Blog Posts by Steve Mertl

  • How useful is social media in giving us a true picture of Sammy Yatim?

    It's going to be a while before all the facts come out on how teenager Sammy Yatim ended up dead on a Toronto streetcar from a hail of police bullets.

    That hasn't stopped journalists and social media from trying to fill in the blanks.

    There's nothing new about people wanting to know more about the victim of a tragedy or a criminal suspect, but Canada.com trends editor Ishmael N. Daro's commentary Monday about Yatim's death points out a pitfall of the Internet Age.

    Some on social media are using Facebook photos of Yatim and some of his buddies in tough-guy poses to paint a negative picture of the 18-year-old Syrian immigrant, shot down when he refused police orders to drop the knife he was holding.

    [ Related: Streetcar shooting video not whole story, police union says ]

    The images were posted on Reddit, which also hosted a vigorous debate about Daro's column.

    For Daro, though, it was clear that some in the judgemental coldness of cyberspace had already written off Yatim, implying he possibly

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  • Vancouver unveils rainbow-coloured crosswalks as Pride Week begins

    A rainbow painted crosswalk is reflected in a storefront window in Vancouver, British Columbia July 29, 2013. REUTERS/Andy Clark
    Vancouver's West End, home to the city's Gay Village, is marking the kickoff for Pride Week with a symbol of the city's welcoming attitude; rainbow crosswalks.

    The vibrantly-coloured crosswalks were unveiled Monday at the intersection of Davie and Bute streets, in the heart of the district, the Vancouver Sun reported.

    Spencer Chandra Herbert, the district's openly gay New Democrat MLA, welcomed the new crosswalks to an area that has “kind of been a cultural capital, so to speak, for LGBTQ folks across Canada.”

    “This is where the Pride Parade started, it’s where the fight for marriage equality started, the right to adopt,” Herbert told the Sun. “It makes sense to mark that history and a little colour is a good thing.”

    Vancouver hosted its first Pride Parade 35 years ago, the Sun noted. It has become the fifth largest in the world with more than 650,000 participants last year. This year's parade takes place next Sunday.

    [ Related: Vancouver bar behind Russian vodka boycott over anti-gay laws

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  • Ottawa quick to respond to Obama’s skepticism over Keystone pipeline

    We are deep in the hardball phase of discussions about the controversial Keystone XL pipeline project.

    Analysts are trying to parse U.S. President Barack Obama's latest comments about the contentious plan to pipe Alberta oil sands crude across America to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico.

    Over the weekend, Obama told the New York Times, he doubted the rosy job-creation numbers being attacked to the project and said his administration would approve or reject it based on its contribution to global carbon emissions.

    “Republicans have said that this would be a big jobs generator,” Obama said in an interview with Times. “There is no evidence that that’s true.

    "The most realistic estimates are this might create maybe 2,000 jobs during the construction of the pipeline, which might take a year or two, and then after that we’re talking about somewhere between 50 and 100 jobs in an economy of 150 million working people.”

    The president also questioned whether the pipeline would help lower pump prices

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  • Edmonton artist Diankh Lopez inks record 818 tattoos in 24 hours

    And here's a bulletin from our Dubious World Records Desk: An Edmonton tattoo artist claims to have broken the record for the most tattoos inked in 24 hours.

    Diankh Lopez created 818 tattoos by Sunday morning, beating the previous Guinness World Records mark of 801 set by an Arizona skin-inker Hollis Cantrell in 2008, the Edmonton Journal reported.

    “It’s exciting, it’s amazing, but I’m just really exhausted right now,” Lopez said. “I can’t wait to lie on my bed.”

    Lopez told CTV News she was actually aiming to do more.

    "My original goal was 1,000," she said.

    [ Related: Top 10 World Cup 2010 tattoos ]

    The record bid was organized to raise money for the Edmonton Humane Society. Lopez set up shop at Duke's Bar and Grill at 11:30 a.m. Saturday morning and set to work.

    By late afternoon there was a lineup of bar patrons waiting to be tattooed. Tattoos and booze go together, don't they?

    For $20, customers got their choice of a small paw print or infinity symbol in black ink. Lopez, a tattoo artist

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  • The Internet is full of people and organizations with their virtual hands out, appealing for money to support political parties, environmental causes, medical research, or maybe acquiring a video of a mayor smoking crack.

    And as this CNN report notes, one of the last places you'd expect to get a sympathetic hearing is the denizens of the online-gaming community, obsessed as they are with dominance in their pixellated universes.

    But something about Sarah Marie Alida Parries cracked the hard, robotic shell of those online warriors.

    The five-year-old Vancouver girl, who died in May of inoperable brain cancer, loved playing Mechwarrior with her father, Jon. Like a lot of kids, she was adept, dominating much older opponents with her favourite Mech, know as a Jenner.

    [ Related: This is where Gawker is sending the Rob Ford ‘Crackstarter’ money ]

    According to CBC News, Jon Parries asked the gamer community to send greetings to his daughter at Canuck Place hospice via their online forum. She died a

    Read More »from Gamers raise $60K in memory of five-year-old B.C. Mechwarrior player, Sarah Parries, who passed away
  • Does California cop who pepper-sprayed Occupy protesters deserve compensation for stress?

    Police see a lot of ugly things and it wears on them. Historically, they've been reluctant to seek help in dealing with the stresses of their job, many self-medicating with alcohol.

    However, things are changing as the law-enforcement culture becomes more accepting of officers willing to get counselling and therapy.

    But I wonder if the campus cop who pepper-sprayed a group of peaceful, seated Occupy protesters two years ago really ought to get worker's compensation for the trauma he's undergone in the wake of his actions.

    It's hard to forget the video of University of California Davis officer John Pike casually hosing the huddled protesters, walking down the line as if he was spraying his roses for aphids.

    The incident attracted widespread condemnation and ridicule.

    The Associated Press now reports Pike, who was fired the following year after a review found his assault unwarranted, is appealing for benefits, claiming the fallout from the online disclosure of his identity caused him

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  • Gay former jail guard awarded $98k for bullying, harassment at Ottawa prison

    There are still deep pockets of intolerance in our supposedly enlightened society when it comes to homosexuals.

    It shouldn't surprise us that a gay jail guard endured years of bullying and taunts from his colleagues while his superiors largely turned a blind eye. The macho culture of uniformed public services can sometimes feel especially threatened by homosexuality in its midst. Despite official policies of acceptance, it's hard to change deeply ingrained attitudes.

    One hopes things have improved since Robert Ranger was forced to leave his job at the provincially run Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre in 2002 after cruel homophobic harassment.

    Ranger's decade-long odyssey for compensation for the bullying that left him unable to work has ended with a $98,000 award from the Ontario Grievance Settlement Board, The Canadian Press reports.

    The board, which handles complaints from Ontario public servants, has ordered the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services to pay the amount

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  • Online dating scams top source of fraud against Canadians

    The dating world is a minefield at the best of times but the Internet has added fresh risks, and not just of a broken heart.

    As a higher percentage of people use the web to find relationships, online-dating scams have become the No. 1 source of fraud against Canadians, CBC News reports.

    According to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, online-dating fraud cost Canadians $17 million last year. And even though the total number of victims is small compared with other scams, in the last three years they lost more money looking for love online than to any other type of fraud.

    It's also become big business. Your old-school gigolo or gold-digger usually could only drain a couple of people at a time. But the centre's Daniel Williams said organized crime has latched onto online dating as a lucrative source of cash.

    "It's a big gang," he told CBC News. "They're doing the same thing to many people at the same time."

    The advantage of the web, of course, is that the fraudster never has to meet his or her

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  • Stop sign ticket victory more proof that traffic tickets are beatable, with homework

    Stop sign (Image from ishmael n. daro on Flickr)If you Google "fight traffic ticket Canada," you'll get close to 10 million hits, most of which appear to be lawyers and paralegals who want to help you get out of the citation that's going to dent your wallet and burden your licence with demerit points.

    As the penalties for pushing the vehicular envelope increase — rising fines, penalty points that affect insurance premiums — more drivers are reluctant to swallow even justified tickets as a "road tax."

    The odds of fighting a ticket and winning are probably long but sometimes if you do your homework, you can walk away victorious.

    It takes perseverance, though, and money. Just ask Myron Kinach of Delta, B.C., who thought the ticket he got for failing to stop at a stop sign was unjust.

    According to CBC News, Kinach was acquitted in B.C. Supreme Court today after convincing the judge he did indeed stop at the sign before being ticketed for rolling through the white-painted stop line a few feet further on.

    [ Related: Tory minister Bernier

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  • Abbotsford, B.C. homeless group suing city over chicken manure dump

    The City of Abbotsford was forced to remove the manure from the homeless gathering place following public outrage.
    I confess I'd be uncomfortable if homeless people set up camp in a park near my house but I'd draw the line on my city declaring open season on them.

    That appears to be what happened in Abbotsford, a bustling city of 141,000 about 40 minutes east of Vancouver. Residents of the tent camp across the street from a Salvation Army centre say they've been pepper-sprayed, had tents destroyed and, in a final indignity, found chicken poop spread over the site to make it uninhabitable.

    Now the homeless are fighting back the way any red-blooded Canadian would; they're going to court.

    The Canadian Press reports the Pivot Legal Society, which regularly clashes with authorities on behalf of residents of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, is filing claims for compensation for property lost or damaged in the anti-homeless offensive.

    "We've tried to sit around and talk and we've tried to ask and nothing's happening and we're sick and tired of waiting and obviously, they need a kick in the [butt] to get moving

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