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Space jam: Skyrocketing number of launches creating congestion in skies

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Welcome to The National Today newsletter, which takes a closer look at what’s happening around some of the day’s most notable stories. Sign up here and it will be delivered directly to your inbox Monday to Friday.

TODAY:

  • This has been the busiest space year on record, with 107 launches to date, and it’s causing concern about gridlock as rockets and airliners share the skies.
  • An extraordinary reunion in Windsor, Ont., as a Syrian refugee family welcomes their parents to Canada.
  • More and more Canadian seniors are turning to “co-housing” arrangements, and they’re discovering some big benefits.
  • Missed The National last night? Watch it here.

Crowded space

Wednesday is shaping up as a busy day in space.

India’s Space Research Organisation successfully launched a communications satellite in the early hours, North American time — the country’s third rocket flight in just 35 days.

Arianespace, a private French firm, launched a military spy satellite from French Guiana shortly after 11:30 EST this morning.  

And another space company, United Launch Alliance, is scheduled to blast a U.S. spy satellite into orbit from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base at 8:44 p.m. EST tonight, weather permitting.

The United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket launches NASA’s Parker Solar Probe at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Aug. 12. (Bill Ingalls/NASA via Getty Images)

If all goes according to plan, this will be the second three-launch day this year, following the lift-offs of one Russian and two Chinese rockets on July 9.

For a while, it looked like today might even set a new record, with five launches. But technical issues have scrubbed scheduled SpaceX and Blue Origin rockets for the second straight day.

(There’s some return traffic coming as well: A Russian Soyuz capsule carrying three members of the International Space Station crew is scheduled to touch down in Kazakhstan just after midnight EST.)

So far this month, there have been nine successful rocket launches worldwide, and it’s possible that we’ll see eight more before the New Year.

A long-exposure photo of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying an Air Force AEHF-4 satellite from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Oct. 17. (Malcolm Denemark/Associated Press)

All of which has contributed to making 2018 the busiest space year on record, with 107 launches to date.

And it’s only the beginning.

Elon Musk’s SpaceX, which has launched 19 times so far in 2018, wants to head into orbit at least 20 times next year.

Rocket Lab, a New Zealand-based firm that completed its first NASA launch earlier this week, has plans for 16 space flights in 2019 and is working towards a goal of one launch a week by 2020.

The Jeff Bezos-owned Blue Origin wants to make 100 flights a year.

Amazon and Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos in a New Shepard Crew Capsule mockup in Colorado Springs, Colo., in April 2017. The company’s goal is 100 launches a year. (Isaiah J. Downing/Reuters)

Another American space start-up, Vector, hopes to launch a dozen flights in 2019, working towards a similar goal.

And British billionaire Richard Branson, who saw his Virgin Galactic make its first successful near-space flight last week, plans to have three ships ferrying tourists to the upper edge of the atmosphere by the summer.

In Florida, where NASA’s Space Shuttle used to take off four or five times a year, authorities are now anticipating up to 200 launches annually in the near future.

China, which is investing heavily in a national space program (including manned moon missions) and now has a number of its own private launch firms, will probably beat that. So far in 2018, 36 rockets have lifted off Chinese soil, compared to 30 in the U.S.

But the rapid growth in space flight — yearly launches have almost doubled over the past two decades — is creating fears of “gridlock” in the skies.

The Dragon crew capsule sits in the SpaceX hangar at Launch Complex 39-A at Cape Canaveral, Fla., on Tuesday. The space ship and Falcon 9 booster rocket are being prepared for a January 2019 launch. (Steve Nesius/Reuters)

As the Washington Post illustrated with this very cool graphics package and article, a single SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch last February saw U.S. air traffic controllers close off a 2,100 kilometre-long stretch of the Atlantic Ocean to planes for three hours, diverting dozens of commercial flight paths, to accommodate a 90-second rocket flight.

The Federal Aviation Administration is working on an automated rocket tracking system that should shorten those airspace closures to just 15 minutes, but it won’t be ready until at least 2021.

Space launches are still a relatively minor problem for aviation. As the Post notes, 1,400 U.S. flights were diverted around rockets this year, compared to seven million flights that experienced problems with weather or clogged airspace.

But that number is sure to grow as space launches spread and multiply, affecting more of the world’s almost 105,000 commercial flights a day.

Providing a final frontier of dissatisfaction for delayed, atmosphere-bound  airline passengers.


A poignant reunion

Reporter Susan Ormiston witnessed an extraordinary reunion in Windsor, Ont., as a Syrian refugee family welcomed their parents to Canada.

It’s rare for a journalist to be able to follow a story over the course of several years. The Tonbari family is an exception.

We first met three years ago in Lebanon in an abandoned, half-built cement building near Tripoli. Ibrahim Tonbari, his wife Zeinab Al-Omar and their children were packing to leave as part of a group of 25,000 Syrians promised refuge in Canada under the new Trudeau government.

The family of six had to leave their elderly parents behind in a wrenching, painful farewell at the Beirut airport. Grandmother Aida and her husband Mohammad had never been outside Syria and Lebanon, and she wept as she kissed her grandchildren, not knowing when she would see them again.

Last week, her prayers were answered.

Zeinab Al-Omar, who immigrated to Windsor, Ont., from Syria with her husband and children three years ago, anxiously waits at the airport for the arrival of her in-laws. A private sponsorship group in Windsor helped to reunite the family split by the Syrian war. (Sylvia Thomson/CBC)

After seeing our story about the Tonbaris coming to Windsor, Ont., back in November 2015, a group of lawyers in that city decided to privately sponsor the grandparents and an orphaned nephew.

The application took two years, but all three have finally arrived to a tearful reunion at Windsor’s airport.

“I’m so happy, I can’t believe it’s happening,” said Zeinab Al-Omar.

In the past three years, Canadians have privately sponsored more than 24,000 Syrian refugees. But once here, few are able to bring over family members — on average, about 240 per year — making the Windsor reunion a relatively rare event.

Aida Abed Al Karim, centre, holds a granddaughter as she speaks to Susan Ormiston in her son’s living room in Windsor, Ont. Aida and her husband Mohammad Tonbari arrived this month to join their children in Canada. (Sylvia Thomson/CBC)

“I really feel that it’s important that the government — before they can say they did the job, so to speak — that they put something in place for family reunification,” said Anneke Smit, a lawyer who is part of the Windsor sponsorship group.

“In some cases we’ve left the more vulnerable people behind. So even if we do nothing else, I think there’s really a moral obligation on us,” she says.

– Susan Ormiston

  • WATCH: The story about the Tonbari family reunion tonight on The National on CBC Television and streamed online

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Seniors seeking roommates

More and more Canadian seniors are turning to “co-housing” arrangements, reporter Kas Roussy writes, and they’re discovering some big benefits.

What happens when three long-time friends — all baby boomers, either widowed or divorced, all empty nesters — decide that living life alone is no longer an option?

Easy.

They sell their individual houses, do some serious purging of appliances and furniture, pool their finances, and buy another house where all of them can live.

The motivation?

Phyllis Brady, 66, says that her decision to share a house in London, Ont., with her friends came down to economy, safety, and companionship.

Empty-nest seniors Barb Coughlin, left, Phyllis Brady and Mary Townley sold their homes, pooled their resources and bought a single place in London, Ont., where all three could live. Coughlin says sharing a place to save money and for companionship feels like going back to university. (Craig Chivers/CBC)

That last one is really important.

Loneliness among older adults is a rising epidemic in Canada. Statistics Canada reports more than one million seniors say they are lonely.

Being alone can be a health hazard, and not just because of the chance of suffering a fall or illness without anyone there to help. Research shows loneliness increases the risk of a whole range of health issues, from heart attacks and stroke, to dementia and serious depression.

Mary Townley, 71, who knows her way around a curling rink and is pretty handy with basic tools for quick repairs, didn’t mind living alone some of the time, she told us on a recent visit to her new home. “But then there are those other times when you think, ‘Oh, I wish I had someone to talk to, not over the phone. It’s much nicer face-to-face with a glass of wine.'”

Co-housing arrangements among seniors is a growing trend in Canada, whether it’s people sharing one house or a larger apartment complex.

It’s a no brainer, says Adriana Shnall, an aging expert at Toronto’s Baycrest Health Sciences.

It’s cheaper to live with somebody else, but it’s also better for our physical health and for our mental health.– Adriana  Shnall , Baycrest  Health Sciences

“It’s cheaper to live with somebody else, but it’s also better for our physical health and for our mental health,” she says.

The three women we visited in London each have their own bedroom and bathroom, and because Phyllis is the youngest at 66, she gets the so-called “teenager’s room” in the finished basement.

They share kitchen duties, split the bills, and basically laugh a lot.

Phyllis says she has lost a bit of weight, because she’s eating less junk food. The other women notice there’s less stress in their lives.

It feels like going back to university, says 71-year-old Barb Coughlin.

“Except now, we’re neater,” adds Phyllis.

Cue the laughter.

– Kas Roussy

  • WATCH: The story about seniors living in co-housing tonight on The National on CBC Television and streamed online

A few words on … 

An act of Christmas kindness.


Quote of the moment

“Mr. Speaker, I did not use the words ‘stupid woman’ about the prime minister or anyone else and am completely opposed to the use of sexist or misogynistic language in absolutely any form at all.”

 U.K. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn responds after television cameras in the House of Commons appeared to capture his frustration during a Brexit debate with Prime Minister Theresa May.

In this House of Commons TV handout video, backdropped by Labour MPs, Britain’s opposition Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn makes a statement Wednesday in the House of Commons on his return after being accused of mouthing ‘stupid woman’ at Prime Minister Theresa May during Prime Minister’s Questions. (House of Commons/via AP)


What The National is reading

  • Toronto police arrest 7th St. Michael’s College student (CBC)
  • Hacked European cables reveal world of anxiety about Trump, Russia, Iran (NY Times)
  • Grace Mugabe faces South African arrest warrant (BBC)
  • Unholy row as Ukrainian and Russian Orthodox churches split (Asia Times)
  • Timmins woman charged with witchcraft just 2 days before offence comes off books (CBC)
  • Elon Musk unveils underground highway prototype (CBC)
  • Blind creature that buries head in sand named after Donald Trump (Guardian)
  • Hunter thought he was firing at Bigfoot, ‘victim’ tells police (Fox News)

Today in history

Dec. 19, 2000: Nordic combined skiing, a struggling sport in Canada  

If you build it, they still won’t come. That’s the lesson that Canada was grappling with a dozen years after the Calgary Olympics. Despite having a world class ski jump, the country was still struggling to produce successful Nordic combined skiers. The male-only event — the last remaining one in the Winter Games — sends athletes off the big and small jumps, then finishes with a staggered-start 10 kilometre cross country race. Almost two decades later, Canada is still looking for a champion, with the country’s best-ever finish remaining a 10th place at the 1932 Lake Placid Games.

In 2000, Canada can barely field individual nordic combined athletes, let alone an Olympic team. 4:09

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Please send your ideas, news tips, rants, and compliments to thenationaltoday@cbc.ca. ​



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Canadian tech diversity and inclusion in the spotlight

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Diversity and inclusion are hot-button issues, but for all the attention they get, there’s still work to be done in the tech sector, according to a recent Gartner blog.

Citing a range of challenges that include pay inequity, lack of diversity in corporate management, and difficulty recruiting diverse talent, the blog suggests three possible remedies for organizations trying to become more diverse and inclusive: having a long-term plan but focusing on one aspect that will make the most benefit, setting targets and making leadership accountable, and committing resources.

The call for such strategies finds support in a report from the Brookfield Institute revealing that Canada’s technology sector has a disappointing track record when it comes to inclusion and equity, with women “four times less likely to be employed in the sector than men, and earning on average $7,300 less than men in technology jobs.”

The findings are just as grim in a January 2020 report funded by Canada’s Future Skills Centre. According to this document, despite corporate commitments to diversity, “decades of initiatives designed to advance women in technology have scarcely had an effect: The proportion of women in engineering and computer science in Canada has changed little in 25 years.”

And women are not the only disadvantaged group, says the report. “The under-employment of skilled immigrants and under-representation of women and other groups in the ICT industry suggests that recruitment and retention policies and practices of the very firms complaining about this [skills] gap may be contributing to the problem.”

Until we do a better job of addressing inclusion and diversity, career opportunities will continue to be limited for women, internationally educated professionals, racialized minorities, First Nations, Inuit and Métis people. In addition to being a very human issue, this is also one that perpetuates the ICT skills gap by failing to tap into a supply of well-qualified labour.

On the bright side, there are technology companies and organizations across Canada that are truly determined to create opportunities for those who are under-represented in the digital talent pool. There is also an opportunity to recognize their efforts during Channel Innovation 2021: Adapting to the New Customer Experience, a 2.5-hour, virtual event on April 28, 2021.

A showcase for independent software vendors (ISVs) and Canadian channel innovators, the Channel Innovation 2021 celebration will take place on CIA-TV, a unique ITWC platform that allows the audience to take in the show, download related content and videos, and network in live breakout rooms. There are six award categories, including the C4 Award for Diversity and Inclusion. Nominating is simple. Whether a self- or third-party nomination, there are only two main questions to answer and an opportunity to include a supporting document or image.

Winning entries will be announced during the celebration and profiled in the Channel Daily News Magazine and in Direction Informatique, ITWC’s French-language publication devoted to the Quebec marketplace. They will also receive a digital badge for use on their websites and on social media to help gain industry-wide recognition and end-user exposure.

The media attention and recognition are reason enough to vie for this honour, and we always need things to celebrate during a global pandemic, but the real value in awards for diversity and inclusion is in setting an example for others to follow. The news is full of the ways we are falling down when it comes to equity in the IT sector. Let’s take some time to highlight the success stories and encourage other tech innovators to step up.

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Leading Canadian tech entrepreneur Saadia Muzaffar to give virtual keynote in Peterborough on March 9

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In celebration of International Women’s Day, one of Canada’s leading female tech entrepreneurs will be giving a virtual keynote for residents of Peterborough and the Kawarthas on Tuesday, March 9th at 7 p.m.

The Innovation Cluster is hosting Saadia Muzaffar as part of its ‘Electric City Talks’ series.

Muzaffar is a tech entrepreneur, author, and passionate advocate of responsible innovation, decent work for everyone, and prosperity of immigrant talent in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). She is the founder of TechGirls Canada, a hub for Canadian women in STEM, and co-founder of Tech Reset Canada, a group of business people, technologists, and other residents advocating for innovation that is focused on the public good.

In 2017, Muzaffar was featured in Canada 150 Women, a book about 150 of the most influential and groundbreaking women in Canada. Her work has been featured in CNNMoney, BBC World, Fortune Magazine, The Globe and Mail, VICE, CBC, TVO, and Chatelaine.

Muzaffar’s March 9th talk, entitled ‘Redefining Term Sheets: Success, Solidarity, & The Future We Want’, will inspire women to achieve success in all areas of life, including in business by providing strategies for obtaining funding.

“It is impossible to explain how women only get 2.2 per cent of funding for their ventures while we constitute a majority of the population, without acknowledging long-standing structural and systemic bias,” Muzaffar says, describing her talk. “Women know these odds in our bones because we feel them in too many boardrooms, banks, media advertisements, and venture competitions — yet women are the fastest-growing demographic in new businesses.”

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ARK’s Cathie Wood joins board of Canadian tech firm mimik

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ARK Invest’s Cathie Wood is joining the board of Canadian technology company mimik.

Vancouver-based mimik is an edge computing company that effectively turns devices like phones into private cloud servers. It has already teamed up with Amazon Web Services and IBM on edge computing – two of the bigger players in the space.

The AWS partnership gives software developers access to mimik’s cloud platform. Together, edge devices including smart phones, tablets, and Internet of Things (IoT) products can act as extensions of the AWS cloud. With the IBM partnership, mimik’s technology will be included in automation and digital transformation across manufacturing, retail, IoT and healthcare.

All of mimik’s business lines fit in with Wood’s broad ‘next generation internet’ thesis, one of her big five investment themes. The company itself is private and Wood is not an investor. 

However, as Citywire noted in January, Wood has hinted in interviews that ARK is exploring the launch of a private markets strategy. 

Wood joins a relatively high profile board at mimik. Other members include  Allen Salmasi, a pioneer in mobile technology who was previously with Qualcomm, and Ori Sasson, managing director of Primera Capital, who was an investor in VMWare and other technology companies.

‘I’ve always believed in backing founders who are at the forefront of innovation,’ Wood said in a statement on her decision to join mimik. ‘At mimik, [they] have built a foundation for the next generation of cloud computing.’ 

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