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How the emoji’s rise is influencing language and law

DAVID FRIEND, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Tuesday, Mar 8th, 2016

Emojis are shown in a handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Handout.

If emojis could express their meteoric rise into the lexicon of virtual language, it might start with a surprised face, followed by thumbs up, and a trophy.

After years of ridicule in popular culture, the famous international registry of smiley faces, animals and numerous other objects is finally getting some respect.

“In many ways, communicating informally with each other on the Internet, with just words, is like trying to talk in a monotone with your hands behind your back,” says Gretchen McCulloch, a Montreal-based linguist who has studied the rise of emojis and how people use them to enhance communication.

“Words are important but they don’t convey the whole message. Sometimes they can undermine your message.”

Created in the late 1990s by Japanese mobile phone carriers as a marketing hook, emojis never really landed on the radar of North Americans until Apple’s iPhone and Android smartphones incorporated the cartoon characters in 2010.

While it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly when emoji usage caught fire, last year marked a clear zeitgeist moment.

The prestigious Oxford Dictionaries chose the “face with tears of joy” emoji as word of the year, leading to an uproar in some linguistic circles.

How, they asked, could an image of a cartoon face supplant a new word in the English language? Oxford justified the decision by saying it saw usage of the word emoji “increase hugely” in 2015, led by the crying face.

It was an undeniable sign that emojis had reached a higher level of status after years of being widely dismissed as a quirky smartphone feature used mostly by teenagers.

Today, there’s no one way to use emojis. McCulloch says that while most people use them to punctuate sentences — like typing an angry face rather than an exclamation point — some younger users replace full sentences with a string of emojis to convey a thought, especially on social media platforms like Twitter and Snapchat that have character limits per post.

Tastemakers like record producer DJ Khaled have also developed their own emoji slang. Khaled paired the word “major” with the cartoon key emoji as an abbreviation to declare a “major key to success.” The combination was quickly picked up by plugged-in teenagers, who use it to leave a stamp of approval on eye-catching Instagram photos or inspiring quotes on Facebook.

“There’s no school for emoji use … people learn as they (use them) and learn from observation,” says Rhonda McEwen, assistant professor of new media at the University of Toronto.

“We’re figuring it out as we go.”

Other celebrities and brands have hopped on the emoji bandwagon, including Kim Kardashian who launched her own “Kimoji” app with cartoon renderings of herself. Tim Hortons also released its own batch of “Eh-mojis” that included the company’s coffee cup, a moose and maple leaf.

Using strings of cartoon images to communicate can leave messages open to interpretation, which has posed a major challenge under the law.

A New York grand jury was recently asked to decide whether the combination of an emoji police officer and an emoji gun was considered a threat to police.

And a 12-year-old in Fairfax, Va., faced charges last December for what police say was an Instagram post that featured the word “killing” followed by emojis of a gun, knife and bomb, and the message “meet me in the library Tuesday.”

Canadian courts haven’t been faced with decoding the contextual meaning of an emoji message yet, but it’s likely only a matter of time.

For now, there seems to be no stopping the growing influence of emojis, though McCulloch cautions against overemphasizing how popular they’ve become in general text communication.

Some of her research will be presented on Saturday at a media panel held by the South By Southwest music, film and interactive festival in Austin, Texas. McCulloch compiled a study in conjunction with predictive typing app Swiftkey, which found that only 4.6 per cent of all overall text communication sessions analyzed included any emoji.

Of those, about 15 per cent were comprised of only emoji and no words.

McCulloch says that data suggests most people tend to use emojis with words rather than to replace words — which flies in the face of alarmists who have said emojis could lead to the deterioration of language.

If you’re a Mac user, beware of ‘ransomware’

Winston Sih | posted Tuesday, Mar 8th, 2016

Parents with kids should be aware–many teens use torrent software to download pirated music, movies, and television shows. This content can often come with ‘phishing’ software – prying for personal information, including addresses, credit card information, and bank account passwords.

Although this is alarming being the first ransomware has hit the Macintosh operating system, security experts are noting to not overreact and keep the following tips in mind:

Ransomware protection tips

Courtesy: Symantec

  • Regularly back up any files stored on your computer
  • Always keep your security software up to date
  • Keep your operating system and other software updated
  • Delete any suspicious-looking emails you receive

Finch West among five most dangerous TTC bus routes: report

CityNews | posted Tuesday, Mar 8th, 2016

If a TTC bus is part of your morning commute, a new analysis of transit data lays out the routes on which you’ll want to be the most vigilant.

A Toronto Star report reveals the Finch, Jane, Eglinton West, Keele and Lawrence bus routes are the most dangerous in the city, some accounting for hundreds of crimes in recent years.

The Star analyzed data from more than 4,000 crimes that took place on city buses from Jan. 1, 2010, to Aug. 10, 2015.

The 36 Finch West bus route topped list with the highest number of incidents at 322, followed by the 35 Jane with 260, 32 Eglinton West at 164, 41 Keele at 161, and 52 Lawrence with 123.

The incidents ranged from assaults on drivers to fraud, with the latter being the most prevalent crime at 952 incidents.

Fraud was the most common offence on four of the five routes: 36 Finch West, 35 Jane, 41 Keele, and 52 Lawrence.

Driver assault (896) and assault on passengers (300), as well as mischief incidents and threats, rounded up the top five incident list.

Just last week, one passenger violently kicked another onboard a TTC bus, and in February, a woman spit on a bus driver.

From 15cm to 16 C: Spring-like forecast for GTA this week

CityNews | posted Monday, Mar 7th, 2016

Whatever is left of the snow in your backyard won’t last much longer with spring-like temperatures expected in the GTA this week.

According to 680 NEWS meteorologist Jill Taylor, Monday’s high is 11 C, but it will be 14 C on Tuesday and 16 C by Wednesday.

And while winter technically doesn’t end for another couple of weeks, the warm trend is expected to last until then.

“It looks like an early spring and we’ll be dealing with temperatures quite mild right through to March 20, the start of astronomical spring,” Taylor said.

However, Taylor warns winter-type weather can’t be ruled out just yet.

“We could be dealing with a surprise-type storm at the end of March beginning of April that brings that winter-type weather back to us,” she said.

If the snow returns, you can blame Wiarton Willie, the only groundhog that to hold out on predicting an early spring.

But the GTA has been lucky so far, receiving almost 44 centimetres of snow, which is a fraction of the 97 centimetres the region had by March of last year.

And, brace for it: The calendar is going to steal an hour of sleep from you this weekend, when the clocks spring forward an hour on Sunday for Daylight Saving Time.

Five takeaways from Justin Trudeau’s 60 Minutes segment

Adrian Lee | posted Monday, Mar 7th, 2016

If this was to be Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s most significant introduction to American audiences, it was to be far slimmer than the show’s name would suggest. A 13-minute 60 Minutes segment about Trudeau—the first Canadian politician featured on the show in 13 years, timed for just before his state dinner at the White House on Thursday—felt more like it lasted 60 seconds, a weightless introduction to a country that has been invisible on the United States’ No. 1 news show.

The reality, of course, is that Lara Logan’s 60 Minutessegment was not for Canadians, despite Canadians’ thrill that the newsmagazine was set to join outlets like Vogue and the New York Times to deign to cast a light on Canada. Nevertheless, the segment offered little new insight into Trudeau, spending swaths of time on his family and his affection for boxing in the wake of his 2012 fight against Patrick Brazeau. Here are five takeaways from the piece:

1. Margaret Trudeau is not Kim Cattrall.

The segment spent a large chunk of its time on Trudeau’s personal life, setting him in the context of a father that may still resonate for American audiences. But during a mention of his mother Margaret’s history of mental illness, 60 Minutes sent up a B-roll image of Kim Cattrall, the actress that Pierre briefly dated. In a segment that ends with Trudeau suggesting that Americans should “pay attention to us from time to time, too,” it’s a bit of an embarrassment.
Last word on this to Cattrall — for now:



2. Justin Trudeau is a fan of 2006’s Rocky Balboa.

“People think that boxing is all about how hard you can hit your opponent. It’s not. Boxing is about how hard a hit you can take and keep going,” he said, linking his politics to his love of the ring. But if it sounds familiar, it may be because you’re a completionist of the Rockyseries of films: In the movie Rocky Balboa, an aged, retired Rocky delivers those lines, nearly word for word, to his son Robert. (For whatever it’s worth, the 2015 follow-up Creed revealed that Robert moved to Vancouver; perhaps in the Rocky universe, Robert passed on this advice to a ski-instructor pal?) The lines about boxing don’t sound too different, either, from what he told Globe and Mail writer Ian Brown in his profile during the campaign; he regurgitated another story, too, when he tells Logan about the awkward conversation with his father when he asked him to teach him about politics—a tale he’d previously wovenfor the CBC’s Peter Mansbridge.

Related: The true sign of Canadian cool? Not caring if others think we’re cool

3. Trudeau nearly flunked out of school—and sees that near-dropout as a leading example of his failure.

The show’s most revealing clip may have come in an online bonus extra. In a “60 Minutes Overtime” video online, Logan asks Trudeau whether he’s ever “tasted failure.” He pauses, then says he nearly dropped out of Grade 12, feeling the pressure of following in his father’s high-achieving footsteps. “I went through a real period of wondering whether or not I was a worthy son, or even a worthy individual,” he said. “It repeated a few times at moments throughout my life where I was faced with uncertainty about whether or not I was actually on the right track, or actually even a good and worthy person. And quite frankly, through public life, the connection I’ve managed to establish with people in actually making a difference and helping and learning has done a really good job of having me understand that maybe I am a good person with things to offer and meaningful contributions to make.”

4. Trudeau took another swipe at Donald Trump.

Logan asked Trudeau whether or not he was concerned about whether refugees represent potential terrorism threats. In his response, Trudeau couldn’t help but take an unsubtle swing at the Republican Party’s frontrunner: “Ultimately, being open and respectful toward each other is much more powerful as a way to defuse hatred and anger than, you know, layering on, you know, big walls and oppressive policies,” he said. It’s not the first time: When asked to repudiate Trump’s beliefs at Maclean’s Town Hall, he did so, saying, “I stand firmly against the politics of division, the politics of fear.” On 60 Minutes, he also spoke of rebuking the supporter of a particular male presidential candidate for her failure to care about the global picture. These are rather daring interventions into a heated U.S. political race, and there are those who believe it’s best for Trudeau to stay out of it, to see how things shake out.

5. A glossing-over of some real issues.

Sure, there are only so many things you can do and say in 13 minutes. But it is odd to hear Logan describe the arrival of 25,000 Syrian refugees—which came months after the campaign-promised deadline—as achieved in an easy fait accompli. It is difficult to agree entirely with the claim that Pierre Trudeau “famously made Canada one of the most progressive countries in the world” when he suspended civil liberties by invoking the War Measures Act during the October Crisis. It’s odd to hear Logan suggest, largely unbidden, that the withdrawal of jets from the fight against ISIS represents a “deeper engagement in the war.” And it’s unusual to hear that Canada is more than hockey and cold fronts when Trudeau is not, it seemed, asked about his agenda for his important visit with Barack Obama.

But then again, Trudeau wouldn’t need to do these get-to-know-you interviews if Americans were already up to speed on Canadian politics. The segments weren’t for us, at home. And even if these profiles have proven to focus more on the telegenic leader than the country itself, it is impossible to argue that it’s not a useful exercise to try to raise Canada’s profile. He is asking America to—in the words of his father—just watch him. And so, we will: The real test starts this week, in Washington.

Kim Cattrall gets mistaken billing as Trudeau’s mom in ’60 Minutes’ profile

The Canadian Press and news staff | posted Monday, Mar 7th, 2016

Call it a “60 Minutes” oops moment.

The venerable CBS newsmagazine aired a profile piece on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Sunday evening. And, for the most part, it cast Canada’s new leader in a glowing light.

But there was one noticeable gaff in the “60 Minutes” piece that is getting plenty of attention. A photo that was supposed to show Trudeau’s parents displayed his father, Pierre Elliott Trudeau alongside actress Kim Cattrall, and not his mother, Margaret.

The former Prime Minister and Cattrall dated in the early 80s. In response, Cattrall, who is best known for her role in “Sex and the City,” joked on Twitter, saying: “I have a son who is the Prime Minister of Canada? I couldn’t be more proud.”

There is not comment yet from the Trudeaus.

During the interview, Trudeau discussed his late father, his approach to politics, and even offered some gentle criticism of Americans.

Trudeau’s interview comes ahead of his state visit to Washington this week where he’ll meet with U.S. President Barack Obama. The visit is a first for a Canadian prime minister in almost two decades.

While defending Canada’s Syrian Refugee program, Trudeau made a veiled jab at Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s plan to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico.

“Ultimately, being open and respectful towards each other is much more powerful as a way to diffuse hatred and anger, than layering on big walls and oppressive policies,” Trudeau said.

Trudeau was also asked what Canadians don’t like about the United States, and said it would be “nice if they paid a little more attention to the world.”

“Having a little bit of an awareness of what’s going on in the rest of the world, I think is what many Canadians would hope for Americans,” he said.

Last week, The Associated Press obtained a transcript of the interview with Trudeau quoted as saying that Canadians would be appreciative if Americans paid more attention to what is going on around the world.

It prompted Conservative MP Jason Kenney to take to social media and refer to Trudeau’s comment as “regrettably smug.”

Kenney responded on Twitter, saying both countries have their flaws, but the idea that Canadians pay more attention to the world is “manifestly untrue.”

Toronto Zoo baby pandas to appear in public, Trudeau to attend

The Canadian Press | posted Monday, Mar 7th, 2016

A pair of panda cubs born in a Toronto zoo will have a high profile audience Monday when they appear in public for the first time.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne will be among those getting the first glimpse of the cubs who have been held in a special maternity-area since their birth last October.

The zoo will be announcing the top name choices for the cubs — a special committee was set up to compile possible monikers.

The cubs marked their 100th day in January and are now considered to have survived their infancy.

Their mother, Er Shun is on loan from China.

She and a male panda named Da Mao arrived in 2013.

It’s hoped the cubs will be introduced to the general public later this month.

Celebrate Toronto with a party, vintage show, and film fest

Patricia D'Cunha and Jackie Rosen | posted Friday, Mar 4th, 2016

A 3D Toronto sign at Nathan Phillips Square for the Pan Am and Pam American Games. TWITTER/@g026r

Toronto turns 182 years old on Sunday and what better way to celebrate the occasion than by exploring what the city has the offer.

There are plenty of events taking place this weekend to help you cheer on the city, including a special “Celebrate Toronto” party at the Steam Whistle.

As you make your plans, a reminder that a portion of Line 1 (Yonge-University-Spadina) is shut down this weekend for TTC work.

Outside of the city, there’s an OPP job fair and an “open data” event in Mississauga.


Celebrate Toronto at Steam Whistle
Happy birthday, Toronto!


Skaters at Nathan Phillips Square with the ‘Toronto’ sign in the background. 680 NEWS/Patricia D’Cunha.

To mark the 182-year milestone, Steam Whistle Brewery is hosting a “Toronto: Past, Present, Future” party on Saturday with an exhibit, food and its famous beer.

Click here for ticket information.

Vintage flare
If you’re looking for a piece of history that you can wear or put in your home, head on down to the Vintage Clothing Show and the Antique and Vintage Market at Exhibition Place this weekend.

At the clothing show, rummage through racks of retro and vintage clothes and be dazzled by rows of unique costume jewelry. And of course, what would a wardrobe be without a charming old-world purse?


The Toronto Vintage Clothing Show. Photo via Instagram/vintageclothingshow.

After, mosey on down to the antique market to find that something special for your home. There are many items to suit your fancy like bohemian-style furnishings, reclaimed wood pieces, antique prints and silver accents.


The Toronto Antique and Vintage Market. Photo via torontoantiqueandvintagemarket.ca.

ntrance to the clothing show is included with price of admission to the antique market.

Feeling a little Irish?
With St. Patrick’s Day a couple of weeks away, it’s never too early to explore your Irish roots and culture, whether you are from the Emerald Isle or not.

The Toronto Irish Film Festival, now in its sixth year and running this weekend, celebrates the best in Ireland cinema from full-length movies and film shorts. This year also marks the Easter Risingcentenary, and some of this year’s short films commemorate the uprising.



Click here to check out the full festival programme.

Spin to Conquer Cancer 
A new charity event takes place Saturday morning, all in support of the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre.

It’s the first annual Spin to Conquer Cancer at the Toronto Botanical Gardens, where participants will hop on spin bikes in 45-minute session. The goal is to raise $75,000 for the cancer centre.

Mississauga ‘Code and the City’
Mississauga is inviting people to help “Code the City” on Saturday, a contest to help the city deliver services more efficiently, and win prizes by doing it.

The event is taking place at the Hazel McCallion campus of Sheridan College, where teams will be competing to organize the open data.

The winners will receive up to $6,000 in cash and prizes.

OPP tech job symposium
Attention tech students: do you want to work for the Ontario Provincial Police?


The OPP coat of arms, in Toronto, December 1, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/J.P. Moczulski.

At Sheridan College’s Davis Campus in Brampton, police are looking to hire new grads or soon-to-be grads who have experience in technology applications. Click here to apply.

TTC work

Partial Line 1 closure
Subways won’t be running between St. George and Lawrence West stations the entire weekend due to track work.

Replacement buses will stop at all stations during the closure.

In a video, TTC CEO Andy Byford and spokesperson Brad Ross explain the reasons for the weekend closures.


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