The Halifax Examiner: No ads, surreptitious trackers, or auto-playing videos

That’s a lot of stuff to block.

Have you tried reading the news on a legacy paper’s website without using a privacy-oriented browser or VPN?

Let me tell you, it’s not a pleasant experience. Sure, publishers need to pay the bills, and they need to run ads, and I certainly don’t begrudge them that. But there is nothing that says they have to make their user experience absolutely hellish. It’s as though they don’t want you to actually read the story.

Here’s what I saw when I clicked on one of the National Post’s lead stories yesterday afternoon:

Hellish National Post reading experience #1.

A popup, a cookie notice, a subscription offer, a banner ad ⁠— and no ability to read the news story. So, I closed the popup, and here is what I got:

Hellish National Post reading experience continues.

Here we have the subscription and cookie notices, an ad for the National Post newsletter, an auto-playing video of Elon Musk for some reason, and one sentence of the news story I am ostensibly here to read, about the so-called Freedom Convoy.

SaltWire is not as bad, but clicking the top story on the site yesterday I still had to scroll down past unrelated videos before getting to the story. Remember when Facebook urged news sites to “pivot to video” so the news sites laid off a bunch of people? And then it turned out nobody was really watching the Facebook videos? And then Meta, Facebook’s parent company, stopped being interested in news altogether and laid off a bunch of people? Fun times.

My point is, you don’t have to deal with any of this bullshit when you subscribe to the Halifax Examiner. Sure, there’s a little yellow window somewhere in this story with a link to where you can subscribe, but that’s it. No big deal. The Examiner doesn’t cover up writers’ stories with extraneous crap. The stories are kind of the point. And your subscription dollars are what makes that possible. There are no advertisers picking up the slack, so it’s all up to you.

If you are a subscriber, thank you. If you are not yet a subscriber, the November subscription drive, on now, is a great time to sign up. There are many different subscription options, and you will find them all here.

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NEWS

1. Atlantic Canada’s first transition house for Muslim women opens in Halifax

Zainub Beg is a case manager with Nisa Homes, which opened a transition house for Muslim women in Halifax. Credit: Suzanne Rent

“A new transition house officially opening in Halifax this week will be the first in Atlantic Canada to serve immigrant, refugee, non-status, or Muslim women and their children fleeing domestic violence,” Suzanne Rent reports.

Rent speaks with Zainub Beg, a case manager with Nisa Homes, who are running the transition house along with Ummah Masjid of Halifax:

Beg said she has spoken to people who said they tried to access services in Halifax and Nova Scotia and because those services were not dedicated to Muslim women, they were exposed to activities that in Islam would be considered forbidden. 

“That in itself can be traumatizing,” Beg said. “When you’re coming from a situation of homelessness or domestic violence, you’re already terrified. But then to be in an environment where all of these activities your faith says are wrong are happening, it becomes difficult.” 

Click here to read “Transition house to support Muslim women opens in Halifax, first in Atlantic Canada.”

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2. High marks for Nova Scotia’s energy efficiency programs

A heat pump is seen on a house in Dartmouth on Thursday, Nov. 17, 2022. Credit: Zane Woodford

“Nova Scotia’s energy efficiency programs got high marks in the fourth annual scorecard released by Efficiency Canada this week,” Jennifer Henderson reports.

The province moved up from third place to second in this year’s rankings. Henderson writes:

Efficiency Canada notes that Nova Scotia’s 2023–2025 demand-side management plan will triple investments in retrofits for low-income households, Mi’kmaq, and renters. Efficiency One’s annual budget will increase from $40 million to $57 million a year. The utility estimates that amount could mean a 2% increase in power rates, which it says will be offset by an average 5% saving on the power bill.

Over the past decade, Efficiency One estimates its programs have cut GHG emissions 24% and saved consumers $1 billion on energy that was not sold.

Because Nova Scotians pay the highest price for electricity in the country, Haley said he believes this province has strong motivation to reduce energy sales even further, from the current 1% a year to as much as 2%, as some American states have managed to do. 

Click here to read “Nova Scotia’s energy-efficiency programs rank among Canada’s best, report finds.”

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3. Death to my hometown: How monopolies killed downtowns

Downtown Amherst, Nova Scotia. Credit: Andrew Cameron

Joan Baxter speaks to Andrew Cameron, co-founder of the Canadian Anti-Monopoly Project (CAMP) and host of the podcast “Monopolies killed my hometown,” which looks at how changes to competition laws in the 1980s led to the deaths of small businesses and main streets across the country.

One of the towns affected? His hometown of Amherst, NS. Cameron tells Baxter:

We did a weird thing in Canada that started in the 1960s. We always felt that we needed to let Canadian companies merge and get big so they could compete internationally. And then in the 1970s, and in the 1980s with Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, and Brian Mulroney, we just developed this assumption that bigger companies are more efficient and therefore better. This hasn’t been questioned since then. In 1986, Canada’s Combines Investigation Act was replaced by the Competition Act. The focus switched to efficiencies, and we forgot that the point of the laws was originally to protect small businesses.

My mom ran a clothing store in town for 30 years, Gordon’s Ladies Wear. I come from a family of small business owners. So, I take this personally.

Click here to read “‘Monopolies killed my hometown’: an interview with anti-monopoly advocate Andrew Cameron about the decline of Amherst, Nova Scotia.”

I read the story with this Bruce Springsteen song running through my head.

Sing it hard and sing it well
Send the robber barons straight to hell
The greedy thieves who came around
And ate the flesh of everything they found
Whose crimes have gone unpunished now
Who walk the streets as free men now

They brought death to our hometown, boys

Death to our hometown

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4. Testimony continues in HRP constable’s excessive force hearing

Halifax Regional Police Const. Jason Wilson during a break in his Nova Scotia Police Review Board hearing in Dartmouth on Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022. Credit: Zane Woodford

Zane Woodford continues his coverage of the Nova Scotia Police Review Board hearing into the actions of a Halifax constable last year. Const. Jason Wilson is accused of excessive force in the arrest of Susan Doman, in 2021. Woodford reports that a key element in Wilson’s telling of the story changed yesterday:

After Wilson arrived, he testified he attempted to handcuff Doman as [Const. Hannah] Burridge lifted her off of a sofa. He said he got one handcuff on her left wrist, but was unable to secure the second. As they walked toward the door, Wilson said Burridge was able to get the second handcuff onto Doman’s right wrist.

According to the disciplinary decision against Wilson, written by Sgt. Derrick Boyd, dated Feb. 2, 2022, Wilson previously claimed the second handcuff was never secured.

“Cst Wilson said that Ms Doman had only one handcuff on as she was escorted out of the apartment,” Boyd wrote, noting other officers said she was handcuffed.

This is a critically important detail, as you will see when you read the whole story.

Click here to read “Halifax constable accused of excessive force testifies at Police Review Board hearing.”

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5. Annick MacAskill wins the Governor General’s Award for English-language poetry

Annick MacAskill. Credit: Nolan Natasha from annickmacaskill.com

Halifax’s Annick MacAskill is the winner of the 2022 Governor General’s Award for English-language poetry. MacAskill won for her book Shadow Blight, published by Gaspereau Press.

From the publisher’s catalogue:

Shadow Blight considers the pain and isolation of pregnancy loss through the lens of classical myth. Drawing on the stories of Niobe—whose monumental suffering at the loss of her children literally turned her to stone—and others, this collection explores the experience of being swept away by grief and silenced by the world. Skirting the tropes (“o how beautiful / the poets make our catastrophes”), MacAskill interweaves the ancient with the contemporary in a way that opens possibilities and offers a new language for those “shut up in stillness.”

The Governor General’s awards are among the most prestigious awards for writing in the country. MacAskill and the other winners each take home $25,000. The winners were announced Wednesday morning, yet coverage here, in MacAskill’s hometown has been sparse. As far as I can see, the Chronicle Herald is the only local media outlet to have covered MacAskill’s win, essentially cribbing from the press release.

MacAskill is an assistant professor in the Department of Languages and Cultures at Saint Mary’s University, but I don’t see anything on the SMU news page, or in the university’s Twitter feed. For shame.

On Twitter, MacAskill herself wrote:

Immensely grateful for this recognition of Shadow Blight, a book I wrote about pregnancy loss and disenfranchised grief. This was a very difficult collection to write, and it feels significant to see it acknowledged in this way…

Finally, unending gratitude and respect to the people who have lost pregnancies and reached out to tell me what the work has meant to them personally. I see you, and it means the world that you find company in this collection.

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6. Nova Scotia’s only long COVID clinic has been without a doctor for two months

Ashley Harnish, health services manager with primary health care for Nova Scotia Health. Credit: Contributed

“The service that helps Nova Scotians faced with ongoing health issues following a COVID-19 infection is struggling to find a primary care provider to oversee its medical component,” Yvette d’Entremont reports.

The doctor working with long COVID patients out of the Integrated Chronic Care Service (ICCS) clinic in Fall River left in September, and Nova Scotia Health hasn’t had any luck in finding a replacement.

Fortunately, the clinic offers a number of other services, in addition to those of a physician, and d’Entremont speaks to patient Nadine Hardiman about them, and why they are helpful.

Last week I saw a Twitter thread I wish I could find again, in which a patient with long COVID explained what the experience was like in terms of the medical system: various specialists telling her her test results were unusual and they didn’t understand them, and maybe she should see a doctor specializing in long COVID. Meanwhile, no such doctors were available.

In addition to reporting on the Fall River clinic’s search for a doctor, d’Entremont also gives an excellent short explainer on what long COVID is and the risks of contracting it. (Higher than you probably think.)

Click here to read “Nova Scotia long COVID clinic struggles to find new doctor as demand for services increases.”

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7. Monthly COVID numbers released a day late, but here they are

A positive COVID-19 test. Photo: Yvette d’Entremont

This item is written by Tim Bousquet

The monthly COVID epidemiological summary was released for October yesterday, one day late.

The relatively low number of deaths previously reported for September (14) has been revised upward, to 36. So, take the new death numbers for October with a grain of salt.

With that caveat, there were 27 deaths from COVID for the month of October. All 27 (100%) were people 70 years old or older, and 12 of them (44%) were people living in a long-term care facility.

The graph above shows the number and seven-day moving average of COVID deaths by date of death, Mar. 1st to Oct 31, 2022 (357 people died through that period). Purple is October, and again, expect those death numbers to be revised upward next month.

In October, 234 people were hospitalized because of COVID, up from 205 in September and 208 in August.

The table above shows the age-adjusted hospitalization and death rates by vaccine status, also for Mar. 1, 2022 to Oct. 31, 2022. Note that the hospitalization data in the table is incomplete because, remarkably, a small number of people were hospitalized but no one seems to know how old they were.

People who were unvaccinated were hospitalized and died at almost three times the rate as those with three or more doses (hospitalized = 2.7; died=2.8).

In October, 4,769 tested positive with a PCR test, compared to 4,664 in September. This is a pretty much meaningless stat, in my opinion, because not many people are getting PCR-tested, but even with that, the number of positives has increased.

The take away: given reporting lags, deaths are hard to track, but are still likely more than 40 a month; hospitalizations were up 14% in October compared to September, and positive PCR tests increased slightly over the same period; all or nearly all of the deceased are old people, so “we” don’t seem to mind so much, and if the hospitals are being impacted, well, that’s how it goes.

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang and Dr. Andrew Lynk, Chief and Chair of Pediatrics at the IWK Health Centre, have called a press conference for today at 1pm, to discuss respiratory illnesses. I’ll be there, and will live-tweet it via my Twitter account, @Tim_Bousquet.

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VIEWS

We need a monster to blame for what ails us, because the alternative is too terrifying

Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

Halloween has come and gone, and so too have the stories of drugs in candies. This year’s star was “rainbow fentanyl.” The idea was that drug dealers are packaging fentanyl to look like candy and are going to hand it out to kids at Halloween. This also got conflated with a drug bust which found drugs hidden in packages of candy for smuggling purposes. Presumably nobody was planning to put fake packages of candy on the shelves to sell. This would make no sense at all.

In the US, this panic was also tied up with fears about borders and immigrants. President Joe Biden’s supposedly lax border policies were leading to a flood of people crossing the border unauthorized, and they were bringing in deadly drugs to kill American kids. And look, I’m not going to link to the websites, but there are people out there saying Biden is deliberately encouraging the fentanyl trade in order to kill American children. One website I read — I need to spend less time online — compared him to Herod. You know, the guy who the Bible says ordered all children under the age of two in the vicinity of Bethlehem to be murdered.

These types of stories come and go, and they are predictable as hell. The moral panic over drugs-as-candy was the subject of a recent episode of the Citations Needed podcast, with guest Zachary Siegel, who has studied and written about the drug policy for years. The podcast made the connection between the panic over children and drugs in Halloween candy, and the very real phenomenon that thousands and thousands of people have died from drug overdoses during the pandemic, and that these are people just like you and me and our relatives and our children. But that reality is extremely hard to face.

Here’s Siegel, speaking on the podcast:

What I think is happening here, on kind of the collective hysteria level and the levels of mass psychology, is that the truth of the matter that people are dying en masse from fentanyl overdoses is undigestible, and the only way that people can kind of wrap their heads around this is all these teenagers who took a pill got tricked, or something, or they unknowingly, unsuspectingly got dosed by an evil doer. Drug users are criminalized and marginalized and scapegoated and widely loathed as a group of people, and, of course, people are seeking an alternative story to explain it, because the reality that we’ve created is so fucked…

We have the capability to help people, and it’s not being done, which gets back to the saddest fact of all is that these deaths are so preventable, eminently preventable, and the fact that they’re not being prevented and so little is done to prevent it that I’m honestly like, I get why there’s this kind of horrific imaginary coursing through the American mind about open borders and reverse opium war with China and Joe Biden’s drug policy and anonymous sadists trying to kill your children. This is the stuff that the brutal reality is producing because I think it is such a bitter pill to swallow if we just take reality as it is and see it for what it is, which is a massive fucking failure and a huge disaster.

We see a similar phenomenon at work in the response to COVID-19. Here we have a virus that we could control, and for which we could relatively easily reduce transmission dramatically. Is there anything really stopping us from putting a HEPA filter in every classroom in the country, or improving ventilation?

But instead of looking at systemic solutions and why they are not implemented — even relatively simple temporary ones like masking in public places have been abandoned — it’s more comforting (I guess??) to think that the virus is a bioweapon, or everyone who has died somehow falls into a category you don’t care about, or you can convince yourself they would have died anyway, or maybe they should have just exercised more. (Not that people who don’t exercise more deserve long COVID, but you may have noted the number of stories of people who were formerly incredibly active, but after contracting COVID struggle to, say, walk the dog or even have a shower because their energy levels are so low.)

If terrible things happen to people it must be their fault. But if they happen to people we love, an evil outside force must be to blame.

When I was in Toronto a couple of months ago, I got together with my friend Bobby Theodore, a screenwriter, playwright, and literary translator, who is currently teaching at the National Theatre School. A recent project, an English-language adaptation of the play Public Enemy, by Quebec playwright Olivier Choinière was about to open in Toronto. Here’s part of the description of the play from Playwrights Canada Press:

Three generations of a family argue over current events, finances, and culture, with everyone looking to blame someone else for society’s ills in this satirical examination of how judgment can both divide and unite people… Rapid-fire dialogue fuses and overlaps, but no one listens to each other. A blistering take on the family drama, Public Enemy asks, who’s really responsible for all our suffering?

On a long walk home after a Jays game, Bobby and I talked about this, and the lengths to which we will go to avoid looking at our own responsibility — individually and socially — for what ails us. Instead, it’s got to be someone else’s fault.

Because I wasn’t taking notes during the conversation, I asked Bobby to recap his thoughts for me, and here’s what he said:

I’ve been thinking about what I was talking about regarding blaming the world around you. The context was the core investigation of Public Enemy and our need for scapegoats in the face of despair… It’s so difficult to face what’s inside ourselves because we are so full of things we can’t accept about ourselves. What little we can accept, we cling to. But we reject everything else.

The ideal would be to accept everything with equanimity but that’s easier said than done… It’s entirely human to seek an explanation that is outside ourselves for what ails us… Compassion [is] required to recognize that the madness on the outside is happening (unconsciously) on the inside.

The call is coming from inside the house, but we are obsessed with trying to find the stranger responsible.

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NOTICED

Gael Watson and the LaHave Bakery

The LaHave Bakery. Credit: lahavebakery.com

John DeMont has a lovely portrait of Gael Watson, owner of the LaHave Bakery, in the Chronicle Herald. Watson is originally from Montreal, and her family used to spend summers near Chester. When she and three others, including her husband at the time, decided to buy the building, it wasn’t exactly in great shape, DeMont writes:

Once the home, at various points, to ship’s chandlers, a fish processing plant and a general store, by the early 1980s, the building “was quickly becoming a ruin,” Watson told me.

The roof was gone, moss and trees were growing on the top floor. The end of the building, where the bookstore now stands, had collapsed…

When she and her spouse marched over to the local branch of the Royal Bank, conveniently located across the street from the bakery building, the manager said, “You have no money, you’re not willing to give up your house, you gotta give me something.”

So, for collateral, the couple put up their four-wheel drive Massey Ferguson tractor.

Watson is about to turn 70, and tells DeMont she can still imagine herself running the place when she is 92.

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Government

City

Today

Community Planning and Economic Development Standing Committee (Thursday, 10am, City Hall and online) — agenda

Active Transportation Advisory Committee (Thursday, 4:30pm, online) — agenda

Youth Advisory Committee (Thursday, 5pm, Power House Youth Centre) — agenda

Advisory Committee on Accessibility in HRM Annual Town Hall (Thursday, 6:30pm, Halifax Central Library and online) — agenda

Tomorrow

Contingency – District Boundary Resident Review Panel Special Meeting (Friday, 1pm, location TBD) — agenda

Province

No meetings


On campus

Dalhousie

Today

Structural Inheritance within the Laurentian Realm of the Northern Appalachians (Thursday, 11:30am, Milligan Room, Life Sciences Centre) — Shawna White from Saint Mary’s University will talk

Allogeneic stem cells and immunomodulatory biomaterials for cardiac repair and regeneration (Thursday, 11:30am, 3H1, Tupper building) — Sanjiv Dhingra from the University of Manitoba will talk

Canada’s National Action Plan to End Gender-Based Violence (Thursday, 12pm, online) — This online panel presentation will highlight the recommendations for Canada’s National Action Plan generated from the MARCO-VAW Study and the perspectives of VAW leaders from across the country; with Alexa Yakubovich, Dalhousie University and Nova Scotia Health; Priya Shastri, Women Abuse Council of Toronto; Krys Maki, Women’s Shelters of Canada; Ann de Ste Croix, Transition House Association of Nova Scotia. Info and registration here.

Open Dialogue Live: How policy impacts food security (Thursday, 6:30pm, Room 153, Cox Institute, Agricultural Campus, Truro, and online) — with guests Cassie Hayward, Innovation, Science, and Economic Development Canada, and Phoebe Stephens, Gumataw Abebe, and Chris Hartt, Dalhousie. Info and registration here.

Old Beginnings: The Scene of Decolonisation (Thursday, 7pm, Room 127, Goldberg Computer Science Building) — Priyamvada Gopal from the University of Cambridge will examine the foundational Bandung Conference which took place in Indonesia in 1955 and its legacies. RSVP here.

Carol Bruneau in conversation with Michelle Butler Hallett (Thursday, 7pm, via Zoom) — annual Raddall reading featuring Hallett, winner of the 2022 Thomas Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award for her novel Constant Nobody (Goose Lane Editions)

3D Star Beading Workshop (Thursday, 10:30am, Ko’jua Okuom, Killam Library) — two-part workshop led by Michelle McDonald, a beader originally from Sipekne’katik. Continued on Nov. 24. More info and registration here.

Tomorrow

Chamber Residency Concert: Chamber Music Monuments (Friday, 7:30pm, First Baptist Church, Oxford St., Halifax) — free concert features W.A. Mozart’s String Quintet in C Major, KV 515 and Johannes Brahms String Sextet no.1 op.18 in B-flat Major

Mahatmaji, I Have No Country: Ambedkar, Caste and Decolonisation (Friday, 3:30pm, Room 1007, Rowe Management Building and online) — Priyamvada Gopal will talk, Teams link here

King’s

A Psychedelic Resurgence: Lessons from the Past (Thursday, 7:30pm, Alumni Hall) — Erika Dyck from the University of Saskatchewan will talk:

Psychedelics have resurfaced in the 21st century. The American FDA declared both MDMA (Ecstasy) and psilocybin mushrooms to have breakthrough status for their capacity to outperform their pharmaceutical competitors in clinical trials. Health Canada has allowed for select uses of psychedelics, while Alberta has boldly supported psychedelics in therapy beginning in 2023. Researchers and journalists alike claim that we are experiencing a psychedelic renaissance. In this presentation Dyck will examine the historical roots of this moment, from Ancient and Indigenous uses of plants for healing and spiritual purposes, through the medical experimentation of the 1950s and the countercultural embrace of psychedelics that some argue resulted in their prohibition. Dyck asks, what has changed to warrant a retrial and what is at stake in this resurgence?


In the harbour

Halifax
07:00: Maersk Idaho, container ship, moves from Bedford Basin anchorage to Pier 42
11:35: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Pier 36 to Autoport
16:30: MSC Sandra, container ship, sails from Pier 41 for sea
16:30: Oceanex Sanderling moves back to Pier 36
16:30: Maersk Idaho sails for sea
20:00: Acadian, oil tanker, arrives at Irving Oil from Saint John

Cape Breton
09:15: CSL Kajika, bulker, sails from Aulds Cove quarry for sea
13:00: Nordbay, oil tanker, sails from EverWind for sea
16:00: Algoterra, oil tanker, sails from Government Dock (Sydney) for sea


Footnotes

I saw this sign at the gym yesterday, and I thought if someone had set out to deliberately create something designed to repel me, they could not have done much better than this:

Sign at the Joe Howe Good Life gym. Credit: Philip Moscovitch

Philip Moscovitch

Philip Moscovitch is a writer and audio producer, and the author of the book Adventures in Bubbles and Brine; Website:...

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6 Comments

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  1. Long-time subscriber here. I just wanted to say how much I like the new site design and also what a good Morning File it was today! I didn’t have a chance to get to it until this evening but I’ve delved into every story. Keep up the great work!
    Cherie

  2. Very fine Morning File today, Phil. I echo your support of the Examiner by paid subscription (because I want all you writers/editors to get paid!) I won’t pay a cent for the herald or the star or the grope and flail–I do have a family subscription to Apple news, and I just roll my eyes around the ads, which aren’t too annoying. And it’s a funny thing–mostly I watch videos of cats, music, etc, and not news–I can read faster than most people can talk, and I just get annoyed by pathetic short ‘news’ videos. Keep up the great work, all of you.

  3. Thia is a small thing but I want to mention that, like many videos that pop up on social media these days whether or not you want them, the 3d candies pictured are a trigger for people who deal with migraine headaches.

  4. “How monopolies killed downtowns” and “We need a monster to blame” make a good pair of articles. Cameron notes “we did a weird thing” with regard to business policies, but the tone of the article is that big business bamboozles decent small town folks – “we lost our business community.” However, the call is indeed coming from inside the house. Consumers wanting lower prices (at any cost) and businesses looking to increase profits seek out low-price suppliers, who achieve that through tricks such as building on cheaper land on the outskirts, and manufacturing overseas. Taxpayers agree to larger consolidated schools for the promise of lower taxes. City officials seeking businesses lure in larger ones at the expense of smaller ones. And the provision of social services is cut, with the support of taxpayers, so we can pretend poverty is an individual failing, not a social problem.

  5. Re: The Halifax Examiner: No ads, surreptitious trackers, or auto-playing videos

    May I recommend Brave browser? My browser of choice does an excellent job of stripping all the crap from web pages. Unfortunately, that sometimes causes the page to malfunction. Fortunately, you can easily click to turn off the shields for any page to make it load properly. https://brave.com/ For Facebook, there’s something called F. B. Purity https://www.fbpurity.com/ that lets you really cut the garbage from Facebook. For YouTube on mobiles I found something called YouTube Vanced which has since disappeared, probably because of legal threats from Google, but there are other clones of it. https://vanced.en.uptodown.com/android It does a great job of removing the annoying ads.

    1. Shawn: I do use Brave most of the time! But I know most people don’t, so for the purposes of writing the piece, I used Microsoft Edge to navigate to the news sites. I like the new cookie consent popup blocker too.