack Obama continues to employ the extra-constitutional tactics of George W. Bush.
I will say this, however: the whispering campaign against Megan Leslie, that somehow she doesn’t live in Halifax, is reprehensible. I’m actually glad that the Dawgfather references it publicly:
The suggestion that Leslie doesn’t live in Halifax is ludicrous. It simply is not true: she is in her hometown as often as any other deputy leader of a party is. She’s lived in the same apartment in the north end for many years, and now owns a house here. She shops at the farmer’s market, she plays roller derby. Like all politicians, she’s forever going to community events.
It’s been suggested to me that the “Leslie doesn’t live here” rumour is “just same old sexism. ‘Megan’s not grounded here’ is usually their way of phrasing she doesn’t have kids.” A friend suggests to me that it’s an appeal to anti-CFA sentiment — unlike Filmore, Leslie didn’t grow up in Nova Scotia, so she’s suspect. But I don’t know what’s implied by the rumour — no one is stating out loud why they’re saying it, so who knows?
Look, vote for whoever you want. But whispering campaigns spreading lies are bullshit. We’re better than that.
In the harbour
The cruise ships Celebrity Summit (up to 2,450 passengers), Caribbean Princess (up to 3,080 passengers), Brilliance of the Seas (up to 2,501 passengers), and Aidadiva (up to 2,050 passengers) are in port today. Over 10,000 tourists here for six hours.
I’m off immediately after publishing, so may not get to comments and social media for a while.