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    House of Commons security guards receive a standing ovation from Members of Parliament. REUTERS/Chris Wattie (CANADA - Tags: POLITICS)House of Commons security guards receive a standing ovation from Members of Parliament. REUTERS/Chris Wattie (CANADA - Tags: POLITICS)
    The Parliament of Canada should initiate the most broadly acceptable model of proportional representation (PR) for electing members to our House of Commons, mostly because doing so would create a chamber where MPs are elected in proportion to votes received rather than our present winner-take-all system.

    Canada, the U.S. and U.K. are the only major Western democracies still using the first-past-the-post voting system. Our election laws should no longer prescribe that the only voters electing MPs are those favouring each riding's most popular political party. Now the votes of those supporting minority parties — about seven million in the 2011 federal election — achieve nothing in terms of post-election representation. That model was created centuries ago and is simply out-dated for modern times.

    Réal Lavergne of the Fair Vote Canada civil society adds:

    “Among the world’s 35 strongest democracies, 25 use PR and only six use winner-take-all systems of one sort or another... Comparative

    Read More »from Election reform: Canada in desperate need of proportional representation
  • A voter fills in her ballot as she votes in the U.S. midterm elections November 4, 2014. (Reuters)A voter fills in her ballot as she votes in the U.S. midterm elections November 4, 2014. (Reuters)

    There is that old maxim, “Where you stand is where you sit.”

    And the cry for election “reform” is invariably the province of losers.

    Winners are essentially satisfied with the system as it is working for them. Or, if they didn’t win the most recent election, they view the system as sufficiently congenial that they have a reasonable chance of winning. They view the day of electoral defeat as the first day of the march to victory (just as astute victors/parties recognize the day of victory is the first day in the march to defeat). And losers can be sanguine. Democrat Moe Udall was cited after the 2000 election, “the people have spoken; God damn them.”

    So despite the undeleted Udall expletive, Democrats were confident they could rebound—as they did in 2008 by electing Barack Obama as president. And, historically, there has been no significant, enduring, modern third party movement, other than ivory tower theorizing about proportional representation.

    So those that complain about the

    Read More »from Election reform: Complaints about money and electoral districts are for 'losers'
  • In this file image, Terry Virts points to his helmet as he sits inside the ISS on Feb. 25, 2015 (AP)In this file image, Terry Virts points to his helmet as he sits inside the ISS on Feb. 25, 2015 (AP)

    This week when an American astronaut returned back inside the safety of the International Space Station after having completed a nearly flawless near 7 hour spacewalk, NASA was confronted with a potentially life-threatening problem it thought it had solved two years prior.  

    As NASA astronaut Terry Virts was re-pressurizing within the Quest airlock on Wednesday after having just finished a cable routing job on the outside of the orbiting laboratory, he reported a water leak within his spacesuit helmet.

    While NASA says Virts was in no apparent danger, their engineers on the ground spent the better part of two days investigating what had happened.

    This is not the first time such a nightmare leak in a spacesuit helmet has occurred during a spacewalk in recent years. In fact, the last time it happened, the astronaut nearly drowned.  

    Back in July 2013 Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano had to abort his spacewalk when he reported his helmet was flooding, saying he had water around his ears and

    Read More »from NASA spacesuit cleared of water leaks ahead of weekend spacewalk
  • Edmonton Freezeway, courtesy designer Matthew Gibbs.Edmonton Freezeway, courtesy designer Matthew Gibbs.

    When it comes to winter, Canadians fall roughly into two categories: Those who glory in the cold and snow, who can’t wait to get out on a rink or ski hill, and those who hunker down until spring arrives, except for unavoidable excursions like butt-clenching commutes on icy freeways.

    Matthew Gibbs wants more of us in the first group. He thinks he’s found a way of luring more people outdoors by turning city sidewalks into vast urban skating trails.

    The Edmonton native is the creative force behind an ambitious concept to transform stretches in the Alberta capital’s downtown into what he calls a “freezeway.”

    The idea, he says, would draw people out of their homes, providing physical activity and making Edmonton’s often bleak downtown winterscape into a cultural hub of cafes, restaurants, cultural activities and just plain fun.

    The concept ties in well with Edmonton’s WinterCity Strategy, says its co-ordinator, Sue Holdsworth. The strategy aims to turn Edmonton's climactic reality into a

    Read More »from Edmonton Freezeway: Designer thinks it will help winter be more bearable
  • This undated photo shows a cubist painting entitled “The Hairdresser” by Pablo Picasso. (AP)This undated photo shows a cubist painting entitled “The Hairdresser” by Pablo Picasso. (AP)

    It was shipped to the United States as a Christmas present.

    But what was labeled as a $37 “art craft/toy” by a shipper named “Robert” has been since identified as a priceless stolen Picasso by the feds.

    “The shipper’s declarations to customs…indicated that shipment contained a low-value handicraft toy that was being shipped to the United States as a holiday present,” court papers stated.

    The 1911 painting, titled “La Coiffeuse,” was discovered by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, then seized by Homeland Security Investigations, in December.

    "The recovery of the ‘La Coiffeuse’ sends a strong message to thieves that the market to sell stolen antiquities in the United States is drying up," U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent Anthony Scandiffio said.

    The painting had been missing from a storeroom at the Centre George Pompidou for more than a decade and is worth more than $2.5 million, the New York Times reported.

    “A lost treasure has been found,” said Loretta Lynch, U.S.

    Read More »from Stolen Picasso snuck into U.S. as an 'art craft'
  • (Facebook/Weymouth Police Department)(Facebook/Weymouth Police Department)

    The snowbanks are high in Weymouth, Massachusetts — and some dogs are making a run for it.

    The Weymouth Police Department, which is located about 15 miles outside of Boston, issued a warning to pet owners on Facebook yesterday on behalf of local animal control:

    “Please watch your dogs. We have been dealing with a large number of dogs that are running the streets. Most of them are getting out of yards that are usually secure because of snow banks.”

    “Please leash your dog or tether them when they are out. When your dog gets out the only place they have to go due to the snow is in the street. When this happens your dog is being put at risk of getting hit by a vehicle. Besides putting them at risk of getting hit by a vehicle or having an encounter with wildlife they could be picked up by us.”

    The police department then warned owners that they could be facing more than $200 in fees if their pets are picked up without valid license tags and placed in a shelter.

    One commenter wrote that she

    Read More »from Boston-area dogs using snowbanks to escape backyards
  • Leonard Nimoy, right,  laughs as he is greeted by Erin Crane, of Vulcan, Alta., on April 23, 2010. (CP)Leonard Nimoy, right, laughs as he is greeted by Erin Crane, of Vulcan, Alta., on April 23, 2010. (CP)

    A small Alberta farming town, nestled halfway between Calgary and Lethbridge, is in mourning today.

    The most famous citizen of the planet of Vulcan, "Star Trek" star Leonard Nimoy, died on Friday at the age of 83, and now the town of Vulcan, Alberta has to say goodbye to Mr. Spock.

    "He was such a humble and great ambassador...and just a great person to visit with," Mayor Tom Grant told Yahoo Canada News.

    "Our condolences are definitely with his family and friends."

    A replica of starship Enterprise from the from Star Trek series at the highway 23 entrance to Vulcan, Alberta on Aug. 27, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Larry MacDougalA replica of starship Enterprise from the from Star Trek series at the highway 23 entrance to Vulcan, Alberta on Aug. 27, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Larry MacDougalThe tight-knit community was initially named after the Roman god of fire by a railway surveyor in 1910, and for many years its greatest claim to fame was a large collection of grain elevators. 

    But as "Star Trek" grew as a cultural touchstone through the latter decades of the 20th century, Vulcan embraced its connection to Spock's homeworld. The Vulcan Association of

    Read More »from Leonard Nimoy mourned in Canadian 'home' of Vulcan, Alberta
  • (Emily Frost/Twitter)(Emily Frost/Twitter)
    Dogs don’t judge you if you stumble over a word or two.

    And for the past seven years, dogs have been helping second-graders boost their reading-confidence through JCC Manhattan’s Gift of Literacy program at P.S. 163.

    For an hour after school every Wednesday, students can practice reading out loud to two very patient listeners: Molly and Leo, 10-year-old Havanese dogs.

    "They have total freedom. They can really relax," program director Judy Gross said of the students. 

    The program also provides the students an after-school meal and one-on-one time with Gross and other tutors.

    Read More »from Man’s best reading buddy? Literacy program encourages kids to read to dogs
  • Leonard Nimoy Dies at 83Leonard Nimoy Dies at 83

    I Am Not Spock proclaimed the title of Leonard Nimoy's 1975 autobiography, in which the veteran actor tried to distinguish himself from his most iconic role, as Star Trek's emotionless half-human, half-Vulcan science officer. Twenty years later, he published a follow-up entitled, I Am Spock, in which the actor-director warmly embraced his pointy-eared alter ego. Like it or not, Nimoy — who passed away on Feb. 27 at the age of 83 from end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease — was Spock to generations of sci-fi fans, so much so that when J.J. Abrams rebooted the franchise in the 2009 blockbuster, Nimoy was the one original cast member he made sure to bring back.

    Even though the role defined his career for those of us watching him at home and in theaters, Spock was only one small part of Nimoy's overall life. An actor from childhood, the Boston-born Nimoy worked steadily on television before and after Star Trek, appearing on such disparate shows as Sea Hunt, Gunsmoke, Mission:

    Read More »from Leonard Nimoy, Actor, Director, and 'Star Trek' Icon, Dies at 83
  • This Calgary skyscraper was the target of an attack plan designed by Glen Gieschen. (CBC) This Calgary skyscraper was the target of an attack plan designed by Glen Gieschen. (CBC)

    While they don’t condone what Glen Gieschen did, veterans’ advocates say the former soldier’s plan to attack a Veterans Affairs office in Calgary with guns and explosives shows what can happen when veterans try to get help for illnesses that are hard to link to their military service.

    Gieschen was sentenced to four years in prison this week after pleading guilty to several weapons charges last November. He was given 18 months credit for time spent in custody since his arrest in January 2014.

    Apparently he was upset at the way Veterans Affairs was handling his claim that he had developed multiple sclerosis as a result of a flu shot while still in the armed forces.

    Gieschen’s wife called police when she became concerned he was suicidal. He was arrested under Alberta’s Mental Health Act but later charged criminally after police discovered a cache of guns, chemicals to make explosives, body armour and schematics for the federal government building that housed the Veterans Affairs office

    Read More »from Vet's attack plan an extreme reaction to widespread frustration with Veterans' Affairs

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