In case you missed it, Kergin’s got you covered: Things you probably didn’t see happening around you last month

Brendan Kergin, News Editor  Ω

Global

*The US House of Representatives (Congress to friends) is looking at a bill that could change the landscape of the internet.
While it is still in debate, the Stop Online Piracy Act is a pretty potent piece of legislation, and its effects would be felt across the web. It will allow for greater protection of copyright material, putting the onus more on websites.
Fans of SOPA include content creators like the Motion Pictures Association of America (MPAA) which is essentially Hollywood and pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer. As the bill could shutdown sites like Youtube, Flickr and Etsy, there’s a pretty strong opposition. There are over a dozen separate arguments against the bill and international flak about how the US is looking to unilaterally change the web.
It may turn into the biggest story you never pay attention to in 2012.

*Well, you probably did hear some of this, but you may have mistaken Kim Jong-Il for Lil’ Kim. Tons of twitterers did (point of fact: Lil’ Kim is shorter by a couple of inches, unless you count the fact Kim Jong-Il is horizontal now).
North Korea wept, according to their PR machine and one of Jong-Il’s sons took over. Best guess is that he’s less crazy than his pops, but if you read the lists of crazy junk Kim Jong-Il did, that’s still not too comforting.

*Democracy in the Middle East! At least for some.
Egyptians were lining up for kilometres as part of their three stage election, which is wrapping up soon. Islamic-based parties are doing well, but there is a diverse field of political ideals being represented.
On the flip side to that, the Syrian government is regularly opening fire on protesters, while Yemen and Bahrain are looking at political riots on a fairly regular basis.
The Arab Spring, as it was dubbed almost a year ago, doesn’t seem to have faded after Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. Protests also occurred in Moscow on a size not seen in Vladimir Putin’s rather dour reign. To add to that, some international pundits are looking at sub-Saharan dictatorships to see if the unrest is heading south.

National

*The controversial Long Gun Registry started by the Liberal government is almost gone.
Stephen Harper’s Tory majority is looking to scrap it soon, after the first two readings of the bill before their holiday break. Bill C-19 is still full of controversies though, from Conservative MP Jim Hillyer’s finger gun celebration in the House of Commons, to the ability for government documents to be scrapped without the normal process, to the fact that the police in many cities and the RCMP support the registry.
The government has pre-empted the abolishment of the registry with an ad campaign celebrating the fact. Fiscally responsible bragging?

*The At Home program, funded by the federal government, is actually turning up some interesting, positive results.
The program has been running for a few years as a research project essentially. The program is helping the mentally ill by providing housing for them first instead of treating their substance abuse or mental illness temporarily and then releasing them. The program is actually turning decent results.
While the program sounds counter to the Harper government’s style, it may prove to be financially smart as well. The cost of dealing with some of the homeless can be quite high, with irregular issues and police incidents. How often do you seen the police having to deal with the homeless?
Providing a basic, safe home has not only positive results in the lives of those now housed, it’s also decreasing resource strain in other areas.

*A new trend in post-secondary studies (that’s us) is starting to gain interest in smaller schools in Canada.
The idea is called a block plan. The concept is to take a semester long course, and cram it into an intensive two or three-week long course, with nothing else. Instead of having four or five courses simultaneously with professors assigning papers all at the same time creating “crunches” the idea is to spread out the work while condensing the class time.
Both UNBC and Quest University  are using it in B.C. Quest is actually entirely block plan, and students seem to enjoy it, saying it helps keep things in order and allows them to focus and put one class before another.
Some professors also prefer the block system, so it may be an idea to keep an eye on TRU programs.

Provincial

*Prepare to pay more in tax on a series of things in the upcoming year.
Health premiums for families of two or more are going up.
And so are the ICBC insurance rates just after that.
And the gas tax is going up a cent a litre as well.
Oh, and hydro is up a little too.
While none of these are massive hikes, the term “nickel and diming you to death” comes to mind. On the upside, the HST, which cost the average consumer slightly more than the PST, will be gone soon…ish, in 2013.

*The best protected person in a liquor store may not be the cop, the gang member, or the clerk. It could easily be the liquor inspector.
The provincial government is looking to purchase some bullet-resistant vests for their inspectors. These would protect them against most hand guns, which is nice. However the CBC was unable to find an incident reports of any inspectors being shot at or threatened.
Perhaps a better use for those vests would be for late-night convenience store clerks.

*With Keystone taking all the oil pipeline controversy news coverage, it’s easy to forget there is another one crossing our province.
Plans have more or less been drawn up for Enbridge Northern Gateway project, and the process is now going to a series of hearings on safety and environmental impact.
The schedule looks to leak into 2013, so while Keystone will probably have a decision before then, many local eyes will be looking at a line from Kitimat to north of Edmonton.
As usual, the proponets of the project seem to be the oil industry, China, the federal government, those looking to bring jobs north and political supporters of large natural resource business opportunities.
Opponents include aboriginal groups, some communities living near the projected pipeline, environmentalists and groups protesting the oil sands in Alberta.
Classic.

Local

*In hyper-local news, there has been some name changing at TRU.
The School of Tourism has been changed to Faculty of Adventure, Culinary Arts and Tourism.
This has disappointed one Omega staffer who was hoping for the Faculty of Culinary Adventures and Artistic Tourism.
Also, in the School of Business and Economics there used to be a blandly named Department of Management. This has been split up into the dynamically named Department of Accounting and Finance, the exciting and explosive Department of Marketing, International Business and Entrepreneurship and the still rather bland Department of Management.
One Omega staff member’s suggestion of a Department of Absolutely Magnificent Names has again gone by the wayside. DAMN.

*The heavily debated Ajax Mine has made it past one major logical hurdle. An economic study released recently says that the mine is economically viable.
Like any good business, that’s one important fact.
The mine discussion is still in its early stages though, and the mine still has many other issues it has to pass before being given the go ahead.
As it’s inside Kamloops city limits and not far from a couple of elementary schools, there is plenty of debate to be had, and over the next couple of months there will be opportunities to speak with environmental agencies from the provincial and federal governments.

*Skaters and BMXers rejoice. But first stick the landing.
A new indoor park has opened up in a warehouse on Dalhousie Dr.
The park not only provides a space for winter riding, but also allows parents a place for kids to go and be safe.
While McArthur Island Park’s tournament capital skate park is most excellent, it’s an outdoors park, and inherently less safe.
However, while the owner is encouraging kids to get into skateboarding and similar activities, he’s also seeing 40-year-old men show up for a ride.
Without winter stymying the time on the half-pipe, Kamloops could produce some decent talent.