NBA Eastern Conference preview

There are three sides to the NBA season: what the teams want, what their fans hope for, and what actually happens.

Every year, 30 teams compete for 16 playoff spots and the right to battle for the most inconspicuous-looking trophy in all of professional sports. Every team begins the season thinking it has that right, and then reality takes over and the Clippers have competition in the draft lottery.

People are always eager to give their two cents about what team will win it all and who that team will beat. Why get ahead of ourselves? A guy I met on a bus once said it best: “Playoffs are anyone’s guess. The regular season, that’s for intelligent guessing.” And I couldn’t agree more.

Boston Celtics

The Buzz

You have to respect Rasheed Wallace, because you have no choice. He’s like that guy in high school who was sort of cool, but also really frightening, which is just what the Celtics needed. After Kevin Garnett went down last season, Boston experienced a waking nightmare with Leon Powe and Brian Scalabrine. Wallace is a bigger nightmare in virtually every respect, but clearly the lesser of two evils where basketball is concerned. His toughness and playoff experience will shore up the Celtics’ lineup, and spare fans from another “Scara-brine” attack.

Prognosis

Garnett and Wallace injure themselves during a heated game of Wii Tennis in mid-February, sidelining both indefinitely. When questioned about his injury, Wallace’s only comment will be “Both teams played hard.”

Cleveland Cavaliers

The Buzz

Now that Shaq and Lebron are together, prognosticators won’t shut up about the same two storylines. Storyline one: Lebron James is a free agent next summer. Is it possible he might go to another team? Why yes, it is. And if you’re like me, you probably couldn’t decipher all those casual remarks he made about “exploring” his “options” next summer. Storyline two: Will Shaq foil the Cavs’ chemistry and sink them for good in the playoffs? Don’t count on it. Last time I checked, Shaq was a basketball player, not a villain in a Shakespeare play. Besides, if you followed basketball, you would know that he only sabotages teams after they trade him.

So what’s the bottom line? While every team would like to have its own Lebron James, Shaq’s defence against the Raptors had less plot and rhythm than an episode of Shaq Vs., and the Cavs do most of their player scouting at YMCAs across the Midwest. With two guys the Raptors didn’t want already in the rotation, Danny Ferry might be a bigger bust as a GM than he was a player.

Prognosis

Eating weak divisional opponents for breakfast, the Cavs waltz into the playoffs looking like the real deal again. Shaq takes all the credit and then takes Lebron’s idea for a reality show.

Orlando Magic

The Buzz

Rashard Lewis began the season serving a 10-game suspension for using steroids. But that shouldn’t derail the Magic with Dwight Howard and perennial sad-sack Vince “Grimace” Carter from carrying the team. Expect the Magic to get on a roll around the 30-game mark. That’s when Jameer Nelson should fully rebound from his injury and feel more in sync with the game.

Prognosis

Carter blows kisses to the Magic faithful when chants of “MVP” breakout during a home game. An embarrassed coach pulls Carter aside and tells him the chants are for his teammate Dwight Howard. Upset, Carter takes the game ball and goes home.

Washington Wizards

The Buzz

I must be crazy, right? The Wizards finished dead last in the East in 2008-09 and looked ’80s-Clippers bad (hell, current-Clippers bad) getting there. Fans in the D.C. area aren’t sweating it. Last season was a write-off for the Wiz, who relied heavily on their young players following an endless string of injuries. They’re back to the same lineup that won 43 games in ’07-08, and have added Mike Miller and Randy Foye to take some of the offensive load off of Gilbert Arenas’ shoulders.

Prognosis

Mike James starts 70 games for the injury-plagued Wizards, making them the only franchise in Washington that doesn’t get a bailout after this year.

Toronto Raptors

The Buzz

It was a busy off-season for Bryan Colangelo. After taking DeMar DeRozan with the ninth pick in the draft, he masterfully orchestrated a four-team deal to acquire 6’10” “small” forward Hedo Turkoglu. Throw in a series of trades and free agent signings, and you’ve got the new-look Raptors—with a lot of the same problems. Despite one of the league’s biggest frontcourts, the Raptors rebound like the ball could release tear gas at any moment.

Prognosis

After another sluggish start, Colangelo adopts the phrase “We like our team’s chances” and uses it until the Raps are mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. Fans eventually figure out that Colangelo’s favorite line is doubletalk for “we don’t have a shot in hell,” begging an important question: Why don’t Toronto basketball fans like baseball?

Atlanta Hawks

The Buzz

With Tim Donaghy in the clink, the Hawks played hard and learned how to win on their own last season. They are a young and talented squad that would rank higher if their bench weren’t so spotty. That aside, Jamal Crawford and human hand-me-down Joe Smith will give the Hawks a strong veteran presence. But their biggest area of concern remains at point guard, surprise, where Mike Bibby has been on the decline in recent years and back-up Jeff Teague is only a rookie.

Prognosis

Mike Bibby’s joints disintegrate and the Hawks are forced to sign Stephon Marbury. The league suspends Marbury when his appetite for Vaseline gets out of hand.

Miami Heat

The Buzz

After a year and a half, the Heat convinced Michael Beasley to wake up from his nap, and were so elated they made him a starter. Beasley in a daze is a serious upgrade for Miami, who have been overly dependent on Dwyane Wade for too long. Recent history suggests that the combination of one superstar and a marginal star is usually enough to make the playoffs (see Cleveland, Dallas, New Orleans).

Prognosis

Wade tears his patellar tendon in the second week of the season and misses four months. In the third month, he runs out of ensembles and has a nervous breakdown.

Chicago Bulls

The Buzz

If you don’t know who Derrick Rose is yet, go to Youtube, take five minutes, and get familiar. Rose is that good and stands to get a lot better. Still, the Bulls are a hard team to figure out. On paper, they’re a strong team with excellent guards and good mixture of size and athleticism in the frontcourt. They’re also very young and may take a while to gel again this year.

Prognosis

Scandal rocks Chicago after it’s revealed that Derrick Rose’s birth certificate, Memphis highlights, and 2008-09 season are all forgeries. An infuriated Bulls management demands an explanation from Rose. He tells them Kentucky head coach John Calipari made him do it, to which they respond, “We thought so.”

Detroit Pistons

The Buzz

It was really swell of Joe Dumars to give Ben Wallace that contract. But starting him? Overlooking their problems at centre, don’t be surprised if the Pistons sneak into the playoffs this year. Hamilton, Stuckey, and Prince give Detroit a solid foundation, and Ben Gordon’s streaky shooting should generate more wins than losses. The X-factor for the Pistons may come down to former Raptor Charlie Villanueva, who showed flashes of brilliance with Milwaukee last season, but still hasn’t developed into a consistent player.

Prognosis

Head coach John Kuester encourages his team to embrace a blue-collar spirit and take more charges. Tayshaun Prince flops harder than Eminem’s new album, as the Pistons set a single-game record with 40 blocking fouls.

Philadelphia 76ers

The Buzz

In the East, the fate of teams on the playoff cusp is more often a war of attrition than a fight to the finish. The 76ers are perennial champs when it comes to being slightly less worse than their middling peers, but even passable mediocrity has to end at some point.

Prognosis

Sixers stick it to everyone and make the playoffs again. However, they bow out early, giving recently acquired Jason Kapono time to read Catcher in the Rye, have lunch with his uncle, and learn to play the guitar.

Charlotte Bobcats

The Buzz Kill

Emeka Okafor and Tyson Chandler are equally adequate centres, so why swap them? Ignoring all the claptrap about team chemistry and fresh starts, what the Bobcats are doing here is kind of cute. They’ve traded one so-so centre for another, because the new guy matches up “better” against Shaq and Dwight Howard and according to Bobcats GM Rod Higgins, “Tyson [puts] us in a position to compete night in and night out with the other quality centres in the league.” The Bobcats might be pathological.

Prognosis

Declining revenues compel owner Robert Johnson to pitch the Bobcats as a reality series to BET. Bobcat executives remind Johnson that he owns the network, prompting him to reply, “I can’t win, can I?”

Indiana Pacers

The Buzz Kill

The Pacers somehow managed to win 36 games last year. What is more perplexing is how they managed to nap through free agency, while the rest of the league at least pretended to care. Let’s talk about the Colts instead.

Prognosis

Pacers dismiss Gene Hackman impostor Jim O’Brien mid-season and hire the real Hackman as the team’s interim head coach. The two-time Oscar winner inspires his players with muddled speeches about how “God wants them to win,” then switches his tune and insists that they’re already “winners in his books.” Confused, the Pacers finish the season with a 6-42 record under the three-time Oscar loser, who really needs a good role.

New York Knicks

The Buzz Kill

Knicks fans knew they were in for a long one when they saw “Welcome to the Darko ages” printed on their season tickets. As a franchise recognized for its mismanagement and sexual harassment lawsuits (or Isiah Thomas’s indiscretions if that’s easier), the Knicks really know how to tell a good joke.

Prognosis

Hopeless by the 25-game mark, the Knicks sign rapper Bow Wow to a 10-day contract. He and Nate Robinson square off immediately over who was lil’ first. Robinson backs down when Bow Wow threatens to play Like Mike on the team bus.

Milwaukee Bucks

The Buzz Kill

Over the last 15 years, the Bucks have had their share of talent. However, when it came time to play, they were as listless as a Coldplay concert. Now that they have significantly less talent and a starting lineup that includes veteran fossil Kurt Thomas, the Bucks are ready for a fresh batch of lottery picks.

Prognosis

Kurt Thomas refuses to board the team’s charter flight to Atlanta until he gets his Chex Mix and a new book of crossword puzzles.

New Jersey Nets

The Buzz Kill

It’s insulting when one of your owners can be seen courtside at the Knicks game, but won’t go near you or your team. The “Izod” Centre has always looked like something out of the Twilight Zone, which makes Rafer Alston joining the Nets kind of fitting. Alston, an eccentric grouch, is the third point guard on the team’s depth chart, behind stud Devin Harris and robot Keyon Dooling. While Harris should make fans shake their heads in amazement, Rafer is always a threat to twist them off. Either way, it’s the Nets that will have the state of New Jersey skipping to a loo somewhere.

Prognosis

Blowout losses become intolerable and Nets fans start pelting players with rubber marmots. Team officials collaborate with Papa Johns to give ticket holders free pizza when the Nets lose by 15 points or more. The pizza deal (known as “the thin crust compromise”) becomes the blueprint for dealing with truculent sports fans everywhere.

After three elections, still no student president at Mount Allison

Mount Allison University has held three elections already. In April, the previously elected president resigned before entering office and the results of a September election were discarded due to ballot problems and appeals. A subsequent runoff election in October was also dismissed after neither of the two candidates was able to garner the 50 per cent plus one required to win.

Alex MacDonald, VP external of the council, notes that the perpetual elections have been taxing on students, particularly their patience and attention. “Student opinion has been fairly split all over the place, from what I gather. It seems like there are a lot that would just like it done and over with, and have a president,” MacDonald told the CBC. Pressured to “follow a very, very strict letter of the law,” McDonald has raised the possibility of a presidential election for a fourth and fifth time this year.

How fibre optics and CCD sensors have advanced modern communications

The Prize:

The 2009 Nobel Prize in Physics, shared between Charles K. Kao “for groundbreaking achievements concerning the transmission of light in fibres for optical communication” and Willard S. Boyle and George E. Smith “for the invention of an imaging semiconductor circuit—the CCD sensor.”

The Science:

Modern communication (the Internet, telephone lines, cable television, and even medical imaging) is almost entirely dependent on fibre optic cables. Coupled-charged devices (CCDs) are important in research and industry, but are also the technology behind your vacation photos and favourite Youtube clips.

Talking With Light

History is full of beautiful examples of how light can be trapped in glass and water, such as the coloured glassware and crystal chandeliers.

Light can be trapped in water or glass because it travels slower in these media than it does in air. When light enters a glass of water, it slows down, causing the light beam to change direction. This explains why a straw in a glass of water looks like it has split in two. However, if the light comes from within the water out towards the air, much of the light bounces off of the surface of the water and is trapped within the aqueous substance.

Since the 1930s, doctors had been using thin glass rods to transmit light down a patient’s throat to view their stomachs, or to illuminate teeth in dental surgery. However, these glass fibres were only practical for use over short distances. They often “leaked” light, and most of the light dissipated after only a few metres.

The invention of the laser provided scientists with a beam of light that could be flashed on and off, creating the ones and zeros of binary code and providing a method for communication transmission. All they needed was a fibre that wouldn’t leak light over long distances and they would have the technology for optical communication.

When Shanghai-born engineer Charles K. Kao began working in the field of communications, the idea of light being used as a communication signal was only beginning to get attention. Communication in the 1950s and ’60s was largely via electronics or radio waves. Light was thought to be a better option than the status quo because the speed and frequencies of light lend themselves well to signal adjustment. But how to transmit the light signals over long distances?

In the 1960s, Kao began studying glass fibres at the Standard Telecommunications Laboratories. With the help of junior colleague George A. Hockham, he set a goal to improve the transmission of light through optical fibers to one per cent transmission over one kilometre. If he could meet this goal, optical communication would become feasible.

They soon discovered that poor transmission rates were a result of impure glass, and in 1966 proposed using purer starting materials for new fibres. In 1971, the American company Corning Glass Works unveiled a one-kilometre-long optical fibre that could finally promise practical transmission rates.

Today, the world has been wrapped many times over in optical fibre. It is light, strong, and flexible and can therefore be buried or run underwater, which is important for trans-Atlantic communication. Transmission rates today are as high as 95 per cent over one kilometre, leagues above Kao’s initial one per cent goal, and the amount of information travelling at the speed of light through these cables increases every day. The Internet would not be possible without them.

Much of the information travelling along the world’s optical fibres originates in devices using technology that was awarded the second half of the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physics.

The Death of Film

The CCD is today’s most popular electronic eye. You can find them in digital cameras, video recorders, microscopes, telescopes like the Hubble, and the Keppler satellites.

In 1970, Willard Boyle and George Smith, who worked at the famous Bell Labs, were approached by their boss to develop a memory device that could out-compete a device developed by another group at Bell Labs. Boyle and Smith sketched out the theory and math behind the CCD in one afternoon, and a prototype was built within a week. Although it was originally designed as a memory device, the CCD’s capabilities as a camera soon took centre stage.

The CCD uses the photoelectric effect (which won Einstein a Nobel in 1921) to sense light. A stamp-sized silicon plate acts as the light sensor that covers millions of tiny wells called photocells that are arranged in a grid. When the sensor is exposed to light (like when you open your camera’s shutter), this excites electrons in the silicon plate. These then release and collect in the photocells below. The amount of light the silicon plate is exposed to results in more or less electrons collecting in the photocells. Applying filters to the CCD can allow it to sense the colour of light shining on it.

When voltage is applied to the photocell array, the electrons can be read, converted to binary code, and used to recreate an image. Each photocell read from the array corresponds to a pixel in the final image. Early cameras and video recorders enabled with CCDs were bulky and expensive, but the drive towards an ever more digitized world pushed down cost and drove the engineering behind smaller and more efficient camera technologies.

Today, the light sensitivity and amazing resolution power of the CCD allows us to see the very small and the very large, the bottom of our oceans, and the surface of our neighbouring planets.

What You May Not Know:

Willard Boyle was born in rural Nova Scotia, and grew up in a remote logging town in Quebec where he was home schooled by his mother until he was 15. His early life shaped his desire to succeed. Although best known for his contributions to the CCD, he also helped develop the first continuously operating ruby laser (now used for tattoo removal) and the semiconductor lasers that are used in CD players. He also worked on the NASA Apollo program that put man on the moon.

Reverse trick-or-treating

You know the drill. They ring the doorbell, say the line, and get their candy. But this Halloween, some trick-or-treaters may have given you a piece of chocolate back, with a card that has a bracing message about child labour in cocoa fields.

Reverse trick-or-treating has made its way to Canada from the U.S., though it’s still a “relatively small event in Toronto,” said Michael Zelman, director of communications at TransFair Canada, to the Toronto Star. A thousand chocolates were distributed in Toronto on Saturday.

San Francisco resident Adrienne Fitch-Frankel launched the campaign. She wanted to promote fair trade chocolates, which ensure fair wages and environmental stability.

According to Fitch-Frankel, “We are starting a new Halloween tradition.”

Play-by-play with Elliotte Friedman

The key to being a successful sports journalist is working hard and asking good questions.

That’s the opinion of CBC sports broadcaster Elliotte Friedman, a recent winner of a Gemini Award for Sports Broadcasting, who offered his views on the business on Oct. 26 at a sports writing class that is part of the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies. It wasn’t long ago that Friedman was an aspiring sports writer. But now a successful journalist—having the opportunity to cover amazing events such as Usain Bolt’s 9.69-second world record–breaking 100-metre finish at the 2008 summer Olympics in Beijing—he is happy to pass along advice to others.

Friedman arrived dressed casually, a far different look from his regular formal attire worn for his role as an interviewer on Hockey Night in Canada. He was animated and didn’t hold back when he spoke to the class—even swearing to emphasize certain points. He constantly paced back and forth, blurting out that he has Attention Deficit Disorder. There was no pretense to what he was saying or the way in which he was saying it. Friedman loves his job, and was keen to pass on tips on sports writing and broadcasting to the students, who hung onto his every word.

“Athletes love to be challenged because they’re so used to the same questions all the time,” said Friedman.

He added that public relations staff for teams prepare their players with media training, so in order to get good answers, sports journalists need to be creative with their questions. Friedman credited his success to being able to tell people things they didn’t already know about the stories he is reporting. He said that in an industry where fans think they know everything, producing original material will make a writer or broadcaster stand out from others in the industry.

“You need to think to yourself, how can I find something fresh?” said Friedman, while explaining that the athlete will be able to tell if the reporter is unprepared and will appreciate the questions they likely haven’t already been asked.

Friedman said broadcasters and writers are fans just as much as they are professionals, so it is a huge mistake to not ask what you want to know.

“You’re a fan as well, so what interests you the most?” Friedman asked the class.

Although the interviewer needs to ask tough questions, Friedman said it is paramount to “warm someone up first, and then bring the hammer.” In some circumstances, he admitted, there’s no time for a warm-up.

“If you’re interviewing Todd Bertuzzi the day after the Steve Moore incident, he knows what’s coming and there’s no time to waste,” said Friedman.

He said another key component to a great interview is to listen to what the person says and to not focus automatically on your next question.

“Your power is in your listening.”

Friedman advised all aspiring writers and broadcasters to use a contact if they have it. But he believes that even though someone may open a door, it’s the individual who ultimately decides their own path through working hard and being willing to make sacrifices—it is important at the beginning of a career to do whatever it takes.

“The initial break is luck, but you have to make your own luck afterwards,” he said. “You need to be driven.”

Friedman noted that early in his career, he received a last-minute opportunity to work on Victoria Day weekend when he had already made travel plans with his then girlfriend. When he cancelled on his girlfriend he was given an ultimatum: the job or her. They haven’t spoken since.

“You’re going to have to make choices like that,” said Friedman.

Friedman has moved on since the days of sacrificing girlfriends for work, and is now happily married, but he noted that when they first started dating, his wife-to-be had to adjust to his hectic spring schedule covering the hockey playoffs.

Although Friedman has a knack for discovering interesting information through his extended list of contacts, he doesn’t report everything. “Ultimately it’s your name out there, so you need to ask, ‘Do I trust it? Do I believe it?’” he said.

He suggested it is important to have a thick skin while in the business. Friedman interviewed Pat Quinn during his days as head coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Quinn happened to be in a foul mood and disparaged many of his players. Afterwards, Quinn forcefully requested that Friedman not run the interview, but Friedman would not comply and asked his employers to back him, knowing he had done nothing wrong.

“If someone isn’t getting mad at you at some point, you’re not doing your job well,” he emphasized.

He said in the case of female sports reporters, looks used to matter more than actual knowledge. Now, that doesn’t happen as much, because there is far too much credibility to lose for an employer. However, he noted that female reporters are held to higher standards.

“If a man makes a mistake, he just made a mistake,” said Friedman. “If a woman makes a mistake, it’s because she’s a woman.” But he also noted that the industry has opened up to women and visible minorities. “If you’re good, they will find room for you.”

Friedman thinks the Internet, specifically sites like Twitter, has given everyone the opportunity to have a voice. He believes that it is only when you’re comfortable with who you are and who you want to be that you should you go out and broadcast yourself because first impressions last in the business. It’s also important for aspiring writers and broadcasters to let their long-term goals be known to their bosses and peers. Aspiring writers should have their work looked at by a more experienced writer in order to learn from them. Friedman emphasized the need to keep pushing and apply good work habits.

“The best in the business go the extra mile.”

Despite his Gemini, Friedman has retained all of his old rejections letters from early in his career. It just proves that aspiring writers and broadcasters need to persevere and apply the work ethic that Friedman stresses.

Debunking drop fees

The province-wide Day of Action for a Poverty-Free Ontario will take place this Thursday, and we at UTSU and the Drop Fees Poverty Free Ontario Coalition have spent countless hours leafleting, speaking with students, and getting materials ready for the rally. We’ve gone around to classes, dining halls, and residences to speak with thousands of students, as well as staff and faculty, about the demands of the campaign and why it’s important. There’s been an enormously positive response, with 90,000 signatories to petitions from across the province. But we’ve also encountered a number of bizarre myths about the campaign that I think should be cleared up before the big day. After all, we wouldn’t want people deciding not to come because of faulty information.

Myth one

These campaigns happen every year and nothing comes of them.

Campaigns calling for accessible, well-funded education have been happening for decades, but certainly not every year. There have been four in the last 10 years, all of which produced results. In 2000, a province-wide Day of Action resulted in the re-regulation of tuition fees for professional faculties like law and dentistry after they skyrocketed 200 per cent in one year. In 2004, the campaign resulted in a two-year tuition freeze, while in 2007, the National Day of Action produced a national system of need-based grants (which takes effect this year). Last year, our campaign led to an extra $150 million in provincial funds for post-secondary infrastructure. That seems like a little bit more than nothing to me.

Myth two

The campaign demands don’t apply to international students, students in professional faculties, or students not on OSAP.

The campaign applies to all students in the province regardless of programme of study, status, or financial background. Back in the early ’90s, international students and those in second-entry professional programmes like pharmacy or law used to pay the same amount for tuitions fees. It’s high time we end differential tuition fees, because all knowledge is important.

Myth three

The campaign is nothing but an NDP-Ontario election platform.

The campaign is officially non-partisan, but is supported by a number of Members of Provincial Parliament, including several from the PC Party of Ontario and the NDP. The current Critic for Colleges and Universities, PC member Jim Wilson, recently lambasted Premier Dalton McGuinty’s terrible record on education, and called on MPPs to join us on Nov. 5. Supporting education and social programmes with the goal of eliminating poverty is in everyone’s best interest, liberal and conservative alike.

Myth four

Reduced tuition fees will reduce the quality of my education, since the university will be getting less money.

The campaign calls for a fully-funded reduction in tuition fees, which means that any revenue lost from the reduction would be made up by an increase in government funding. The burden of financing public education should be on the government, not on students.

So I hope that this has cleared a few things up. It is only by raising all our vices together and demanding an accessible education for everyone that we can achieve our goal and lower tuition fees.

Adam Awad is Vice President University Affairs for UTSU

Obama takes aim at Fox

Many a time, the firewall between the White House and the media has failed to remain intact, and 2009 is certainly no exception. Earlier this month, Anita Dunn, communications director for the Obama administration, made an appearance on television decrying the propaganda spewed by Fox News personalities, like the blubbering Glenn Beck or Bush sycophant Sean Hannity.

This isn’t the first time the White House has attacked the media. Former Republican president George W. Bush fought mercilessly to suppress negative media coverage, and journalists who dared to voice their criticism were dealt some heavy blows, including illegal surveillance of telephone conversations and threats of criminal prosecution. Perhaps the most well-known and well-documented attacks against freedom of the press came during the Nixon presidency. Espionage, tax auditing, intimidation, and an “enemies list” were all part of a grand scheme to obstruct honest and objective reporting.

The Obama administration has continued to single out Fox for its conservative bias and alarmist claims against socialism. While many reporters and pundits disagree with the White House’s decision to take the organization to task, this type of public condemnation has long been overdue. The administration is not employing the same sinister, Nixon-style tactics to suppress negative coverage, but rather is standing up for journalistic standards.

Granted, the triumvirate of Beck, Hannity, and O’Reilly—the leading opinion makers of the organization—have the right to voice their outrageous opinions. However, the “straight news” portion of Fox’s programming must be held accountable, because it is not as fair and balanced as they claim. Daytime anchors consistently make political statements fuelled by their ideological slant, and interview conservative guests without a moderate or progressive guest to balance the discussion. The network has purged liberal, or at the very least moderate, voices from airtime. Fox has also featured mind-numbing coverage of the Tea Parties—a series of rallies protesting health care reform, stimulus spending, and the legitimacy of Obama’s election—and one producer was caught on video rallying the crowds. It is clear that this “news” organization is not operating like a legitimate media outlet.

The purpose of Fox News is to advance a political agenda, and as Bill Shine, Vice-President of Fox News, willingly admitted, the organization is positioned as “the voice of the opposition.” How’s that for fair and balanced?

It is certainly the president’s prerogative to fight against the notion that Fox News is an objective, non-partisan member of the news industry. Those who suggest that Obama’s criticism of the media heavyweight is a distraction from other pressing issues ought to remind the heads of Fox News what exactly the issues are: health care reform, corporate welfare, and the military escalation in Afghanistan. The organization has never been highly regarded for its investigative journalism, and frankly, I’d fathom that hardly anyone there has the intellectual curiosity to discuss and dissect the pressing issues at hand.

One can certainly give rational and legitimate criticisms about the president’s policies—and there are plenty—by using empirical evidence and sound judgment. But Fox’s idea of news content consists of scare tactics, Republican talking points, and attention to the most inane details. In order to have any constructive dialogue, the mainstream bystanders and passive supporters of Fox need to quit giving the big news bully a free pass.

Good things can grow outside Ontario

“Buy Ontario” is part of the $12.5-million Pick Ontario Freshness strategy aimed at increasing the demand for Ontario produce in both our stores and restaurants. It’s seductively crafted by policy-makers to ensure you, the consumer, feel healthier, and socially and environmentally virtuous. “If we buy Ontario, everyone wins, because we are supporting our farmers, processors, rural economy, environment, and ourselves with healthy food from here at home,” said Leona Dombrowsky, Minister of Agriculture Food and Rural Affairs. But does everyone really win?

Of course, buying local reduces packaging, increases bio-diversity, supports local small farmers, and minimizes energy consumption and pollution. But increasing the demand for Ontario produce may put foreign agricultural imports at a disadvantage, threatening the livelihoods of the people who produce them.

Many developing countries rely almost entirely on agriculture for their livelihoods. Even slight fluctuations in the market can have major socio-economic effects on these countries.

The economies of developing countries are already at a great disadvantage with regards to market access to Canada. Canadian farmers received approximately $3.3 billion in subsidies in 2008, according to the department of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs. And Ontario spent $717.1 million in direct subsidies to its farmers in 2008. Canada does not import very much from developing countries. In 2001, 0.1 per cent of our agricultural imports were from Africa and zero from the world’s least developed countries. Most of our agricultural imports are actually from the United States.

Some economists argue that buying local might benefit developing economies. By decreasing trade between the global north and south, poorer countries may be encouraged to trade with one another. Over time, this would promote sustainable agricultural development, food security, and a variety of other benefits.

But because of the current global economic set-up and the wonders of “free” trade, many developing countries actually import more than they export. Protectionist measures such as agricultural subsidies make it very difficult for a country like Uganda to sell its rice to Kenya or Mozambique. It’s much cheaper for Kenya to buy its rice directly from the United States. Buying local in Canada would thus only disadvantage these countries further.

These road blocks need to be removed in order to promote intra-regional trade between African nations. According to the United Nations African Recovery Program, African countries must first eliminate trade barriers within the African community for agricultural export to become viable. They must diversify their produce, increase agricultural development initiatives, include the informal sector in their economies, and improve transportation, infrastructure, and distribution. There’s a long way to go, but intra-regional trade is on the rise and it’s changing lives. However, until those road blocks are obliterated, many people in developing countries will depend heavily on international export opportunities for the bulk of their income.

It’s not just Ontario and Canada that are developing armies of locavores. The United States is also urging its citizens to buy local produce, and the boom in Europe is astounding. If this eating local trend continues to explode on a global scale, it could further marginalize and harm developing countries. Good things grow in Ontario, but great things grow all around the world, too.