Bitcoin, Burning Man And The Gifting Economy

Credit: Jim Urquhart, Reuters Bitcoin was a terrible investment this year, but that hasn’t stopped non-profits from asking for them anyway. Wikipedia, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Khan Academy and now even Burning Man will take those bitcoins off your hands in the form of a tax-deductible donation. While this won’t get you a golden ticket into the actual festival, gifting something without expecting anything… Read More

Careful With That Drone Now

2014-12-22_0840 So you got a drone for Christmas (or an unmanned flying vehicle, as the FAA likes to call it, or a quadcopter, if you prefer). That’s awesome. But don’t just head into your backyard and try to fly it without any preparation (unless it’s one of those Parrot MiniDrones, of course). As we reported earlier this week, the FAA would like you to follow a couple of common sense… Read More

Facebook’s ‘Year In Review’ Feature Will Chronicle Your 2014, Good Or Bad

Screenshot 2014-12-25 10.03.21 Facebook has again unleashed its Year In Review app, automatically compiling some of the most-liked photos from your feeds over 2014 and puts them into a neat little timeline.
When you sign into Facebook, you’ll see an advertisement to check out your Year In Review, customize it, and share it with your friends. If you’re still having trouble finding it, you can simply sign into… Read More

The Enterprise In 2015

enterprise At Emergence Capital, we have had the opportunity to invest in visionaries such as Marc Benioff, Aaron Levie and David Sacks who have built major enterprise cloud applications that have formed the basis of the next generation of business software around the world. As we look out to 2015, we are excited to invest in what’s next for the enterprise. Read More

The 20 best games of 2014, as chosen by the Ars brain trust

2014 was a difficult year to pin down in gaming. A number of highly anticipated AAA blockbusters ended up letting down both critics and many players with horrible narratives (Watch Dogs), broken design (Assassin’s Creed: Unity), too-punishing difficulty (Alien: Isolation), or underwhelming repetitiveness (Destiny). A lot of the best games of the year actually came out in some form in previous years (Hearthstone, The Last of Us Remastered, Halo: The Master Chief Collection, Grand Theft Auto V‘s re-release) and thus didn’t feel like they belonged on a list highlighting what was truly new in 2014.

On the independent side, there were a lot of interesting experiments but few stand-out, bona fide hits that will stick with us the way Papers, Please or Gone Home have in years past. In the middle were plenty of games that were endearing (Captain Toad’s Treasure Tracker), well-constructed (Shovel Knight), enjoyably brutal (Dark Souls II), or just plain silly (Goat Simulator). But most didn’t stand out enough to really represent the year.

So after much debate and discussion among the Ars editor brain trust, we’ve come up with this list of 20 games that we feel represent the best and most interesting titles of the year. It’s a bit of a mish-mash of titles with only a top few that really stand out above the rest as true classics. Still, these are the games we think people will look back on and remember when they think about the muddled past 12 months in gaming.

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What You Need to Know About Canada’s Refugee Health Program

The federal government has finally backtracked on some of their cuts to the refugee health program brought about in 2012. The drastic changes to the Interim Federal Health program restricted access to drugs, dental and vision coverage for most refugees and refugee claimants, but most seriously, cut off effectively all health coverage for refugee claimants from 37 so-called “safe countries”.

As a result, many pregnant women have been denied prenatal and obstetrical care, at least one refugee claimant was denied chemotherapy for his cancer treatment, and many have been wrongfully denied care due to the confusion created with a two-tier system based on country of origin.

After significant public opposition and a legal challenge on the basis of violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, in July 2014, a federal court deemed the cuts to the refugee health program ‘cruel and unusual’ treatment. The federal government was given four months, until November 4, to reinstate the original policy, and at the last minute, asked for a delay to reinstate the program. That delay too was denied by the courts last week, so the government announced what it deems “Temporary measures for the Interim Federal Health Program”, not quite a full reversal, while they plan to pursue a formal appeal.

Here is what the temporary measures provide and still don’t provide:

1. Core medical services
The government has restored access to physician, hospital and lab services for all refugee claimants. This is a major change, as after the 2012 cuts, refugee claimants from one of the 37 Designated Countries of Origin got effectively no health coverage. They have also restored this coverage for rejected refugee claimants from countries on which there is a moratorium on deportation (Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, DRC, Zimbabwe). All other rejected refugee claimants still do not have access to these services, except for children and pregnant women.

2. Access to medications
The government has restored access to medications for children, pregnant women and rejected refugee claimants from moratorium countries. While this is helpful in these populations, before the 2012 cuts all refugees and refugee claimants on the Interim Federal Health Program had access to medications, which are a crucial part of healthcare today.

3. Supplementary benefits
The government has restored access to “supplementary benefits” eg. dental benefits, vision benefits and some others for children only. This is a big problematic as such benefits are crucial for all refugees and refugee claimants. In Ontario, while many refugee claimants can access emergency dental benefits through social assistance, they cannot access vision benefits at all.

As you can tell, this is not a complete reversal of the refugee health cuts. While for healthcare providers the details of the program are crucial, even more important is for us to note what this entire process has taught us on a grander scale and what it suggests for the future.

1. A pattern of cruel and unusual policies
It is clear that the federal government wants to deny health and social services to vulnerable people. Despite the significant public opposition, despite the court ruling, despite being denied a stay, the government still chose not to full restore the original refugee health program, and still plans to pursue a formal appeal. Without a full reversal to the original program, the government can be found in contempt of court and also will further confuse healthcare providers as to what is and is not covered.

In keeping with this pattern of cruel and unusual policies, the current Budget Bill going through parliament includes a measure to deny refugee claimants access to social assistance even though most cannot access a work permit for months. The government has also overhauled the refugee determination system so there are much higher rates of denial of claims heard, making the legitimacy of denying healthcare on the basis of accepted vs. rejected claims even more problematic. They have put bans of sponsorship of parents and grandparents, made it increasingly more difficult to obtain citizenship and made it easier to lose both citizenship and permanent residency.

2. A victory for grassroots mobilization
While the government has not restored the refugee health program to its original form, restoring core medical benefits for all refugee claimants is a huge victory, as is winning a charter challenge that deems the cuts in violation of the Charter. The refugee health cuts have seen an unprecedented mobilization from the health sector including most of the country’s national healthcare agencies, along with migrants and community members. While we know the government is submitting a formal appeal, there is no doubt here that justice will prevail, and in the end, the government’s cruel and unusual policy change will in fact be reversed. This is a great reminder of the importance of exercising our right to be critical and oppose policies where they stand against evidence and human rights.

3. A step towards universal health care
In Canada, we pride ourselves on having a universal health care system, yet half a million people in Canada live without health insurance due to their immigration status. As you read this, a family newly arrived to Canada is running a crowdfunding campaign to pay for the healthcare bills they endured in the three month waiting period for OHIP when their three-year-old child sustained severe burns. Similarly, countless cases are known of undocumented patients being denied access to care, in some cases resulting in death from terminal illness. The federal government’s policy to cut refugee health care simply added people to the ranks of the uninsured. The large public opposition to this policy shows that people in Canada do not want anyone enduring sickness to be denied access to health care.

While the federal government’s decision to not fully comply with the court’s ruling means there will be increased confusion among health providers, and yet further money wasted on an appeal of a policy that has already been deemed cruel and unusual, the temporary measures are a significant victory and we are well on our way to overturning the refugee health cuts completely. This process has shown us both the capacity of the federal government for enacting cruel policies and fighting tooth and nail to keep them, as well as the power of grassroots mobilizations. It gives me hope that we will in fact reach a day when we overturn the refugee health cuts completely, and eventually move to a system where healthcare is provided regardless of immigration status.

What I Learned This Week: The Case for Triple-Checking


On Saturday, Dec. 6 at 3:00 p.m. sharp, I sat down at the Vic Park gym with trainer Haskel Garmaise to re-launch my intense workout regime with a brand new, multi-disciplinary program.

That is not the important part of this post.

To get you to what is though, consider that I reached out to Haskel on Facebook and asked him to work with me on November 16 at 8:50 p.m.

After much back-and-forth Facebook messaging about scheduling, we locked down the Dec. 6 timeframe on November 19th at 8:07 p.m.

On Sunday, November 30 at 5:34 p.m., Haskel sent me another Facebook message confirming the appointment now six days away.

On Friday, Dec. 5 at 7:46 p.m., he sent me one last message, this one to my phone, “making sure we’re still good.

So, is Haskel a pain in the ass, or overly anal-rententive?

Neither. Haskel is smart. He’s obviously been burned before, which is why, I suspect, Haskel assumes nothing. And which is why, Haskel is the poster child for this week’s major learning, namely:

Assuming ANYTHING is the first step towards ultimate disappointment

Haskel is not alone. I get the same type of quadruple-confirmation every time I visit Dr. Elliot Mechanic, my dentist.

One could simply chalk up this type of “un-assuming” behavior to people who work on an appointment basis; doctors, dentists, lawyers, restaurants, trainers and the like. Their time is literally money, and any waste of the former is a throwaway of the latter.

But to me, eschewing assumptions has been a way of life. For example, to this day, while driving, I never, ever cruise breezily through a green light. Instead, I follow a lesson I have passed onto both of my sons: “Just because the other guy has the red light, don’t assume he’s stopping at it.

Paranoid? Perhaps, but as well as saving my life more than a few times, this post’s overarching lesson has enabled me to control my temper in many off-putting situations, because rare is the occasion when I blindly assume:

  • the flight will leave on schedule
  • the cab will show up in five minutes
  • the show will start on time
  • Bell will send my iPhone in four-to-six weeks
  • the contract will be signed
  • the passport will arrive in the mail
  • the photo will be emailed
  • the piece will be repaired in two weeks
  • my restaurant table will be ready when I walk in

…I could go on forever.

On one hand, I don’t assume; I accept. Now I’m not making excuses for, or enabling, others; I’m just accepting a cold hard truth of the way the world increasingly seems to work. It’s like the basic premise of M. Scott Peck‘s book People Of The Lie, where he outlines that evil is the norm and good is the deviation from it. In my case, I’m not bowled over when something screws up, but happily surprised when it doesn’t.

On the other hand, I don’t assume, I check. And if I really need something to be done on time, like Haskel and Elliot Mechanic, I check, double-check, triple-check and maybe even exponentially-check.

The much quoted Matthew 5:5 passages in the Bible say something to the effect that “The meek shall inherit the earth.

Twisting and paraphrasing that a little bit, I think I’ve come up with a more contemporary Beatitude for a more wary generation:

“Victory goes to the unassuming.”