• Ensuring that every school in Ontario has access to a psychologist, providing top-up funding for schools on First Nations reserves, and launching a public review of special education programs are just some of the recommendations contained in a new report on the state of Ontario’s publicly-funded schools.

    People for Education’s 15th annual report, released Monday at a Toronto high school, is based on surveys completed by more than 1,000 principals from virtually all of Ontario’s 72 English, Catholic and French school boards.

    Twenty-six Ottawa-Carleton and 18 Ottawa Catholic schools participated, while less than 10 schools from each of the local French-language boards took part.

    The challenge for any public education system, the report says, is to serve all students well. But in order to do that, schools must focus on more than academic achievement and instead build relationships beyond the school’s walls. “They cannot operate in isolation from their communities, or from other services and programs that support children and youth,” the report says.

    It then makes recommendations on nearly a dozen key areas — everything from school-community connections and special education to early learning, aboriginal education and school closures.

    The education advocacy group wants the government to launch a full public review of special education to evaluate the quality of current services and develop a better funding model and fairer process for determining which students are assessed. They also think the province should create a special education ombudsman to help families navigate the system.

    It also wants the government to develop a framework for health promotion in public schools that goes beyond traditional health and physical education classes. It says the province should work with school boards to ensure every school has access to psychologists and other professionals to support the mental health of children and youth.

    Currently, 14 per cent of elementary and 17 per cent of secondary schools report having no access to a psychologist.

    There’s also a push to forge more school-community connections — currently something that’s too often done off the side of a busy school principal’s desk.

    People for Education envisions a new inter-ministerial secretariat to oversee an integrated policy framework for children and youth that includes education, physical and mental health, children and youth services, recreation and culture.

    The report says bluntly that Aboriginal children — particularly those living on reserves — “are receiving educational services and funding that is markedly inferior to other Canadian children.” It urges the province to follow the Drummond Commission’s recommendation to provide top-up funding to ensure that schools on-reserve are funded at a level comparable to other school in Ontario.

    There was also some tough talk about before- and after-school programs for four- and five-year-old students, which less than half of the province’s schools currently offer as part of the full-day kindergarten program. “The implementation of [full-day kindergarten] has been heralded as a success by schools and has reached many children in vulnerable and disadvantaged communities. But the provision of extended-day programs remains patchy, and is marred by inequitable access,” the report says.


  • The HP TopShot LaserJet Pro M275 multifunction printer has been touted by HP as one of the first printers that can capture images of 3D objects. While it’s an excellent device in terms of print quality, one does have to wonder if HP really has reinvented the wheel.

    The first impression of the HP TopShot LaserJet Pro is that it doesn’t look like a conventional printer. It impresses with its stylish black exterior, slick design and touch-screen tablet interface, used to control printing and scanning. The device is compact, small in dimension, yet deceivingly heavy and requires two people to carry it.

    The TopShot scans and prints anything from everyday documents to 3D objects. The printer can be connected wirelessly and can also be connected to HP’s Business Apps store. It’s very user-friendly and functions at a touch of a button on the printer’s touch-screen.

    The top of the printer has a camera arm, which includes an optical lens, a high-resolution image sensor and three LED lights that capture an image. Putting it to the test, it scanned, or more accurately, took a photograph of an object and printed it in a high-definition and true-to-scale image.

    The TopShot has a camera embedded in a hinged arm that can be positioned above an object and captures six photographs of said object. These separate shots, taken from several angles, are combined to produce a single shot of the entire image.

    Through testing various objects, I discovered that the printer produces better quality images with objects that are solid and not too shiny. The images produced were very detailed with high-definition colour. However, it failed to print glass or mirrored objects. The lighting from the LED flashes was very strong and, in some cases, resulted in over-exposed images, particularly when scanning reflective surfaces.

    The TopShot printed and made copies of images very rapidly; however, taking a photograph of an object with a camera or smartphone and plugging it into a PC or laptop and printing it produces the same picture. But the quality of the images, and the fact that it can print to scale, is what differentiates the TopShot.

    One of the biggest advantages of the printer is that it eliminates any background detail from the scan, and leaves only a picture of the object itself, which few scanners in the past have been able to achieve.

    The device also has the capability to post images directly onto online storage sites using the HP software included with the printer. It comes with HP ePrint, which lets the user connect the printer to a mobile device such as an iPad or iPhone, enabling the user to print from anywhere.

    The TopShot can print on a wide range of paper sizes, from 76×127mm to 216×356mm. It can also scan and print business cards.


  • The Christmas season of 1951 was celebrated under the dark shadow of the nation’s second major war in a decade.

    It also featured frigid, snowy weather and several tragic local and national stories. But, as always, the spirit of the holiday season shone through.

    The dominant news story of Christmas 60 years ago was the continuing war in Korea, which had begun in June 1950 and showed no signs of ending anytime soon.

    Just five years after the end of World War II, Americans had to contend with another costly war.

    Hundreds of local service members were stationed on the Korean Peninsula and many of them were in harm’s way.

    On Dec. 19, the Communist Chinese released the names of more than 700 American prisoners of war in their custody. Three of them were from Genesee County. Four other Genesee soldiers were listed as missing.

    The three POWs were Capt. William Preston of Batavia, Pfc. Nicholas J. Aramino of Le Roy and Cpl. Raymond F. Goodburiel of Bergen.

    On the Batavia homefront, the watch words were “snow” and “cold.” Winter weather arrived in the area by mid-December and it stayed on through the start of the new year.

    Aside from the weather, Batavians and other Americans closely followed the story of a mine explosion Dec. 21 at the world’s largest coal shaft in West Frankfort, Ill. The blast happened on the crew’s last shift before their Christmas vacation.

    For nearly three days, rescuers tried in vain to reach the trapped workers. But in the end 119 miners perished.

    A Buffalo man also reported that his Christmas tree was stolen from the top of his parked vehicle as he ate dinner at the Miss Batavia Diner on Christmas Eve.

    There was other news as well. St. Jerome Hospital opened its new $2 million building Dec. 15. The residents of scenic Redfield Parkway began a tradition that continues to this day — the lighting of small outdoor Christmas trees on their front lawns.

    Christmas shoppers jammed local stores, and the retailers ran huge ads each day in The Daily News. Vast malls had yet to be built in Buffalo and Rochester, so most residents did their shopping locally.

    Montgomery Ward offered girls and boys snowsuits for $7.88 and men’s dress shirts for $2.98.

    The Surprise Store at 315-317 Ellicott St. was selling Hopalong dungarees for $2.98, all-wool club sweaters starting at $3.98 and men’s ties for $1 each.

    Max Pies at 400 South Jackson St. was selling La-Z-Boy chairs for $65, RCA record players for $12.95, table lamps for $12.25 and television lamps for $6.

    JC Penney’s offered “55 reasons why Penney’s is your Santa” — including house dresses for $2.79, wool blankets for $10.90 and men’s sport shirts for $2.98.

    Dean’s Drug Store at 84 Main St. had plenty of less expensive options, including a pound of Whitman’s assorted chocolates for $2, cigarette lighters for $1.50, Old Spice shaving bowls for $1.25 and Brownie Hawkeye Cameras for $6.70.

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  • According to Wilkinson, worldwide, research has shown that a third of greenhouse gas emissions come from buildings.

    “By improving the energy efficiency of low-income homes one reduces energy costs, the health burden and safety risks for residents, and also reduces environmental damage – most notably by reducing the greenhouse gas emissions associated with South Africa’s predominantly coal-generated electricity. Green building can also improve the lives of residents by offering improved water and food security and creating opportunity for skills training and work opportunities.”

    The Cato Manor community was actively involved and consulted before the two month retrofit and have named the street, ‘Isimosezulu (which means climate) COP17 Place’.

    “With every 1 kWh of electricity used in South Africa producing over one kilogram of carbon dioxide and using one litre of water, the benefits of efficiency interventions are very real. While the residents are enjoying the dignity of hot water in their homes for the first time – via the solar-heated geysers - there will not be the cost implications of a traditional electric geyser, further strain on the already over-subscribed national power supply nor will it generate the emissions associated with the electricity usage.”

    Cato Manor is a ‘retrofit’, which means an upgrade of an existing home. The green interventions include adding solar water heaters, insulated ceilings, energy efficient lighting, rain-water harvesting systems, food gardens, trees, heat-insulation cookers and also efficient street lighting.

    The project is endorsed by the Department of Environmental Affairs and has been carried out in collaboration with the eThekwini Municipality. The main funder is the British High Commission in South Africa, with contributions from other organisations, including Ascas (LED street lighting), Cosmo-Dec (insulation roof paint to test on several houses), Eskom (energy efficient CFL light bulbs and research), Isoboard (insulated ceiling boards), Natural Balance (heat-insulation cooking apparatus, Wonderbags).

    Going forward, Property Point, an enterprise development initiative of the Growthpoint property company, will provide training and business development support for the people who worked on this project, while the South African Botanical Society will be planting indigenous shade and fruit trees in association with Greenpop.

    The initiative was implemented by Carbon Programmes, the same team which conducted the award-winning energy efficiency retrofit in over 2,300 houses in Kuyasa, Cape Town. They were supported by Durban-based Khanyisa Projects.

    Founded in 2007, the GBCSA is an independent, non-profit organisation that was formed to lead the transformation of the South African property industry to environmental sustainability. One of 20 full members of the World Green Building Council, it aims to ensure that all buildings are designed, built and operated in an environmentally sustainable way, allowing South Africans to live and work in healthy, efficient and productive environments.

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  • With winters approaching, the demand for electricity is all set to soar, and power cuts would only add to the woes. However, the energy crisis to a certain extent could be tackled by harnessing the Sun’s power.

    The UPNEDA exhibition at Bakshi-ka-Talab area had different solar-powered equipments on display. Solar water heaters, home lighting systems, improved version of solar cookers, solar lanterns, and solar inverters among others. The items displayed have been approved by the Solar Energy Centre (SEC) of the Union ministry of new and renewable energy.

    Solar cookers have two models. One model works entirely on solar energy, while the other has an electrical back-up. The cooker takes about one-and-half hour to cook food. During cloudy weather, cooking time may go up. The cooker comes at a price of approximately Rs 3,100. And, the one with an electrical back-up, costs approximately Rs 2,200. “It preserves the nutritional value of food,” said VK Tiwari, project officer, UPNEDA.

    The solar water heater was another product on display. The system would cost some Rs 17,500. People purchasing it get a subsidy of Rs 5,000. The heater has to be put at a place where it gets sufficient solar heat. It can heat 100 litres of water, up to 60-65 degrees, in six-seven hours. It has zero-maintenance and manufacturers also provide five-year warranty on it.

    The solar equipments designed for UP have a three-day power back-up, considering the state’s weather conditions. The solar products are popular in rural areas, given the fact that these areas do not have electricity or have prolonged power cuts. But, their popularity is still to catch up in urban areas. The major reason is the high cost. The solar panel and the battery increase the cost of equipments.

    The government offers a subsidy of about 30% on these products in order to make them a preferred one. The home-lighting systems have four models available, with one of the models also having a fan attached. “The technology has been used to provide fans to traffic police at Hazratganj crossing,” said Arun Kumar Srivastava, publicity officer, UPNEDA.

    Those willing to buy the products can get them at regional rural banks or directly from NEDA. Solar-powered inverters, fetching Rs 75,000, was also on display. Most of these products come with a five-year warranty period. And, the cost can be recovered in 2-3 years as it cuts down electricity bill. Government establishments like Railways are using the solar-powered equipments. The solar street-lighting system is also in use.

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