Friday, September 7, 2018


From  “The  Economist”  August 18th 2018
The Economist,
Modern love
Online dating has changed the search for a mate, for better more than for worse

THE internet has transformed the way people work and communicate. It has upended industries, from entertainment to retailing. But its most profound effect may well be on the biggest decision that most people make—choosing a mate. In the early 1990s the notion of meeting a partner online seemed freakish, and not a little pathetic. Today, in many places, it is normal. Smartphones have put virtual bars in people's pockets, where singletons can mingle free from the constraints of social or physical geography. Globally, at least 200m people use digital dating services every month. In America more than a third of marriages now start with an online match-up. The internet is the second-most-popular way for Americans to meet people of the opposite sex, and is fast catching up with real-world "friend of a friend" introductions.

Digital dating is a massive social experiment, conducted on one of humanity's most intimate and vital processes. Its effects are only just starting to become visible.

When Harry clicked on Sally

Meeting a mate over the internet is fundamentally different from meeting one offline. In the physical world, partners are found in family networks or among circles of friends and colleagues. Meeting a friend of a friend is the norm. People who meet online are overwhelrningly likely to be strangers. As a result, dating digitally offers much greater choice. A bar, choir or office might have a few tens of potential partners for any one person. Online there are tens of thousands.

This greater choice-plus the fact that digital connections are made only with mutual consent-makes the digital dating market far more efficient than the offline kind. For some, that is bad news. Because of the gulf in pickiness between the sexes, a few straight men are doomed never to get any matches at all. On Tantan, a Chinese app, men express interest in 60% of women they see, but women are interested in just 6% of men; this dynamic means that 5% of men never receive a match. In offline dating, with a much smaller pool of men to fish from, straight women are more likely to couple up with men who would not get a look-in online.

For most people, however, digital dating offers better outcomes. Research has found that marriages in America between people who meet online are likely to last longer; such couples profess to be happier than those who met offline. The whiff of moral panic surrounding dating apps is vastly overblown. Precious little evidence exists to show that opportunities online are encouraging infidelity. In America, divorce rates climbed until just before the advent of the internet, and have fallen since.

Online dating is a particular boon for those with very particular requirements. Jdate allows daters to filter out matches who would not consider converting to Judaism, for instance. A vastly bigger market has had dramatic results for same-sex daters in particular. In America, 70% of gay people meet their partners online. This searchable spectrum of sexual diversity is a boon: more people can find the intimacy they seek.

There are problems with the modern way of love, however. Many users complain of stress when confronted with the brutal realities of the digital meat market, and their place within it. Negative emotions about body image existed before the internet, but they are amplified when strangers can issue snap judgments on attractiveness. Digital dating has been linked to depression. The same problems that afflict other digital platforms recur in this realm, from scams to fake account^: 10% of all newly created dating profiles do not belong to real people.

This new world of romance may also have unintended consequences for society. The fact that online daters have so much more choice can break down barriers: evidence suggests that the internet is boosting interracial marriages by bypassing homogenous social groups. But daters are also more able to choose partners like themselves. Assortative mating, the process whereby people with similar education levels and incomes pair up, already shoulders some of the blame for income inequality. Online dating may make the effect more pronounced: education levels are displayed prominently on dating profiles in a way they would never be offline. It is not hard to imagine dating services of the future matching people by preferred traits, as determined by uploaded genomes. Dating firms also suffer from an inherent conflict of interest. Perfect matching would leave them bereft of paying customers.

The domination of online dating by a handful of firms and their algorithms is another source of worry. Da ting apps do not benefit from exactly the same sort of network effects as other tech platforms: a person's friends do not need to be on a specific dating site, for example. But the feedback loop between large pools of data, generated by ever-growing numbers of users attracted to an ever-improving product, still exists. The entry into the market of Facebook, armed with data from its 2.2bn users, will provide clues as to whether online dating will inexorably consolidate into fewer, larger platforms.

While you were swiping

But even if the market does not become ever more concentrated, the process of coupling (or not) has unquestionably become more centralized. Romance used to be a distributed activity which took place in a profusion of bars, clubs, churches and offices; now enormous numbers of people rely on a few companies to meet their mate. That hands a small number of coders, tweaking the algorithms that determine who sees whom across the virtual bar, tremendous power to engineer mating outcomes. In authoritarian societies especially, the prospect of algorithmically arranged marriages ought to cause some disquiet. Competition offers some protection against such a possibility; so too might greater transparency over the principles used by dating apps to match people up.

Yet such concerns should not obscure the good that comes from the modern way of romance. The right partners can elevate and nourish each other. The wrong ones can ruin both their lives. Digital dating offers millions of people a more efficient way to find a good mate. That is something to love. ■


Wednesday, September 5, 2018


FROM  THE  CITY   LIVE  IN   Keith Hunt

From the CALGARY SUN - WEDNESDAY  SEPT.  5 - 2018



By  Michelle  McQigge - the Canadian Press

TORONTO - Canad’s global reputation as a healthy place to raise children is belied by statistics showing strikingly high rates of suicide, child abuse and struggles with mental health, a new report suggested Tuesday.

Health markers covering everything from infant mortality to obesity and poverty rates pain a troubling picture of child welfare in Canada, according to the report compiled by Children First Canada and the O’Brien Institute for Public Health.

The study, which analyzes data from major research organizations …. said, all orders of Government need to do more to ensure that children benefit from the country’s overall wealth and prosperity.

“Whether we’re talking infant mortality or accidents or mental health concerns, all these statistics are deeply disturbing” said Sara Austin, lead director of Children First.

“Canada’s ranked the 5th most prosperous nation in the world, yet when it comes to the well-being  of children, we are far FAR BEHIND,” she said.

“ There’s a big disconnect between the well-being of our children and the well-being of our nation.”

Austin said this disconnect has been acknowledged in some international circles, pointing to a UNICEF ranking of 41 Organization of Economic Co-Operation and Development countries that placed Canada 25th on the list when assessing for children’s well-being.

The various research agencies included in the latest report have documented many troubling markers of kids health over the years, Austin said, with mental health emerging as an area of increasing urgency.

The report found the number of mental health related hospitalizations among people aged 5 to 24 had soared 66 percent over the last decade, while thew number of hospitalizations jumped 55 per cent over the same period……

Austin said kids are increasingly seeking help in hospitals due to lack of other options in their communities.

But the data shows that a growing number are ultimately resorting to suicide.

Austin said suicide is the second most common cause of death among children, adding that Canada’s child suicide rate is among the top 5 in the world.





Keith Hunt  



The Calgary  Sun - TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 4 - 2018


Hookup apps seen as one cause of rise in sexual transmitted infections 



The surge in sexual transmitted infections in the province is part of a larger trend that has seen STI rates on the rise in other jurisdictions.

In the United States, STI rates hit record levels for the fourth year in a row in 2017.

“This isn’t just an Alberta phenomenon,” said Dr. Kristin Klein, the province’s deputy medical officer of health.

“One of the reasons, we think, is the way people are connecting with their sexual partners. So a lot more anonymous sex and hooking up through social platforms then there would have been before. So we continue to see cases being transmitted that  way.”

It was two years ago that the province warned of “outbreak levels” of sexually transmitted infections as numbers soared in 2015, due in part to social media and online hookups.

Statistics for 2017 show there were 4,759 gonorrhea cases in Alberta last year, an increase of 1,000 from 2016, raising the incident rate to 113.03 per 100,000 population. Infectious syphilis cases increased from 422 to 536 in 2017, hiking the rate to 12.51 per 100,000 people.

Klein said infectious syphilis cases continue their upswing in 2018. The first three months of the year have seen there same number of cases as were seen in the first six months of 2017.

There were at least six cases of babies being born with life-threatening congenital syphilis last year in the province. 

The disease can cause deformed bones, jaundice, brain and nerve damage, meningitis, and other serious health problems in a  child.

There were 16,585 cases of chlamydia in Alberta last year, a slight upswing from 16,357 in 2016. While that’s down from the more than 17,000 cases in 2015, Klein cautioned that the “rates are very high.”

“It is our most commonly reported (STI)” she said………..”







Keith Hunt


Saturday, August 18, 2018




The Economist August 11th 2018

Charlemagne | Street politics
What a campaign to revive Russia's urban spaces might mean for civil society

SOVIET SQUARE in Voronezh no longer looks especially Soviet. Children dart through a dancing fountain, bmx bikers barrel across new tiles. Grassy groves play home to picnicking teens. "It's practically Spain," gushes a pensioner.

The newly reconstructed square is one piece of a sprawling campaign of blagoustroistvo, or urban improvement, spreading across Russia's cities and towns. The trend began in Moscow, where city authorities have rebuilt hundreds of streets and public spaces since 2011, transforming the centre into an unrecognisable pedestrian paradise paved with plitka, the project's distinctive tiles. Other World Cup host cities received more modest facelifts ahead of this summer's tournament. The results have pleased the Kremlin. Last month President Vladimir Putin made his first appearance at the Moscow Urban Forum, extolling the importance of "a comfortable, friendly city atmosphere". A broader national effort, launched in 2016-17, is gaining steam. Earlier this year Mr Putin directed the government to double spending on "comfortable city environment" projects. This state-mandated urbanism represents the "authoritarian modernisation" Mr Putin seeks. Yet it may also carry the seed of a more open future.

For the government, the attraction is evident. Visible results help demonstrate effectiveness and foster loyalty. Many in Moscow see blagoustroisrvo as a thinly-veiled ploy to placate the urban middle class who protested against fraudulent elections in 2011-12. Bureaucrats also see it as a means to stimulate a stagnant economy. Some 75% of Russians live in cities, many designed for an industrial Soviet-era economy. Improving public spaces attracts tourists and creates room for small business.

While the projects' financing remains modest-some 1% of regional spending outside Moscow, reckons Natalia Zubarevich, an expert on Russia's regions, its scope is vast. Leading the charge is kb Strelka, a consultancy backed by Alexander Mamut, an oligarch, and founded as an outgrowth of the liberal-minded Strelka Institute for Media, Architecture and Design. After developing much of the Moscow blagoustroisrvo, Strelka has turned to the regions, where it is aiding 40 cities, accounting for roughly a fifth of Russia's population, as they carry out revivals of streets, parks, squares, embankments and other public spaces. It is also advising several hundred monogorods, or one-factory towns, on revitalisation plans, and writing new urban-design standards for the Construction Ministry.

The efforts have provoked critics nonetheless. In Moscow they have decried the exorbitant costs and the often brutal methods employed, such as the violent clearing of small kiosks. Accusations of corruption abound: rbc, a media organisation, has alleged that several contractors were linked to family members of the deputy mayor responsible for blagoustroisrvo. In smaller cities such as Voronezh, residents complain about incompetence. "Would you let your kids play in this playground?" one mother yells, pointing to a metal slide that empties inexplicably onto a small rubber landing surrounded by scrubland.

Yet the impact of blagoustroisrvo may take longer to manifest itself. Denis Leontyev, KB Strelka's co-founder, calls the consultancy "an institute of values", the key one being "human-centric" thinking. In a country long ruled by leaders who put the interests of the state and the collective ahead of the individual, that is an important shift. The question is whether blagoustroisrvo can help create more than just a European-looking facade.

The early results offer some reason for optimism. In areas with leaders willing to embrace more open communication-a group growing larger as a new generation of bureaucrats rises through the ranks-blagoustroistvo can become a space for fostering dialogue between the state and society. Take Palekh, a town of some 5,000 nestled in forests north-east of Moscow. Once a centre of Russian icon painting and later lacquer work, Palekh fell into disrepair after the Soviet collapse. Now with kb Strelka's guidance, the central square has become a bustle of activity, as bulldozers crunch dirt and workers lay new cables.

Change has to start somewhere

Town meeting halls, where the authorities have taken the unusual step of listening to residents, also play a part in Palekh. Public hearings have debated the merits of fountain shapes, road widths and foliage. "The fate of every tree was discussed," boasts Stanislav Voskresensky, one of a host of younger technocratic governors appointed in late 2017. The approach has shaken up the region's ossified ways. "More often than not, such hearings were formalities, a box that needed to be checked," says Igor Starkin, a veteran administrator who took over as the head of Palekh earlier this year. Now, he is a disciple of engagement: "Feedback creates a union of souls," he says. The authorities' new-found openness has stunned residents, too. For many, the blagoustroisrvo discussions were their first experience of civic activism. "There's always been lots of talk, but only among ourselves, never in public," says Olga Kolesova, the director of the local museum. "This is the first time they've given people a chance to say something."

It would be foolish to see blagoustroisrvo as a cure for Russia's repressive politics. Mr Putin will not loosen his grip on power because of a few new parks. "They don't want democracy, they want results and budgets," says Ekaterina Schulmann, a political scientist. Any civic activity, she notes, quickly "hits a ceiling" when it moves away from safe topics such as urbanism to challenge those in power directly. Yet it would be equally foolish to ignore the processes that blagoustroisrvoboth reflects and stimulates. Russians' creative energies may not have an outlet in politics, but they have not been stamped out. As Michal Murawski, an anthropologist from University College London who studies Putin-era urbanism, quips, "There is politics in every plitko." Sometimes a square is more than just a square. ■

Friday, August 17, 2018










website  is


Monday, August 13, 2018



The black hole of coal
India shows how hard it is to move beyond fossil fuels towards a renewable future

DARKNESS is falling as coal starts its long, lawless journey from the pit. The first signs are the cycle-pushing foot-soldiers, such as Ravi Kumar, a 26-year-old whose yellow shirt and grey turban are as coal-smudged as his face and hands. Using his bike like a wheelbarrow, he strains uphill with his back bent, then coasts down with one sandalled foot on the pedal, the other scuffing the tarmac as a brake. The bike is laden with half-a-dozen sacks of coal, pilfered from a nearby mine.

There are hundreds of other small-time thieves like him, he says nervously, supplementing their income on a Sunday evening by fanning out to sell bike-loads of coal to owners of iron works and brick kilns, and tea brewers. Coal-fed braziers and stoves flicker by the side of the road, black smoke pouring out. An Indian Dickens would be scribbling furiously.

Then there are the coal lorries-the heavy artillery. They gather at the edge of a nearby village, 140 of them squeezed along the roadside, ready to trundle off for the nightlong journey to Hazaribagh, the biggest city in this part of Jharkhand state.

Across eastern India, which sits on the country's largest coal reserves, this ragtag army sets out at dusk to feed the furnaces, fill the railway wagons, and fuel the power stations that get India's economy moving.

It is the same across much of Asia, where coal consumption grew by 34% a year from 2006 to 2016, accounting for almost three-quarters of the world's demand for the most polluting fossil fuel.

Last year, just as Western banks and global development agencies were shunning coal projects on environmental grounds, India, the world's second-biggest burner after China, consumed an additional 27m tonnes, a rise of 4.8%. That led to the first increase in global coal consumption in four years, says bp, an oil company. Demand in China also picked up slightly, and there were big increases from Bangladesh and Pakistan to the Philippines and South Korea. Such is the supply and demand that prices for thermal coal, the type used for generating electricity, are at their highest since 2012, and have more than doubled in the past two years.

The environmental implications of this resurgence are deeply troubling. Asia accounts for more than half of the 9m pollution-related fatalities recorded in 2015, according to a recent study for the Lancet, a medical journal. India's 2.5m deaths is by far the biggest share. Coal is the main culprit. It is also a wrecker of the climate. Coal's comeback helps explain why 2017 was the first year in four that global emissions of carbon dioxide have risen, thwarting the planet-wide effort, accelerated by the Paris summit in 2015, to control climate change, BP notes that coal's share of global electricity generation—by far the largest source at 38% - has not shrunk in over 20 years, despite the rise of gas and renewable energy.

No country is likely to contribute more to the growth in energy demand over the next two decades than India, says the International Energy Agency (IEA), a global forecaster. When India submitted plans for climate-change actions at the Paris summit, it predicted that its electricity demand would triple between 2012 and 2030. If coal meets much of the growing appetite for power, as the iea expects it will, no country will contribute more to the rise in carbon emissions.

India has plans for alternative means of generating electricity. Even before the Paris summit, Narendra Modi, the prime minister, aimed to install 175 gigawatts (GW) of renewable-energy capacity by 2022, a vast M increase from today. That has now risen 227GW. In the meantime, price of wind and solar power have tumbled. Recent auctions have left to a 50% drop in the cost of solar power in the past two years, to about three rupees ($0.05) per kilowatt hour, about the same as wind. This can make both sources cheaper than building new coal-fired Capacity. An excise tax on production and Imports makes coal ever less attractive. After a massive spree of building coal-fired power plants in recent years, investment slumped last year, while that in alternatives surged.

It is one thing to recognise the imperative for reducing coal in a country's energy mix. It is another to consider the ramifications of shifting from a cheap source of fuel native to India. A swing through coal country provides a sobering illustration of how hard it is to wean a country off fossil fuels. The first thing you notice, however obvious, is that coal is grimy. It cakes roadsides and blackens rivers and lungs with soot.

Although coal is horribly filthy, India is utterly dependent on it. It generates more than three-quarters of the country's electricity. Mining it and turning it into power accounts for a tenth of India's industrial production. It provides jobs as well as power. Coal India, a state-owned coal miner that is the world's largest, employs, at last count, 370,000 people, and there are up to 500,000 working in the coal industry at large. Far from reining in production, Coal India plans to increase it, from 560m tonnes in 2017 to lbn tonnes by 2020. The government's target for national production is 1.3bn-1.9bn tonnes by 2030.



In the line of fire
The world is losing the war against climate change

EARTH is smouldering. From Seattle to Siberia this summer, flames have consumed swathes of the northern hemisphere. One of 18 wildfires sweeping through California, among the worst in the state's history, is generating such heat that it created its own weather. Fires that raged through a coastal area near Athens last week killed 91 (see Science section). Elsewhere people are suffocating in the heat. Roughly 125 have died in Japan as the result of a heatwave that pushed temperatures in Tokyo above 40°C for the first time.

Such calamities, once considered freakish, are now commonplace. Scientists have long cautioned that, as the planet warms-it is roughly i°C hotter today than before the industrial age's first furnaces were lit-weather patterns will go berserk. An early analysis has found that this sweltering European summer would have been less than half as likely were it not for human-induced global warming.

Yet as the impact of climate change becomes more evident, so too does the scale of the challenge ahead. Three years after countries vowed in Paris to keep warming "well below" 2°C relative to pre-industrial levels, greenhouse-gas emissions are up again. So are investments in oil and gas. In 2017, for the first time in four years, demand for coal rose. Subsidies for renew-ables, such as wind and solar power, are dwindling in many places and investment has stalled; climate-friendly nuclear $ower is expensive and unpopular. It is tempting to think these are temporary setbacks and that mankind, with its instinct for self-preservation, will muddle through to a victory over global warming. In fact, it is losing the war.

Living in a fuel's paradise

Insufficient progress is not to say no progress at all. As solar panels, wind turbines and other low-carbon technologies become cheaper and more efficient, their use has surged. Last year the number of electric cars sold around the world passed im. In some sunny and blustery places renewable power now costs less than coal.

Public concern is picking up. A poll last year of 38 countries found that 61% of people see climate change as a big threat; . only the terrorists of Islamic State inspired more fear. In the West campaigning investors talk of divesting from companies that make their living from coal and oil. Despite President Donald Trump's decision to yank America out of the Paris deal, many American cities and states have reaffirmed their commitment to it. Even some of the sceptic-in-chief's fellow Republicans appear less averse to tackling the problem (see United States section). In smog-shrouded China and India, citizens choking on fumes are prompting governments to rethink plans to rely heavily on coal to electrify their countries.

Optimists say that decarbonisation is within reach. Yet, even allowing for the familiar complexities of agreeing on and enforcing global targets, it is proving extraordinarily difficult.

One reason is soaring energy demand, especially in devel-oping Asia. In 2006-16, as Asia's emerging economies forged ahead, their energy consumption rose by 40%. The use of coal, easily the dirtiest fossil fuel, grew at an annual rate of 34%. Use of cleaner natural gas grew by 5.2% and of oil by 2.9%. Fossil fuels are easier to hook up to today's grids than renewables that depend on the sun shining and the wind blowing. Even as green fund managers threaten to pull back from oil companies, state-owned behemoths in the Middle East and Russia see Asian demand as a compelling reason to invest.

The second reason is economic and political inertia. The more fossil fuels a country consumes, the harder it is to wean itself off them. Powerful lobbies, and the voters who back them, entrench coal in the energy mix. Reshaping existing ways of doing things can take years. In 2017 Britain enjoyed its first coal-free day since igniting the Industrial Revolution in the 1800s. Coal generates not merely 80% of India's electricity, but also underpins the economies of some ofits poorest states (see Briefing). Panjandrums in Delhi are not keen to countenance the end of coal, lest that cripple the banking system, which lent it too much money, and the railways, which depend on it.

Last is the technical challenge of stripping carbon out of industries beyond power generation. Steel, cement, farming, transport and other forms of economic activity account for over half of global carbon emissions. They are technically harder to clean up than power generation and are protected by vested industrial interests. Successes can turn out to be illusory. Because China's un-plus electric cars draw their oomph from an electricity grid that draws two-thirds ofits power from coal, they produce more carbon dioxide than some fuel-efficient petrol-driven models. Meanwhile, scrubbing C02 from the atmosphere, which climate models imply is needed on a vast scale to meet the Paris target, attracts even less attention.

The world is not short of ideas to realise the Paris goal. Around 70 countries or regions, responsible for one-fifth of all emissions, now price carbon. Technologists beaver away on sturdier grids, zero-carbon steel, even carbon-negative cement, whose production absorbs more C02 than it releases. All these efforts and more-including research into "solar geoengineer-ing" to reflect sunlight back into space-should be redoubled.

Blood, sweat and geoengineers

Yet none of these fixes will come to much unless climate list-lessness is tackled head on. Western countries grew wealthy on a carbon-heavy diet of industrial development. They must honour their commitment in the Paris agreement to help poorer places both adapt to a warmer Earth and also abate future emissions without sacrificing the growth needed to leave poverty behind.

Averting climate change will come at a short-term financial cost-although the shift from carbon may eventually enrich the economy, as the move to carbon-burning cars, lorries and electricity did in the 20th century. Politicians have an essential role to play in making the case for reform and in ensuring that the most vulnerable do not bear the brunt of the change. Perhaps global warming will help them fire up the collective will. Sadly, the world looks poised to get a lot hotter first. ■