This week in charts
Trans Mountain crosses $30-billion threshold
"Buying and building this pipeline will go down in the history books as one of, if not the, worst infrastructure decision a Canadian government has ever made,” said Greenpeace Canada senior energy strategist Keith Stewart. “It was always a disaster from a climate change perspective, but this is now an economic crime that has stolen $30 billion of public funds from real climate solutions."
On Friday afternoon, the Crown corporation disclosed that TMX’s estimated total cost is 44 per cent higher than the previous estimate of $21.4 billion from February 2022. It chalked the skyrocketing costs up to global inflation, flooding in British Columbia, archeological discoveries and a handful of other factors, like “challenging terrain between Merritt and Hope,” B.C., and “earthquake standards in the Burnaby Mountain tunnel.”In a statement, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland did not directly acknowledge the Crown corporation’s ballooning cost increase. Rather, she said Trans Mountain released an updated cost estimate and confirmed the project would be complete by the end of this year and operational by 2024.
“The federal government acquired (Trans Mountain Corporation) and the Trans Mountain expansion project in 2018 because we knew it was a serious and necessary investment — one that is in the national interest and will make Canada and the Canadian economy more sovereign and more resilient,” Freeland said.
The statement did not address where the additional $9.5 billion of financing would come from. Last year — after Freeland promised no more public funds would be committed to the project — the federal government greenlit a $10-billion loan guarantee to cover TMX’s cost increases.
Regardless of cost, Canadians already own TMX, and experts say the public will also end up on the hook for the $10-billion loan provided by Canada’s six biggest banks last year. Guaranteed returns on a loan that size are a great deal for the banks because even if Trans Mountain fails to pay back the entire amount, the federal government’s promise means there is no risk the banks will lose money. Loan guarantees like this are also fossil fuel subsidies, according to the World Trade Organization’s widely accepted definition.
This week’s fun finds
EdgePoint’s hot sauce review crew vs. Sprig’s Bhut Jolokia sauce
Made from the ghost pepper, allegedly the “world’s hottest”.
About 10 of us tried it out, but the warning on the back (“Not for people with heart conditions”) was scarier than the spiciness.
- Spice: 7/10 (“The spice lingers, but not bad.”)
- Flavour: 4/10 (“Not too much flavour…but it’s smoky, so it would be nice mixed with something.”)
Thanks for bringing it in, Akhil!
The Daring Ruse That Exposed China’s Campaign to Steal American Secrets
Then the security officers told [GE engineer] Hua that the F.B.I. wanted to talk to him. Two F.B.I. agents, who were already in the building, entered the room. One of them was Bradley Hull, a bright-eyed man with a shaved head and a goatee. He started with the same questions that G.E. security had asked about Hua’s China trip.
Hua was shaking with nervousness, one of the agents told me in an interview. He repeated the answers he had given to his employer’s security officers. Hull proceeded to ask more questions about the trip, giving Hua several chances to amend his story and signaling that he didn’t think Hua was being truthful. Finally, he confronted Hua with evidence showing that Hua had met with people other than just friends and family. He had also paid a visit to the Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics.
Hua finally disclosed that he had given a presentation at N.U.A.A. about designing airplane parts out of composite materials. He said he had been careful to not divulge any information that was proprietary to G.E., even though he had downloaded certain files that belonged to his employer to help prepare his slides. As Hua provided more detail about his visit, Hull became convinced that he had been hosted at Nanjing by Chinese intelligence officials looking to cultivate the engineer as an asset, someone who could steal trade secrets for them.
Hua was put on leave without pay by G.E. Aviation right after the F.B.I. interviewed him in November 2017. As he struggled to find paid work in the weeks that followed, his efforts on behalf of the F.B.I. kept him engaged. Under the agency’s direction, he kept up his exchanges with [Chinese Ministry of State Security agent] Xu over WeChat and email, expressing eagerness to share information from G.E. “Just recently I’ve heard the speculation about laying off in my department. I, of course, don’t want to be affected, but the possibility is there,” he wrote in a message on Jan. 23. “That’s why I’m trying my best to collect as much information as possible.” Xu asked if Hua could send material relating to the specifications and design process for building an encasement for fan blades. Hua obliged with a document titled “G.E.9X Fan Containment Case Design Consensus Review.” It had the appearance of being useful but didn’t contain anything of real value — G.E. Aviation, which was cooperating with the F.B.I., had altered the document. This bait worked: Xu, emboldened, sent a list of “domestic requirements” that he wanted Hua to collect information for, such as the type of software used in designing composite structures.
The battle to boost our deep sleep – and help stop dementia
Doctors have long recognised the restorative properties of sleep, but it wasn’t until 2012 that Prof Maiken Nedergaard at the University of Rochester Medical Centre, in the US, and her colleagues identified a previously unknown plumbing system in the brain that springs to life during sleep, and enables the organ to clean itself.
They found a series of tiny channels surrounding the brain’s blood vessels that allow CSF to filter in, and get pushed through the brain tissue by the pulse of blood alongside – and dubbed it “the glymphatic system”, because it is similar to the body’s lymphatic network except managed by the brain’s glial (support) cells. Having such a system is important because your neurons are extremely active during the day, and produce waste that needs to go somewhere.
[Assistant professor of biomedical engineering Laura] Lewis has expanded on Nedergaard’s studies by persuading human volunteers to have their brains imaged while they sleep. “We saw these large waves of fluid flow that started to wash over the brain about every 20 seconds or so, and could travel quite long distances inside the brain,” she says. “As soon as people woke up, this flow pattern would disappear.”
This system seems to be most active during slow-wave sleep – the deepest phase of non-rapid eye movement sleep, predominating during the early hours of the morning.
For reasons that aren’t yet fully understood, people experience less of this kind of sleep as they get older. The glymphatic system also shows a dramatic decrease in efficacy as we enter our later years. “Your dishwasher only works at 20% capacity,” Nedergaard says.
The key thing to focus on is sleep quality, which means avoiding coffee, alcohol, exercise and electronic devices in the run-up to bed, and maintaining a dark bedroom overnight. “If light is coming in through the window, or from pilot lights on electronic devices, even if it doesn’t wake you up, it may kick you into a lighter sleep stage and you won’t feel as well rested,” say Prof Lewis.