In the Before Times, November was when the Halifax Examiner held our annual subscription drive. We’d annoyingly urge you to subscribe all month, then hold a party for subscribers, usually at Bearly’s — Joel Plaskett and his dad played at one party, Linden MacIntyre spoke at another.
The parties were great fun! The Examiner crew got to meet the people who make our work possible, and subscribers seemed happy to meet each other. I miss the parties.
But then the pandemic came, so we passed on the party last year. And it still feels a bit premature to have a big gathering. I can see the headlines now: “COVID outbreak started at Halifax Examiner party,” and that’d be my own reporting. A bit awkward.
So once again we’re going to forgo the subscriber party. That leaves just the annoyingly-urging-you-to-subscribe-all-month part.
Well, this year we’re going to (mostly) get other people to annoyingly urge you to subscribe all month; we’ll drop those messages into Morning File each day.
Alas, we don’t have any premiums for subscribers this year. As I understand it, the Borg has swallowed up all the union shops we used to get our T-shirts and such from and now it’s all being made by slave labourers, so we’re trying to find better sources. We’ll have new swag when we work all that out.
I’ll just quickly mention that through the pandemic and the mass murders and a bunch of other stuff that changed everything, we’ve been in perpetual growth and re-organizing for two years, with the aim of providing more and better reporting. I hope that you’ve found the Examiner helpful in these trying times; we’ve certainly tried to be there for you.
None of this would have been possible were it not for the support of subscribers, and we much appreciate that support. If we can increase the subscriber base enough, we’ll be able to hire more writers and embark on still-more ambitious projects. Thanks so much!
1. The Houston government and race
“The news late last week that a Tory staffer had been fired for making racist comments about Liberal MLA Angela Simmonds is interesting on a number of levels,” writes Stephen Kimber:
First, of course, is that it happened at all. Not that the racist comments were made. But that they had consequences.
It was clearly the right thing to do. But it has become even more right — and more urgent — in light of the Houston government’s out-of-the-gate stumbles on the issue of race.
This article is for subscribers. Click here to subscribe.
On Fridays, the Examiner publishes a weekly recap of the ongoing pandemic situation. New cases are increasingly concentrated among children too young to be vaccinated.
The Chief Medical Officer of Health in Newfoundland and Labrador, Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, tweeted out over the weekend that an outbreak on the Burin Peninsula in that province is primarily among those under 12. “Until now, the evidence indicated that COVID-19 cases in schools were more often the result of transmission that occurred in the community,” she wrote. “This is changing. [An Eastern Health, the health authority for the region] investigation into the current outbreak revealed the spread of COVID-19 occurred in school, throughout grades K-6. Several other Canadian jurisdictions are also reporting outbreaks in schools as well as a rising proportion of COVID-19 cases in children under age 12. ”
Nova Scotia’s Public Health has not made such a report, at least not publicly.
It feels like we’re all just waiting around for the vaccine to be available for kids.
In other COVID news, Jennifer Henderson reports this morning that Public Health has dropped the rule for proof of vaccines at soup kitchens.
This comes after Public Health was pressured by a group calling itself the Nova Scotia Coalition for Justice and Freedom — which insists it is not an antivaxxer group but rather a “defender of civil liberties and an advocate for social justice.”
Hope Cottage manager Terry Power is not amused. “Nothing that happens here is news to the people who come here every day,” Power to Henderson. “Nobody is complaining. But people who don’t come here or don’t understand what we do are the ones who are complaining.”
From a subscriber: Sarah Riley
I’ve never been so grateful for the work of the Halifax Examiner. Trying to navigate life during a global pandemic has made it ever more obvious how important access to timely, accurate, local information really is.
But it’s not just the COVID updates I appreciate. My everyday work is focused on how to promote a more sustainable and equitable future — and there’s no achieving it without responsible, accountable government and institutions, which usually only get that way by being held up to public scrutiny by a high quality local news source. Independent local journalism is more vital than it’s ever been in empowering communities to speak up and play a part.
The role of the Halifax Examiner and its excellent, in-depth work to cover local stories no one else is covering is foundational to the better future we’re working toward. If you’re not reading your local news here, you’re missing out on that and more.
3. Northern Pulp
Colchester County council had a meeting last week to discuss supposed “misinformation” about its contract for processing wastewater from Northern Pulp in its sewage plant, but when the issue came up for discussion, the staffer assigned to the chore simply submitted a “Frequently Asked Questions” (FAQ) report that gave the details of the contract.
“But Mayor Christine Blair didn’t leave it there,” writes Joan Baxter:
Addressing Council, Blair said, “I know there have been a couple of media stories. One in the local Truro News that was accurate, based on the information that was passed on to them from our director through me.”
Then came this.
“And the other was kind of [pauses] different, shall I say, ” said Blair.
“Truth was almost an option,” she quipped.
The first media story on the subject — and the only one that addressed it in depth — was the September 7, 2021 Halifax Examiner article, “Wastewater from Northern Pulp’s hibernating paper mill is being discharged into the Bay of Fundy.”
To begin, the FAQ document developed for Council on the disposal of Northern Pulp refutes absolutely nothing contained in the Halifax Examiner article.
Baxter then details her thorough reporting process, and continues:
So what did Blair mean when she told Council that “truth was only an option” in the Examiner article?
To find out, after the meeting ended, I wrote to Blair and asked her four questions…
There was no answer, so the next day I sent the questions again, and also asked her what the “misinformation” in Agenda Item 15 referred to.
Again, no answer.
We get this a lot in the reporting business. People don’t like us reporting about things, so they say mean things about us and say our reporting is “misinformation.” We actually care about our reporting; we’re human, and so therefore despite our best efforts sometimes make mistakes, and when that happens we try to correct the record. So we ask, ‘hey, what’d we get wrong?’ But when no response comes, we know the complainer is full of, well, hot air.
But Northern Pulp is doing more just than spearheading a propaganda offensive in the province.
And at the same time, incredibly, Northern Pulp is preparing to sue the pants off the province for an estimated $450 million in lost profits because the mill didn’t manage to put forward a decent proposal for a new effluent treatment that passed muster and earned environmental approval from the province, and telling us we should be pleased because the huge settlement — more than a hundred million dollars — would mean the multi-billionaire corporate empire behind Paper Excellence will be able to afford to modernize and restart the mill.
4. Ultra-large container ships, fires, and the insurance industry
Back in June, which seems like 20 years ago, I wrote about my skepticism that “ultra-large” container ships would overtake the shipping industry:
Speaking of “ultra-large vessels,” the CMA CGM Brazil is scheduled to arrive in port tomorrow morning at 4am. This is a really big ship — it can carry just over 15,000 containers; in comparison, most of the container ships that call in Halifax can carry 4-5,000 containers. When the CMA CGM Brazil first visited Halifax and the US east coast ports of New York, Norfolk, and Savannah last September, it was the largest ship to ever call at those ports.
Last month, however, its sister ship, the CMA CGM Marco Polo, eclipsed the “biggest ship” record at all those east coast ports (including Halifax). The Marco Polo can carry just over 16,000 containers.
But I wonder what the future of these giant ships is. Most of the container ships that call in Halifax have a turnaround of between six and 12 hours from the time they arrive until the time they leave; when the Marco Polo was here, the turnaround time was just over 24 hours. I don’t think that was because it was unloading or loading any more containers than other ships do in Halifax — the bulk of the goods on all the ships travel on to US ports — but rather because it’s logistically complicated to move the containers around on the supersized ships…
The Marco Polo was berthed at the Pier 41/42 jetty next to Point Pleasant Park. Usually, that pier can handle two or even three ships, but when the Marco Polo was here, it consumed the entire pier, such that no other ships could be processed there.
All of which is to say, economies of scale work, until they don’t. Big isn’t always better.
In August, Mary Campbell at the Cape Breton Spectator drew our attention to a New York Times piece written in March that had made essentially the same argument. Wrote Campbell:
I would you point you to this March 2021 New York Times article by economist and historian Marc Levinson, author of The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger,” writes Campbell. “Levinson was writing about the Ever Given, the container ship that got stuck in the Suez Canal, which he viewed as a metaphor for the problems with long-distance supply chains.” Writes Levinson:
Meanwhile, the ultralarge container ships like Ever Given that have entered the world’s fleet over the past few years have made long value chains even more problematic. These vessels, some carrying as much cargo as 12,000 trucks, steam more slowly than their predecessors. The complexity of loading and unloading often puts them behind schedule, and the sheer number of boxes moved on and off a single ship tangles ports and delays deliveries.
So long-distance trade is slower and less reliable than it was two decades ago…
In globalization’s next stage, ships carrying metal boxes full of stuff will no longer be at the center of the story.
Campbell has stayed focused on the issue, and inspired by the fire aboard the Zim Kingston off Vancouver (which by current standards is a small ship, maybe a quarter of the size of the new mega ships), she wondered what the insurance industry thinks about the super-sized ships, and wrote about it Friday (after first bringing us the delightful story of the book Whiskey Galore!):
It turns out that fire is a “key issue” with vessels over 100GT — of the 49 such vessels lost in 2020, foundering (24) was the leading cause, but fire/explosion was second (10), hitting a four-year high. In his presentation on the risks faced by these vessels, Captain Rahul Khanna, AGCS global head of marine risk consulting, said:
One of the key issues we’ve seen on the larger vessels has been fire. I think 2019 saw one of the largest numbers of fires on the mega-vessels. It was something like a fire every 10 days and 2020 hasn’t really cooled off…because 2020 saw, I think, one fire every two weeks…And these numbers are staggering in the sense that, we have always had fire as a key peril but, focusing on mega-vessels and big vessels, fire is becoming such a big problem because the methods…in which…we traditionally dealt with fires are probably no longer applicable on these behemoths.
The AGCS report says:
Container ship fires often start in containers, which can be the result of non declaration or mis-declaration of hazardous cargo, such as self igniting charcoal, chemicals and batteries. When mis-declared, these might be improperly packed and stowed on board, which can result in ignition and/or complicate detection and firefighting. The other contributing factor is the fire detection and fighting capabilities relative to the size of the vessel. Major incidents have shown container fires can easily get out of control and result in the crew abandoning the vessel on safety grounds, thus increasing the size of loss.
I’d read elsewhere that insurance companies were putting the brakes on any further growth in the size of container vessels but it was interesting to hear insurance executives themselves discussing just how catastrophic an accident involving a 24,000 TEU container vessel would be. This year’s report, for instance, noted that had it not been possible to free the Ever Given — the 18,000 container-vessel that got stuck in the Suez canal in March — bringing in specialized cranes to remove those containers would have cost hundreds of millions of dollars.
Then Campbell brings us this 2019 report from AGCS which “created a worst-case scenario involving a collision between a cruise ship and a container ship in an ‘environmentally-sensitive location’ that resulted in a $4 billion loss for the imaginary company insuring both vessels.
As with the Examiner, the Cape Breton Spectator is subscriber supported, and so this article is behind the Spectator’s paywall. Click here to purchase a subscription to the Spectator, or click on the photo below to get a joint subscription to both the Spectator and the Examiner.
1. Debbie Carleton
Judy Haiven writes about Debbie Carleton, a former Halifax cop who suffers from severe PTSD, and yet who can’t seem to get proper treatment. Explains Haiven:
Seventeen years earlier, when Halifax and Dartmouth police forces amalgamated into Halifax Regional Police (HRP), the union and management agreed to withdraw from the province-wide Workers’ Compensation plan. Instead, HRP brought in their own self-insured plan. The HRP, or employer’s plan, was supposed to mirror the WC coverage and even give claimants some improved benefits. But it also meant every treatment, every drug and every health benefit required by a police officer who suffered an OJI (on-the-job-injury) had to be sanctioned by the employer. Arguably, there was no arm’s length relationship between the employer — including the police chief — and their knowledge of an officer’s personal medical condition.
It’s a complex story, but through it all, Carleton’s humanity seems to have been discarded or ignored by the process. Read the whole story here.
The Washington Post yesterday published “RED FLAGS: As Trump propelled his supporters to Washington, law enforcement agencies failed to heed mounting warnings about violence on Jan. 6.”
Sixteen reporters are given bylines in the Post’s investigation, with 20 others contributing, and the investigation is “based on interviews with more than 230 people and thousands of pages of court documents and internal law enforcement reports, as well as hundreds of videos, photographs and audio clips.” So it covers a wide range of material, some of it already known, but much of it newly reported. The opening is especially harrowing:
The head of intelligence at D.C.’s homeland security office was growing desperate. For days, Donell Harvin
and his team had spotted increasing signs that supporters of President Donald Trump were planning violence when Congress met to formalize the electoral college vote, but federal law enforcement agencies did not seem to share his sense of urgency. On Saturday, Jan. 2, he picked up the phone and called his counterpart in San Francisco, waking Mike Sena before dawn.
Sena listened with alarm. The Northern California intelligence office he commanded had also been inundated with political threats flagged by social media companies, several involving plans to disrupt the joint session or hurt lawmakers on Jan. 6.
He organized an unusual call for all of the nation’s regional homeland security offices — known as fusion centers — to find out what others were seeing. Sena expected a couple dozen people to get on the line that Monday. But then the number of callers hit 100. Then 200. Then nearly 300. Officials from nearly all 80 regions, from New York to Guam, logged on.
In the 20 years since the country had created fusion centers in response to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Sena couldn’t remember a moment like this. For the first time, from coast to coast, the centers were blinking red. The hour, date and location of concern was the same: 1 p.m., the U.S. Capitol, Jan. 6.
Harvin asked his counterparts to share what they were seeing. Within minutes, an avalanche of new tips began streaming in. Self-styled militias and other extremist groups in the Northeast were circulating radio frequencies to use near the Capitol. In the Midwest, men with violent criminal histories were discussing plans to travel to Washington with weapons.
Forty-eight hours before the attack, Harvin began pressing every alarm button he could. He invited the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Homeland Security, military intelligence services and other agencies to see the information in real time as his team collected it. He took another extreme step: He asked the city’s health department to convene a call of D.C.-area hospitals and urged them to prepare for a mass casualty event. Empty your emergency rooms, he said, and stock up your blood banks.
This is what an independent media can do best. It’s fantastic work.
It’s important that the events of Jan. 6 and before be detailed, and that the perpetrators be prosecuted. We can’t let this drop into the memory hole: there was an attempted coup in the United States, and it came damn close to be successful. Had Vice President Mike Pence acceded to Trump’s demands, or had Pence or others been murdered, the US right now would be in the midst of full civil war.
We should learn from history. The Jan. 6 insurrection was much better organized than Hitler’s Beer Hall Putsch, which was readily put down, but nonetheless the Nazis regrouped and eventually took control of Germany.
No doubt the insurrectionists have likewise learned from the events of Jan. 6 and, if they’re not stopped now, will be back for a second attempt.
Private and Local Bills (Monday, 10:30am, Province House) — agenda here
Law Amendments (Monday, 12pm) — agenda here
Legislature sits (Tuesday, 1pm)
Pre-Conference Event for 2023 Universities Studying Slavery Conference (Monday, 3pm) — Zoom event featuring Cikiah Thomas, Delvina Bernard, and Andrea Douglas, and Afua Cooper; keynote speaker Hilary Beckles; info and registration here
Creating a Decolonizing Archives (Monday, 5:30pm) — Raymond Frogner, Head of Archives for the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, University of Manitoba will lecture on Teams.
A new diagrammatic construction on fusion categories and applications (Tuesday, 2:30pm) — Colleen Delaney from Indiana University Bloomington will talk.
Pre-Conference Event for 2023 Universities Studying Slavery Conference (Monday, 3pm) — Zoom event featuring Cikiah Thomas, Delvina Bernard, Andrea Douglas, and Afua Cooper; keynote speaker Hilary Beckles; info and registration here
In the harbour
05:00: Conti Annapurna, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Colombo, Sri Lanka
06:00: ZIM Yokohama, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Valencia, Spain
06:00: Tropic Hope, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from St. Croix, Virgin Islands
08:30: Lady Malou, oil tanker, arrives at Imperial Oil from Beaumont, Texas
10:00: Lagrafoss, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Reykjavik, Iceland
16:30: ZIM Yokohama sails for New York
16:30: Conti Annapurna sails for New York
17:00: Acadian, oil tanker, sails from Irving Oil for sea
17:30: John J. Carrick, barge, and Leo A. McArthur, tug, sail from Cheubini dock for sea
22:00: Lagrafoss sails for Portland
Be sure to check your Halloween candy for sharp objects.