Happy Earth Day

Happy Earth Day

In recent years we’ve gone straight from winter into summer. Although we’ve been having record shattering temperatures in the last few months, we’ve had spring, winter and summer, and then back again. I captured this bee (in photographic form only, thanks ūüôā ) on April 19th whilst walking the dogs a few blocks from home. So it looks like it is really spring now.

The natural world is wonderful, and I sincerely hope we humans can stop our race to destruction. The first step in weaning ourselves from our profligate fossil fuel consumption is certainly to #keepitintheground. I hope our governments are clever enough to actually do this.

Citizen Journalism and Misinformation


Today I shared a link to an online article reporting Israel Opens Dams, Floods Agricultural Lands And Homes In Gaza. As it happens, the article was wrong.

Israel Opens Dams, Floods Agricultural Lands And Homes In Gaza - Monday February 22, 2016 15:18 author by IMEMC & Agencies Report -Large areas of Palestinians lands, and several homes, in the al-Meghraqa and Gaza Valley areas, in central Gaza, have been completely flooded after Israel opened its dams towards Gaza.
Misinformation: Real Flooding ~ Bad Reporting


The origin of the report ~ and in particular, the misinformation that this flooding was a result of deliberate action ~ at first appeared to be the UK newspaper “The Daily Mail.” The misinformation in the original story¬†reported:

Daily Mail: Hundreds of Palestinians left homeless after Israel opens river dam and floods houses…

Hundreds of Palestinians were evacuated yesterday morning after Israeli authorities opened a number of dams causing widespread flooding

But in these days of slashed budgets, even the mainstream media news has only a fraction of the resources they did once ~ actual reporters, field offices, foreign correspondents, fact checkers, proof readers ~ and so what they have left is often employed in ferreting out the news online, which often includes poaching facts or quotes¬†from¬†someone else’s news story. ¬†Sometimes such errors¬†are accidental, but other times they are deliberate attempts to spread propaganda. ¬†Again, with news room budgets being tight, jobs in journalism are thin on the ground, which naturally opens up the possibility of reporting the facts as the powers that be wish them to be, rather than reporting the facts as they are.

Whether by accident or design, in this case, The Daily Mail story was built on a piece from Al Jazeera,which reported:

Brigadier Gerneral Said Al-Saudi, chief of the civil defence agency in Gaza, told Al Jazeera: “Israel opened water dams, without warning, last night, causing serious damage to Gazan villages near the border. More than 40 homes were flooded and 80 families are currently in shelters as a result.”

He added that the dam opening would adversely affect local agriculture as the flooded area included Gazan poultry and animal farms.

“We are appealing to human rights organisations and international rights organisations to intervene to prevent further such action.”

‚ÄĒ Al Jazeera:¬†Gazans flee floods caused by Israel’s dams opening


Since being informed that the accusation was false, The Daily Mail has since retracted it, retitling the article Hundreds of Palestinians left homeless by flooding after water levels in Gaza Valley rise by up to 10 feet following heavy rain.  And while the paper has rewritten the body of the article to clear up the misinformation, the closest they come to accepting any responsibility for publishing false information was:

The floods led to false accusations that Israel had opened up dams along the river to intentionally cause the flooding, even though no dams exist in southern Israel.

A spokesman for the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Palestinian Territories (COGAT) told VICE News: ‘These claims, I don’t know who started them, but they are completely false.

‘There are no dams in the southern part of Israel so we couldn’t open any dams because there aren’t any. I don’t know how these rumours got around.'”

‚ÄĒ Daily Mail:¬†Hundreds of Palestinians left homeless by flooding after water levels in Gaza Valley rise by up to 10 feet following heavy rain

Citizen Journalism

For myself, I apologize for misleading anyone.  Part of the reason for blogging about this is to set the record straight.  Especially as I consider correcting misinformation to be an important part of what I do, so the absolute last thing I want to do is spread any myself.

The MSM’s lingering decline has been offset by the rise of citizen journalism online. ¬†There are a growing number of independent digital news resources that are as reliable (if not more) than the MSM. ¬†The fact is that I stumbled into it as I learned the mainstream media is no longer reliable. ¬†If it ever was, it was because competition made truth and accuracy essential. ¬†That certainly doesn’t seem to be the case any more. ¬†If there was any doubt citizens were being failed by MSM news before, Wikileaks removed them. ¬†As journalism prof/mediacritic Jay Rosen put it, “The watchdog press is dead.”

These days, most of the news I get is online. ¬†I trust the informed people I listen to on Twitter or Facebook far more than I trust any mainstream media outlet. ¬†In today’s information swamped world, there is simply no way anyone can know everything. ¬†One reason social media is on the rise is because we need to know things the MSM isn’t telling us. ¬†Whether it can’t or won’t doesn’t matter. We need to know.

Very often people who have important information want to share it, and the Internet makes this possible. Anyone can blog with WordPress, Tumblr or blogger, or post to Facebook or Twitter or Youtube. Specialized information that would once have been limited in reach by the number of mimeographs possible or the cost of postage is now available freely or cheaply online, available to anyone in the world with an Internet connection.

Since I’ve become active online (2009), over time an increasing amount of my time is spent engaging in citizen journalism online. ¬†I’m not doing it because I’ve had anything resembling journalism training, because I haven’t. ¬†Or because I want to make a living at it, because I don’t. But the horizons of my world have opened up with the ability to converse with total strangers around the world. ¬†Even as I’ve been sharing important information I learn more. We need to converse with¬†each other and learn from each other and work together; and yet there are many who profit from our polarization. ¬†There are people who are paid to spread misinformation online, people who pretend to be someone they aren’t to derail change that will interfere with their profits.

When I read something I think important, I might make the time to expand on what I know so I can blog about it, but if it doesn’t fall into one of my particular fields of interest its more likely I’ll share a link to the source material through social media. ¬†Which is what I’ve done here. ¬†Oddly enough, in all the time I’ve been engaged in citizen journalism, this is only the second time anything I’ve shared required a retraction.

This Case

The situation in the middle east is complicated. The situation in Gaza is dire, and has been ongoing without any real hope of resolution for a ridiculously long time.   In recent years the Internet has fuelled a growing awareness of the situation in North America. the result has been the BDS movement.

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS Movement) is a global campaign targeting Israel,[1][2][3][4] attempting to increase economic and political pressure on Israel to comply with the stated goals of the movement: ending Israeli occupation and colonization of all Arab lands occupied in June 1967, dismantling the Wall, full equality for Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel, and respecting the right of return of Palestinian refugees set out in UN Resolution 194.[4][5]

‚ÄĒ Wikipedia:¬†Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions

Right now there is an uproar in Canada because our government has passed a motion condemning the BDS movementl, claiming that bringing such economic and political pressure to bear is anti-semitic, even though BDS political and economic pressure aims to convince Israel to conform to International Law.  If Nations can blithely choose which parts of International Law they will deign to follow without any repercussion (as Israel does in flouting of International Law by encroaching on the what little Palestinian territory remains with new settlements), International Law is meaningless.

In light of the other attacks our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms has been hit with of late, this blatant suppression of the Canadian right to dissent has upset a great many Canadians, myself included, so it is not surprising the misinformation included in this article slipped past my own personal critical thinking screening.  Clearly there is acrimony, anger and hatred on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian problem, with propaganda arising from both sides.  As in most conflict, neither side is entirely blameless, just as neither is perfect.

Regardless, the original story I posted (along with the other bouncing around the internet) is simply not true.  There was flooding and evacuation, but it was not  a deliberate attack by Israel.  I will strive to be more careful in future.



My NaNoWriMo

night writingEven on my best day I don’t think I could manage more than 10k in a single day, so I had a pretty good idea I wouldn’t be making it to 50k again this time.

Probably the deciding factor came out of my conversation with my son when he called on my birthday. He asked me if the words I had written were good words…and in fact, they are. I am quite pleased with how this year’s novel is going. And I knew that had I killed myself to scratch up 10k in a hurry, they probably wouldn’t have been very good words.

What NaNo has done is gotten me writing again, even with the political bumps. So here’s to a NaNo experience that worked well for me!

Happy Victoria Day

Victoria's Family

As you celebrate Canada’s Victoria Day weekend (which we go to great pains to prevent from celebrating on the actual weekend of the 24th of May ~ her birthday) be thankful you don’t have 9 kids. (This painting only shows the first five of the nine children Victoria and Albert had.) And be careful with those fireworks!

Happy Victoria Day!

Franz_Xaver_Winterhalter’s painting “The Family of Queen Victoria” is well into the Public Domain.

Canadian Political Housecleaning

The Canadian Bill of Rights after Bill C-51

When I still had hopes some MPs in our Federal Parliament might find it difficult or impossible to vote for Bill C-51, the Harper Government draft legislation that effectively shreds the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Canadian Bill of Rights, I did everything possible to spread the word, including reblogging political articles here.  Clearly I was wrong; neither Liberal or Conservative Parliamentarians had the spine to stand up for Canadian civil rights, and our unfair electoral system gave them the power to do so.

The Harper Government dispensed with proper scrutiny or debate and so the fast-tracked Bill C-51 has passed third reading in the House of Commons. ¬†It’s still before the Senate, and will also need Royal Assent, but so far the Senate and the Governor general have proved themselves nothing more than Rubber Stamps, so my hopes are not high.

If you wish to keep an eye on it, Bill C-51 Legisinfo will let you know how far along Bill C-51 is in the process.

Now it’s time for me to return to my day job, and the first order of the day is to clean up the political debris cluttering up my Free Culture blog. ¬†Since it’s poor netiquette ¬†to delete material one has published, I can’t just delete my reposts without making them available, so here is the the list of political articles I reblogged (and now deleted).

But you don’t have to take our word for it… ask the experts:

Law Professors Craig Forcese and Kent Roach¬†(at the University of Ottawa and the University of Toronto respectively) have been raising the alarm in articles like‚ÄúBill C-51: the Good, the Bad‚ÄČ.‚ÄČ.‚ÄČ.‚ÄČand the Truly Ugly‚ÄĚ which outline many of the very disturbing elements of Bill C-51. ¬†They‚Äôve created a website where they have shared their findings about Bill C-51 in detail¬†http://www.antiterrorlaw.ca/

Possibly the single most disturbing element for me is something Mr. Forcese says in one of his information videos:

…the whole thing is covert.

We just have never seen anything like this in Canada before. Personally I would expect judges to consider all this unconstitutional and they could never let CSIS breach the constitution. But you and I may never know because, as I’ve said, this legal question would likely be decided as part of secret proceedings.

‚ÄĒ¬†Craig Forcese, University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law

Bill C-51 ignores the rule of law and the protections Canadians enjoy under our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which is serious enough to worry Canadians across the political spectrum.

You know its a non-partisan problem when legal scholars and ex-judges the legal profession and Rex Murphy and Conrad Black andJean Chrétien and Paul Martin and Joe Clark and John Turner andElizabeth May and Thomas Mulcair and the Communist Party andFirst Nations and a growing number of ordinary citizens are in agreement about how bad Bill C-51 is.

If that hasn’t given you enough to chew on, check out these videos:

Michael Harris at the Registry Theatre

Fair Vote Guelph: The Robocall Scandal ~ Town Hall

Stop Bill C-51 #Privacy matters #HumanRights #Canada YouTube Playlist

My own Bill C-51 YouTube Playlist

Any additional blogs I make will appear on my Whoa!Canada blog.

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