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Space jam: Skyrocketing number of launches creating congestion in skies

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Welcome to The National Today newsletter, which takes a closer look at what’s happening around some of the day’s most notable stories. Sign up here and it will be delivered directly to your inbox Monday to Friday.

TODAY:

  • This has been the busiest space year on record, with 107 launches to date, and it’s causing concern about gridlock as rockets and airliners share the skies.
  • An extraordinary reunion in Windsor, Ont., as a Syrian refugee family welcomes their parents to Canada.
  • More and more Canadian seniors are turning to “co-housing” arrangements, and they’re discovering some big benefits.
  • Missed The National last night? Watch it here.

Crowded space

Wednesday is shaping up as a busy day in space.

India’s Space Research Organisation successfully launched a communications satellite in the early hours, North American time — the country’s third rocket flight in just 35 days.

Arianespace, a private French firm, launched a military spy satellite from French Guiana shortly after 11:30 EST this morning.  

And another space company, United Launch Alliance, is scheduled to blast a U.S. spy satellite into orbit from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base at 8:44 p.m. EST tonight, weather permitting.

The United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket launches NASA’s Parker Solar Probe at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Aug. 12. (Bill Ingalls/NASA via Getty Images)

If all goes according to plan, this will be the second three-launch day this year, following the lift-offs of one Russian and two Chinese rockets on July 9.

For a while, it looked like today might even set a new record, with five launches. But technical issues have scrubbed scheduled SpaceX and Blue Origin rockets for the second straight day.

(There’s some return traffic coming as well: A Russian Soyuz capsule carrying three members of the International Space Station crew is scheduled to touch down in Kazakhstan just after midnight EST.)

So far this month, there have been nine successful rocket launches worldwide, and it’s possible that we’ll see eight more before the New Year.

A long-exposure photo of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying an Air Force AEHF-4 satellite from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Oct. 17. (Malcolm Denemark/Associated Press)

All of which has contributed to making 2018 the busiest space year on record, with 107 launches to date.

And it’s only the beginning.

Elon Musk’s SpaceX, which has launched 19 times so far in 2018, wants to head into orbit at least 20 times next year.

Rocket Lab, a New Zealand-based firm that completed its first NASA launch earlier this week, has plans for 16 space flights in 2019 and is working towards a goal of one launch a week by 2020.

The Jeff Bezos-owned Blue Origin wants to make 100 flights a year.

Amazon and Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos in a New Shepard Crew Capsule mockup in Colorado Springs, Colo., in April 2017. The company’s goal is 100 launches a year. (Isaiah J. Downing/Reuters)

Another American space start-up, Vector, hopes to launch a dozen flights in 2019, working towards a similar goal.

And British billionaire Richard Branson, who saw his Virgin Galactic make its first successful near-space flight last week, plans to have three ships ferrying tourists to the upper edge of the atmosphere by the summer.

In Florida, where NASA’s Space Shuttle used to take off four or five times a year, authorities are now anticipating up to 200 launches annually in the near future.

China, which is investing heavily in a national space program (including manned moon missions) and now has a number of its own private launch firms, will probably beat that. So far in 2018, 36 rockets have lifted off Chinese soil, compared to 30 in the U.S.

But the rapid growth in space flight — yearly launches have almost doubled over the past two decades — is creating fears of “gridlock” in the skies.

The Dragon crew capsule sits in the SpaceX hangar at Launch Complex 39-A at Cape Canaveral, Fla., on Tuesday. The space ship and Falcon 9 booster rocket are being prepared for a January 2019 launch. (Steve Nesius/Reuters)

As the Washington Post illustrated with this very cool graphics package and article, a single SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch last February saw U.S. air traffic controllers close off a 2,100 kilometre-long stretch of the Atlantic Ocean to planes for three hours, diverting dozens of commercial flight paths, to accommodate a 90-second rocket flight.

The Federal Aviation Administration is working on an automated rocket tracking system that should shorten those airspace closures to just 15 minutes, but it won’t be ready until at least 2021.

Space launches are still a relatively minor problem for aviation. As the Post notes, 1,400 U.S. flights were diverted around rockets this year, compared to seven million flights that experienced problems with weather or clogged airspace.

But that number is sure to grow as space launches spread and multiply, affecting more of the world’s almost 105,000 commercial flights a day.

Providing a final frontier of dissatisfaction for delayed, atmosphere-bound  airline passengers.


A poignant reunion

Reporter Susan Ormiston witnessed an extraordinary reunion in Windsor, Ont., as a Syrian refugee family welcomed their parents to Canada.

It’s rare for a journalist to be able to follow a story over the course of several years. The Tonbari family is an exception.

We first met three years ago in Lebanon in an abandoned, half-built cement building near Tripoli. Ibrahim Tonbari, his wife Zeinab Al-Omar and their children were packing to leave as part of a group of 25,000 Syrians promised refuge in Canada under the new Trudeau government.

The family of six had to leave their elderly parents behind in a wrenching, painful farewell at the Beirut airport. Grandmother Aida and her husband Mohammad had never been outside Syria and Lebanon, and she wept as she kissed her grandchildren, not knowing when she would see them again.

Last week, her prayers were answered.

Zeinab Al-Omar, who immigrated to Windsor, Ont., from Syria with her husband and children three years ago, anxiously waits at the airport for the arrival of her in-laws. A private sponsorship group in Windsor helped to reunite the family split by the Syrian war. (Sylvia Thomson/CBC)

After seeing our story about the Tonbaris coming to Windsor, Ont., back in November 2015, a group of lawyers in that city decided to privately sponsor the grandparents and an orphaned nephew.

The application took two years, but all three have finally arrived to a tearful reunion at Windsor’s airport.

“I’m so happy, I can’t believe it’s happening,” said Zeinab Al-Omar.

In the past three years, Canadians have privately sponsored more than 24,000 Syrian refugees. But once here, few are able to bring over family members — on average, about 240 per year — making the Windsor reunion a relatively rare event.

Aida Abed Al Karim, centre, holds a granddaughter as she speaks to Susan Ormiston in her son’s living room in Windsor, Ont. Aida and her husband Mohammad Tonbari arrived this month to join their children in Canada. (Sylvia Thomson/CBC)

“I really feel that it’s important that the government — before they can say they did the job, so to speak — that they put something in place for family reunification,” said Anneke Smit, a lawyer who is part of the Windsor sponsorship group.

“In some cases we’ve left the more vulnerable people behind. So even if we do nothing else, I think there’s really a moral obligation on us,” she says.

– Susan Ormiston

  • WATCH: The story about the Tonbari family reunion tonight on The National on CBC Television and streamed online

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  • You may also like our early-morning newsletter, the Morning Brief — start the day with the news you need in one quick and concise read. Sign up here.

Seniors seeking roommates

More and more Canadian seniors are turning to “co-housing” arrangements, reporter Kas Roussy writes, and they’re discovering some big benefits.

What happens when three long-time friends — all baby boomers, either widowed or divorced, all empty nesters — decide that living life alone is no longer an option?

Easy.

They sell their individual houses, do some serious purging of appliances and furniture, pool their finances, and buy another house where all of them can live.

The motivation?

Phyllis Brady, 66, says that her decision to share a house in London, Ont., with her friends came down to economy, safety, and companionship.

Empty-nest seniors Barb Coughlin, left, Phyllis Brady and Mary Townley sold their homes, pooled their resources and bought a single place in London, Ont., where all three could live. Coughlin says sharing a place to save money and for companionship feels like going back to university. (Craig Chivers/CBC)

That last one is really important.

Loneliness among older adults is a rising epidemic in Canada. Statistics Canada reports more than one million seniors say they are lonely.

Being alone can be a health hazard, and not just because of the chance of suffering a fall or illness without anyone there to help. Research shows loneliness increases the risk of a whole range of health issues, from heart attacks and stroke, to dementia and serious depression.

Mary Townley, 71, who knows her way around a curling rink and is pretty handy with basic tools for quick repairs, didn’t mind living alone some of the time, she told us on a recent visit to her new home. “But then there are those other times when you think, ‘Oh, I wish I had someone to talk to, not over the phone. It’s much nicer face-to-face with a glass of wine.'”

Co-housing arrangements among seniors is a growing trend in Canada, whether it’s people sharing one house or a larger apartment complex.

It’s a no brainer, says Adriana Shnall, an aging expert at Toronto’s Baycrest Health Sciences.

It’s cheaper to live with somebody else, but it’s also better for our physical health and for our mental health.– Adriana  Shnall , Baycrest  Health Sciences

“It’s cheaper to live with somebody else, but it’s also better for our physical health and for our mental health,” she says.

The three women we visited in London each have their own bedroom and bathroom, and because Phyllis is the youngest at 66, she gets the so-called “teenager’s room” in the finished basement.

They share kitchen duties, split the bills, and basically laugh a lot.

Phyllis says she has lost a bit of weight, because she’s eating less junk food. The other women notice there’s less stress in their lives.

It feels like going back to university, says 71-year-old Barb Coughlin.

“Except now, we’re neater,” adds Phyllis.

Cue the laughter.

– Kas Roussy

  • WATCH: The story about seniors living in co-housing tonight on The National on CBC Television and streamed online

A few words on … 

An act of Christmas kindness.


Quote of the moment

“Mr. Speaker, I did not use the words ‘stupid woman’ about the prime minister or anyone else and am completely opposed to the use of sexist or misogynistic language in absolutely any form at all.”

 U.K. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn responds after television cameras in the House of Commons appeared to capture his frustration during a Brexit debate with Prime Minister Theresa May.

In this House of Commons TV handout video, backdropped by Labour MPs, Britain’s opposition Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn makes a statement Wednesday in the House of Commons on his return after being accused of mouthing ‘stupid woman’ at Prime Minister Theresa May during Prime Minister’s Questions. (House of Commons/via AP)


What The National is reading

  • Toronto police arrest 7th St. Michael’s College student (CBC)
  • Hacked European cables reveal world of anxiety about Trump, Russia, Iran (NY Times)
  • Grace Mugabe faces South African arrest warrant (BBC)
  • Unholy row as Ukrainian and Russian Orthodox churches split (Asia Times)
  • Timmins woman charged with witchcraft just 2 days before offence comes off books (CBC)
  • Elon Musk unveils underground highway prototype (CBC)
  • Blind creature that buries head in sand named after Donald Trump (Guardian)
  • Hunter thought he was firing at Bigfoot, ‘victim’ tells police (Fox News)

Today in history

Dec. 19, 2000: Nordic combined skiing, a struggling sport in Canada  

If you build it, they still won’t come. That’s the lesson that Canada was grappling with a dozen years after the Calgary Olympics. Despite having a world class ski jump, the country was still struggling to produce successful Nordic combined skiers. The male-only event — the last remaining one in the Winter Games — sends athletes off the big and small jumps, then finishes with a staggered-start 10 kilometre cross country race. Almost two decades later, Canada is still looking for a champion, with the country’s best-ever finish remaining a 10th place at the 1932 Lake Placid Games.

In 2000, Canada can barely field individual nordic combined athletes, let alone an Olympic team. 4:09

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Please send your ideas, news tips, rants, and compliments to thenationaltoday@cbc.ca. ​



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Top 5 Analytics Trends That Are Shaping The Future

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Digital transformation is increasingly becoming the focus for many CIOs around the world today—with analytics playing a fundamental role in driving the future of the digital economy.

While data is important to every business, it is necessary for businesses to have a firm grip on data analytics to allow them transform raw pieces of data into important insights. However, unlike the current trends in business intelligence—which is centred around data visualization—the future of data analytics would encompass a more contextual experience.

“The known data analytics development cycle is described in stages: from descriptive (what happened) to diagnostic (why did it happen), to discovery (what can we learn from it), to predictive (what is likely to happen), and, finally, to prescriptive analytics (what action is the best to take),” said Maurice op het Veld is a partner at KPMG Advisory in a report.

“Another way of looking at this is that data analytics initially “supported” the decision-making process but is now enabling “better” decisions than we can make on our own.”

Here are some of the current trends that arealready shaping the future of data analytics in individuals and businesses.

  1. Growth in mobile devices

With the number of mobile devices expanding to include watches, digital personal assistants, smartphones, smart glasses, in-car displays, to even video gaming systems, the final consumption plays a key role on the level of impact analytics can deliver.

Previously, most information consumers accessed were on a computer with sufficient room to view tables, charts and graphs filled with data, now, most consumers require information delivered in a format well optimized for whatever device they are currently viewing it on.

Therefore, the content must be personalized to fit the features of the user’s device and not just the user alone.

  1. Continuous Analytics

More and more businesses are relying on the Internet of Things (IoT) and their respective streaming data—which in turn shortens the time it takes to capture, analyze and react to the information gathered. Therefore, while analytics programspreviously were termed successful when results were delivered within days or weeks of processing, the future of analytics is bound to drastically reduce this benchmark to hours, minutes, seconds—and even milliseconds.

“All devices will be connected and exchange data within the “Internet of Things” and deliver enormous sets of data. Sensor data like location, weather, health, error messages, machine data, etc. will enable diagnostic and predictive analytics capabilities,” noted Maurice.

“We will be able to predict when machines will break down and plan maintenance repairs before it happens. Not only will this be cheaper, as you do not have to exchange supplies when it is not yet needed, but you can also increase uptime.”

  1. Augmented Data Preparation

During the process of data preparation, machine learning automation will begin to augment data profiling and data quality, enrichment, modelling, cataloguing and metadata development.

Newer techniques would include supervised, unsupervised and reinforcement learning which is bound to enhance the entire data preparation process. In contrast to previous processes—which depended on rule-based approach to data transformation—this current trend would involve advanced machine learning processes that would evolve based on recent data to become more precise at responding to changes in data.

  1. Augmented Data Discovery

Combined with the advancement in data preparation, a lot of these newer algorithms now allow information consumers to visualize and obtain relevant information within the data with more ease. Enhancements such as automatically revealing clusters, links, exceptions, correlation and predictions with pieces of data, eliminate the need for end users to build data models or write algorithms themselves.

This new form of augmented data discovery will lead to an increase in the number of citizen data scientist—which include information users who, with the aid of augmented assistance can now identify and respond to various patterns in data faster and a more distributed model.

  1. AugmentedData Science

It is important to note that the rise of citizen data scientist will not in any way eliminate the need for a data scientist who gathers and analyze data to discover profitable opportunities for the growth of a business. However, as these data scientists give room for citizen data scientists to perform the easier tasks, their overall analysis becomes more challenging and equally valuable to the business.

As time goes by, machine learning would be applied in other areas such as feature and model selection. This would free up some of the tasks performed by data scientist and allow them focus on the most important part of their job, which is to identify specific patterns in the data that can potentially transform business operations and ultimately increase revenue.

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Waterloo drone-maker Aeryon Labs bought by U.S. company for $265M

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Waterloo’s Aeryon Labs has been bought by Oregon-based FLIR Systems Inc. for $256 million, or $200 million US.

The acquisition was announced Monday. 

Dave Kroetsch, co-founder and chief technology officer of Aeryon Labs, says not much will change in the foreseeable future.

“The Waterloo operations of Aeryon Labs will actually continue as they did yesterday with manufacturing, engineering and all the functions staying intact in Waterloo and ultimately, we see growing,” he said.

“The business here is very valuable to FLIR and our ability to sell internationally is a key piece of keeping these components of the business here in Canada.”

Aeroyn Labs builds high-performance drones that are sold to a variety of customers including military, police services and commercial businesses. The drones can provide high-resolution images for surveillance and reconnaissance.

The drones already include cameras and thermal technology from FLIR. Jim Cannon, president and CEO of FLIR Systems, said acquiring Aeryon Labs is part of the company’s strategy to move beyond sensors “to the development of complete solutions that save lives and livelihoods.”

‘A piece of a bigger solution’

Kroetsch said this is a good way for the company to grow into something bigger.

“We see the business evolving in much the direction our business has been headed over the last couple of years. And that’s moving beyond the drone as a product in and of itself as a drone as a piece of a bigger solution,” he said.

For example, FLIR bought a drone company that builds smaller drones that look like little helicopters.

“We can imagine integrating those with our drones, perhaps having ours carry their drones and drop them off,” he said.

FLIR also does border security systems, which Kroetsch says could use the drones to allow border agents to look over a hill where there have been issues.

“We see the opportunity there as something that we never could have done on our own but being involved with and part of a larger company that’s already providing these solutions today gives us access not only to these great applications, but also to some fantastic technologies,” he said.

Aeryon Labs has done a lot of work during emergency disasters, including in Philippines after Typhoon Hagupit in 2014, Ecuador after an earthquake in 2016 and the Fort McMurray wildfire in 2016.

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Inuvik infrastructure may not be ready for climate change, says study

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The Arctic is expected to get warmer and wetter by the end of this century and new research says that could mean trouble for infrastructure in Inuvik.

The study from Global Water Futures looked at how climate change could impact Havipak Creek — which crosses the Dempster Highway in Inuvik, N.W.T. — and it predicts some major water changes.

“They were quite distressing,” John Pomeroy, director of Global Water Futures and the study’s lead author, said of the findings.

Researchers used a climate model and a hydrological model to predict future weather and climate patterns in the region. They also looked at data gathered from 1960 to the present. 

If greenhouse gas emissions continue at their current rate — which Pomeroy said they are on track to do — the study projects the region will be 6.1 C warmer by 2099 and precipitation, particularly rain, will increase by almost 40 per cent.

The study also found that the spring flood will be earlier and twice as large, and the permafrost will thaw an additional 25 centimetres. While the soil is expected to be wetter early in the summer, the study said it will be drier in late summer, meaning a higher risk of wildfires.

John Pomeroy is the director of Global Water Futures. (Erin Collins/CBC)

“The model’s painting kind of a different world than we’re living in right now for the Mackenzie Delta region,” Pomeroy said.

He noted these changes are not only expected for Havipak Creek, but also for “many, many creeks along the northern part of the Dempster [Highway].”

Pomeroy said the deeper permafrost thaw and a bigger spring flood could pose challenges for buildings, roads, culverts and crossings in the area that were designed with the 20th century climate in mind.

He said the projected growth of the snowpack and the spring flood are “of grave concern because that’s what washes out the Dempster [Highway] and damages infrastructure in the area.”

Culverts and bridges may have to be adjusted to allow room for greater stream flows, Pomeroy said. And building foundations that are dependent upon the ground staying frozen will have to be reinforced or redesigned.

Pomeroy said the ultimate solution is for humans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“This study is the future we’re heading for, but it’s not the future we necessarily have if we can find a way to reduce those gases,” he said.  

“It’d be far smarter to get those emissions under control than to pay the terrible expenses for infrastructure and endangered safety of humans and destroyed ecosystems.”

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