Monday, July 1, 2013

Good Reads: From algorithms, to Roman walls, to the new liberals and conservatives

动态黄图This week's round-up of Good Reads include doubts about algorithms' 'all-power,' the recipe for Roman concrete, the need for a Turkish Mandela, young liberals who may be more conservative than they realize, and the usefulness of military 'land power.'

By Marshall Ingwerson,?Managing editor / June 28, 2013

Johnny Depp is one of only three actors who reliably bring a positive box office return.

Evan Agostini/Invision/AP/File


Algorithms all-powerful?

In spite of appearances ? from the US National Security Agency searching American phone records for patterns to Google counting keywords in e-mails to decide which ads to display ? the algorithm may not conquer all.

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This is the conclusion that science reporter Tom Whipple comes around to in his article ?Slaves to the Algorithm? in the magazine Intelligent Life, a sister publication of The Economist. An algorithm is how so-called big data is crunched into something meaningful. ?If p, then q? is an algorithm, but in the age of fast computers, the ?p? can include billions of data points.

Mr. Whipple explores the work of a company, Epagogix, that forecasts the earning power of proposed movies for Hollywood studios, based on thousands of factors punched into its software. It seems to work. And has uncovered some fun facts. One is that so-called bankable movie stars are almost nonexistent. Only three actors, Epagogix has found, actually bring a positive return on investment ? Will Smith, Brad Pitt, and Johnny Depp.

But human judgment has hardly left the picture. The head of Epagogix notes that his program assumes that everything about the movie is done well ? that the dialogue is credible and the actors good (stars or not). And even so, his algorithms can?t discern if the movie is good, only if, done well, a lot of people are likely to pay to see it.

Whipple discusses another facet of algorithms. They are good at finding patterns, sometimes surprising ones, in big numbers. They are not so good at predicting the behavior of individuals. Dating sites, for example, have yet to show any scientific evidence that they can predict who will hit it off with whom.

Lost recipe for Roman concrete, cracked

Some technology just isn?t what it used to be. The Portland cement that we use to make concrete these days doesn?t have a fraction of the lasting power of the aggregate the Romans used a couple millenniums ago. According to a report by Bernhard Warner in Bloomberg Businessweek, research engineers studying 12 ancient Roman-built harbors found that the breakwaters made of Roman concrete have stood the pounding waves for 2,000 years and are still intact. Modern concrete has a working life under water of a mere 50 years. The older, stronger stuff had an added advantage: Its manufacture was relatively clean. Creating Portland cement releases a tremendous amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.?

Needed: a Turkish Mandela

One of the central dangers in Turkey today is of a slide into two sharply polarized camps ? the government and its conservative, religious, largely rural backers on one side and the more affluent, secular, and modernizing protesters on the other. They have come to be called ?black Turks? and ?white Turks.?

Daron Acemoglu, a Turkish-born economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has been writing about the current troubles in his country of origin on his Why Nations Fail blog. He notes that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently grouped Turks into ?black? and ?white,? putting himself among the ?black Turks.?

How do societies break out of cycles of polarization? Mr. Acemoglu consults history and finds several routes, but the most attractive is when a leader musters the vision and courage to make peace across the fault lines and show goodwill to the other side.

?So bottom line: we badly need a Turkish Mandela,? he says.

What they really mean by ?conservative??

Meanwhile, Americans may not be quite as polarized as they think they are. A series of three new studies find that young adults who call themselves liberal Democrats are overall not quite as liberal on the issues as they think they are. But young people from the rest of the political spectrum tend to bill themselves as more conservative than they are on the issues. The biggest disparity is among those who regard themselves as most conservative. Not so much, it turns out. When asked their stands on a dozen major issues from welfare to gay rights, they didn?t toe as conservative a line as they thought they did, according to the studies, which were reported first in an academic journal, and brought to us by Tom Jacobs in Pacific Standard magazine. Clearly, conservatism is the more popular brand, even when it?s not an obvious fit.

The benefits of military ?land power??

With US forces finally checking out of Afghanistan and American attention pivoting to East Asia, it?s time for some soul-searching: What?s the Army for?

Maj. Robert M. Chamberlain, writing in the Armed Forces Journal, sees future peace and prosperity in currently unfashionable land power. Terrorists who hole up in the world?s backwaters can best be pursued by special forces teams and armed drones. The Navy can protect the world?s sea lanes and global commerce. Air power can strike awesomely anywhere. But land power ? the job of the Army and Marines ? is inherently less threatening, he argues. ?Land power is the only avenue by which America can enhance regional security and stability, deter Chinese militarism and encourage Chinese commitment to the global status quo.?

Source: http://rss.csmonitor.com/~r/csmonitor/globalnews/~3/c6nz-yHibak/Good-Reads-From-algorithms-to-Roman-walls-to-the-new-liberals-and-conservatives

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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

HTC CEO looks to capture 15% of the smartphone market

DEAR ABBY: I was taken away from my parents at 13 and placed into foster care, where I stayed until I aged out at 21. My biological mother is a drug addict who abandoned me to my father when I was 11. She never tried to contact me while I was in care.I am now 24 and she won't leave me alone. She sends Facebook messages that alternate between begging me to let her get to know me, and condemning me for being vindictive and not having forgiveness in my heart. Abby, this woman exposed me to drugs and all manner of seedy people and situations. ...

Source: http://news.yahoo.com/htc-ceo-looks-capture-15-smartphone-market-224547481.html

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By taking in Snowden, Ecuador would defy US again

Journalists show passengers arriving from Hong Kong a tablet with a photo of Edward Snowden, a former CIA employee who leaked top-secret documents about sweeping U.S. surveillance programs, at Sheremetyevo airport, just outside Moscow,Russia, Sunday, June 23, 2013. The former National Security Agency contractor wanted by the United States for revealing two highly classified surveillance programs has been allowed to leave for a "third country" because a U.S. extradition request did not fully comply with Hong Kong law, the territory's government said Sunday. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

Journalists show passengers arriving from Hong Kong a tablet with a photo of Edward Snowden, a former CIA employee who leaked top-secret documents about sweeping U.S. surveillance programs, at Sheremetyevo airport, just outside Moscow,Russia, Sunday, June 23, 2013. The former National Security Agency contractor wanted by the United States for revealing two highly classified surveillance programs has been allowed to leave for a "third country" because a U.S. extradition request did not fully comply with Hong Kong law, the territory's government said Sunday. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

Journalists stand next to Ecuador's Ambassador's car while waiting for the arrival of Edward Snowden, a former CIA employee who recently leaked top-secret documents about sweeping U.S. surveillance programs, at Sheremetyevo airport, just outside Moscow, Russia, Sunday, June 23, 2013.The former National Security Agency contractor, Snowdon is wanted by the United States for revealing two highly classified surveillance programs, but was allowed to leave Hong Kong for a "third country" because a U.S. extradition request did not fully comply with Hong Kong law, the territory's government said Sunday. (AP Photo / Alexander Zemlianichenko Jr)

FILE - In this ?ug. 1, 2012 file photo, Ecuador's President Rafael Correa, right, holds the hands of Christine Assange, the mother of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, during their meeting in Quito, Ecuador. Correa has embraced his role as a thorn in the side of Washington before, railing against imperialism in speeches and giving Julian Assange refuge in his embassy in London. But nothing he has done to infuriate the United States likely would rankle as much as granting the asylum being sought by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. WikiLeaks said Sunday, June 23, 2013 that Snowden formally requested asylum from Ecuador and the South American country's foreign minister confirmed receiving the request. The woman at center is a translator. (AP Photo/Martin Jaramillo, File)

FILE - In this June 20, 2012 file photo, a supporter of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange protests outside the Ecuadorean embassy in London. England. Ecuador President Rafael Correa has embraced his role as a thorn in the side of Washington before, railing against imperialism in speeches and giving Julian Assange refuge in his embassy in London. But nothing he has done to infuriate the United States likely would rankle as much as granting the asylum being sought by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. WikiLeaks said Sunday, June 23, 2013 that Snowden formally requested asylum from Ecuador and the South American country's foreign minister confirmed receiving the request. (AP Photo/Tim Hales, File)

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) ? President Rafael Correa of Ecuador embraces his role as a thorn in Washington's side, railing against U.S. imperialism in speeches and giving WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange refuge in his nation's embassy in London.

But nothing Correa has done to rankle the United States is likely to infuriate as much as granting the asylum being sought by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, who faces espionage charges back home after revealing details of two highly secret surveillance programs.

WikiLeaks, which has been assisting Snowden, said Sunday that he formally requested asylum from Ecuador. Ecuador's foreign minister confirmed receiving the request, and analysts said the precedent set by Assange's case suggested Correa would honor it.

Snowden flew from Hong Kong to Moscow on Sunday, and Aeroflot confirmed that he was booked to fly to Cuba on Monday. The reports said he was then booked on a flight to Venezuela, another South American country whose government has touchy relations with Washington.

Both Cuba and Venezuela previously had been rumored as possible destinations for Snowden, although they now appeared more likely to be only transit points on the way to Ecuador.

"Correa may find it hard to resist the temptation to get increased attention and seize this opportunity to provoke and defy the U.S.," said Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue think tank. "Correa is confrontational and relishes fights. Should he ultimately grant Snowden asylum, one hopes that Correa has thought through the likely consequences of such a decision."

Taking in Snowden certainly would increase Correa's popularity among those who see him as a champion of open information, help him counter criticism of a new media law that some call an assault on freedom of speech in Ecuador and cement his name as a leading voice of opposition to U.S. foreign policy.

But it could threaten preferential access to U.S. markets for Ecuadorean goods under the U.S. Andean Trade Preference Act, and strain already shaky ties between two nations that only last year re-established full diplomatic relations at the ambassadorial level.

Some 45 percent of Ecuadorean exports went to the United States last year, accounting for about 400,000 jobs in the small nation.

Giving Snowden asylum for leaking secret information would be "irresponsible," former Ecuadorean diplomat Mauricio Gandara said.

"It would be an illegal act, because what he has done is a crime in both the United States and Ecuador," said Gandara, who was Ecuador's ambassador in London. "It is a confrontation with the people and government of the United States and both (political) parties. It is an unnecessary conflict."

Ecuadorean analyst Grace Jaramillo said Washington takes the Snowden case more seriously than Assange's because it involves an internal leak of intelligence activities that otherwise operate in total secrecy.

"The United States will keep pushing until the end for Snowden to be handed over, and could even resort to commercial sanctions or direct intervention if the case becomes difficult," Jaramillo said.

Yet, granting him safe passage and refuge has appeal for Ecuador as well as Cuba and Venezuela, which have all been criticized for rules limiting independent media.

"This is a case in which I think the U.S. does not look all that good," said David Smilde, a Venezuela expert at the University of Georgia.

"I think it's quite useful for either Venezuela or Ecuador to grant a person like this asylum, because it allows them to sort of deflect attention towards the United States and the United States' own shortcomings," Smilde said.

The Cuban state controls all TV, radio and newspapers. Venezuela has done things like forcing TV stations off the air by not renewing licenses and detaining people for tweets deemed destabilizing. Ecuador's media law, approved last week, establishes official media overseers, imposes sanctions for besmirching personal reputations and limits private ownership to a third of radio and TV licenses.

But Cuba and Venezuela are both in the midst of quiet thaws in long-chilly ties with the United States, and taking in Snowden would likely damage those efforts.

Last week, Cuba and the United States held talks on restarting direct mail service, and announced that a separate sit-down to discuss immigration issues will be held in Washington on July 17.

Diplomats and officials from both countries also report far greater cooperation in behind-the-scenes dealings, including during a brief incident involving a Florida couple who sought asylum in Cuba after kidnapping their own children. Cuba worked with U.S. officials to quickly send the couple back to face justice.

Philip Peters, a longtime Cuba analyst, said allowing Snowden to pass through Cuban territory would not necessarily doom rapprochement, though he acknowledged the fallout would be unpredictable.

"My guess is that it would be a blip, because Cuba, by allowing him to pass through Cuban territory, is hardly embracing his actions, or sheltering him or giving him asylum," Peters said.

It's the same story for Venezuela, which earlier this month agreed to high-level negotiations on restoring ambassadorial relations and easing more than a decade of sour ties. That announcement came after a meeting in Guatemala between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Venezuelan Foreign Minister Elias Jaua.

Caracas has huge commercial dealings with the United States, which remains the No. 1 buyer of Venezuela's oil.

"It's much better for President Nicolas Maduro that (Snowden) is not going to Venezuela," said Gregory Weeks, a political scientist specializing in Latin America at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. "It's something that Maduro really doesn't want to have to deal with, whereas Correa, he's already in it (by giving Assange asylum). So of all the places to go, Ecuador is logical."

Being placed on the international stage by Snowden's asylum bid drew mixed reactions from Ecuadoreans.

"People who steal information or any other thing should face the consequences, and Ecuador shouldn't get involved," said Maria Jimenez, a 42-year-old homemaker.

Jorge Rojas Cruzatti, a 34-year-old web designer, disagreed.

"I'm proud of my country ... and more than pride, I'm glad that human rights are being protected," he said. "Other countries wouldn't dare grant this type of support to citizens who are helping protect freedom of expression."


Associated Press writers Gonzalo Solano in Quito, Ecuador; Paul Haven in Havana; Vivian Sequera in Bogota, Colombia; and Luis Andres Henao in Santiago, Chile, contributed to this report.


Peter Orsi on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Peter_Orsi

Associated Press

Source: http://hosted2.ap.org/APDEFAULT/3d281c11a96b4ad082fe88aa0db04305/Article_2013-06-24-NSA-Surveillance-Latin%20America/id-82569fa50a8a4148878fc805c7d958d0

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Erdogan defends riot police tactics in Turkey protests

By Daren Butler

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan piled ridicule on activists behind weeks of protests against his government during a rally on Sunday and defended riot police who fired water cannon at crowds in Istanbul a day earlier.

Looking out of over a sea of Turkish flags waved by his AK Party faithful in the eastern city of Erzurum, Erdogan praised his supporters and the general public for opposing what he called a plot against his country.

"The people saw this game from the start and frustrated it. They (the protesters) thought the people would say nothing. They said we will burn and destroy and do what we want but the people will do nothing," he said.

Sunday's mass rally was the fifth which Erdogan has called since protests began in Istanbul in an unprecedented challenge to his 10-year rule.

The unrest was triggered when police used force against campaigners opposed to plans to develop Istanbul's Gezi Park, but they quickly turned into a broader show of anger at what critics call Erdogan's growing authoritarianism.

The protests have underlined divisions in Turkish society between religious conservatives who form the bedrock of Erdogan's support and more liberal Turks who have swelled the ranks of demonstrators.

He ending his speech by throwing red carnations to the roughly 15,000-strong crowd in the AK Party stronghold.


The AK Party rallies are focused on boosting party support ahead of municipal elections scheduled for next March and Erdogan said voters would then give their verdict on the weeks of unrest.

"Those who came out using the excuse of Gezi at Taksim Square will get their answer at the ballot box," he said.

Erdogan, who won a third consecutive election in 2011 with 50 percent support, sees himself as a champion of democratic reform, and has been riled by the protests and by international condemnation coming mainly from key trade partner Germany.

Saturday's clashes occurred after thousands of protesters gathered in Istanbul's Taksim Square, which adjoins Gezi Park, to remember the three demonstrators and one police officer who died in earlier protests. Many refused to leave after calls from the police for them to disperse.

Erdogan defended the tactics of the police, who also used fired teargas canisters to scatter protesters in nearby streets in cat-and-mouse clashes.

"Yesterday they wanted to occupy the square again. The police were patient up to a certain point," he said. "When they didn't leave the police was forced to get them out."

There were also clashes on Saturday night in the capital Ankara, where riot police fired water cannon and teargas to break up hundreds of protesters.

The interior ministry estimates about 2.5 million people have taken part in demonstrations across Turkey since the unrest began on May 31, Milliyet newspaper reported on Sunday.

Around 4,900 protesters have been detained and 4,000 protesters and 600 police injured, the report added.

The interior ministry also said the protests had caused 140 million lira ($72 million) worth of damage to public buildings and vehicles.

($1 = 1.9388 Turkish liras)

(Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

Source: http://news.yahoo.com/turkish-police-break-protest-pm-lambasts-opponents-153851912.html

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EU seeks to look beyond Turkey protests

LUXEMBOURG (AP) ? Turkey's hope of moving to the next stage of negotiations to join the European Union was kept alive Monday after Germany proposed a compromise that would bind the EU to expanded talks, but only once it approved Ankara's latest reforms.

With the hedged proposal, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said he wanted to make sure the impact of the protests that have rocked the government of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan over the past weeks would be taken into account without endangering the long-term strategy to draw Turkey closer.

The proposal is expected to be discussed by EU ministers on Tuesday and could still be enshrined at a meeting with Turkish officials on Wednesday. Any EU decision on Turkey talks needs unanimity among the 27 member states.

"On the one hand we cannot pretend as if these talks here were happening without any context, as if the past days hadn't existed," Westerwelle said. "On the other hand we also have to see that our joint, general, strategic and long-term interests are upheld."

A progress report on Turkey's ability to fit within the EU is expected mid-October.

Germany, which has a sizeable Turkish population, had initially blocked the next step in membership talks last week.

Ministers from countries including Sweden and Belgium agreed that longer term considerations beyond the current political strife should be central to discussions.

"We are not pursuing policies for the day and for the week, we are pursuing policies for the years and the decades," said Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt. "We can't change the strategy of the European Union, just because there happens to be nervousness in one part or in the other."

EU Foreign Affairs chief Catherine Ashton was also seeking to keep the door open for further Turkish discussions.

"My general view on everything is engagement is a much better option where you possibly can," she said.

Berlin's blocking of the decision to open a new chapter in the long-running accession negotiations last week was a blow to Erdogan's government, which already faces increasing international scrutiny over its crackdown.

"We have to notice at the moment that there has to be some movement from Turkey before starting with negotiations in a new chapter," said Austria's Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger.

"We are waiting for signals from Ankara that they are going to give people in Turkey really their rights," said Spindelegger.

Turkey began EU accession negotiations in 2005, but has made little progress because of its dispute with Cyprus, an EU member, and opposition among some in Europe to admitting a populous Muslim nation into the bloc.

The session of EU talks initially to open next week was to focus on regional policies, one of 35 chapters for aspiring members to address. But some officials expressed concern that such talks could appear to endorse the crackdown on the demonstrations.

Despite the concerns, Belgium too insisted on pressing ahead. "We should never close the door," said Foreign Minister Didier Reynders.

Asked what Turkey will do if the EU does not open a new chapter in the membership talks this week, Turkey's minister in charge of EU affairs Egemen Bagis said the country was also busy working on the issue.

He was quoted as telling Germany's Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily: "We are working on an answer. I can't tell you more, only so much: Turkey has other options."

"We need the EU and the EU needs us," he said. "It is not fair to block the opening of the new chapter in negotiations, which is mainly technical, because of technical constraints."


Associated Press writer Geir Moulson contributed from Berlin


Follow Raf Casert on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/rcasert

Source: http://news.yahoo.com/eu-seeks-look-beyond-turkey-protests-131938566.html

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Prosecutor opens with Zimmerman's obscenity

SANFORD, Fla. (AP) ? A prosecutor began opening statements in George Zimmerman's trial Monday with obscene words the neighborhood watch volunteer whispered under his breath while following 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

"F------ punks," prosecutor John Guy said to six female jurors, quoting Zimmerman from a call he made to a police dispatcher shortly before his fatal confrontation with Martin. "These a-------. They always get away."

Guy told the jurors that Zimmerman profiled Martin "as someone about to commit a crime in his neighborhood."

"And he acted on it. That's why we're here."

Zimmerman followed Martin through his neighborhood, confronted him and then fatally shot him during a fight, Guy said.

"George Zimmerman didn't shoot Trayvon Martin because he had to," Guy said. "He shot him for the worst of all reasons: because he wanted to."

The prosecutor described Zimmerman as someone who wanted to be a police officer, and he dismantled the story Zimmerman has told investigators about what happened during the fight between the neighborhood watch volunteer and the Miami-area teen that left Martin dead from a bullet to his chest.

Zimmerman's claim that Martin had his hands over the neighborhood watch volunteer's mouth is false since none of Zimmerman's DNA was found on Martin's body, Guy said. The prosecutor also said Zimmerman's claim that he had to fire because Martin was reaching for his firearm is false since none of Martin's DNA was on the gun or holster.

Zimmerman is pleading not guilty to second-degree murder, claiming self-defense. His defense attorney was to present his opening statements following those of the prosecution.

On Feb. 26, 2012, Zimmerman spotted Martin, whom he did not recognize, walking in the gated townhome community where Zimmerman and the fiancee of Martin's father lived. There had been a rash of recent break-ins and Zimmerman was wary of strangers walking through the complex.

The two eventually got into a struggle and Zimmerman shot Martin in the chest with his 9mm handgun. He was charged 44 days after the shooting, only after a special prosecutor was appointed to review the case and after protests. The delay in the arrest prompted protests nationwide.

Two police dispatch phone calls will be important evidence for both sides' cases.

The first is a call Zimmerman made to a nonemergency police dispatcher, who told him he didn't need to be following Martin.

The second 911 call captures screams from the confrontation between Zimmerman and Martin. Martin's parents said the screams are from their son while Zimmerman's father contends they belong to his son.

Nelson ruled last weekend that audio experts for the prosecution won't be able to testify that the screams belong to Martin, saying the methods the experts used were unreliable.


Follow Kyle Hightower on Twitter at http://twitter.com/KHightower

Follow Mike Schneider on Twitter at http://twitter.com/MikeSchneiderAP

Source: http://news.yahoo.com/prosecutor-opens-zimmermans-obscenity-135419217.html

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Swim safety program targets teens at high-risk for ... - CTV News

Published Monday, June 24, 2013 5:51PM EDT
Last Updated Monday, June 24, 2013 5:54PM EDT

The Lifesaving Society, which oversees lifeguarding expertise, is targeting new swimming safety program at younger teens, hoping to reduce the danger now that summer and swim season has started.

According to research cited by the society, 18-to 24-year-olds continue to have the highest water-related death rate of any age group in Canada, at 2.2 deaths per 100,000.

The physiology of teenage brain development leads to engaging in risky activities, as the thrill-seeking part of the brain develops at a faster rate that the judgment and inhibition skills that come in the early adult years. This lead to potential for danger in high-risk situations around lakes, rivers and pools in the summer months.

The research supports the organization's new Swim to Survive+ class; a program to train pre-teen swimmers for unexpected falls in deep water.

The Lifesaving Society targets the pre-teen, Grade 7 age group because of the critical stage in their development, with the hope they can use those skills as they move into the riskier years of young adulthood.

Young swimmers at Toronto's Regent Park Aquatic Centre took part in the survival training program on Monday, learning techniques such as how to tread water, how to survive if they fall into the water with clothes on and how to assist a family member or friend in an emergency.

In addition to the research, the Lifesaving Society commissioned a public opinion poll, asking parents about their teens and water safety.

"Many parents, in fact 97 per cent of parents, are not worried about their teens around water,? said Barbara Byers, Public Education Director of the Lifesaving Society. ?They feel very confident about their teens around water."

"Yet less than half of those students had ever had any swimming lessons and many of them had not had lesson for more than five years."

Byers suggests that a parent, older sibling or relative should be present to supervise young swimmers in the water.

Although the Swim to Survive+ program is currently aimed toward pre-teen swimmers, the Lifesaving Society urges people of all ages to meet the swimming survival standard.

With a report by CTV Toronto's Dana Levenson

Source: http://www.ctvnews.ca/health/swim-safety-program-targets-teens-at-high-risk-for-danger-in-the-water-1.1339895

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