Canada lobbies against Trump push for biometric screening for visiting U.S.

trumpbiometricsborder

Canada has launched a behind-the-scenes lobbying campaign against a push by Donald Trump to subject all visitors to the United States to biometric screening – such as finger-printing, retina scans or facial recognition tests – upon both entry and exit.

The U.S. President’s call for the stepped-up use of such technology, meant to monitor whether non-Americans are staying in the country longer than permitted, was issued in last Friday’s executive order on immigration, but has mostly flown under the public radar amid controversy around a ban on travellers from seven predominantly Muslim-majority countries.

Among Canadian officials, however, it has sparked concerns of massive slow-downs in border traffic of both people and goods, particularly at land crossings – prompting Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale to raise the issue during a phone call this week with John Kelly, the new U.S. Homeland Security Secretary, Mr. Goodale’s office confirmed.

That conversation appears to have been the start of an ongoing effort by Ottawa to head off the screening plan during a 100-day period in which Mr. Kelly has been tasked – per the executive order – with “expedit[ing] the completion and implementation of a biometric entry-exit tracking system for all travellers to the United States” and reporting back to the President on his progress.

A senior Canadian official expressed optimism that Canada will be joined in making that case by U.S. jurisdictions that would stand to suffer – ranging from border states whose economies are closely integrated with Canada’s to tourism-reliant states such as Florida.

Such arguments against biometric entry-exit screening have proven persuasive in the past. As implied by the executive order’s wording, the proposal to biometrically register all non-Americans who enter and exit the U.S. is not new. It has in theory been government policy since its inclusion in an immigration bill signed by Bill Clinton in 1996. Its implementation was among the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, and Congress has passed several laws mandating it. But neither presidential administrations nor legislators have followed through on it, with appropriations for implementation defeated or removed from legislation when they have intermittently been introduced.

Instead, the U.S. has settled for biometric screening only of some visitors entering the country, primarily at airports and sea ports – and, notably, not at major land crossings with Canada. To the extent it has monitored who is exiting, other than a few biometric pilot projects, it has been through other measures – including an agreement with Canada, struck in 2011, in which the two countries inform each other when visitors return home.

Ottawa appears optimistic that the success of that recent data-sharing will help it make the case that Canadians should be exempted from any new entry-exit measures. But it is also struggling with unpredictability of a new presidential administration that has thus far displayed very different priorities from any previous one.

While Mr. Trump called for exit-entry biometric screening during last year’s campaign, it is not known how strongly he feels about the matter and how much he might try to compel the Republicans’ congressional and Senate majorities to push through related measures. But it has previously been identified as a top priority by Jeff Sessions, the Alabama Senator who is set to be confirmed as Attorney-General, and who is already considered to be one of the most influential members of Mr. Trump’s administration.

Read the complete article on The Globe and Mail web site here.

Two suspects identified in deadly Quebec City mosque attack

A police officer and his dog look for evidence near a home in the area of a Quebec City mosque on Monday January 30, 2017. A shooting at a Quebec City mosque left six people dead and eight others injured Sunday. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

A police officer and his dog look for evidence near a home in the area of a Quebec City mosque on Monday January 30, 2017. A shooting at a Quebec City mosque left six people dead and eight others injured Sunday. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

Two men were in custody after a mass shooting Sunday night at a mosque in Quebec City that killed six people and wounded several more, and was condemned by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as “a terrorist attack on Muslims.”

Court officials in Quebec City identified the suspects as Alexandre Bissonnette and Mohamed El Khadir. They were to be arraigned Monday afternoon.

Investigators do not believe any suspects beyond the two men in custody remain at large and they would not comment on identity of the attackers, motives or methods.

“This is an extensive investigation,” said superintendent Martin Plante of the RCMP, noting four police forces are working together on the ongoing probe.

“In a terrorism investigation, there are ideological, religious or political motivations at play,” Sup. Plante said. “There are activities pursued by individuals that want to cause worry to the public through a violent act.”

Police appeared to be in close contact with Quebec City’s nearby Laval University but university officials would not confirm unverified information that the gunmen were students there.

More in The Globe And Mail article here.

UPDATE:

Alexandre Bissonnette was charged late Monday with six counts of first-degree murder and five counts of attempted murder using a restricted firearm for a shooting spree in a Quebec City Mosque that has shaken the community, Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

Though police and politicians have spoken of terrorism since the 27-year-old university student allegedly opened fire just after the last prayers on Sunday, he was not charged with any terrorism-related offences.

The young man did not have a previous criminal record and was known as an introvert, and a victim of bullying in school.

Posts on his Facebook page show he “liked” Donald Trump, French Front National leader Marine Le Pen and Mathieu Bock-Cóté, a Quebec City columnist known for his pro-nationalist and anti-multicultural views.

Bissonnette’s father is listed in the sales deed of the house as an investigator. And according to Bissonnette’s Facebook page, which has since been taken offline, his grandfather was a decorated war hero.

But his page does not reveal a great deal about his possible motivations.

A fellow university student however, who also knew Bissonnette from high school in Cap Rouge, said he had developed radical views.

“He was not necessarily overtly racist or Islamophobic, but he had borderline misogynist, Islamophobic viewpoints,” said Vincent Boissonneault, who studies International Studies at Université Laval.

“Unfortunately that’s become more or less acceptable these days.”

Source.

Canada’s new bird

Canada's new official bird; the Gray Jay aka Whiskey Jack

Canada’s new official bird; the Gray Jay aka Whiskey Jack

Canada’s new offical bird has a bit of heritage; “whiskey-jack”, was taken from Wiskedjak, Wisagatcak, Wisekejack, or other variations of a word used in the Algonquian family of aboriginal languages of eastern Canada to designate a mischievous, transforming spirit who liked to play tricks on people.

A trickster eh.

The Gray Jay has a reputation; a fearless and venturesome behaviour which earned it many colloquial names such as “meat-bird” and “camp-robber”.

This I can personally attest to, having had the little robber more than once brazenly walk up to my campstove and grab a piece of well-done bacon without even a thank you chirp. While I was right there cooking the bacon.

No, I didn’t shoo it away. I was impressed with his/her style. Nothing shy about that bird.

Hinterland Who’s Who continues;

Description

The Gray Jay Perisoreus canadensis is only slightly smaller than a Blue Jay and, silhouetted against the sky, the two birds are surprisingly similar, although the Gray Jay is a somewhat slower and weaker flier than its southern relative. Close up, the Gray Jay can hardly be confused with any other bird.  Its back and tail are a medium gray and the underparts a slightly lighter shade, but the head has a quite striking and unique pattern of black and white. The short, black bill, the large dark eyes, and the thick, fluffy plumage, help give the Gray Jay a soft, rounded appearance that most people find highly appealing. For the Gray Jay, of course, the thick plumage is what keeps it warm on long winter nights or in cold snaps when the temperature may be 40 below zero for days at a time.

Juvenile Gray Jays just out of the nest are very different from the adults, being a uniform, sooty gray colour all over their bodies. Young and old are so distinct, in fact, that they were at first thought to be different species. Juveniles begin their first moult in July, however, and by the end of August they essentially look just like the adults.

You may read more about Canada’s new offical bird here.

Kevin O’Leary – the Hairless Trump of Canada

Canada's Hairless Trump, Kevin O'Leary

Canada’s Hairless Trump, Kevin O’Leary

Kevin O’leary is the Canadian version of a hairless Trump. The man who made a name for himself belittling and berating wannabe entrepreneurs on CBC’s Dragons’ Den is – drum roll – ‘considering’ entering the political arena as a Conservative.

I used the term ‘considering’ after watching his ‘I haven’t made up my mind if I’m going to run for leadership of the Conservative party which is why I am belittling my Conservative opponents now and reminding all the viewers as to why I am the greatest’ answer when a reporter asked if he was considering running for leadership of the Conservative party.

Geez Kevin, could you be any more blatantly obvious as to what a complete baffoon you are?

Okay, about my referring to Kevin O’Leary as the Hairless Trump. Here’s a bit of background on the HT.

Below is part of an article published on January 26th, 2016 in the National Observer, a Canadian publication founded by Linda Solomon Wood and an award-winning team of journalists.

Buried in the back pages of the financial press last October was a story about the sale of his mutual fund company, O’Leary Funds, to Canoe Financial, an investment firm run by former Dragons’ Den cast member and entrepreneur Brett Wilson.

O’Leary had launched his funds with great fanfare back in 2008, introducing them to viewers on his Business News Network (BNN) show, SqueezePlay. Before the cameras, wearing a natty navy-blue suit and matching azure tie, O’Leary resembled a proud father with a new infant as he explained to co-host Amanda Lang how his fund was designed to produce yield on a monthly basis.

“You got to pay Daddy,” he declared, “because my wife costs a fortune, my kids cost a fortune. I need dough and I need dough every month. You got to pay Daddy number one.”

In those days, O’Leary’s star was ascending. He was one of the so-called “Dragons” on Dragons’ Den, which was becoming a bonafide Canadian hit. The following year he and Lang moved their daily business show over to the CBC, renamed The Lang & O’Leary Exchange.

O’Leary’s popularity and persona as a business guru soon drove investors to his mutual funds, with O’Leary Funds roaring to as much as $1.5-billion in assets (and probably more). O’Leary boasted of being an investing whiz, with access to the movers and shakers in the business and political worlds — those ties giving him unique insider knowledge.

The reality was quite different. O’Leary was not even licensed to manage or invest other people’s money. Instead, he hired Connor O’Brien, a former Wall Street investment banker, to run O’Leary Funds. Moreover, by 2012, the funds were in trouble, falling to $1-billion in assets by the end of that year.

This past fall, when he finally sold his company to Canoe, the funds were down to $800-million in assets. This was due to redemptions — investors pulling their money out because of the funds’ performance. “The majority of the funds performed poorly for an extended period of time and the majority of (Bay Street) brokers refused to sell any new funds,” says Mark McQueen, CEO of Wellington Financial LP, a $900-million Bay Street finance firm and one of O’Leary’s long-time critics. “It’s not personal. The industry lives and dies on performance.”

Yet the demise of the O’Leary Funds is, in fact, just the latest in a series of failures in Kevin O’Leary’s business career. Continue reading

The father of Canadian computing

Photo: Robert Lansdale/Courtesy of the University of Toronto Archives

Photo: Robert Lansdale/Courtesy of the University of Toronto Archives

Computing pioneer Kelly Gotlieb was quintessentially Canadian in that he united high technical achievement with a low public profile. Leaders in the field of digital computation, however, have long regarded the University of Toronto professor emeritus, who died on Oct. 16 at the age of 95, as the father of Canadian computer science.

In 1948, just a year after receiving his doctorate, Dr. Gotlieb helped establish the country’s first computation centre, at the University of Toronto, and in 1952, he imported Canada’s earliest digital computer, FERUT, to his new lab. This 800-pound thermionic-tube-filled monster was the second of its kind to be produced by the British firm Ferranti Electric Co. (FERUT is an acronym for ‘FERranti U of T’).

With FERUT up and running, Dr. Gotlieb collaborated with the University of Saskatchewan to process research data digitally. U of S sent metres of paper tape by Teletype to U of T over analog phone lines, encoding gigabytes of raw data. Dr. Gotlieb’s computation centre fed this into FERUT, which in mere hours had analytical output, also on paper tape, that was then sent back to U of S. The process was lightning-fast compared with previous snail-mail turnaround times of up to four months.

When the university established its Department of Computer Science in 1964 (for graduate students only), Dr. Gotlieb was appointed its first director. By that point, he had already distinguished himself in digital computation, calculating the dynamic stability of designs for the new Avro Arrow fighter plane and modelling the hydrological consequences of various configurations for the St. Lawrence Seaway then being mooted. Dr. Gotlieb’s calculations so reassured the U.S. Congress that it reversed its initial opposition to the Seaway, for the first time opening the industrial and agricultural heartland of North America to global seaborne trade.

Over his long career, Dr. Gotlieb co-authored four books and authored or co-authored more than 100 publications in peer-reviewed scientific journals; in 1958, he was a founding member of the Canadian Information Processing Society. He pioneered a computerized reservation system for Trans-Canada Airlines (now Air Canada), paved the way for the world’s first computer-controlled traffic lights (in Toronto), fostered today’s machine-readable postal codes and digitized U of T’s card catalogues so effectively that his system was adopted by the U.S. Library of Congress.

“We were,” he once remarked, “responsible for an entire nation’s calculations.”

Dr. Gotlieb was a visionary, not only in the technical issues of machine computation, but also in their potential social implications. In the 1960s, he was chosen by U Thant, Secretary- General of the United Nations, to be one of six world experts advising on how computer technology might assist international development. Years later, he served on Canada’s first federal task force on privacy.

Read the complete article in the Globe and Mail here.

$10,000 prize for Canadian authors

If you’re a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, and you published a debut book in 2015, you might be eligible to nominate your title for Kobo’s second annual Emerging Writer Prize.

They’re now accepting nominations in categories of Literary Fiction, Romance and Non-Fiction. All submitted books must be available for sale in the Kobo store. Nomination process: Publishers and authors (traditionally published and self-published) can submit debut books published in 2015 at www.kobo.com/emergingwriter.

The application process opened February 4th and closes on March 11, 2016.

They’ll announce shortlisted titles on April 26. They’ll make final sections between April 27 and June 8, and then they’ll announce the winners at a coctail reception on June 23, 2016. The winner in each category will earn $10,000 and special merchandising between June and December of this year.