The antitrust scholar whose work laid the blueprint for a new wave of monopoly lawsuits against Big Tech

With no background in academia but an insider’s understanding of the digital ad world and a stack of economics books, Dina Srinivasan wrote a paper with a novel theory: that Facebook harmed consumers by extracting more and more personal data for using its free services.

OAKLAND, Calif. — Three years ago, before she became an antitrust scholar whose work laid the blueprint for a new wave of monopoly lawsuits against Big Tech, Dina Srinivasan was a digital advertising executive bored with her job and worried about the bleak outlook for the industry.

“It just felt like, OK, Facebook and Google were going to win, and everybody else is going to lose, and that’s just the way the cards were stacked,” Srinivasan said. “I don’t think this was widely understood.”

So she quit her job at a unit of WPP, the world’s largest advertising agency, and pursued something she had not done since her days as a law student at Yale University: writing a legal treatise.

With no background in academia but an insider’s understanding of the digital ad world and a stack of economics books, she wrote a paper with a novel theory: that Facebook harmed consumers by extracting more and more personal data for using its free services. This year, she argued in another paper that Google’s monopoly in advertising technology allowed for the type of self-dealing and insider trading that would be illegal on Wall Street.

Her arguments reframed the antitrust thinking about the companies. And her timing was perfect.

Federal regulators and state attorneys general had expressed growing unease about the unchecked power of the technology giants. But many had struggled with how to bring a case because of the complexity of the companies and the markets they competed in. Arguing that these firms were harming consumers was also difficult because many of their products were free.

 Dina Srinivasan.

“Her work has allowed policymakers to clarify their ideas, to move from a confused state of being worried to a state where they can articulate the specifics of what they worry about,” said Thomas Philippon, an economist and New York University professor who has written about the concentration of corporate power. “There’s no doubt that her work has been influential.”

For two decades, while the biggest technology companies amassed more power, branched into new businesses and gobbled up competitors, U.S. regulators had exercised restraint in enforcing antitrust laws. But in recent months, mounting concerns about the outsize influence of tech’s most powerful companies have set off a cascade of antitrust lawsuits, with three cases targeting Google and two suits against Facebook.

As the legal arguments take shape, there is evidence of Srinivasan’s fingerprints.

When Letitia James, New York’s attorney general, accused Facebook of buying up rivals to illegally crush the competition as part of a multistate lawsuit against the company this month, she noted that consumers paid the price with reduced privacy protections. That notion of consumer harm is the crux of Srinivasan’s thesis in her paper, “The Antitrust Case Against Facebook.”

When Texas and nine other states filed an antitrust lawsuit against Google last week, the complaint identified many of the same conflicts of interest as Srinivasan’s paper “Why Google Dominates Advertising Markets” in the Stanford Technology Law Review. The lawsuit said Google controlled every part of the digital advertising pipeline and used it to give priority to its own services, acting as “pitcher, batter and umpire, all at the same time.”

The similarities were obvious for good reason. In September, Srinivasan became a technical consultant to the team of lawyers in the Texas attorney general’s office working on the investigation into Google. With her understanding of economics and the advertising market, she took on an expanded role and was instrumental in drafting the complaint, said a person familiar with the case who was not allowed to speak publicly on the matter.

“Dina was an integral part of the team, particularly in the closing months as we sought to finalize the petition,” the Texas attorney general, Ken Paxton, said in a statement. “Dina contributed immensely to the entire effort, and we were fortunate to have her aid.”

It remains to be seen how the courts will receive Srinivasan’s legal arguments. Facebook has said that concerns about its handling of privacy and harmful content are important, but they are not antitrust issues. Google said that the case led by Texas is “meritless” and “baseless.”

As regulators home in on the technology giants, they are relying on the assistance of current and former insiders like Srinivasan to provide the expertise necessary to apply 20th-century competition laws to 21st-century technology and markets.

For Srinivasan, 40, her second career as an antitrust scholar finally provided a use for her law degree from Yale, where she had a keen interest in competition law. Her final research paper at Yale in 2006 was an argument that the rules for the National Association of Realtors amounted to an illegal conspiracy among its members. (The discussion was in the news at the time because the Department of Justice had brought its own antitrust case against the trade association in 2005. The two sides reached a settlement in 2008.)

When Srinivasan graduated law school, she passed on a law career and started a company to help local businesses efficiently buy advertising on the internet. She sold the technology to a division of WPP and joined its then-subsidiary Kantar Media as an executive in 2012.

Srinivasan said she had an epiphany in June 2014 when Facebook announced that it would start tracking the behaviour of users across the internet — and outside of its network — to sharpen its ad targeting. Even as her colleagues celebrated the news as an important breakthrough for advertisers, Srinivasan could not shake the feeling that this represented a failure of the free market.

“Who the heck consents to having a company track them across the internet,” she remembered thinking. “They could only do it because they had monopoly power to do something that clearly goes against consumer interests.”

After leaving the ad world in 2017, she spent the next year researching and writing a paper on why Facebook was a monopoly. When she was done, she submitted her paper to the websites of about a dozen law reviews. To her surprise, the Berkeley Business Law Journal, which is associated with the University of California, Berkeley’s law school, agreed to publish her work. Srinivasan said she cried at the news.

Her Facebook paper quickly captured the attention of regulators. In March 2019, a month after it was published, Rep. David Cicilline, the Democratic chair of the House antitrust subcommittee, wrote a letter to the Federal Trade Commission urging the agency to investigate Facebook on antitrust grounds, citing her paper, among other works. The New York attorney general’s office later asked her to speak to its lawyers about her work.

This year, she took aim with her Stanford Technology Law Review article at the other behemoth of the online ad world: Google. She explained the complex world of online ad exchanges, where display ads are sold and bought in milliseconds. Srinivasan argued that Google dominates nearly all facets of these markets, representing buyers and sellers while also operating the largest exchange.

While other electronic trading markets — namely, financial markets — are heavily regulated to prevent conflicts of interest and unfair advantages of speed and inside information, online ad trading is largely unregulated. She argued that Google’s dominance inflated the price of ads — a concept described as a “monopoly tax” in the multistate lawsuit led by Texas.

 U.S. federal and state antitrust enforcers filed suit against Facebook on Dec. 9, 2020 claiming the social media giant abused its dominant position with acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp.

Marshall Steinbaum, an assistant professor at the University of Utah’s economics department, wrote on Twitter that Srinivasan’s articles on Google and Facebook had a greater influence on the recently filed antitrust cases than all the other research about those companies or tech in general by traditional economists focused on competition policy.

“Her papers are just very clearly on point about the actual conduct of the platforms and its competitive significance,” Steinbaum said. “They’re helpful to enforcers and come from a perspective of someone who obviously knows the industry and the facts.”

These days, Srinivasan is a fellow with an antitrust research group at Yale, and she is trying to figure out what to do next. She passed the California bar exam last December and also considered enrolling in a doctoral program in economics. For a little over a year until September, she worked as a consultant to News Corp., advising the company on antitrust matters.

Srinivasan said she is just happy that anyone bothered to read what she wrote. While she still feels like an outsider to the world of antitrust scholars, she said not having a traditional academic background helped her see problems differently and come up with a new line of thinking.

“It probably helped me to be disconnected,” she said. “It allowed me to think outside the box.”

Source: National Post Quebec Nordiques

Trump checks off Hollinger executives on his pardon list

Peter Atkinson arrives at federal court June 29, 2007 in Chicago, Illinois.

U.S. President Donald Trump has pardoned two of the men who were convicted of fraud alongside Conrad Black, the founder of the National Post and former head of the Hollinger International Inc. media group.

Black, an ardent defender of the president — whom he counts as a “loyal friend,” according to The New Yorker — is the author of a Trump biography and columnist for the National Post. Black was pardoned in May 2019.

Trump has issued a litany of pardons in recent days,

among them Paul Manafort and Roger Stone

, both ensnared by the probe into Trump’s dealings with Russia. Both Manafort and Stone were convicted by juries of a number of felonies. Trump, on Tuesday, also

pardoned a number of Blackwater mercenaries

, who had been convicted in 2014 of various offences after massacring 14 Iraqi civilians in 2007.

 John “Jack” Boultbee, co-defendant with Conrad Black, former chairman of Hollinger International Inc., leaves the Everett McKinley Dirksen United States Courthouse after the fifth day of Black’s and his closing arguments trial in Chicago, Illinois, Monday, June 25, 2007.

Wednesday’s pardon list was a diverse affair, featuring a manufacturer of diabetic shoe inserts who was convicted of mail fraud, a police officer who let loose her police dog on an unarmed homeless man in 1995 and was sentenced to a decade in jail for civil-rights violations and a variety of white collar criminals and fraudsters.

John Boultbee and Peter Atkinson were both executives of Hollinger Inc., a media company that was, at its height, one of the largest in the world, including newspapers in Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom.

The Canadian Press reported the three faced charges in connection to a scheme involving paying themselves bonuses from Hollinger International earnings, cheating shareholders and American and Canadian tax authorities.

Boultbee, Hollinger’s former chief financial officer, and Atkinson, Hollinger’s former vice president, were convicted of fraud. The White House press release on the pardons notes they were pardoned with the “support of Lord Black.”

Black, who served three years in an American prison, was released from prison in 2012.

Black did not reply to a request for comment.

Source: National Post Quebec Nordiques

'This is not a dying church': As COVID-19 persists, so does one Montreal church

The window, designed and painted by British artist Lawrence Lee, shows a Canadian twist on the epochal Biblical nativity scene.

Normally at this time of year, the Church of St. Andrew and St. Paul in Montreal would be packed to the brim with more than 1,000 people, seated alongside each other, listening to the reverend Dr. Glenn Chestnut deliver the Christmas sermon. 

But this Christmas, the halls of St. Andrew and St. Paul will stand empty as people remain at home and refrain from large gatherings during the tenth month of a global COVID-19 pandemic that has infected 528,000 Canadians and killed at least 14,000 others. 

It will be a strange situation. No excited voices will echo under the high ceilings and no snow-drenched boots will plod through the doors. 

And no eyes will come to rest upon the church’s famed stained glass windows — one of which has been chosen to grace the front page of the National Post, a Christmas tradition at the publication since its inception in 1998. 

Every year, the Post chooses a stained glass window featuring an often Canadian twist on the nativity scene and this year’s choice is no different. A serene Mary sits in a garden with baby Jesus on her lap as three onlookers — two of whom are Aboriginal, according to church historian Don Kelly —  bow with spears in their hands. At her feet, sits a deer, instead of the Biblical lamb, an ode to Canadian wildlife. 

At the bottom of the large window, which measures 6 feet wide and 14 feet long, an inscription of Verse 14 from Chapter Two of the Gospel of Luke reads: “Glory to God in the highest and on Earth peace, goodwill towards men.”

The window is located on the left wall of the church, just ahead of the church hall’s upper gallery, where it would — in pre-pandemic days — have a full view of the faithful sitting in the ground pews of the hall during services.

 A complete view of the window, one of 10 designed by British artist Lawrence Lee as part of a commission in the 1960s.

The window is one of 10 designed by the mid-20th century British artist Lawrence Lee for the Montreal church, after being commissioned by members of the congregation in the 1960s. 

Taking inspiration from one of the church’s oldest and most prized windows — the 1919 Black Watch Memorial Window — Lee painted the windows to breathe light into the church’s interiors, while keeping to the “central cord, which tells the (Biblical story),”  Kelly explains. 

Several of the 10 windows also serve as memorials to members of the congregation, and include the member’s name, birth and death date,  a testament to the church’s pride in its 200-year history. 

 St. Gabriel Street Church was Montreal’s first Presbyterian church, built in 1803.

The church’s origins, Kelly said, date to 1803, the year its predecessor, St. Gabriel Street Church, Montreal’s first Presbyterian church, was built. However, clashes over the choice of ministers cleaved the congregation, and by the early- to mid-1800s, several factions had broken away to form their own churches, Kelly said.

Two of those factions went on to create St. Andrew’s Church in 1824, and St. Paul’s Church in 1833. 

For the next 100 years, the two churches rivalled each other, in both wealth and influence, each backed by Montreal’s Scottish elite. Several attempts were made during the 19th century to unite them, all unsuccessful, until the aftermath of the First World War, which left St. Andrew’s Church without a building and St. Paul’s without a minister. “It was difficult (to find a minister) during the war, a lot of the ministers initially came from Scotland,” Kelly said. 

And so, out of need, the churches transformed from rivals to friends, and by 1918, had reunited to form the Church of St. Andrew’s and St. Paul’s. 

 The Church of St. Andrew and St. Paul, located in Montreal, holds a congregation of over 600 members and despite the pandemic, has still seen new members join this year.

The reunion did not mark an end to the church’s tumultuous history — far from it. The year 1918 marked the beginning of the Spanish flu, one of the world’s deadliest pandemics, which killed more than 50 million people worldwide, including 50,000 Canadians. 

Montreal, according to a

November 2018 issue

of the Canadian Medical Journal, was the worst hit of all Canadian cities. Of its then-population of 640,000 residents, 3,128 people were killed by the virus. The infection rate had so alarmingly risen in October 1918, that by the end of the month, all

Roman Catholic churches

had been closed in accordance with an order from the city’s board of health, supported by the then-

archbishop Bruchesi. 

It was unclear whether the same order applied to Protestant churches, including the Church of St. Andrew and St. Paul. “Can’t recall church being cancelled,”

Rev. Dr. J.S.S. Armour,

the church’s minister emeritus wrote in an email, adding there may have instead been a ‘special Sunday of prayer’ hosted by the church ministers. 

Armour noted how historically few references there are to the “many epidemics that swept through the city” in the church records.

“In former days, poverty, disease, child death, were accepted as facts of life — not that churches weren’t involved,” he wrote. But the minutes, he added, dealt with church business rather than current affairs. “No mention, for instance, of Confederation, the burning of the Parliament buildings or the many fires that destroyed large sections of the city.”

 Since March, the church has been closed to congregation members and public alike. But during Christmas, it would normally be packed to the brim with over 1,000 people attending the Christmas morning sermon.

It is unclear just how much adversity the church has survived in the 100 years since it was reunited — the aftermath of two world wars and, now, two global pandemics. Since March, the building has been closed to the public in accordance with Quebec’s COVID-19 regulations. 

Yet through it all, the community thrives and even grows, Kelly asserted. The church, which has more than 600 congregants, continues to draw new members despite the pandemic.

“This is not a dying church,” Kelly said. 

The church keeps solidarity alive through online services and events. Their annual fall fair for example, Kelly said, drew in $150,000 from community sales, despite being held online for the first time ever. All the proceeds go to charity. 

“Without question this is a difficult time for all of us, but especially for those of us who are ill or who feel isolated,” Rev. Chestnut wrote in a letter posted to the church’s website in March. 

“Please spare a thought for a neighbour or a stranger who might be in difficulty or need at this time, especially if they are older. Please consider helping them in ways that are in accordance with government guidelines.

“Most of all, please keep hope alive.”

Source: National Post Quebec Nordiques

How Canadians can safely socialize outdoors in the COVID cold

Children play with a snow man wearing a face mask is seen in a playground in Moscow on November 23, 2020.

As they would say in Game of Thrones

“winter is coming” and it’s important to remember grandma’s old adage that it’s easier to catch the flu in a cold climate.

COVID-19 and the flu have very similar properties and both thrive inside the human body. Since outdoor gatherings still have the green light in most Canadian provinces, tackling the winter cold and staying safe is a new challenge.

Is it worth possibly getting exposed to COVID-19 to see a few friends, while getting frost-bitten toes? The answer is both yes and no because, well, humans need socialization but COVID-19 can spread more easily in the cold.

According to

Nature Journal

, experiments have revealed that Sars-CoV-2 is one of the few viruses that favours very cold and dry conditions. This means catching COVID-19 in winter is more likely than it was in the summer. And as of Dec. 21, winter is officially here.

Colin Furness, an infection control epidemiologist and assistant professor at the University of Toronto’s faculty of information, said there are a few factors that make COVID-19 a lot riskier in the winter.

First, he said, is temperature. “When you exhale it, the coronavirus starts to die right away. The warmer the temperature, the faster it dies and the colder the temperature, the longer it lives.”

The second thing is that in colder weather, it can last a very long time. Furness said that virus behaviour in freezing temperatures hasn’t really been studied but in 1992, still-live Spanish flu was extracted from a corpse in Alaska — it had been frozen upon death.

The biggest factor of all is humidity, Furness said. When it’s humid the virus droplets get bigger and heavier, leading them to fall to the ground quicker. But when it’s cold, those droplets shrink and evaporate, meaning they hover in the air a lot longer.

“On top of that, the mucus linings in our nose and throat dry out in the cold, dry air and that makes them much less effective at screening things out,” he explained.

However, Furness, like many others, doesn’t think we should let COVID scare us away from socializing during the colder months. “We’re human and we need social contact,” he said. Completely restricting people from seeing each other outdoors is not sustainable and not healthy.

There are safe ways to socialize while getting your daily dose of human interaction. Canadians are used to below-freezing temperatures, so bundling up, and having hot drinks on hand, is one known strategy. But for those thinking of warmer alternatives, you might want to reconsider pitching a tent.

Tents are very scary at present because they take away the free movement of air, Furness said. “When the breeze blows, it’s taking care of business and as soon as you’re in a tent, well it’s just like being indoors but it’s much much, much worse because the air is cold.”

He even said that it would be slightly safer to be inside with warm air flow and no masks than it would to be in an enclosed tent with cold air. The way to determine whether or not a modified outdoor environment is a safe option is to light a candle, Furness said. “If you can keep a candle lit in that tent, then there’s not enough air flow.”

The safest way to see people outdoors is what we’ve been practicing since day one — keep your six-foot distance, avoid hugs and wear your mask. “In the winter, having a mask on isn’t nearly so uncomfortable,” Furness said.

People are starting to realize that walking against the cold wind in a mask is not as painful as it is without one; it diminishes that feeling of pins jabbing into your face. “It’s actually kind of nice,” he said.

Most provinces have some leeway when it comes to outside gatherings compared to indoor ones, but there are still restrictions to look at.

In Ontario, depending on your zone colour, your outside limit varies. Green, yellow and orange zones can have 100 people outdoors for organized public events and social gatherings at businesses. Gatherings held in private residences, backyards or parks, where social distancing can be maintained, allow for 25 people.

When a region reaches the red zone, the limit for outdoor public events and social gatherings is 25 people. The grey zone, also known as the lockdown zone, allows for 10 people at outdoor public events and social gatherings where social distancing can be maintained.

Starting Dec. 26, Ontario will be in the grey zone, with outside gatherings limited to 10 people with a six-foot distance between them.

In Quebec, it’s much different. Depending on your alert level, most outdoor gatherings are prohibited or capped at a certain amount.

A Level 4-Maximum Alert means visitors from another address are not allowed indoors or outdoors, and private outdoor gatherings are banned completely. But sports and recreational activities, with no more than eight people per group held outdoors in public places, are allowed with social distancing.

Level 3-Alert allows a maximum of six people indoors or outdoors for private gatherings, and sports and recreational activities allow for a maximum of 25 people for organized indoor or outdoor events.

Alberta, on the other hand, took an even bigger leap and has banned all outdoor public or private gatherings as of Dec. 8.

If your province has given the go-ahead to outdoor gatherings, remember to wear your mask, avoid tents and keep your distance.

Source: National Post Quebec Nordiques

'Lasting honour': Battle for Hong Kong ended on Christmas Day 1941 and Capt. John Reid was among the Canadians there

“C” Force arrives in Hong Kong on November 16, 1941.

On Christmas Day, 1941, Hong Kong surrendered to invading Japanese forces. The Canadian death toll was 290, and some 1,700 were taken prisoner. Among the PoWs was John Reid, a young Canadian doctor who volunteered for the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps after his medical training. He survived the war, but finding a peace of his own took 10 tumultuous years, with casualties of a different sort. This excerpt from the new book The Captain Was a Doctor describes Reid’s experience through the last three days of the battle for Hong Kong.

By December 22, Mount Cameron, several miles north of Reid’s Regimental Aid Post, had become the linchpin of West Brigade’s defensive line as the Japanese forced their way from the east. The position was held by only 100 Winnipeg Grenadiers, reinforced by a platoon of British Royal Engineers — all that could be spared. After raining Mount Cameron’s defenders with artillery and mortar fire, the Japanese attacked during the evening with 1,000 troops. The Grenadiers and Royal Engineers fought back ferociously, but a Japanese breakthrough on their right flank threatened to encircle their position and forced their withdrawal northward to Wan Chai Gap. In his postwar debriefing in October 1945, Reid recalls the confusion of this night:

(We were) still at Aberdeen Reservoir. This hill (where we had our aid post) continued to Wan Chai Gap. That part was held by the British and Canadians on our left flank. During the night we heard a lot of firing on this hill. We phoned (Grenadier Headquarters, northwest of Mount Cameron) to find out what was going on. They said, absolutely nothing — everything’s under control and quiet. In about ten minutes we got a call (from Grenadier Headquarters) in a great hurry and as soon as the phone was off (the hook) someone said the Japs are coming, we’re falling back on Mt. Gough, northwesterly, and for us to get up (to Mount Gough) any way we could … we would try to make a last stand there, then they banged down the phone. We picked it up again to ask, what’s this all about? Nobody was there.

Mount Cameron fell to the Japanese in the early hours of December 23. Except for Stanley Peninsula, where Canada’s Royal Rifles and the rest of East Brigade were cut off but still holding out, the Japanese now controlled the whole eastern half of Hong Kong Island, including the north-south corridor down the centre to Repulse Bay. West Brigade’s entire defence line from Leighton Hill in the north of the island to Bennet’s Hill in the south was under intense attack. On this day, another telegram was sent to Governor Mark Young by Prime Minister Winston Churchill:

There must be no thought of surrender. Every part of the island must be fought and the enemy resisted with the utmost stubbornness. The enemy should be compelled to expend the utmost life and equipment. There must be vigorous fighting in the inner defences and, if need be, from house to house. Every day that you are able to maintain your resistance you help the Allied cause all over the world, and by a prolonged resistance you and your men can win the lasting honour which we are sure will be your due.

 Captain John Reid.

With Mount Cameron overrun by the enemy, the Winnipeg Grenadiers north of the Aberdeen Reservoir, now dangerously exposed, were ordered to pull back to Aberdeen Village on the coast, Reid’s medical unit with them. On the morning of Tuesday, December 23, Reid deposited his wounded at the Aberdeen Naval Hospital and took stock of what he should do next.

At the beginning of hostilities, all of the garrison’s field ambulances, including the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps, were reorganized as the Combined Field Ambulance led by Lieutenant-Colonel Lindsay Ride of the Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corps, with the Winnipeg Grenadiers’ Major John Crawford as second-in-command. During the last three days of fighting, the Combined Field Ambulance Headquarters had been on the move and was out of touch with many of its medical units. When Reid finally made contact late on Tuesday afternoon, he was ordered to Pok Fu Lam on the west coast of the island. As he describes in his postwar debriefing, believing his short-lived military career was about to end, he persuaded the Field Ambulance Headquarters otherwise:

I hadn’t been in the army a very long time and I asked the British Colonel if I could be assigned somewhere else. I had just got into the army and here I was in Hong Kong only a few days and the war was almost done and I asked him if there wasn’t something I could be doing. There wasn’t anything to do at Pok Fu Lam and there wasn’t going to be. He phoned back (and) said, okay, you go to the War Memorial Hospital. That was on the Peak. So I went over there and gave anaesthetics for a day.

The Casualty Clearing Station at War Memorial Hospital was dealing with civilian wounded as well as a stream of British, Canadian, and Indian military casualties. Shortly after the invasion of the island, the hospital’s water supply and electrical system had been knocked out, although engineers from a scuttled British ship managed to rig a small dynamo to produce power for the operating room. Reid was a welcome addition to the medical team. Dr. Annie Sydenham, the hospital’s chief anaesthetist, later reported: “We benefited from the assistance of (Captain Reid) as he knew his own men and was able to give them confidence and cheer.”

Reid remembers the night of December 24 as the oddest of Christmas Eves:

In the basement of the hospital, whose floors above lay ravaged by shell fire, by the flickering lamps in the darkness gathered a varied group: nurses and volunteer nurses, the few daughters of the well-placed who had clung to Hong Kong despite the signs that the “balloon” was really going aloft this time, patched wounded, medical orderlies, officers, and the odds and sods drifting in from the hills — to all came the sudden realization of Christmas Eve. Pots of jam were brought out, loaves of bread, tins of plums, strong hot tea, and — almost surreptitiously — a song: “Silent night, holy night,” rising stronger, louder, fuller till every voice took it up. For an hour all the old sweet airs (were sung), faces gleaming, smiling, tear-dropped but buoyed by the general British “thumbs-up,” till finally fading, most slumped left or right in exhausted sleep.

By dawn of Christmas Day, the remaining elements of West Brigade were hemmed into the western third of the island, while those of East Brigade were trapped on Stanley Peninsula in the southeast. In Victoria that morning, the South China Morning Post, somehow still operating amid the battle, published its penultimate wartime edition with the headline: “Hong Kong Is Observing the Strangest and Most Sober Christmas in Its Century-Old History.” Governor Mark Young broadcast a Christmas message to the colony: “In pride and admiration I send my greeting this Christmas Day to all who are fighting and all who are working so nobly and so well to sustain Hong Kong against the assaults of the enemy. Fight on. Hold fast for King and Empire. God bless you all in this your finest hour. Let this day be historical in the grand annals of our empire. The Order of the Day is to hold fast.”

Practically the last action of the Battle of Hong Kong was a suicidal attack ordered on Christmas morning by Brigadier Wallis, British commander of East Brigade, to retake Stanley Village, a position at the top of Stanley Peninsula recently overrun by the Japanese. The unit chosen for the mission was “D” Company of the Royal Rifles, a force by now reduced through casualties to 120 men. Although Wallis promised artillery support for the attack, none materialized, and at 1:00 p.m. on Christmas Day, Company Sergeant Major George MacDonell and two other platoon leaders led the Canadians across open ground in a wild charge that by its sheer fierceness succeeded in evicting the larger enemy force from parts of Stanley Village while inflicting heavy casualties. But greatly outnumbered by Japanese reinforcements, who began to encircle them, and targeted by a sustained artillery barrage, the Rifles were soon ordered to retreat by Major Maurice Parker, “D” Company’s commanding officer, a tricky withdrawal by two’s and three’s, while MacDonell and Sergeant Lance Ross provided covering fire with their Bren guns before barely escaping themselves. Twenty-six Royal Rifles died during the action. With the 75 who were wounded, “D” Company suffered 84 percent casualties in the attack on Stanley Village. For all the men’s heroics, nothing was gained.

On the west side of the island, General Maltby, the garrison commander, had reached the same conclusion: holding Hong Kong was hopeless; fighting on only meant pointless loss of life, followed by inevitable defeat. Maltby’s final dispatch to London ended: “At 3:15 p.m. (Christmas Day) I advised his Excellency the Governor and Commander-in-Chief that no further useful military resistance was possible and I then ordered all Commanding Officers to break off the fighting and to capitulate to the nearest Japanese Commander, as and when the enemy advanced and the opportunity offered.”

The official surrender of Hong Kong to the Japanese took place at 4:30 on Christmas afternoon. Reid heard the news and its after-effect half an hour later:

The white flag went up about four in the afternoon. Now isolated pockets (of resistance) only, snarling hedge-hogs, but separate. About 5 p.m. the NOISE faded away, little and lesser noises, fewer and farther and, finally, still, still silence, even movement suspended from that hour.

With the silence (came) a bee-hive of thoughts buzzing in the brain: Hong Kong — how strange; home — so far and unreal; only small boats left, and where to go?; friends lost, found, and unknown. Fundamentally, a sense of de-personalization, as though floating in a limbo and seeing, but not fully comprehending, reality.

The Captain Was a Doctor by Jonathon Reid, John Reid’s son, was published in October 2020 by Dundurn Press.

Source: National Post Quebec Nordiques

Jesus is most popular among older Canadians, Albertans (and Christians), poll finds

A Nativity scene depicting Jesus, Mary and Joseph. A new poll found that Christmas is generally popular across all ages in Canada, with those aged 18 to 24 having the most positive view.

As some Canadians celebrate the birth of the Christ Child on Dec. 25, polling shows that across the country, even in more secular areas, most Canadians have a favourable view of Jesus.

According to polling from Leger-Association for Canadian Studies, about 73 per cent of Canadians have a positive view of Jesus, whereas 27 per cent have a negative view of the son of God.

Jesus is most popular in Alberta, where 78 per cent of people say they have a positive view, and the most unpopular in British Columbia and Quebec, were 32 and 33 per cent, respectively, have a negative view of him.

Jesus is less popular among younger Canadians, with 18 per cent of those between the ages of 18 and 24 saying they have a “somewhat negative” view of Jesus and nearly nine per cent reporting a “very negative” view of him. Among those aged 24 to 35, nearly a quarter, or 24 per cent, say they have a “somewhat negative” view and 16 per cent have a “very negative” view. Compare that to those 75 and older, where just 13.7 per cent have a somewhat or very negative view of Christ.

Francophones are also less likely to look favourably upon Jesus: 36 per cent of French speakers have negative views of him, compared with just shy of 25 per cent of anglophones.

As well, Protestants like Jesus more than Catholics, with 61.8 per cent of Protestants having a “very positive” view of Jesus, and about 45 per cent of Catholics having a very positive view. Fifty-seven per cent of Muslims also have a very positive view of Jesus.

He’s least popular among Jews (16 per cent have a very positive view) and atheists (8.5 per cent have a very positive view).

The polling is part of a broader look at the Christmas season.

Unsurprisingly, the poll found that Canadians are spending less time shopping in stores this year. Retail has been limited across the country as part of the effort to slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. Seventy-six per cent of Canadians, the polling found, planned to shop less in person.

Eighteen per cent said they planned to spend the same amount of time shopping in person as they had in previous years, and just one per cent planned to spend more time doing in-store shopping.

Christmas remains popular across Canada. While only 77 per cent of Maritimers have a positive view of Christmas, every other region of the provinces surveyed showed its positivity rate between 84 per cent (Alberta) and 88 per cent (Ontario).

Women are more likely than men to have a very positive view of Christmas: 53.2 per cent to 42.9 per cent. It’s also generally popular across all ages, with those aged 18 to 24 having the most positive view (56.6 say they have a very positive view of Christmas) compared to 45.5 per cent in the 25 to 34 category, where the popularity is lowest.

Protestants and Catholics both view Christmas positively, with 90 per cent of Catholics and 91 per cent of Protestants being either very positive or somewhat positive; Muslims also have positive views of Christmas (73 per cent) as do Jews (87 per cent), Hindus (84 per cent) and atheists (83 per cent).

The polling of 1,528 Canadians was done between Dec. 11 and 13. The margin of error is 3.1 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

• Email: tdawson@postmedia.com | Twitter:

Source: National Post Quebec Nordiques

Canada is ready for early delivery of COVID vaccines, procurement minister says

OTTAWA – As 2021 becomes the year of the vaccine, Canada’s Procurement Minister Anita Anand has a pitch for the pharmaceutical companies producing millions of doses of COVID vaccine for an anxious planet.

Canada is ready.

Pfizer and Moderna, the two front runners in the vaccine race, currently hold a product the entire world wants and Anand’s job every day is to convince them to send more and more of it to Canada. A major part of that pitch is that sending their product to Canada ensures the vaccine won’t go to waste.

“We procured syringes and needles and sharp containers and gauze and bandages and cotton swabs in the millions to ensure that we could get these items out to the provinces and territories to support their vaccination efforts at a local level,” she said.

Anand said that readiness was a major factor in Pfizer agreeing to deliver vaccines to Canada in December in advance of the original shipment that was planned for January.

“We were able to get early doses of the Pfizer vaccine because we were ready, because we had the logistics in place across the country to receive and administer doses.”

Pfizer is set to deliver 255,000 doses this year. Moderna, whose vaccine was approved by Health Canada on Wednesday, has committed to delivering 168,000 this month.

Anand said along with Health Minister Patty Hajdu she wrote to the head of Pfizer emphasizing all the measures Canada took to be ready to distribute vaccines to everyone who needs them.

“Canada is in a position to accept delivery of vaccines as soon as they are available. We look forward to continued close collaboration in delivering a supply of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines to Canadians,” reads the letter.

The government is set to receive four million doses of the Pfizer vaccine and two million doses of Moderna’s candidate by the end of March. In total, Canada has been guaranteed 20 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine and 40 million doses of Moderna’s and has options for more from both companies.

A source, speaking on background, said Canada expects a significant increase in the volume of vaccines deliveries in the second and third quarter of next year, with almost all of Pfizer and Moderna’s doses delivered by the end of September.

Those companies’ full orders would allow the government to inoculate 30 million people. The government is also hopeful other vaccine makers will see their candidates approved after testing, which is still underway.

Last week Pfizer released a statement saying it had doses ready to go to U.S. states, but the American government hadn’t dictated where to send them.

“We have millions more doses sitting in our warehouse but, as of now, we have not received any shipment instructions for additional doses,” said the statement.

Canada is setting up more and more sites each day to administer vaccines, what began with 14 is now dozens across the country. Anand said she makes it clear to vaccine companies that Canada is ready to accept the doses as soon as they are produced.

“Our full court press with the vaccine manufacturers, is simply to say, ‘Please know that Canada is ready now to receive vaccines,’ so that they can be assured that we will immediately utilize those vaccines.

All of Canada’s vaccine procurements include options for more doses than the initial guarantee companies made. Anand said at this point whether Canada exercises those options will depend on whether the companies can make deliveries this year, ideally early next year.

“What drives our decisions, in large part, relating to the exercise of options, is the ability of the vaccine manufacturers to assure us that they can deliver these vaccines in an accelerated timeline.”

Anand said she was disappointed with the Conservative opposition for continuously arguing that Canada was “at the back of the line” for vaccines, or would be well behind the world.

“When the opposition party was continually saying that Canada was at the back of the line, I found those interventions unhelpful, because of the misinformation that they were continually providing to the Canadian public.”

Conservative health critic Michelle Rempel Garner said they were simply trying to wade through the government’s often conflicting information.

“Their story changed, on when we were getting vaccines and how many doses, how many times?” she asked.

Rempel argues pushing the government made the Liberals examine their plans and contributed to the rollout.

“The government has to acknowledge the fact that, if it wasn’t for the heat that they had put on them throughout the fall on this issue, I’m not sure we’d be in this position.”

• Email: rtumilty@postmedia.com | Twitter:

Source: National Post Quebec Nordiques

Inconvenient Indian' pulled from Sundance Film Festival by the National Film Board

Film maker Michelle Latimer is photographed  in Toronto on Wednesday, August 19, 2020.

Michelle Latimer’s documentary “Inconvenient Indian” is being pulled from distribution and its upcoming screening at the Sundance Film Festival by the National Film Board.

The decision comes after the accuracy of the filmmaker’s Indigenous identity was called into question last week.

In a statement Tuesday, the NFB said it held conversations with the Indigenous participants who appeared in the documentary, its Indigenous Advisory Group, and producer Jesse Wente.

The organization said it will continue speaking with Indigenous communities to “explore an accountable path forward for the film,” which is based on Thomas King’s award-winning book.

Latimer had previously said she was of Algonquin, Metis, and French heritage, from the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg and Maniwaki area in Quebec, but a CBC investigation last week challenged those claims and raised issues over her self-identification.

The filmmaker has since said she “made a mistake” in naming Kitigan Zibi as her family’s community before verifying the linkage. In a statement, she said she has reached out to elders and community historians to receive guidance and obtain verification.

On Monday, Latimer resigned as director of “Trickster,” the Indigenous CBC-TV series she co-created.

Source: National Post Quebec Nordiques

Bloc MP on year-long undisclosed leave says he has been battling bipolar disorder

Bloc Québécois MP Simon Marcil has received full salary of $182,600, plus expenses. He is due back from undisclosed medical leave Jan. 10.

OTTAWA – Quietly on medical leave from work since last January, Bloc Québécois MP Simon Marcil announced on Tuesday that he has been dealing with mental health issues and was recently diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

“Over the last year, I’ve unfortunately had to be absent while facing mental health issues. Week after week, I hoped to be able to return, but against all hopes, my leave unexpectedly extended as my health was slow to improve,” the MP for the Montreal-area riding of Mirabel wrote in French on social media.

“Worse yet, for several months we had no idea what problem I was dealing with exactly, which cast even more uncertainty on the situation. My doctor then concluded the obvious: bipolar disorder.”

His statement came hours

after National Post reported

that Marcil had been on medical leave from his job as an MP since January 31. His absence was never made public by him or his party and was unknown to most, including the mayor of the city he represents in Parliament.

His last statement in committee or in the House of Commons dates back to December 2019, and his last recorded vote was on January 27, 2020.

But experts and members of Marcil’s own party have questioned the Bloc’s decision to keep the absence quiet from Canadians, particularly because of the important and public role of a member of Parliament.

“This is indeed a very weird situation and trying to hide such a long absence is wrong,” Daniel Béland, director of McGill’s Institute for the Study of Canada, wrote on social media Tuesday.

He was agreeing with comments made in the report by Mike Medeiros, a Canadian electoral politics expert now teaching at the University of Amsterdam, who said that the Bloc’s decision was “very strange”.

“He is an MP, he has obligations to his constituents. And part of that obligation is to be direct about what’s happening with your situation. If you disappear for one year, it becomes a problem for representative democracy,” Medeiros said in an interview Monday.

Others, such as NDP MP Alexandre Boulerice, are critical of the fact that Marcil — who continues to collect his full salary of $182,600 — was reimbursed by the government for some expenses related to his secondary residence during his absence

For example, the Mirabel MP claimed $14,150 in expenses between January 1 and September 16, 2020, for his secondary residence in a remote village of less than 400 inhabitants one hour north of Ottawa.

Marcil’s riding is roughly one and a half hours away from Parliament.

“Like everyone else, a member of Parliament has the right to be absent for health or family reasons,” Boulerice said in a statement. “However, what is troubling is the fact that he has been claiming reimbursement for his second home for almost a year while he is not working in Parliament.”

“I find it difficult to justify this to voters. I think his political party should have told him that this is inappropriate behaviour,” Boulerice added.

Marcil did not address the issue of his expenses either following questions sent by National Post on Sunday or in his statement on Tuesday. On Facebook, he assured constituents that work had continued at his riding office in his absence.

“Throughout my leave of absence, I can assure you that my constituency office continued to meet the needs of the population, under the supervision of the Bloc Québécois team,” the MP wrote on Facebook.

• Email: cnardi@postmedia.com | Twitter:

Source: National Post Quebec Nordiques

Poll: Brian Pallister 'Grinched' for stealing Christmas, Atlantic Canada leaders lauded for bubbles

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister's 35 per cent approval rating is currently the lowest among Canada's premiers, a poll has found.

Brian Pallister, Manitoba’s premier, has been recognized as “the guy who is stealing Christmas,” after telling Manitobans to do “the right thing” and stay apart this Christmas.

Yes, that’s right, he has officially been

Grinched.

According to Maru/Blue Public Opinion’s December 2020 quarterly approval ratings of Canada’s premiers, Pallister’s rating has dropped 19 points since September, one of the largest quarterly drops in the ratings. The drop takes him from 54 per cent approval to 35 per cent.

His blunt remark: “If you don’t think that COVID is real right now, then you’re an idiot,” might’ve helped pushed him over the edge.

This viral moment, though, wasn’t the only thing that led to his drop, said John Wright, the executive vice president of Maru/Blue Public Opinion.

“They haven’t handled [COVID-19] as well as they could have out there,” said the pollster. COVID-19, overall, has really forecasted some doubt on how certain premiers are handling things, Wright said.

Jason Kenney, Alberta’s premier, took second-last place, topping Pallister at the bottom by four points. This is the lowest approval rating Kenney has seen since June 2019, when he was at 55 per cent. According to Maru/Blue, Kenney’s rating has continued to tumble since June this year.

“[Kenney] came in with a united party and was able to secure close to 50 per cent of the vote. To continually be in the basement speaks volumes to a real problem in connecting with the people of Alberta,” Wright said.

Some premiers, on the other hand, saw growth in their quarterly rankings.

Quebec’s François Legault received an early Christmas present as this quarter’s top-ranked premier, with an increase of seven points, taking him to an outstanding 70 per cent.

“It’s a remarkable rise,” Wright said. “Since he has been elected, his ratings have barely flinched.”

At the eastern end of Canada, Atlantic premiers rose in the approval ratings.

Newfoundland and Labrador premier, Andrey Furey, and Nova Scotia premier, Stephen McNeil, have both jumped in popularity this quarter. Both received a 65 per cent approval rating; Furey increased by 15-points since last quarter, and McNeil by 14-points. New Brunswick premier Blaine Higgs increased by one per cent, to 56 per cent approval rating.

This increase was no doubt due to their notable handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, Wright said. “They’ve handled the situation well.”

As for premiers John Horgan (B.C.) and Scott Moe (Sask.), their ratings come only after their provincial elections on Oct. 24, and Oct. 26, respectively. This not being the first time they’ve been premiers, Horgan’s rating decreased by six points to 63 per cent, and Moe’s decreased by five points to 55 per cent.

Ontario premier Doug Ford decreased three points to 53 per cent.

 Quebec Premier François Legault leads his provincial counterparts with a 70 per cent approval rating.

The smaller provinces and territories, like Prince Edward Island, Nunavut, the Yukon and Northwest Territories, don’t have big enough sample sizes to be polled.

This final approval rating of the year marks the “end of a phase,” Wright said. With the vaccine rolling out, this next quarter is crucial for premiers since it will measure the vaccination phase.

What they do now and for the next few months might lead to very different ratings come the next quarter in 2021.

These approval ratings are the results of 5,281 randomly selected Canadian adults who are members of Maru/Blue’s Maru Voice Canada Online panel. Each participant was asked to provide their approval rating for the premier of their province.

The results were weighted by education, age, gender and region to match the population according to the latest Census data. This ensures that the results represent the entire adult population of Canada.

This survey is measured using the Bayesian Credibility Interval. In this case, the poll is accurate to within +/- 1.6 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, had all Canadian adults been polled.

Source: National Post Quebec Nordiques