Wednesday Night #1980

Written by  //  February 26, 2020  //  Wednesday Nights  //  No comments

Ash Wednesday – the beginning of Lenten penitence for many Christians following the excesses of Carnival/Mardi Gras Note that “The earliest Carnival celebration in North America occurred on Mardi Gras,  March 3, 1699, at a place on the west bank of the Mississippi river about 60 miles (96.6 kilometers) downriver from where New Orleans is today;  and in honor of this holiday, Pierre Le Moyne, Sieur d’Iberville, a 38-year-old French Canadian, named the spot Point du Mardi Gras.”

The new motto of the Trudeau government should surely be “the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.” No matter how hard they have tried to be empathetic and attuned to the need for reconciliation with Canada’s Indigenous population, nothing prepared them for the intransigence of (some) First Nations leaders, the solidarity and efficacy of small groups of protesters across the country, combined with the complexity of dealing with differing interpretations of governance and who-speaks-for-whom. The damage done to the country’s economy by the barricades shutting down rail transport -and to Canada’s international reputation as a bastion of peace and good governance- is serious and attracting unwelcome attention from beyond our borders (see George Friedman: The Canadian Geopolitical Dynamic, a pretty pompous commentary, but he is influential).
Added to the mix is the need to balance energy & pipelines, environment & climate change with the demands of provinces with resource-driven economies, creating a situation that is increasingly toxic as illustrated by Teck Resources’ withdrawal of the Frontier Oil Sands Project (see Winners and losers from Teck’s decision to pull the plug on Frontier oilsands project)
CBC’s Aaron Wherry sums up the dilemma for the Trudeau government:
The idea of reconciliation is synonymous with efforts to deal with the unresolved questions and injustices in the relationship between the modern Canadian state and the Indigenous peoples who first occupied this land. But the things at issue right now — what Trudeau has put at the forefront of his government’s agenda — are really three separate but overlapping matters in need of reconciliation.
There is that need to reconcile with Indigenous peoples. There is a need to reconcile with the current reality and future of Canada’s fossil fuel industries. There is a need to reconcile Canadian society and government policy with the goal of reducing this country’s greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2050 — a goal that is in line with international efforts to limit the damage caused by climate change.
Andrew Coyne adds On reconciliation, development and carbon pricing: Enough with the all-or-nothing rhetoric

U.S. politics
As South Carolina (29 February) and Super Tuesday (3 March) approach, Tuesday night’s South Carolina Democratic forum was “messy, featuring frequent interruptions, angry crosstalk and theatrical hand-waving.” Bernie Sanders faced the most serious test, and opinion as to his performance varies according to whether or not one is a fan. He is for the moment the Democrats’ front runner, causing much rethinking and considerable angst among the other candidates, pundits and voters. The Atlantic‘s Edward-Isaac Dovere warns that The Democratic Establishment Is Broken. Admittedly never a fan of Bernie’s, Politico is not so sure about his lock on the nomination. “The Revolution, you might have noticed from news coverage the past couple days, has arrived. The establishment is in full freak out. The Sandernistas are confident they are on the brink of irreversible triumph. If you get a spare moment during your coffee break on the barricades, however, take a moment to ask: Why exactly is the Democratic contest almost over? Also: What makes you so sure?”
Bernie Praised Fidel Castro’s Education System. So Did Obama.
“If offering an (accurately) positive assessment of any aspect of an authoritarian communist regime’s record is tantamount to endorsing its form of rule, then Barack Obama is an authoritarian communist”
We love this suggestion from Thomas Friedman – it won’t happen, but wouldn’t it be a novel approach? Dems, Want to Defeat Trump? Form a Team of Rivals
The Economist (subscription) published an intriguing analysis of the flaws in polling data Why Donald Trump’s high approval ratings may be misleading based on findings of the Pew Research Center.

From the WN diaspora -in this case, David Mitchell in New Brunswick- comes this query about coverage of Coronavirus
Why does the Corona Virus grab all the headlines?
Over 8,200 deaths from the flu in the US already this winter and worldwide usually around 650,000 deaths annually. Yet the media focus almost exclusively on the coronavirus. Maybe W-N can explain this selective attention by the media?
Pending received wisdom from Wednesday Night, we replied citing two explanations posted on Facebook:
“Corona is less virulent than the SARS virus and about as virulent as the flu. But flu is predicable whereas corona is not as yet. In other words, flu is controllable through vaccines whereas corona is not. It could easily spread through the population and cause similar damage as the 1918 flu pandemic, which killed millions.”
And another comment:
“By being hard on quarantining now, we can prevent the disease from being the constant threat that the flu is. We can lower the opportunities for the virus to mutate. And we can prepare for future outbreaks. Compare that to influenza, which is constantly mutating and can break out anywhere in the world. Medicine is trying to be proactive on COVID-19 because this is the rare chance that it doesn’t have to be reactive.”
We added a link  to  Johns Hopkins: Coronavirus 2019 vs. the Flu.
Finally, for lovers of statistics, there is this site to which Marc (Nicholson) introduced me a couple of days ago.
https://www.worldometers.info/
Ali posted a link to a Star story (paywall) Iran may have 18 000 cases of coronavirus, 200 times the official figure announced by the regime in Tehran, and the New York Times confirms that ‘Recipe for a Massive Viral Outbreak’: Iran Emerges as a Worldwide Threat

It may have escaped your attention, but Netanyahu announces new settlements days before Israeli electionPlan for 3,500 homes in West Bank is seen as barrier to any future Palestinian state
Israel‘s general election is on Monday.

Sandy Wolofsky announced the March schedule for OuiCanSki
It’s that time of year again. When OuiCanSki welcomes new Canadians to our beautiful country and helps them embrace winter. I.e. we teach them how to ski!!! As in past years, I would be super grateful if any of my friends wanted to come out and help make newbies filled with fear SMILE. So what do you get out of it? Well, there’s Félix & Norton cookies. A shot of Maple Syrup. Some hot chocolate. And this year, I can even buy you lunch! Oh wait. There is the joy and satisfaction of helping people fall in love with skiing and our beautiful country. 3 days to choose from: March 7. March 15. March 29. (If you don’t ski, pass on to anyone you know who does and would like to help). Bienvenue Au Canada-Promo OuiCanSki

On behalf of Prompt, Luc Sirois posted this announcement:
Les adolescents de 14 à 16 ans pourront s’initier à la programmation en intelligence artificielle, cet été, au HUB du Cégep de Sorel-Tracy. S’y déroulera, du 17 au 21 août, en collaboration avec l’organisme Prompt, un camp d’été auquel il est possible de s’inscrire pour 230 $ plus taxes. Un groupe sera réservé aux filles et un autre aux garçons. Les deux brigades auront pour objectif de coder un « agent conversationnel », entraîné par un système de reconnaissance faciale. Ces jeunes de la région de Sorel-Tracy visiteront également, pendant leur camp d’été, des entreprises locales et des organisations composant l’écosystème numérique de la région. L’objectif est de les encourager à poursuivre des études supérieures et à faire carrière dans les métiers reliés aux sciences et aux technologies qui offrent de très bons salaires » souligne Jean-Philippe Hébert, coordonnateur du HUB du Cégep de Sorel-Tracy.
On peut s’inscrire en ligne au https://camp-techno.com

And on the topic of AI, this from Sunday Morning: Is AI overhyped?  …some AI researchers are beginning to wonder if the AI industry might be guilty of overpromising in order to attract consumer and investor interest, and underplaying how hard it will be to recreate the full range of human intelligence in a machine. “When a team exaggerates what’s happened, the public gets the message that we’re really close to AI, and you know, sooner or later the public is going to realize that’s not true,” said Gary Marcus, Vancouver-based AI entrepreneur and author (friend of Sandy’s, Hampshire College graduate, who was a WN guest last April).

THE BEST STORY OF THE WEEK:
Zamboni driver steps in as emergency goalie for NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes
42-year-old Zamboni driver and ex-junior goalie notches improbable NHL victory
Ayres allowed goals on the first two shots he faced before settling down and stopping the next eight directed his way in a suffocating defensive performance from his new teammates as Carolina picked up a stunning 6-3 victory over Toronto.
Ayres, who had a kidney transplant 15 years ago and wasn’t sure if he would ever play hockey again, has been a practice goalie with the Leafs and the club’s American Hockey League affiliate, the Toronto Marlies, for the last eight years.
And what fun he has been having since then! Zamboni driver David Ayres saves the day for Stephen Colbert on ‘The Late Show’

THE MOST EXTRAORDINARY STORY
Woman plays violin during brain surgery to save her musical skills
A British woman has emerged from complicated brain surgery with her fine motor skills intact, thanks to doctors who insisted she play her beloved violin through part of the operation.
Dagmar Turner, 53, went under the knife at King’s College Hospital in London to have a dangerous tumour removed from her brain on Jan. 31. The tumour was nestled in the right frontal lobe of her brain, close to the area that controls language and the fine movements in Turner’s left hand.
The neurosurgeons mapped Turner’s brain, opened up her skull for the surgery, then woke her from her anesthesia and asked her to play the violin. The activity allowed them to see and avoid the parts of the brain she needs to play, while successfully cutting away bits of the tumour.

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