News

1. Gray Arena

Gray Arena. Photo: HRM

I’m told reliably that the old Gray Arena in North Dartmouth has been opened as a shelter for men rough-sleeping around the city, and those evicted last week from the Comfort Inn. The arena was closed a few years ago when the new ice surfaces opened in Burnside, and is now on the city’s surplus property list. The arena is being used “indefinitely” as a shelter until better options can be found.

Gray is few blocks away from the Highfield Transit terminal and not much farther away from the Comfort Inn.

All yours for just $1700/month

Meanwhile, Suzanne Rent points me to a 250 (!) square-foot “micro-suite” for rent on Hunter Street — it’s a third-floor walk-up (no elevator), with a refrigerator, hot plate, microwave, and toaster oven, but no stove. This luxury is all yours for $1700/month (an extra $100 if you want parking).

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2. “Beth”

Community Services Minister Karla MacFarlane. Photo: Twitter

Writes Stephen Kimber:

Pregnant? Pregnant!

Beth hadn’t even known until the doctor at the hospital told her. The moment she found out, she knew she had to change the life she was leading because it was leading her down a “scary” path.

She was not even 18, a continent away from where she’d been born, estranged from her family, living in a British Columbia treatment facility for adolescents with “behavioural problems,” problems that had gotten worse, not better, since Nova Scotia’s child protection services dispatched her here and forgot her five years before. She could be violent, she drank too much, she’d gotten “wrapped up in the drugs.” Her boyfriend was “running from people that wanted to beat him.” And now she was pregnant!

As soon as they left the hospital that day in 2004, Beth’s boyfriend “went to a dealer.” He met up with her back in a nearby park a short time later. “He wanted to do stuff,” Beth recalls, “and I was like, ‘No. If you go ahead, you can stay here. I’m not doing that no more.’ And that’s when I decided to make a choice and to leave for the better of myself and my child.”

I would like to tell you that Beth and her child lived happily ever after. But I can’t.

This isn’t that kind of story. This is a story about child welfare in Nova Scotia, and those stories almost always end badly.

Click here to read “Beth’s family was broken by Nova Scotia’s child welfare system: Are you listening, Minister MacFarlane?

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3. Taizanah’zian Fletcher

12-year-old Taizanah’zian was bitten by her neighbour’s dog on September 12, 2021. Photo: Francisca Fletcher.

“A Black mother is accusing Halifax Regional Police of racial bias in the mishandling of a case involving her 12-year-old daughter Taizanah’zian, who was bitten by a neighbour’s dog,” reports Matthew Byard:

Last Saturday, September 11, Francisca Fletcher said she heard a commotion outside her house in the Greystone area of Spryfield, then heard someone yell her name.

“And I looked outside, and my daughter’s coming towards my house with a face full of blood.”

Before taking her daughter to the hospital, Fletcher said that some of the neighbourhood kids told her what they said they saw. Fletcher said they told her they know the dog to be aggressive.

Fletcher said that, according to Taizanah’zian, a white neighbour’s daughter, who is 13, removed a muzzle from the dog and invited Taizanah’zian over to pet it.

Fletcher went on to say that police questioned her but not the neighbour about the incident, and have been generally unresponsive:

Fletcher said that based on past experience, she feels that had her own dog bitten a white child, things would be different.

“I know people who’ve lived (in the neighbourhood) who are Black … who their dog has pinned down a dog of a white owner, [and that] dog had to get taken from the family. And another situation where a dog from a Black home bit a white child — that dog had to get taken out and put to sleep as well,” she said. “If my dog bit [someone], there would be no runaround. All the white people would have came for me to make sure my dog was removed.”

Click here to read “Black mother accuses Halifax police of racial bias after her child was bitten by a neighbour’s dog.”

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4. COVID and trust in Public Health

On Friday, there were 18 new cases of COVID-19 announced in Nova Scotia.

The province continues to make progress on the vaccination front, albeit it hasn’t yet hit the 75% target:

The province will likely hit the 75% threshold sometime next week if military people are included, and sometime the following week if not. Either way, that threshold will be met by the Phase 5 reopening now scheduled for Oct. 4

The graph above shows the progress of vaccination over time, as captured weekly on Fridays. The blue line is people with one dose only; the green line is people with two doses (the brown line adds in military personnel with two doses); the yellow line is people with at least one dose, and the orange line represents 75% of the entire population.

I’ve been thinking about how people process information. Way back in January, when the vaccines first became available, there was only a trickle of vaccine coming into the province. Public Health was upfront about this, and I reliably reported that that small trickle was forecast to increase by orders of magnitude weekly in April, and that’s when the vaccination program would begin in full force. And, that’s exactly what happened, as the chart above illustrates.

Still, in those early months of February and March, when there were only a small amount of vaccine coming into the province, and just as I was repeatedly explaining that much more vaccine would come in April, people were responding to those articles (and my tweets) with things like “at this rate, we won’t get vaccinated until 2026,” or whatever.

I didn’t know what to make of this. Could they not comprehend the article? I often tended to think they were bad actors — people purposefully spreading confusion for whatever perverse goals.

I still think there are an awful lot of bad actors out there, but now I think there’s a better explanation for the bulk of these kinds of responses: fear.

Here’s another example of people responding to information that perhaps demonstrates what I’m getting at. Each week, Public Health gives updated information about the vaccination status of people who are newly infected, hospitalized, or have died, and I dutifully report it; here’s that data from Friday:

Between March 15 and Sept. 16, 2021, there were 4,609 new cases of COVID. Of those:
• 99 (2.1%) were fully vaccinated
• 275 (6.0%) were partially vaccinated
• 4,235 (91.9%) were unvaccinated

Over the same period, 260 people were hospitalized. Of those:
• 3 (1.1%) were fully vaccinated
• 28 (10.8%) were partially vaccinated
• 229 (88.1%) were unvaccinated

Over the same period, 28 people died. Of those:
• 1 (3.6%) was fully vaccinated
• 3 (10.7%) were partially vaccinated
• 24 (85.7%) were unvaccinated

Invariably, when I report these numbers, several people accuse the province of juking the stats because, they say, the March 15 start date somehow confuses the data — not many people were vaccinated by then, or it was timed to conceal the third wave or some other reason.

“Juking the stats” is a useful term, and explains how we, the public, are often bullshitted through the use of statistics. It’s explained by these two clips from The Wire:

“Wherever you go, there you are.”

So yes, juking the stats happens all too often, and people are right to be suspicious of official numbers. But here’s the thing: the COVID stats aren’t being juked.

The province can’t win here. As soon as vaccines became widely available, people started to demand the vaccination status of new cases, and so that data was provided weekly. But now by providing the data weekly, comprehensively back to March 15, they’re criticized for it.

But there’s no conspiracy here. Anyone can find data for any given period with simple subtraction. So, for example, here’s the data for the most recent week:

Between Sept. 10 and Sept. 16, 2021, there were 187 new cases of COVID. Of those:
• 17 (9.1%) were fully vaccinated
• 10 (5.3%) were partially vaccinated
• 160 (85.6%) were unvaccinated

Over the same period, 3 people were hospitalized. Of those:
• 1 (33.3%) was fully vaccinated
• 0 (0%) were partially vaccinated
• 2 (66.7%) were unvaccinated

Over the same period, 0 people died.

A caveat: as the percentage of fully vaccinated people increases, we should expect the percentage (but not necessarily the number) of new cases that are fully vaccinated people to increase, as there are fewer unvaccinated people around. Still, these breakthrough cases will generally be less severe than they would be had the people not been vaccinated.

There seems to be a default of distrust of Public Health when it comes to all things COVID related, and it disturbs me.

Listen: Over the past 19 months, I’ve been critical of Public Health when I felt it was necessary to do so. I’ve criticized Dr. Strang.

Most recently, I criticized the way new cases were broken into age cohorts — the “19 and under” cohort included both the entirely unvaccinated 11 and under group and the highly vaccinated 12-19 group, which served to confuse the issue and perhaps obscure outbreaks among the younger group and in elementary schools. To his credit, Strang agreed with my criticism, and while it took too long, Public Health is now providing a better breakdown, with 12 and under and 13-19 reported separately (I would have preferred 11 and under and 12-19, but I guess that’s how they collect the data).

But there’s a difference between targeted critique and blanket distrust, and I’m seeing far too much of the latter. I’m not talking about the anti-vaxxers and COVID-deniers, who are their own class of confused. And I acknowledge there are people who distrust Public Health for good reason, having been the historic recipients of biased treatment and non-treatment (Evelyn White discussed this here). Rather, I’m talking about that wider group that just seems to doubt everything government says about COVID specifically.

I’ve come to the conclusion that government and media have been so highlighting the real pain and death from the disease, and stressing the need to be careful, that the public has a hyper sensitivity about all things COVID. Which is good for preventing the spread of the virus, but not great for trusting official stats and information.

I can say this: with my 30-years-plus of being a reporter, I find Public Health’s information on COVID at the high end of transparency for government agencies. Yes, they make data mistakes, and yes, there are sometimes not-so-well-thought-out reporting decisions (like lumping the 11s and under and the 12-19s in the same category), but we should expect such mistakes from any human institution. I see no signs at all that there is any purposeful decision to deceive.

There’s one giant gaping exception here, however: Public Health is no longer reporting school-connected cases beyond close contacts. This is a policy decision that reflects Public Health being way ahead of the public in terms of accepting COVID as a part of life for the ongoing future.

The thought seems to be that a giant issue doesn’t need to be made about each school-connected case, but the public isn’t there yet, and by withholding that information, Public Health is sowing distrust. It’d serve Public Health’s interest better to continue to fully publicize school-connected cases until long after the public gets bored with the data.

Long-term trust in Public Health is more important than the short-term hassle saved by not making that data available.

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5. My Lady

My Lady. Photo: YouTube

In the On the Harbour section below, you’ll note that the superyacht My Lady is departing from the Foundation Wharf (at the foot of Salter Street) this afternoon for parts unknown. The boat arrived in Halifax Saturday Sept. 12 from Melville, Rhode Island. You can read about it here.

My Lady is owned by billionaire Michael Ashcroft, a Brit living in Belize who despite being a tax exile was named a Baron in the House of Lords and was the deputy chair of the Conservative Party for a decade (money opens doors). Aschcroft’s peerage appointment became part of the Cash-for-Honours scandal, a police investigation into rich people giving large loans to political parties in return for being made mucky mucks.

He writes boring books about war, but also co-authored (with journalist Isabel Oakeshott) Call Me Dave: The Unauthorised Biography of David Cameron, which is best known as the cause of #piggate; explains Max Fisher for Vox:

Piggate is the jokey hashtag that people are using on social media to reference the Daily Mail allegation that Cameron put his penis into the mouth of a dead pig while he was a student at Oxford University.

The Daily Mail story is an excerpt from Call Me Dave, an unauthorized biography of Cameron by British businessman and politician Michael Ashcroft.

According to the story, Cameron was a member of a male-only, quasi-secret society at Oxford known as the Piers Gaveston Society.

As part of either a formal initiation ritual or a moment of drunken buffoonery (that line, after all, is blurry) with the society, Cameron once put his penis into the mouth of a dead pig while the pig head was in another student’s lap.

I don’t know if Ashcroft is actually on the boat or has been wandering around downtown over the last week. I didn’t see him drinking Schooners at Bearly’s, anyway; maybe he goes to high class joints like the Brown Hound.

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Government

City

Monday

Grants Committee (Monday, 10am) — on YouTube

Board of Police Commissioners (Monday, 12:30pm) — on YouTube

Advisory Committee on Accessibility in HRM (Monday, 4pm) — on YouTube

Tuesday

Halifax and West Community Council (Tuesday, 6pm) — on YouTube, with captioning on a text-only site

Province

No meetings


On campus

Dalhousie

Monday

Growing Up Positive: Psychosocial Issues Facing Youth Living with HIV (Monday, 12:30pm) — virtual presentation featuring Tiffany Chenneville from the University of South Florida and York University

Tuesday

The Fundamental Theorems of Calculus and Zinbiel Algebras (Tuesday, 2:30pm) — J.S. Lemay from Mount Allison University will explain

In commutative algebra, derivations and integrations (also called O-operators) generalize the notions of the derivative and integral from calculus. On the other hand, Zinbiel algebras are a special kind of commutative non-unital associative algebras that capture the notion of riffle shuffle permutations.

Zinbiel algebras and integrations are closely related: every integration induces a Zinbiel algebra, and every Zinbiel algebra induces an integration. However, these constructions are not inverses! Indeed, while every Zinbiel algebra is constructed from an integration, not every integration is constructed from a Zinbiel algebra.

In this talk, I will explain how an integration is constructed from a Zinbiel algebra precisely when said integration comes equipped with a derivation, and that together they satisfy the two fundamental theorems of calculus. Thus we obtain an equivalence of categories, which therefore provides an equivalent characterization of Zinbiel algebras in terms of the fundamental theorems of calculus.

This story provides a new perspective on “O-operators on associative algebras and dendriform algebras” by Bai, Guo and Ni. https://arxiv.org/abs/1003.2432v2

Saint Mary’s

Tuesday

Black Business Initiatives: Access to Capital Markets | Overcoming Barriers for Black Businesses (Tuesday, 12pm) — Zoom webinar


In the harbour

Halifax
00:30: Baie St.Paul, bulker, arrives at Pier 9 from Grande-Entrée, Îles de la Madeleine
05:00: Atlantic Sky, ro-ro container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Liverpool, England
06:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, arrives at Pier 41 from St. John’s
07:45: Augusta Unity, cargo ship, arrives at Pier 31 from Moa, Cuba
09:00: Baie St.Paul sails for sea
12:00: Tropic Hope, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Philipsburg, Sint Maarten
15:00: Lagrafoss, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Reykjavik, Iceland
15:30: Atlantic Sky sails for New York
18:30: My Lady, yacht, sails from Foundation Wharf for sea
22:00: Lagrafoss sails for Portland

Cape Breton
19:00: NS Laguna, oil tanker, arrives at Point Tupper from New York


Footnotes

Vote early and vote often.


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Tim Bousquet

Tim Bousquet is the editor and publisher of the Halifax Examiner. Twitter @Tim_Bousquet Mastodon

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  1. One thing that is conspicuously absent from discussions of COVID outside of the bill gates microchip echo chambers is the cost of our response to the pandemic. Mainstream discussions focus on the harm caused by the virus, but ignore the enormous costs of the response. Partially, that’s because the sort of person who sets public policy and the sort of people who report on it have not lost their jobs and generally live in a way that has not been impacted too much by the restrictions. The costs of the pandemic response are not merely financial. What will be the impact on the brain development of people who were infants or small children during the era of masks everywhere? How will the petty authoritarianism and safety theatre that schools engage in shape the relationship of an entire generation to government? How will the normalization of internal passport systems be abused by governments in the future? As moronic as comparisons between present-day Western governments and the Nazis are, what would the Nazis have done if presenting a QR code to a networked computer system everywhere you go was already normalized – even with the best intentions – by the previous government?

    The question that the pandemic asked us collectively is “What do we value” – and the answer appears to be “Life at any cost”, which is the value system of yeast.