April 14, 2014

You can tell it’s really Spring in Toronto

Filed under: Cancon — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 08:10

The weather forecast for today and tonight contains a little bit of everything:

Update: The rest of the story:

With spring now well over three weeks old, the snow tires are off, the yard work has begun, and the boots and parkas are already at the back of the closet

However, winter weather is expected to make a comeback on Tuesday, as much of the province will see a major swing in temperatures and a mixed bag of precipitation.

Temperatures are expected to plummet from a high of 21 C on Monday to a low of -7 C on Tuesday night, with the potential for freezing rain and snow.

Ahead of winter’s reappearance, it will be a warm day for parts of southern Ontario on Monday as temperatures may reach the mid-twenties mark.

Environment Canada has once again issued a “special weather statement”, which they seem to do every other day recently. It’s not a storm warning or even a storm watch, but just a “hey, there’ll be some weather!” kind of thing. A communication tailored to the fact that weather is now treated like celebrity news in a lot of media markets.

March 7, 2014

Gunboat diplomacy for the 21st century

Filed under: Europe, Military, Russia, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 08:38

680News reports that a US warship will be patrolling the Black Sea:

A U.S. Navy warship is heading to the Black Sea as tensions in Ukraine continue to divide world powers, according to multiple published reports.

Turkey has given the USS Truxtun permission to pass through the Bosphorus into the Black Sea.

U.S. officials say it is a “routine” deployment that was scheduled before the crisis erupted in Ukraine.

However, the show of military hardware is coinciding with NATO’s show of military support over Baltic countries with its use of air patrols and F-15 fighter jets.

Meantime, President Barack Obama’s warnings to Russia are being brushed aside by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who appears to only be speeding up efforts to formally stake his claim to Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.

The USS Truxtun is a new Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, commissioned in 2009.
While we may be relatively sure that the Truxtun is a powerful vessel (the Wikipedia article describes the class as “larger and more heavily armed than most previous ships classified as guided missile cruisers”), no single ship is going to be particularly effective in putting pressure on Russia over their Ukraine deployment. The Black Sea is a small body of water, geostrategically speaking, and is totally dominated by land-based airpower. Should the situation turn grave, Truxton isn’t likely to weigh heavily in the military balance. She’s there as a token, not as a military asset.

January 24, 2013

Is the media’s love affair with “extreme weather” just an elaborate insurance scam?

Terence Corcoran in the Financial Post:

All it takes these days is a little normal January Canadian cold spell and all of a sudden the nation is plunged into a frenzy of chatter about “extreme weather.” The CBC led the way, aided and abetted by climate alarmists in the Canadian insurance industry, with help from an apparently leaked data point from an Environment Canada report that supposedly will show that Canadian winters are now 3.2C warmer than they used to be. Get it? It’s really cold, but that’s because of climate change, which is making Canada’s winters warmer.

If you find this confusing, well, get used to it. That may even be part of the objective, which, judging by the sudden extreme flood of media reports, seems to be keep Canada’s population agitated about global warming, a cause that has so far failed to ignite voters.

If the theory of climate change doesn’t grab people, maybe “extreme weather” will. The media certainly love it. All News Radio in Toronto now has an “Extreme Weather Centre” that rouses itself every time weather happens — snow storms, cold spells, heat waves, rain, temperature anomalies. Alarmist weather forecasting and reporting is a media staple, but the concept now appears to have reached a new level of hypedom.

[. . .]

The insurance angle was cleverly juxtaposed with a leaked bit of data from an Environment Canada report that will not be released until May. It supposedly will show that Canadian winter temperatures have risen 3.2C since Canada began keeping systematic records in 1948. As a standalone bit of data, not much can be made of it. Even less can be made of it for popular consumption if current temperatures are approaching record cold. How can we have record warm and record cold at the same time?

That’s where “extreme weather” comes in. It’s also where the Canadian insurance industry, through a front group called the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction, is actively promoting extreme weather as a major vehicle for business and policy development. With offices in Toronto and the University of Western Ontario, the institute’s membership is almost exclusively insurance companies, its eight-member board is stacked with five insurance executives, and the executive director is Paul Kovacs, is former head of the Insurance Bureau of Canada.

September 25, 2011

Police “told her she had to stay tied up until they could document the scene, which she said took five hours”

Filed under: Cancon, Law — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 11:35

A new lawsuit has been filed in the Russell Williams case:

Laurie Massicotte was a neighbour of Williams in Tweed, Ontario, and was bound, stripped and sexually assaulted in September 2009.

The Toronto Star reported, the more than $7-million law suit filed on Friday claims police failed to provide her with any information about the identity of her assailant while he remained her neighbour for five months following the assault.

Massicottee told the Star, it was only after her assault that she heard another woman who lived on the street had been sexually assaulted twelve days before she was attacked.

She also said after she called the police, they told her she had to stay tied up until they could document the scene, which she said took five hours.

The police left a rape victim tied up for five hours? No wonder she’s suing the Ontario Provincial Police!

February 1, 2011

Fearmongering media empty Toronto highways in advance of Snowpocalypse 2011

Filed under: Cancon, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 12:56

I had a great commute into downtown Toronto today: unlike my usual pattern of spending 20-30 minutes inching down the Don Valley Parkway from Finch to York Mills (and then sometimes another 20-30 minutes from there to Bloor/Bayview), today’s drive was actually pleasant. There was a bit of congestion in the right-hand lanes coming south on the 404 past the Sheppard/401 exit, but other than that, I didn’t even need to downshift until just north of Eglinton.

I’m sure some of this is due to the efforts of energetic, enthusiastic news and weather folks at 680 News and other media outlets. They’ve been in full pantswetting mode for the last 24 hours, warning us about the alarming possibility of snowfall. That drumbeat of doom must have persuaded lots of drivers to avoid coming in to the looming epicentre of severe winter weather at Yonge and Bloor.

For those of you unfamiliar with Toronto weather, you probably think we experience regular snowfall, with cold temperatures and high winds (like Montreal and Winnipeg often do). If Toronto did experience things like that, we wouldn’t be able to deploy any troops to Afghanistan, because they’d all be in Toronto trying to save the city from utter panic and absolute civic collapse. Toronto doesn’t handle winter very well at all.

I thought it was just the highways, but Darkwatermuse found the same phenomenon on city streets today:

Did anybody else notice the light traffic today? I had to head uptown on the bus for a mid-day appointment and the bus cruised slowly past each empty bus stop. Stops which normally have two or three people debarking or embarking the bus.

On the way home I found myself alone on the bus, not considering the driver. If the driver’s seat had been empty I would have snapped a photo of it with my smart phone and emailed the photo to the media. Assuming I survived the crash and after the bus came to a complete stop and having shown somebody at the TTC my valid transfer.

Alone. On the Sherbourne bus. That’s like being alone in the serving line at the shelter on Christmas Eve. Strangely, a lot of those same missing people normally take the Sherbourne bus so I wasn’t too fussed being alone for once.

For once the bus didn’t smell like 3AM vomit and an ashtray overflowing with Player’s Navy Cut cigarette butts. An unlikely outcome just like snowballs in hades or, apparently, snow in Toronto.

Of course, I may have to retract all of this if the weather really does (for once) come close to the media’s hyperventilated predictions: I’m meeting another member of the VRWC (libertarian sub-committee) after work tonight, so I’ll get to experience a bit more of the joy of Toronto in snow.

Update, 2 February: As we few, bedraggled survivors claw our way out of the Massive, Unprecedented, Crippling Snowfall, the CBC offers us their support and sympathy:

November 5, 2010

His lawyer said “Vakhtang has been under a great deal of stress”

Filed under: Cancon, Law — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 12:14

One sometimes has sympathy for police officers who may harbour suspicions, but are unable to pursue them for a lack of evidence. When the disappearance of Mariam Makhniashvili came to public attention, I wondered if her father might have been the perpetrator (I’m sure the police had similar thoughts), but there was no reported evidence to support that notion.

Since then, Vakhtang Makhniashvili has been involved in a series of incidents that can only reinforce any suspicions:

Trouble seems to be following Vakhtang: his daughter disappeared in September 2009, he was arrested in May after allegedly stabbing his neighbour and in December 2008, was charged with lewd conduct in Los Angeles related to an alleged obscene incident in front of a daycare centre, but was was later acquitted.

That’s why yesterday’s incident seems, in retrospect, almost inevitable:

[Vakhtang Makhniashvili] has also been charged with aggravated assault and fail to comply with recognizance following a double stabbing in the city’s east end on Thursday.

A man and a woman were stabbed inside a home at 10 Greenwood Ave., near Queen Street East.

On Thursday, blood stains could be seen on the front porch and a trail of blood was splattered on the sidewalk.

Police told 680News Vakhtang was in the couple’s home where a verbal argument took place, and that ended with the pair being stabbed multiple times.

Yes, yes, presumption of innocence, etc. But it’s even harder to believe after all of this that he didn’t have something to do with the Mariam Makhniashvili case, isn’t it?

October 9, 2010

I know what they meant to say

Filed under: Cancon, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 12:19

The original wording:

Then the corrected version:

March 9, 2010

We’re pulling soft drinks from schools, but we’ll now charge for water

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Cancon, Education — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 09:40

680 News had this delightful little news item in the round-up this morning:

Some parents are questioning a plan by the Toronto District School Board to put a vending machine in a Parkdale elementary school that sells water refills and flavoured water.

The vending machine is scheduled to be installed at Fern Avenue Public School, near Queen Street and Roncesvalles Avenue.

The machine will charge students 50-cents for filtered water and $1 for flavoured water.

The pipes at the school apparently need to be replaced, which has some parents concerned that this little “convenience” will come to replace the water fountains altogether. If that happened, the 50-cents-per-drink machine would be a nice little earner for the school board.

After this became news, the board decided to delay the installation until after a meeting to consult with concerned parents. (Translation: the phones were melting down from the angry responses the board was getting, so they’re at least pretending to pay attention to parental concerns.)

August 23, 2009

Toronto’s recent brush with tornado weather

Filed under: Cancon, Environment — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 17:29

I was deep in downtown Toronto when the storm started to move in, and listening to the professional pants-wetters at 680PanicNews was initially disturbing, but eventually hilarious. Not to minimize the genuine damage caused in Vaughan and the town of Durham. This is how I summarized the weather-related experience in an email to Jon:

I barely made it home before the storm hit . . . it chased me all the way, with the ProfessionalPantsWetters at 680Panic Radio getting more and more excited as the time went on.

I got out of the truck, picked up my laptop, walked to the door, and less than a minute later the storm hit. The power went out about five minutes after that (and didn’t come back on until about 3:30 in the morning).

No obvious damage around the house, thank goodness, although the gazebo tried to go walkies around the yard. It wrapped itself around the patio set, which will take several pairs of hands to disentangle and find out if it’s still usable.

From a follow-up email, specifically about the radio coverage:

At first, they didn’t seem too bad. I turned on the radio just as traffic came to a stop on the DVP just south of the Bloor Viaduct. By the time I got as far as Lawrence, the woman reporter who got all verklempt over the TORNADO ON JARVIS!!!!! wasn’t able to draw a breath without sounding like she was panting or gasping. I was starting to laugh at them by that point.

The meteorpanickologist who started to repeat (several times) that everyone should get into the basement — or lower — or into a closet (aren’t most people’s closets on the upper floor if they’re in a house?) or cower in a bathtub (aren’t they usually upstairs too?) . . .

I also found amusement in the repeated definition of the terms “tornado watch” and “tornado warning”, where almost every time, the description of “tornado warning” was to “_watch_ out for imminent tornado formation”. They just don’t listen to themselves, do they?

I thought it quite telling that one of the better reports was from their entertainment editor, who reported from her car on the way up Victoria Park Avenue. She, at least, sounded calm and reported only what she could see for herself.

Chris Taylor brings some actual data to the discussion of tornado frequency and writes “It can be tempting for Torontonians — who generally think of themselves as an island of tranquillity free of severe weather — to overreact a little.”

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