Opening Notes

BARBARA WICKENS May 13 1996

Opening Notes

BARBARA WICKENS May 13 1996

Opening Notes

BARBARA WICKENS

A stamp of approval for low technology

In the high-speed era of the cell phone and the Internet, sending a message by mail stubbornly survives as a multibillion-dollar system of global communication. Not only that, postage stamps themselves, especially the special-issue commemorative type, are still a big business, as both collectors and people who simply like to adorn their letters with something unusual eagerly snap up new issues. In light of all that, Canada Post Corp. launched its

new 90-cent stamp for overseas mail from Canada at a splashy ceremony last week outside the country—albeit legally on home soil at a reception at the Canadian Embassy in Washington. The new stamp portrays a massive black-bronze monument created by B.C. artist Bill Reid that stands in a reflecting pool at the embassy’s entrance. The Spirit of Haida Gwaii groups 13 mythic figures of Reid’s ancestral people, the Haidas of the Queen Charlotte Islands on Canada’s Pacific coast, in a 20foot-long ocean canoe. Reid, who spent five years creating the work, was unable to attend the ceremony because of illness (he has suffered for years from Parkinson’s disease). But his wife, Martine, brought his greetings, and an audiotape of the renowned artist’s words about his metaphor for Canada— a people in communion among themselves and bound for communication with the outside world.

Adding eyes and ears

Every Realtor knows the three most important considerations when it comes to selling real estate: location, location and location. Now, in a new crime-prevention initiative, the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board— which operates in the Vancouver-area communities of North Delta, Surrey, White Rock, Langley and Abbotsford—is putting its unique perspective on location to good use. Under a newly launched Realty Watch program, the board’s 2,700 members have joined forces with police to assist in emergencies or cases involving missing persons or suspicious vehicles. The concept evolved after White Rock resident Paul Cameron—whose 16-year-old daughter, Pamela, went missing and was

later found murdered in 1994—suggested that Realtors, with their cell phones, pagers and community presence, could be an excellent resource.

Under the program, the ROMP or local police will call the real estate board if they need help. The board, in turn, will pass on the specifics to all 125 real estate offices in the area. The offices will then notify individual Realtors by pager to stay alert and report suspicious activities to 911. Const. John Rosario, a spokesman for the Surrey ROMP, says the force is grateful for the assistance, especially in an era of tight police budgets. “It is a question of resources,” he adds.

“It is good to have more eyes and ears out there.”

What writers are reading

The books some prominent

personalities consider worth reading:

KIM CAM PELL,

former prime minister who as a gradup¡ fs ate student specialized in Soviet studies.

Current reading; Autopsy on an Empire by Jack Matlock, the American ambassador to the Soviet Union during its collapse.

Her comments: “I was interested that even someone who had kept up with the field was as surprised as I was at the way the system came apart and the speed at which it did.”

JOHN IRVING, novelist and author of The Imaginary PRINT Girlfriend, his memoirs about writing and wrestling. Recent reading: The Moor’s Last Sigh by Salman Rushdie. His comments: “It is ultimately funny. It kept me laughing.”

'Liberating' the Internet In its three-year history of railing against the commercialization of the Internet, the Internet Liberation Front has claimed responsibility for all kinds of mischief. The acts include so-called bombing of e-mail accounts—bombarding them with so many messages that they shut down. The Front also claims responsibility for breaking into IBM and Sprint computers. And now prosecutors in St. Louis have linked a 19-year-old computer hacker to the Front after the FBI found a Front message on his computer. Christopher Schanot is awaiting his trial in September on five counts of fraud, involving tampering with hundreds of credit-card and calling-card numbers. Despite all that, some experts caution that the Front may not actually exist. As Eugene Spafford, a computer-security expert at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., puts it: “He could just as well have had something on a disk claiming to be a member of the Islamic jihad, the IRA or the Flat Earth Society—that doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s a connection.” On the Net, seeing is not necessarily believing.

What science gives, science takes away

What is a health-conscious consumer to do? As medical science continues its investigations into the workings of the human body, the results are often confusing— if not downright contradictory. Some recent examples:

• Sperm counts. Earlier this year, there were troubling reports that many men may be experiencing declines in their sperm counts. Not so, say two new studies published last week in the journal Fertility and Sterility. In fact, men in several U.S. cities may have higher sperm counts than they had 20 years ago. And how do scientists explain the discrepancy? Regional variations.

• Beta carotene supplements. They became a multimillion-dollar industry after research indicated that beta carotene may delay the effects of aging. But two studies published last week in the New England Journal of Medicine say such supplements do not prevent cancer or slow heart disease, as its proponents claimed. The doctors’ advice? Eat fruits and vegetables.

• High-fat food. “Fat is bad” is the mantra chanted by millions hoping to maintain a healthy weight and unclogged arteries. But now another study in the New England Journal says that moderate amounts of such high-fat foods as mayonnaise, margarine and salad dressing can be an important part of a healthy diet. And why are the naughty foods now nice? They are good sources of vitamin E, which helps prevent coronary heart disease.

Laptop theft—a variation on an old trick

Inventive thieves have come up with a high-tech variation of the old ketchup trick. Instead of spilling something messy on unsuspecting travellers and fleeing with their bags in the ensuing confusion, these gangs target business travellers with laptop computers at airports.

The scam, so far, has not hit Canadian airports where federal regulations require anyone entering the screening areas to have a boarding pass or ticket.

But in the United States, anyone can enter the departure lounge.

There, two thieves position themselves in front of their chosen victim as he or she enters airport security. Once the traveller’s laptop is on the X-ray machine’s conveyor belt, the first thief proceeds through the walk-through metal detector. The second, purposely loaded down with keys and other metal objects, follows—and sets off the detector. While everyone is distracted by the noise—and the victim is caught in the logjam—the first thief recov-

ers the laptop on the other side of the scanner and leaves the area. Kevin Prince, vicepresident of Road Warrior International, an Internet newsletter for portable computer users, posted a warning about the rapidly spreading scam after learning about it from his readers. Advice from savvy computer experts: disguise a portable computer in a briefcase or larger piece of luggage that does not scream “laptop inside.”