News

1. Mount Uniacke residents oppose quarry expansion

The current quarry on Mines Road in Mount Uniacke. Photo: Contributed

“Residents in Mount Uniacke say they are concerned about a proposed expansion of a four-hectare local quarry they never wanted in their community,Suzanne Rent reports.

As I recall, several years ago there was a flurry of quarries approved, all under four hectares. Going above that threshold would have triggered environmental review. At the time, community members in several places where these quarries opened were concerned that they would be expanded. That’s what’s happening in Mount Uniacke, where there is an application by quarry owner Northumberland Capital Corporation Inc. (NCCI) for a 10-fold expansion, to 40 hectares.

Rent writes:

“We asked what their intentions were yearly, from 2015 on, and it was always there never was any intention to grow bigger than what they already were,” [resident Stephen] Marsh said.

Damon Conrad, coordinator with the Sackville Rivers Association, is a member of the CLC. He said he’s heard little publicly about the proposed quarry expansion, and reached out to NCCI in late April to get more details, but hasn’t heard back.

Conrad said the association has always been concerned about how the quarry could potentially contaminate the Sackville River.

“The quarry is actually right at the top of the Sackville River watershed, just above the headwaters wetland,” Conrad said. “Our concern is overland flow. Any overland flow would be runoff, silt, or anything else in the runoff that may be coming from the quarry that could make it into the river or the headwater wetland.”

NCCI is hosting an open house on the project at the Mount Uniacke fire hall at 6pm.

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2. Logging plans halted to protect Atlantic whitefish

The Atlantic Whitefish was featured on a stamp, way back when a letter cost 17 cents to mail.

The Department of Natural Resources and Renewables (is there a government department whose name changes more often?) has “indefinitely delayed an application to log on Crown land near Bridgewater, N.S., to protect critically endangered Atlantic whitefish,” Paul Withers of the CBC reports.

Westfor had applied to cut parcels of land along the Petite Rivière watershed, including the last few lakes where the Atlantic whitefish survives. Environmentalists opposed the application, and so did the Town of Bridgewater, which, Withers writes, had concerns with Westfor’s “forestry practices within the watershed and travelling through waterways causing significant siltation, waterway contamination, ground disturbance.”

Hinterland Who’s Who has a nice little history of the Atlantic whitefish, which is related to salmon:

Unique to Canada, Atlantic whitefish have been reported only in the Tusket River and Petite Riviere watersheds in southern Nova Scotia. Sadly, the Tusket River population has been extirpated. The Petite Riviere population may, in fact, represent the last remaining Atlantic whitefish in the world. The exact size of the remaining population is not known.

The damming of the Tusket River in 1929 interfered with the migratory movement of the Atlantic whitefish for many years and may have been a factor in the extirpation of the river’s anadromous population. Also, rising acidity in some portions of the river may have negatively affected their reproductive success.

A lack of fish passage between the sea and the lakes in Petite Riviere may be a factor in the decline of the anadromous population in the area. Non-native fish in the Petite Riviere watershed, such as the smallmouth bass have been illegally introduced and may pose a significant threat to the last remaining population of Atlantic whitefish. Poaching and recreational fishing (the fish is often mistaken for lake whitefish) were also believed to have also contributed to the species’ decline in the past.

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3. “Defund the crime beat”

Halifax Regional Police cruisers lined up behind headquarters on Gottingen Street in June 2021. Photo: Zane Woodford

CTV has a story from Moncton with the headline, “A Moncton woman is doing her part to help curb crime in her city.”

The woman, Kim Christie-Gallant, is “concerned about the rise in theft, break and enters and drug use among the city’s homeless population and has started a petition called ‘Make Moncton Safe Again.’”

I, a naive idiot, thought Christie-Gallant was upset that the unhoused population are being robbed, and wanted to do something to help people get drug treatment. But no. She says her friends and neighbours would like to go out to dinner or a show in downtown Moncton:

“But they don’t feel safe parking their car down there at night,” she says. “They don’t feel safe walking the streets. Seniors in the neighbourhood that go for walks in the morning have had their paths passed by people openly intoxicated, on drugs. Everybody is scared for their safety.”…

“We need more policing. We need more visibility of policing. We need when people call to report a crime, we need immediate reaction,” said Christie-Gallant.

As far as crime reporting goes this is pretty tame. Someone feels unsafe and is talking to council about it. Someone who works in outreach for the YMCA is also interviewed, and says homeless people don’t represent a threat.

Reading the story though, I was left wondering, what is Christie-Gallant doing to “curb crime in her city?” We don’t hear whether Christie-Gallant has called the police and not had them show up, or whether she has witnessed any actual crimes. Being intoxicated is not a crime. If it was, the cops would be arresting half the people downtown every Saturday night. Is crime on the rise in Moncton? What would effectively curb it?

This week’s On the Media podcast from WNYC in New York, looks at the crime beat in some detail, and interviews Tauhid Chappell, co-author of a story at Nieman Lab called “Defund the crime beat.”

From what I’ve seen, crime reporting in the US is far worse, more racist, and more simplistic than what we get here. Still, our media run plenty of stories that are just press releases from the police, and we’ve seen the rise of terms like “officer-involved shooting” north of the border, too. (How was the officer involved?)

I am interested in how categories affect the way we think and experience the world. One example is the way newspapers and news websites are set up. If I go to the Chronicle Herald website, I see these categories in the banner at the top of the page: “News, Communities, Opinion, Business, Sports, Lifestyles, Obituaries, Weather, More, Podcasts.” That’s a pretty standard set of categories, I’d say. (“More,” by the way, is branded, or sponsored content.)

The Examiner doesn’t have sections, but we do have broad feature categories, which you can see at the top of the page: “Black Nova Scotia, Economy, Education, Environment, Health, Investigation, Journalism, Labour, Policing, Politics, Profiles, Transit, Women, Morning File, Commentary, and PRICED OUT, which is our housing-related series.

These categories give you a sense of the focus of the publications. The Chronicle Herald has “Business” while we have “Economy” and “Labour.” Neither of us has a dedicated “arts” category.

In the On the Media podcast, Laura Bennett, director of the Center for Just Journalism, suggests looking at crime more broadly, under the rubric of public safety:

We… know that people dramatically overestimate their risk of being a victim of violent crime…

Housing makes us safe. The air we breathe makes us safe. The water we drink makes us safe. And there are not a lot of news beats dedicated to those things. We’ve had a couple of really big house fires on the East Coast recently where many people were killed. And in both of those cases, I believe there had been several reported building code violations. And maybe if there were a news beat dedicated to building code violations, those landlords would have had to fix the problems and those fires wouldn’t have happened. Safety is a really big concept and crime is one part of safety, but it’s not the full thing.

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4. New traffic signal makes news

Traffic signals in Montreal, seen in fall 2021. Photo: Philip Moscovitch

Graeme Benjamin at Global has a story on a new traffic signal for bicycles on Wyse Road in Dartmouth.

Benjamin writes:

A traffic light specifically for cyclists was installed at the corner of Wyse and Bolland roads on Friday. It temporarily stops vehicles from turning right from Wyse Road onto Bolland, giving cyclists the right of way.

“It’s just kind of nice to see Nova Scotia and HRM specifically use these bicycle signals,” said Kyle Miller, who’s been a cyclist in the Halifax Regional Municipality for years.

Lights like this only became possible with amendments to the provincial Motor Vehicle Act. The city’s active transportation supervisor, Dave MacIsaac, er, explains: “They’re also needed usually on bi-directional bikeways at a signal, to kind of create a protected phase for the bicyclist.”

Translation: Bikes get to travel through the intersection first, before cars can turn. I saw lights like this for the first time in Montreal last year, and they seemed to work great for all involved. At first I didn’t trust them, figuring the drivers were going to just turn anyway and possibly plow into me when I was on a bike, but they did not. They would patiently wait, then turn. (If you are tempted to comment that cyclists don’t respect traffic signals, let me take you on a tour of spots around town where I have noticed drivers treating stop signs as a suggestion.)

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Views

The dangers of sharing your thoughts and moods with mental health apps

Facebook ad for BetterHelp, which connects clients and therapists.

Last week, the Mozilla Foundation published a privacy report on mental health apps. The findings were not great.

Mozilla has done a number of these reports, looking at the privacy policies and practices of wearable devices, fitness apps and services, dating apps, toys and games, and more.

Not surprisingly, many of these devices and services have poor privacy policies and practices. Unfortunately, in the age of surveillance capitalism, that seems almost like a ho-hum observation. Of course they are collecting and sharing or selling information. Isn’t that how the Internet economy works? As Mozilla writes of Headspace, perhaps the best-known mindfulness and meditation app:

It does collect a good amount of data though, shares some of that data with third parties for things such as targeted advertising, and seems to be looking to use more of that data to keep you on the app as much as possible. Like we said, unfortunately, this is the norm for apps in our current data economy. The question is, should it be?

Then they offer a few specific questions:

Does it matter if Facebook knows when you use a meditation app, if Google knows where you use the app, or if Headspace knows you’re searching for a meditation to help you prepare for a big exam? It could. What’s the worst that could happen? Well, here’s a blog from Headspace talking about how they are developing machine learning applications to use your data in real-time to offer “recommendations that engage our users with new relevant, personalized content that builds consistent habits in their lifelong journey.”

It’s bad enough when apps overreach and share your personal information in ways that clearly are not required for their function. But there seems to be something particularly egregious about mental health apps, which have access to very private and intimate information, abusing people’s privacy.

Some of the worst offenders Mozilla reviewed are those from BetterHelp, a company that I guess is like (God help me) the Uber of psychotherapy. BetterHelp doesn’t offer therapy itself, you see, it connects you with a therapist. Are there other ways to connect with a therapist? Uh, yes. But BetterHelp is pouring a lot of money into advertising online and on podcasts, touting its system as more flexible. Therapists, meanwhile, are gig workers instead of employees (stop me if you’ve heard this one before). BetterHelp doesn’t say what they are paid. One website that seems to be shilling for them says counsellors get $31/hr. Other websites like this one aimed at therapists say they’re compensated not per session, but for their “meaningful interactions”:

Engagement-based models of compensation distribute pay based on each time counselors participate in meaningful interactions with their clients… Engagements via the BetterHelp platform can take several forms between counselor and client. Interactions such as direct chats, asynchronous chats, live video sessions, journaling, live phone sessions, worksheet assignments, and more qualify as engagements…

Since they receive payment for every client engagement, the more consistent they are with checking in with their clients and scheduling sessions, the more they will receive compensation. The BetterHelp counselors who are more forward-leaning in their clients’ care are typically more successful on the platform than other counselors.

With the engagement-based pay model, BetterHelp’s counselors dictate the depth of their pay based on the quality and quantity of meaningful engagements with new and existing clients. Counselors who are proactive about connecting with and consistently communicating with clients are highly successful in BetterHelp’s engagement-based model.

I mean, this sounds terrible. Right now, I make an appointment with my therapist, in person or online, and I pay her for the session. I cannot imagine having her hound me check in with me for “meaningful engagement” knowing that she’s boosting her pay each time.

And as for privacy? Mozilla puts BetterHelp in its “super creepy” category:

BetterHelp does collect a whole lot of personal information, from the responses to their intake questionnaire (like are you feeling depressed or anxious or are you struggling to maintain relationships), to things like name, age, email address, and phone number. They also say they can use data they collect on you for personalization, product offerings relevant to your individual interests, and targeted ads. And they say they can share some data with a number of third parties including advertisers (boo!), and with any subsidiaries or parent companies within their corporate group (which includes Pride Counseling, Teen Counseling, and Faith Counseling). Remember, every time your data is shared, the potential for data leaks or breaches grows…

BetterHelp shares metadata from every message, though not its contents, with Facebook. This means that Facebook could know what time of day a user was going to therapy, their approximate location, and how long they were chatting on the app. Yup, red flag.

This isn’t even all of it. And sister app Pride Counseling also shares metadata with Facebook.

Even worse is the Better Stop Suicide app. Here’s what Mozilla has to say about its privacy policy:

Contact us at if you have any questions or problems regarding the use of your Personal Data and we will gladly assist you.” Yeah, they just plain old omitted the way to contact them…

It does seem like Better Stop Suicide gathers a fair amount of personal information — including name, email. home address, and IP address. They also say they gather information from “trusted partners” but we have no idea who those “trusted partners” might be… At one point in their privacy policy they say, “We might process your Personal Data for additional purposes that are not mentioned here, but are compatible with the original purpose for which the data was gathered.“…

People who are dealing with suicidal thoughts need all the help we as a society can give them. This app could possibly help. But holy cow, with such an awful mess of a privacy policy, we’d encourage you to find a better app.

It’s not like it’s impossible to do this well. Mozilla says the mood tracker Bearable tracks “as little personally identifiable data as possible to protect users. They purposefully do not ask for information like name, age, and gender.” The chatbot-based Wysa, doesn’t “require any personal identifiers to use their service. They don’t request your personal data. They don’t share your personal data. They don’t sell it either. What?!? It’s so refreshing to see a mental health app with strong privacy practices.”

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Noticed

I’m heading off to Greece, so this is my last Morning File for at least a month.

In case any of you think people who study the ancient Mediterranean region are a humourless lot, I’m going to leave you with a few images shared on social media by historians, archaeologists, and classicists. These folks have hashtags for different days of the week, ranging from the tame #MosaicMonday to the much more randy #PhallusThursday and #FannyFriday.

Penises, of course, have long been a symbol of fertility and abundance, in places ranging from Rome to Bhutan. (There is a “Phallus Paintings in Bhutan” Wikipedia article.) On Phallus Thursday, the classics feeds are full of, well, you know, penises. Lots and lots of penises. As author LJ Trafford, who has written several books on Roman emperors put it:

It’s that day of the week again where we seek the wisdom of the ancients only to find they’re all too busy carving cocks on everything.

Here’s a wine cooler in the British Museum, made in Attica, Greece, around 500 BC.

Ancient Greek pot depicting satyrs. Photo: The British Museum

The museum has this one filed under “satyrs” and “drunkenness.” Archaeologist Flint Dibble shared an image of this pot on Twitter, in December 2020, writing:

So many mentions of elves on shelves, but have you ever seen anything so impressive as a chalice on a phallus?

Moving on, the National Archaeological Museum of Naples, includes several phallic items, including this one, which put in a Phallus Thursday appearance.

Image of Mercury, from the National Archaeological Museum of Naples

This is the god Mercury, and apparently this served as a wind chime. You can see the spots where the bells would hang.

Finally, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts has this item in its collection, which self-described Canadian “rogue classicist” David Meadows referred to as “bring[ing] out the big guns for #PhallusThursday.”

“Erotic figures” from the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Egyptian, from the Greco-Roman Period. The piece dates from between 332 BCE and 337 CE.

Not sure bigger is really better.

On to Fanny Friday now. Here are the three Graces, also called the three Charities:

Etruscan painted vase from Italy, c. 350-300 BCE. From the collection of the British Museum.

A good source of Fanny Friday posts is the More Queer Nymphs Twitter account, run by queer feminist classicist and author Clare M. Coombe. who hosted the limited run More Queer Nymphs podcast. She described it like this:

The purpose of More Queer Nymphs isn’t only to see the relevance of these myths to the contemporary world, but it’s also to find in them a foundation for exploring the devastating impacts of misogyny, the patriarchy, exclusion of the marginalized, and wider issues of social justice.

Here is one of her Fanny Friday contributions:

Trimming or depilating pubic hair is nothing new. Vase from the collection of the Harvard Art Museum, dating from between 430 and 420 BCE.

And here is another image from the National Archaeological Museum of Naples, which contains a fair bit of erotic art from Pompei.

Erotic fresco from the National Archaeological Museum of Naples.

Should you want to do your own research, I have to warn you that a #fannyFriday search on Twitter will turn up lots of contemporary, not classical, and not at all safe for work photos.

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Government

City

Tuesday

Halifax and West Community Council (Tuesday, 6pm) — virtual meeting

Wednesday

Special Events Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 9:30am) — virtual meeting

Province

Tuesday

No meetings

Wednesday

Public Accounts (Wednesday, 9am, Province House) — Funding to Community-Based Health Organizations, with representatives from the Department of Health and Wellness, North End Community Health Centre, Nova Scotia Association of Community Health Centres, Our Health Centre, and Sexual Health Nova Scotia


On campus

No events


In the harbour

Halifax
13:00: Trinitas, cargo ship, sails from Pier 27 for sea
13:00: East Coast, oil tanker, sails from Irving Oil for sea
16:30: Em Kea, container ship, sails from Pier 41 for sea
18:00: ZIM Vancouver, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Valencia, Spain
20:00: Snoekgracht, cargo ship, arrives at Pier 9 from Belfas
20:30: NYK Rigel, container ship, sails from Pier 41 for SOuthampton, England

Cape Breton
07:30: Algoma Value, bulker, arrives at Coal Pier (Sydney) from Point Tupper
19:30: Seaways Redwood, oil tanker, sails from Point Tupper for sea


Footnotes

See you in June. Try not to miss me too much.


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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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  1. Bike lane signals! Fantastic! No right on red! Fantastic! But why does Hrm not do the same for pedestrians. I can not account for the number of times now on Almon and Windsor street where a early crossing is initated for pedestrians but the no right on red is no where to be found and cars are constantly making right on red and almost hitting pedestrians in their right of way. Love the bikes I do, but stop forgetting those of us who have no choice but to walk get rid of right on red already for cars.

  2. Great job on the “defund the crime beat” item. It’s a good example of why I read the Examiner. It can be paired with the points David Simon made years ago in his testimony before the US Congress that highlighted the decline of professional, robust, and rigorous reporting on municipal institutions, including most prominently police departments. See here:https://davidsimon.com/wire-creator-david-simon-testifies-on-the-future-of-journalism/

    We’ve created policing institutions. We need to hold them, and ourselves, accountable for what they have become.

    …and Fanny Friday. Whaaa? The categories that the Examiner can get up to seem boundless.