CRTC will look at future of 911 services with use of new technologies in mind

Text messages, videos and even tweets are some of the new technologies that could be used to contact 911 that the federal broadcast regulator may have to consider as it looks at ways to improve the emergency service.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission is asking Canadians, especially emergency responders, for ideas on how to improve 911 service in light of changing technology.

The next generation of 911 services will be a game changer, Lance Valcour of the Canadian Interoperability Technology Interest Group said Monday.

“Currently, if you want 911 services, you have to phone,” said Valcour, executive director of the Ottawa-based group.

Right now, you can’t send a tweet to 911 to get help, Valcour said.

“But also in the future it will be video to 911, photographs to 911, potentially social media to 911,” Valcour said.

Text messaging to 911 is being tested for the hearing and voice impaired.

The CRTC noted that thousands of Canadians rely on 911 service every year.

“As telecommunications networks evolve and adopt new technologies, we all have an interest in ensuring that the system continues to meet Canadians’ needs,” CRTC commissioner Tim Denton said in a statement.

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The CRTC said it will do research on 911 services in light of the telecom industry’s move to next-generation wireless networks based on Internet Protocol.

The federal telecom regulator will also look at the performance and adequacy of the technology currently used by 911 systems. It will review the findings of the public consultation by the end of next May.

Telecom analyst Mark Goldberg said people don’t always realize that these new technologies don’t connect into the 911 system.

“When people see certain things, they’re not necessarily calling 911, they’re tweeting it,” said Goldberg of Mark H. Goldberg & Associates Inc. Telecommunications Consulting in Thornhill, Ont.

The CRTC will want to take a look at 911 services in an era of social media, Goldberg said.

“Should I be able to send an email? Should there be a 911 website? Should there be a 911 app on a tablet?” he added.

Valcour said there are data storage and privacy issues for emergency responders for next generation 911 services.

There will also be costs to the next generation of 911 service, he said, estimating it could be as much as a 30 per cent increase in staffing in 911 centres.

If a citizen one day sends a photo or video of an accident to 911, everything has to work to be able to respond and save lives, Valcour said.

“We have to engineer our systems so that they are mission critical,” said Valcour, whose organization is managed by managed the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs and Emergency Medical Services Chiefs of Canada.

The CRTC said commissioner Denton will conduct research on 911 services in light of the telecommunications system’s evolution to next-generation networks based on Internet Protocol. These networks are faster and usually handle more data.

The Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association said more than half of 911 calls in urban centres now come from cellphones.

“We recognize, and Canadians do, that cellphones are a life line,” said association spokesman Marc Choma.

Since 2010, cellphone users calling 911 have had a more precise location of their whereabouts, he said.

The CRTC gave Canada’s wireless carriers until February 1, 2010, to provide the improved 911 service after several people who called for help from cellphones died because emergency dispatchers couldn’t find them.

Emergency services can locate cellphone callers using either GPS technology on their phones or through the use of cell towers, or a combination of both, and have the phone’s callback number.

Where it’s at: Beck looks backward for new way to connect with fans, music on ‘Song Reader’

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Beck Hansen wants you to think about the way music has changed over the last century and what that means about how human beings engage each other these days.

Labouring over the intricate and ornate details of his new “Song Reader” sheet music project, he was struck by how social music used to be – something we’ve lost in the age of ear buds.

“You watch an old film and see how people would dance together in the ’20s, ’30s and ’40s. You’d go out and people would switch partners and it was a way of social interaction,” Hansen said. “It’s something that was part of what brought people together. Playing music in the home is another aspect of that that’s been lost. Again, I’m not on a campaign to get people to take up songs and play music in their home or anything. But it is interesting to me, the loss of that, what it means.”

Beck hopes the “Song Reader” inspires some of us to pick up instruments and limber our vocal cords. It includes 20 songs annotated on sheet music that’s been decorated in the style popular in the early 20th century when the songwriting industry was a thriving enterprise with billions of songs sold.

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The 42-year-old singer notes in the book’s preface that Bing Crosby’s “Sweet Leilani” sold an estimated 54 million copies in 1937, meaning about 40 per cent or more of the U.S. population was engaged in learning how to play that song. They were touching it directly, speeding it up, slowing it down, changing the lyrics and creating something new.

“There’s popular bands now that people know the words to their songs and can sing along, but there’s something about playing a song for yourself or for your friends and family that allows you to inhabit the song and by some sort of osmosis it becomes part of who you are in a way,” he said. “So when I think of my great-grandparents’ generations, music defined their lives in a different way than it does now.”

Beck proposed the idea to McSweeney’s Dave Eggers in 2004 and it soon blossomed into something more ambitious as the artist wrapped his mind around the challenge of not just writing a song, but presenting it in a classic way that also engages fans who might not be able to read music or play their own instruments.

They quickly agreed it would make no money, but it seemed like an idea worth exploring.

“And it seemed like only Beck would have thought of it,” Eggers said in an email to the Associated Press. “It’s a very generous project, in that he wrote a bunch of songs and just gives them to the world to interpret. That’s a very expansive kind of generosity and inclusiveness that we’re happy to be part of. On a formal level, we love projects like this, that are unprecedented, and that result in a beautiful object full of great art and great writing. And it all started with Beck. It’s a testament to his groundbreaking approach to everything he does.”

Beck hopes fans will record their own versions and upload them to the Internet so those songs grow into something more universal.

As for his own recorded music, that’s a little more complicated.

Beck’s not sure where he’s headed at the moment. He recorded an album in 2008, but set it aside to work with Charlotte Gainsbourg on “IRM,” which he wrote and produced. He’s also been writing songs for soundtracks and special projects and producing artists like Thurston Moore, Stephen Malkmus and Dwight Yoakam. All that has left him feeling creatively satisfied, but he does acknowledge it’s been a while since he released 2008’s Danger Mouse-produced “Modern Guilt.”

He says in many ways he’s reached a crossroads he’s not yet sure how to navigate.

“This last year I’ve been thinking about whether I’d finish those songs (from 2008), whether they’re relevant or worthy of releasing. I know that doesn’t sound very definitive,” he said, laughing, “but that’s the kind of place I’m in – in this kind of limbo – and, um, yeah.”

The “Song Reader” spurred Beck to think about his own work in a new light as well. Spending six months finishing off the project after working on it sporadically over the years, he was struck by how much craft went into the creation of each song and how quickly music can come into existence today.

“There is so much music out there, to me,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s just where I am in my own music making or if it’s a product of the amount of music out there, but I feel like a piece of music does have to have a certain validity to be put out there and to ask people to listen. … I feel like it’s impossible for everyone to keep up, you know, so I guess I’ve been feeling like maybe there’s something to picking what you’re going to put out, about being more particular about what you put out.”

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Language spat spells delay in case of man charged in Quebec election shooting

MONTREAL – The man charged in Quebec’s election-night shooting has refused to speak to a French-speaking psychiatrist, causing a delay in his case.

Richard Henry Bain was expected to receive the results of his assessment on Monday to determine whether he was fit to stand trial.

But the case was put off until Jan. 11 while the hospital that conducts the evaluation finds a different doctor. Bain will remain at Montreal’s Pinel Institute until then.

Stagehand Denis Blanchette was killed, and another worker was wounded in the Sept. 4 attack at a downtown club where the Parti Quebecois was celebrating its election victory.

Wearing a mask and a bathrobe, Bain shouted that the “English are waking up” as officers ushered him to a police cruiser after his arrest.

Bain faces 16 charges, including first-degree murder; three of attempted murder; arson; and a number of weapons counts. The Crown said Monday the investigation remains open and other charges have not been ruled out.

Premier Pauline Marois, who was on stage when the attack occurred nearby, told a TV show recently she believes the shooting was an attempt on her life.

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Crown prosecutor Eliane Perreault told a Quebec court judge on Monday that Bain refused to speak to a psychiatrist who addressed him initially in French.

“This examination could not take place because the last time Mr. Bain was seen by a doctor from Pinel, he didn’t want to talk to her because she was French-speaking,” Perreault said.

“We’re trying to make arrangements that he’s seen by an English-speaking doctor in the coming days.”

Perreault said she didn’t know if the fact the doctor was a woman had anything to do with Bain’s refusal.

Bain’s lawyers say they have not been able to prepare a defence because Bain has been unwilling to co-operate. They had made the request for the evaluation.

Also Monday, one of those lawyers said she and another legal-aid colleague planned to withdraw from the case because a study of Bain’s finances revealed the fishing-lodge owner didn’t qualify for legal aid and could afford to pay for his own defence.

“The people responsible for legal aid decided he was able to pay so they decided he can’t be represented by them,” Perreault said.

The decision about Bain’s legal representation was also put off until Jan. 11 once the assessment is complete.

Bain’s court appearance Monday was far less dramatic than his previous one when he delivered a lengthy rant about being sent on a mission by Jesus Christ to rid Quebec of its ”separatist problem.”

He referred to Jesus Christ several times during the Dec. 7 hearing and that he’d been sent as an ambassador to deliver his vision of “peace and harmony for all Canadians.”

“I fight for freedom, democracy, justice and to speak one’s mother’s tongue,” Bain told the court.

This time, the 62-year-old kept mostly quiet, his eyes darting around the room while the lawyers addressed the judge. At one point near the end of the roughly six-minute hearing, he demanded to address the court, pulling a piece of scrap paper from his sports coat.

Even as Judge Nathalie Fafard told him he could not do anything other than postpone the case, Bain spoke loudly over her and demanded a provincial police investigation into an alleged assault against him at a court appearance in October.

He showed up on that date with a pair of fresh, bloody wounds on his head. Bain’s lawyer, Elfriede Duclervil, told reporters at the Dec. 7 appearance that an investigation didn’t turn up anything.

Bain said he has filed three complaints with the detention centre wanting provincial police to investigate a “bodily assault” on him on Oct. 11.

Fafard told Bain the matter was outside her jurisdiction.

“You bring me into a court with no jurisdiction,” Bain huffed as he was led out of the court. “Anyway, God bless you all, happy holidays.”

New research shows kids should limit their milk intake

TORONTO – Can there be too much of a good thing when you are talking about little kids and cow’s milk? A new study suggests there can.

The work, by scientists in Toronto, says that children between the ages of two and five should be drinking half a litre or approximately two eight-ounce cups of milk a day.

Less than that and kids may not be getting enough vitamin D, the study suggests. But more than that, and the stores of iron in their blood – which are essential for a developing brain – may start to slip below acceptable levels.

The study was led by Dr. Jonathon Maguire, a pediatrician and researcher at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto. It is published in this week’s issue of the journal Pediatrics.

“Cow’s milk is a very important staple in our western diet for children. I don’t want to underestimate the importance of cow’s milk,” Maguire said in an interview about the study.

“Our question was really: Well, how much?”

It’s a query pediatricians face all the time, Maguire said. And they haven’t had a good answer to give because expert groups are divided on the issue.

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Some organizations have argued that young children should consume a litre of milk a day to get the vitamin D they need to build strong bones and avoid rickets, a formerly common bone-softening condition. (Milk is fortified with vitamin D.)

But other groups have warned that children’s consumption of cow’s milk should be curtailed because some studies have shown that kids who drink a lot of milk can have low levels of iron in their blood.

Low iron can lead to anemia, where the body produces too few of the red blood cells that transport oxygen throughout the body.

“It looks like in children who have iron deficiency severe enough to cause them … to have anemia, those children have difficulties with their cognitive development. Over time they’re not quite as bright as other children,” Maguire said.

Iron deficiency in young children isn’t uncommon in Canada. While it’s just a guestimate – Maguire said recent studies haven’t been done – it is believed between 10 per cent and 20 per cent of young children in Canada may have low iron stores.

Given the confusing advice and the fact that milk consumption by preschoolers seems to involve a trade-off between vitamin D and iron, Maguire and some colleagues decided to try to find the sweet spot.

They enrolled 1,311 healthy Toronto children aged two to five in a study, evaluating samples of their blood for vitamin D and iron stores and gathering information from parents about the amount of milk the kids drank.

The researchers found that about 500 millilitres of milk a day for most children was the right amount to have adequate levels of vitamin D and iron.

There was an exception: during winter, children with dark skin didn’t hit the vitamin D target with 500 ml daily. The study suggests in winter children with dark skin may need a vitamin D supplement as well as the milk.

The researchers also saw this previously reported inverse relationship, where more milk consumed meant higher vitamin D levels but lower iron stores.

What’s behind the puzzling interplay? The director of the nutrition and metabolism research program at B.C. Children’s and Women’s Hospitals said little kids who drink a lot of milk often aren’t eating enough solid foods to get the needed amount of iron. (There is little iron in milk.)

Dr. Sheila Innis explained that some young children have a hard time making the transition from breast or bottle to solids. They may be drinking more milk because they still prefer to suck and swallow than to chew.

Innis said that parents of children like this should figure out what’s going on rather than cutting back on the milk.

“It’s a complicated problem when you’re dealing with, say, a three-year-old child who is … not a good eater. Stopping him drinking milk is not going to make that child a better eater,” she said from Vancouver.

In fact, Innis warned that trying to reduce milk intake in a child like this may provoke resistance and other problems. She urged parents in this situation to get help.

“Go see a good public health dietitian or nutritionist and get guidance on how to increase the variety and quantity of solid food in the diet. And then the milk intake will come down.”

A similar conundrum the study identified related to children over two who drank from a bottle. Analysis of their blood samples suggested they weren’t getting enough iron or vitamin D.

Maguire said this confirms something pediatricians see – many kids over two who still drink from a bottle are iron deficient.

“Given that it doesn’t seem to be much of a benefit from cow’s milk in the bottle for vitamin D and it looks like it decreases children’s iron source, it’s probably a good idea not to be using a bottle in children who are over two years of age,” he said.

Innis said bottle feeding over age two is also probably a sign of a child who is having a hard time making the transition to solid foods.

“Still drinking out of bottles over two goes hand in hand with not taking a good variety of solid foods. Not chewing well. Not liking textures. Still on sucking,” she said.

 

Fate of six Conservative MPs at heart of robocalls saga now in hands of judge

OTTAWA – The electoral fates of six Conservative MPs, once strictly the purview of Canadian voters, landed in the hands of a judge Monday as lawyers on both sides of the so-called robocalls case wrapped up their arguments.

It now falls to Federal Court Judge Richard Mosley to decide whether the evidence merits the drastic step of throwing out the results of last year’s federal election in the six ridings in question.

No matter how Mosley rules, an appeal is all but guaranteed. The Council of Canadians, a political advocacy group that bankrolled the court challenge, says it will appeal if a ruling comes in favour of the MPs.

If it goes the other way, the Conservatives likely won’t go down without a fight.

“We certainly don’t want to cut the process short,” the council’s national chairwoman, Maude Barlow, said outside the courtroom.

“We’re committed for the long run.”

The council estimates it spent around $600,000 paying the legal bills of eight voters who allege that misleading and harassing phone calls during the campaign kept some people from voting and may have affected the results.

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The six ridings in question are Vancouver Island North in British Columbia; Yukon; Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar in Saskatchewan; Elmwood-Transcona and Winnipeg South Centre in Manitoba; and Nipissing-Timiskaming in Ontario.

Court heard a great deal of debate about the merits of an anonymous, automated survey by polling form Ekos Research that suggested non-Conservative supporters were more likely to have received harassing or misleading calls prior to the May 2011 vote.

According to the poll, as many as 6,000 voters could have had their trips to the ballot box thwarted by the phoney calls.

But Conservative party lawyers sought to cast doubt on the Ekos report. They described the poll as flawed, saying it could have yielded unreliable results that the court should not allow as evidence.

They also tried to undermine the credibility of Frank Graves, the pollster behind the report. Conservative party lawyer Arthur Hamilton repeatedly questioned Graves’ donations to the federal Liberals and inconsistencies in prior court affidavits submitted as part of the case.

At one point, Graves – who had been asked to leave the courtroom during his cross-examination so lawyers could confer with the judge – was found to have scanned the Twitter feeds of journalists tweeting from inside, a jurisprudential no-no.

Steven Shrybman – the lawyer acting for the eight complainants – apologized on Graves’s behalf. In Monday’s closing arguments, however, he defended him as a reliable and unbiased pollster.

“It’s an awful allegation, it’s unsupported by any evidence and it simply clutters the landscape,” Shrybman said.

Shrybman also sought to dispel the criticisms of the Ekos report, saying they are largely based on the conclusions of another expert who provided evidence to the Conservative legal team.

Conservative lawyers have asked the court to dismiss each of the applications. They argued the Council of Canadians has no bona-fide witnesses who could testify that the calls prevented from casting a ballot.

Indeed, none of the eight applicants actually failed to vote in the 2011 election as a result of the alleged tactics.

“It speaks volumes that despite the Council of Canadians’ vigorous search and nationwide media attention, it was not able to produce a single elector to testify that he or she was prevented from voting,” Conservative party spokesman Fred DeLorey said in a statement.

Shrybman maintained there is enough proof that the fraudulent calls did occur, which he argued should be enough for a judge to overturn the results. The evidence suggests that hundreds of people failed to cast ballots as a result of the calls, he said.

“Our obligation is to persuade you only on the balance of probability that there was fraud and it affected the result of the election,” he told Mosley.

“We have produced … the best evidence that could be gathered about the occurrence of voter suppression and its effect.”

Mosley said he will deliver his decision at a later date – and hinted in his closing remarks that he intends to take his time doing so.