1. COVID-19 surge
The last few times I have written the Morning File, the daily COVID-19 report has been fairly far down on the page, because there just wasn’t all that much to report.
But that has changed, with 25 new cases announced yesterday.
There had been rumours that the new COVID-19 numbers for Nova Scotia would be bad. That, combined with a long delay in the release of the figures, certainly had me on the edge of my seat and made it hard to focus on writing. I think a lot of us were sitting at our desk hitting “refresh.”
As usual, Tim Bousquet has all the COVID-19 news in his daily update. Of the 25 cases, 19 are in the Central Zone, and the school-based cases continue to increase. Bousquet writes:
Three of today’s Central Zone cases were the school-based cases announced yesterday — at Dartmouth South Academy, Auburn Drive High, and Mount Edward Elementary. One of today’s cases, however, is a new school-based case at Joseph Giles Elementary in Dartmouth; the school will remain closed until Tuesday.
Additionally, one of today’s Central Zone cases is a staff member at Ocean View Continuing Care Centre, a nursing home in Eastern Passage. “All residents were offered vaccinations and the majority of residents accepted full vaccination with two doses of COVID-19 vaccine,” according to a provincial press release.
(Since Bousquet’s piece was published, new cases have been confirmed at Shannon Park Elementary and Bell Park Academic Centre.)
There are a whole lot of COVID-19 advisories. Please take a look at the map, and take appropriate action if you were at any of the places mentioned at the relevant times.
I am certainly not the only one to notice this, but there doesn’t seem to be much consistency in the level of information released about positive cases. Remember when Tim Bousquet asked chief medical officer of health Dr. Robert Strang if he could provide any details on how transmission occurred in two school cases? Strang was pretty snippy, saying people entrust public health with their private information, and he was going to do his utmost to protect it. (Obviously, that’s an understandable and laudable goal, and he later apologized for his irritation at the question.) But in the last week we have gotten quite specific information in some cases, such as knowing that a staff member at a specific long-term care home has tested positive.
The other big news of course, is that the International Ice Hockey Federation’s Women’s World Championship, slated to be held in Nova Scotia, has been cancelled. The decision has resulted in this rather sad graphic appearing on the IIHF homepage.
That’s some countdown.
There is a provincial COVID-19 briefing set for 1:30 this afternoon, and it seems like some new restrictions will be announced. It is refreshing that these briefings now start on time. Is Stephen McNeil chronically late in general, or did he read some kind of middle management bullshit about keeping people waiting as a power move?
Finally, Bousquet seems to have fired off a Twitter thread on available vaccine appointments, while drinking his morning coffee. The issue is that people see a lot of open appointment slots and assume each of these equals one vaccine dose going to waste. But is that the case? Bousquet doesn’t think so.
I think what’s happening is a pharmacy will get, say, 200 doses, and so they make available, say, 500 possible appointment times. This gives potential appointment makers the greatest flexibility.
The pharmacist is there anyway. They want to encourage people to come get shots, but they don’t want to overbook for any one time slot, so they offer more times than there are doses.
This doesn’t mean vaccine isn’t being administered.
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2. Re-fund the police
I’ve said this before, but Zane Woodford writes a hell of a lead. His latest:
After hearing from a long list of speakers opposed to any increase in funding for the police, Halifax councillors turned around and added money to the Halifax Regional Police budget.
Woodford reports on yesterday’s budget committee meeting, at which councillors decided to spend $85,000 to a hire a Halifax Regional Police employee on a one-year term, to study the use of body-worn cameras. Yes, someone working for the police will write this report. This after the Board of Police Commissioners decided in January to not move forward with the HRP plan to bring in the use of cameras.
This is my favourite bit from Woodford’s story:
At the start of Wednesday’s meeting, 18 people used the public portion at the beginning of the virtual session to ask councillors not to add any money to the police budget. Many of the speakers said the police should be able to pay for the position using their existing budget, and argued that body-worn cameras have already been proven ineffective in multiple studies.
Later in the meeting, Coun. Tony Mancini acknowledged the speakers’ concerns, but moved to add the $85,000 to the police budget.
“What’s the intent of the body-worn camera? It is not to stop racism or change police behaviour or even change citizen behaviour or reform police. It’s about evidence,” Mancini said.
Coun. Shawn Cleary said the municipality needs the report. He said he would support the funding “in spite of the correspondence we’ve received and also the folks this morning who presented to the budget committee on this particular issue about defunding the police.”
Woodford notes that the committee also voted on funding a bunch of projects through the deed transfer tax, including an anti-Black racism strategy and ebooks for the public library.
(Also, I recognize that my headline is inaccurate, because in order to re-fund the police you would have had to do some de-funding first, which, of course, has not happened.)
Montreal has been on this body-worn camera rollercoaster for a few years, with a report recommending against them, and mayor Val Plante being opposed in the past, though now she has changed her mind and favours them.
There is a good little piece in Ricochet by Julianna Duholke arguing against the cameras and in favour of spending in communities:
Throughout this past year, during which police brutality has been in the spotlight, “body cameras!” has been Plante’s go-to response in the face of racist, and often deadly, attacks by police.
But the events are already being filmed. Suggesting that the assault in Jeanne-Mance this weekend needed even more footage is a despicable excuse for a solution. Plante suggested the incident needed more context, but in what context would be it acceptable for an unarmed biker to be choked by a group of police officers?
The excellent Citations Needed podcast recently ran an episode called ” The House Always Wins — How Every Crisis Narrative Enriches the Security and Carceral State.” (Link to audio and transcript here.) Hosts Adam Johnson and Nima Shirazi look at how calls for limiting police over-reach almost always wind up with more money going to police. Shirazi says:
You see it with mental health. There’s an article in Governing magazine that says this, quote, “In the country as a whole, mental health situations are responsible for about 1 in 10 police calls. Many stem from undiagnosed conditions unknown to police and first responders.” So Furthermore, in the wake of calls to defund the police this past summer, you had Kathleen Peters, a Congresswoman from Florida, writing in the Tampa Bay Times that what’s needed is surely not to defund the police, but to give them more funding, writing this, quote: “Don’t defund the police. Do this instead.”
And what she advocated for is this, with this kind of amazing intro:
Quote: “People with untreated mental health illness are 16 times more likely to be killed during a police encounter, but there are solutions… In Pinellas County, we must swiftly fund a better system of care — a comprehensive system with easy access to services.”
So obviously, this better system of care is not to take money away from police and give it to say healthcare professionals or social workers or people who can actually treat those in need in a different, less violent way then police often do, again, 16 times more likely to be killed. No, no, no, she advocates for funding the police to just do this better. So it’s this new line that we see all the time now, which is for all of these crises, whether it’s the opioid crisis or mental health or homelessness, we hear the same thing: we can’t arrest and jail our way out of this but the only solution is still to give more money to the people whose job it is to do those two things specifically and are not trained, nor should they be, in doing the other less violent, less carceral things.
3. How are the babies doing?
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Yvette d’Entremont brings us a story about a new study on how caregivers of infants fared early in the pandemic — and what that can teach us for the future.
d’Entremont speaks with Kyly Whitfield, an assistant professor of applied human nutrition at Mount Saint Vincent University and director of the Milk and Micronutrient Assessment Lab (MAMA Lab).
Whitfield’s study is based on a survey of caregivers (99% of them mothers) in Nova Scotia. The survey results were not quite what Whitfield had expected, she tells d’Entremont:
“There was a lot of worry and concern coming from moms, but not lots of actions that would be adverse for the infant. We were worried that if there were financial constraints, that there might be inappropriate foods being given to babies,” Whitfield explained.
“For example, introducing solids too early or giving cow’s milk instead of formula. We didn’t really see much of that, we just saw a lot of fretting and a lot of feelings of isolation from the parents.”
Anyone who has been home with an infant knows just how isolating it can be. So add to that the isolation of the early pandemic, and you have the potential for some serious trouble.
It’s so clear that when the in-person visits were taken away, that was a shock to the community, and I think this kind of reiterates the need to have in-person prenatal care, in-person postpartum care, and to put supports in to really support families in those first few months postpartum,” Whitfield said in an interview.
“This is a critical period for establishing breastfeeding and for supporting families, and when those in-person supports were removed, it was really felt by families throughout Nova Scotia.”
It’s an interesting story, and includes Whitfield’s thoughts on what we can do to prevent this kind of isolation for new mothers and others caring for infants in the future.
4. Local reaction to Chauvin verdict
Global has a story on reaction to Derek Chauvin’s being found guilty of murder in the death of George Floyd. (Rather oddly, the story is listed under “Lifestyle.”)
Reporter Tim Roszell speaks to Sylvia Parris-Drummond, CEO of the Delmore “Buddy” Daye Learning Institute:
She said the next step is for justice officials to examine policies and procedures that made racist behaviour commonplace and redefine them.
Parris-Drummond tells Roszell it’s not enough to say “Black Lives Matter.” You need to define what that means:
“Does that mean that you’re prepared to ensure that people with knowledge, with experience, education levels — however you want to mix that thing up — are in positions to make change?” she asked. “Are you going to make it so that, not only are you going to hear what’s said, you’re going to actively listen and implement what’s said?
5. Adsum is providing emergency apartments for families
Elizabeth Chiu at CBC has a story on one of the ways Adsum for Women and Children is helping families with nowhere to live, and keeping them out of shelters.
Chiu says families without housing tend to not be visible, because they rarely live on the streets. Her story focuses on Caitlyn Lethbridge and Myles Benn, who went from couch-surfing to living in a tent while Lethbridge was in the third trimester of her pregnancy.
Eventually, they got into an emergency apartment provided as part of an Adsum program. Chiu writes:
It’s an emergency apartment, one of 12 scattered around the municipality that are leased by Adsum for Women and Children, a non-profit charity that shelters and houses 300 people a year. The crisis lodgings are part of a program called Diverting Families that’s aimed at steering families away from the trauma of entering a shelter…
Adsum’s Diverting Families program costs $575,000 a year, covering expenses such as rent, utilities, furniture and temporary stays in hotel. It also helps families as they move into their own housing by taking care of damage deposits, first month’s rent, and other costs.
Now, the couple have their own place, just down the hall:
Without references, jobs or a rental history, the couple likely would’ve been turned away if not housed first on an emergency basis, said landlord Karim George.
There’s a lot more to the story. Chiu deftly moves between Benn’s and Lethbridge’s story and the larger issues. It is worth a read.
1. Does it matter if Bob Dylan is your dad?
The piece is called “The Silent Type: On (possibly) being Bob Dylan’s son.” Sussman, who was born in 1991, starts off by recounting the story of his mother’s affair (“dating”) with Bob Dylan, at the time when Dylan was writing Blood on the Tracks, perhaps his best album. They met when Dylan started coming to a painting class she was in, taught by Norman Raeben.
Dylan has talked about the influence of that class on his songwriting for the album. A 2018 New Yorker piece says:
While he was writing the songs for “Blood on the Tracks,” Dylan had taken up painting classes with the New York artist Norman Raeben. By all accounts, Raeben was a taskmaster, but he imparted in his students a sense both that life itself was the art, with their creations being merely the by-product of that experience, and, significantly for Dylan, that past, present, and future could all coexist in their work. “He put my mind and my hand and my eye together, in a way that allowed me to do consciously what I unconsciously felt,” Dylan told Rolling Stone in 1978, of Raeben’s influence on his songwriting approach.
After one class, Sussman writes, Dylan asked his mother if she would host a party:
It didn’t make much sense: she lived in a third-floor walk-up in the East 70s; he was Bob Dylan. He came to her apartment in red cowboy boots. People drank and chatted and left around 2 am. Dylan closed the door behind the last guest with a flick of his boot and turned to face my mother. So began a year of what she would later politely refer to as “dating.”
In that East 70s walk-up, they painted and read poetry, and talked very little about the fact that he was married. He often called at odd hours to play the music he was assembling into what would become Blood on the Tracks. Once, she read him Petrarch while they smoked, which is the only time she seems to have made it into his lyrics
She lit a burner on the stove
and offered me a pipe
“I thought you’d never say hello,” she said,
“You look like the silent type.”
Then she opened up a book of poems
and handed it to me
written by an Italian poet
from the thirteenth century
and every one of them words rang true
and glowed like burnin’ coal
pourin’ off of every page
like it was written in my soul
from me to you
tangled up in blue
This is the hook that draws us into the essay. Oh my God! That verse from Tangled Up in Blue is about his mother!
But what follows is an incredibly powerful piece on identity and self-perception, on Sussman’s own growth as a writer, and — most importantly — on his relationship with his mother. (You will have noticed that Sussman was born nearly 20 years after his mother’s relationship with Dylan, but she says they met up again in 1990.)
As a teenager, Sussman is constantly being told by people he looks like Bob Dylan. One of his teachers emails him in the middle of the night to say he is watching a documentary on Dylan and is struck by the resemblance. And Sussman, like many kids, partly creates a secret identity around a tantalizing “what if.”
As Sussman puts it:
What more satisfying validation could there be for a shy, Jewish, vegetarian, bullied teenager than a secret lineage from the greatest bard of our age? Dylan was the rare celebrity I could identify with: a Jew fluent in the tradition but rooted in rural America, a storyteller as unbridled by form as every young writer wants to be, a defiant political voice resistant to sloganeering, a freewheeler moving between cultures at his own chosen speed. “I was raised in the country, I been working in the town,” Dylan sings in “Mississippi,” “I been in trouble ever since I set my suitcase down.” When I read in Chronicles: Volume One that Dylan told Columbia Records he had come into New York on a freight train, I knew that if I ever made it to Manhattan I’d claim the same damn thing. There were worse people whose secret child I might be.
In those days, I read everything I could about Dylan, and I soon discovered the maze of his private life, the secret marriages and unaccounted-for children. Could these conspiring facts—Dylan’s profligacy, the 1990 reunion, our canny resemblance—really be coincidence? And if there were others, all the better: I had plenty of practice with half- and step-siblings. I would fit in just fine with the motley crew of secret Dylan offspring, this club of father-hungry poets drawn together by the exclusive invitation of the accident of our births.
I don’t want to quote more from this essay because it is exceptionally well-written, and I encourage you to read it. You don’t even have to like Bob Dylan to enjoy it, although the scene where Sussman and his mother go to see Dylan live is great. The essay is a coming-of-age piece, a meditation on growing up, and a love letter to his mother. I read a lot of creative non-fiction, so I appreciate it when I come across something this good.
Harper’s Magazine roundly rejected the idea that information should be free, so there is a pretty hard paywall, but you can also read (I believe) one free article a month. If you’re going to read one, I would make it this one.
As an aside (I have been told I meander somewhat when writing these things), I’ve had an on-again/off-again relationship with Harper’s for years. I was a faithful subscriber through much of my 20s, but eventually tired of a lot of the liberal-professor-type stories. Plus, would it kill them to publish more women? I subscribed and unsubscribed a few times, and haven’t had a print subscription for years now. (Although I did at one point subscribe to the digital edition through the public library. A great service.) The Harper’s letter on cancel culture and the patrician superiority of publisher John Macarthur (who crushed a union drive) are hard to take too. And if you want to throw up in your mouth a little bit, see if you can find the Anna Maria Tremonti interview with him on #MeToo.
But whenever I feel like I’ve kind of forgotten about the magazine, I run into a great piece of writing from it.
Last month, the New York Times ran a story on the magazine, which looked at some of these contradictions and called Harper’s “media’s oddest workplace.” It is definitely worth a read as well.
2. Bicycle registration was always about racism
We can’t even ride bikes now… I’m not surprised. I’m just angry. pic.twitter.com/xcAR8zmnuP
— Caramel skin ass dude! (@deep_dab) April 19, 2021
Over the last few days I have repeatedly seen people sharing the video above. It came from TikTok, posted by Christian Orozco. It shows Black youth in Perth Amboy, NJ who have been stopped by the police, having their bicycles confiscated because they are not licenced. One of them is arrested and seen led away in handcuffs.
In the video, at least five officers are seen surrounding a teenager and reprimanding him. “I told you, you guys are supposed to have licenses. The sergeant warned you guys about your bikes,” says one officer. The sergeant, who initially stopped the group, begins pressing the teenager to get off his bicycle. After he does, his bike is confiscated and he is handcuffed and arrested. A witness, who filmed and posted the entire interaction, maintains that they were on the right side of the street, and shared footage corroborating his account.
A lot of the comments I saw on this were like the one in the tweet above: They’re even stopping Black kids from riding bikes now! But what struck me about this is that it is not new. At all. I wrote about the racist history of bicycle registration for the Examiner last year, so I thought I would revisit some of that piece this morning. Here you go:
I read a fascinating paper by history professor John Bloom, published in the March 2017 issue of The American Quarterly. (I can’t link to it because it’s behind a paywall.) The paper is called “’To Die for a Lousy Bike’: Bicycles, Race, and the Regulation of Public Space on the Streets of Washington, DC, 1963–2009.”
The title comes from a sting operation set up by DC police. Concerned about bike thefts, they left an unattended bicycle outside a supermarket. This kind of “bike stakeout” was common at the time. Soon after, a black teenager (who had had four bikes stolen) got on the bike — a friend says he thought it was his. A few minutes later, he was was shot in the back and killed.
“Police reported that Officer Pender’s gun had fallen from its holster, accidently [sic] firing the fatal bullet. Witnesses disputed this, saying that Pender appeared to have fired his weapon deliberately. Gregory’s father, Lancelot Coleman, told the Afro-American, “The whole thing was senseless that my son had to die for a lousy bike.”
“District police have monitored African Americans on bicycles to transcend the city’s racial boundaries since the late nineteenth century, when bicycle patrols jailed African American bicycle club members for riding in Georgetown after dark without lamps. In the early 1970s, young working-class and poor African Americans were the population at the center of debates over the use of bicycles in the city. Particularly in the wake of the violent uprisings that rocked Washington in April 1968, District officials saw African American youths as a potential disruption to public order and attempted to contain and funnel their presence in urban public spaces through bicycle stakeouts and ordinances seeking to regulate bicycle mobility.”
Once bicycle registration came in, you will be shocked to learn that checking compliance became a means of racial profiling.
“Statements that Chief Wilson made to the press clearly demonstrate that he favored mandatory bicycle registration guidelines in order to expand the power of police patrols to track those who might be considered suspicious, through “investigatory” or “pretextual” stops. It is also clear that African Americans riding expensive bicycles, or who were simply using their bicycles to unapologetically transgress the city’s geographic racial boundaries, would draw the most suspicion from police. In other words, police could use mandatory bicycle registration not only to arrest suspected bike thieves but also to maintain segregated public spaces and streets. In a revealing article during the summer of 1973 that expressed concern over such transgressions, Wilson used the local print media to lobby for mandatory bicycle registration. In an article that conjured up fear of young African American men, Wilson explicitly reasoned that the law would give his force the authority to randomly detain citizens on bicycles.”
I listen to a lot of baseball on the radio (as delivered by the MLB At Bat app). This year, Rogers — in their infinite wisdom — decided to can their radio crew and have the TV guys call games for both radio and television. Spoiler alert: these are two completely different media, and the result is that the radio broadcasts suck.
As a result, when I am listening to the Jays play, I usually go to the opposing team’s radio feed. The Blue Jays recently had a series against the New York Yankees, which meant that I tuned in to WFAN — and got to hear New York City’s Vision Zero ads.
Vision Zero is an approach that aims to eliminate traffic injuries and deaths, through a range of measures. Halifax has adopted the laughably tepid “towards zero” approach, which aims to reduce “fatal and injury collisions” by 20% (based on 2018 numbers) by 2023. (Zane Woodford wrote about that here.)
Halifax has been roundly mocked by activists for its insistence on the “shared responsibility” approach, and for continuing to emphasize things like pedestrians not looking at cellphones and making eye contact with drivers. (Tell it to all the people who report making eye contact with drivers, then seeing the drivers speed up to drive through the crosswalk they’re in.)
While some improvements have been made in messaging in Halifax, it’s not hard to find images like the one at the top of this story (from late last year). And the city’s road safety page includes this:
- Whether you’re walking, cycling, rolling, or driving, avoid all distractions when entering a crosswalk. Ensure you are seen, and your intentions understood.
- Turning vehicles at signalized intersections must yield to pedestrians lawfully in the crosswalk. Pedestrians continue to have the right of way as they finish their crossing during the flashing don’t walk phase. (My emphasis.)
Look at those words in italics. You have to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk, but only if they are there lawfully. (And, of course, we have seen plenty of cases in which pedestrians are hit and then ticketed.)
What struck me about the New York City radio ads is they had none of this “shared responsibility” messaging.
One radio ad simply says this:
Slow down and always pay attention to cyclists and pedestrians.
Another evokes the sounds of a busy street, telling drivers they need to pay particular attention when they turn left — that left-hand turns are three times more dangerous than right-hand turns, and that “a safe turn is 5 miles per hour.” The tagline for the radio ads is “Driving isn’t easy. But saving a life is.”
I don’t want to pretend New York is some kind of pedestrian utopia. There are huge problems with the implementation of the Vision Zero campaign. But I did find this clear emphasis on drivers striking.
Also, uh, Billy Idol is the face of the city’s anti-idling campaign.
Budget Committee (Thursday, 9:30am) — contingency date; virtual meeting, with captioning on a text-only site
Legislature sits (Thursday, 1pm)
Legislature sits (Friday, 9am)
Tools & Techniques to Support Linguistic Diversity (Thursday, 11am) — interactive Zoom workshop:
Adult learning environments in Canada have become increasingly culturally and linguistically diverse over the last decade. Linguistic diversity in the classroom – whether that means different languages, dialects, and/or levels of comprehension across the same language – can pose new challenges to the way we serve learners and also open new educational horizons and possibilities.
In this interactive workshop, you will learn a range of techniques, strategies and tools to support linguistic diversity in your teaching, training or facilitation context, and more effectively achieve learning outcomes for learners of all linguistic backgrounds.
This workshop is ideal for anyone who works with adults and is looking for key skills to help support and leverage a wide range of linguistic capabilities in the classroom/workplace, including: Instructors, Faculty, Trainers, Facilitators.
Mount Saint Vincent
No public events.
The Origins of the Concentration Camp: An Anglo-American History (Friday, 1pm) — Aidan Forth from MacEwan History will talk. For more info and to register, email here.
In the harbour
07:00: NYK Rigel, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Antwerp
11:30: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Autoport to Pier 41
13:00: Rosalia, bulker, sails from Pier 28 for sea
14:15: East Coast, oil tanker, sails from Irving Oil for sea
15:30: Atlantic Star, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for New York
16:30: NYK Rigel sails for Savannah, Georgia
19:00: CSL Tacoma, bulker, sails from Gold Bond for sea
No arrivals or departures.
It’s Earth Day. Here is a piece from The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists on some particularly egregious corporate greenwashing associated with the day. The story ends with this:
This Earth Day, let’s continue to call out polluters and hold them accountable for the environmental degradation they’ve caused. Act individually, sure—but demand governmental actions that can get us on track to a safer Earth for our children, grandchildren, and all the critters I hope they’ll still share the planet with.
And don’t get splattered with greenwash.