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Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Book Review: Cuba An American History

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By Ada Ferrer Published by Scribner September 2021 ISBN 978-1-5011-5455-3

I do like getting new hardback books to read. The tactile pleasure of a well produced book does however come at a price but fortunately there is the Vancouver Public Library, whose service is second to none.

It would have been really useful to have been able to read this book before I visited Cuba – about which I did write here – but of course that was not possible. But having read it now, I feel that a lot of what I failed to understand has now been explained. And in writing that was wholly engaging. In fact a couple of weeks ago I had two new books – and read the first chapter of each to see which one I should tackle first. As the jacket blurb on this one states “A page turning masterpiece … rarely is a good history this kind of literary performance”.

Ada Ferrer is not only well read she was also born in Cuba, lives in the US but has been “travelling to and conducting research on the the island since 1990”. She and her family also make appearances in the book.

I first was made aware of Cuba by the missile crisis in 1962. I was 13, and thought that the world was about to end. It didn’t, but that did not stop me from worrying about the very real possibility – and also trying to understand why. One of the things that seemed to escape much notice at the time was that there were US nuclear armed missiles in Turkey and Italy. Apparently that was alright, but somehow Cuba having Soviet missiles at a similar distance from Washington DC wasn’t. As a student I noted the popularity of Che Guevara – and read his motorcycle diary – but as more of an icon than an example. More recently I read “The Girl in The Picture” which is was written by the woman who, as a child that was burnt by napalm dropped by the US in Viet Nam but had to travel to Cuba for treatment as an adult. There were also the visits by Ry Cooder in the 1990s which resulted in the Buena Vista Social Club CD – which I still play every so often.

When the Soviet Union collapsed, the Cubans turned to tourism as way of earning hard currency, since they no longer had access to overseas markets for their sugar, which had been for many years their main export and source of earnings. It is also the case that while Barack Obama attempted a form of reconciliation that was reversed by Trump and has yet to be tackled by Joe Biden. There are no more Castros in charge, but the regime continues. Much remains to be resolved but at least countries like Canada remain engaged. US hostility towards Cuba remains intense largely as a result of the expatriate Cuban community in the US and concentrated in Miami, which remains a significant force in US politics.

I would definitely put this book on your reading list if you intend to visit Cuba and if your understanding of it has been shaped by mainstream media. Cuba has never been treated well by the US and has also been a focus of much distorted reporting – and not just by Citizen Kane. If you still think the Spanish blew up the USS Maine, or that Castro started out as a card carrying Communist then you really do need a better source – and this book is good way to address that bias. It is also the case that real life is never simply black and white. Cuba and the US have a very complex relationship, and it one that needs to be greatly improved. Understanding the realities of what happened and why is the only place to start. You also need to know that the book has 470 pages of text – in a rather small typeface – plus 62 pages of notes and a comprehensive index.

You might also enjoy this post about the experience of travelling to Cuba as a tourist

Written by Stephen Rees

October 20, 2021 at 11:54 am

Posted in tourism

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 CONFRONT THE CLIMATE EMERGENCY

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The following is the text of an open letter sent to to the Government of British Columbia

I read about it in the National Observer. They provided a link to the letter but did not publish its actual content. And the link led to a pdf file. I used their web page to send out a Tweet. I then decided that it was worth a bit of cut and paste to create a post here that will, I trust, reach a different audience than Twitter.

AN URGENT CALL TO THE BC GOVERNMENT

September 2021 

Dear Premier Horgan and the Government of BC,

We write on behalf of diverse environmental, Indigenous, labour, health, business, local government, academic, youth, and faith communities who collectively represent well over one million British Columbians.

We call on the BC government to recognize the urgency and alarm that people all over the province are feeling as the climate crisis directly impacts our communities and our health: deadly heat waves, wildfires, drought, floods, crop failure, fisheries collapse, and costly evacuations and infrastructure damage. These climate-related impacts are unprecedented and intensifying. Indigenous peoples stand to be disproportionately impacted by climate events despite successfully taking care of the land since time immemorial.

The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is a ‘code red’ for humanity. The International Energy Agency has called on world governments to immediately stop investments in and approvals of new oil and gas projects. 

The provincial government’s CleanBC climate action plan is insufficient to limit warming to 1.5°C and will not keep British Columbians safe from the worst impacts of climate change. 

We therefore urge the BC government to develop and implement a transformative climate emergency plan that recognizes the interconnected climate, ecological, and social crises; embeds equity, anti-racism, and social justice at its core; and upholds Indigenous Title and Rights, and Treaty Rights.

To implement the rapid systemic change that is required, we call on the provincial government to demonstrate the leadership necessary to confront the climate emergency, and immediately undertake the following ten actions:

1

Set binding climate targets based on science and justice

Reduce BC’s greenhouse gas emissions by ~7.5% per year below 2007 levels. Set binding reduction targets of 15% by 2023; 30% by 2025; 60% by 2030, and 100% by 2040 (below 2007 levels). Review and update targets regularly as climate science evolves.

2

Invest in a thriving, regenerative, zero emissions economyInvest 2% of BC’s GDP ($6 billion dollars per year) to advance the zero emissions economy and create tens of thousands of good jobs. Spend what it takes to immediately reduce greenhouse gas emissions and create new economic institutions to get the job done. Ensure that the economic component of Aboriginal Title is recognized through the sharing of benefits and revenues that result.

3

Rapidly wind down all fossil fuel production and use

Immediately stop all new fossil fuel infrastructure including fracking, oil and gas pipelines, liquefied natural gas (LNG), and fossil fuel-derived hydrogen. Rapidly phase out and decommission all existing fossil fuel production and exports.

4

End fossil fuel subsidies and make polluters pay

End all fossil fuel subsidies and financial incentives by 2022. Ensure that those industries that profit from fossil fuel pollution pay their fair share of the resulting climate damage.

5

Leave no-one behind 

Ensure a just transition for fossil fuel workers, resource-dependent communities, and Indigenous and remote communities impacted by fossil fuel production. It will be critical to collaborate in true partnership with Indigenous peoples in climate action. Prepare our communities for the impacts of the climate crisis to minimize human suffering and infrastructure damage. Support those most vulnerable to climate change impact.

6

Protect and restore nature 

Protect 30% of terrestrial and marine ecosystems by 2030; support and invest in Indigenous-led conservation initiatives; restore natural ecosystems to enhance ecosystem functions and services, preserve biodiversity, increase carbon sequestration, and improve human and ecosystem resilience to climate impacts. Impose an immediate moratorium on the industrial logging of all old growth forests which are critical carbon sinks. 

7

Invest in local, organic, regenerative agriculture and food systems 

Incentivize carbon storage in soil, restore biodiversity, and ensure food sovereignty and food security across the province. Increase consumption of plant-based foods, and reduce food waste. Support Indigenous communities that wish to maintain traditional food systems and enhance their food security. 

8

Accelerate the transition to zero emission transportation 

Invest in affordable, accessible, and convenient public transit within and between all communities. Reallocate infrastructure funds from highway expansion to transit and active transportation (cycling, rolling, and walking). Mandate zero emissions for all new light vehicles by 2027, and all medium and heavy duty vehicles by 2030. 

Accelerate the transition to zero emission buildings 

Ban new natural gas connections to all new and existing buildings by end of 2022. Create a Crown Corporation to mobilize the workforce to retrofit all existing buildings and eliminate fossil fuel heating by 2035, and to build new affordable zero emissions buildings. 

10 

Track and report progress on these actions every year 

Embed all of these actions in legislation to ensure accountability, transparency, and inclusion. Establish rolling 5-year carbon budgets that decline over time towards zero emissions by 2040 or sooner 

A VISION FOR OUR FUTURE

The climate emergency offers an unprecedented opportunity to generate new, vibrant economic and social wealth as we transform where our energy comes from and how it is used. It offers an opportunity to achieve energy security, ensure food security, develop more sustainable local economies and jobs, transform our buildings, redesign transportation, reduce pollution, improve human health and wellbeing, and enhance our quality of life. The transition from fossil fuels to a zero emissions economy has clear benefits for people and natural ecosystems, and is an opportunity to create a more prosperous, just, and equitable society.

Every person, every business, every industry, and every government has a role to play as we coordinate individual and collective actions to create a thriving, resilient, and regenerative society that respects its interdependence with healthy ecosystems and a safe climate.

British Columbia is positioned to become a visionary world leader and demonstrate that innovative and rapid change is possible as we transition to a zero emissions economy.

We urge you to seize these opportunities, and demonstrate to British Columbians that our government is indeed a true climate leader by implementing the 10 climate emergency actions set out in this letter.

We must act now.

SIGNATORIES

Indigenous

British Columbia Assembly of First Nations

First Nations Summit

Gidimt’en Checkpoint

RAVEN (Respecting Aboriginal Values & Environmental Needs)

Union of BC Indian Chiefs

Arts / Culture

Brackendale Art Gallery

Canadian Media Producers Association (BC Branch)

Claymates Ceramics Studio Inc.

Coalition of Museums for Climate Justice

Hummingbird Music Studio

Indian Summer Arts Society

Neworld Theatre

South Cariboo Arts and Culture Society

Spring Magazine

Women in Film and Television Vancouver

Business

1st Knowledge Bank Ltd

Audiopile Records

Barnacle Strategies Consulting

Bydand Wealth Management

Calmura Natural Walls Inc.

Climb On Equipment Ltd

Cool.World

Crowned Vitta LLC

Curio Research Ltd.

Drinkfill Beverages LTD

Earnest Ice Cream

Fresh Roots Urban Farm Society

Goldilocks Goods

Harvey McKinnon Associates

Hollyhock

KWENCH

Lush Cosmetics North America 

Nada

New/Mode

OMC Inc.

Patagonia 

Persephone Brewing Company

Rain or Shine Ice Cream

Redroof Enterprizes

Renewal Funds

Rethink2gether

Salish Soils Inc.

Sea To Sky Cable Cam Inc.

Squamish ReBuild Society

Sustainable Produce Urban Delivery (SPUD)

Tegan McMartin Photography

TREE WORLD Plant Care Products, Inc.

Vedalia Biological Inc.

Viridian Energy Coop

Visual Science

Community group

Alliance4Democracy (Sunshine Coast)

BC Hydro Ratepayers Association

Coalition of Child Care Advocates of B.C.

Council of Canadians (Campbell River Chapter)

Council of Canadians (Comox Valley Chapter )

Council of Canadians (Nelson Chapter)

Council of Canadians (Terrace Chapter)

Council of Canadians (Victoria Chapter)]

Courage Coalition

Food Stash Foundation

Friends of Tilbury Working Group

Global Peace Alliance BC Society

Kaslo Community Action Team

Language Partners BC

Out Here Ski & Board Club

Philosophers Anonymous

South Asian Network for Secularism and Democracy (SANSAD)

South Park Family School

Tree of Life Nature Playschool 

UNBC Outdoors Club

Health

Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment

Canadian Health Association for Sustainability & Equity (CHASE)

Doctors for Planetary Health (West Coast)

Inner Light Healing Arts

Mental Health and Climate Change Alliance

Public Health Association of BC

Faith

Anglican Diocese of New Westminster

Canadian Unitarians for Social Justice

First Unitarian Church of Victoria

Holy Cross and Saint Patricks RC Parishes 

KAIROS (BC-Yukon Region)

Naramata Community Church 

North Shore Unitarian Church Environmental Action Team

Salt Spring Island Unitarian Fellowship

Squamish United Church

Vancouver Unitarians

Yasodhara Ashram Society

Labour

Douglas College Faculty Association

Federation of Post-Secondary Educators

North Island College Faculty Association 

Public Service Alliance of Canada (BC Region)

Worker Solidarity Network 

Seniors

Canadian Senior Cohousing Society

Pacific Park Place Housing Cooperative

Squamish Seniors Society

Suzuki Elders

Youth

Douglas Students’ Union

My Sea to Sky Youth Council

Quest Student Environmental Committee 

Reel Youth

Simon Fraser Public Interest Research Group (SFPIRG)

Students for Mining Justice

Sustainabiliteens

Take a Stand: Youth for Conservation

Environment / Climate action

350 Vancouver

Against Port Expansion in the Fraser Estuary

Alberni Climate Action

Alberni Valley Transition Town Society

Armstrong/Spallumcheen Climate Action

Association of Denman Island Marine Stewards

Association of Whistler Area Residents for the Environment 

Babies for Climate Action (New Westminster)

Babies for Climate Action (Vancouver)

BC Climate Alliance

BC Nature

BC Sea Wolves

Below2C

Better Transit Alliance of Greater Victoria

Bowen Island Conservancy

British Columbia Cycling Coalition

Burnaby Climate Hub 

Burnaby Residents Against Kinder MorganExpansion (BROKE)

Canadian Freshwater Alliance

Chase Environmental Action Group

Chemainus Climate Solutions

Citizen’s Climate Lobby (Okanagan Chapter)

Citizen’s Oil & Gas Council

Citizens’ Climate Lobby (Nelson-West Kootenay Chapter)

Climate Action Now!

Climate Caucus

Climate Emergency Unit

Climate Justice Victoria

Concerned Citizens Bowen

Cowichan Valley Naturalists

Creatively United for the Planet

David Suzuki Foundation

Denman Island Climate Action Network

Dogwood

First Things First Okanagan

For Our Kids (North Shore)

For Our Kids (Sunshine Coast)

For Our Kids (Vancouver)

Force of Nature (North Shore Community Action Team)

Georgia Strait Alliance

GOAL12 Sustainable Consumption and Production Society

Green Teams of Canada

HUB Cycling

Lawyers For Climate Justice

Leadnow

Living Forest Institute Society

Living Oceans Society

Mount Work Coalition

My Sea to Sky

Nanaimo Climate Action Hub

Net0world 

North Okanagan Naturalists’ Club

OneEarth

Parents 4 Climate

Planetary Resilience Council of BC

Protect Our Winters Canada

Roots on the Roof

Saanich Eco Advocates

Salish Sea Renewable Energy Cooperative

Salt Spring Island Stream and Salmon Enhancement Society

Sea Smart

Shuswap Climate Action

Sierra Club BC

Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition

Squamish Climate Action Network (Squamish CAN)

Squamish Environment Society

Squamish Food Policy Council (SFPC)

Stand.earth

Sunshine Coast Conservation Association

Sunshine Coast Streamkeepers Society

Sustainability Action Group for the Environment

Synergia Institute

Transition Kamloops

Transition Salt Spring

Transition Sooke

Victoria Climate Hub

Victoria Transport Policy Institute

Watershed Watch Salmon Society

West Coast Climate Action Network (WE-CAN)

West Coast Environmental Law Association

West Kootenay EcoSociety

Wilderness Committee

Wildsight

Yellow Point Ecological Society

Zero Waste BC

Written by Stephen Rees

September 29, 2021 at 12:20 pm

Posted in Environment

Tagged with

The Eyes Have It

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Canada has a public health system – but it has some strange gaps. This may be because we are so close to the US, which has a completely broken “free market” system. We can see a doctor for free, and if we go to a hospital and need treatment there that is free too. But if we need medication and don’t need hospitalization then we have to pay for the treatment. Many people get additional coverage through health insurance for things like drugs, dentistry and spectacles (eyeglasses) that are not covered by the public system. We also have to pay for anything that the eye doctor might prescribe – and my particular plan does not cover things like eye drops.

The last time I went to see the opthamologist she suggested that I get eye drops of Dry Eye. In fact she gave me a sheet of recommended products – not just eye drops but a hot compress and even an Omega 3 supplement. Now that did surprise me. Because one of the things that we keep track of in this household is the effectiveness of nutritional supplements. Most of them have not been tested in the same way that medicines are, to show that they are both safe and effective. And frankly a lot of the nutritional supplements are not necessary, if you have a balanced diet.

But is it also the case that you can find out for yourself if the nutritional supplement actually has any benefits at all. It is claimed, on the document from my eye doctor, that Omega 3 “helps decrease inflammation, promotes good health and helps dry eyes”. I find that surprising since the National Institutes of Health said “Omega-3s from fish oil supplements are no better than placebo for dry eye. NIH-funded study finds omega-3 fails to yield beneficial results in the clinic.”

“The trial provides the most reliable and generalizable evidence thus far on omega-3 supplementation for dry eye disease,” said Maryann Redford, D.D.S., M.P.H., program officer for clinical research at NEI. Despite insufficient evidence establishing the effectiveness of omega-3s, clinicians and their patients have been inclined to try the supplements for a variety of conditions with inflammatory components, including dry eye. “This well-controlled investigation conducted by the independently-led Dry Eye Assessment and Management (DREAM) Research Group shows that omega-3 supplements are no better than placebo for typical patients who suffer from dry eye.”

This was published on line in the New England Journal of Medicine, April 13, 2018.

In the current Canadian Election campaign the New Democrats are suggesting that if they become the government they will include eyes and teeth in “Medicare” (which is actually the name of the US system, not ours) – but only for households with incomes under $90,000 a year, which indicates for me that they do not understand the meaning of free universal healthcare for all which is what we were supposed to be getting … in due course, I suppose.

I think is says a lot about North America when a country like Cuba has a better healthcare – and education come to that – than either Canada or the US.

Charging people $55 for Omega 3 which is no better than placebo is a pretty sharp practice, I think. But it seems to be common. After all, the optometrist who did my most recent eye test also said that I should take Omega 3 – but at least he didn’t try to sell me anything.

Written by Stephen Rees

September 13, 2021 at 4:00 pm

Posted in health

Tagged with

Testing

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I have just finished reading Walter Isaacson’s “The Code Breaker” (Simon & Schuster 2021 ISBN 978-1-9821-1585-2) It is about Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing and the Future of the Human Race. I highly recommend it. I think it ought to have been called The Code Breakers since there were – and are – a lot more people involved. Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier won the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

One of the chapters in the book describes how CRISPR was used to create tests. The important thing to note that though there were several teams all working at once they were coöperating as much as competing and all the findings and methodologies were placed in the public domain. One of the teams under Feng Zhang used a SHERLOCK process that by the end of 2020 produced “a small machine that could be used to get results in less than an hour”

“The CRISPR based tests developed by Mammoth and Sherlock are cheaper and faster than conventional PCR tests. They also have an advantage over antigen tests … can detect the presence of the RNA of the virus as soon as the person has been infected”

There are also at home tests including one that can be reprogrammed to detect “any new virus that comes along”.

The reason I want to bring this information to your attention is that once again our MOH in BC has not been keeping up. Since the beginning of the pandemic only people with symptoms have been allowed to be tested. Since many people now need a clear test result in order to go to work or travel the only way to get that has been to lie convincingly about the right sort of symptoms. And of course quite a few people who are asymptomatic will know that they have been exposed and that people in their circles have been infected. They are supposed to simply self isolate until they develop symptoms and then get a test. Of course by that time they are shedding virus copiously.

In part the reluctance to test was due to Bonnie Henry casting doubts on the veracity of tests – especially fast ones. I am not any sort of scientist or a medical professional but I think I have learned enough from just this one book to understand that the policy of restricting tests was as misguided as the early reluctance to endorse masks and the more recent foolish gesture of “opening up” by ending the indoor mask mandate far too soon and then have to reintroduce it as the numbers of infected persons rose dramatically again. Phase three need not have happened at all, but our system has never tried to achieve zero COVID and continues to put the unvaccinated (these days mostly young children) at risk.

Free tests distributed by the feds largely go unused in BC

Written by Stephen Rees

August 25, 2021 at 2:42 pm

Posted in health

Tagged with ,

High-performance rail service is a solid intercity solution for Canada

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by Tony Turrittin. Originally published on Policy Options
August 16, 2021

Canada can have a network of modern, swift, affordable and efficient passenger trains, like virtually every other industrialized nation. Yet it doesn’t.

In the 1970s, both the American and Canadian passenger train systems were taken over by their federal governments. Since then, Canada has slowly dismantled most of the VIA Rail system while Amtrak, the U.S. national train system, has been improved and stabilized. Amtrak’s growing network of regional rail corridors has been especially remarkable.

Greg Gormick, an analyst and policy adviser, has suggested that high-performance rail (HPR) is the best means to improve and expand our skeletal network of deteriorating rail service. Canadian politicians and advocates at both federal and provincial levels have made calls for high-speed rail (HSR) like France’s TGV and Japan’s bullet trains.

TGV 4409
French TGV at Paris, Gare de l’Est in 2012 Stephen Rees photo on flickr

High-speed rail operates on all-new electrified lines built from scratch at a very high cost because it operates on tracks with no grade-crossings and must be separated from freight. High-performance rail, in contrast, incrementally improves all aspects of the existing service and builds on what little public funds have already been invested in it. Operating at progressively higher speeds with modern trains on tracks shared with freight trains, high-performance rail offers increased frequency, reduced travel times, better on-time performance, all-weather reliability and enhanced comfort and onboard amenities.

High-performance rail delivers improvements each step along a phased pathway to vastly improved service. Because it isn’t a “big bang” approach that takes years to deliver any benefits, high-performance rail is a practical and affordable “higher speed” option for today that may lead the way to building the more costly high-speed rail in the future.

Canada has not participated in the global move to high-performance rail. This failure is largely due to government interference and lack of political will. Passenger rail the world over requires subsidies for operating costs and capital improvements, but Canadian governments have cut back VIA since its founding in 1977. The Mulroney cuts of 1989 eliminated most trains in Western Canada and Atlantic Canada, and removed passenger service from the historic and well-used transcontinental route over the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR). These cuts were decided in the Privy Council Office, not by VIA. In other countries, it was government commitment as much as technology and funding that helped to develop the high-performance rail networks.

In the U.S., high-performance rail is now at work on 15 corridors (see Table 1). Extensions are underway on several of these routes, and more are under construction or being planned.

https://infogram.com/turrittin-table-1-1hd12yxn0vxwx6k

The opportunities for high-performance rail in Canada are illustrated in Table 2, demonstrating its potential from coast to coast. High-performance rail trip times assume substantially upgraded track and signaling. Given its positive attributes, high-performance rail as solid conventional railroading should be a major form of interurban mobility in Canada.

https://infogram.com/turrittin-table-2-1h7g6k09300go2o

Ironically, the first wave of equipment to implement a Canadian high-performance rail solution is on order for a wildly improbable scheme cooked up by a politically manipulated VIA. In 2011, the later-defrocked Peterborough MP Dean Del Mastro proposed to return trains between Toronto and Peterborough. The plan morphed into using a long-abandoned CPR backwoods line and extending it to Smiths Falls and to Ottawa, which bypasses the heavily populated Lake Ontario shoreline. The plan changed again when a former VIA Rail CEO made this impractical route the centrepiece of what VIA calls 160-km/hour high-frequency rail (HFR) for the Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto triangle. To increase its political attractiveness, VIA extended the HFR plan to Quebec City without increasing its cost estimate.

The stated objective of VIA’s proposal is separating passenger and freight traffic to eliminate conflicts that arise because of competition for track time and capacity, as well as differences in operating speeds. This is good in theory; however, implementing this would be expensive, time consuming and largely unnecessary. The key is to add capacity to existing lines incrementally and economically for both types of traffic. On high-performance rail routes around the world, freight and passenger trains share tracks at speeds of more than 200-km/hour.

Given constantly evolving estimates for California’s all-electric high-speed rail project and another linking Vancouver with Seattle, Portland and Eugene, and taking the lowest cost-estimates, a new passenger-only route for the Quebec-Windsor Corridor alone would cost more than $135 billion. Even applying VIA’s proposal to build only a single-track line with passing sidings instead of a double-track line that is standard for these types of projects, the cost wouldn’t decrease by much.

VIA wisely placed an order in 2018 with Germany’s Siemens Mobility for 32 five-car Venture trains each powered by a state-of-the-art Siemens Charger locomotive. Delivery starts in 2022. This $1.5 billion contract is part of a wave of North American orders for these 200-km/hour diesel-electric trains, 10 of which are already operating between Miami and West Palm Beach. Amtrak will use these train sets for high-performance rail routes in California, Missouri, Wisconsin, Illinois and Michigan.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siemens_Venture#/media/File:Venture_test_train_at_Oakland_Maintenance_Facility_(2),_July_2020.JPG

In the end, it’s governance, not hardware or software, that’s the roadblock to improved high-performance rail service in Canada. Here, too, the proven approach is on display in daily service in the U.S., particularly California. Using a combination of federal and state funding to fuel locally managed, cross-jurisdictional projects, the joint powers authorities (JPAs) employed on three routes in the Golden State are incrementally revolutionizing rail transportation in one of the most car-centric regions of America.

The Capitol Corridor JPA describes this governance structure’s application on the San Jose-Oakland-Sacramento route as “a partnership among the six local transit agencies in the eight-county service area, which shares the administration and management of the Capitol Corridor.” The Capitol Corridor offers hourly daytime trains serving all stops on its 213-km route. This allows for convenient travel between all city pairs. The route has a high concentration of universities and colleges. Amtrak operates the trains on Union Pacific track that also carries numerous freights.

It’s time for Canadians to cease being taken in by rail schemes politicians dangle in front of voters and then drop. In its top-down, politically dominated form, VIA hasn’t worked out and never will. New JPA-style governance, new equipment, a new high-performance rail approach and political will are required to give Canada a network of modern, efficient and effective rail passenger services.

How likely is this to occur?

The Trudeau government’s 2020 speech from the throne announced that “to further link our communities together, the Government will work with partners to support regional routes for airlines. It is essential that Canadians have access to reliable and affordable regional air services. This is an issue of equity, of jobs, and of economic development. The Government will work to support this.”

On the subject of rail passenger service – high-performance rail or otherwise – there was not a word.

Meanwhile, high-performance rail investment and growth strategy continues south of the border. One month after Ottawa was mute about rail’s role in a post-pandemic Canada, the U.S. Federal Transit Administration awarded the Michigan Department of Transportation funding for further improvements to its diesel-powered, 176-km/hour Pontiac-Detroit-Chicago Wolverine Corridor.

The upgrade for faster more frequent train service is now approaching completion.

Amtrak’s 15-year growth proposal unveiled early this year would expand its regional routes substantially, adding about 160 communities to its system. Gormick has suggested that high-performance rail can be applied to an Ontario region with very poor public transportation as well. Given an approaching federal election, expect government announcements of more rail projects to come, but they will still be missing the mark.

This article first appeared on Policy Options and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Tony Turrittin is a retired York University sociology professor. His research centred on social inequality, social mobility and their links to education. For four decades he has actively participated in national, regional and local citizen groups advocating for public transportation.

Written by Stephen Rees

August 21, 2021 at 1:23 pm

We missed two-thirds of the COVID19 deaths

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“The pandemic has exposed many uncomfortable truths about Canadian society, among them, the limits of our healthcare system, tragic flaws in long-term care, our systemic racism, and our inability to protect the most at risk when an infectious threat arrives in our midst. As our multi-faceted study finds, it appears that we failed to notice two-thirds of all those who died of COVID-19 outside of the long-term care sector, most likely in financially precarious, racialized communities. It’s critical that we now work urgently to protect those most at risk with intensive, frequent, and accessible testing, public health outreach and information, and ensuring these communities are among the highest priority recipients for both doses of COVID-19 vaccines. Too many lives are at stake to delay action, as our report raises the possibility that at this moment there may be twice as many people dying than we know.”

Excess All-Cause Mortality During the COVID-19 Epidemic in Canada

How is it possible to miss so many deaths? There are of course multiple reasons, but the one that stands out is a failure to recognize that deaths for other reasons than COVID declined during the pandemic. For instance, when a lot of travel is avoided there is less traffic and thus fewer collisions. There is also the difficulty of recognising symptoms correctly, especially when you not do anything like the number of tests that other countries did/do. But the one that stands out for me is “the country’s slow system for reporting causes of death, [which] left Canada without a crucial warning system to alert officials to the worrisome number of deaths happening outside of long-term care.”

It turns out that other countries are much better at tracking causes of death. They also suffer from the current constant attacks on government bureaucracy as unnecessary, expensive and meddlesome when in fact regulations and their enforcement came into being because the lack of them, which caused issues, like death. As long as the politicians in charge of the system insist that the only policies that they will adopt reduce the size of government and its “burden” on the people then we will be plagued. The recent building collapse in Florida, which so far appears to have killed ten people, has yet to be allocated a determined cause. But at the same time as that investigation is going on you can bet that developers are bleating about the delays of their profits due to the need for inspections and permits on construction and renovation.

A similar problem is evident right now. People are dying due to the heat wave. Some police forces were a bit quicker off the mark of reporting these deaths than others. ‘The province’s chief coroner says there have been 233 sudden deaths during the “heat dome.”’

But that isn’t the real problem. The real problem is that we have known for a certainty that this was going to happen. Anthropogenic climate change due to trapped gases such as carbon dioxide, nitrous oxides and methane in the atmosphere due to burning fossil fuels has been an established scientific fact for a long time. Not that you would have noticed that at the time thanks to the oil, gas and coal industries and their tame politicians and mass media companies.

In exactly the same way Public Health and Statistics Canada – and lots of other agencies – have been under constant pressure to cut costs and reduce the “burden of taxation”. The people making the most noise being those who long decided that they weren’t going to pay any tax at all.

So end of my rant. Return to the report in question – which you can download for free as a full report or summary.

“Established by the President of the Royal Society of Canada in April 2020, the RSC Task Force on COVID-19 was mandated to provide evidence-informed perspectives on major societal challenges in response to and recovery from COVID-19. 

“The Task Force established a series of Working Groups to rapidly develop Policy Briefings, with the objective of supporting policy makers with evidence to inform their decisions.

“It is widely assumed that 80 per cent of Canada’s deaths due to COVID-19 occurred among older adult residents of long-term care homes, a proportion double the 40-per-cent average of peer countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). But an indepth analysis of all deaths that have so far been reported across Canada during the pandemic casts doubt on this estimate. It reveals evidence that at least two thirds of the deaths caused by COVID-19 in communities outside of the long-term care sector may have been missed.”

Authors of the Report

Tara J. Moriarty (Chair), Faculties of Dentistry and Medicine Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology, University of Toronto

Anna E. Boczula, Faculties of Dentistry and Medicine Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology, University of Toronto

Eemaan Kaur Thind, Independent public health professional

Janet E. McElhaney, Northern Ontario School of Medicine, Health Sciences North Research Institute

Nora Loreto, Independent journalist

Written by Stephen Rees

June 29, 2021 at 1:45 pm

Posted in Transportation

Kits Beach Pictures

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Once upon a time I would have posted these pictures to Flickr. They now claim that this is some kind of perversion. You can read more about this at the earlier post. It being a nice day I took myself down to Kits Beach and took pictures of some of the ships at anchor, a tug from Seattle and a mysterious unnamed Coast Guard boat. I was hoping for some ice cream from the Gelato store but though their door was open they were not about to serve anything for at least an hour. So I sat on a bench and took some more pictures.

I do not accept the accusation that taking pictures of people in public places is in any way “creepy”. Nor do I think that there is any justification for Flickr to require such images to be removed, given the wholesale availability of pictorial pornography on that site. Something you can easily confirm by doing searches without the usual “safe” restriction. Much of which I find quite revolting. Your mileage may vary.

On Flickr I use a Creative Commons license. Here I am more restrictive and I assert my copyright on all of these images which may not be used at all without my express permission in writing.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 23, 2021 at 7:41 pm

Trip Planning

with 6 comments

I have to go get my second vaccine shot today at the Vancouver Convention Centre at Canada Place. So I used Translink’s trip planner to examine the alternatives.

So it would appear that the quickest way to get a bus to the Canada Line. But the comparison is flawed. When you look at the diagram the walking route from our buidling’s front door to the nearest #16 bus stop is remarkably indirect on this map. That is because a footpath, shown on this map as a very thin green line, is missing. The reality looks more like this.

I estimate that the direct walk out to Arbutus at Nanton NB bus stop is at least 3 minutes less than the trip planner shows. And actually the only really awkward thing is that I have to get across Arbutus at a push button activated crosswalk. It is remarkable how often I am still waiting for that to show the white walking figure as the bus I want to get on blasts by.

Actually that happened again today. As I got to the crosswalk the bus was in the intersection. Fortunately traffic was light so I ran for the bus and the operator waited for me. I was downtown in 30 minutes.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 18, 2021 at 12:06 pm

Posted in Transportation

Tagged with ,

More about flickr

with one comment

This is not about flickr as an organisation, it is about my experience of it. I saw the tweet I have copied above this and it moved me to write a blog post. I can’t do this in a tweet. I may not even be able to do it in a blog post.

What I really need to be able to do is to reach out to someone. Someone I do not know in real life. But he comes from the same part of the world I do and shares at least some of the same enthusiasms. But on flickr he has decided to block me. When that happens flickr doesn’t tell you right away. You get “Contact Notifications” when someone follows you, but not when they block you. You find that out when you try to comment on their post. Or when you want to add one of their images to your gallery.

I blocked someone because they accused me of being creepy, and frankly I don’t see anything to be gained by arguing with someone who does that. I wasn’t expecting the subsequent “revenge”. But then no-one expects the Spanish Inquisition.

So why did I get blocked by someone else? Interesting that, so I have to explain a bit. I wasn’t fighting with him. I just thought the word he used to describe a municipal transportation service to be inappropriate. East Ham Trams were not a company.

Now the person I am talking about actually encourages this kind of communication. Under every picture he posts to flickr it says “If there are any errors in the above description please let me know. Thanks”

So yes, calling the Tramways Department of the County Borough Council of East Ham a “company” is an error.

So I let him know. And he blocked me!

I happen to be the Administrator of the flickr Transportation group. There are other groups on flickr where I have seen the clear message “Block the Administrator and you will be removed from the Group”. Mine don’t say that. As long as the pictures meet the definition of Transportation then I have no concerns. But, for goodness sake, say you want to know about errors and then block the people who tell you …

One other thing. Not especially relevant or important. But he didn’t take the pictures. He has been buying old photographs and then – because they are in black and white, almost inevitably – he colorises them. And does a pretty credible job. And then puts his copyright on the colorised version.

“(if you want to use it, at least credit me and link to this description!) “

So would you like to see one of his pictures now?

No?

Didn’t think so.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 8, 2021 at 7:00 pm

Posted in Transportation

Who decides what is “creepy”

with 4 comments

Someone recently added this label to a picture of mine on Flickr. I did not like that comment so I deleted it. It was quickly replaced so I blocked that user.

Today I got this message by email

Hi Stephen Rees, Your account was brought to our attention and upon review, we determined that your voyeur content is in violation of the Guidelines and Terms of Service. You can also read the following help forum discussion about voyeur content on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/help/forum/en-us/95223/ Specifically this comment from staff: https://www.flickr.com/help/forum/en-us/95223/#reply625343 Please delete all content in violation immediately. You have 3 days to remove the content or your account may be terminated without further warning. Note: Since these images are not allowed on Flickr marking them as private is not enough, they need to be deleted. Regards, Flickr Staff

No reply to this message is permitted. No further discussion of the subject in the forum is permitted either.

I have to assume that if I delete every picture taken at a public place of a woman or women wearing a bikini that I may be allowed to continue to have an account on Flickr. Flickr staff do not provide any information as to which pictures they decide are “creepy”. There are currently over two million pictures on Flickr which are found by using the search term “bikini”.

Apparently from looking at the comments thread 95223 cited about what is problematic is that the pictures are said to be taken “secretly”. Well I use a pretty large point and shoot camera

Purple-Bikini-original
This isn’t my image so I could not delete that but apparently this isn’t creepy.
bikini beach hot girls
This isn’t my picture either but it might be creepy since they didn’t know Eduardo was taking it
Canon SX730HS triptych

This is my current camera. I like it because I can literally slip it in my pocket. But as you can see “secret” isn’t really an option. And I do like “street photography” or as it is sometimes called “candid”. This is one of my favorites

Accidental candid portrait

The subject was unaware, as were these people

https://www.flickr.com/photos/stephen_rees/5721082544/

No I don’t know why that shows up as a clickable link and not a picture – but when looking for that I found this

Lydia?

Now she is well aware that I took her picture – but am I also cleared of the accusation of posting “voyeur content”?

I did not delete this one either

If you're going to San Francisco ...

There’s not a lot of skin on show – but there are some people who have a thing about wetsuits. Rubber fetishists who slaver over swimming hats. No, really. And then there is this comment on the thread that is picked up approvingly by the member of Flackr’s staff who then closes discussion

posting them to Flickr for the purposes of sexual gratification

Exactly how is that determined? Especially when there are swathes of images which are overtly sexual but are hidden through various devices but are allowed to remain, however for “voyeur content” the standard shifts “these images are not allowed on Flickr marking them as private is not enough”

No I don’t understand, but then flickr also got excited about

https://www.flickr.com/photos/stephen_rees/51039299698/

But backed down when I told them it was in the sculpture garden of the New Orleans Museum of Art and was publicly available for free – including groups of schoolchildren.

Since Flickr did not provide any list of what they thought was objectionable I made a link between what someone else had labelled “creepy” and what prompted their message. “Your account was brought to our attention” again, no mention of who did that but dollars to donuts it’s the ill mannered lout I blocked.

Venus Victorius

When Renoir made this sculpture – from the same collection referred to above – can we be absolutely assured that he got no sexual gratification from it? Or was the fact that he probably paid his models enough to escape censure by Flickr’s anonymous staff? No one could accuse him of secrecy. But then I have always felt that photography was not a crime, and that if you were in a public place you have no reasonable expectation of privacy. If I can see something, I can take a photograph of it. That does not mean I am a voyeur, nor that I am seeking to satisfy the sexual tastes of voyeurs. But then when Ira Levin produced his novel “Sliver” it was promoted with the tag line “You like to watch, don’t you?” Which is another way of saying that all humans share the same pleasure from people watching.

Is it at all reasonable to demand that no one must ever take pictures where there are people sunbathing? Or rather they can take them but they mustn’t post them to flickr even if they are marked private.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/stephen_rees/13905505416/

I didn’t delete this one. Was I supposed to? If it only included the figure at the right end of the row, would that be sexually gratifying anyone?

This is a cut and paste from Flickr’s “Community Guidelines”

  • Don’t be creepy.You know the guy. Don’t be that guy. If you are that guy, your account will be deleted.

If you think that is an adequate explanation please leave me an explanation in the comments below.

I do not want to lose my flickr account. I am doing my best to comply, but frankly the way that the policy is worded is worthy of Humpty Dumpty. “When I use a word it means what I want it to mean, no more or no less.”

Please, do not go to flickr and enter the search term “naked” or “sildenafil” – and of course before you do that you will need to turn off “safe search”

UPDATE June 11, 2021

I have now created a 20 page softcover book. When I deleted what I thought were offending pictures, I did not keep track of them and my memory is not what it was once. But I think I probably got them. I still have a flickr account so it seems I must have guessed right. None of the offending pictures are in this post.

If you would like a copy of the book please write to me at rees dot stephen (a) gmail dot com

I only ordered one copy for myself as a proof and, of course, found a typo as soon as opened it. The price varies quite a bit based on the numbers ordered. It can also be made available as a pdf file or a proper ebook. Both would be considerably cheaper than an actual paper book. If you express an interest I will be able to quote a price based on volume – and then I would have to add something for post and packing.



 

Written by Stephen Rees

June 3, 2021 at 3:51 pm

Posted in Transportation