Blog Posts by Steve Mertl

  • Yellow Pages trimming home delivery only latest example of once-needed goods becoming obsolete

    The Yellow Media Inc. logo is shown at the company's quarterly results meeting in Montreal, Thursday, May 6, 2010. The maker of the once ubiquitous telephone directory is beginning to drop home delivery in some Canadian communities. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham HughesThe Yellow Media Inc. logo is shown at the company's quarterly results meeting in Montreal, Thursday, May 6, 2010. The maker of the once ubiquitous telephone directory is beginning to drop home delivery in some Canadian communities. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
    When was the last time you cracked open the Yellow Pages when you were shopping for a product or service?

    That question occurred to me when the new Yellow Pages appeared on my stoop last month. I couldn’t remember picking up its predecessor, which sat unused and pristine on a shelf next to the phone for the last year. I suspect I’m not alone.

    Yellow Pages Ltd. confirmed that suspicion Monday with an announcement that it would begin cutting back on door-to-door deliveries of the once massive business directory in areas where research shows it and other print media were in declining usage. When we let our fingers do the walking, for most of us it’s on a keyboard.

    It’s yet another once commonplace part of our lives that’s perhaps not obsolete but certainly being forced to adapt to the way new technology has reshaped society and the way we do things.

    Neighbourhoods in the Ontario cities of Brampton, Mississauga and Oakville will be the first to not receive the books on doorsteps, says

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  • Dog walker's jail sentence shows courts getting tougher on animal cruelty

    The surprise in the Emma Paulsen case was not that the Vancouver-area dog walker was convicted of allowing six animals in her care to die of heat stroke in the back of her pickup truck, then lying about it.

    After all, she pleaded guilty last fall to leaving the dogs in the truck while she went shopping and, returning to find them dead, dumped them in a ditch on a country road. Then she concocted a story that they’d been stolen while she was in the washroom at an off-leash park.

    No, the surprise was when provincial court Judge Jim Jardine on Wednesday sentenced Paulsen to six months in jail – three months for allowing animals to continue to suffer and three more for mischief in connection with her elaborate cover-up, which included tearful TV interviews about the purported theft. She’s also banned from working with animals for life and from owning them for 10 years.


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  • Canada's transit wars: People want good service but not the cost

    Vancouver, that glittering, glass-walled city on the Pacific, is heading into a potentially vicious war over transit.

    Other big Canadian cities will, without a doubt, be watching closely as residents in Metro Vancouver vote in a referendum to boost the provincial sales tax by half a percentage point in the region to pay for a 10-year, $7.5-billion program of improvements to roads and bridges, but mostly to fund public transit expansion.

    The mail-in vote, run by ElectionsBC, will take place between March 16 and May 29, but there are already signs the Yes side may have a steep hill to climb to convince voters to add another transit tax. 

    Residents already fund the system via fuel, property and parking taxes, not to mention fares. An earlier proposal for a vehicle-licensing levy was quashed in the face of a looming public backlash.

    The sales tax proposal has broad support among the establishment, including Metro Vancouver’s business community, unions and the Vancouver’s main civic

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  • Conservatives guilty of bad communication, not mission creep in Iraq, military experts say

    Lt.-Gen. Jonathan Vance arrives for a technical briefing, Monday January 19, 2015 in Ottawa. (CP)Lt.-Gen. Jonathan Vance arrives for a technical briefing, Monday January 19, 2015 in Ottawa. (CP)

    We probably shouldn’t have been surprised that Canadian soldiers would end up exchanging fire with Islamic State fighters in Iraq.

    The question is, was the government being naive or disingenuous when it said last fall that Canada’s mission there would not put them in danger on the front line (except, of course, the pilots flying CF-18s on bombing missions)?

    It’s not a minor question since the Conservatives are likely to make Canada’s security against terrorism a central component of its re-election campaign this year and it’s identified the Islamic State (a.k.a. ISIS or ISIL) as a major threat to that security. It committed a half-dozen CF-18 fighter jets and dozens of soldiers to an international effort to defend Iraq against ISIS forces surging through the country from Syrian strongholds. 

    About 70 special forces troops have been working with the Kurdish peshmerga fighters for the last few months. The Conservative government initially told Parliament the troops’ duties would be

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  • Vancouver's tempting wilderness a deadly trap for the unprepared

    (The Canadian Press / Chad Hipolito)(The Canadian Press / Chad Hipolito)
    There’s an amusing TV commercial for Subaru’s Outback that’s meant to poke fun at millennials and their unwillingness to brave a hiking trail once their smartphones lose reception.

    As they retreat from a trailhead, a couple in Subaru’s crossover wagon, bikes stowed on the roof rack, drive by headed for an authentic wilderness adventure.

    But the ad has an unintended message: Maybe those kids were right. They were ill prepared for a stroll in the bush, as visitors to Vancouver’s beguiling but treacherous North Shore mountains regularly discover.

    North Shore Rescue (NSR), the volunteer search-and-rescue service, finds between 80 and 100 people a year who have ventured into the back country just metres from suburban neighbourhoods or skied out of bounds on the three local mountains that you can reach by public transit.

    Though unprepared, local residents also get lost. The ones being plucked shivering from snowy drainage channels or clinging to rocky precipices after taking the wrong fork

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  • Sunni vs. Shia: The religious rivalry behind the Middle East turmoil

    Yahoo Global News Anchor Katie Couric explains the history behind the sectarian discord between the warring Muslim factions in Iraq.Yahoo Global News Anchor Katie Couric explains the history behind the sectarian discord between the warring Muslim factions in Iraq.
    If you pay attention to the debate over western involvement in the Middle East, you’ll eventually hear someone explain the United States and its allies have blundered into an age-old sectarian conflict between the Sunni and Shia strands of Islam.

    And then they move on, as if if that’s all we need to know. The rest, presumably, is inscrutable.

    But some knowledge of the roots of the Shia-Sunni divide and how it’s played out through history may be essential to understanding the complex situation today.

    For most of us, our knowledge of Islam doesn’t extend much past an awareness that it is divided into different sects, much as Christianity is.

    The schism between Sunnis, who make up an estimated 85 per cent of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims, and Shiites, dates almost to the beginning of Islam. It has always had both a theological and a temporal component because Islam extended religious principles to political control.

    According to an excellent overview produced last year by the Council on

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  • Over-protective parenting may be seeping into child welfare laws

    When I was a little kid I had a friend named Bobby. He was a year or two younger than me and the boys I played with but he liked to hang around with us.

    Except his mother, who looked closer in age to my grandmother than my mom, never let him cross the street in our quiet, blue-collar east Calgary neighbourhood. That meant he couldn’t rove with us to the hill behind the nearby school, or the waste area near the railway tracks where there were always fascinating things to find and play with.

    Looking back, I think having had Bobby so late, his mother was extra protective in an era when most kids were allowed to roam free once they were old enough for school.

    But it today’s agee of helicopter parents and bubble-wrapped children, Bobby’s mom may be the rule, not the exception. That overprotective mindset appears to be seeping not only into parenting, but into child-welfare law, judging by two recent cases.


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  • Is Canada doing enough to stop the flogging of a Saudi blogger?

    Ensaf Haidar, wife of blogger Raif Badawi, takes part in a rally for his freedom in MontrealEnsaf Haidar, wife of blogger Raif Badawi, takes part in a rally for his freedom in Montreal

    Sometime after prayers on Friday, it’s likely Raif Badawi will be led in front of a crowd outside a mosque in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and flogged.

    It will be his second set of 50 lashes. Out of a thousand. He’s scheduled to receive them at a rate of 50 a week. It was postponed last week because a prison doctor determined wounds from the first 50 strokes, administered by a huge cane, hadn’t healed sufficiently to continue.

    “In his sentence it was made clear that the lashes were to be administered with force,” Alex Neve, secretary general of Amnesty International Canada told Yahoo Canada News. “The eyewitnesses said that it was very clear while he was being flogged that he was in pain, he was grimacing, his back was arching.” 

    Badawi’s crime? Operating a blog the autocratic Islamic state has determined was blasphemous. He advocated for free speech and a sectarian state, a position that has also earned him 10 years in prison.


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  • Abbotsford, B.C.'s journey back from gang violence infamy

    A CBC News report on the country’s gang hotspots still singles out the Fraser Valley city of 133,000, and adjacent Mission, as the country’s No. 1 municipality for gang murders, based on Statistics Canada data from 2003 to 2012. It had 1.02 gang-related killings per 100,000 people, doubling the rate for most other Census Metropolitan Areas (CMAs) its size.

    The CBC News report does point out that the figure is skewed somewhat by the 11 gang murders committed in 2009 at the height of a gang war that raged across the Lower Mainland in 2008-09. Dozens were killed as the Abbotsford-based Bacon brothers’ Red Scorpions battled with the United Nations gang for control of the lucrative marijuana trade.


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    The city’s reputation is probably unfair today, though Abbotsford police spokesman Const. Ian MacDonald won’t go as

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  • Death of Canadian jihadis likely won't deter the most determined, experts say

    Canadian John Maguire, shown in this ISIS video, is reported to have died recently. (CBC)Canadian John Maguire, shown in this ISIS video, is reported to have died recently. (CBC)

    News this week that several young Canadian men have died recently while fighting for Islamic State in Iraq and Syria ought to dim the attraction of going overseas to wage violent jihad, but odds are it won't.

    According to media reports, three Somali-Canadian cousins died for Islamic State (aka ISIS) sometime last fall. And John Maguire of Ottawa, a convert to Islam featured prominently in Islamic State recruitment videos, reportedly was killed in the last few days.

    It's one thing to harbour romantic notions of fighting for a cause to change the world. It's another to realize there's a good chance you will end up in a dusty hole in the ground somewhere in Syria, Iraq or Somalia.

    But experts say while the news might chill the prospect for some flirting with joining up with ISIS, most who've already become committed won't be deterred. The possibility of martyrdom may even make it more attractive.

    “If you’re generally interested in the idea of going to fight and you bought into the

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Pagination

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