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Premier stifling opposition, media, says political science prof –



The province’s refusal to share publicly how much it’s spending on COVID-19 support programs is unacceptable but illustrates a troubling shortcoming in Premier Stephen McNeil’s leadership style, says a Cape Breton political science professor.

“The premier is not comfortable with complexity or scrutiny,” said Tom Urbaniak, an expert in Canadian politics. “It is a flaw in his leadership personality.

“It is not a good political strategy in the long run. Especially during a crisis, being transparent and being forthcoming, and making ministers accessible, enhances public trust.”

The province has publicly announced hundreds of millions of dollars in COVID-19-related supports and subsidies, including a $230 million job stimulus program.

But the government will not say how much it has spent thus far on support programs for businesses and citizens coping with the effects of COVID-19.  

Finance Minister Karen Casey and McNeil, who declined to be interviewed, also won’t say whether cuts are being made to government department budgets in order to pay for COVID supports and subsidies.  Nor will they say whether the government is in a deficit position.

These are just a few of the basic questions that taxpayers deserve to have answered, said Urbaniak.   

“An effective, transparent, professional government has to be clear on how much it is spending, for what purpose, and with what impact,” said Urbaniak.  “It has to be able to open the books continuously. Municipalities and community organizations are expected to do so for their constituents and members, and rightly so.”

The premier has been increasingly bold in his attempts to stifle the role of opposition parties and the media to keep his government accountable to Nova Scotians. The premier has refused to recall vital all-party legislative committees that have been shut down since the spring sitting ended in mid-March. Those include the public accounts committee that’s tasked with monitoring government spending and the health committee, overseeing health-care access and delivery in the province.  

The premier said earlier this month that those committees would remain shuttered until the fall. In the meantime, his government is operating with almost no legislative oversight.

Reporters have raised concerns about the lack of information being shared at COVID-19 media briefings attended by premier and Dr. Robert Strang, the province’s chief medical officer of health. Reporters are allowed to ask only two questions during the teleconference sessions that were once held every weekday but have been reduced to two to three times a week.  Reporters have asked repeatedly in recent weeks for the premier to hold in-person briefings to allow media an opportunity to ask more questions. The premier has rejected those calls, much to Urbaniak’s disappointment.

“The premier’s press conferences are, at best, very partial transparency,” said Urbaniak. “There is no opportunity to really get into details, to understand the policy options, to understand the state of the public accounts, to examine how government is running or not running and to point out gaps and flaws.

The professor compared Nova Scotia, a small province of not even a million people, to a mid-size North American city. He said there is no way an equivalent municipal government could get away with as much secrecy as shown by the McNeil Liberals.  “Can you imagine a city of a million people – the equivalent of a mid-size North American city — where the media find it difficult to get to an elected official to ask some questions about spending or policies?

“These ministers are our neighbours. Being elusive and ducking other politicians and the media is not great in any parliamentary system, but it’s particularly unfortunate and unnecessary in Nova Scotia, where you can let your guard down a bit and have thoughtful conversations with people.”

Pointing out that the Nova Scotia government is an almost $12-billion operation, Urbaniak said at minimum the province should have  enough capacity and enough professional public servants to keep a running tally of expenditures and estimated expenditures.

Gary Andrea, a spokesman for the Finance Departmnet, said in an email that COVID-19 spending would be accounted for in the Public Accounts update for 2019-20 and a forecast update for 2020-21 before the legislative deadline of Sept. 30, 2020. 

“At that time we will provide the public with our projections related to revenue and expenses, including the impact of the Covid pandemic,” said the statement.

That doesn’t meet the test for adequate accountability in a true democratic system of checks and balances of government spending, said Urbaniak.

“The government should be able to at least roughly report to the public, to the Public Accounts Committee and to MLAs in real time on questions concerning finances, said Urbaniak.  

Besides this, he said, the government is obligated to operate in a system of representative democracy,  meaning “continual dialogue and questioning about whether spending is actually addressing the identified problems to the best extent possible.”

“That has not been happening, unfortunately, he said.  “The oversight is absent. And it is not just the opposition that is being excluded. Members of the media are having trouble accessing ministers who have specific responsibilities in law. It is not even clear to me that the cabinet as a body is having sufficiently full and robust deliberations, even behind closed doors. When power and transparency are so concentrated, you are bound to make serious mistakes eventually.”

In the end the McNeil government is doing a disservice to Nova Scotians by depriving citizens of information that should be made public. At the same time the premier has concentrated the government into the hands of a tight inner circle “with no scrutiny by the House, no meetings of the main committees, no real responses to requests from the media for more detailed financial information.”

That leads to a lack of information,” said Urbaniak. “It’s going to weaken the public policy and spending decisions.”

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Victoria police respond to social media posts alleging sexual assault at tattoo parlour – CityNews Vancouver



VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) — Police in Victoria are asking possible victims of sexual abuse involving a local tattoo artist to contact their Special Victims Unit.

No charges have been recommended, but Carne Tattoo posted a message online Monday confirming an artist was let go for his “betrayal of young women” and references an incident dating back to 2019.

Other social media posts indicate the alleged abuse was initially reported in 2019.

After seeing reports on social media, Victoria Police ask anyone who might have experienced “sexualized violence” during tattoo appointments to get in touch.

“We want everyone in those threads who have experienced sexualized violence to know that if you report what you’ve experienced to our Special Victims Unit detectives, you will be listened to, you will be treated with respect, and you will be believed,” reads a statement from police.

“If you do think that you may want to consider a criminal process, it is important to know that for potential future court processes, it is best that you provide your statement to the police prior to speaking to any media outlets or posting details of your story publicly on social media. This is to ensure that your statement belongs to you and you only.”

The Instagram account of a man identified as the artist has been taken down.

To speak to a detective, call the non-emergency line at 250-995-7654 and select extension 1 for the report desk. Or, reach out to the Victoria Sexual Assault Centre at 250-383-3232, if you aren’t sure about getting in touch with police.

Editor’s note: The screenshots in this article have been edited to hide the name of the tattoo artist because he has not been charged. 

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New book echoes conference on classics, media theory | Cornell Chronicle – Cornell Chronicle



A new edited volume, “Classics and Media Theory,” features participants from a Cornell media studies conference exploring the interactions between media and antiquity.

The book, in the Oxford University Press “Classical Presences” series, gathers expert analysis from scholars engaging with myriad aspects of classical Greece and Rome, with a variety of interdisciplinary perspectives from fields including classical literature, art history, cultural studies, film studies, media theory and media history.

The contributors include Verity Platt, professor of classics and the history of art and visual studies in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Revolving around issues of philosophy, cultural history, literature, aesthetics and epistemology, the volume highlights interactions between classical studies and media theory, why they matter and how they can be developed further. The book also explores the implications of the study of media for the study of culture, including the processes of cultural production and reception; and it encourages scholarly attention to media in the study of Greco-Roman antiquity.

The volume highlights several emergent fields within media studies ranging from cultural techniques to media archaeology; the persistence of Greco-Roman paradigms across different strands of media theory; and the conceptual underpinnings of cultural practices in the transformation of ancient Greece and Rome into “classics.”

Platt has joined researcher Till Heilmann and media studies professor Jens Schroeter of the University of Bonn, and the book’s editor, Pantelis Michelakis, reader in classics at the University of Bristol, to establish a network for the study of media and the premodern.

All participated in the international conference “Siren Echoes: Sound, Image, and the Media of Antiquity,” presented by the Media Studies Initiative on campus in November 2019.

Themes and topics at the two-day conference included “Antiquity in Media Theory,” “Sounds of the Anthropocene,” “Media Pathologies,” “Genealogies of the Image,” “Sacred Resonances” and “Image, Medium and Light.” The event “was a huge success,” said Jeremy Braddock, associate professor of English.

Michelakis, a Greek literature and classical theater scholar, organized a similar conference in Bristol, which also provided content for the book.

“Although the ancient world has played an important role in media theory, especially in scholarship on orality and literacy, ‘media studies’ tends to be associated with the technologies of the industrial and computer age,” Platt said.

There are many scholars at Cornell who focus on “modes of transmission, communication and reproduction in the premodern world and later cultural reception,” she said, “all of which can be put into fruitful dialogue with scholars focused on more contemporary issues.”

A second Cornell conference, “Media Objects,” planned for March 2020, was to feature content ranging from film screenings and internet art to architectural installations, exhibitions and digital collections.

Postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, the conference will be staged during the 2020-21 academic year as a series of virtual panels, lectures and related events, Braddock said, with plans to culminate in an event in fall 2021 at the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art. A follow-up to “Siren Echoes” in spring 2021 is also a possibility, Platt said.

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Pop Smoke's social media posts led suspects to L.A. home, say police –



Authorities believe rising rapper Pop Smoke was shot and killed during a Los Angeles home-invasion robbery in February after his social media posts led five suspects to the house he was renting, police said after detectives arrested the group Thursday morning.

Los Angeles police had initially discounted a robbery theory in the days after the 20-year-old rapper’s death Feb. 19 at a home in the Hollywood Hills. Pop Smoke’s legal name is Bashar Barakah Jackson.

Capt. Jonathan Tippet, who oversees the Los Angeles Police Department’s elite Robbery-Homicide Division, said three men and two teenage boys likely went to the home because they knew Pop Smoke was there from social media posts.

They stole items from the home, though Tippet said he could not divulge what was taken. The teens were 15 and 17 years old.

“We believe that it was a robbery. Initially we didn’t really have the evidence but then we discovered some other evidence that showed this was likely a home invasion gone bad,” Tippet told The Associated Press on Thursday.

The five suspects were arrested Thursday morning as detectives served several search warrants in Los Angeles. All are believed to be members of a South Los Angeles gang, which Tippet would not name, and at least some of them are believed to be linked to the 2019 homicide of an 18-year-old man when a fight escalated into a shooting outside the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.

The three men were identified as Jaquan Murphy, 21, Corey Walker, 19, and Keandre D. Rodgers, 18, all of Los Angeles. Walker and Rodgers were arrested on suspicion of murder and Murphy was held on suspicion of attempted murder, police said. The men were being held in lieu of $1 million bail apiece.

The 15-year-old and the 17-year-old also were booked on suspicion of murder. It wasn’t immediately known whether any of those arrested had attorneys.

Pop Smoke and his entourage staying at the home are not believed to be associated with the gang, Tippet said. No one else was shot during the incident.

Pop Smoke is seen performing at a Houston concert in November 2019. (Suzanne Cordeiro/AFP via Getty Images)

The Los Angeles Times reported in February that the rapper had posted pictures of him posing by an infinity pool in the home’s backyard, as well as a picture of the Los Angeles skyline from what was likely the house’s backyard. In another post, Pop Smoke or a member of his entourage put a picture of a gift bag tagged with the Hollywood Hills address and a different photo showed him posing by a Range Rover in a spot where the home’s address was partly visible in the background.

“It’s our belief that [the home-invasion robbery] was based on some of the social media” posts, Tippet said. “It’s based on the fact that he was posting his information may have contributed to knowing where to find him.”

The home where the shooting occurred is owned by Edwin Arroyave and his wife Teddi Mellencamp, daughter of Rock & Roll Hall-of-Famer John Mellencamp and a star of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.

Teddi Mellencamp previously said on Instagram that the couple had been notified of the shooting at their rental property but knew no more than what they had seen in media reports.

Pop Smoke arrived on the rap scene in 2018 and broke out with Welcome to the Party, a gangsta anthem with boasts about shootings, killings and drugs that became a huge sensation, and prompted Nicki Minaj to drop a verse on a remix.

Earlier this year, Pop Smoke released the mixtape Meet the Woo 2, which debuted at No. 7 on the Billboard Top 200 albums chart. It was the follow up to his first official release, Meet the Woo. The rapper also had the popular hit Gatti with Travis Scott and Jackboys and the track Dior.

His major label debut album, Shoot for the Stars Aim for the Moon, was executive produced by 50 Cent. It was released posthumously last Friday to mostly positive reviews and features appearances from popular artists including Future, DaBaby and Quavo.

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