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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

Sign up here and have The National Today newsletter delivered directly to your inbox Monday to Friday.

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



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Trudeau Government Should Turn to Sustainable Floor Heating In Its New Deal

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A consortium has been chosen by Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) to manage the $1.1-billion overhaul of five heating and cooling plants in the National Capital Region. However, this decision has been met with a lot of disapproval by the country’s largest federal public service union.

Early June, the department announced that Innovate Energy has been awarded the 30-year contract “to design, retrofit, maintain and operate the plants,”winning the bid over a rival group that included SNC-Lavalin.

Minister of Environment, Catherine McKenna, said the federal government was “leading by example” in its bid to drastically reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions across the country. McKenna noted that by supporting this project, they’re utilizing heating and cooling infrastructure to promote a more environmentally friendly option.

“We’re very proud that our government is working with partners like Innovate Energy to modernize this critical infrastructure,” she said during the announcement at one of the facilities that will be upgraded, the Cliff Heating and Cooling Plant in downtown Ottawa.

The plants would be known as the district energy system and would heat 80 buildings in the area with steam. It is also expected to cool 67 of these buildings with chilled water through more than 14 kilometres of underground pipes.

Under the Energy Services Acquisition Program, PSPC will be tasked with modernizing the outdated technology in the plants to lower emissions and supportgrowth in the eco-friendly technology sector.

During the first stage of the overhaul, the system would be converted from steam to low temperature hot water and then switched from steam to electric chillers—with the estimated completion date being 2025. PSPC notes that the project will reduce current emissions by 63 per cent, the equivalent of removing 14,000 non-eco-friendly cars off the road.

Afterwards, the natural gas powering the plant will then be replaced by carbon-neutral fuel sources, which according to estimated will reduce emissions by a further 28 per cent. The renovation project is bound to save the government an estimated fee of more than $750 million in heating and cooling costs in the next 40 years.

Furthermore, the implementation of radiant floor heating in Ottawa by the federal government would be an additional step in driving its agenda for a more eco-friendly state.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Savers website, radiant floor heating has a lot of benefits and advantages over alternate heat systems and can cut heating costs by 25 to 50 per cent.

“It is more efficient than baseboard heating and usually more efficient than forced-air heating because no energy is lost through ducts,” the website states.

Radiant floor heating provides an equal amount of heat throughout a building, including areas that are difficult to heat, such as rooms with vaulted ceilings, garages or bathrooms. Consideringit warms people and objects directly—controlling the direct heat loss of the occupant—radiant floor heating provides comfort at lower thermostat settings.

“Radiators and other forms of ‘point’ heating circulate heat inefficiently and hence need to run for longer periods to obtain comfort levels,” reports the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNet).

Radiant heating is a clean and healthy option—a perfect choice for those with severe allergies—as it doesn’t rely on circulating air, meaning there are no potentially irritating particles blowing around the room. Additionally, it is more energy efficient, aesthetically pleasing with wall radiators or floor registers and virtually noiseless when in operation.

“They draw cold air across the floor and send warm air up to the ceiling, where it then falls, heating the room from the top down, creating drafts and circulating dust and allergens.”

It is important for the leadership in Ottawa to equally drive the adoption of radiant floor heating as doing this would lead to increased usage in residential buildings—and even government-owned buildings.

However, in October, the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), a representative body of employees of the plants,began a campaign target at the government against their decision to use a public-private partnership (P3) for the retrofitting project, citing concerns about costs and safety.

According to the union, outside employees won’t be bound to the same health and safety standards of government workers and that typically P3 projects cost a lot more than traditional public financing deals.

The union demands that the government scraps the proposed project and meet PSAC members and experts to brainstorm on a new way forward that would ensure federal employees continue to operate and maintain the plants.

However, parliamentary secretary to public services and procurement minister, Steve MacKinnon said that the union officials have consulted him but that after conducting an analysis, the P3 option was still the best for the job.

“We didn’t have (to) sacrifice on safety or health — we didn’t have to sacrifice on job security,” he said.

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Steps to becoming a Data Scientist

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Data science has become one of the most in-demand career paths in this century, according to Business Insider. With the amount of information being circulated online, it has created a huge demand for storing, interpreting and implementing big data for different purposes—hence the need for a data scientist.

Today, there too much information flying around for regular people to process efficiently and use. Therefore, it has become the responsibility of data scientists to collect, organize and analyze this data. Doing this helps various people, organizations, enterprise businesses and governments to manage, store and interpret this data for different purposes.

Though data scientists come from different educational backgrounds, a majority of them need to have a technical educational background. To pursue a career in data science, computer-related majors, graduations and post graduations in maths and statistics are quite useful.

Therefore, the steps to becoming a data scientist are quite straightforward.  After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in an IT related field—such as computer science, maths or physics—you can also further your education by obtaining a master’s degree in a data science or any other related field of study. With the necessary educational background, you can now search for a job and obtain the required experience in whichever filed you choose to invest your acquired skills.

Here are the necessary steps to be taken to become a data scientist.

Step 1: Obtain the necessary educational requirements

As earlier noted, different educational paths can still lead to a career in data science. However, it is impossible to begin a career in data science without obtaining a collegiate degree—as a four-year bachelor’s degree is really important. However, according to a report by Business Insider, over 73% of data scientist in existence today have a graduate degree and about 38% of them hold a Ph.D. Therefore, to rise above the crowd and get a high-end position in the field of data science, it is important to have a Master’s degree or a Ph.D.—and with various online data science masters program, obtaining one is quite easy.

Some institutions provide data science programs with courses that will equip students to analyze complex sets of data. These courses also involve a host of technical information about computers, statistics, data analysis techniques and many more. Completing these programs equips you with the necessary skills to function adequately as a data scientist.

Additionally, there are some technical—and computer-based degrees—that can aid you begin a career in data science. Some of them include studies in, Computer Science, Statistics, Social Science, Physics, Economics, Mathematics and Applied Math. These degrees will imbibe some important skills related to data science in you—namely, coding, experimenting, managing large amounts of data, solving quantitative problems and many others.

Step 2: Choose an area of specialization

There rarely exists an organization, agency or business today that doesn’t require the expertise of a data scientist. Hence, it is important that after acquiring the necessary education to start a career as a data scientist, you need to choose an area of specialization in the field you wish to work in.

Some of the specializations that exist in data science today include automotive, marketing, business, defence, sales, negotiation, insurance and many others.

Step 3: Kick start your career as a data scientist

After acquiring the necessary skills to become a data scientist, it is important to get a job in the filed and company of your choice where you can acquire some experience.

Many organizations offer valuable training to their data scientists and these pieces of training are typically centred around the specific internal systems and programs of an organization. Partaking in this training allows you learn some high-level analytical skills that were not taught during your various school programs—especially since data science is a constantly evolving field.

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Artificial intelligence pioneers win tech’s ‘Nobel Prize’

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Computers have become so smart during the past 20 years that people don’t think twice about chatting with digital assistants like Alexa and Siri or seeing their friends automatically tagged in Facebook pictures.

But making those quantum leaps from science fiction to reality required hard work from computer scientists like Yoshua Bengio, Geoffrey Hinton and Yann LeCun. The trio tapped into their own brainpower to make it possible for machines to learn like humans, a breakthrough now commonly known as “artificial intelligence,” or AI.

Their insights and persistence were rewarded Wednesday with the Turing Award, an honor that has become known as technology industry’s version of the Nobel Prize. It comes with a $1 million prize funded by Google, a company where AI has become part of its DNA.

The award marks the latest recognition of the instrumental role that artificial intelligence will likely play in redefining the relationship between humanity and technology in the decades ahead.

Artificial intelligence is now one of the fastest-growing areas in all of science and one of the most talked-about topics in society,” said Cherri Pancake, president of the Association for Computing Machinery, the group behind the Turing Award.

Although they have known each other for than 30 years, Bengio, Hinton and LeCun have mostly worked separately on technology known as neural networks. These are the electronic engines that power tasks such as facial and speech recognition, areas where computers have made enormous strides over the past decade. Such neural networks also are a critical component of robotic systems that are automating a wide range of other human activity, including driving.

Their belief in the power of neural networks was once mocked by their peers, Hinton said. No more. He now works at Google as a vice president and senior fellow while LeCun is chief AI scientist at Facebook. Bengio remains immersed in academia as a University of Montreal professor in addition to serving as scientific director at the Artificial Intelligence Institute in Quebec.

“For a long time, people thought what the three of us were doing was nonsense,” Hinton said in an interview with The Associated Press. “They thought we were very misguided and what we were doing was a very surprising thing for apparently intelligent people to waste their time on. My message to young researchers is, don’t be put off if everyone tells you what are doing is silly.” Now, some people are worried that the results of the researchers’ efforts might spiral out of control.

While the AI revolution is raising hopes that computers will make most people’s lives more convenient and enjoyable, it’s also stoking fears that humanity eventually will be living at the mercy of machines.

Bengio, Hinton and LeCun share some of those concerns especially the doomsday scenarios that envision AI technology developed into weapons systems that wipe out humanity.

But they are far more optimistic about the other prospects of AI empowering computers to deliver more accurate warnings about floods and earthquakes, for instance, or detecting health risks, such as cancer and heart attacks, far earlier than human doctors.

“One thing is very clear, the techniques that we developed can be used for an enormous amount of good affecting hundreds of millions of people,” Hinton said.

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