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Oct. 19/20: One of this fall’s hottest book releases comes from Windsor's Biblioasis press, which for a number of years has punched above its weight in the stature of authors it publishes and influence its books wield. The Toronto Star’s book section referenced Biblioasis on Saturday, noting the publisher’s new series of books, the first by well-known Canadian author Mark Kingwell. “The pandemic has offered all sorts of potential for looking at big ideas in new ways,” the Star says. “Seeing a space in the market for smaller books — akin to the pamphlets that thinkers such as Voltaire and Mary Wollstonecraft published — Biblioasis has pivoted to create a powerful new series titled ‘Field Notes:’ books by top thinkers that offer insights and ideas into the issues of our time with up-to-the-minute observations." The first is Kingwell’s ‘On Risk.’ The author notes that Covid has “made us all think about risk and how to mitigate it — and why not, when our lives can be turned so quickly upside down.” Other upcoming books are Rinaldo Walcott's ‘On Property,’ Andray Domise's ‘On Killing a Revolution’ and Andrew Potter's ‘On Decline.’ ”

Sept. 21/20: A New York Post columnist, lamenting the loss of business trips during the era of Civid-19, remarked about a one-time below par trip to Windsor that she now misses. Nicole Gelinas agrees in part with the cliche that Covid has freed busy executives from flying across the country and spending hours in airports and homogenous hotel rooms. Yet she was always able to squeeze in a few touristy adventures that in hindsight allowed her to discover a community’s uniqueness. “Nashville, Kansas City, Chicago, San Diego, Houston, Philadelphia, Indianapolis, Washington — I think just as fondly about walking their downtowns and stealing an hour to visit one of their museums or parks as I do about the most carefully planned leisure getaway,” she writes. But even ill-fated excursions, such as trying to take a Detroit city bus to the Ford car museum, left a fond if ironic memory. And, yes, even Windsor, though her first impressions left a lot to be desired. “Last year, after a day in Detroit, I took the public (Canadian) bus through the Windsor Tunnel to Canada. At the time, after a few minutes, it seemed clear that this was a dumb idea. There was nothing to do in Canada — sorry, Canada — but walk around for an hour or so through a half-empty casino district, some drugstores aimed at the American market and a small park with a box to deposit heroin needles. I wouldn’t have predicted that a year later, with the border now closed, what seemed like a waste of time and bus fare would have become, in retrospect, a now-forbidden, exotic adventure.”

August 28/20: A University of Windsor professor says Canada has fumbled in signing up pharmaceutical companies for a new coronavirus vaccine. And that could cost the country dearly. Writing in National Post, Andrew Richter, associate professor of political science, says Canada has indeed signed agreements with three international companies for vaccines. But each deal is problematic. One is with Chinese company Cansino. Richter says Cansino was supposed to deliver to Canada by now a vaccine for human trials but that hasn’t happened. This might be reflective of the strains in Canada’s overall relationship with China including that China has two Canadians in jail – Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig - and the Canadian arrest of Huawei official Meng Wanzhou, waiting for possible extradition to the United States. “Regardless, it seems fair to say that the odds of this vaccine ever receiving approval in Canada are low,” Richter writes. The other agreements are with two US companies. With one, Pfizer, “we have no indication of how many doses Canada will receive (besides a vague assurance it will be in the millions).” With the second, Moderna, the company “has never successfully brought a drug to market in its 10-year history and there are plenty of grounds for skepticism.” But, says Richter, “perhaps most concerning of all” is that the feds have not signed a deal with the one company “furthest along” in vaccine trials and therefore the “first to be authorized for use”. That’s the vaccine being developed by Astrazeneca in association with Oxford University. Yet countries such as the U. S., the European Union, United Kingdom, Russia, Brazil, India, and Japan have all signed agreements. Nor, Richter writes, has Ottawa signed deals with other companies “at the forefront” of vaccine development. These include Johnson & Johnson, Gsk/sanofi and Merck. While other countries “have acted quickly and decisively,” Richter says Ottawa’s foot dragging may mean Canada will have to “wait out turn” for a vaccine.

August 14/20: University of Windsor political science professor Lydia Miljan condemns the federal government for “throwing” money at large “19th century” media organizations to sustain a model that may no longer be viable. Writing in National Post, she points to the $595 million in last year’s federal budget directed at legacy newspapers and other media institutions. The money was to help “save” a dying industry, undercut mainly by the internet and new media institutions like Facebook and Google. These companies simply reproduce content from legacy media, amounting to “intellectual property theft on a monumental, historically unprecedented scale,” Miljan, also a senior fellow at the Fraser Institute, says. But instead of going after these “oligopolies” the government has taken the “easier, lazier, more politically palatable path of subsidy.” In this way it has “aided and abetted in this theft.” Subsidies, she says, haven’t worked as witness the closure of 15 local weekly newspapers this spring. And subsidies by nature interfere with the market. “Protecting a dying industry makes it more difficult for innovators to enter the market, while simultaneously doing little to protect the jobs that are part of the old model." Instead, says Miljan, the government should do what other countries – like the European Union, France, Australia and Spain – have done, and protect intellectual property rights. The last two counties, for example, force digital companies to pay for what shows up on their platforms. “If the federal Liberals or a successor government are sincere in their desire to save Canadian journalism, they should focus on enforcing intellectual property rights and maintaining the conditions for the market to operate.”

July 31/20: The Toronto Sun’s crime columnist has taken issue with the Windsor police department for not naming the deceased killers in two famous cold crime cases. Brad Hunter called out the department for not releasing the names of the murderers of Carol Christou in 2000 and Liubica Topic in 1971, the latter “one of the most horrific slayings in Canadian history.” Christou, a grandmom and known as “everybody’s ma” was found stabbed to death in the bathroom of her home. Liubica was just six years old when she was raped and murdered and her death is “believed to be the oldest cold case solved by Canadian cops and investigators deserve nothing but praise.” But Hunter suggests the police department not naming the killers even though they are dead strains credulity. He quotes criminologist and cold case expert Michael Arntfield who is “mystified why the names of these killers are being withheld.” Said Arntfield, “The Windsor Police Service is quickly positioning itself as being among the most committed agencies with respect to the closure of cold cases in Canada.” And, said Arntfield, “There are obviously arguments to be made with respect to whose interests should prevail ….. but as someone who has turned cold-case studies into an area of university study and scholarship, it’s admittedly frustrating that more information with respect to what should be landmark cases for examination and benchmarking isn’t more forthcoming.”

July 14/20: A University of Windsor professor appears skeptical of a well-publicized open letter by Harper’s magazine calling for an end to so-called “cancel culture.’ That’s where someone might lose their job or be “de-platformed” on social media because of certain political opinions. Many of the letter’s signatories are eminent scholars, artists and intellectuals including Margaret Atwood, Malcolm Gladwell and J. K. Rowling. The letter, while seemingly a universal condemnation of censorship, sparked its own controversy, with certain signatories regretting they’d even signed it after learning that others – whose views they disapprove of – also did. Commenting on the letter, Windsor law school prof Richard Moon wrote in the Toronto Star, “The letter recognizes that there is a problem in our public discourse, but its focus on free speech and censorship or silencing misses the depth of that problem. The unwillingness of many in the community to engage with those who hold contrary views stems from larger issues with the structure of contemporary discourse. In the internet era, audiences have become more fragmented and political views, more polarized and entrenched. There is little common ground in the community on factual matters, which has made it difficult to discuss issues and to agree or compromise on public policy. Disinformation and conspiracy theories spread easily among partisans and generate fear and distrust of others. Indeed, distortion and deceit rather than direct censorship may now be the most significant threat to public discourse. There is a crisis in our public discourse, and it will not be remedied by general affirmations of the importance free speech.”

July 7/20: Devon Andre, a University of Windsor forensic science graduate and a writer at Bella Marra Health with an office in Concord, Ont., writes in The Epoch Times, about how negative thinking could increase the risk of stroke. “Always assuming the worst, ruminating on past experiences you can’t change, and fearing the future can all put your mind in a precarious situation,” he says. Andre points to new research that shows that “repetitive negative thoughts” (RNT) is linked to “the buildup of tau and amyloid protein in the brain, which are key markers of dementia.” Reversing negative though patterns can be overcome by, well, accentuating the positive or “changing your inner monologue,” Andre writes. Among suggestions are identifying where the negative comes from, spending time with people who reinforce positive feelings, expressing gratitude and going after experiences you enjoy.

June 23/20: A former Canadian diplomat is urging the feds take a regional approach to border re-opening, much as the province has to re-opening business during the coronavirus pandemic. The federal government, along with the US, have so far been steadfast in their refusal to open the Canada-United States border, now in its fourth month of closure except to essential workers and trade. Even yesterday PM Justin Trudeau, in response to the travel industry’s call to reopen the border, said, “I understand how difficult this is and how frustrating this is for some people but ... we are going to be very, very careful about when and how we start reopening.” Writing in The Globe and Mail Colin Robertson said: “Our main customer will always be the United States, which is still the world’s biggest market. With our updated trade agreement, the United State-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), coming into effect July 1, we need to seize this opportunity. It starts with reopening the Canada-U.S. border. We applied risk-management principles after 9/11 to provide secure, but efficient, cross-border passage. We must do so again in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic. The (border shutdown) deprives us of trade and investment opportunities. Health considerations must be made, but surely there is room to consider regional openings.”

June 8/20: Two academics, both former residents of southwestern Ontario, weighed in on the difference between how Canada and the United States have responded to the Covid-19 crisis. Writing in the April issue of Policy magazine Helaina Gaspard and Valencia Gaspard note growing up in the Windsor area and the synchronicity between Windsor and Detroit. “Growing up in southern Ontario near the border with Detroit, Michigan, we constantly compared ourselves to the United States," they write. "Their presidents had more international presence and sway, but we had better social programs. The local news would report the weather in Fahrenheit because that’s what everyone used, even though we were taught Celsius at school." Their argument is academic and could be described as “wonkish” but is still quite readable for the average person. The gist of it is that Canada and the US took different approaches to fighting the virus. They say Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his team have been “steady hands” through the crisis though there have nee some missteps. And Canadians likely will be “a little less begrudging at tax time because we are watching our tax dollars at work in real time.” In the US, by contrast, the Trump administration has engaged in a “series of missteps and misstatements” from accusing China of taking advantage of the US and a “lack of consistency and coordination in responses across America.” In Canada, they also laud provincial cooperation such as Alberta sending PPE to Quebec. By contrast, in the US, there has been sparring between Washington and states like Michigan.

May 25/20: An article by the Waterloo Region Record, one of a series on workplace health, has zoomed in on Ambassador Bridge truck traffic as being a possible source for higher than average cancers. It quotes Customs officers joking darkly about the health implications of the fumes they breathe day in and out as they process thousands of trucks that cross the bridge. “There was a joke among us that as you walked to the booths, the closer you got, the more dead the trees were,” says former officer Christine Paquette. “You had to wonder what you were breathing in, with the amount of trucks that come through there in a day.” Paquette says she “used to come home from work and wash my face, and it would be just black.” She developed a nagging cough then had problems with her thyroid gland that eventually went away after she quit her job. The article quotes Toronto’s Occupational Cancer Research Centre (OCRC) as saying 560 cases of lung cancer in Canada annually come from diesel fumes and that Canada’s rules governing emissions are ”dangerously outdated.” As many as 10,000 trucks a day usually cross the bridge though since the pandemic the number, at least in April, was down by almost half. The article quotes area Customs union rep Ken Turner that his members are “very worried (but) there’s a real culture of fear about speaking up, because people don’t want to lose their jobs.”

April 22/20: Dr. Wajid Ahmed, Windsor-Essex’s Medical Officer of Health, would still like to see a ban on cross-border travel for part-time workers in wake of Covid-19 crisis. And he called for better data tracing to track the number of essential care workers who test positive for Covid-19 from working in Detroit. Dr. Ahmed made the comments in an article this week by The Detroit News. The remarks come after Ahmed called last month to restrict Canadian nurses working at Detroit hospitals, stirring local controversy. Ahmed said Windsor-Essex is at risk from workers bringing the virus into Canada. Detroit and surrounding Wayne County has the third highest number of Covid-19 deaths in the United States. But, in the story, Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens repeated earlier comments to Windsor media by telling The News banning Canadian nurses would create a “humanitarian crisis.” The News also references a similar cross border nurse situation in The Sault, where Canadian nurses working in both countries had to choose whether to work at home or on the US side. Nine nurses gave up their jobs at War Memorial Hospital in the US. Similarly, in Windsor, Windsor Regional Hospital gave nurses who work on both sides an ultimatum. 35 of 57 nurses gave up jobs in Detroit, 22 gave up Windsor jobs to work in Michigan. As many as 2000 health workers cross the border here every day to work stateside.

March 28/20: The free market-oriented Fraser Institute has some words for the Ontario government and Windsor and their relationship to Michigan. Author Robert P. Murphy points to the recent decision by Fiat Chrysler to axe the minivan assembly plant’s third shift laying off 1500 workers. “Although many factors drive a company’s employment decisions, the overall competitiveness of the jurisdiction is important,” he writes. Murphy points to what he describes as Michigan’s more competitive business climate as a major factor. He references changes brought in after the Great Recession more than 10 years ago. The state replaced a “complex and onerous” business tax with a six per cent broad flat tax. This is “preferable to a complex tax code with graduated brackets and special deductions or credits.” Then the state reduced overall spending, “returning badly-needed resources to the private sector, laying the foundation for more sustainable growth.” Finally, it passed “right to work legislation, which Murphy admits is “not directly applicable in Canada.” The law gives non-union workers a choice to pay union dies. “Many observers noted that the Detroit automakers had been saddled with high labor costs, and the thinking was that a more flexible labor market would be better for everyone in the long run, workers included,” he says. The writer notes that while there can be arguments over precise causes, “there’s little doubt that Michigan’s economy (and state finances) turned around after the above policy changes.” From 2012-16 Michigan had greater private sector job and GDP growth than Ontario. Michigan’s net public debt post-recession never broke pre-recession levels of five per cent while Ontario’s debt grew to just shy of 40 per cent in 2017.

Feb. 2/20: The Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a Michigan conservative think tank, raised the specter of Ontario’s “disastrous” green energy program as a warning to Michigan taxpayers. Last year state utility Consumers Energy and state regulators approved a 20-year energy plan. This will close all coal-powered plants, halt contracts for half of natural gas energy purchases and all nuclear energy purchases. The plan then links the cost and reliability of Michigan’s energy supply to a “massive, six gigawatt, buildout of solar power”…..But the institute says that utilities “typically overvalue renewables while misrepresenting the lower operating costs of existing fossil and nuclear facilities,” as much as two to three times less…..The Center then points to Ontario, which has phased out coal and more than a decade ago launched the Green Energy Act, which mandated expanded use of renewable energy……”The result? Ontario now has the fastest growing electricity costs in Canada and among the highest rates in North America. Furthermore, subsequent research showed that the shutdown of coal plants raised electricity rates in the province but provided few environmental benefits. Indeed, one analysis found that, had the province simply continued with retrofitting coal plants, it could have achieved similar environmental benefits at one-tenth the cost of the green energy programs.”

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Quick hits

What’s that? The local health unit applauds a Kingsville farm for having “good practices in place” after a farm worker in a bunkhouse there tested positive, spreading Covid-19 to 17 other fellow workers. – 10/13/20

No free lunch: MPs, realizing people have lost jobs during the pandemic, have decided to no longer take free lunches while on official parliamentary committees. An MP’s base salary is more than $170,000 and MPs got an automatic almost two per cent pay raise April 1. – 9/30/20

Freeway of love: Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, dedicating part of the Lodge Freeway to hometown star Aretha Franklin, ironically said the sign stands also for people “who came from the city and left.” Franklin for many years lived in Bloomfield Hills, 25 miles away, and reached by the Lodge. – 8/25/20

Justin’s used cars: The federal government sold 575 used cars for $19.5 million after buying them for $23 million for just a few days use at the Charlevoix, Que. 2018 G7 Summit. - 8/10/10

A Karen too far: Domino’s New Zealand had to cancel a free pizza promotion for Karen’s who are not obnoxious complainers only to be slammed for being kind to women who don’t face real oppression. – 7/31/20

Stealing home: MLB was given an exemption for teams to cross the border and play in Toronto when the Blue Jays have a perfectly good (& renovated!) ballpark in Florida. Yet ordinary citizens are still banned from border hopping. - 7/6/20

Incognito: Pandemic face masks must be heaven sent for criminal perps, who can now enter court houses without having to drape coats over their heads. – 7/1/20

Brainf--t: NDP Essex MPP Taras Natyshak let one go in the provincial legislature yesterday, calling Premier Doug Ford “a piece of s---” over how the MPP believes the province is treating his constituency during Covid-19. He later apologized. – 6/25/20

Bucking Bronco: Ford Motor Co. plans to introduce its all new Bronco SUV July 9, the same date as O.J. Simpson’s birthday. Simpson notoriously was filmed driving his Ford Bronco while being chased in 1994 by the LAPD. The company says the date is just coincidental. (UPDATE June 23: The date has since been changed.) – 6/16/20

Excessive (def.): Incoming travellers now must fill out a form indicating where they plan to spend 14 days in quarantine, they could be checked on and if in violation get a $750,000 fine and six months in prison. – 5/8/20

Tone deaf: The Essex Windsor Solid Waste Authority says to avoid using plastic bags at point of purchase, after retailers have told shoppers not to use resusable bags due to possible Covid-19 contamination. - 5/1/20

Pray for them: Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s order to prohibit all public and private gatherings outside single households to combat the coronavirus outbreak does not apply to religious organizations. – 3/24/20

With friends like these: The Rev. Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam, at a Detroit conference attended by 14,000 this weekend, said he regretted the deaths of Qassim Soleimani, an Iranian Revolutionary Guards leader, and “my other brother” former Libyan dictator Muamar Gaddafi. – 2/24/20

Irony: The University of Windsor Black Law Students Association has accused the university's law school, perhaps the most liberal law school in Canada with its Access to Justice philosophy, of not doing enough to combat "systemic" racism. - 2/16/20

Nice pay if you can get it: A lawsuit is challenging a whopping pay increase for Kevin Kenneally, former deputy chief financial officer of Detroit’s pension funds, who had his pay increased from $166,855 to $285,000 by working as an independent contractor. A previous dispute over his pay threatened fund payments under the Grand Bargain, which saw the destitute city emerge from bankruptcy. - 2/2/20

Eat, drink and be merry: For a trip to the G20 summit in Japan last year the Prime Minister’s Office and worthy guests consumed 57 bottles of wine and $95,000 worth of food. - 1/31/20