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April 2013

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Prison break bozos

On Monday, March 18, two imaginative and daring, if not very bright, inmates of a prison in Quebec took an outlandish stab at escaping the surly bonds of earth by using a helicopter as their getaway vehicle. Can you picture two robbers running out of a bank to a waiting getaway vehicle, except think of a helicopter instead of a car? Doesn’t it boggle your mind? Doesn’t it bring a smile to your lips?

There were two accomplices who hijacked a tourism helicopter and forced the pilot to fly—no, to hover over the roof of the prison, while they lowered ropes to the two convicts waiting on the roof for their imaginative attempt at escape.

If you saw this on TV, you have seen the helicopter taking off with the two guys hanging on the dangling ropes, like two care packages of supplies being dropped to a remote village.

The thing is, I’m pretty sure the prison guards may just have noticed this hovering helicopter going whoop-whoop-whoop the way helicopters do. And since this escapade was in broad daylight, wouldn’t that mean that there would be absolutely no stealth at all to this escape? Wouldn’t that mean that the two escapees may as well have sold tickets to the event?

It gets better. The helicopter then landed in a nearby field to let the dangling dorks get inside the helicopter. Then the chopper flew to a local hotel parking lot, a mere 50 kilometers from the prison,  where a getaway car was waiting. Wouldn’t it occur to you that landing a helicopter in a hotel parking lot might also generate just a tad of attention? Maybe that’s just me.

They left the chopper pilot there in the parking lot with his face covered. As soon as they left, the pilot called for help. That’s another thing I think the crooks didn’t think through: It must have taken only a few seconds for the pilot to remove the face covering. I think I’d want to truss him up in order to slow him down. Maybe that’s just me.

My sides are hurting from laughing so much.

The outcome of this brainless expedition was of course that the two inmates and their two accomplices were located within hours and arrested. They are facing nearly two dozen charges, including armed hijacking, breaking and entering and aiming a firearm at police.

Following their first court appearance, Crown lawyer Steve Baribeau said that the prosecution will oppose bail for all four suspects. “You’re talking about an escape from a prison—one of our institutions—in a helicopter,” he said. “It’s special.”

Special? Special? This entire bumbling attempt at freedom is so much more than just ‘special’, Steve. It gives brand new meaning to the word ‘special’. How about ‘unequalled’, ‘matchless’, ‘incomparable’?

Or wait, I know, how about ‘incredibly stupid’? How about ‘one of the most misguided laughable news events to amuse us this week’?

My favourite sentence of the CTV News article? “After their court appearance, the suspects were taken back to the prison, surrounded by a convoy of police cars.”

My mind can’t comprehend how many police vehicles were in that convoy. I bet there were more than enough to make sure the jailbirds didn’t escape again.

I wonder what kind of new job the prison warden is looking for now?

 

Keeping the Internet open

It is time Canadian politicians engaged in an open discussion about citizens’ rights when they go online. To date there seems to be only one high profile Canadian willing to entertain the idea. I am referring to George Takach, a Toronto lawyer and candidate for leadership of the federal Liberal Party.

Takach is calling on the government to create a ‘digital bill of rights’. The notion comes from two American politicians, Representative Darrell Issa and Senator Ron Wyden, key figures in the battle against censorship of the internet.

Issa and Wyden in the United States, and Takach in Canada, are calling for the creation of a ‘digital, or internet, bill of rights,’ because of concerns about what some may describe as a legal oxymoron. Lawmakers and legislators are attempting to regulate the internet without an understanding of how individuals use it.

“Government is flying blind, interfering and regulating without even understanding the basics,” declares Issa on KeepTheWebOpen.com. “Where can a digital citizen turn for protection against the powerful?”

Wyden likens this project to a digital version of the United States’ Constitutional convention. The 10 key provisions in Issa’s and Wyden’s Bill are:

1. The right to a free and uncensored Internet.
2. The right to an open, unobstructed Internet.
3. The right to equality on the Internet.
4. The right to gather and participate in online activities.
5. The right to create and collaborate on the Internet.
6. The right to freely share their ideas.
7. The right to access the Internet equally, regardless of who they are or where they are.
8. The right to freely associate on the Internet.
9. The right to privacy on the Internet.
10. The right to benefit from what they create.

George Takach comes at things from a similar angle. “Our digital world is quickly becoming as important as our physical world,” he proclaims on his website. “We’re doing everything from shopping to sending out resumes to searching for information – and we’re doing more and more of that every day.”

Takach takes aim at the current federal government. He asserts that the Harper Government – one that proclaims liberty to be a concern – has failed to ensure that Canadians’ rights and privacy are protected on the internet. Takach is committed to changing that by championing the establishment of a Canadian Digital Bill of Rights. He is so committed to this he is making it a centrepiece of his campaign to become the next leader of the Liberal Party of Canada.

This stems from a belief that Canadians need a balanced approach to internet security, one that will ensure that we have better safeguards in place to protect the fundamental civil rights and privacy of Canadians when they are online, while also ensuring that law enforcement officials have adequate tools to address online crime and security. This is in contrast to the “Big Government / Big Brother” surveillance solutions of United States President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Takach proposes a somewhat slimmer Bill of Rights than his American counterparts, but his goal is the same. His proposed Bill would guarantee:

1. The right to be free from surveillance not authorized by a court of law.
2. The right to be free from abuse of personal information.
3. The right to enjoy an open, uncensored, unobstructed internet.
4. The right to enjoy network neutrality and be free from traffic shaping and bandwidth throttling.
5. The right to enjoy anonymity, as long as they act responsibly.
6. The right to enjoy access to the Internet no matter where they live.

The work of these three brave individuals should be commended. In a time when so many governments are engaging in more and more invasive solutions, these politicians are calling to keep government out of our internet. Time will tell how receptive North Americans are to internet freedom. If they are, Issa, Wyden, and Takach will have bright careers ahead of them.

 

Hillary Clinton announces support for same-sex marriage

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced Monday that she is a supporter of same-sex marriage. The 2008 Democratic nominee contender and possible Obama successor came out as a supporter Monday morning in a YouTube video for the Human Rights Campaign organisation, adding that “human rights are gay rights.”

“LGBT Americans are our colleagues, our teachers, our soldiers, our friends, our loved ones, and they are full and equal citizens and deserve the rights of citizenship. That includes marriage. That’s why I support marriage for lesbian and gay couples. I support it personally and as a matter of policy and law,” said Clinton.

In the video Clinton also touts her record as Secretary of State where she defended the rights of LGBT people abroad and engaged in conversations with various world leaders about protecting and promoting the rights of these individuals in other nations.

Clinton joins President Obama, who declared his support for same-sex marriage last May, as another top level Democrat who believes in marriage equity in the United States.

The issue, long since put to bed in Canada, is still hotly contested in the United States and has been a major divisive issue in past presidential elections. In recent years the opinions of American people have warmed to the idea somewhat, with gay marriage being practiced in the states of Washington, Vermont, Maryland, Iowa, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, New York, and the District of Columbia.

Watch the full six minute video below and join the conversation with us on Twitter and Facebook and let us know, do you think Hillary is going to make another run for the American presidency in 2016? Would you vote for her if you had the chance?

Lululemon recall over “coverage” issues

Oh boy. Time to take a look at your Lulus.

The Vancouver based yoga clothing retailer is set to lose millions of dollars (some are predicting up to $20 million in losses) this week with a recall of up to one fifth of their inventory over, um, an issue.

The company released a statement saying: “We have determined that certain shipments of product received from our factories and available in store from March 1, 2013 do not meet our technical specifications. The items affected are certain styles of women’s bottoms in our signature black Luon fabric. The ingredients, weight and longevity qualities of the pants remain the same but the coverage does not, resulting in a level of sheerness in some of our women’s black Luon bottoms that falls short of our very high standards.”

So these yoga pants were essentially see-through.

Lululemon yoga pants have long been a gym favourite and, let’s face it, people wear them even when they aren’t at the gym too. They usually fit just right and show off your assets. Unfortunately, if you’re one of the people who purchased them this March, they could be showing off a bit too much of your ass-ets. Yikes.

Let us know what you think on Twitter and Facebook. Will you stay true to your Lulus? Will you be a little extra careful about your coverage in yoga pants from here on out?

Jada Pinkett Smith sounds off on the treatment of young stars

Action star actor, metal band rocker, and all around celebrity super-mom Jada Pinkett Smith has sounded off on how she feels young men and women in the entertainment industry are torn apart by the media, making references to the current spat of troubles for Justin Bieber, Rihanna and Taylor Swift, not to mention the off colour joke made by The Onion at the expense of 9-year-old Oscar nominee Quevenzhané Wallis.

Read her full statement below:

“It is as if we have forgotten what it means to be young or even how to behave like good ol’ grown folk. Do we feel as though we can say and do what we please without demonstrating any responsibility simply because they are famous? Is it okay to continually attack and criticize a famous 19 year old who is simply trying to build a life, exercise his talents while figuring out what manhood and fame is all about as he carries the weight of supporting his family as well as providing the paychecks to others who depend on him to work so they can feed their families as well? Does that render being called a c*** by an adult male photographer as you try to return to your hotel after leaving the hospital?

Or what about our nine year old beautiful Oscar nominee who was referred to as a c*** as well? Or what about being a young woman in her early twenties, exploring the intricacies of love and power on the world stage? And should we shame a young woman for displaying a sense of innocence as she navigates through the murky waters of love, heartbreak, and fame? Are these young people not allowed to be young, make mistakes, grow, and eventually transform a million times before our eyes?”

Supportive, understanding, beautiful… Can you be our mom?

Join the conversation below and by tweeting us @womenspost or liking us on facebook.com/womenspost to let us know what you think. Is the media being too cruel to our young female and male stars?

 

The ins and outs of internships

How could I forget my first steps into a newsroom? Granted, it wasn’t anything spectacular — the community newspaper’s basement office had more funky smells than it did natural light — but it was everything I had hoped it would be and more. The hustle bustle of reporters on the go, the phone ringing off the hook, the sound of the printer spitting out copy; this was where I was meant to be.

I remember submitting my first story and being called aside by my editor. Was I about to be commended for a job well done? Accolades on my first story? Am I the best young reporter she’s ever seen?

Nope. I was awful.

Thankfully that editor had a clear vision of what needed to be fixed and the patience to explain it to me in a learning environment.

My next article was a little better, and the next one a little better than that. Between each attempt at journalistic excellence there was a whole lot of listening, shadowing and note taking. Each day was a new lesson in what needed to be done and what mistakes to avoid, and I am thankful to have had the experience.

Today in my working life I apply more things that I learned from that group of reporters than I do anything I learned out of a $300 university textbook.

I’ve come a long way since that conversation over my first story. I’ve been around the block and back and keep a copy of CP Style on my nightstand. I’m in a position now where I could possibly be the one teaching some kid a thing or two.

I recently set about putting together an internship program and was surprised to learn that there is some distrust around the idea of internships. While I viewed my editors as teachers and the newsroom as a classroom, some young and inexperienced people hoping to break into their industries view internships as exploitative.

Blogger Andrew Langille believes in the value of internships for young people.

“Internships are an important tool in the school-to-labour market transition,” Langille toldWP, although he numbers among those who believe that unpaid internships are about exploiting free work from young people rather than skill building and educational experience.

The difference between my hopes for an educational internship program and the views of exploitation set out by detractors may lie, it seems, in how faithfully businesses follow the spirit of the educational internship.

Currently there are a handful of rules set out by the Ministry of Labour, who regulate internships in Ontario, which aim to differentiate an intern from an employee. For example, interns can’t be doing work that a paid employee could be doing — a rule that seems obvious when you take into account that internships are meant to be for educational and training purposes, not free work. Businesses must also be careful not to offer interns any type of compensation as this can be seen as sub-par remuneration.

The Ministry sets out a pay standard for interns where they are either to be paid as employees or given nothing.

From my point of view the catch-22 is that if you take an intern in with the express purpose of teaching, detractors of the model feel that interns should be paid as employees because the learning takes place in a work environment. But if a business is paying someone as an employee, they expect the work and results of an employee, not the follies of a classroom setting.

The back and forth over the subject has led me to step away from the idea an internship program for the time being. I love the idea of creating a curriculum for an educational internship and helping to train a young mind, but unfortunately some current attitudes seem to be disparaging of the model in which I was trained. What will replace that model for young people in search of training and a foothold in their industry remains to be seen.

While I may not be a mentor in any official sense, one thing is for sure: in my own personal life I will continue to help young writers and journalists to hone their skills to better break into the industry as a friend.

 

My night out with Sarah – Thomson’s assistant speaks

Sarah Thomson’s allegations of sexual impropriety against Mayor Rob Ford have sparked a series of statements from conservative councillors and pundits attempting to discredit her version of events. Among the most vocal has been Councillor Carmine Perrelli, who claims nothing inappropriate went on at the Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee event Thursday night.

Sarah Thomson’s executive assistant, Sarah Patterson, was present at the event and says that her experience involved an intoxicated looking Rob Ford and an offfensive Carmine Pirelli.

I sat down with her to hear what she had to say.

On Thursday, March 7, you spent the evening with Sarah Thomson, what were you guys doing?

Last night was my first CJPAC Action event, and it was quite the memorable experience.  I met numerous people, members of the political community and city leaders.  I was attending with my new boss Mrs Sarah Thomson, Chair of the Toronto Transit Alliance.

How did the event begin for you two?

Sarah was a great sport and introduced me to everyone as she met up with old friends and former colleagues.  We mingled with the likes of Kathleen Wynne, Justin Trudeau, and Tim Hudak.  It was a surreal experience.

How did Sarah Thomson come to encounter Mayor Ford?

During the evening Mayor Rob Ford was in attendance.  He stood beside the entrance doors with his entourage, back in the corner, being surrounded by those wanting pictures and hand shakes.  Sarah noticed and went over to say hello as they were former opponents in the Mayoral Candidacy Race of 2010.  Sarah asked if I could get some pictures for her on her new iPhone, adding to the celebrity filled evening.

Sarah managed to squeeze her way through the crowd to greet Mayor Ford, while I was stuck behind other enthusiasts. All I could do to get pictures was to hold the phone high above my head, snap away, while standing on the tips of my toes.

This is where the now infamous photo of the two came from?

Apparently my photography skills are not the best and I managed to get a few shots of the wall, the back of some heads, and finally a somewhat in focus shot of Sarah and Mayor Ford. I left the swarm of people and met up with Sarah to give her back her iPhone. When she approached me, she had a look of shock on her face. She stated that Mayor Ford “had just grabbed [her] ass!” I was a little shocked, but had noticed that Mayor Ford was acting a little peculiar, I just assumed it was associated with open bar. He was ridiculously red in the face, sweating profusely, dime-eyed, and acting rather abrupt.

Would you say that Mayor Ford appeared to be very intoxicated?

Yeah.

What did you two do after this?

From this point we continued to mingle where the “ass grab” had become a comedic reference to the events of the night. I was able to meet numerous city councillors, one of which has since decided to throw myself and Sarah Thomson under the bus: Councillor Carmine Perrelli. He and I chatted and Sarah brought up the incident with Mayor Ford. Perrelli asked if we had a picture of this event, he believed it would have been amusing to see. Sarah being quite laidback, had stated that she didn’t have a picture of the incident , but was sure this wouldn’t be difficult to acquire considering the current state of Mayor Ford. We were curious if the “ass grab” was a one time occurrence or if this was occurring to other female attendees.

How was Mr. Perrelli behaving?

Sarah and I left Councillor Perrelli because his actions and comments were starting to  border on the offensive line. I must point out that Perrelli was wearing sunglasses indoors, and when I asked him why he said it was to check out woman without getting caught. He also asked to see the length of Sarah’s hair and when she turned around he looked her up and down, then learned over to me and told me that he was really checking out her butt.  After this we left the conversation, Perrelli grab my arm and stated “Don’t worry, you have a nice ass too”.

You yourself got a photo with Mayor Ford, correct?

Later on in the evening. Sarah and I returned to the upper level of the event where Rob Ford was still in attendance. I took this opportunity to meet Rob Ford, get my picture taken and to see if he was in fact being inappropriately friendly with other female guests. I went up, introduced myself and shook his hand. We got our picture taken, smiles and all, and Mayor Ford was polite and friendly, and that was that.
How have you felt in the aftermath?

I wake up today to see the media abuzz with Sarah Thomson being “groped” by Mayor Ford.  My office phone is ringing off the hook, my inbox has been filled with reporters wanting to know what I saw, what I said, what I did, etc. The majority of the response from the media has been negative, claiming Sarah Thomson as a liar, and a schemer, and that we set up Mayor Ford.

What do you say to anyone who doubts the validity of Sarah Thomson’s accusation?

If someone can explain to me how we can set up an “ass grab” I would like to know.  The worst part of this experience is seeing how the boys club of politics stick together. Those that were commenting on my physique last night are calling me liar today. This being my first big political outing with my new boss at my new job has really taught me a lot.

 

Move over Mario!

In the classic arcade game Donkey Kong, a story as old as video games themselves unfolds: monster kidnaps girl, girl is in distress, girl is saved by a jumping hero. Long before Donkey Kong was a good guy with his own video game series, Mario was out to save his girlfriend Pauline (a precursor to Princess Peach) from the maniac barrel throwing gorilla.

But when Mike Mika’s daughter wanted to play as Pauline instead of Mario, this hacker dad got on the case, made a few tweaks to a ROM version of the game and let his little girl use Pauline to save the iconic plumber for a change.

Is pay-what-you-weigh the future of air travel?

Samoa Air has raised a few eyebrows this week by hiring on our old nemesis, the scale, as a ticket taker.

In what is being billed as the world’s first pay what you weigh system the flag bearing carrier of Samoa advertises its new system (which could have easily been dismissed as an April Fool’s joke yesterday, but seems to be on the level) as something that puts the passenger in control.

“You are the master” when it comes to your airfare. “You decide how much (or little) your ticket will cost.” They’ve even gone so far as to label the cost an air-“fair.”

In recent years controversy has erupted around some airlines charging obese passengers for a second seat on airplanes. This case (and the way that the airline has approached their advertising) seems to add more confusion to the scene. Is it actually ‘fair’ to charge a 190cm tall man who is fit and healthy for his frame more than a woman who is 160cm tall and fit and healthy for her frame? Is it right to charge more to people who have naturally thicker bodies but are otherwise not overweight?

The process begins when you book your ticket online and submit an estimated weight to calculate your ticket price. “Don’t worry,” the company explains on its website, “we will weigh you again at the airport.”

What is most disturbing about this system is the repeated insistence that “you are the master of how much (or little!) you air ticket will cost.”

The you/your error in that last quote is entirely their own and as of press time is still up on their website.

The frightening implication that goes along with this master-of-your-own-fare nonsense is essentially that you can’t complain about being charged more than the person next to you because you are completely capable of developing an eating disorder to save a few dollars.

 

Emma Watson rumoured to star in Fifty Shades movie

Emma Watson in chains? It might soon be a reality. If the rumour mill is correct we might soon see the teenaged witch trade her wand in for whips.

While most of us remember her as a good natured if nerdy straight-A witch at Hogwarts the British actress may soon be breaking from her squeaky clean image to star as Anastasia Steele in the big screen adaptation of the runaway hit novel Fifty Shades of Grey.

Usually the kind of news that comes leaked from some unnamed Hollywood insider, this tidbit of information comes from the hacker collective Anonymous. Taking a break from their usual activities of bringing down the websites of online enemies such as Scientology, the loosely organised hack-tivist group broke into the files of the German movie studio Constantin and leaked the news.

Join the conversation. Do you think the young star would do a good job as the protagonist of the Fifty Shades movie? Let us know what you think by tweeting at us or commenting to our Facebook page.

Not that you read it. I mean, we didn’t either, of course. Ahem…