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"The Best Korean Barbecue in New York" proclaims the website for Han Joo on St. Mark's in the East Village, the second branch of the Queens-based Korean restaurant. Bold claim for a city with pretty good Korean barbecue, and it may be the case, but not on a night when The New York Times' photographers are shooting dishes and dining room scenes for an upcoming piece or review. No, when The New York Times is there at least, expect poor service, an overhyped cooking method, and food that's no better than anything you can find in Koreatown. At least, that's the takeaway from a meal this past Saturday night.
Asked about the two men taking photographs on top of stools at the front of the restaurant, one server smiled and said proudly, "It's The New York Times!"
"Well good for them," you think. And you'd also think it would be good for you as a customer given all the servers at the front of the restaurant where you're sitting. Should be plenty of opportunities for their servers to make sure you're being taken care of, right? Not so much.
Want to get started with a drink? Ask about the soju. Are there soju cocktails? No. "OK, so what are the differences between the three sojus on the menu?" you ask. "There's not much difference unless you know the companies," you're told. OK then. Guess you could tell me about the companies. Or not.
So you get a soju recommendation and a joke about the waitress not having to card you (note to servers: not a well-received joke), order your food, and watch your waitress walk away. But something's wrong. She's distracted by those photographers and the server that they're taking photos of. So the waitress returns to retake your order, one consisting of four dishes. You've ordred two barbecue dishes — bulgogi and squid — yet the server tells you that you need to order at least two barbecue dishes to do barbecue at the table. "Um, but we did order two barbecue dishes," you note. "Oh, yeah, OK," notes the server.
You comfort yourself and your companion with the thought that the restaurant is just really distracted by a potential upcoming review in The New York Times. But should you have to suffer? Is The Times going to foot your bill? Recent buyouts and the prospect of layoffs at the newspaper lead you to believe that the answer to that quesiton is no. But you decide to move on.
You may have heard some effusive praise for Han Joo in Queens, and their crystal grill. It's something that sets Han Joo apart from most conventional Korean barbecue restaurants you've visited. But does cooking on crystal really make a difference? Or is it just a gimmick? It seems like the latter, but regardless, before you even get to tasting the food, you get treated to a view below the crystal grill plate — a soupy mess of grease and grilling liquid in the catchall under the table that you can just hope has only been there since just today. Sneaking suspicion? That's not the case.
But you move on. Keep an open mind, right?
You've ordered two appetizers, the dumpling sampler and a small order of the duk-bokis (rice cakes sautéed in chile pepper sauce with vegetables). No sign of those as the waitress sets up that crystal plate over the grease pit in your table. Then out comes the bulgogi and squid... your entrées. The waitress starts cooking your bulgogi, pushes it to the side of the crystal plate, looks at you strangely when you don't start eating it, and says, "Is everything OK?"
I don't know. Is it? There's no lettuce for wrapping that the tables on either side of you have. And how about those appetizers? Where are they?
"Oh, you see, the meat cooks very fast," explains the waitress. And what does cooking the barbecue have to do with the missing appetizers? Nothing.
The waitress reappears with a lettuce basket and halfway through you finishing it and the cooked beef, you finally see your appetizers. The rice cakes are fine, the sauce seems a bit ketchupy, but they're much improved by you taking matters in your own hands and crisping them up on the barbecue. And the dumplings are nice enough — fresh and delicate — but you have no idea which one is which because nobody takes two seconds to explain that, and there's not enough flavor differentiation to be able to determine it yourself. Hey! That one might be shrimp! That one may be kimchi! Who knows? Have some!
Speaking of which, you're almost finished with your bulgogi and practically done with the squid, noting to your dining companion that something seems to be missing and you can't seem to put your finger on it, when suddenly you realize that it's kimchi, the most elemental, basic, and iconic side at any Korean barbecue restaurant. No kimchi? The Asian customers on either side of you have kimchi. A request near meal's end for that missing kimchi finally nets you some, but what's the deal? Do white customers not deserve kimchi? Can they not handle it? And when they're served it, is it really as spicy as the real thing?
In the end, you'll leave happy enough. After all, none of the servers were rude, right? They're just really disorganized — like put-stuff-down-on-your-table-while-they-figure-out-what-to-put-on-someone-else's-table disorganized. The food is fine If you live downtown or just like being around NYU students, or want to be able to go to a place that has roots in Queens (because that means it's authentic), you may enjoy it, but it doesn't seem that there's really anything being served here that's better than anything you'll eat in Koreatown. Speaking of which, in all the places in K-Town, everyone asks you if you want more — you're asked if you want more banchan (the small plates they serve at the meal's start that make you feel like you're getting more than you ordered), but nobody asked if another round of meat was in order.
The food blog Serious Eats noted in their review of the original Han Joo in Flushing, A Clearly Unconventional Path to Pork Belly at Han Joo, that whether "it's culinary curiosity or outright hunger that compels you, both needs can be thoroughly satisfied at Han Joo." And that's just the point, you may be satisfied by the basics, but there's nothing really special about this second Han Joo branch.
Who knows whether it's going to be Pete Wells who turns out to have been the reason behind those photographers noted above? It very well may be The Times' junior reviewer Ligaya Mishan. Or it could be an overarching piece about eating on St. Mark's or Korean food in New York City in general (that would be fun). But I'll put my money on it being the review next week, after all, The New York Times' restaurant critic has an Asian restaurant food fetish and Han Joo is Asian. If it is the review, can we just say this? There are plenty of other restaurants in the city that you could argue needed reviewing more than this one. And if I'm wrong and it's not the review, good. And thank you, Pete Wells.
But if I'm right (and we'll have to wait to see how many stars it gets from The Times — one is generous), one thing is certain in the meantime, don't expect good service when the newspaper is there. The good news? A rereview is unlikely anytime soon.
Arthur Bovino is The Daily Meal's executive editor. Read more articles by Arthur, or click here to follow Arthur on Twitter.
A Guide to Airports Near New York City
New York City is served by several airports, which makes it easier to find reasonable airfares, but it can also make planning your trip more challenging. The city's main three airports — LaGuardia Airport and John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens and Newark International Airport in Newark, New Jersey — make up the busiest airport system in the Americas.
Whether you're arriving at LaGuardia Airport (LGA), John F. Kennedy Airport (JFK), Newark Airport (EWR), or even one of New York's smaller airports, you should be aware of each airport's differences when when you book your tickets — sometimes the cheapest ticket or the best schedule can have you flying into one airport and out of a different one. This isn't a problem, unless you show up at the wrong one when it's time to go home!
Why Customer Service Is So Bad
I don’t think many people would disagree that customer service is not what it used to be and not what it should be. Many people blame it on a particular generation, and others see it as just another example of the decline of civilization. I have another explanation. Actually, I have three explanations. Let’s start with health insurance.
Because of the high cost of health insurance, many companies have opted to hire a lot of part-time staff, which allows them to avoid having to offer benefits. This creates a problem: It is difficult enough to train full-time people. Having them there part-time and having a huge turnover makes it all the more difficult.
Meanwhile, in the retail world, pricing has gone mad. It used to be that stores would have four sales a year to get rid of stale or seasonal merchandise and to promote business. These days, stores have 𠇌razy once in a lifetime sales” every two weeks. When you have manic pricing, up one day, down the next, it wreaks havoc on customer service. When the sale is on, you don’t have enough staff. When the sale is off, the staff stands around and complains about the slow business.
And then there’s the issue of who’s running the show. Where have all the merchants gone? Their kids are lawyers, hedge-fund managers, computer programmers, professors and a thousand other things. The people running the stores today come from all different backgrounds. Many of them did not work their way up from the sales floor or have generations of family history and training to prepare them for the job. Perhaps they are even over-educated.
Yes, over-educated: too important and too smart to relate to those common customers. You see it all the time in big business. A big company buys out a successful company and begins to “save” money by cutting back on things that “the customers won’t notice.”
But the customers do notice. When you walk into a store, and there is virtually no help, it’s because someone figured out that the company could save X dollars if it cut back the labor budget by 7 percent. When you walk out disgusted and sales go down, the store blames it on the economy or brutal competition. Then the company reacts by having another sale which further erodes profit margins. This cycle eventually results in another failed store.
On one hand, business is not that complicated. Take good care of customers and they will come back and send their friends. The complication comes when you add ever increasing health insurance costs, an over-abundance of competition, and a customer base that has less time and higher expectations. Smart companies are refocusing on customer service because they can see the value. Many have not. The customers will have the last say.
Update | 2:47 p.m.
There is a follow-up to this post here.
Jay Goltz owns three small businesses in Chicago.
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You speak mostly of customer service in retail, but the problem is pervasive. I𠆝 say part of it comes down to micromanagement from the top (those executives who as you say have not worked their way up).
There is an assumption that some honcho knows best how every interaction should go. They’ve read some hokey pop-psychology article somewhere that says customers react positively to particular words, so call center representatives are trained to mindlessly (and disingenuously) repeat pat phrases like, “I understand your frustration,” “I would happy to help you with that.”
The ironic end result is that they spend far more time on the phone blathering about things I don’t believe, and less time actually listening to my needs or problems and working to resolve them.
All are very good points Jay. I think the increase in health insurance costs and part-time staffing goes hand-in-hand with the decline in customer service for a more society-based reason. In my experience, most part-time workers are poorly educated, especially in interacting with other people when respect and patience is required. More often than not, these part-timers do not value their jobs, see them only as making money to get buy, and do not care what impact they have or how they treat the customers. Once the customer hangs up or leaves the store, it’s not their problem anymore. And a lot of their behavior can be a result of a poor upbringing or poor education (of course this isn’t meant to be a claim against all part-time workers, I am a part-timer with two part-time jobs).
The standard respect level that is required in customer service, and more simply customer interaction, has fallen tremendously. We as customers shouldn’t feel surprised when we receive satisfactory customer service with no problems.
Today’s society has settled for customer satisfaction as the best we can get, as customer delight seems out of reach or almost nonexistant.
I think the main culprit in poor customer service is bad company management. If it were a “generational” thing or an overall line in civilization”, then how to explain why current companies like Amazon.com, Zappos.com, LL Bean, Fedex (versus UPS)…or local establishments like Gracious Home in particular, always have such great employees and customer service? It starts at the top!
When it comes to many phone, cable TV etc companies, most of them have shipped their 𠇌ustomer service” over to India. This results in language and cultural barriers, which in turn makes the call much more irritating and longer than it needs to be. And at the root of this offshoring of customer service is money…the desire for upper management to have more money in their own pockets. So the customers suffer, and the offshore employees who get the wrath of the customers also suffer. And company management is laughing all the way to the bank.
I believe it has to do with price as the dominant factor in shopping. Good, well trained sales people cost more and drive up prices. The volume does not make up for the higher cost. Some of us remember when telephone ads would tell you to shop around and then we will beat their prices. In other words, use the well trained sales people from another store for free, and then buy the product elsewhere, Now it is the internet. We need to reward good service by being willing to pay more for it.
Stores can’t get it right. Some go too far in trying to connect with customers. If one more chirpy 20-something asks me “How are YOU today?” I may sit them down and tell them. Give them an earful enough to make them run screaming into the street.
I don’t want you to be my buddy or my therapist. I want you to ask if I need help and if I do give it and if I don’t leave me alone.
To see the difference in Good and COMPETENT customer service and not so good customer service call APPLE Then call VERIZON
Then you can post which is which
I work for a huge national retail company and could not agree more with what you said. Our customer service is awful for all the reasons you stated.
But I do disagree with one thing, the customers will not have the last say… the $ will. People will go where it is cheap, whether good customer service or not (i.e Wal-Mart, Target, etc).
All of this is the result of something very simple. Merchandise in stores is no longer the “product” and people shopping are no longer the 𠇌ustomer.” They are just means to an end.
Today every large company’s REAL product is its stock, and the REAL customer is the stock market. It’s no longer “the customer is always right”…instead it’s “we have an obligation to our shareholders.” The traditional customer is just a resource to be used and abused in the quest to pump the stock price up to ever higher levels.
You are absolutely right when it comes to retail sales. When it comes to on-line or phone sales, the problems of the 𠇇% labor cost” are magnified because these people can be replaced by a computer or outsourced to another country. How frustrated all of us then get. My question for you is: Why? Aren’t these companies aware that people don’t want to talk to computers? Don’t they care?
Having just had to deal with a rude customer service rep this morning, I find the article very timely. I don’t know how many times I have left a store because no one was around to help me. The 𠇋ig box” stores are the worst.
Too bad the article does not also mention how bad customer service on the phone is these days, especially for large corporations that can theoretically afford health insurance.
Instead, they pay low wage earners overseas minimal salaries to simply “Read out of manuals” instead of actually problem solving. Try calling a major credit card company or tech support for most companies. (This is not to slam outsource-ing. Companies poorly train them and just run it like a Customer Service sweatshop in countries that are rigidly structured with workforces that are sufficiently compliant)
Many U.S. industries still have not realized that we are not a manufacturing economy but a customer service one. That is the product. People are less brand loyal when purchasing but completely attuned to bad service. The best way to get ahead and get positive word of mouth is with positive customer service experience.
And with the speed of blogs, Tweets et al. A bad reputation spreads exponentially faster today than say 1950.
I couldn’t agree more. And if you look at companies like Amazon or Netflix, who are renowned for their attentive and competent customer service, it is clear who the long-term winners in this economy will be. The same applies to businesses of every size. When I make decisions about with whom to do business, customer service is at the very top of the list. If a company can’t be bothered with me, then I can’t be bothered with it.
Consumer service? There’s an oxymoron, sort of like government intelligence .
I would add that people also expect to be able to say whatever they want to customer service representatives (CSRs) without retribution. As a customer service rep, I hear people who have extremely bad attitudes, are doing 9 things at once, and aren’t prepared to receive information who then complain that the CSR is “getting an attitude” when the CSR finally demands attention. I also get people who don’t know what information they need but expect the CSR to figure it out based on minimal information.
Yes, customer service is the best advertisement of a business. However, I can honestly say it’s not just that companies have cut back, although they have. People in general need to stop expecting that other human beings will tolerate being treated badly, even when paid, because no one wants to be mistreated, no matter how many dollar signs there are.
Customer service – what’s that?? I do remember hearing about it, but that was years ago.
The problem is not so much that there is no help. The problem is that the store managers and floor staff don’t seem to know anything about the products they’re selling, don’t know where you can find stuff, and generally speaking, don’t know anything at all.
They’re available, all right – but they’re brain-dead. It is actually a waste of time to even try to deal with them most of the time.
Perhaps all of these reasons are true, but there is another one. My daughter is the sales manager for a fashionable young women’s store. Her very fashionable new sales women are not trained when they are hired. She has to spend a great deal of time with them. She uses very detailed direct instruction and puts them through a lot of exercises on how to please and how to sell to the customers who drop in.
Much to thier crdit they respond positively and create a service emphatic environment that is enjoyable for both the customer and the sales person.
I think you’re missing a fourth factor intrinsic to my generation (X) and subsequent ones: the idea that you are destined to be a ‘winner’, that you’re a ‘rock star’, and that any kind of customer service position is a temporary and disagreeable pit stop on the way to fame and fortune. This will naturally fill with resentment anyone who is asked to perform a task that they consider beneath them, such as making coffee or ringing something up at the register. I’ve seen plenty of clerks who are seething with such rage at this supposed debasement that they cannot even look you, the customer, in the eye.
It goes both ways, of course, as the customer also has a responsibility to treat a customer service rep with the dignity that they would expect in return, which often they do not. These two currents of contempt flow against each other and the result is often a shopping or dining experience that leaves a bitter aftertaste for all.
Having spent many years of quiet but fruitful labor in improving upon the connection that good customer service and increased profitability are symbiotic, I feel drawn to comment. Mr Goltz has aptly identified the symptoms of impersonal indifference which is also symptomatic of the void created by the illusion that material acquisition will satisfy innate human need for connection. While facilitating a touchy feeling experience is not the central focus of a profit driven motive, business by virtue of its nature is not and will never be, totally an impersonal human experience.
Trade, in either its simplest or most complex form is inherently are human interaction. and hence , requires a modicum of trust and personalization, which in the final analysis, determines true value. The true value to the consumer is not simply the product acquired by equally the process experienced in acquisition and how one is actually treated interpersonally.
Authentic compassion and concern for others can not be taught, managed, or even bought. It must be earned form an employee in the same way market share must be earned and sustained by real value. And that value in the final analysis is human.
Products will come and go and markets will reflect their intrinsic value. But the add on a value of the quality of the human experience in the market place will never be out vogue, but if not acknowledged and nurtured will will doom the most noble and promising of ventures.
NEVER forget that you are the customer–whenever/whereever you are being billed for a service/product.Those who get your money, for providing a service/product are the “payee”–this includes doctors/lawyers/and so-called “professionals”–oh yes it also includes banks or mortgage”houses”–you are the “Payer”.
If you have a particular problem with a company and the service it provides–or lack thereof–it is amazing what a well written letter,addressed to the company presdent,can do to resolve the problem in your favor.
Service is bad because service providers care only about making a buck, not about the actual needs of customers. Service will remain bad as long as we stupidly put up with it.
While I agree with this article, I cannot let this pass without mentioning that the way customers treat service representatives has declined in recent years, as well. I wrote a satirical book last year called HANDLE TiME (isbn: 0615215181) which examines the life of an American call center employee for a national bank. In the book, i cite scenarios where the customers are not opting for assistance from the reps so much as they are looking for a way to vent their general frustrations with the bank — or even their lives, at large. Meanwhile, the employee has to deal with cost-cutting, rapacious managers and self-serving colleagues, at once.
The entire discussion leads to the consideration that society has slipped into some sort of cosmic outskirt of self-hatred. Everyone is disgusted with everyone, by default. And to think all you want to do is buy a shirt or help someone with their bank balance over the phone. go figure…
It’s a two way street. I treat people at stores with respect and attention. I am courteous over the phone. Empathy has worked to my advantage, and I get good service at all price points.
Although the author covers some specific reasons for bad service in retail sales, I also sense an attitude change since the 1980’s and 1990s days when we were all “In Search of Excellence.”
The 𠆌ustomer isn’t right’ at all today, when arrogant CSR’s just read a computer screen on what they are allowed to say and offer no further solutions. One time, I offered a recommendation to solve a problem I had experienced and mentioned that the CSR should tell her manager her answer “Well, we don’t feel that would do any good,” as if she spoke for the entire company instantaneously.
How the New York Times has published lies to serve a biased narrative
Last weekend, New York Times columnist Bret Stephens wrote a piece criticizing the rationale behind the forced ouster of Times reporter Donald G. McNeil Jr., but it was never published. Stephens told colleagues the column was killed by publisher A.G. Sulzberger. Since then, the piece has circulated among Times staffers and others — and it was from one of them, not Stephens himself, that The Post obtained it. We publish his spiked column here in full.
Every serious moral philosophy, every decent legal system and every ethical organization cares deeply about intention.
It is the difference between murder and manslaughter. It is an aggravating or extenuating factor in judicial settings. It is a cardinal consideration in pardons (or at least it was until Donald Trump got in on the act). It’s an elementary aspect of parenting, friendship, courtship and marriage.
A hallmark of injustice is indifference to intention. Most of what is cruel, intolerant, stupid and misjudged in life stems from that indifference. Read accounts about life in repressive societies — I’d recommend Vaclav Havel’s “Power of the Powerless” and Nien Cheng’s “Life and Death in Shanghai” — and what strikes you first is how deeply the regimes care about outward conformity, and how little for personal intention.
I’ve been thinking about these questions in an unexpected connection. Late last week, Donald G. McNeil Jr., a veteran science reporter for The Times, abruptly departed from his job following the revelation that he had uttered a racial slur while on a New York Times trip to Peru for high school students. In the course of a dinner discussion, he was asked by a student whether a 12-year-old should have been suspended by her school for making a video in which she had used a racial slur.
In a written apology to staff, McNeil explained what happened next: “To understand what was in the video, I asked if she had called someone else the slur or whether she was rapping or quoting a book title. In asking the question, I used the slur itself.”
In an initial note to staff, editor-in-chief Dean Baquet noted that, after conducting an investigation, he was satisfied that McNeil had not used the slur maliciously and that it was not a firing offense. In response, more than 150 Times staffers signed a protest letter. A few days later, Baquet and managing editor Joe Kahn reached a different decision.
“We do not tolerate racist language regardless of intent,” they wrote on Friday afternoon. They added to this unambiguous judgment that the paper would “work with urgency to create clearer guidelines and enforcement about conduct in the workplace, including red-line issues on racist language.”
Donald McNeil Jr., the former science reporter who stepped down at the New York Times C-SPAN
This is not a column about the particulars of McNeil’s case. Nor is it an argument that the racial slur in question doesn’t have a uniquely ugly history and an extraordinary capacity to wound.
This is an argument about three words: “Regardless of intent.” Should intent be the only thing that counts in judgment? Obviously not. Can people do painful, harmful, stupid or objectionable things regardless of intent? Obviously.
Do any of us want to live in a world, or work in a field, where intent is categorically ruled out as a mitigating factor? I hope not.
That ought to go in journalism as much as, if not more than, in any other profession. What is it that journalists do, except try to perceive intent, examine motive, furnish context, explore nuance, explain varying shades of meaning, forgive fallibility, make allowances for irony and humor, slow the rush to judgment (and therefore outrage), and preserve vital intellectual distinctions?
Journalism as a humanistic enterprise — as opposed to hack work or propaganda — does these things in order to teach both its practitioners and consumers to be thoughtful. There is an elementary difference between citing a word for the purpose of knowledge and understanding and using the same word for the purpose of insult and harm. Lose this distinction, and you also lose the ability to understand the things you are supposed to be educated to oppose.
No wonder The Times has never previously been shy about citing racial slurs in order to explain a point. Here is a famous quote by the late Republican strategist Lee Atwater that has appeared at least seven times in The Times, most recently in 2019, precisely because it powerfully illuminates the mindset of a crucial political player.
“You start out in 1954 by saying, ‘Nigger, nigger, nigger.’ By 1968 you can’t say ‘nigger’ — that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, ‘forced busing,’ ‘states’ rights’ and all that stuff.”
Toronto, Philadelphia and Boston wholesalers often work with Hunts Point wholesalers, such as S. Katzman and D’Arrigo, to bring certain produce items to their markets.
Katzman Produce has new items, such as dried pomegranate arils and Golden berries, but Stefanie Katzman, executive manager, is excited to be partnering with Toronto wholesaler Vince Bruno of Italian Produce Company to bring frozen coconuts from Vietnam. “Once thawed and sold in the fresh produce section, they have a soft membrane that can easily be poked with a straw so you can drink the coconut milk. After you drink it, you eat the meat of the coconut. It is a great new item for us as we approach these summer months and retailers and foodservice are looking for new, fun and seasonal items,” she says.
“We have found that it is popular with both children and adults, but I recommend letting the adults crack them open,” she says. “There are many other coconuts on the market, but the Hamona brand is unique in its shaving and shipping process. These young coconuts are super sweet, great for hydration and packed with electrolytes.”
When Vince Bruno at Italian Produce made the connection between Katzman Produce and Hamona, “we hit the ground running and haven’t looked back,” says Katzman. “We have big plans for this product in the future. We are excited to have the support of Hamona and for the trust they have in us to get the job done. We sell a wide variety of products, but it is our job to keep searching for that next new and delicious fruit or vegetable that the consumers don’t even know they want yet.”
D’Arrigo New York works with D’Arrigo Massachusetts to bring in items and labels if one branch does not carry it or “when we are in a pinch,” says Gabriela D’Arrigo, marketing director for D’Arrigo Bros. Co of New York at Hunts Point. “I’m sure other companies have the same type of market-to-market relationships. We buy from Canada, Philadelphia and Chicago. We all help one another out to service the customer.”
Being a jack-of-all-trades is not the way anymore, says D’Arrigo. “We all have specialties. Any of us can talk about any of our items, but if you want to know where my berries come from and what’s the brix content level, I wouldn’t know that. I can tell you the region they come from, but for the details I will send you downstairs to talk to my berry salesman who can answer that. As my uncle Matthew D’Arrigo says, it’s professional buyer vs. professional salesman here every day, so you do need to know what you’re talking about.”
D’Arrigo has developed relationships with small retailers like Wahhid “Smiley” Saleh, who has sold produce for 30 years from a cart on the Manhattan corner of 42nd Street and 3rd Avenue. Saleh visits the market almost daily, buying 70 percent of his berries from D’Arrigo and Katzman.
When There’s No Family
I rarely write about advance directives and end-of-life discussions without a few readers asking, sometimes plaintively: What if you don’t have a family?
“The presumption is that everyone has someone available, someone most likely younger or in better health, and better able to carry out one’s wishes or make decisions with your guidance,” Cheryl from Westchester commented the last time the subject arose.
But not everyone does. Ten years ago, the American Bar Association’s Commission on Law and Aging looked into this problem and cited estimates that perhaps 4 percent of older adults are “the unbefriended elderly,” a chilling phrase referring to those who can’t make decisions for themselves, have no advance directive or surrogate decision maker, and have no family or friends able to assist.
Most of those aren’t computer-literate Times subscribers trying to plan ahead, like Cheryl. They’re primarily lifelong loners in hospitals and nursing homes, the report found.
But it’s an important question: If you don’t have relatives or close friends who can serve as your health care proxy or hold your power of attorney (which in most states involve two separate documents) are you supposed to resign yourself to whatever the emergency room physician or intensive care staff member decides to do, or not do, when you can’t direct your own care?
Even when you’ve written advance directives, someone has to bring those documents to the attention of medical personnel. That person may have to become a forceful advocate on an incapacitated patient’s behalf. If not a sibling or nephew, a friend or neighbor, who can do it?
One solution I’ve discussed before is a care committee: A senior recruits a cadre of friends and professionals, makes her values and preferences clear, and authorizes the committee to handle a variety of eventual decisions.
Steven M. Cohen, an elder law lawyer in Boston, has organized about 20 of these. “I can’t say the idea has taken off, but for the right person it can work really well,” he said.
Though most of his clients haven’t activated their committees yet — they’re still functioning well on their own — one man with Parkinson’s disease has experienced worsening symptoms. 𠇊s his illness has progressed and he’s withdrawn, the committee is taking more on,” Mr. Cohen said.
You can also turn to professionals.
You can appoint almost anyone your health care proxy the exception is that 38 states plus the District of Columbia place some restrictions on treating health care providers or their employees. In some states, “your cardiologist can’t be your health care proxy,” said Charles Sabatino, who heads the American Bar Association Commission on Law and Aging. Neither can a nurse-practitioner who works in your cardiologist’s practice, or a social worker employed by the nursing home where you live. In other states, all of the above could be.
But you can always ask an independent professional: a lawyer, especially an elder lawyer, or a geriatric care manager (generally a social worker who specializes in helping seniors manage their care).
The problem may be finding someone willing to shoulder that task. “Professionals are hesitant to get involved in this,” Mr. Cohen said. “You can’t make a more intimate choice for someone. It’s hard enough for families.” He’ll serve as a client’s decision maker occasionally, if he knows the person well, but doesn’t welcome the role.
Many elder lawyers feel that way, said Craig Reaves, former president of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. Being someone’s surrogate means being willing to drop everything when a crisis strikes, and to continue monitoring when a client is hospitalized or needs long-term care.
“This is not a job for which an attorney can ethically charge a fee that is anything near the attorney’s normal hourly rate, if any fees are charged at all,” he said in an e-mail. And, lawyers being lawyers, he worries about liability. Mr. Reaves has taken on the role at times, 𠇋ut I do not seek this job out.”
Geriatric care managers seem a better fit they’re comfortable in hospitals and nursing homes and charge lower hourly rates than lawyers. Karen Wasserman, director of Your Elder Experts, part of Jewish Family and Children’s Services in Boston, serves as surrogate for a 97-year-old Holocaust survivor with no family, and she’s starting to see healthy people in their 70s putting their paperwork together and asking her staff to take that role.
“I don’t see it as that big a leap,” Ms. Wasserman said. “Often, it’s continuing the work we do anyway, advocating for our clients,” whom the staff has often known for years. “It’s often an honor to be there for these people. It’s part of the deal.”
Yet three of the nine care managers on her staff are uneasy with the responsibility and decline to serve as health care surrogates. At LivHome, a geriatric care management chain with branches in seven states, company rules won’t permit the staff to be proxies. “Somehow, it just doesn’t feel right to me,” said Bunni Dybnis, director of professional services.
Of course, courts can appoint legal guardians or conservators for incapacitated seniors, and guardians — often attorneys or geriatric care managers — can then make decisions on their behalf. But most seniors don’t want to relinquish their autonomy in that way.
If you’re thinking this all becomes a bit of a muddle, I agree. It’s another way in which our traditional cultural expectations for aging — the Waltons-like family nearby pitching in to provide care and guidance – clash with the reality that more than a million older people may lack available family or friends. Extended life spans mean that people may have outlived their relatives, and many of them will suffer dementia.
Given that this situation will likely worsen for the baby boomers — who had fewer children, more childless marriages and more divorces — we may see the rise of professionals serving as clients’ late-life surrogates. How individuals will pay for that is another question.
Meanwhile, people trying to plan ahead for aging without family will need detailed advance directives and a P.O.L.S.T. form as they near the end of life to tell physicians what to do. Then they’re also going to need luck in finding a committee or a trustworthy professional willing to take on this daunting responsibility.
“We’re in this interim period,” Mr. Cohen said. 𠇊nd we don’t have good answers for people.”
6) Have More Sex
Over the course of a marriage, desire can lessen. Despite this, sex is healthy and has all kinds of biological and emotional benefits that should not be ignored.
Over time, regular sex can improve your mood, make you more patient, damp down anger, and lead to a better, more contented relationship.
She doesn&rsquot mince words about the best course of action here.
Put down this book and go have sex with your husband or wife.
Don’t Buy This Jacket, Black Friday and the New York Times
It’s time for us as a company to address the issue of consumerism and do it head on.
The most challenging, and important, element of the Common Threads Initiative is this: to lighten our environmental footprint, everyone needs to consume less. Businesses need to make fewer things but of higher quality. Customers need to think twice before they buy.
Why? Everything we make takes something from the planet we can’t give back. Each piece of Patagonia clothing, whether or not it’s organic or uses recycled materials, emits several times its weight in greenhouse gases, generates at least another half garment’s worth of scrap, and draws down copious amounts of freshwater now growing scarce everywhere on the planet.
We’re placing the ad in the Times because it’s the most important national newspaper and considered the “paper of record.” We’re running the ad on Black Friday, which launches the retail holiday season. We should be the only retailer in the country asking people to buy less on Black Friday.
But we’re in business to make and sell products. Everyone’s paycheck relies on that. Moreover, we are a growing business, opening new stores and mailing more catalogs. What do we tell customers who accuse us of hypocrisy?
It’s part of our mission to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.
It would be hypocritical for us to work for environmental change without encouraging customers to think before they buy. To reduce environmental damage, we all have to reduce consumption as well as make products in more environmentally sensitive, less harmful ways. It’s not hypocrisy for us to address the need to reduce consumption. On the other hand, it’s folly to assume that a healthy economy can be based on buying and selling more and more things people don’t need – and it’s time for people who believe that’s folly to say so.
Nevertheless, Patagonia is a growing business – and we want to be in business a good long time. The test of our sincerity (or our hypocrisy) will be if everything we sell is useful, multifunctional where possible, long lasting, beautiful but not in thrall to fashion. We’re not yet entirely there. Not every product meets all these criteria. Our Common Threads Initiative will serve as a framework to advance us toward these goals.
Why the provocative headline if we’re only asking people to buy less and buy more thoughtfully?
To call attention to the issue in a strong, clear way.
We used the line “Don’t Buy This Shirt” several years ago in a catalog essay, to strong response. It is our hope that this headline will prompt as many people as possible to read the full ad, then go to our website to take the Common Threads Initiative pledge.
World Chefs: Judy Joo brings Korean flavors to home cooks
By Richard Leong NEW YORK (Reuters) - Riding the wave of global popularity of Korean cuisine, chef Judy Joo travels around her parents' homeland and adopts kimchi, pickled cabbage, and other local dishes for home cooks on her Cooking Channel TV show "Korean Food Made Simple." Joo, a former Wall Street bond salesperson, will open her first restaurant, Jinjuu, in London later this year. The two-floor, 100-seat eatery, whose name means pearl in Korean, will showcase Korean and American street food. It will be a departure from the upscale tasting menus of the Playboy Club London, where she spent nearly three years as executive chef. The 39-year-old New Jersey native spoke to Reuters about her love of food, her career change and why Koreans have separate refrigerators for kimchi. Q: What can viewers learn from your show? A: It’s about me traveling throughout Korea, to the south to the beaches, to the city to eat some street food . gathering inspirations and taking them back to my home kitchen and cooking recipes that are simple and easy for the home cook. Q: When did you know you no longer wanted to sell bonds? A: I just realized I didn’t have a passion for it. All of my free time in the weekends I was really excited to pick up food magazines and figure out what new restaurants opened up, what hot chefs were doing, and keeping up with the pulse of the restaurant world as opposed to the pulse of Wall Street. Q: Did you have regrets about your career change? A: I was making a fraction of what I made in the financial world. The hours are awful. You are working Saturday night . I try not to glamorize it because it is a lot of hard work. But if you work hard, the money will come. Q: For people already familiar with kimchi, what is another Korean ingredient you recommend to the American home cook? A: Gochujang (a Korean chili paste) is a product of wonder. There is no reason why it can’t be the next Sriracha or ketchup. I’m using it in all areas of my cooking. It’s not just heat. It’s spiced with deep complex flavors that come from the fermentation process. Q: Do you make your own kimchi? A: I don’t make my own on a regular basis because it really smells. I don’t want to make my refrigerator reek. That’s why Koreans have kimchi refrigerators. Cucumber Kimchi (four servings) 1 pound (454 grams) small Korean, Persian or Kirby cucumbers 1 tablespoon kosher salt or sea salt 4 scallions or spring onions, chopped into 2- to 3-inch pieces (5- to 7 ½-centimeters) 1 medium onion, roughly chopped 1 small clove garlic 1-inch (2½-centimeter) piece ginger 2 tablespoons water 1 tablespoon Korean chili flakes (gochugaru), or to taste 1 tablespoon sugar 1 tablespoon salted shrimp (saewoo jut) 15 chives, cut into 2-inch (5-centimeter) pieces Using a small knife, cut each cucumber crosswise into 2-inch (5-centimeter) pieces. Stand the pieces on their cut sides. Cut each piece two-thirds of the way down into quarters lengthwise, keeping them attached at the bottom. Sprinkle the cucumbers with salt, making sure to stuff inside the cuts of the cucumbers. Place in a single layer on their cut sides in a glass or other non-reactive dish, cover, and let sit at room temperature for 1 hour to soften. Meanwhile, prepare the chili paste mix. In a food processor combine all of the remaining ingredients except for the chives. Pulse until a coarse paste forms. Stir in the chives. Rinse the salted cucumbers very well under cold water, making sure to evacuate the crevices, and shake dry. Spread open the cucumbers and using plastic gloves, stuff the chili mix into and around each piece generously. Place into a container, packed somewhat tightly, and press in any remaining chili paste and liquid. Seal tightly. Allow the cucumbers to ferment at room temperature for 24 hours. Refrigerate until ready to serve. (Reporting by Richard Leong editing by Patricia Reaney and David Gregorio)
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Exclusive: Huawei founder urges shift to software to counter U.S. sanctions
Founder of Chinese tech giant Huawei Technologies Ren Zhengfei has called on the company's staff to "dare to lead the world" in software as the company seeks growth beyond the hardware operations that U.S. sanctions have crippled. The internal memo seen by Reuters is the clearest evidence yet of the company's direction as it responds to the immense pressure sanctions have placed on the handset business that was at its core. Ren said in the memo the company was focusing on software because future development in the field is fundamentally "outside of U.S. control and we will have greater independence and autonomy".
Italy investigators probe why cable car brake ɽidn't work'
STRESA, Italy (AP) — The investigation into Italy's cable car disaster that killed 14 people will focus on why the lead cable snapped and why the emergency brake didn't engage and prevent the cabin from careening back down the mountain until it pulled off the support line and crashed to the ground, the lead prosecutor said Monday. Verbania Prosecutor Olimpia Bossi outlined the contours of her investigation based on what she said was objective, empirical fact of what occurred: “The brakes of the security system didn't work. Otherwise the cabin would have stopped," she said. “Why that happened is naturally under investigation." Bossi spoke to reporters as the lone survivor of Sunday's horrific tragedy, a 5-year-old Israeli boy living in Italy, remained hospitalized in Turin in intensive care with multiple broken bones. The Israeli foreign ministry identified him as Eitan Biran. His parents, younger brother and two great-grandparents were among the dead, the ministry said, correcting an earlier statement that had included Eitan among the victims. Italian media identified all the other victims as residents of Italy. The disaster, in one of the most picturesque spots in northern Italy — the Mottarone mountaintop overlooking Lake Maggiore and other lakes near Switzerland — raised questions anew about the quality and safety of Italy’s transport infrastructure. Transport Minister Enrico Giovannini visited the site Monday and announced a commission of inquiry to investigate the “technical and organizational causes” of the disaster, while prosecutors will focus on any criminal blame. Giovannini told reporters in Stresa, the lakefront town at the foot of the Mottarone peak, that the aim of the investigative commission would be to “ensure this never happens again." The transport ministry said a preliminary check of the cable line’s safety and maintenance record show that the whole lift structure underwent a renovation in August 2016, and that a full maintenance check was performed in 2017 and more inspections last year. In November and December 2020, other checks were performed on the cables themselves, including magnetic inspections on the primary cables of the lift: the cable that pulls the cabin up the mountain, the support cable that holds the car and the rescue cables. In December another visual check was performed, the ministry said. The mayor of Stresa, Marcella Severino, quoted witnesses as saying they heard a “loud hiss," apparently when the lead cable snapped. She said the cabin reeled back down the line until it apparently hit a pylon and then plummeted to the ground. It rolled over two or three times before crashing into trees, she said. Some of the bodies were thrown from the car and were found amid the trees, rescue workers said. In on-camera comments to LaPresse news agency and other reporters in her office, Bossi noted that the emergency brake had engaged on the other cable car that was traveling in the opposite direction, down the mountain. She said the possible crimes that are being investigated are multiple manslaughter, attempted manslaughter and an “attack on public transport." She acknowledged the transport crime was an unusual hypothesis, but justified it by recalling that a cable car up and down a mountain is a form of public transportation. The funicular line is popular with tourists and locals alike to scale Mottarone, which reaches a height of 1,491 meters (4,900 feet) and overlooks several picturesque lakes and the surrounding Alps of Italy’s Piedmont region. The mountain hosts a small amusement park, Alpyland, that has a children’s rollercoaster, and the area also has mountain bike paths and hiking trails. It only reopened a few weeks ago after Italy’s wintertime coronavirus lockdowns lifted, and officials hypothesized that families were taking advantage of a sunny Sunday to visit the peak and take in the view. The mayor declared a day of mourning for Stresa, which like tourist destinations around the country had suffered from COVID-19 lockdowns that not only slashed foreign tourism but cut local day-trip visits by Italians. The Israeli foreign ministry identified the five Israelis killed as Eitan's parents, Amit Biran and Tal Peleg-Biran, an Israeli-born couple studying and working in Pavia. Biran’s Facebook page identifies him as a medical student at the University of Pavia. Their 2-year-old son, Tom Biran, died at the scene, as were Peleg-Biran’s grandparents, Barbara and Yitzhak Cohen. The ministry said they had arrived in Italy on May 19 to visit their granddaughter and great-grandchildren. Amit Biran’s sister, Aya, wasn't involved in the crash and was at the bedside of Eitan at Turin’s Regina Margherita hospital, the foreign ministry said, adding that other family members were flying to Italy from Israel to join her. In a tweet Tuesday, Italy's national firefighting squad said they were cheering for Eitan even as they mourned the others: “Forza Eitan (Go Eitan), all the firefighters are with you." The head of intensive care at the Turin hospital, Dr. Giorgio Ivani, said Eitan was sedated and intubated after surgery to repair his broken bones. An MRI scan was planned for Monday to assess any brain injury, though hospital officials have noted that he was conscious when he arrived. Among the other victims were an Italian researcher, Serena Consentino, and her Iranian-born companion, Mohammadreza Shahaisavandi, according to a statement from Italy’s National Council of Research, where Consentino had a research grant. Also killed at the scene were Vittorio Zorloni and his wife, Elisabetta Persanini. Their 6-year-old son, Mattia, died at Regina Margherita after multiple efforts to restart his heart, hospital officials said. A young couple, Silvia Malnati and Alessandro Merlo, were killed while Malnati’s brother stayed down in town and frantically tried to call her, Italy’s La Stampa newspaper reported, quoting the brother. Another couple, Roberta Pistolato and Angelo Vito Gasparro were celebrating Gasparro’s 45th birthday. La Stampa said Roberta texted her sister in Puglia right before the tragedy: “We’re going up in the funicular. It’s paradise here.” ___ Nicole Winfield reported from Rome. AP reporter Laurie Kellman contributed from Jerusalem. Nicole Winfield And Charlene Pele, The Associated Press
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No one's safe anymore: Japan's Osaka city crumples under COVID-19 onslaught
Hospitals in Japan's second largest city of Osaka are buckling under a huge wave of new coronavirus infections, running out of beds and ventilators as exhausted doctors warn of a "system collapse", and advise against holding the Olympics this summer. Japan's western region home to 9 million people is suffering the brunt of the fourth wave of the pandemic, accounting for a third of the nation's death toll in May, although it constitutes just 7% of its population. The speed at which Osaka's healthcare system was overwhelmed underscores the challenges of hosting a major global sports event in two months' time, particularly as only about half of Japan's medical staff have completed inoculations.
Golf-Koepka angry after getting ɽinged' in gallery frenzy
Brooks Koepka reacted angrily after being buffeted by spectators when officials lost control of the gallery at the final hole of the PGA Championship on Sunday. After Koepka and champion Phil Mickelson had played their shots to the final green, hundreds if not thousands of spectators swarmed the fairway in scenes reminiscent of British Opens of a previous era. Mickelson was shepherded through the heaving masses by a few police and marshals, and soon emerged into a protected area near the green, but it was some time before Koepka emerged to sanctuary.
Alberta teachers pass motion of non-confidence in education minister
EDMONTON — Delegates at the Alberta Teachers Association annual assembly almost unanimously endorsed a motion of non-confidence in the education minister on Sunday, following months of animosity between teachers and the provincial government. The ATA says Sunday's short motion, which simply states that Alberta teachers have lost confidence in Adriana LaGrange, received 99 per cent support from delegates attending this weekend's annual representative assembly. Last month, LaGrange and the ATA accused each other of playing politics with the United Conservative government's new draft kindergarten to Grade 6 curriculum, which the association has said is badly flawed and needs to be scrapped. Premier Jason Kenney also resisted calls in April from the association to give front-line staffers priority for COVID-19 vaccines, before they were eventually added to the list of people allowed to book shots earlier this month. Nicole Sparrow, a spokeswoman for the minister, says in an email that it's "disappointing that the union continues to play politics with our students’ education." Sparrow says that while the ATA "advances its own special interests," students will remain LaGrange's top priority. "We will continue to work with the education system, including the teacher’s union, to ensure our students receive the world class education they deserve," Sparrow wrote. The ATA said in a news release on Saturday that the motion was jointly drafted by 20 locals, which it claimed was "by far, the highest level of collaboration seen on a locally developed resolution in the assembly’s recent history." The province's draft curriculum is to be piloted in select schools this fall and fully implemented in September 2022, but over half of Alberta's school boards have said they won't be participating in the pilot. Some have criticized the draft for lacking Indigenous and francophone content, and say its content is developmentally inappropriate for elementary-aged students. When Kenney announced on May 3 that teachers, child-care workers and support staff will be able to book vaccine appointments, the head of the ATA, Jason Schilling, issued a terse, two-word statement in response: "About time." Sarah Hoffman, NDP education critic, called the non-confidence vote a result of "two years of dishonesty and hostility to public education from Jason Kenney’s UCP government." “This vote by teachers reflects Albertans’ complete loss of trust in the Kenney government," Hoffman said in a statement. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sunday, May 23, 2021. The Canadian Press
One NYC zip code has lowest vaccine rate
The Far Rockaway zip code of 11691 in New York City has the lowest vaccine rate in the city, according to the health department. It also has the fourth-highest death rate from COVID-19. (May 24)
Her brothers died together from overdoses. A guitar comforts this Edmonton woman in her grief
It's an ordinary electric guitar, a Fender Stratocaster in black. It's also a powerful symbol of solace for an Edmonton woman who lost both of her brothers to overdoses on the same night, just two weeks ago. Running her fingers along the frets, Kimberley Kemmer finds comfort for her still-raw grief. Mason and Dean Kemmer, 31 and 29, were found dead on May 6 inside their shared Edmonton apartment. The brothers had overdosed on opioids. Autopsy results may take months but their 33-year-old sister believes they were poisoned by fentanyl-laced street drugs. "I can't even really speculate what caused them to imbibe that day, but unfortunately, it was a tragic mistake," Kemmer said. ɿull of life' Mason and Dean were inseparable. Both had day jobs as insulators, but they lived and breathed music. "My brothers were probably the most eccentric people in Edmonton," Kemmer said. "Really, really tall. Always wore tie-dye head to toe. Extremely loud, just full of life. They just brought hilarity wherever they went. They were also extremely multi-talented musicians. "Everything in their life was about the music." Dean was passionate about music production and often DJ⟭ for his friends. When he wasn't working on producing new electronic songs, he would sometimes pick up the accordion, Kemmer said. Mason was an accomplished guitarist and had recently learned to play jazz piano. Kemmer poses with for a recent photo with her brothers, Mason, centre, and Dean, left. (Submitted by Kimberley Kemmer) The brothers also shared a decade-long battle with addiction. Kemmer said Mason and Dean kept the extent of their drug use well hidden from the family. "When someone is in recovery, you sometimes let your guard down and allow yourself to believe you're in this new paradigm where they're well," she said. It had been a difficult year for her brothers, Kemmer said. Both had lost their jobs during the pandemic. Mason had been taking Suboxone to ease his opioid withdrawal symptoms, but had stopped. Even so, Kemmer said her brothers had been sober for at least eight months. She's haunted by what may have caused their shared relapse. It's absolutely staggering the amount of sad stories that are out there. — Kimberley Kemmer "I can only imagine that the four walls of the apartment closed in on them," she said. "Sometimes, I think, addiction speaks louder than logic and love." Kemmer said her grief soon turned to thoughts of Mason's Stratocaster, which was sitting in a pawn shop somewhere in Edmonton. Only weeks before he died, she and Mason had talked about the guitar. He wanted her to buy it back for him, but she was saving up for one of her own. After her brothers died, she was desperate to get the instrument back but had no idea where it was. She posted on social media and called pawn shops around the city in an attempt to track it down. Ultimately, with help from Edmonton police, the guitar was found and given to her, free of charge. Mason and Dean shared a lifelong passion for music (Submitted by Kimberley Kemmer) Kemmer and her brothers had always dreamed of starting their own band. She's now playing the Stratocaster every day, as a way to honour their memory. "My brothers aren't here any longer to work on their music," she said. "I'm just simply going to have to carry that on for them." Kemmer said her search for Mason's guitar put her in contact with dozens of other Albertans grieving loved ones lost to addiction. Addiction, she said, doesn't discriminate. "My brothers had a lot of support and love in their lives, and they were good people, but they were just suffering from this scourge of addiction that is a lot stronger and a lot more painful than we can realize from the outside. '"It's absolutely staggering the amount of sad stories that are out there that all seem to end in the exact same way."
Man in self-quarantine threatened with $3K fine after package with COVID test left on porch
Tim Squires is currently in self-quarantine and says a COVID-19 test he had to do for the federal government sat on the front porch of his Airbnb for more than a day because a delivery driver missed it. He's since been threatened with a $3,000 fine by the federal government. Squires is a Canadian man who lives in Michigan, but he is currently self-quarantining in Guelph, Ont., in order to visit a sick family member and his children in Niagara. He says he was tested just before he crossed the border, then did another test when he crossed at the Windsor border on May 12. In Windsor, border officials gave him a box with supplies to do a second test on day eight of his quarantine. Squires did his second COVID-19 test on Wednesday during a video chat with a nurse. Second COVID-19 test He then followed the instructions he was given by Switch, the agency handling the administrative work for his self-quarantine. They told him to contact Purolator to pick-up the pre-labelled package with his test and the company was to pick it up that afternoon. Squires used a provided PIN online to register his package. A driver was supposed to pick it up that afternoon, but by evening the package was still on the patio table. One of the problems with the process, Squires said, is that Purolator's website has a special instructions box, but it only allows for 45 characters. The Airbnb he's at "happens to be a complicated set-up" so to explain where he was located, and that the driver would have to walk to the back of the building, was not easy in 45 characters. "I think what happened is the fellow came by and just looked around and didn't see anything that looked like someplace where he could pick up a package and he just left," Squires said. Tim Squires said he set the test out on a patio table for the delivery driver, but it wasn't picked up.(Provided by Tim Squires) Threat of $3,000 fine Squires says when the package wasn't picked up, he called Purolator and had to send an email with detailed instructions. He was told it would be picked up by 10 a.m. Thursday. The package was picked up just after 2:30 p.m. Thursday. But because the test is supposed to arrive at the lab within 24 hours, the delay earned him a warning from the federal government. On Friday, Squires received an email telling him he must submit his test. He was warned he faced a $3,000 fine if it wasn't received on time. That email, and the threat of a possible fine, "sort of derailed my morning a little bit," he said. Tim Squires received this email from the federal government on Friday. He says the test was in Purolator's system, but it wasn't in the health administration system for Switch as of Friday morning.(Tim Squires) Switch and Purolator did not immediately respond to a request for comment from CBC Kitchener-Waterloo. Squires says Switch told him it would probably be OK, but he's not so sure. "I want to go see my family next week. I don't want to have to be dealing with any other issues," he said. "I have two children here. Prior to the COVID shutdown, I was coming home every other week to visit, so for 14, 15 months during COVID, I haven't actually seen them face-to-face. I'm looking forward to that next week, too." 'Somebody needs to be responsive' Squires says the quarantine process is not an easy one but he complied because the ultimate goal of curbing COVID-19 spread is a legitimate one. He said he personally knew people who died from the virus. "I understand the seriousness of it," he said. But, he adds, the government needs to make sure things run smoothly. If they don't, or if the government doesn't address problems when they happen, people will lose faith with the system or won't follow the rules. "They do need a mechanism for people to be heard. You can't just be put in quarantine and when something falls apart, you're just left there. That's tough for people," he said. "When you're dealing with something that seems pretty significant and you can't leave your property, somebody needs to be responsive to these issues." Squires said heɽ do the COVID-19 test again if necessary, but he hopes the process goes more smoothly. "I don't want to go through the rest of this again. If they'll come and get it, that's fine," he said. "It's kind of stressful the last day or two and then to get the email this morning that they're going to fine me $3,000 because I haven't sent it in, it's a little upsetting."
The latest news on COVID-19 developments in Canada
The latest news on COVID-19 developments in Canada (all times Eastern):6:20 p.m.Alberta is reporting 563 additional COVID-19 cases today and six new deaths.The province's chief medical health officer, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, says in a series of tweets that the new cases were identified from 6,944 tests, for a positivity rate of eight per cent.Hinshaw says there are currently 14,533 active cases in Alberta with 581 patients in hospital, including 162 in ICU.---3:50 p.m.Saskatchewan is reporting 116 new COVID-19 cases and one additional death linked to the virus.The province's daily pandemic update says the person who died was over 80 and was in the South East zone.Saskatchewan has 1,662 cases that are considered active and 27 COVID-19 patients in intensive care.---3:15 p.m.Public health officials in New Brunswick are reporting 14 new cases of COVID-19.Officials are also reporting eight new recoveries since Saturday, meaning the active case count in the province now sits at 128.Most cases were identified in the Fredericton region, where eight infections were found, while two cases are being reported in the Moncton region, three in the Bathurst region and one in the Miramichi area.Officials say eight patients are currently in hospital.---2:30 p.m.Officials in Nova Scotia are reporting 74 new COVID-19 cases today and two more virus-related deaths, bringing the official death toll in the province to 79.Health officials say both deaths took place in the Central Zone and involved a man and a woman, both in their 70s.The province says 61 of the new infections are in the Central Zone, nine are in the Eastern Zone, three are in the Northern Zone and one has been identified in the Western Zone.The province now has 943 active cases of the disease.---2:15 p.m.Manitoba is reporting 461 new COVID-19 cases and one additional death.The province says in its daily pandemic update that the person who died was a man in his 80s from the Southern Health region.Manitoba currently has 5,072 active COVID-19 cases, and there are 74 people in intensive care who either have COVID-19 or are no longer infectious but still require critical care.Manitoba's five-day test-positivity rate is 14.5 per cent provincially and 16.7 per cent in Winnipeg.---1:25 p.m.Newfoundland and Labrador is reporting 23 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 today, bringing the active case count in the province to 87.Three of the new cases are connected to the cluster in the Central Health region, and officials say there are now 24 cases of the disease associated with the growing group of infections.Public Health is advising against non-essential travel in and out of the Lewisporte to Summerford area where the cluster has been identified.Officials say four people in the province are in hospital due to the disease.---11:10 a.m.The Quebec government is reporting 477 new cases of COVID-19 as well as three new deaths linked to the pandemic.Hospitalizations declined by three to 421, while the number of people in intensive care remained stable at 103.Health workers gave 83,871 vaccine doses on Saturday, for a total of 4,929,054 since the immunization effort got underway. ---10:30 a.m.Ontario is reporting 1,691 new COVID-19 cases in the province today, along with 15 new virus-related deaths. Hospitalizations related to COVID-19 now stand at 1,041, with 693 patients in intensive care and 480 on a ventilator. The province says it's officially administered more than eight million vaccines since the start of its immunization drive, including more than 140,000 on Saturday. The numbers come as vaccine eligibility across the province expands to include residents 12 or older as of today.---This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 23, 2021. The Canadian Press Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version said Nova Scotia reported 61 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday. The province, in fact, reported 74.
Thousands to receive COVID-19 vaccine at clinic run by construction company
Thousands of Ontarians are getting their COVID-19 vaccines not at pharmacies or doctors' offices, but at a clinic pulled together by a construction company through a public-private partnership. The clinic run by Mississauga, Ont.-based EllisDon has seen more than 15,000 people book appointments, scheduled between May 19 and 26. "We're completely full. And we just have families, kids, community all getting shots, and the emotions here are so high," said Steve Chaplin, vice-president of health, safety and environment. "It's so powerful. It's just such a great feeling for us as a company to be able to sponsor that." EllisDon is one of several companies running their own vaccine clinics. Others include Amazon, Maple Leaf Foods and Maple Lodge Farms, though those companies are not currently offering shots to community members. Instead, some companies have said they'll "sponsor" pop-up clinics at some point down the line. Organizing such a clinic is something of a pivot for EllisDon, but making quick changes has become the norm for many businesses over the past 14 months. From securing personal protective equipment to offering rapid tests and now vaccines, the company has had to adapt to stay operational during the COVID-19 pandemic, said Chaplin, who's taken the lead on organizing the vaccine drive. Initially, the company had planned to offer shots to employees and their families, he said. "Our original thinking was, there's not enough resources to get vaccines in arms, and we knew the supply was coming, so we started pursuing industry-led clinics with the province," Chaplin said. But with that model, theyɽ only filled 1,700 appointments out of a possible 15,000. "What we thought weɽ do is a heartfelt response to the community, to say, ɺll we want to do is get shots in arms and help people. So if you're 12 and up and you can get here, let's make a difference,'" he said. But getting to that point was no easy feat. He said he had just over a week from the time the company was given the green light to operate the clinic to opening day. "We were fortunate that we had two nursing companies that we were using to do the rapid testing," Chaplin said. "But the key here is, we don't have any medical staff with EllisDon. We're a construction company, we build things. And so we just know how to get things done." EllisDon partnered with a couple other companies -- Flynn, Modern Niagara and Central Ontario Building Trades -- to pay for the whole thing, save for the vaccines, which were provided by the Region of Peel. In addition to the nurses, they had to recruit an outside company that could handle the private health-care information involved in booking vaccine appointments and checking people in, he said. Such a model further fragments Ontario's bumpy vaccine rollout. Those who booked a vaccine at EllisDon's clinic couldn't do so through the provincial booking system or phone line, or through a regional website. Instead, they had to go to a different website, which they could learn about from media reports, social media accounts dedicated to sharing vaccine information or word of mouth. As of Sunday, Ontario had administered 8,065,607 doses of COVID-19 vaccine. More than 530,000 residents had been fully vaccinated. This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 24, 2021. Nicole Thompson, The Canadian Press
Indigenous woman named New Zealand's next governor-general
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Children's advocate Cindy Kiro said Monday she hopes to inspire Maori girls after becoming the first Indigenous woman appointed to the role of governor-general. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced she had picked Kiro for the largely ceremonial role as Queen Elizabeth II’s representative, and that the queen had approved. Under New Zealand's constitutional system, the British monarch remains the nation's head of state although doesn't wield any real day-to-day power. Kiro’s five-year term begins in October, when she will replace Patsy Reddy. Both women have been been given the honorific “Dame" for their services to the community. Kiro, 63, said her mixed Maori and British heritage helped give her a good understanding of New Zealand history and the Treaty of Waitangi, the founding document signed by Maori and British. Kiro is currently chief executive of the Royal Society, a nonprofit group which advocates for research. She was previously the nation's Children's Commissioner and has held leadership roles at several universities. “Over many decades, Dame Cindy has demonstrated her passion for the wellbeing of children and young people, as well as education and learning," Ardern said. Kiro said she grew up in humble circumstances and her career had been driven by a sense of the importance of service. Asked if it was appropriate in modern times for the queen to remain New Zealand's head of state, Kiro did not answer directly. “Well, clearly I accept the queen as the head of state of the Commonwealth and I’m here to support her,” Kiro said, adding that “This is the constitution we have, and I look forward to basically using it to serve the country.” Ardern said she believed New Zealand would one day become a republic but she didn't get a sense that people urgently wanted change, and so the issue hasn't been a priority for her government. Nick Perry, The Associated Press
Tottenham, Roma to hunt new European title on road to Tirana
GENEVA (AP) — Tottenham and Roma are starting on the road to Tirana next season. The two clubs that recently fired and hired Jose Mourinho are the highest-ranked entries in the list being finalized this week for the inaugural Europa Conference League — the third-tier UEFA competition that kicks off in July. The first winner will be crowned next May in a final at the 22,500-seat new national stadium in Albania. It is not a glamorous or lucrative option for clubs that reached Champions League semifinals in the past three years. Tottenham went to the 2019 final. “Yes, it’s not the competition we want to be in next year,” Tottenham’s interim coach Ryan Mason said Sunday. “But it’s a European competition, and we will respect it.” Qualification was celebrated more enthusiastically Saturday by Union Berlin, which will make its European debut in August. The new competition was not created to prioritize seventh-place teams from Europe’s richest leagues. The Europa Conference League will ensure some lower-ranked nations have clubs involved beyond August after years of struggling to advance to the Champions League and Europa League groups. In 2018, Juventus president Andrea Agnelli said as then-leader of the European Club Association that some members wanted the new competition to “allow them to grow and showcase their players going forward.” In Lithuania and Slovenia, this is it. THREE-TIER PYRAMID Since 2009, 32 teams played in the Champions League group stage and 48 in the Europa League. Now until 2024, there will be 32 in each of the Champions, Europa and Europa Conference Leagues. All will play in round-robin groups of four teams feeding into knockout rounds. A total of 96 teams playing in the September-to-December groups instead of 80 does not mean more entries from domestic leagues. Each country keeps its overall quota of teams, from seven for England, Spain, Germany and Italy down to three for the minnows. A big change is teams from leagues ranked No. 17 downward have no direct entry to the Europa League. Teams from all lower-ranked countries are among more than 180 playing in the Europa Conference League across the season. All 55 UEFA member federations should be represented with just one each from the five top-ranked leagues that include France. However, when Tottenham, Roma, Union Berlin and Rennes start in the two-leg playoff round, Spain could be missing. La Liga’s seventh-place team, Villarreal, can earn a ticket to the next Champions League groups by beating Manchester United on Wednesday in the Europa League final. That would vacate Spain’s Europa Conference place. Similarly, the Europa Conference League winner is offered an upgrade into the next Europa League. WHO WILL PLAY? Another quirk of the new system — some teams will play in all three competitions next season. Look for domestic title winners losing early in the Champions League qualifiers to move across to the Europa, then be eliminated again and land in the Europa Conference. Those national champions have their own qualifying path and avoid big-league teams. The main Europa Conference qualifying route is also for teams with a high placing from mid-ranked leagues — Anderlecht, Vitesse Arnhem, Trabzonspor — plus domestic cup winners, league runners-up and other high-place teams from lower-ranked leagues. No team gets direct entry into the Europa Conference group stage. Even Tottenham and Roma enter the playoff round scheduled Aug. 19 and 26. It will see 22 winners advance to the groups joined by 10 losers from the Europa League playoff round. Only group winners in December will advance directly to the round of 16. They will be joined by eight winners of another new feature — a knockout playoff round in February. Those two-leg playoffs will include the eight Europa Conference group runners-up and eight third-place teams from Europa groups. The last-16 playoff bracket is then a traditional path to Tirana for the May 25 final. PRIZE MONEY The Europa Conference League winner must play at least 15 games in the competition, two more than the minimum needed to win the Champions League. Don’t expect top-league teams to get rich trying. UEFA has yet to announce the prize money fund or guarantees for each team. Unofficial reported figures suggest almost 3 million euros ($3.7 million) for entering the group stage, and 166,000 euros ($203,000) per point won. It suggests the winner could earn at least 20 million euros ($24 million) compared to the 125 million euros ($152 million) Bayern Munich, the last Champions League winner, got from UEFA. As its name suggests, the Europa Conference League is effectively a Europa League subsidiary. Broadcast and sponsor deals are bundled for the two competitions both playing on Thursdays. The Europa League is worth around 550 million euros ($670 million) this season from the group stage onward, and an increase is promised for the 2021-24 sales cycle. Around 250 million euros ($300 million) has been forecast for the first Europa Conference League. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports Graham Dunbar, The Associated Press
Nurses consider ending permanent status over unequal treatment, says MLA
A Northwest Territories MLA and former nurse says permanent nurses are frustrated with benefits awarded to casual nurses over permanent staff, and that this divide has persisted for years. Inuvik Twin Lakes MLA Lesa Semmler raised the issue during a candidates forum during her campaign. "Over the years, that practice of utilizing locums just increased to the point now where you probably have more locums in shorter-term contracts than you have permanent nurses." In 2001, Semmler said there was just one locum nurse in the acute care unit. Local media in the N.W.T. first reported Yellowknife nurses were disgruntled with their position and that permanency affords less flexibility and fewer benefits, creating problems for retention and job satisfaction. Semmler said this is an issue she's hearing from nurses throughout the territory including her home region of the Beaufort Delta. Locum nurses, for example, have their flights fully expensed and discounted housing in town. No Christmas, no summer when short-staffed For permanent staff, those perks don't exist. "When you're working, and you're permanent, and you've lived here and you've made Inuvik your home. You pay taxes, you own a home," said Semmler. "You are paying those $2,000 flights, for not just you but your whole family to go for a vacation, and when you have somebody who's coming up every two or three months, they are getting their way paid for from anywhere in Canada and back home." Semmler said although locum nurses are essential to the N.W.T. health-care system, the reality is that nurses are leaving their permanent positions for more transient ones in the territory so they can have the same benefits. "We've got nurses who actually live [in Inuvik] that are casual [instead of indeterminate] … because they are not going to get denied all the time they put in for holidays," said Semmler. "If you want holidays and we are short-staffed … you don't get Christmas. You don't get summer. You don't get summer because that's peak season." Semmler has seen these troubles in her position as a hiring manager, and filling permanent positions without any perks is a tough sell. As a manager, she saw a permanent acute care nurse position sit vacant for two years. During the pandemic, casual nurses have been able to travel and work, while permanent staff had to use up earned vacation time to quarantine. "It's not COVID, and it's not the matter of the nurses wanting to be able to travel out of the territory. It's the equality … and being treated differently than locums and getting less than what locums are getting." On May 12, Health Minister Julie Green said the health authority was meeting with the Union of Northern Workers (UNW) to investigate those concerns. "We want to find remedies so that these nurses who feel that the isolation requirements are not fair to them have their concerns addressed." John Dempster, UNW Beaufort-Delta regional vice president, told CBC in a statement employers must be "fair and consistent" in their workplace policies, particularly with the added pressures the pandemic has put on workers. Dempster said staff can bring their concerns to the union. "Our nurses are tired and under a lot of stress right now, and adding more issues to the workplace weakens morale and leads to more turnover," he said. The Inuvik Regional Hospital. Semmler said she stands by nurses and wants to see progress on issues that have existed since she was a nurse 15 years ago.(Mackenzie Scott/CBC) No financial incentive from N.W.T. David Maguire, a spokesperson for the N.W.T.'s health authority, wrote in an email that outside the collective agreement, the authority isn't able to create financial incentives like recruitment or retention bonuses. However, it offers educational funding opportunities to nurses and other healthcare professionals, such as $50,000 for indeterminate nurses to seek academic training, he said. Maguire confirmed nurses are no longer given housing, though it's something they've previously received. Both casual and permanent staff have a provision saying they can be housed "on initial appointment," but employees are expected to secure housing after that time. Since casual nurses are transient, the authority offers housing at $25 per day in Inuvik, or $750 per month. That's roughly half of what a typical one bedroom apartment costs in town per month. In April, the authority updated essential worker exemptions that permit all health-care providers to go back to work on day four of isolation, provided they test negative for COVID-19 and they are fully vaccinated. During those four days, the department encourages work-from-home arrangements. In certain circumstances, a front line service provider may return to work on day one and require a negative test and for that provider to self-monitor and self-isolate when not at work. CBC confirmed the conditions described by MLA Lesa Semmler with one Inuvik nurse, who echoed more nurses are ending their permanent-indeterminate status for a more transient position. As of Dec. 31, 2020, 16 of the 37 front line nursing positions were staffed by casuals "while open positions were being recruited for," wrote Maguire. Projected nation-wide shortage Between April 2020 and March 2021, six permanent nurses left and nine were hired on. Of those nine hired, seven filled a permanent role, and two were relief nurses. Three of the nursing positions at the hospital are job shares, which means a couple of nurses fill one position throughout the year. Maguire acknowledged there is "frustration as the global COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted front line healthcare workers." He said the health authority's leadership is looking for feedback and a way to give nurses an avenue to voice their concerns. Semmler said she stands by nurses and wants to see progress on issues that have existed since she was a nurse 15 years ago, when nurses considered establishing their own union so they could have their own bargaining. Semmler said when the government tried to work on a plan to increase permanent nurses in the N.W.T. as a mandate, COVID-19 happened. She said she knows that the discrepancies increase animosity between colleagues. "There's some work that needs to be done … the territorial government has been struggling on how to have permanent nurses here," said Semmler. "I hear the nurses … it's about unfairness." Across Canada, there is a projected shortage of nurses, nurse practitioners and licensed practical nurses between 2019 and 2028, wrote Maguire. The authority is working with hiring managers to improve employee recruitment and retention.
South Dakota's Noem launches legal strategy to take on Biden
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem catapulted onto the list of conservative politicians favored by former President Donald Trump with her libertarian approach to the pandemic. With the virus waning, she may be seeking to stay there by picking some legal fights sure to please the right. In recent weeks, Noem has gone to court to challenge President Joe Biden's administration for blocking an Independence Day celebration with fireworks at Mount Rushmore. She also joined a lawsuit from several states against the administration over climate change regulations — one of the only plaintiffs who doesn't hail from a state heavily dependent on fossil fuels. Noem says she's simply acting in the state's interests, but the tactic has given her a chance to cast herself as one of Biden's most prominent foes. She went on Fox News to announce the lawsuit over Mount Rushmore fireworks, and later joined star host Sean Hannity for a podcast titled “Noem vs. Biden." Noem told Hannity the only way “to get fairness on this issue” was to sue the Biden administration, and cast it as a fight not just for South Dakota but also for “our nation and the ability to celebrate our independence the way that our founders encouraged us to.” Instead of entrusting her attorney general with the lawsuits, Noem has filed them herself by tapping a state legal fund that has historically been used to defend against lawsuits, not launch them. Noem is taking a role usually played by the attorney general — she is the only governor to be listed alongside attorney generals from nine other states in the climate regulations lawsuit. In the Mount Rushmore lawsuit, Noem has the backing of Republican attorneys general from 16 other states. By taking the lead on the state’s legal matters, Noem has entered a see-sawing legal battle that has played out in recent years between the president in power and states controlled by the opposing party. Members of both parties, from California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom to Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, have used a legal strategy to seize on national hot-button issues. But launching lawsuits from the governor's office is a new strategy for Noem — and one that has drawn criticism from some other South Dakota Republicans. State Rep. Steve Haugaard, a former House speaker who has sparred with the governor, gave the Mount Rushmore lawsuit little chance of prevailing in court. The National Park Service, which controls the monument, cited the possible fire danger and objections from local Native American tribes for denying the state’s application to hold fireworks this year. “When the outcome is a foregone conclusion, then there is a better use for those funds,” he said, adding that state “resources shouldn’t be used for personal attention.” Noem hired a Washington-area law firm, Consovoy McCarthy, best known for representing Trump in fending off efforts to investigate his financial records. Noem spokesman Ian Fury said the firm was chosen for its “expertise." Its contract is capped at $150,000, with the state paying $600 an hour for partners and $450 an hour for associates, according to Fury. He said the legal costs of joining the multi-state lawsuit over Biden's climate change order should be “minimal.” Fury explained Noem filed the Rushmore lawsuit herself because she's the one who has pushed to return the fireworks celebration to Mount Rushmore. The administration has noted that the monument is a huge draw for the state's tourism industry, which is South Dakota's second-largest job provider. Noem found an ally last year in then-President Donald Trump, who cleared the way for fireworks at Rushmore despite longstanding concerns about fire danger. Trump joined Noem for a July 3 event that netted Noem pictures alongside the president, as well as a seat with him on Air Force One after the event. Trey Jones, a business consultant in Sioux Falls and a Republican, said he had no problem with Noem's lawsuit, citing the importance of the monument. “A decision’s been made that is objectively bad for my state,” Jones said of the government blocking fireworks. Paul Nolette, a Marquette University political science professor who studies attorneys general, said it's unusual for a governor to represent a state in lawsuits against the federal government. He attributed the move to Noem's national ambitions — but also a rift with the state's GOP attorney general, Jason Ravnsborg, who has been charged in a crash that killed a pedestrian last year. Noem called for Ravnsborg to resign. He refused, saying he can still carry out the duties of his office. But he has kept a low profile. Noem has made it clear she won't be hindered by the attorney general's reticence. Courting a national profile is a priority for Noem, who became a frequent Fox News guest in the past year in part due to a hands-off approach to managing the coronavirus pandemic without requiring masks or imposing any significant restrictions. Noem has also traveled the country to appear at political fundraisers and at conservative events such as CPAC, and also campaigned as a surrogate for Trump and for the GOP Senate candidates who ultimately lost critical runoff elections in Georgia earlier this year. Even some South Dakotans who enjoyed the Mount Rushmore fireworks said they would be watching to see if Noem's lawsuit holds up to judicial scrutiny. Linda Johnson, an independent voter from Sioux Falls who considers herself “fiscally conservative,” didn't take issue with Noem fighting for the fireworks, but she also cautioned the governor. “She has to own the consequences of every battle that she is taking the taxpayers into,” she said. Stephen Groves, The Associated Press
Pressure to accept China vaccines intensifies as Taiwan battles COVID surge
A surge in domestic COVID-19 cases in Taiwan after months of relative safety is intensifying pressure on the government to accept vaccines from China, as the island has vaccinated just 1% of the population with no immediate sign of new shots arriving. The Chinese-claimed island and Beijing have repeatedly sparred over the pandemic since it began. Taipei accuses Beijing of spreading fake news and preventing its full participation at the World Health Organization, while Beijing says Taipei is playing political games with its people's lives by refusing Chinese vaccines.
Work curtailed at Abbotsford quarry after province suspends wildlife permit
A permit issued by the province allowing a company in Abbotsford to work in and around vulnerable birds at an active quarry has been suspended. In January, the province gave Mountainside Quarries Group Inc. the go-ahead to remove a peregrine falcon nesting site from the previously dormant quarry and work around any birds that arrived in the spring to breed. Certain conditions had to be met, such as building new nesting sites and not disturbing the animals. The B.C. Wildlife Act protects peregrine falcon nests from being disturbed or destroyed. The birds usually nest on rock ledges high on steep cliffs, mostly in undisturbed areas. When a pair of falcons returned to the site this spring to nest, advocates for the birds complained to the company and province that mitigation efforts to help the birds, including a 50-metre non-disturbance buffer, were not enough to keep the birds from abandoning the site where drilling and blasting is ongoing. On Thursday the province announced it had suspended the wildlife permit, part of requirements needed to mine aggregate at the site, because of non-compliance. It offered no other details other than to say that the permit "may be re-instated upon confirmation of the compliance." Measuring 50 metres A spokesperson for Mountainside said the company and the province disagreed over how the buffer zone around the birds was being measured. John Moonen said in an email to CBC News that the company has accepted the province's recommendations, marked out a new buffer zone and asked Friday afternoon to have the permit reinstated. The approximate location of a pair of peregrine falcons nesting in a quarry in Abbotsford. Advocates are worried work on the site will prevent the birds from breeding.(Chris Kitt) Earlier in May the ministry said that no disturbance is permitted within the 50-metre area such as scaling, blasting, drilling, excavation or driving vehicles. Blasting is permitted outside of the 50-metre area, but provincial officials have requested Mountainside not blast within 100 metres where possible. Although this is not a permit requirement, the province says the biologist hired by the company has recommended it. The province has also notified the company that it must ensure that blasting outside of the buffer area does not cause debris or rocks to cause a disturbance within the buffer. Mountainside said it would spend more than $80,000 to help the birds by building new nesting sites and monitoring the birds for several years.
Erin O'Toole isn't breaking through — and Jason Kenney and Doug Ford aren't helping
Unable to make any headway in the polls against the Liberals, Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole could use a little help from his friends Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and Ontario Premier Doug Ford. Basically, he needs Ford and Kenney to avoid doing anything that makes matters worse for him. Trailing the Liberals by six percentage points nationwide in the CBC's Poll Tracker — an aggregation of all publicly available polling data — the Conservatives are struggling in both Ontario and Alberta, among other places. But Ontario is a key electoral battleground for the Conservatives, while Alberta is supposed to be their unassailable fortress. It might be no coincidence that O'Toole is having difficulty in these provinces as Kenney and Ford slide in the polls. Two polls published this week by Campaign Research and Mainstreet Research suggest Ford's Progressive Conservatives still hold a lead in Ontario. But with the party now averaging 34.5 per cent across the two surveys, Ford's PCs have dropped six points since the 2018 provincial election. Only a divided opposition is keeping his party ahead. Ford's own personal numbers have gotten significantly worse since reaching a peak in May 2020 during the first wave of the pandemic. According to Abacus Data, just 30 per cent of Ontarians now have a positive impression of Ford, down 16 points from last spring. His negative impression score has increased 22 points to 47 per cent. Things are arguably going much worse for Kenney in Alberta, where he has faced a caucus revolt over the province's pandemic restrictions. The polls are not looking good for Kenney's United Conservatives, who have trailed the opposition New Democrats by an average margin of 10 points in polls published since December. That represents a combined 30-point swing between the UCP and NDP since the 2019 provincial election. Polls suggest Alberta Premier Jason Kenney's United Conservative Party is trailing the opposition New Democrats.(Jason Franson/The Canadian Press) The pandemic appears to be what's driving these polling trends. According to a survey by Léger, just 29 per cent of Albertans and 37 per cent of Ontarians are satisfied with the measures put in place by their provincial governments to fight the pandemic — lower levels than those reported anywhere else in the country. Ontario and Alberta are also the only two provinces where the federal government is receiving higher marks than provincial governments in Léger's survey. And that's what could be hurting O'Toole — the voters in Alberta and Ontario who believe the federal Liberal government is doing a better job on the pandemic than their Conservative premiers. Trouble in the Conservative heartland According to the Poll Tracker, O'Toole's Conservatives have 47 per cent support in Alberta, putting them well above the Liberals and NDP. But that represents a drop of 22 points since the 2019 federal election and about 10 points since the beginning of the pandemic. Very few seats are at risk for the Conservatives in Alberta, of course — even with this steep drop in support. Of the 33 seats the Conservatives captured in the province in 2019, only two were won by margins of less than 20 points. The Conservatives can afford a swing of 30 points against them before more than a handful of seats are put at risk. Nevertheless, the Conservatives can't afford to leave any seats on the table — particularly those it normally would win handily. It doesn't help that a recent Angus Reid Institute poll gave the Maverick Party — which advocates for Western autonomy — seven per cent support in Alberta. A drop in support in Alberta doesn't help the national picture for the Conservatives either. A loss of 22 points in Alberta might not put more than a seat or two at risk there, but it does translate into a slide of more than two percentage points at the national level — making the Conservatives appear less competitive against the Liberals. Ford not helping in Ontario (again) That's the kind of thing that can have some spillover in Ontario. Many voters like to back the party that looks like a winner. The Poll Tracker puts the Conservatives at just 30 per cent in Ontario, down three points since 2019. They trail the Liberals there by about 11 points — three points more than in the last election. Ontario Premier Doug Ford's popularity has plummeted since hitting a high in May 2020 during the first wave of the pandemic.(Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press) Making gains in Ontario is absolutely essential for the Conservatives if they're going to have any chance of forming a government in the future. Ford's unpopularity was an obstacle for Andrew Scheer when he led the federal party in the 2019 election. But things might be worse for the party now. Even polls that otherwise look good for the Conservatives — such as the most recent polls by Abacus Data and Léger, which had the Conservatives trailing nationally by just two or three points — still had the Liberals ahead by 12 or 13 points in Ontario. That's the electoral ball game. Vaccines could give premiers a shot in the arm As the third wave recedes and more vaccines are administered to Albertans and Ontarians, it is possible that voters' negative feelings about Ford and Kenney will recede as well. If that happens, the O'Toole Conservatives may be able to regain some lost ground in those two provinces. It's also possible that the attacks by Kenney, Ford and O'Toole on the federal government's vaccine procurement efforts will backfire when Canadians find themselves getting their second doses ahead of schedule later this summer. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has promised a 'one dose summer' to be followed by a 'two dose fall.'(Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press) Either way, it suggests that the Liberals may have an incentive to send voters to the polls sooner rather than later. Any polling improvements for Ford and Kenney could start rubbing off on O'Toole. At that point, O'Toole's friends might actually start to help him out. And he needs the help: a recent poll by Abacus Data found that just 18 per cent of Canadians have a positive impression of the federal Conservative leader, while 35 per cent have a negative one. Those are his worst numbers since he became leader last August. He can't blame Kenney or Ford for all of his troubles — but they aren't making things any easier for him. LISTEN | Erin O'Toole speaks to CBC's Front Burner:
Most Mounties cited for sexual misconduct over past 5 years were allowed to keep their jobs
Even though RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki has vowed that there is "no room" for sexual assault and harassment in her organization, the penalties meted out to Mounties for sexual misconduct vary widely and range from dismissal all the way down to transfers and pay cuts. A CBC News review of publicly available RCMP conduct board decisions also found that the reasons cited for retaining an RCMP officer found to have engaged in sexual misconduct can be quite subjective and can include evaluations of on-duty performance, past misconduct allegations or expressions of remorse. Over the past five years, six Mounties found guilty of discreditable sexual activity by the conduct board have been let go for their actions. One captured and printed a photo of a naked woman being held in a detachment's detox cells. Another exposed himself to a subordinate, pulled her ponytail and asked her to perform oral sex. Another 14 RCMP officers have been punished for sexual misconduct while ultimately being allowed to stay on. Their conduct ranged from non-consensual touching to voyeurism to starting a relationship with a minor. Another three implicated in acts of domestic violence were allowed to continue their careers in the RCMP. Some of those allowed to stay on with the force were fined, transferred or declared ineligible for promotion for a period of time. ɺn honest, but mistaken, belief in consent' Along with the Criminal Code, Mounties are subject to the RCMP's Code of Conduct, both on and off-duty. A conduct hearing is triggered in the most serious cases where dismissal is on the table. They are formal, court-like processes and the adjudicators have legal authority. One RCMP officer was demoted and transferred after he rubbed the inside of a co-worker's legs, touched her vagina and told her to "just relax." The constable "has a record of strong performance throughout his career," the board ruled in that case. "This is a case of an honest, but mistaken, belief in consent." While deciding whether to dismiss a civilian member who got drunk at a function, groped one woman and made sexual comments to another, the board referred to other cases where the men weren't dismissed for similar activity. That civilian member was given a temporary demotion and reassigned. Angela Marie MacDougall, executive director of Battered Women's Support Services in Vancouver.() The board ruled that when an Alberta constable filmed two women performing oral sex on him without their consent, he "violated the sexual integrity of the two complainants." The decision in his case also noted his nine years of "productive service." "His performance evaluations are very positive and describe him as a member with excellent work ethics and great potential," reads the decision. That constable's pay was docked and he was ineligible for promotion for two years. One British Columbia constable was fined 45 days' pay for harassing two young women while driving by them in a car, and for sending harassing and threatening texts — including this one: "The war is on slut!! I will win! You will see! I am willing to pay with my life are you cowards willing to do the same slut!" In that case, the conduct board authority concluded the constable was going through a stressful time. "He experienced ɺ perfect storm' in terms of his personal and work life stressors leading up to what others, including [the constable] have described as a 'meltdown,'" reads the 2021 decision. Chief Superintendent Stephane Drouin, director general of the RCMP's workplace responsibility branch, said the guiding principle in discipline is to ensure the incident does not happen again, "with the emphasis being placed on remedial, educated measures versus being solely punitive in nature. "It has to be proportionate to the incident, to the details, the evidence that's presented to them. Every case can be very different. Even though it's sexual misconduct, there's different elements to be considered by each of the adjudicators and how they arrive at their decision." ɺ blue wall of silence' Drouin said the adjudicators consider both mitigating and aggravating factors when doling out penalties. "So did the member accept responsibility for his actions? Did they admit to the allegations? Were they remorseful?" he said. "All the way to the aggravating factor, so that's how serious was the misconduct. Was there a lack of honesty, integrity on the part of the member? What type of risk do we put the member — the victim — or a member of the public at risk? So there's a really a long list of factors that they consider before arriving at that decision." Angela Marie MacDougall, executive director of Battered Women's Support Services in Vancouver, said she sees these disciplinary decisions as the RCMP protecting its own. "Really, this sort of Mafia-like code of silence is such a huge part of the culture," she said. "We are talking about a culture, of a blue wall of silence. On one hand, there's a desire to present that the RCMP is taking police-involved sexualized violence and domestic violence seriously. On the other hand, that blue wall of silence is in effect when it comes to actually holding their own members accountable." The RCMP continues to struggle with allegations of sexual misconduct. As part of the historic Merlo-Davidson settlement agreement — the result of a class action lawsuit related to sexual harassment of women within the RCMP — 2,304 women received compensation out of a total of 3,086 claims. A high-profile report coming out of that settlement said the force has a toxic culture. When Brenda Lucki was sworn in as the RCMP's first female commissioner in March 2018, she promised to 'unearth the issues that need addressing.'(CBC) In the wake of that settlement, Lucki promised to stamp out sexual assault, harassment and discrimination in the RCMP. "This behaviour continues to surface. It must be stopped and it will not be tolerated. There is absolutely no room for sexual assault, harassment, discrimination, bullying, sexism, racism, homophobia, or transphobia in the RCMP," she said in November. "It's important that people know that it will not be tolerated." MacDougall said the perception of abusers in the force has real-world impacts for the women she serves. "Women are left with very little recourse in terms of accountability. It takes a lot for a survivor to come forward and share their story. It's even harder when we talk about police and sharing an experience of sexualized violence or domestic violence at the hands of a member of the RCMP. It's very challenging and the reports are extraordinarily low," she said. "Those individual members have so much power over people and places. When there is domestic and sexual violence perpetrated by a member of the RCMP, I think that they lose their right to to have that [authority]." Very few RCMP members ever land in front of conduct boards. The RCMP said that some members accused of misconduct resign before their case gets to a public hearing. Of the 84 decisions posted on the RCMP's website dealing with behaviour "that is likely to discredit the force," 64 cases were deemed "established". The remaining allegations were not proven, stayed or dealt with as procedural matters. Of the established cases, 14 led to dismissals. Outside of the six sexual misconduct cases, other reasons for dismissal cited in the decisions posted online include cocaine use and lying to prosecution services. Drouin said his department is conducting a wholesale review of the conduct measures. "Just to ensure that it meets current expectations of Canadians," he said.
New York Mom of 4 Forages in Her Yard, Buys in Bulk to Keep Her Family's Food Budget Low
Donna Michaels finds making her own staples, like bread and tortillas, a joy instead of a chore — and it helps her feed her family for $100 a week.
Mom of four Donna Michaels lives in the small town of Southeast, New York with her husband and two daughters who remain at home, one in college and one a senior in high school. As her family has evolved, so have her grocery needs — as well as her budgeting strategy.
"I used to have a budget when I was younger, but I don&apost have one now," she explains. "I operate on a buy-what-is-needed basis. I plan out what I&aposm making and stick to the plan."
Indeed, taking a prepared, methodical approach is the way she stays frugal — and it allows her to keep her weekly spend under $100. Here’s how she does it.
A DIY Approach to Groceries
One of the ways Michaels keeps her food spend low is by making as much food as she can on her own, rather than buying prepared versions. Indulging in prepared foods — whether for taste or convenience — can really ding the budget. "It&aposs buying convenience foods that is the dollar killer," she says. "The key is to make everything from scratch."
That means bread, tortillas, spaghetti sauce, "chopping your own vegetables and not buying things that make life easier is key to sticking to a plan." During quarantine, she was even making her own pasta and donuts. "Making these types of things at home can provide a huge savings," she explains. "Plus, it&aposs fun!"
Her self-described grocery store "splurge" is buying milk chocolate chips to make desserts and snacks: "I&aposm going to admit I&aposm a chocolate addict." She’s also been making her own ice cream in the pandemic. "Allrecipes has some excellent ice cream recipes, but my favorite is a mint chocolate chip that doesn&apost have eggs in it."
She even makes more advanced DIYs, such as her own vanilla using organic vodka. "Vanilla is so expensive nowadays. I make my own, and I stay ahead of the game by starting it way in advance of when I might run out."
And she turns to the bounty on her own property for some wholesome — and cost-effective — grocery items. She has wild berries growing in her yard, and uses a plant-identification app to ID them.
"I cleaned the raspberries, wineberries, and blackberries and stored them in my freezer for future use," she says. "I also make my own jelly. It&aposs an easy task and Allrecipes also has great recipes for those interested."
Related: Browse our Jams and Jellies Recipes.
Foraging is not just a cost-savings opportunity for Michaels, but it&aposs also a chance to connect with nature&aposs bounty, and the actual source of her food. "I&aposve become very appreciative of all the things nature has to offer that we tend to ignore," she says. "As an experiment, we let some grass grow freely just to see what we have in our yard that we didn&apost know about. It turns out we had wild garlic, which was amazing. I chopped it up and have it ready to use."
Grocery Shop With Intention
Her prepared approach to meal planning also applies to her grocery shopping strategy. "There&aposs a fine line about that rule of not going to the grocery store hungry. If you go to the store hungry, you will tend to purchase outside of your list," she says. "If you go full, you may not feel like buying anything at all — or at least that&aposs my issue. Having a plan and being stringent with it is the ultimate way to save money."
Pre-planning doesn&apost necessarily mean using coupons — but instead, just having an eagle eye when scanning the shelves for deals. "Coupons are great, but I learned that the best method is to see what is on sale at the grocery store where you shop and to plan your meals around it," Michaels says.
"We have a food supplier here called Ace Endico that opened a storefront for the community," she explains. "Over the years, this company has expanded the store to include organic foods, plenty of fresh produce, and frozen items for quick meals. I have found that I can make quite a variety of meals via their store offerings rather than stand in a long line at a traditional grocery store."
If not shopping there, her other favorite go-to is Trader Joe’s. "I love their coffee," she says. "The ability to purchase organic fruits and vegetables for less is a huge plus. Have you tried their organic tomato soup? It&aposs addictive!"
Buy (and Cook) in Bulk
At Ace Endico, she purchases flour and sugar in bulk, and stores these dry staples in food-safe five gallon buckets to save money. "The expense seems like more at first, but ends up being less in the long run," she explains.
She also buys a lot of dried beans, a nutrition powerhouse and a great way to get budget-friendly protein. "We mostly eat vegetarian meals here, and the mistake people make is forgetting that protein is needed," she says. "Dried beans are very inexpensive and can be incorporated into a lot of meals."
She also shops at Ace Endico for huge cans of tomatoes that she turns into an excellent sauce — in bulk quantities. "The sauce can be incorporated into all kinds of pasta dishes, as a side for mozzarella sticks, and used as a pizza sauce — it’s amazing. I freeze one large vat of sauce into smaller amounts to be used for other dishes."
Dining in to Save
Michaels explains that her overall budget "has wiggle room as we&aposre smart about our finances." For one thing, that means saving money by eating at home as often as possible.
"We rarely go out to eat," she says. "We figured out a long time ago that dining out was costing people we knew over $500 a month. We decided to always try to eat at home, and with four children, going out to eat was more of a hassle and expense than for a smaller family."
There are however occasions when the family splurges — but it&aposs no more than once a month.
As you might expect from the budget-minded shopper and grocery DIY-er, Michaels lives by the overall food philosophy, "Never let anything go to waste."
Naturally, that means making good use of leftovers — which she finds not to be a chore, but rather a delight. "I&aposve heard people throw away leftovers, but I love them. When I have to go to work, I will put leftovers in a reheatable container, and I&aposm so thankful for them," she explains. "My mother used to have a leftover night where she would put everything out that she had made, and we would pick what we wanted for dinner. That was making some fun out of leftovers!"
Why Facts Don’t Change Our Minds
In 1975, researchers at Stanford invited a group of undergraduates to take part in a study about suicide. They were presented with pairs of suicide notes. In each pair, one note had been composed by a random individual, the other by a person who had subsequently taken his own life. The students were then asked to distinguish between the genuine notes and the fake ones.
Some students discovered that they had a genius for the task. Out of twenty-five pairs of notes, they correctly identified the real one twenty-four times. Others discovered that they were hopeless. They identified the real note in only ten instances.
As is often the case with psychological studies, the whole setup was a put-on. Though half the notes were indeed genuine—they’d been obtained from the Los Angeles County coroner’s office—the scores were fictitious. The students who’d been told they were almost always right were, on average, no more discerning than those who had been told they were mostly wrong.
In the second phase of the study, the deception was revealed. The students were told that the real point of the experiment was to gauge their responses to thinking they were right or wrong. (This, it turned out, was also a deception.) Finally, the students were asked to estimate how many suicide notes they had actually categorized correctly, and how many they thought an average student would get right. At this point, something curious happened. The students in the high-score group said that they thought they had, in fact, done quite well—significantly better than the average student—even though, as they’d just been told, they had zero grounds for believing this. Conversely, those who’d been assigned to the low-score group said that they thought they had done significantly worse than the average student—a conclusion that was equally unfounded.
“Once formed,” the researchers observed dryly, “impressions are remarkably perseverant.”
A few years later, a new set of Stanford students was recruited for a related study. The students were handed packets of information about a pair of firefighters, Frank K. and George H. Frank’s bio noted that, among other things, he had a baby daughter and he liked to scuba dive. George had a small son and played golf. The packets also included the men’s responses on what the researchers called the Risky-Conservative Choice Test. According to one version of the packet, Frank was a successful firefighter who, on the test, almost always went with the safest option. In the other version, Frank also chose the safest option, but he was a lousy firefighter who’d been put “on report” by his supervisors several times. Once again, midway through the study, the students were informed that they’d been misled, and that the information they’d received was entirely fictitious. The students were then asked to describe their own beliefs. What sort of attitude toward risk did they think a successful firefighter would have? The students who’d received the first packet thought that he would avoid it. The students in the second group thought he’d embrace it.
Even after the evidence “for their beliefs has been totally refuted, people fail to make appropriate revisions in those beliefs,” the researchers noted. In this case, the failure was “particularly impressive,” since two data points would never have been enough information to generalize from.
The Stanford studies became famous. Coming from a group of academics in the nineteen-seventies, the contention that people can’t think straight was shocking. It isn’t any longer. Thousands of subsequent experiments have confirmed (and elaborated on) this finding. As everyone who’s followed the research—or even occasionally picked up a copy of Psychology Today—knows, any graduate student with a clipboard can demonstrate that reasonable-seeming people are often totally irrational. Rarely has this insight seemed more relevant than it does right now. Still, an essential puzzle remains: How did we come to be this way?
In a new book, “The Enigma of Reason” (Harvard), the cognitive scientists Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber take a stab at answering this question. Mercier, who works at a French research institute in Lyon, and Sperber, now based at the Central European University, in Budapest, point out that reason is an evolved trait, like bipedalism or three-color vision. It emerged on the savannas of Africa, and has to be understood in that context.
Stripped of a lot of what might be called cognitive-science-ese, Mercier and Sperber’s argument runs, more or less, as follows: Humans’ biggest advantage over other species is our ability to coöperate. Coöperation is difficult to establish and almost as difficult to sustain. For any individual, freeloading is always the best course of action. Reason developed not to enable us to solve abstract, logical problems or even to help us draw conclusions from unfamiliar data rather, it developed to resolve the problems posed by living in collaborative groups.
“Reason is an adaptation to the hypersocial niche humans have evolved for themselves,” Mercier and Sperber write. Habits of mind that seem weird or goofy or just plain dumb from an “intellectualist” point of view prove shrewd when seen from a social “interactionist” perspective.
Consider what’s become known as “confirmation bias,” the tendency people have to embrace information that supports their beliefs and reject information that contradicts them. Of the many forms of faulty thinking that have been identified, confirmation bias is among the best catalogued it’s the subject of entire textbooks’ worth of experiments. One of the most famous of these was conducted, again, at Stanford. For this experiment, researchers rounded up a group of students who had opposing opinions about capital punishment. Half the students were in favor of it and thought that it deterred crime the other half were against it and thought that it had no effect on crime.
The students were asked to respond to two studies. One provided data in support of the deterrence argument, and the other provided data that called it into question. Both studies—you guessed it—were made up, and had been designed to present what were, objectively speaking, equally compelling statistics. The students who had originally supported capital punishment rated the pro-deterrence data highly credible and the anti-deterrence data unconvincing the students who’d originally opposed capital punishment did the reverse. At the end of the experiment, the students were asked once again about their views. Those who’d started out pro-capital punishment were now even more in favor of it those who’d opposed it were even more hostile.
If reason is designed to generate sound judgments, then it’s hard to conceive of a more serious design flaw than confirmation bias. Imagine, Mercier and Sperber suggest, a mouse that thinks the way we do. Such a mouse, “bent on confirming its belief that there are no cats around,” would soon be dinner. To the extent that confirmation bias leads people to dismiss evidence of new or underappreciated threats—the human equivalent of the cat around the corner—it’s a trait that should have been selected against. The fact that both we and it survive, Mercier and Sperber argue, proves that it must have some adaptive function, and that function, they maintain, is related to our “hypersociability.”
Mercier and Sperber prefer the term “myside bias.” Humans, they point out, aren’t randomly credulous. Presented with someone else’s argument, we’re quite adept at spotting the weaknesses. Almost invariably, the positions we’re blind about are our own.
A recent experiment performed by Mercier and some European colleagues neatly demonstrates this asymmetry. Participants were asked to answer a series of simple reasoning problems. They were then asked to explain their responses, and were given a chance to modify them if they identified mistakes. The majority were satisfied with their original choices fewer than fifteen per cent changed their minds in step two.
In step three, participants were shown one of the same problems, along with their answer and the answer of another participant, who’d come to a different conclusion. Once again, they were given the chance to change their responses. But a trick had been played: the answers presented to them as someone else’s were actually their own, and vice versa. About half the participants realized what was going on. Among the other half, suddenly people became a lot more critical. Nearly sixty per cent now rejected the responses that they’d earlier been satisfied with.
“Thanks again for coming—I usually find these office parties rather awkward.”
This lopsidedness, according to Mercier and Sperber, reflects the task that reason evolved to perform, which is to prevent us from getting screwed by the other members of our group. Living in small bands of hunter-gatherers, our ancestors were primarily concerned with their social standing, and with making sure that they weren’t the ones risking their lives on the hunt while others loafed around in the cave. There was little advantage in reasoning clearly, while much was to be gained from winning arguments.
Among the many, many issues our forebears didn’t worry about were the deterrent effects of capital punishment and the ideal attributes of a firefighter. Nor did they have to contend with fabricated studies, or fake news, or Twitter. It’s no wonder, then, that today reason often seems to fail us. As Mercier and Sperber write, “This is one of many cases in which the environment changed too quickly for natural selection to catch up.”
Steven Sloman, a professor at Brown, and Philip Fernbach, a professor at the University of Colorado, are also cognitive scientists. They, too, believe sociability is the key to how the human mind functions or, perhaps more pertinently, malfunctions. They begin their book, “The Knowledge Illusion: Why We Never Think Alone” (Riverhead), with a look at toilets.
Virtually everyone in the United States, and indeed throughout the developed world, is familiar with toilets. A typical flush toilet has a ceramic bowl filled with water. When the handle is depressed, or the button pushed, the water—and everything that’s been deposited in it—gets sucked into a pipe and from there into the sewage system. But how does this actually happen?
In a study conducted at Yale, graduate students were asked to rate their understanding of everyday devices, including toilets, zippers, and cylinder locks. They were then asked to write detailed, step-by-step explanations of how the devices work, and to rate their understanding again. Apparently, the effort revealed to the students their own ignorance, because their self-assessments dropped. (Toilets, it turns out, are more complicated than they appear.)
Sloman and Fernbach see this effect, which they call the “illusion of explanatory depth,” just about everywhere. People believe that they know way more than they actually do. What allows us to persist in this belief is other people. In the case of my toilet, someone else designed it so that I can operate it easily. This is something humans are very good at. We’ve been relying on one another’s expertise ever since we figured out how to hunt together, which was probably a key development in our evolutionary history. So well do we collaborate, Sloman and Fernbach argue, that we can hardly tell where our own understanding ends and others’ begins.
“One implication of the naturalness with which we divide cognitive labor,” they write, is that there’s “no sharp boundary between one person’s ideas and knowledge” and “those of other members” of the group.
This borderlessness, or, if you prefer, confusion, is also crucial to what we consider progress. As people invented new tools for new ways of living, they simultaneously created new realms of ignorance if everyone had insisted on, say, mastering the principles of metalworking before picking up a knife, the Bronze Age wouldn’t have amounted to much. When it comes to new technologies, incomplete understanding is empowering.
Where it gets us into trouble, according to Sloman and Fernbach, is in the political domain. It’s one thing for me to flush a toilet without knowing how it operates, and another for me to favor (or oppose) an immigration ban without knowing what I’m talking about. Sloman and Fernbach cite a survey conducted in 2014, not long after Russia annexed the Ukrainian territory of Crimea. Respondents were asked how they thought the U.S. should react, and also whether they could identify Ukraine on a map. The farther off base they were about the geography, the more likely they were to favor military intervention. (Respondents were so unsure of Ukraine’s location that the median guess was wrong by eighteen hundred miles, roughly the distance from Kiev to Madrid.)
Surveys on many other issues have yielded similarly dismaying results. “As a rule, strong feelings about issues do not emerge from deep understanding,” Sloman and Fernbach write. And here our dependence on other minds reinforces the problem. If your position on, say, the Affordable Care Act is baseless and I rely on it, then my opinion is also baseless. When I talk to Tom and he decides he agrees with me, his opinion is also baseless, but now that the three of us concur we feel that much more smug about our views. If we all now dismiss as unconvincing any information that contradicts our opinion, you get, well, the Trump Administration.
“This is how a community of knowledge can become dangerous,” Sloman and Fernbach observe. The two have performed their own version of the toilet experiment, substituting public policy for household gadgets. In a study conducted in 2012, they asked people for their stance on questions like: Should there be a single-payer health-care system? Or merit-based pay for teachers? Participants were asked to rate their positions depending on how strongly they agreed or disagreed with the proposals. Next, they were instructed to explain, in as much detail as they could, the impacts of implementing each one. Most people at this point ran into trouble. Asked once again to rate their views, they ratcheted down the intensity, so that they either agreed or disagreed less vehemently.
Sloman and Fernbach see in this result a little candle for a dark world. If we—or our friends or the pundits on CNN—spent less time pontificating and more trying to work through the implications of policy proposals, we’d realize how clueless we are and moderate our views. This, they write, “may be the only form of thinking that will shatter the illusion of explanatory depth and change people’s attitudes.”
One way to look at science is as a system that corrects for people’s natural inclinations. In a well-run laboratory, there’s no room for myside bias the results have to be reproducible in other laboratories, by researchers who have no motive to confirm them. And this, it could be argued, is why the system has proved so successful. At any given moment, a field may be dominated by squabbles, but, in the end, the methodology prevails. Science moves forward, even as we remain stuck in place.
In “Denying to the Grave: Why We Ignore the Facts That Will Save Us” (Oxford), Jack Gorman, a psychiatrist, and his daughter, Sara Gorman, a public-health specialist, probe the gap between what science tells us and what we tell ourselves. Their concern is with those persistent beliefs which are not just demonstrably false but also potentially deadly, like the conviction that vaccines are hazardous. Of course, what’s hazardous is not being vaccinated that’s why vaccines were created in the first place. “Immunization is one of the triumphs of modern medicine,” the Gormans note. But no matter how many scientific studies conclude that vaccines are safe, and that there’s no link between immunizations and autism, anti-vaxxers remain unmoved. (They can now count on their side—sort of—Donald Trump, who has said that, although he and his wife had their son, Barron, vaccinated, they refused to do so on the timetable recommended by pediatricians.)
The Gormans, too, argue that ways of thinking that now seem self-destructive must at some point have been adaptive. And they, too, dedicate many pages to confirmation bias, which, they claim, has a physiological component. They cite research suggesting that people experience genuine pleasure—a rush of dopamine—when processing information that supports their beliefs. “It feels good to ‘stick to our guns’ even if we are wrong,” they observe.
The Gormans don’t just want to catalogue the ways we go wrong they want to correct for them. There must be some way, they maintain, to convince people that vaccines are good for kids, and handguns are dangerous. (Another widespread but statistically insupportable belief they’d like to discredit is that owning a gun makes you safer.) But here they encounter the very problems they have enumerated. Providing people with accurate information doesn’t seem to help they simply discount it. Appealing to their emotions may work better, but doing so is obviously antithetical to the goal of promoting sound science. “The challenge that remains,” they write toward the end of their book, “is to figure out how to address the tendencies that lead to false scientific belief.”
“The Enigma of Reason,” “The Knowledge Illusion,” and “Denying to the Grave” were all written before the November election. And yet they anticipate Kellyanne Conway and the rise of “alternative facts.” These days, it can feel as if the entire country has been given over to a vast psychological experiment being run either by no one or by Steve Bannon. Rational agents would be able to think their way to a solution. But, on this matter, the literature is not reassuring. ♦