1. Allison Holthoff’s family suing Nova Scotia Health and ER doctor
“The family of Allison Holthoff, who died in an emergency department in Amherst on Dec. 31, is suing Nova Scotia Health and an emergency doctor,” Jennifer Henderson reports:
The statement of claim filed in Amherst provincial court names Nova Scotia Health and Dr. John Atia, the physician on duty in the emergency department, as being “jointly negligent” in failing to provide proper care to Holthoff. The 37-year-old mother of three died following a seven-hour wait to see a doctor on New Year’s Eve. The statement of claim said Holthoff died “from complications associated with an untreated splenic aneurysm.”…
The statement does not put a dollar amount on the special damages it intends to claim on behalf of Allison Holthoff’s husband, Gunter, and her three children — Hayden, Holly, and Heidi.
2. Instead of cutting arts funding, councillors consider increasing it
A few days ago, I saw a baffling (to me) post on the Bus Stop Theatre’s Instagram. It said, “Let’s walk to City Hall together, Friday, Feb17th.” The graphic said there would be tea, coffee and vegan muffins, and speakers would each get five minutes at the meeting.
Now look, I love the Bus Stop Theatre, and I’m always interested in local activism, but you can’t assume everyone knows what you’re talking about.
In this case, the walk to City Hall was to protest a proposal to cuts municipal arts and culture funding by up to 50%. That’s not going to happen, Zane Woodford reports. In fact, there might even be an increase. He writes:
Council’s budget committee met on Wednesday to debate the $34.9-million Parks and Recreation budget.
Executive director Maggie MacDonald tabled a list of options for councillors to consider, including a deep cut to arts funding: $300,000 from a professional arts grants budget of $560,000.
On Friday, councillors heard from 36 people opposed to that and other proposed cuts. Those speakers, along with a coordinated email campaign, clearly got through to them.
Coun. Waye Mason brought forward a motion to consider increasing the total value of professional arts grants by $125,000 in 2023-2024, and by another $125,000 the year after.
“We are below the national average. The province is not increasing funding. It’s a tragedy that’s happening in real time,” Mason said.
Hands down, this is the best line of Woodford’s story:
While Coun. Trish Purdy spoke fondly of her time in the drama club as a teen, she didn’t support the increase.
The Halifax Regional Police budget, by the way, is in the neighbourhood of $90 million.
The story also includes other news from the budget committee, including other potential cuts and naming rights for the new pool on the Halifax Common.
3. Dal researchers find genetic testing could play a role in identifying youth at risk for mental illness
From d’Entremont’s story:
We have known for a long time that illnesses run in families, mental illnesses in particular,” Dalhousie University professor Dr. Rudolf Uher said in an interview.
“For a long time the best way of knowing how high the risk is for a young person was to know the most about their parents and their aunts and uncles, etc.”
Uher was one of the study’s authors and holds the Canada Research Chair in Early Interventions in Psychiatry at Dalhousie University.
“In previous generations when it was common to have 10 children in a family, there was just much more information then there is now when we have one or two.”
In addition, Uher said, children don’t always grow up with their biological family.
The study’s research team was led by Dr. Alyson Zwicker, also from Dal.
I have a lot of thoughts about this, but instead of sharing them I will urge you to read the full story.
(If you are not already a subscriber, you will need to click here to subscribe first.)
This item is written by Yvette d’Entremont
A new pilot project launched Wednesday will provide Nova Scotians with one free session of counselling with a trained mental health counsellor.
The one-on-one supportive counselling service is being offered through the province’s new Access Wellness service and will cost about $2.3 million per year. It was announced in Sydney on Wednesday morning.
People can book their free session with a trained mental health counsellor for individual, couple or family counselling. Sessions can be delivered via phone or online. In-person appointments are also available in Halifax, Kentville, New Glasgow, and Sydney.
“Many of life’s challenges can test our ability to cope. While we might benefit from the help from a mental health professional, it doesn’t always mean we need ongoing treatment or specialized services,” Dana Pulsifer, senior director for the Mental Health and Addictions Program with Nova Scotia Health, said in a media release. “This new service will give people a new way to get the right care when they need it,”
All Nova Scotians older than 18 — including those with private health care coverage — can book a single session appointment of about one hour in length. The province said the program isn’t intended to replace ongoing counselling for those requiring more intensive or specialized support.
Daytime, evening, and weekend appointments are available. Sessions can be directly booked by calling 1-833-691-2282 seven days a week between 8am and 11pm or online via this link.
Ontario-based TELUS Health will deliver the service, which will be administered by Nova Scotia Health. Access Wellness is part of the province’s Action for Health plan.
5. Parents encouraged to get infants second dose of vaccine before supply disruption
This item is written by Yvette d’Entremont
Parents of children who received Moderna’s infant COVID-19 vaccine and whose second dose is due before March 8 are being advised by Public Health to book their child’s next vaccine before a national supply disruption takes effect.
In a media release Wednesday, the Department of Health and Wellness said it was advised of a disruption in supply of Moderna’s infant COVID-19 vaccine. Starting March 9, the supply disruption is expected to last a few weeks.
“There’s still time to schedule an appointment before the anticipated disruption. However, if that is not possible, children should receive their next dose once the supply is available,” Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang said in the media release.
“I want to reassure parents that delaying the second dose does not impact the vaccine’s effectiveness.”
For children aged six months to four years, Public Health advises the following:
— children who started their primary series with Moderna and are due for their next dose on or before March 8 should still receive the dose by that date
— the second Moderna dose may be delayed for children who are due to have it after March 8
— children who have not received any doses of COVID-19 vaccine can still start their primary series with Moderna before March 8, but their next dose may be delayed
— children who have already started their primary series with Moderna are not able to complete their primary series with the Pfizer vaccine at this time; Moderna is a two-dose primary series in this age group, while Pfizer is a three-dose primary series.
There is no impact on children who are receiving the Pfizer infant vaccine.
Appointments can be booked online at https://novascotia.ca/vaccination or by calling 1-833-797-7772.
According to the Department of Health and Wellness, there are 34,000 children aged six months to four years in Nova Scotia. Children who have been infected with COVID-19 should wait eight weeks between infection and starting or completing their vaccine series.
The release also noted that people 12 years and older who have completed their primary series and received a booster on or after Sept. 19, 2022 are not eligible for another dose at this time.
Children between the ages of five and 11 who’ve completed their primary series and have already received a booster dose do not need to receive another at this time.
6. No regulations? No problem!
Joan Baxter’s story on the federal government moving to “enable” the Canso spaceport proposal is now out from behind the paywall, meaning you don’t have to be a subscriber to read it.
Baxter writes that a federal announcement on commercial space launches in Canada produced enough hot air ” to launch more than one rocket into orbit”:
Great things” will happen, they announced.
Canada is “entering a new era in space” and all of Canada will be watching as “we take our next steps towards the stars.”
Rocket launches will “bring whole communities together.”
The global commercial space industry could be worth $1 trillion yearly by 2040, and we should all be “very proud” that one company, Maritime Launch Services, plans to launch rockets from Atlantic Canada…
One problem: Canada doesn’t yet have legislation or a regulatory framework for commercial rocket launches, and won’t for at least another three years.
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The machine-generated literary submissions have arrived
Something was off with a recent submission in Sal Sawler’s inbox. Sawler is the editor for Emanata, Nova Scotia-based Conundrum Press’s young adult graphic novel imprint.
The graphic novel manuscript was “terrible,” Sawler said in an interview, “But not in an unpracticed illustrator kind of way. It was terrible in that the book had different illustration styles throughout.”
They added, “There were sections with this fluffy, children’s book kind of look, but then there were other sections where there was a completely different illustration style… And I was like, OK, these are completely different illustration styles. There’s no way the same person did this.”
Sawler suspected they had just received their first submission with AI-generated art, but before writing up a rejection letter, they wanted to be sure. So they checked the Twitter account of the person who sent in the manuscript. And that confirmed it.
“They were talking about it there. They had apparently written this thing quite a long time ago. When I went through and looked at this person’s Twitter profile, they were like, ‘I did this in an afternoon.’ … I guess they couldn’t pay an illustrator, or didn’t want to, and then just discovered that they could whip something up, and then just started sending it off to publishers the next day.”
Emanata is, of course, not the only publisher dealing with machine-generated submissions. On February 15, Neil Clarke, of SF magazine Clarkesworld, published a blog post called “A concerning trend.“
Since the early days of the pandemic, I’ve observed an increase in the number of spammy submissions to Clarkesworld. What I mean by that is that there’s an honest interest in being published, but not in having to do the actual work. Up until recently, these were almost entirely cases of plagiarism, first by replacing the author’s name and then later by use of programs designed to “make it your own.”
Clarke says while there was an increase in these cases, they were not all that common, and relatively easy to weed out. “A minor nuisance,” he wrote.
Then came the AI stories:
What I can say is that the number of spam submissions resulting in bans has hit 38% this month. While rejecting and banning these submissions has been simple, it’s growing at a rate that will necessitate changes. To make matters worse, the technology is only going to get better, so detection will become more challenging. (I have no doubt that several rejected stories have already evaded detection or were cases where we simply erred on the side of caution.)…
It’s clear that business as usual won’t be sustainable and I worry that this path will lead to an increased number of barriers for new and international authors. Short fiction needs these people.
It’s not just going to go away on its own and I don’t have a solution…
If the field can’t find a way to address this situation, things will begin to break.
For now, Clarke has closed submissions to the magazine.
Sawler also fears that the sheer amount of garbage being generated and submitted is going to make it even harder for new writers to get noticed:
For somebody who is unknown, like debut artists, illustrators or writers, they’re going to be competing with an extremely large slush pile. Because I can’t think of any way to weed out AI submissions… So I think there’s going to be a much higher chance of those things getting tossed out by accident, just because somebody is going through an enormous slush pile and being like, delete, delete, delete, delete. That accident could easily happen before they even have a chance to really look at it just because people are going to get so overloaded.
Meanwhile, Sawler says they suspect Emanata is going to have to add something about no AI-generated submissions to their guidelines.
Late last year, Andy Baio, who has written extensively about AI art-generators, wrote a piece about an engineering student in New Brunswick who wanted to publish a graphic novel, and decided to train an AI on the work of one particular artist: Hollie Mengert.
Using 32 of her illustrations, [Reddit user] MysteryInc152 fine-tuned Stable Diffusion to recreate Hollie Mengert’s style. He then released the checkpoint under an open license for anyone to use. The model uses her name as the identifier for prompts: “illustration of a princess in the forest, holliemengert artstyle,” for example.
Baio talks to Mengert, to find out how she feels about all this. After noting that several of the images used to train the art-generator are ones she drew but does not own (because they were done for clients including Penguin Random House and Disney), she says:
I kind of feel like when they created the tool, they were thinking of me as more of a brand or something, rather than a person who worked on their art and tried to hone things, and that certain things that I illustrate are a reflection of my life and experiences that I’ve had. Because I don’t think if a person was thinking about it that way that they would have done it. I think it’s much easier to just convince yourself that you’re training it to be like an art style, but there’s like a person behind that art style… To have my name on it is ultimately very uncomfortable and invasive for me.
Baio then tracks down MysteryInc152, who turns out to be a Nigerian student called Ogbogu Kalu, who is studying mechanical engineering in New Brunswick.
And, guess what? Mengert is right. Kalu didn’t really think about how she’d feel about this at all. Baio writes:
His initial hope was to make a series of comic books, but knew that doing it on his own would take years, even if he had the writing and drawing skills…
Toward the end of our conversation, I asked, “If it’s fair use, it doesn’t really matter in the eye of the law what the artist thinks. But do you think, having done this yourself and released a model, if they don’t find flattering, should the artist have any say in how their work is used?”
He paused for a few seconds. “Yeah, that’s… that’s a different… I guess it all depends. This case is rather different in the sense that it directly uses the work of the artists themselves to replace them…
“I personally think it’s transformative,” he concluded. “If it is, then I guess artists won’t really have a say in how these models get written or not.”
When I wrote about AI content generators a few months ago. One of the things I mentioned was that they were likely to lead to a tsunami of bullshit: Fake reviews, machine-generated blog posts that try to game the system, all kinds of garbage that will just make life more unpleasant. I have to admit that one aspect of this I didn’t think of was how it would make the submission process and the process of getting published for new writers even harder.
Sawler says the people who are going to get hurt the most by this tend to be freelancers. “Illustration and writing are so freelance driven. You know, there’s no security there. It’s all just risk for those folks.”
There is one thing that has Sawler hopeful, though: the thought that this may just be a passing fad. They get the sense a lot of the AI-generated submissions are coming from people who think publishing is a get-rich-quick scheme (HA HA HA HA HA), and who just want to pump out as many submissions as possible in order to cash in.
“Hopefully this is like the current get rich quick scheme, and when people realize they can’t actually get published doing it, they’ll move on to the next thing,” they said.
Roald Dahl’s books
As you may have heard, Roald Dahl’s estate is re-issuing many of his classic works, without some of the horrid and not-so-horrid bits. Augustus Gloop, from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, for instance, is no longer “enormously fat” but simply “enormous.”
Maybe they’ve toned down some of the heinous anti-semitism in The Witches, too.
Predictably, there has been a lot of whining about woke culture, cancel culture, etc, about this. But here’s the thing: cancel culture has nothing to do with it. It’s capitalism and the market all the way down, baby. Netflix now owns the Roald Dahl Story Company. There are going to be lots and lots and lots of Netflix properties featuring Dahl’s stories and his characters. People who were not familiar with the books will then go pick them up, and some of them will be going WTF?
I will leave you with the best take I have read on this whole business, written by Maria Bustillos, and called “How Copyright Laws Caused the Roald Dahl Problem.”
(I actually disagree with the premise in the headline, but am on board with the rest of the piece.) Bustillos writes:
To advise them on these alterations, the publishers apparently hired Inclusive Minds, a consultancy founded in 2013 “for people who are passionate about inclusion, diversity, equality and accessibility in children’s literature, and are committed to changing the face of children’s books.”
I am a fan of this kind of work, in principle. But sensitivity readings are for new books; they are a step in the editing process. “Changing the face of children’s books” as they emerge into a radically more open, accepting and egalitarian world? That is a great idea. “Changing the face” of an old friend, though… a 62-year-old friend? That is just exactly what it sounds like; plastic surgery, and liable to be botched…
Sensitivity readings: YES. For new books.
But republish Roald Dahl as he wrote, or don’t publish him at all. Do I support the wife-abusing womanizing creepiness of Roald Dahl, I do not, I would have left a guy like that like a shot, just like Patricia Neal did, even after 30 years, and he was a racist jerk too but that is what he was, and what the man was is inextricable from what he wrote. He was a savage, mean dude, the product of his times, too tall and too clever for his own good, one can’t help thinking. Was he hilarious yes, did he suffer gravely, he did, was he an incorrigible prick, also yes. What are we to make of all this?
We have to tell the truth about it!
Audit and Finance Standing Committee (Thursday, 1pm, City Hall and online) — agenda
Panel Discussion on African Centred Approaches to Black Health (Thursday, 5:30pm, online) — with Juanita Paris, Taiwo Okunade, Nwanneka Ejiofor, Robert Seymour Wright, Yinka Akin-Deko, and moderator Barbara Hamilton-Hinch. More info here
Open Dialogue Live: Building strong health outcomes through research (Thursday, 6:30pm, online) — more info here
Mount Saint Vincent
Registration deadline (Friday) — for Saturday’s STEAM Day
1st Family STEAM Day (Saturday, 10am, 4th Floor, Seton Academic Centre) — exhibits, demos, games and more across Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics; more info here
In the harbour
08:00: Ultra Cory, bulk carrier, arrives at Sheet Harbour from Garrucha, Spain
08:00: BSL Elsa, oil tanker, arrives from Antwerp, Belgium (Berth listed as TBD)
11:30: Traviata, car carrier, sails from Autoport to sea
15:00: NYK Rigel, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Antwerp, Belgium
15:00: CSL Tacoma, bulker, moves from Anchor to Gold Bond
16:00: AS Emma, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Savannah, Georgia
16:00: Em Kea, arrives at Pier 41 from Montreal
16:30: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Pier 41 to Anchorage #5
21:00: Lumen N, crude oil tanker, sails from Tufts Cove to sea
What I’ve read lately:
- You’re On an Airplane, by Parker Posey
- Oil Beach, by Christina Dunbar-Hester
- Every City Is Every Other City, by John McFetridge
- A Prayer for the Crown-Shy, by Becky Chambers