Not surprisingly, yesterday's Contrarian post on the furore over Rehtaeh Parsons' death has produced a lot of email, pro and con. Much of the angry reaction appeared on Twitter, where Contrarian tweets as @kempthead. Before sampling the reader response, two important preliminaries: What Rehtaeh's family has been through this week is about as awful as human experience gets. They have been loyal in support of their daughter, and courageous in their rejection of vigilante action against those accused of abusing her. Whatever one's views on the issues I raised, compassion for this family ought to be universal. As I said yesterday,  if you or...

What if the cops and prosecutors were right? What if competent RCMP officers carried out a conscientious investigation of allegations that Rehtaeh Parsons was sexually assaulted, and that a pornographic photo of the event had circulated among her acquaintances, before concluding there was no prospect of a conviction in the case? Because we cherish freedom and abhor wrongful convictions, we set a high bar for criminal convictions. Accused persons must always be presumed innocent. To convict them, evidence presented in court must satisfy a judge or jury of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt—not a frivolous or fanciful doubt, or one based on prejudice...

"To love someone," wrote Jean Vanier, "is to show them their beauty, their worth, and their importance." That can be a tall order, but a few Halifax members of the Asperger's Syndrome Parents' Empowerment Network give it a good shot in this short video, produced by Halifax filmmakers John Hillis, Michael MacDonald, Caley MacLennan, Kimberlee McTaggert, Andrew Starzomski, and Amy Spurway: H/T: Valerie Patterson...

Do wind farms make some people sick? Or do false claims of a connection between wind farms and illness make people sick? The question arises because opponents of wind farms often contend they cause illness, but scientific studies have consistently found little or no evidence to support such a connection. [This report by Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health is typical.*] Now a team of public health researchers at the University of Sydney in Australia has collected every known public complaint of wind farm-induced illness in that country (those filed with the wind companies themselves, those filed with three government commissions, and those...

Contrarian reader Peter Barss waxes philosophical about the primal draw of radio-storms and weather-porn: It 's exciting to sit in our warm, safe living rooms listening to dire warnings of impending weather doom. It's even more of a thrill to turn on our flat screen TVs and watch weather gals and guys get whipped by wind-driven snow as they stand outside yelling into their microphones so they can be heard over the howling "weather bomb." We live in a society that is soft and luxurious. One of the luxuries we indulge is the illusion that if we just do everything right we...

Most of the listeners who responded to my debate with CBC manager Andrew Cochran about the network's (in my view) inflated coverage of weather are just fine with the CBC's weather treatment. [caption id="attachment_11355" align="alignright" width="300"] Highway conditions at 3:30 pm, February 20, when Cape Breton schools closed early due to forecasts of possible freezing rain that evening: Pavement dry; precipitation nil.[/caption] This doesn't surprise me. Some people like being frightened about weather, just as others like being frightened about crime. Lurid coverage of crime by some media has led to a sharp increase in the public perception of personal risk from...

Almost exactly a year after precipitous--and as it turned out, groundless--complaints by the Nova Scotia Department of Community Services forced the closure of Cape Breton's only residential addiction recovery centre, Talbot House will get its funding back this week. Health and Wellness Minister David Wilson will deliver the news in Cape Breton Friday, a weekday traditionally chosen for announcements governments would prefer to inter quietly. Wilson became the minister responsible for recovery centres last September, when Premier Darrell Dexter, fed up with the continual barrage of negative stories about DCS mistreatment of Talbot, stripped that department of the file and handed...

With so many real and pressing environmental crises threatening to harm Planet Earth, why are so many well-meaning environmentalists so easily diverted into foolhardy projects like the campaign to ban plastic water bottles? On January 1, the Town of Concord, Massachusetts, prohibited the sale of "non-sparkling, unflavored drinking water in single-serving polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles of 1 liter (34 ounces) or less." To be clear, it's still OK to sell small, plastic bottles of Coke, Red Bull, colored sugar-water, and carbonated water, and it's OK to sell Just Plain Water in 40-oz plastic bottles or gallon jugs. In an approving report on the ban, the Globe and Mail...

If you're anything like me, your conception of the human heart comes from text book line drawings and plastic models in doctors' offices. To create a more useful, virtual model, the Barcelona Supercomputing Center used 10,000 parallel processors. The beating heart turns out to be a phenomenally complex electromechanical apparatus—wondrous, and almost spooky, to behold. The center recently released a video simulation, although based on a rabbit's heart rather than a human's. From Emily Underwood via Alexis Madrigal. Journal articles: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/cnm.1494/full http://www.bsc.es/computer-applications/alya-red-cc  ...