Elections Canada warns staff to look out for dirty ‘voter suppression’ tricks

OTTAWA – Elections Canada has quietly warned staff to be on the lookout for increasingly sophisticated tactics aimed at discouraging – or even stopping – voters from casting a ballot.

The advanced voter suppression techniques flourishing in the United States are likely to spill into other countries, employees were advised in a presentation aimed at raising awareness prior to the Oct. 19 federal election.

Story continues below

杭州龙凤

Related

  • Seat projections show a tight race but one thing’s (almost) certain – a minority government

  • How the leaders debate on the economy played out on social media

  • Reality Check, debate edition: How ‘truthy’ were Trudeau, Harper, Mulcair?

The digital revolution has fuelled intensive data analysis south of the border that allows political parties to zero in on people who support rival candidates and then find ways to prevent them from voting.

The development prompted Elections Canada to comb through academic papers and media reports and talk to experts and lawyers about the phenomenon of electoral malpractice.

“It’s important for us to identify potential risks in order to be prepared to detect and respond to incidents that may occur, including incidents that could compromise the integrity of the election,” said Elections Canada spokesman John Enright.

A copy of the May 2014 presentation, “An Introduction to Emerging Trends and Threats in Electoral Operations,” was released to The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act.

READ MORE: Harper says Liberal plan to scrap F-35s shows only Tories can keep Canadians safe

It was prepared just months before Conservative campaign worker Michael Sona was convicted of taking part in a scheme to misdirect voters in Guelph, Ont., to phoney poll locations during the 2011 campaign.

The research revealed that rough-and-tumble American political campaigns are the seedbeds of such behaviour – identifying 17 cases in 15 states from 2004 through 2012.

“We need look no further than the United States to find a vast overview of contemporary voter suppression and surveillance practices,” the presentation notes say.

Elections Canada cites four stages of a successful voter suppression plan:

Identify non-supporters;Gather information on them;Prevent them from going to the polls through scare tactics, misinformation or systematic challenging of registrations;If electors get to the polls, prevent them from voting by contesting eligibility or identification, and through intimidation.

Eleven years ago, one party took the fairly broad-brush approach of assuming students at a historically black college in Florida would not be supporters, the presentation points out. The party then systematically challenged the eligibility of voters on that list, resulting in long poll lineups and delays.

But today the same computer software that allows parties to build massive databases with detailed information about likely supporters also enables them to more precisely identify – and target – non-supporters.

READ MORE: Greens file complaint to CRA in bid to get Elizabeth May into Munk debate

Parties use voter lists, digital maps, and information from public or commercial sources to build personal profiles – each containing up to 250 pieces of data, from basic demographic information to culinary or musical tastes.

“These databases allow campaigns to send micro-targeted messages to specific audiences,” the notes say.

For instance, Spanish-speaking voters in Arizona received robocalls and mailouts in 2012 advising them to vote after election day.

In Maryland, tens of thousands of Democratic voters were apparently targeted by robocalls in 2010 falsely saying their candidate had already won the election.

The U.S. has also seen the rise of “poll watchers” recruited by activist groups, the notes say. “They often harass voters in predominantly minority voting districts, create anxiety and agitate voters.”

Another tactic involves handing out flyers threatening jail time or other penalties for those who vote “illegally” – a means of dissuading those who are unsure of their registration status or whether they have the correct identification.

A multi-party parliamentary system like Canada’s may be especially affected by such micro-targeting, which tends to “consolidate power in the larger, more well financed political parties” at the expense of smaller ones, the Elections Canada notes say.

In addition, micro-targeting can have a “disproportionate impact” on parliamentary systems, where subtle shifts in voter behaviour of specific slivers of the electorate in key electoral districts “can indeed affect the distribution of seats in the legislature and even the composition of the government.”

©2015The Canadian Press

For 7 years, VW software thwarted pollution regulations – National

DETROIT  — Volkswagen became the world’s top-selling carmaker trumpeting the environmental friendliness, fuel efficiency and high performance of diesel-powered vehicles that met America’s tough Clean Air laws.

VW’s success story was so good that pollution-control advocates did their own tests, hoping to persuade other countries to enforce the same strict standards.

Story continues below

杭州龙凤

Related

  • U.S. orders Volkswagen to recall almost 500,000 vehicles over emissions violations

Instead, they got a foul-smelling surprise: In actual driving, the VWs spewed as much as 40 times more pollution from tailpipes than allowed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

“We ran the program to show that U.S. diesels are clean,” said John German, senior fellow with the International Council on Clean Transportation, the group that blew the whistle on Volkswagen. “Turned out we found a violator.”

READ MORE: Volkswagen subject of U.S. criminal probe; class action filed in Canada

The EPA and the California Air Resources Board announced the violations on Friday, accusing VW of installing software that switches on pollution controls during smog tests, then switches them off again so that drivers can enjoy more engine power on the road.

VW got away with this scheme for seven years, and according to the EPA, didn’t come clean even when repeatedly confronted with evidence of excessive pollution.

Industry analysts say the company was likely trying to reduce costs and improve performance, to match its marketing.

Instead, VW’s stock plunged a stunning 17 percent on Monday, costing the company $15 billion in market value in a single day. It also outraged customers, turned up the heat on the CEO, and could bring up to $18 billion in penalties from the U.S. government alone.

The company stopped selling the vehicles and likely will have to recall nearly 500,000 Jetta, Golf, Beetle and Audi A3 cars dating to the 2009 model year.

CEO Martin Winterkorn promised a company investigation as he apologized on Sunday, saying VW had broken the trust of customers and the public. He also pledged to cooperate with government investigations.

READ MORE: VW Canada suspends sale of some models as emissions probe widens

U.S. diesel emissions limits, mainly for ozone-causing nitrogen oxide, are more strict than those in Europe. Removing the chemical requires additional hardware. Instead, VW used secret software — an algorithm that detects when cars are being tested on treadmill-like devices called dynamometers, and stealthily switches the engines to a cleaner mode.

Because smog tests are almost always done on dynamometers, VW got away with the scheme for seven years, until the “clean transportation” advocates went to West Virginia University, which tests emissions using equipment that fits in car trunks.

WVU tested three cars in real-world conditions — a 2012 VW Jetta, a 2013 VW Passat and a BMW X5 SUV. The BMW passed, but the university found significantly higher emissions from the Volkswagens, according to the EPA.

The university and the council reported their findings to the EPA and CARB in May 2014, but VW blamed the problem on technical issues and unexpected conditions. The automaker even did a recall late last year, without much improvement, the EPA said.

Only when the EPA and CARB refused to approve VW’s 2016 diesel models for sale did the company explain what it had done.

“We met with VW on several occasions, and they continued to dispute our data, so we’d return to the lab,” recalled CARB spokesman Dave Clegern. “Over time, VW had no other explanations left, and it was our lab staff who actually got VW to admit that there was, in fact, a defeat device.”

VW’s diesel cars represent just a fourth of its U.S. sales, so the company was probably trying to avoid the cost of more sophisticated pollution controls, since it sells far more diesels in Europe, said Alan Baum, a consultant in Detroit who advises automakers on fuel economy regulations.

READ MORE: GM reaches $900M deal to settle criminal probe; to pay $575M to settle civil suits

“That enabled them to offer the diesel without some of the additional hardware and software in the U.S.,” Baum said.

The scheme also gave VWs better mileage, German said.

The scandal is already damaging VW’s reputation as the people’s car. European regulators announced parallel investigations, and the EPA said it is expanding its probe to make sure other automakers aren’t using similar devices.

VW board members reportedly planned a crisis meeting Wednesday ahead of their regular board meeting. And at the White House, spokesman Josh Earnest said “we are quite concerned by some of the reports that we’ve seen about the conduct of this particular company.”

VW CEO Winterkorn will face difficult questions in the coming days.

“I’d be surprised if Winterkorn can ride this out, but in Germany there’s often a slightly slower process in these matters,” said Christian Stadler, a professor of strategic management at Warwick Business School.

For a company to engage in such blatant trickery, top executives must have been informed, said Guido Reinking, a German auto expert.

Winterkorn is an engineer by training who led research and development across the VW group beginning in 2007, and became chairman of the management board the same year.

The illegal software was made and installed in vehicles with 2.0-liter diesel engines during the model years 2009 through 2015, the EPA said.

Car owners do not need to take any immediate action. The cars threaten public health, but the violations pose no safety hazards, and the cars remain legal to drive and sell while Volkswagen comes up with a plan to repair them at company expense, the EPA said.

VW didn’t acknowledge its scheme until Sept. 3, EPA spokeswoman Liz Purchia said Monday. On Sept. 9, without making any reference to VW, the Justice Department announced a renewed commitment to holding individual executives accountable for corporate wrongdoing. And when the EPA announced VW’s violations on Friday, it noted that in addition to the corporate fines of $37,500 per vehicle, individuals could be fined $3,750 per violation of the Clean Air Act.

On Capitol Hill, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., said his subcommittee will determine whether auto buyers were deceived. “The American people deserve answers and assurances that this will not happen again. We intend to get those answers.”

Yankees’ Masahiro Tanaka has strained hamstring, won’t face Blue Jays

NEW YORK — So much for that pitching plan the Yankees had for Toronto.

Masahiro Tanaka has a strained right hamstring and won’t make his scheduled start for New York this week during a crucial series at the Blue Jays.

The right-hander got hurt running to first base after bunting Friday in an interleague game against the Mets at Citi Field. He pitched another five innings — pretty well, too — but an MRI on Saturday revealed a Grade 1 strain, the least severe.

Story continues below

杭州龙凤

“Our fear is that if he goes out there on Wednesday he could hurt it worse, and then you’re in a whole lot of trouble,” manager Joe Girardi said Sunday.

READ MORE: Blue Jays fall 4-3 to Red Sox, drop two of three games to Boston

It’s a considerable blow to the Yankees, who hope Tanaka will miss only one turn. They juggled their rotation specifically so he could face the Blue Jays, who held a three-game lead in the AL East over New York going into Sunday night’s Subway Series finale.

Struggling right-hander Ivan Nova, recently removed from the rotation, will pitch in Tanaka’s place Wednesday night.

“I’m not looking at it as something very serious,” Tanaka said through a translator. “I feel it’s getting better and better each day.”

Tanaka has been the team’s best starter lately. He is 12-7 with a 3.38 ERA, including 2-0 with a 0.56 ERA in his last two outings against Toronto’s powerful lineup.

He acknowledged he tried to persuade the Yankees to let him start Wednesday but said he understands the decision.

WATCH: Blue Jays fans make hilarious parody of Taylor Swift’s ‘Blank Space’

“The season’s not over,” Tanaka said. “I’ll probably be able to pitch again.”

Tanaka will stay in New York to get three days of treatment rather than travel with the team to Toronto. The starting rotation already was missing 14-game winner Nathan Eovaldi, expected to be sidelined for the remainder of the regular season with elbow inflammation.

Adam Warren and rookie Luis Severino, slated to start the first two games of the Blue Jays series, were sent ahead to get some rest instead of flying overnight following Sunday night’s game against the Mets.

Nova is 6-8 with a 5.11 ERA in 14 starts since returning this season from Tommy John surgery. He was moved to the bullpen after giving up six runs and seven hits in 1 2-3 innings of a 10-7 home loss to the Blue Jays on Sept. 12.

“It’s not what you want to hear. You want to pitch every five days,” said Nova, who did throw seven solid innings in a win at Toronto on Aug. 14.

READ MORE: All aboard! Baseball terms explained for Toronto Blue Jays bandwagon-jumpers

Nova has not appeared in a game since the demotion. He threw a side session Saturday and said he thinks the time off will be beneficial.

“He hasn’t been off starting that long, so that part shouldn’t be hard,” Girardi said. “He’s had some good starts and bad starts the last month. We’re just going to need a good start his next start.

“He’s been through it before,” the manager added. “He understands, and I think he’s looking forward to the challenge.”

It’s not the first time a front-line Yankees pitcher has been hurt after getting a rare opportunity to bat in a National League ballpark. Back in 2008, Chien-Ming Wang sustained a serious foot injury running the bases at Houston — before the Astros switched to the AL.

St. Louis Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright went down with a season-ending Achilles injury while batting early this year, prompting another round of commentary about pitchers at the plate and the designated hitter.

“It’s frustrating,” Girardi said. “You get concerned whenever your pitchers have to hit. You try to do everything you can to keep them from getting hurt. You try to prepare them, and (one thing) that you can’t prepare is that sudden burst that they have to make, and I think it happened in (Tanaka) trying to beat the play to first on the bunt.”

Still, Girardi is glad the American League uses the DH and the NL doesn’t.

Tanaka said he enjoys hitting, too.

“I actually like the separation of leagues. My complaint as I mentioned yesterday is that they don’t hit in the minor leagues and that makes no sense to me,” Girardi said. “We tell our guys to take it easy in situations. But I’ve often said that one of the reasons they are successful is the competitive nature inside of them and they understand the importance of runs, and it’s just hard.”

©2015The Canadian Press

Bike lanes being extended on Richmond and Adelaide – Toronto

TORONTO – The City of Toronto is extending separated bicycle lanes along Richmond Street and Adelaide Street.

The extension is part of a pilot project which began last year to improve the city’s cycling infrastructure.

Story continues below

杭州龙凤

The new work will result in the extension of cycle tracks on Richmond Street, which is one-way westbound, from Parliament Street to York Street, and on Adelaide Street, which is one-way eastbound, from Simcoe Street to Parliament Street.

Cycle tracks will then be in place on both Richmond and Adelaide between Parliament Street in the east and Bathurst Street in the west.

Bicycle lanes will also be installed on both sides of Peter Street, from King Street to Queen Street.

“When the extension is complete, dedicated cycle tracks will run right across the city’s downtown from Bathurst in the west to Parliament in the east,” said Councillor Jaye Robinson, Chair of the City’s Public Works and Infrastructure Committee, during a press conference Monday morning.

The installation of the tracks is expected to be completed by the end of September.

Robinson said ridership numbers have skyrocketed since the pilot project started last year.

On Richmond, the number of cyclists have more than doubled from 500 in June 2014 to 1,300 in May 2015.

The numbers are even higher on Adelaide where cyclists have more than tripled from 550 in June 2014 to over 1,500 in May 2015.

“We anticipate they are going to go up,” said Robinson. “There’s been no negative impact on travel times.”

Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls movement wins the Emmys 2015 red carpet – National

Amy Poehler may not have won an Emmy Sunday night, but she definitely won the Internet with her #SmartGirlsAsk campaign, a joint initiative between 桑拿会所, the Television Academy and Amy’s Smart Girls, an organization “dedicated to helping young people cultivate their authentic selves.”

The campaign asked people to submit intelligent questions for celebrities — a refreshing twist to the often mind-numbing “who are you wearing” questions that have become a red carpet staple. Hundreds of thought-provoking questions were tweeted out, at times from some pretty big names.

In another victory, Viola Davis became the first woman of colour to claim top drama series acting honours at Sunday’s Emmy Awards.

An emotional Davis, who won for her portrayal of a ruthless lawyer in How to Get Away With Murder, invoked the words and spirit of 19th-century African-American abolitionist Harriet Tubman.

“I can’t seem to get over that line,” she quoted Tubman as saying.

“The only thing that separates women of colour from anyone else is opportunity,” Davis added. “You cannot win Emmys with roles that are simply not there.”

WATCH:  ‘It doesn’t end here,’ says Viola Davis after historic Emmy win

READ MORE: Natalie Portman sounds off on challenges facing women in Hollywood

Comments made by Matt Damon recently sparked a debate on diversity in the industry. And during a Toronto International Film Festival panel, female leaders agreed there’s still a long way to go to reach gender equality.

With files from The Associated Press

Related

  • Can women have it all? Drew Barrymore doesn’t think so

  • Canada’s best and worst cities to be a woman: report

  • Kristi Gordon’s haters reflect bigger problem faced by women in media

杭州龙凤