How StatsCan lost 42,000 jobs with the stroke of a key – Macleans.ca

Ouch. More a management than a technical issue, in terms of the lack of communication and risk analysis. And possibly partially a result of reduced capacity on the management and quality control side as a result of reduced funding:

Fast forward to July. StatsCan technicians were updating the Labour Force Survey computer systems. They were changing a field in the survey’s vast collection of databases called the “dwelling identification number.” The report doesn’t explain what this is, but it’s likely a unique code assigned to each of the 56,000 households in the survey so that analysts can easily track their answers over time. They assumed they only needed to make this change to some of the computer programs that crunch the employment data, but not all of them.

The changes themselves were happening piecemeal, rather than all at once, because the system that collects and analyzes the labour force survey is big, complicated and old it was first developed in 1997. Despite being a pretty major overhaul of the computer system, the report makes it clear that the agency considered the changes to be nothing but minor routine maintenance. After updating the system, no one bothered to test the changes to see if they had worked properly before the agency decided to release the data to the public, in large part because they considered it too minor to need testing.

One of the programs that was supposed to be updated — but wasn’t — was the program that fills in the blanks when people don’t answer all the survey questions. But since technicians had changed the identification code for households in some parts of the system, but not others, the program couldn’t match all the people in July survey to all the people in the June survey. The result was that instead of using the June survey results to update the July answers, all those households who didn’t answer the questions about being employed in July were essentially labelled as not in the labour force. With the push of a button, nearly 42,000 jobs disappeared.

… There is a particularly illuminating passage in the report that speaks to problems of miscommunication and misunderstanding at the agency:

“Based on the facts that we have gathered, we conclude that several factors contributed to the error in the July 2014 LFS results. There was an incomplete understanding of the LFS processing system on the part of the team implementing and testing the change to the TABS file. This change was perceived as systems maintenance and the oversight and governance were not commensurate with the potential risk. The systems documentation was out of date, inaccurate and erroneously supported the team’s assumptions about the system. The testing conducted was not sufficiently comprehensive and operations diagnostics to catch this type of error were not present. As well, roles and responsibilities within the team were not as clearly defined as they should have been. Communications among the team, labour analysts and senior management around this particular issue were inadequate.”

How StatsCan lost 42,000 jobs with the stroke of a key – Macleans.ca.

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The Spiral Of Silence – Social Media « The Dish

Another angle to how social media narrows discussion and debate:

It seems counter-intuitive–if we’re getting only what Facebook things we want to get based on everything they know about us, which is a lot, shouldn’t we assume we are always among friends? But it makes sense. We’re worried about losing friends, which is to say that we’re worried our number of friends will diminish.

What’s peculiar about the Pew study is how the questions were asked. Though the survey took place in the months after Snowden’s revelations, the subjects were asked will you and would you… not did you. Using the conditional to report on behavior that already might or might not have happened tends to make the whole exercise, well, an exercise.

It turns out, too, that the spiral of silence does not only extend to individuals. Take this week’s revelation about the NSA’s Google-like search engine that shares something on the order of 850 billion data points such as private emails obtained without a warrant from ordinary American citizens among numerous government agencies. This is a big deal for many reasons, not the least of which is that it may enable the FBI or the DEA to illegally obtain evidence and cover their tracks while so doing. Yet the mainstream media almost uniformly ignored the story. When I searched ICREACH today, only the online tech media had picked it up and run with it. Is it possible that the mainstream media is afraid of losing friends, too?

The Spiral Of Silence « The Dish.

Gregory and Collin Gordon, Calgary brothers, join ranks of Canadians fighting for ISIS

The latest extremists from Calgary and again, no particular pattern as the brothers, born in Canada and converts to Islam, appeared to be well-adjusted and integrated. What made them change? And how did Calgary become a centre?:

“All I know about Collin is that he moved back home [to Calgary] and started to be hardcore Muslim,” said Akan Swisslizz Ekpenyong, a Vancouver-based hip hop artist who used to host parties with Collin in Kamloops and was his classmate.

Ekpenyong said it became increasingly difficult to communicate with Collin due to his religious beliefs — and that’s when he decided to “unfriend” him on Facebook. Ekpenyong had no idea how extreme Collin would eventually become.

No one CBC News spoke with can explain how exactly Collin went from sports, hip hop and tweets about wanting to marry American rapper Nicki Minaj in early 2012, to becoming one among thousands of foreign fighters trying to establish an Islamic state in the Middle East.

Heartbroken and confused, their parents told CBC News that they raised their children to be peaceful, kind and smart — and that both were well educated and never had any run-ins with the law.

Asking the media for privacy, the parents of the Gordon brothers provided the following statement to CBC News: “We would like all to know we love and miss our sons dearly. We are deeply concerned for their safety. At this time we refuse to speculate with regards to the end of their story. We continue to keep hope alive.”

And while their parents are keeping hope alive, Collin’s social media photos portray someone who has become well-adjusted to life as a foreign jihadi.

As Canadian-born, without dual citizenship, their citizenship could not be revoked unlike other members of the Calgary cell not-born in Canada.

Gregory and Collin Gordon, Calgary brothers, join ranks of Canadians fighting for ISIS – CBC News – Latest Canada, World, Entertainment and Business News.

Werner Herzog on Creativity, Self-Reliance, Making a Living of What You Love, and How to Turn Your Ideas Into Reality

For film fans, and fans of Werner Herzog, a good selection of quotes from the book, A Guide for the Perplexed. My favourite on the creative process:

The problem isn’t coming up with ideas, it is how to contain the invasion. My ideas are like uninvited guests. They don’t knock on the door; they climb in through the windows like burglars who show up in the middle of the night and make a racket in the kitchen as they raid the fridge. I don’t sit and ponder which one I should deal with first. The one to be wrestled to the floor before all others is the one coming at me with the most vehemence. I have, over the years, developed methods to deal with the invaders as quickly and efficiently as possible, though the burglars never stop coming. You invite a handful of friends for dinner, but the door bursts open and a hundred people are pushing in. You might manage to get rid of them, but from around the corner another fifty appear almost immediately… Finishing a film is like having a great weight lifted from my shoulders. It’s relief, not necessarily happiness. But you relish dealing with these “burglars.” I am glad to be rid of them after making a film or writing a book. The ideas are uninvited guests, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t welcome.

Werner Herzog on Creativity, Self-Reliance, Making a Living of What You Love, and How to Turn Your Ideas Into Reality

Art Initiative Explores The Imagined Space Where Islam Meets L.A.

Art as a means for encouraging understanding and contributing to conversation and dialogue:

“What I was interested in doing is deflecting this idea of a certain line of questioning or a certain representational show that is so often associated with a group show organized around identity matrixes,” Sahakian declared to HuffPost. “One thats organized over this overarching rubric of Islamic arts in terms of what people might expect artists to talk about. Instead of pretending there was any artwork that could answer these questions, I wanted to curate an exhibition that would do away with this line of questioning.”

Los Angeles, the site where so many normative, and often false, understandings of Islam are produced, was the perfect space for this exhibition to take place. “Los Angeles has been responsible for the ways much of the world views people from South Asia, North Africa, West Africa, and its diasporas. We understand that a lot of this is contributing to Islamophobia.”

Of course, there are also many more positive reasons to select Los Angeles. “L.A. is a ripe environment because these communities exist here; they’re part of the fabric. These discussions are happening in very natural ways around the city, but we want to formalize them and bring them to the surface. And explore the aesthetic aspects as well.”

Art Initiative Explores The Imagined Space Where Islam Meets L.A..

Glavin: What’s so wrong with involving diasporas in foreign policy?

Terry Glavin on diaspora politics:

Here’s the thing. Even if these claims are true, so what?

Parliament obtained full foreign-affairs sovereignty from Britain only with the passage of the Statute of Westminster in 1931. I can’t seem to find the codicil stipulating that foreign-policy jurisdiction was to be transferred only to wheezy Upper Canada diplocrats, yesteryear UN ambassadors, boring Middle Eastern Studies grad students and the twilight alumni of the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs.

Canada is a bustling multicultural democracy. One fifth of Canadians are foreign-born. With dozens of diaspora communities, Canada is blessed with an invaluable foreign-policy resource of experts, global networks, deep wells of human intelligence, and — heaven forbid — ballot-box moxy. Where better to turn for guidance and close consultation?

Three years ago, the Mosaic Institute and the Walter and Duncan Gordon Foundation undertook an in-depth analysis of the potential for Canada’s diaspora communities to more directly and usefully inform foreign policy. The government hasn’t paid it much attention, but what’s worth noticing here is that the authors of the “Tapping Our Potential” study straight away encountered a cynical old-guard view that the whole idea was a bad one to start with. There was a “general skepticism” in foreign-policy circles, “a view, in other words, that foreign policy is best left to the experts.”

Glavin, of course, cites the examples of diaspora politics he agrees with: Ukraine and Israel, but only makes a passing message to those he disagrees with (China).

Ethnic communities have a natural interest in events in their “homeland.” Canada, as a democracy, naturally responds to those interests, as it does to other interests as I argued in my take on diaspora politics (Shopping for Votes Can Undermine Canada’s Fine Balance).

But responding does not necessarily mean adopting wholesale the position of a particular community. This has to be balanced against other Canadian interests.

And what about diasporas that the Government or Canadians do not want to support? What is the criteria? The ideology of the Government of the day? The political strength of the community? The presence or absence of economic or other interests? Do we simply accept the leading community organizations as being fully representative of the community? And how do we balance – or should we – competing diaspora interests?

So, the question is not, as Glavin frames it as turning “away from the talents, insights and leadership in this country’s diaspora communities.” On the contrary, we can and should continue to listen and engage with them.

But the harder issue, which Glavin ignores, is how to balance these diaspora interests against other equally legitimate Canadian interests?

Glavin: What’s so wrong with involving diasporas in foreign policy? | Ottawa Citizen.

Canadians in the dark about immigration numbers: survey

Not surprising that people don’t know the actual immigration figures. Common to many policy areas that most people don’t follow too closely and large numbers are fairly abstract in any case.

Government messaging walks the fine line between reassuring its base, and the broader public, that it is addressing fraud and the risk of over-dramatizing the extent of fraud (e.g., birth tourism) and thus contributing to reduced public confidence:

Ignorance of the facts, however, didn’t stop most of the 3,016 participants polled by Harris/Decima from answering when asked whether there were too many, too few or about the right number of immigrants coming to Canada every year.

Twenty-six per cent said there were too many, 10 per cent said too few and 52 per cent said the number was about right. The rest said they didn’t know.

After they were told the actual number admitted each year, the number who said there were too many jumped to 36 per cent. Nine per cent said too few immigrants were admitted, while 48 per cent thought the number was about right.

When asked if Canada should increase, decrease or maintain its immigration intake over the next five years, nearly half favoured the status quo, about one-third advocated a decrease and 15 per cent wanted immigration levels to rise.

Luc Turgeon, a University of Ottawa political scientist who has studied public attitudes toward immigration, said he wasn’t surprised by the widespread ignorance of actual immigration levels.

“In numerous countries it has been proven that people have no idea how many immigrants their countries are letting in,” he said.

Turgeon said the Conservative federal government has “sent a number of signals” to reassure its base that it’s keeping a close eye on people admitted to Canada.

Those signals include tightening the rules for refugees, making it more difficult for refugees to access publicly funded health care and hinting that changes are in the works to the live-in caregiver program.

Canadians in the dark about immigration numbers: survey | Ottawa Citizen.

Americans Line Up to Renounce US Citizenship in Toronto

More on the US FATCA and impact on Canadians:

Canada finalized its IGA earlier this year. It requires Canadian banks send the account information of customers with U.S. citizenship to the Canada Revenue Agency CRA. The CRA then forwards that information on to the IRS, a tidy workaround to Canadian laws forbidding banks from sending that information directly to a foreign government.

But attorney John Richardson calls the information-sharing deal a “mechanism for the United States to extract after-tax Canadian capital out of the country.”

“What the U.S. is really doing is claiming the right to levy taxes on people who don’t live in the United States on income that is in no way connected to the United States. It simply cannot be tolerated,” said Richardson.

Many Canadians don’t even realize that the U.S. considers them taxable citizens, nor do they want U.S. citizenship, he said. That’s because the U.S. considers those born to American parents outside the country American, or anyone born in the U.S. American, even if they live their whole life in another country, unaware they are accumulating a mountain of fees and taxes.

The IRS has changed its position slightly to wave the massive penalties for “accidental Americans” and those unaware they needed to file with the IRS. But they are still required to pay taxes.

Americans Line Up to Renounce US Citizenship in Toronto.

Despite funding boost, Statistics Canada jobs-data upgrade will take time – The Globe and Mail

Looks like some long-standing issues between the employer and household surveys. Not surprising that it will take time to build capacity to improve labour market information, but at least there is additional funding and acknowledgment of the need for better information to improve private and public policy:

Officials at Canada’s statistics agency are planning how to spend an additional $14-million a year that the Conservative government announced in June to fund two large new employer surveys.

That announcement followed months of criticism that the government was making policy decisions on everything from training to immigration without reliable job vacancy statistics. Since then, Statscan’s two existing labour market surveys have come under closer scrutiny and criticism.

The agency told The Globe and Mail on Wednesday the new money won’t have any immediate impact on those existing surveys, but Statscan isn’t ruling out changes down the road.

The agency is expected to release a report soon that will explain what led it to make the unprecedented decision this month of pulling its flagship jobs report, a survey of households called the Labour Force Survey, after the discovery of an error in its July numbers.

Despite funding boost, Statistics Canada jobs-data upgrade will take time – The Globe and Mail.

Sexual exploitation: See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil | The Economist

Institutional and ethnic misogyny reinforcing each other in the UK town of Rotherham:

The investigation by Alexis Jay, a former chief inspector of social work, uncovers a catalogue of offences, mostly by Pakistani men against white girls. Children as young as 11 were plied with drink and drugs, raped, beaten and trafficked to be abused by men in other cities. One was doused in petrol and threatened with being set alight. Another told the investigation that gang rape was a usual part of growing up in her district. The report estimates that some 1,400 children—some from fragile family backgrounds, some in the care of the state—were abused between 1997 and 2013.

All of which is grim enough. But the local council knew at least ten years ago of widespread abuse and yet appears to have downplayed the problem. Nor did the police pay much attention to it. On one occasion, officers attended a derelict house and found an intoxicated girl with several adult men. They arrested the girl for being drunk and disorderly but detained none of the men. Some fathers tracked down their daughters and tried to remove them from houses where they were being abused, only to be arrested themselves.

…. What the report does not spell out, but which is true, is that the horrors in Rotherham fit into a pattern. In other northern towns such as Oldham and Rochdale, as well as in southern cities such as Oxford, gangs of Asian men have been convicted of grooming and abusing young, mostly white girls. This is a specific ethnic issue more than a religious one, says a community worker in a city near Rotherham.

Young Pakistani men are increasingly alienated from their conservative parents, who want them to marry girls from back home often the Mirpur district in Kashmir and also from religious leaders, who often cannot speak English. Discussions of sex are taboo at home and in the mosque, so some learn about it from pornography, about misogyny from rap music and come to view white women as fair game though the report also suggests Pakistani girls were abused, and that this was hushed up.

In Rotherham, this ethnic misogyny then ran up against the institutional misogyny of the police and the mostly white council. Ms Jay writes of one female employee at the council being told that if she wore shorter skirts to meetings “she’d get on better” and other senior male officials making explicit sexual remarks to female workers. Some senior police officers clearly saw the abused girls simply as sexually precocious young women.

Sexual exploitation: See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil | The Economist.