Maryland needs business climate fixes

John Belcher is really slowing down in retirement.

He’s down to working 50 hours per week. While running Annapolis-based ARINC, the high-energy systems engineer gave 80 hours a week to the aerospace technology firm.

Working with a handful of aviation-related firms energizes and excites the man who says he’s old enough for Medicare but not full-time retirement. After ARINC sold for $1.4 billion in 2013, Belcher began investing and helping guide firms based in Texas, Minnesota, Canada and Germany. He’s on the board and an investor with Trivalent, a cybersecurity company in Annapolis.

While the Canadian native continues to live just across the South River from Annapolis, Belcher isn’t actively seeking to launch any new businesses in Maryland.

Syrian women start business selling traditional food in Saint John

CTV Atlantic

Published Saturday, May 13, 2017 6:31PM ADT

Last Updated Saturday, May 13, 2017 6:43PM ADT

A group of Syrian women in Saint John have kick-started a new business of selling traditional food.

The Syrian Food Market was started by Reham Abazib. She says upon arriving in Canada, she wanted nothing more than to give back.

“Always a smile from Canadians, and that makes me feel better,” says Abazib.“I love Saint John.”

Her food market has grown to be a monthly tradition for families. It’s also something that hasn’t gone unnoticed.

“There has been hundreds, and we see new faces every time she has the food market,” says Anne Driscoll, executive director of the Crescent Valley Resource Centre.

To prepare for the event, Syrian women come together for three straight days and cook.

“Syrian food is very healthy, and I think the spice is different,” says Abazib.

The market is always held at the Crescent Valley Resource Centre, situated in a neighbourhood that welcomed 50 Syrian families at the beginning of 2016. Driscoll says that’s the largest concentration of Syrian families in Saint John.

The market has raised nearly $5,000 to be donated to Syrian women living in Jordan, whose husbands were killed or missing. New funds will provide Ramadan food hampers for refugees in Jordan.

“I want to help a lot of refugees,” says Abazib. “I was a refugee and sometimes I didn’t have money to pay for my kid’s food.”

Abazib says it’s a chance to share their culture with new neighbours, while helping her old ones.

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Mary Cranston.

Calgarians need to push back against council on property tax hikes: Canadian Taxpayers Federation

Calgarians need to stand up to elected officials when it comes to staving off a possible property tax increase, says an Alberta taxpayer watchdog.

Paige MacPherson, Alberta director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, said council’s move to delay a property tax hike until after this year’s municipal elections is a “Band-Aid” solution to staving off future pains for ratepayers.

“It’s discouraging, but not surprising that councillors seem to be only concerned about property taxes when it’s an election year,” she said.

“It’s one of the oldest tricks in the book.”

In a report released late Friday by city brass, administration staff plan to recommend to council on Monday a big property tax hike for next year — this after a year-long rate freeze for the 2017 fiscal year.

“Since they seem to be putting off these tax increases, Calgarians could be looking at a 5% property tax increase,” MacPherson said.

“The pocketbooks and budgets of Calgarians are not going to change dramatically from this year to next. What will change is city council’s willingness to cut back a little bit — and that’s unfortunate for taxpayers.”

She said politicians and city staff both overplay the seriousness of potential service cuts, and added that the city has more than enough fat to cut from the budget without affecting essential services.

“(Mayor Naheed) Nenshi did this even before they came out with their so-called property tax freeze,” she said, calling high wages the “elephant in the room” in the municipal halls of power.

“Reportedly (Nenshi) said it would be almost impossible to make cuts without touching fire, police or transportation. Then fast-forward to when they actually announced the freeze, and said ‘well, we’re comfortable but we could mow low-use playing fields a little bit less, or have slightly smaller growth in the number of hours of Calgary Transit to get spending in line.'”

Related links

Bell: Calgary city hall brass want a tax hike in 2018 with a final tab beyond the advertised 2% increase

City council’s budget call for around a two-per-cent tax hike

Bell: Calgary city council decides to try to shut down business property tax beefs as election looms

MacPherson said most Calgary ratepayers certainly aren’t increasing their own spending this year, and the city should be following suit.

“Yes, it involves difficult decisions, but luckily the city has a lot of unnecessary spending kicking around,” she said.

“We’re still spending on golf courses, and mandatory public art projects that we have written into policy that we have to be spending money on — these are changes that council could easily make, but instead they’re looking at spending more money on things like an NHL arena.”

She said Calgarians have made their voices heard about cutting unnecessary spending, but it’s up to council to listen.

“It’s really up to Calgarians to push their councillors to say they aren’t going to stand for this,” MacPherson said.

“It’s completely possible for council to do, they’re completely capable of that.

“They need to start thinking more about Calgarians, and less about their own bottom lines.”

On Twitter: @bryanpassifiume

How a perfect storm allowed a global ransomware attack to happen

The cyberextortion attack hitting dozens of countries spread quickly and widely thanks to an unusual confluence of factors: a known and highly dangerous security hole in Microsoft Windows, tardy users who didn’t apply Microsoft’s March software fix, and a software design that allowed the malware to spread quickly once inside university, business and government networks.

Not to mention the fact that those responsible were able to borrow weaponized software code apparently created by the U.S. National Security Agency to launch the attack in the first place.

Other criminals may be tempted to mimic the success of Friday’s “ransomware ” attack, which locks up computers and hold people’s files for ransom. Experts say it will be difficult for them to replicate the conditions that allowed the so-called WannaCry ransomware to proliferate across the globe.

But we’re still likely to be living with less virulent variants of WannaCry for some time. And that’s for a simple reason: Individuals and organizations alike are fundamentally terrible about keeping their computers up-to-date with security fixes.

The worm turns… and turns

One of the first “attacks” on the internet came in 1988, when a graduate student named Robert Morris Jr. released a self-replicating and self-propagating program known as a “worm” onto the then-nascent internet. That program spread much more quickly than expected, soon choking and crashing machines across the internet.

The Morris worm wasn’t malicious, but other nastier variants followed — at first for annoyance, later for criminal purposes, such as stealing passwords. But these worm attacks became harder to pull off as computer owners and software makers shored up their defences.

So criminals turned to targeted attacks instead to stay below the radar. With ransomware, criminals typically trick individuals into opening an email attachment containing malicious software. Once installed, the malware just locks up that computer without spreading to other machines.

The hackers behind WannaCry took things a step further by creating a ransomware worm, allowing them to demand ransom payments not just from individual but from entire organizations — maybe even thousands of organizations.

The perfect storm

Once inside an organization, WannaCry uses a Windows vulnerability purportedly identified by the NSA and later leaked to the internet. Although Microsoft released fixes in March, the attackers counted on many organizations not getting around to applying those fixes. Sure enough, WannaCry found plenty of targets.

Since security professionals typically focus on building walls to block hackers from entering, security tends to be less rigorous inside the network. WannaCry exploited common techniques employees use to share files via a central server.

“Malware that penetrates the perimeter and then spreads inside the network tends to be quite successful,” said Johannes Ullrich, director of the Internet Storm Center at the SANS Institute.

Persistent infections

“When any technique is shown to be effective, there are almost always copycats,” said Steve Grobman, chief technology officer of McAfee, a security company in Santa Clara, Calif. But that’s complicated, because hackers need to find security flaws that are unknown, widespread and relatively easy to exploit.

In this case, he said, the NSA apparently handed the WannaCry makers a blueprint — pre-written code for exploiting the flaw, allowing the attackers to essentially cut and paste that code into their own malware.

Mikko Hypponen, chief research officer at the Helsinki-based cybersecurity company F-Secure, said ransomware attacks like WannaCry are “not going to be the norm.” But they could still linger as low-grade infections that flare up from time to time.

For instance, the Conficker virus, which first appeared in 2008 and can disable system security features, also spreads through vulnerabilities in internal file sharing. As makers of anti-virus software release updates to block it, hackers deploy new variants to evade detection.

Conficker was more of a pest and didn’t do major damage. WannaCry, on the other hand, threatens to permanently lock away user files if the computer owner doesn’t pay a ransom, which starts at $300 US but goes up after two hours.

The damage might have been temporarily contained. An unidentified young cybersecurity researcher claimed to help halt WannaCry’s spread by activating a so-called “kill switch.” Other experts found his claim credible. But attackers can, and probably will, simply develop a variant to bypass this countermeasure.

Fighting back

The attack is likely to prompt more organizations to apply the security fixes that would prevent the malware from spreading automatically. “Talk about a wake-up call,” Hypponen said.

Companies are often slow to apply these fixes, called patches, because of worries that any software change could break some other program, possibly shutting down critical operations.

“Whenever there is a new patch, there is a risk in applying the patch and a risk in not applying the patch,” Grobman said. “Part of what an organization needs to understand and assess is what those two risks are.”

Friday’s attack might prompt companies to reassess the balance. And while other attackers might use the same flaw, such attacks will be steadily less successful as organizations patch it.

Microsoft took the unusual step late Friday of making free patches available for older Windows systems, such as Windows XP from 2001. Before, Microsoft had made such fixes available only to mostly larger organizations that pay extra for extended support, yet millions of individuals and smaller businesses still had such systems.

But there will be other vulnerabilities to come, and not all of them will have fixes for older systems. And those fixes will do nothing for newer systems if they aren’t installed.

Workshop on learning business held

Ramesh Khimji, chairman and managing director of Khimji Group of companies and Ms Ramesh Khimji were the chief guest and the guest of honour for the event, stated a press release.

They were received by Dr S L Gupta, dean of the college. The workshop was conducted by Professor Dr Mohan Lal Agarwal, US Fulbright Fellow, director executive Education, International Horizons College, Dubai. He has conducted various corporate training and faculty and development programmes in many countries including the US, Canada, France, UK, Denmark, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Switzerland, Australia, Singapore and the UAE.

Dr G P Mishra, organising secretary of the National Workshop said that the workshop was attended by over 50 staff and students from higher educational institutes along with some executives from the corporate world.

Montreal flood victims can take extra time to pay property tax bill: Coderre

Dave Chartrand checks the efficiency of the pumps around friends home on Saint-Jean-Baptiste street in Oka on Tuesday.
Allen McInnis / Montreal Gazette

Montreal taxpayers in areas affected by flooding will have extra time to pay the second instalment of their property tax bill, Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre announced Saturday.

“The exceptional and difficult situation faced by the flood victims deserves exceptional measures. That is why it is important for our administration to offer property owners a delay in the payment of their property taxes, ” Coderre said.

Letters will be sent to victims whose homes and businesses have suffered damage due to the floods, informing them they can have longer to pay off their bill, he said.

Also, any owner who believes that the damage caused by flooding is likely to diminish the value of the property should get in touch with the city’s assessment department. It can be contacted at 514-280-3825.

“The deadline announced today, coupled with the existing opportunity to have a property re-evaluated, will hopefully provide some respite for those who are facing challenges,” said Pierre Desrochers, chairman of the city’s Executive Council.

At a press briefing by provincial ministers, Public Safety Minister Martin Coiteux pointed to “encouraging signs” in the situation across the province, even though several regions remain affected by significant flooding.

Coiteux stated that water levels continue to decline in several areas, including the Outaouais River, Lac des Deux-Montagnes, Rivière des Prairies and even Lac Saint-Pierre in the Mauricie region. Water levels have not risen in that region, contrary to predictions.

However, Coiteux added that even if the water has started to recede, “it is still there.” He said resources will be deployed to help clean up flooded areas  and support the municipalities that are affected.

Coiteux and his Finance Minister Carlos Leitão both reiterated Premier Philippe Couillard’s remarks to reassure victims, saying that money set aside for aid programs has not been “shut down” and that the government will respond to all requests. Leitão added that the government would also review the parameters of existing programs.

Coderre announced that the state of emergency decreed last Sunday will be lifted on Sunday at noon.

The next step, he said, was to start the cleanup. Both Coderre and Montreal Fire Department chief Bruno Lachance urged residents to call the fire department before returning home so an inspection can be done to determine the steps to take to render a flooded house safe again.

Coderre said it will be a long process to get people back home to repair the damage, and to heal psychological wounds.

“There will be another trauma (for many people) when they return to their homes, so we will have psychological services available for people,” Coderre said. 

Coderre said people are asking what they can do to help, so a brigade day for volunteers will be organized in the coming days or weeks.

Coderre said he believes the city was well prepared to deal with the disaster, and praised the work done by city employees, the fire department, police and the Canadian army.

“There will be a post mortem and we’ll see how we can improve,” he said.

Presse canadienne contributed to this report.


Kimberley’s Trickle Creek Golf Resort celebrates 25 years of business

Trickle Creek Golf Resort is celebrating 25 years of business this year, as a major destination for both locals and visitors in Kimberley. On Saturday, May 13 Trickle Creek will officially open for the season.

Last year, BC Golf Safaris clients voted Trickle Creek as the number 1 rated course in the Kimberley/Cranbrook area. This award is chosen by clients who booked trips to Trickle Creek and other courses through the BC Golf Safaris vacation and golf packages.

Business Development Manager, Rob Duncan says there are lots of exciting things happening this season at Trickle Creek.

“Because it’s early season conditions, we have reduced rates from May 13-18,” said Duncan.

“Come out and play, we’ve got the lowest rates that we have had in quite some time.”

Duncan says that despite the heavy snowfall, the course wintered well, “a tough winter makes things harder, but the snow has melted, things are greening up; it’s early season conditions just the same as every year. We are excited to be opening.”

Not only is Trickle Creek celebrating their 25th Anniversary this year, but they are also celebrating Canada’s 150th Birthday.

“Stay tuned for these upcoming events,” said Duncan.

“We will also be hosting the third annual Pars and Guitars Signature Concert Series in June, July, and August.”

The Pars and Guitars Concert Series takes place on the patio at the clubhouse and features musicians Jason Greenly and Shane Young, as well as local musicians.

“There are tee times available this weekend,” said Duncan. “Come out for our opening, or for mother’s day and take advantage of the reduced rates.”

On May 13 and 14 the reduced rates will be $59.00 plus tax, per person for 18 holes, cart rental, and range balls. From the 15 to the 18 the reduced rates will be $49.00 plus tax, per person for 18 holes, cart rental, and range balls. The clubhouse is offering Mother’s Day specials from 7a.m. until 4p.m. on Sunday, May 14th as well.

“Check in at the golf shop for our 5 and 10 round value packs,” said Duncan.

“These value packs are for locals only and include golf, cart, and range practice.”

The 5 value pack gets guests 5 rounds at $325.00 per person, and the 10 value pack gets guests 10 rounds at $599.00 per person. Both value packs are in effect after 1p.m. on weekdays and after 2p.m. on weekends.

For those thinking of coming to Kimberley on vacation, or even for locals who want a staycation, Trickle Creek is offering a pass that grants guests unlimited play for a week. The pass costs $349.00 plus tax for singles, and $599.00 plus tax for couples.

For more information and to book a large or small tournament package, contact Duncan at or give him a call at (250) 432-0324.

Canada’s most popular neighbourhood for musicians is right here in Toronto

Canada has a new hotbed of music production — and it’s right here in Toronto.

According to a report released this week by the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada(SOCAN), the Little Portugal and Trinity-Bellwoods area has been ranked as the number one location in Canada for the growth in the number of musicians, songwriters,and other people involved in creating music. 

“This diverse and culturally-rich neighbourhood in Toronto’s south-western quadrant is a hub of creative musical talent, live music venues, and businesses using music to their advantage,” said a SOCAN news release.

Shawn Creamer, a local musician and the owner of the Dakota Tavern in Trinity Bellwoods, told CBC Toronto he isn’t surprised by the news.

“The growth is coming from a general collaboration and just a general creative vibe that lives in this neighbourhood,” said Creamer, who has lived in the neighbourhood for 13 years.

Creamer, a guitarist, vocalist and songwriter with his band The Beauties, has owned the Dakota Tavern for the last several years. It’s a rustic establishment nestled in the heart of Trinity-Bellwoods that serves as a live music venue.

Creamer told CBC Toronto that back when the tavern opened it was an instant hit because it could host numerous local bands and musicians daily.

Other venues, like the Garrison and the Painted Lady, are able to host live music on a nightly basis, something w Creamer says wasn’t exactly the reality a decade ago.

“The growth I see is that there are enough musicians and enough bands that all of these music venues are able to operate all the time,” Creamer said.

‘If I take a walk down the street here I’ll bump into 3 or 4 musicians’

“If I take a walk down the street here I’ll bump into three or four musicians.”

However, Creamer isn’t sure if the growth will continue. He told CBC Toronto that with rents increasing throughout the neighbourhood, more and more artists are finding it difficult to ply their craft. 

Creamer explained that most artists don’t earn much money and it’s often cheap rent, cheap food and plenty of music venues that attract musicians to certain neighbourhoods. 

Andrew Berthoff, chief communications and marketing officer at SOCAN, echoed Creamer’s belief.

Berthoff says with more people moving to neighbourhoods like Little Portugal and Trinity-Bellwoods for the perceived cool factor, especially those who aren’t musicians themselves, prices will inevitably increase in tandem with the land value.

‘Great music attracts great musicians’

“Whether the neighbourhood attracts the music creators and publishers or whether the music creators and publishers build the neighbourhood, I can’t really be sure,” said Berthoff.

“What I can be sure of is that it’s a symbiotic relationship. Great music attracts great musicians.”

Berthoff thinks there is a certain cool factor with the Little Portugal and Trinity-Bellwoods area that could be contributing to its growth as a music destination. 

Trinity Bellwoods Park

The Trinity Bellwoods. Little Portugal area is the number one destination in the country for musicians, composers and other people in the industry, according to the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada. (CBC)

Creamer thinks that the neighbourhood has always had its cool factor, but lately it’s a different motivation bringing musicians, songwriters, composers and producers to the area.

“It’s a place where you can find like-minded people, a creative atmosphere and lots of music venues that support that lifestyle,” Creamer said.

‘Lifeblood of Canadian music’

Berthoff says the motivation for releasing the data is to highlight a message of how important these local music creators are to the city, and the country.

“They’re an important part of the economy. Great music starts with someone writing music,” said Berthoff.

“We really want to get out the message that songwriters, composers, music publishers, music creators, are the lifeblood of Canadian music.”

This is only the second year SOCAN has released data on music creators and the first year growth has been the focus.

Last year, the most financially successful neighbourhoods were highlighted based on royalties, with Montreal’s Mile-End securing the top spot.

The top 10 music growth centres

This year, it’s three Toronto neighbourhoods occupying the top five.

  1. Trinity / Little Portugal, Toronto 
  2. Christie, Toronto 
  3. Rosemont, Montréal 
  4. Brockton / Parkdale Village / Exhibition Place, Toronto 
  5. Centre-Sud, Montréal 
  6. North Grandview-Woodland, Vancouver 
  7. Dufferin / Dovercourt Village, Toronto 
  8. Plateau Mont-Royal, Montréal
  9. Outremont, Montréal 
  10. Petite-Patrie Southwest, Montréal

The full SOCAN report can be found here.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau brings his toddler to work

Prime Minister of Canada and internet darling Justin Trudeau has shown the rest of the world’s leaders how to do publicity once again – by bringing his three-year-old to the office.

A prime minister’s business never stops – his official itinerary for the day included a national caucus meeting, questions in the House of Commons, and a meeting with the university presidents.

But he still found time for hide-and-seek.

Little Hadrien Trudeau literally had the run of the place – illustrious marble corridors and all – and stole the show in a series of photos posted to social media.

The duo were also photographed handling the press and politicians – distracting both groups from their serious work.

“So precious … I’m old enough to remember seeing photos released of you and your dad [former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau] when you were little,” one Facebook commenter volunteered.

“Whether it’s good for PR or not, you can’t call Mr Trudeau anything but a family man,” another wrote.

Of course, it’s not the first time the 45-year-old internet-savvy politician has caught global attention.

The liberal politician has been applauded by his supporters for supporting Syrian refugees, marching at a gay pride parade, and openly declaring himself a feminist.

Last week, Syrian refugees in Canada named their child after him, he’s tackled quantum computing off-the-cuff – and even dealt with Donald Trump.

All photos from Justin Trudeau on Facebook

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Here’s The Proven Secret On Achieving Diversity In A Canadian Newsroom

Dear fellow media executive,

Too many times in my career, I have had to remind myself that the colour of my skin matters.

Too many times, when I would rather focus on where merit has brought me, I have to say it matters that a Chinese-Canadian journalist could be a managing editor of a newsroom that wasn’t printing or broadcasting in Chinese.

It matters because while there are more than enough talented people of colour in this industry – even more so have come on board the last two decades – those of us who are here are frustrated.

We have so far to go. And it’s beyond time to talk about it. It’s time to start doing.

I know, because I am a senior leader in this industry. Before HuffPost, I have served in senior roles at newspapers, once my name inhabited a national sheet’s masthead. I have sat among editors at daily news meetings. I have seen floods of interns stream into our newsrooms with the hope that the tide would turn.

“We have so far to go. And it’s beyond time to talk about it. It’s time to start doing.”

Hope, it appears, doesn’t amount to much.

You can see it in the bylines, in the ranks of columnists who shape the daily opinion, in the senior leadership of just about every Canadian media organization. Forget leadership, just go walk into any newsroom and look around — then go outside and walk the streets of a city like Toronto and you know there is a disconnect.

Canada’s newsrooms are not diverse. And we are all suffering for it.

huffpost canada
HuffPost Canada’s newsroom, circa 2016.

We do not collectively reflect what the census (and common sense) will tell you about how Canada no longer resembles what it looked like 150 years ago.

Journalists – no matter the stripe – will tell you they are looking to tell good stories. They want to be fair, accurate and considered. It’s true, but I believe that every person’s experience creates a frame of reference for what matters — what is news, what are stories that should be told. More so, when coverage becomes a “us and them” exercise, you know something is wrong.

Newsrooms are imperfect places shaped by human experiences — stories stem from ‘kitchen table’ conversation to the cultural class those journalists inhabit. Earlier in my career, as a still-green manager, I would watch weekend award-winning features and front-page plans come to life based on “what I heard this weekend”– in most cases the “what I heard” came from a mostly male, mostly white experience.

“I know it’s possible to not only address diversity, but actually do it.”

Here’s the rub. Having now led a newsroom for the past six years, I know it’s possible to not only address diversity, but actually do it.

HuffPost Canada’s senior leadership, including my boss, are all minorities. More than 50 per cent of my newsroom of 35 are visible minorities. When we speak about coverage of the black experience, or the LGBTQ experience or Muslim experience or being a child of the immigrant, our newsroom only needs to look around and realize we at least have a jumpstart to the conversation.

huffpost canada
HuffPost Canada’s news team. Photo: Tim Fraser

Why? Because we are talking about ourselves.

You should do it too.

Want to know the secret?

I’ll give it away for free.

Hire diversely.

No, I don’t mean think about it, or create a program to encourage it.

Do it.

And do it now. Your next hire — from your next intern to your middle manager. To — gasp — your next editor-in-chief or managing editor or top columnist.

And your next hire and the next one after that.

You’ll be only better for it, and you find a way to be relevant.

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