1. Election Day
It’s Election Day. Get out and vote. Or don’t. It’s a free country, and freedom includes the freedom to be disengaged.
2. Fish kill
“The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) is investigating an abnormally large fish kill near a Nova Scotia Power hydro station on the Gaspereau River, about eight kilometers from Wolfville,” reports Jennifer Henderson for the Examiner.
Nova Scotia Power is blamed for the kill — involving “tens of thousands” of gaspereau — because it increased flow through a dam so rubber duckies could race in the Apple Blossom Festival.
Click here to read “Last Gasp: Nova Scotia Power is blamed for a massive fish kill in the Gaspereau River.”
This article is behind the Examiner’s paywall and so available only to paid subscribers. Click here to purchase a subscription.
I missed it, but on May 19 Vice published a piece written by Hillary Beaumont about how the opioid crisis had not become an issue in the Nova Scotian election.
4. Murder trials
Weirdly, the election campaign has coincided with three murder trials. Quick updates:
• The William Sandeson trial is now in its seventh week. The jury has been sent home for a week, reports Natasha Pace for Global, “while the judge, crown and defence deal with some legal issues.” I haven’t been following the trial and don’t have any knowledge of what’s being discussed, but a week’s worth of voir dire — the legal term for a “hearing within a trial,” usually involving the admissibility of evidence — is a very long time, definitely unusual in my experience reporting on other murder trials.
• “The defence has elected not to call any evidence at Jimmy Melvin Jr.’s murder trial,” reports Steve Bruce for Local Xpress. Final arguments will begin tomorrow.
• The Crown has stayed murder charges against Damarqus Shane Beals, who was accused of stabbing Keya Simon to death in 2011. The trail began last week, but a key witness changed his story on Thursday, reports Bruce:
Outside court, prosecutor Scott Morrison said that during a meeting last Thursday, “it became apparent that the witness was offering a new version that was entirely inconsistent with what he had told police in the past years and with what he told the court at the preliminary inquiry.
Morrison refused to identify the witness who changed his story, but Local Xpress has learned it was Walter Madeaus Brooks.
Beals’ trial was supposed to start two weeks ago but was delayed because police couldn’t find Brooks. He came forward after Halifax Regional Police went public with a Canada-wide witness warrant for his arrest.
4. Naming the victim
When the crown dropped the case against Damarqus Shane Beals, prosecutor Scott Morrison mentioned to reporters that another witness to the 2011 murder was also the victim of an unrelated assault in North Dartmouth on Friday — in that case, 52-year-old Gerald Desmond was arrested for attempted murder after he allegedly purposefully drove his car into a 25-year-old woman near the intersection of Victoria Road and Farrell Street. The woman remains in critical condition.
Several news outlets have named the woman. I don’t know what I think about this.
I bring an American sensibility to these things — generally speaking, the more information that is public, the better. In particular, I think police withholding the names of people who have died (especially in police custody, but also those who have died on the highways and so forth) is dangerous for a free society.
Naming the victims of violent attacks is more complicated. We make exceptions for victims of sexual assaults, reflecting the enormous social and emotional toll they can have on victims. But what about assaults that are very violent but not of a sexual nature? Is it ethical to name the victim?
In the abstract, I can see both sides of the issue. The public’s right to know is important. Coincidentally, I listened to a very good and nuanced discussion of this very issue on the most recent Canadaland podcast, in which reporter Joey Coleman explains why it’s important for reporters to cover gruesome car wrecks and report on the deaths of teenagers.
But the other view makes sense, too: victims of crimes should have some privacy, especially as they struggle to rebuild their lives. If part of the healing process involves speaking publicly about their experience, that should be up to them to decide.
In this case, the woman is in hospital, reportedly hanging onto her life. We don’t know if she’ll survive or not. There’s no indication that she agreed to make her name public.
However, her well-intentioned family has started a GoFundMe campaign to raise funds to cover her life expenses — rent and the like — while the woman is in hospital. To publicize that campaign, they’ve spoken to the media.
Is that enough? The woman’s family talks to the media, and so that absolves media from withholding the victim’s name?
I don’t know.
I’m reminded of a horrific case in 2007, when a woman working the overnight shift in an Ultramar station in Dartmouth was attacked and sexually assaulted; she ended up unconscious in hospital. For whatever reason, the victim’s husband spoke with a Daily News reporter and revealed many personal details about his wife, including specific details of the assault and where she worked (she held three jobs). The reporter put those details in her article, along with the victim’s name, and the story ran under the headline “I have been stabbed and I have been raped.”
I was outraged by the Daily News story. The woman had no agency. She was in no position to agree to make her story public, and her husband speaking to a reporter didn’t absolve the paper of its responsibility to protect her identity.
I emailed the editor to express my concerns; he responded: “Her name had already been used in Canadian Press and TV and radio reports. As a general rule, we do not publish names of sexual assault victims. However, in this case, she was the victim of an attempted murder in life-threatening condition at hospital.”
I wasn’t aware that the victim’s name had been reported elsewhere, but I was even more outraged by that justification: he seemed to be saying that it is OK to release a rape victim’s name if the attack is especially vicious.
The next day, the court ordered a publication ban on the victim’s name, and all local media websites were scrubbed of it. The damage had been done, however.
I know the two cases aren’t identical. The woman struck by a car Friday was not sexually assaulted. And, she was involved as a witness in a high-profile murder case that had to be dropped. Perhaps there are legitimate and overriding reasons to publish her name.
But I worry about her lack of agency. She has not been in a position to identify herself, and I don’t think her family’s desire to do so — no matter how well-intentioned — trumps the victim’s right to decide for herself.
I’m honestly conflicted. I don’t know what the ethical journalistic decision is in this case. I hope newsrooms at least had this discussion yesterday before deciding to publish the woman’s name, but I fear they didn’t.
For me, “having the discussion” means throwing it open to readers. What do you think?
5. The Suspicious Packages
Someone left a backpack on a bench outside Pier 21 yesterday. Instead of just opening the thing and seeing that it only contained personal items, it became a big deal with yellow tape and disrupted traffic and bomb squads and dogs and such.
Here’s the ongoing chronicle of Suspicious Package sightings in Halifax:
April 2013: police closed Barrington Street after someone called in a suspicious package that turned out to be a briefcase full of bricks. This is the first use of the police robot, I think.
May 2013: a suspicious package full of something that vaguely looked electrical was discovered at the Halifax Shopping Centre, causing much mayhem and worry until a sheepish salesman explained that he had accidentally left his bag of hearing aids behind.
May 2013: a suspicious package is reported in a parking lot near Stadacona. I later wrote: “The very best in anti-terrorism technology — a water cannon-wielding robot! — is employed to blast the innocent bag someone left next to a car to smithereens. Freedumb!”
June 2014: unidentified package found near Dockyard.
May 2015: a suspicious package that closed Robie Street turned out to be a suitcase full of clothes.
May 2015: someone left a gym bag on George Street, and so the downtown core had to be shut down for two hours.
September 2015: unidentified package exploded by military police at Rainbow Gate at HMC Dockyard.
July 2016: An empty briefcase was left near the corner of Almon and Gottingen Streets, which required the efforts of the bomb squad, the closure of various streets, and police thanking everyone for being forever watchful.
July 2016: A “vigilant” citizen alerted authorities to a lunch pail left a block from where dozens of construction workers are building the Nova Centre, and so Brunswick Street was closed, ironically at lunchtime.
March 2017: two days after an attack on the British parliament, someone left something in Gorsebrook Park, and so access to and from the IWK and the Special Education Authority was limited for three hours.
May 2017: during the Youth Run associated with the Bluenose Marathon, a woman left an empty picnic basket near the fountain in the Common. Somebody mistook the basket for a suitcase and then that became a big hullabaloo, with police issuing a release looking for the woman so they could ask her why she littered.
May 2017: someone left a backpack on a bench outside Pier 21, The bomb-sniffing dog was employed and found only undescribed “personal items,” but presumably not a personal bomb.
Our culture of fear has reached ridiculous proportions. But people forget things. They lose things. They litter. It’s no devious plot to terrorize the city.
If you find a backpack somewhere, open it up and see what’s in it. Maybe you’ll help a forgetful person get their property back and save us all a big hassle and a few thousand dollars in police time. Empty picnic basket? Throw it away. I mean, come on, people. (Send dissenting views to youcan’firstname.lastname@example.org.)
An RCMP release from yesterday:
On March 11, a 54-year-old man was killed when he was struck by a vehicle while on Hwy. 125. He had been flagging motorists for help near Exit 8, Mira Road, in Cape Breton County.
RCMP Cape Breton Traffic Services has conducted an extensive investigation and has arrested a 26-year-old Sydney man for the incident.
Thomas Joseph Smith is facing the following charges:
• Failure to Stop at the Scene of a Fatal Collision
• Dangerous Operation of a Motor Vehicle Causing Death
• Criminal Negligence Causing Death (Text Messaging While Operating Motor Vehicle)
• Operating a Motor Vehicle While Disqualified
Smith was arrested on May 26 and has been held in custody. He appeared in Sydney Provincial Court today and all matters were adjourned to June 1.
Two more individuals have been arrested and released on conditions for Accessory After the Fact in relation to this incident. The RCMP expects to make more arrests later this week.
The CBC identifies the victim as Jackie Deveau, a veteran who had recently moved back to his hometown of Chéticamp.
Halifax & West Community Council (Tuesday, 6pm, City Hall) — here’s the agenda.
Halifax Green Network | Final Phase Development (Wednesday, 7pm, Sir John A. Macdonald High School, Upper Tantallon) — info here.
Endometriosis (Tuesday, 10:30am, Research Services Boardroom, IWK Health Centre) — Jane Girling, from the University of Melbourne, will speak on “Genes and Endometriosis: Informing Us About The Disease And Its Symptoms.”
Spatio-temporal Data Mining (Tuesday, 11:30am, Room 430, Goldberg Computer Science Building) — Luis Torgo, from the University of Porto, Portugal, will speak.
Innovation Exchange Series (Tuesday, 2:30pm, Dentistry 4117) — Jeremy Grimshaw and Monica Taljaard will talk about new ways of evaluating health innovations to improve uptake in “Innovations in Implementation Science.”
Again with the Innovation (Tuesday, 4pm, Room 1028, Kenneth C. Rowe Management Building) — Steve Blank will speak on “Innovation vs. Entrepreneurship: What’s the Difference and Why Does it Matter?”
Atlantic Salmon Farms (Wednesday, 11:30am, Room 430, Goldberg Computer Science Building) — Gregor McEwan, from UPEI, will speak on “Using Agent-based Modelling to Explore Evolution of Resistance to Chemotherapeutants on Atlantic Salmon Farms.” His abstract:
Simulation modelling in biology is about asking “what if?” questions. In this talk, I will describe how my colleagues and I have been using an Agent-Based Model to explore “what if?” alternatives on Atlantic salmon farms. Atlantic salmon farming is the largest aquaculture industry in the world, worth over $14 billion annually. However, one of the biggest problems facing salmon farms is infestation by sea lice. These parasites cause substantial damage to the farmed fish, and potentially to wild salmon in the area. To add to the problem, sea lice populations in most areas around the world have evolved some level of resistance to common treatment chemicals. Our work focuses on exploring influences on sea louse resistance evolution. First, I will describe salmon aquaculture and our model with more enthusiasm and detail than seems warranted. Second, I will talk about our past projects exploring some alternatives in environment and management and their effects on sea l! ouse resistance evolution. Third, I will discuss our current work on extending and calibrating the model. I will finish with some thoughts about how the model could find a place in a wider use context.
Diabetic Cardiomyopathy (Wednesday, 4pm, Theatre A, Sir Charles Tupper Medical Building) — Brian Rodrigues of UBC will speak on ““Endothelial Cell-cardiomyocyte Crosstalk in Diabetic Cardiomyopathy.”
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (Wednesday, 8pm, Dalhousie Art Gallery) — a screening of Ana Lily Amirpour’s 2014 vampire flick/ spaghetti western/ art film.
The Icarus Report
• An American flying a Beech airplane out of Moncton didn’t tighten the fuel cap sufficiently and it came off on takeoff. The pilot flew back around, landed, found the fuel cap on the runway, refuelled, and took off again.
• On Sunday, the pilot of Porter Air flight 687, flying from Toronto to Sault Ste. Marie, declared an emergency MAYDAY and shut down one engine. Emergency response and all the assorted lawyers and reporters were notified; the plane circled back and landed in one piece at Toronto, but JESUS CHRIST.
• A pilot flying a Cessna declared MAYDAY and landed in a field near the intersection of Highway 25 and Side Road 25 near Acton, Ontario (just to the right of that blue car in the photo above).
• Geese were fucking with pilots trying to land at Iqaluit.
• Different geese were fucking with different pilots trying to land in Whitecourt, Alberta.
• After the geese were chased off, a dog started roaming around the Iqaluit airport, messing with three different flights. Catching no planes, the dog tired of the game and went on its way.
• A Manitoba firefighting plane working a fire at Red Sucker Lake hit a loon. The wing of the plane was dented. The wing of the loon was presumably also dented, but probably worse so than that of the plane.
• Drones flying where they weren’t supposed to were spotted above West Vancouver and Langley, B.C.
• A helicopter crashed in a heavy fog in Saint-Zénon, Quebec, which is in the middle of nowhere about 100 kilometres north of Montreal. The pilot had to walk for four hours before he found a cabin. He was taken to hospital with serious injuries.
In the harbour
6:45am: Manon, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Southampton, England
7am: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, arrives at Pier 41 from St. John’s
11am: that secret nuclear-powered U.S. submarine no one is supposed to know about (but that we wrote about on Sunday) is sailing from Shearwater for, who knows? North Korea? Syria? Norfolk?
11:30pm: Columbia Highway, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea
I love the Icarus Report, Tim! Keep it up!????????
People don’t vote on Election Day, or many opportunities to do so beforehand, for a reason. Imagine citizens three-blind-micing it with no purpose except to cast a vote…The silent half of society is louder than ever
Parker Barss Donham’s comment “You know this is anti-science bullshit” is akin throwing rocks at himself.
Thanks Tim for your tireless work in giving me a new found fear of flying.
I did some canvassing with an NDP candidate and she was asked about the opioid crisis on the doorstep. I was very impressed with how much she knew about the file and I think the voter was too.
Voted this morning at 8:30. My unique number identifier was already crossed off the sheet, and I had to sign a special declaration that I had not already voted! This also happened to the person ahead of me in line.
It felt kind of sketchy – did someone vote in my name in the advance polls? Does the election system have a computer problem, duplicating unique voter identifier numbers? How widespread was this? During the time I was in the polling place, about 10 people voted, so 20% of us had this error come up. I felt uncomfortable signing this declaration, promising that I am not a cheat! I also feel curious about how this issue, if it is widespread, would affect voter turnout counts.
I also had to sign a declaration (also around 8:20am), but it was presented to me as “everyone has to do this” – my name was not already crossed off, and I had my voter card and ID in hand, all with correct and matching information. It seemed to me like an unnecessary and bureaucratic process, and potentially, a barrier to voting.
Perhaps the morning staff at the polling station were incorrectly trained? Was this at the Italian Cultural Centre?
I was going to simply ignore this new feature on flight issues but I do agree that it is over-the-top and veering toward an old man yelling at the TV. Keep in mind that all incidents are reported, from the trivial to the catastrophic. That flight crews follow procedures and make emergency landings and other responses to situations means that they are acting according to planned safety procedures. I am about to get on a plane, The worst part is always the theatre of airport security, quite the opposite of the reality of air travel safety. For a clear-headed perspective, see: askthepilot.com
It is always much more dangerous crossing a road in Halifax as a pedestrian or cyclist.
Naming the victim: If you live in Dog River, you learn the names of crime victims at the local Tim Horton’s, although the details will have been sensationalized because gossip is not noted for accuracy. Nonetheless, most Dog Rive rites would say it’s important to know who was attacked and where. They would say it’s important for the fabric of the community to know what’s happening to their neighbours. The same applies to larger communities, but gossip isn’t up to that job because there are so many coffee shops, So we need media to tell us when soneone we know has been attacked and where. Speaking of media, I can fabricate a story faster than I can report one. Same for the police and courts. Having to report names keeps everybody honest. A good example is that construction worker who was pushed fell off the top of the new convention centre last week by a motorcycle gang. He landed on his feet and walked away with a bruised toe, apparently saved by a cushion of air created by the Glory Hole. He asked me to withhold his name, though, and I agreed because it was the responsible thing to do.
I love to fly… I just hate the part that comes before and after.
Tim’s compilation of aircraft-related incidents doesn’t strike me as too much “the sky is falling” – I get a kick out of his cathartic (?) expression of his fears, done in a humorous fashion.
In a few weeks, my wife, son and I will be embarking on our annual 19-hour, multi-stop trip home to Nova Scotia to see family and hunt for a job that will enable me to escape this narco-filled desert in which I find myself. Do me a favour, folks: elect a decent bunch of folks to office today, and get the economy fixed up in the next six weeks or so. Daddy needs a nice new job back home.
I enjoy the Icarus report…entertaining and informative. And if it frightens someone from flying they were already afraid.
The Icarus Report is sort of grimly funny – although it actually underlines how safe most commercial air travel actually is.
The MUCH MORE TERRIFYING thing is that the highways are full of people who will run you down because they were texting and then leave you to die by the side of the road because they’re already on a suspended license. And this guy wasn’t even drunk, it seems!
I’m a nervous wreck on planes but I know that the roads are far more dangerous.
I agree. Well it was grimly funny, a little bit, the first couple of times, but repeating these lists every day: see P. Donham comments. I happen to love the magic of flying, and I refuse to complain about the inconveniences that accompany commercial air travel, because it is a magical gateway to far away lands that I must visit before I die (more likely run down by a texting millennial in HRM).
By the way, texting IS the new drunk.
I am beginning to rethink flying anywhere….
This perfectly illustrates my point. Lu is rethinking the world’s safest mode of travel in favor of less safe modes after exposure to your misleadingly selective and uncontextualized reporting. How is this different from Fox News fearmongering about terrorism, Muslims, or immigrants?
Well, in a grand-scheme of things view, air travel is certainly the most dangerous way to travel in the world. The pollutants emitted from planes will guarantee the deaths of millions of people, mostly poor, around the world. They are one of the most emission-intensive forms of travel.
It borders on journalistic malpractice to indulge the publisher’s irrational fear of the safest mode of transportation by cherry-picking a handful of uncontextualized incidents every day (most of them trivial, most of them far from Halifax, your usual beat).
This is akin to anti-vaxxers publishing cherry-picked incidents of bad things that happen to a handful of children out of hundreds of millions vaccinated.
You know this is anti-science bullshit. Cut it out.
Just looking at U.S. figures is eye-opening (and truly frightening for people who travel by road.)
On average about 96 people die every day in the U.S. in motor vehicle crashes.
“There were 32,166 fatal motor vehicle crashes in the United States in 2015 in which 35,092 deaths occurred. This resulted in 10.9 deaths per 100,000 people and 1.13 deaths per 100 million miles traveled.” http://www.iihs.org/iihs/topics/t/general-statistics/fatalityfacts/state-by-state-overview
“The majority of aviation fatalities that occur each year (85%) involved private aircraft (known as “general aviation”). On average, 549 people die each year in activities such as recreational flying (41% of flight hours), business travel (24%), and instruction (17%).
“Excluding acts of suicide and terrorism, commercial aviation was the safest mode of travel in the United States, with 0.07 fatalities per billion passenger miles: “A person who took a 500-mile flight every single day for a year, would have a fatality risk of 1 in 85,000.”
A more detailed comparison of transportation fatality stats in the U.S. is available at: http://www.iihs.org/iihs/topics/t/general-statistics/fatalityfacts/state-by-state-overview
My guess is the same general ratio of fatality rates apply for mass *ground* transportation versus people driving their own cars. Much safer to take the train or the bus.
Yes, buses and trains are much safer Tim. Once again, U.S. figures:
“Vehicles with a capacity of 10 passengers or more represented just 0.1% of the total fatalities. On average, there were approximately 40 fatalities per year, with drivers and other bus-company employees representing 25% of lives lost.
Scheduled and charter service accounted for 44% of total bus fatalities. The balance of deaths occurred with school buses (23%), urban transit (11%) and a variety of private shuttles, church buses and other services (22%).
The fatality rate per billion passenger-miles for buses is relatively low, 0.11. However, this is still 65% greater than that for aviation, and doesn’t include victims of crime.”
“Mainline railroads claimed an average of 876 lives a year, the majority of which occur during collisions with highway users and pedestrians. The largest number of deaths, 490, involve people and vehicles not at grade crossings, and a significant portion of those deaths, approximately 85 to 110, were possibly suicides.
The balance of rail-related deaths involve motorists at grade crossings (281), pedestrians at grade crossings (68) employees and contractors working on the tracks (26). Per year on average, only seven passengers traveling on mainline trains die.
The overall fatality rate for long-haul train service is 0.43 per billion passenger miles. Excluding pedestrians and others not on trains — 64% of total fatalities assigned to railroads — the fatality rate is approximately 0.15 per billion passenger miles.”
My only comment is that passenger miles may not be the best indicator here. I’d like to see stats for passenger *trips*. Of course big planes are much safer than small planes in terms of passenger miles because they travel so much farther per trip. Somebody has a Cessna, flies out of and back into the same airport most of the time, so passenger miles are essentially zero. Or, they fly to the next town over, 40 kilometres or what have you. Same general problem with bus or train stats versus cars. We use our cars to go very short distances, lots and lots of trips.
And then there’s comparing air passenger miles stats to car passenger mile stats, which is comparing apples and oranges. Nobody gets in a plane to fly to the corner store to get a carton of milk, and no one drives to Europe.
I also very much doubt the stat that “it’s safer to fly than to drive to the airport.” Has anyone actually done on study on people driving *to the airport*? Driving generally might have one set of risks, where driving to the airport might have another. On the one hand, it’s probably mostly highway driving, so somewhat safer (I’m guessing) than driving around town, but on the other hand, travellers might be in more of a hurry, tired, and travelling without enough sleep, so it could be more dangerous. We just don’t know.
Regarding your comment below: If you don’t want to use the distances/travelled standard, which is a commonly accepted measure, you could use deaths per 100,000 of population.
In the case of motor vehicles in the U.S., the 2015 figure was 35,092 or 10.9 deaths per 100,000.
By my rough calculation, the annual U.S. death rate per 100,000 in air transportation is about 0.17 per 100,000.
I’d never thought about disengagement being a choice. You’re right, though I believe it to be the wrong choice. To each his/her own…
It IS a free country, you CAN be politically engaged and you can choose NOT to vote. (For the record I just got back from my polling station after casting my vote).