Canada joins global ransomware pledge

A global pledge to stop paying ransomware demands might force cybercriminals to whip out their whiteboards and start brainstorming some new business models.  

Driving the news: Forty countries — including Canada — have pledged to stop paying ransomware demands by hackers and take additional steps to cut off cyber criminals from funding, part of a US-led initiative to curb the global rise in ransomware attacks, per Reuters.  

Financial planning has a new zen approach

If you ask some experts, financial planning isn’t just a numbers game but a way of life. 

Driving the news: As economic times get tough, a wave of financial experts are leaning into mindfulness (yep, you read that right) to help manage their money. They say that calming down your nervous system or making time for reflection can help you foster better financial decisions — or, at the very least, help you keep your cool if the markets fall… and if they keep falling. 

Bail me out

New numbers suggest Canada’s bail system is more backed up than the highway during rush hour.

Driving the news: As many as 80% of inmates in Canada’s jail system are held without conviction, per The Globe and Mail, based on survey responses from seven provinces. 

Biden’s executive order closes the AI floodgates

The US government is rolling out some new house rules for AI developers. 

Driving the news: US President Joe Biden signed a first-of-its-kind executive order to regulate development in the AI industry. It includes guardrails to protect consumers and is the most significant regulation that the world's leading AI developers have faced. 

More strikes than a baseball game

Stellantis executives looked around, saw the numerous drawn-out strikes that have happened this year, and told striking workers, “Let’s get this over with.” 

What happened: Stellantis became the last of the Big Three automakers (alongside Ford and GM) to reach a tentative new deal with its employees, repped by Unifor, after a strike that was so short some workers wouldn’t have even gotten the chance to hit the picket line. 

Poison pill threatens AI image models

If your favourite AI image generator starts spitting out some weird stuff, we may have an explanation.

Driving the news: Researchers successfully created a method to trick image-generating AI models like DALL-E into wrongly characterizing images during their training, according to their recently published paper.

Halloween treats probably won’t give you lead poisoning, but watch that hot chocolate

New research is putting the harmful metal content of chocolate under the microscope again, but don’t go tossing the kids’ trick-or-treat haul just yet.

What happened: Watchdog group Consumer Reports tested dozens of chocolate products for lead and cadmium, finding that almost one-third had dangerous levels.

What to do this weekend

Marty Weintraub on the state of Canadian retail

On this week’s episode of Free Lunch by The Peak, we sat down with Marty Weintraub to talk about the challenges and opportunities that are facing Canadian retailers these days. 

What’s up with opera?

The opera world, worried that audiences have become disenchanted with burly men in funny costume singing very loudly, is trying out new strategies to get butts back in theatre seats.

Driving the news: Eighty-five opera companies across Canada and the U.S. have joined a discount program run by industry group Opera America, in which a subscription to one of the participating companies will also grant you the same perks at every participating company.

Canada tightens international student rules

For months now, officials have been saying that the 800,000 foreign students at Canadian universities and colleges are putting too much pressure on housing and the labour market. Here’s what they plan to do about it.

Driving the news: The federal government is now responding to growing criticism around international student programs with a plan to hold schools to higher standards when it comes to services, support, and outcomes for students — including ensuring adequate housing.

Renting in Canada is starting to look like a steal

Home sweet home, sure. But how?

Driving the news: The cost of buying a home in Canada versus renting is facing one of the most extreme price discrepancies since the early 2000s. Monthly mortgage payments for the average-priced home are now well over double the nation’s average monthly rent. 

SBF pleads his case

After securing enough Adderall to finally stand trial, ex-FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried was ready to sit before the judge in a last-ditch effort to save himself from the slammer. 

What happened: SBF took to the stand yesterday to testify in his own defence after the prosecution rested its case. In a surprise twist, the jury was not present for it — the judge dismissed them so that he could determine for himself if SBF’s testimony was permissible. 

Stores seek help to curb shoplifting

Shoplifting has risen steadily alongside the cost of living in Canada, but police departments and industry groups have said that incidents are also becoming increasingly violent.

Driving the news: The CEO of London Drugs, a BC-based pharmacy, is calling on policymakers to act as shoplifting increasingly puts staff in harm’s way. Incidents have ranged from threats with needles to stabbings to assaults with hatchets.

Israel-Hamas war puts crypto back in the hot seat

Lawmakers in the U.S. are cracking down on cryptocurrency to disrupt funding to Hamas, bringing attention (once again) to digital currency’s darker uses.

Driving the news: The U.S. Treasury Department has proposed rules that would classify cryptocurrency mixers — which take funds, mix them with those from other users and return them to make tracing difficult — as money laundering tools that threaten national security.

Alberta turns to AI to help fight wildfires

On the heels of a record-breaking wildfire season, the country is turning to AI for solutions.  

Driving the news: Alberta is adopting artificial intelligence to help the province’s wildfire agency predict where and when wildfires will start. By partnering with software company AltaML, the province will use Microsoft Azure to create next-day fire-likelihood forecasts. 

Stores show off their new brands

One in every three Canadians are buying more store brands to offset food inflation. 

But retailers are trying to boost that number by changing a common perception among shoppers: That store brands just aren’t that good.

Driving the news: PerThe New York Times, store brands, also known as private label brands, are gaining ground on well-known consumer brands, and it’s not just because shoppers want to save cash — retailers are also adding variety and increasing quality. 

Carnival condemned for Covid cruise

Carnival Cruise Lines soon might have to spend a little bit less on cruise ship roller coasters and a little bit more on Covid lawsuit settlements.  

What happened: Australia’s Federal Court ordered Carnival, the world’s largest cruise line, to cover the medical expenses of a passenger who caught Covid during an outbreak aboard one of their ships in March 2020, which resulted in almost 700 Covid cases and 28 deaths. 

The Godfathers of AI can’t agree on how dangerous it is

The comments section of a Facebook post typically isn’t a place for intelligent debate between great minds… but sometimes, it is. 

Driving the news: Meta AI head Yann LeCun and Université de Montréal prof Yoshua Bengio, two of the three ‘Godfathers of AI’, got in an online debate earlier this month after LeCun made a post asking experts who don’t believe in AI extinction threats to speak up.    

Doomsday kits are going mainstream

If you’re looking for some early Christmas gift ideas, nothing spreads holiday cheer quite like a doomsday survival kit. 

Driving the news: Driven in part by an increase in natural disasters, emergency prep is inching toward the mainstream, creating a not-so-niche market for everything from outdoor survival lessons to emergency essential kits, per The Wall Street Journal