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Petal peddlers from across the world bring exotic beauties to St. Albert orchid show

Petal peddlers from across the world bring exotic beauties to St. Albert orchid show

Among the hundreds of orchids on display in St. Albert at the 42nd Annual Orchid Fair this weekend, it takes a special kind of flower to stand out.

“Something may have tiny little flowers in the same category as something with great big flowers,” orchid judge Sandy Bedford told CBC’s Radio Active on Friday, as she sized up the competition.

“But they both have different potential so it’s a matter of who is living up to their potential.”

This is the largest American Orchid Society judged show in Canada.

Judges train for seven years to meet the international standards for evaluating these flowers. 

For many orchids sellers, they’ve learned the trade over generations. 

Ivan Portilla came to Edmonton from Ecuador for the event. His family owns Ecuagenera, a family-run orchid company that was founded in the 1950s.

Ecuador is home to 4,500 native orchid species, giving his orchids an advantage when it comes attracting buyers.

“People find it interesting growing the Dracula, or monkey-face, orchid,” he said.

Dracula — or, if you want to get fancy, one of the Pleurothallidinae subtribe of orchids — grow in South and Central American forests. The species, known for its flower centre that eerily resembles the image of a monkey’s face, is just one variety of rare orchids that Portilla’s company sells at fairs around the world.

The Dracula Transilvania orchid which grows in Ecuador is known for its monkey face appearance. (Ecuagenera website)

The company travels to 72 different orchid shows every year, he said.

“I do about 24, in the U.S., Canada and Guatemala, some in Europe,” he said. The work is spread out among brothers, nephews and other members of his family. 

This weekend, for example, Portilla and his family are attending five orchid shows: in addition to the one in Alberta, there are shows in Houston, Pennsylvania, Nashville and the last sibling is in Europe.

Shui-En Kao has been selling orchids since the 1970s and he said travel is part of life on the orchid circuit.

He ships the delicate flowers from Taiwan to Vancouver each year, then sends them on flights from fair to fair in Canada for his operation, Ching Hua.

“One year we came to Canada five or six times for orchid shows,” he said.

“Me and my son are always travelling. Last week Montreal and right now here in Edmonton.”

The orchid show runs through Sunday at the Enjoy Centre.

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Satellite images show building of first Saudi nuclear reactor

Satellite images show building of first Saudi nuclear reactor

Saudi Arabia is about a year away from completing the building of its first nuclear reactor, according to Google satellite images identified by a nuclear expert who said Thursday the construction so far appears to be very small in size and intended for research and training purposes.

Still, Robert Kelley said before the kingdom can insert nuclear fuel into the reactor, it would have to abide by an agreement that requires inspections by the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Kelley, a veteran of the U.S. Department of Energy and a former director of nuclear inspections at the IAEA who is now based in Vienna, was first to identify the images of the reactor site in Riyadh at the King Abdulaziz City of Science and Technology (KACST).

The Associated Press could not immediately reach spokespeople at the Energy Ministry or KACST for comment.

Kelley said it’s been surprising to him “how non-transparent” the kingdom has been in the process of building the reactor and “how they seem very cavalier about modifying their arrangements with the IAEA.”

Kelley was referring to agreements the kingdom has signed. The kingdom agreed to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty three decades ago. In 2005, it signed an agreement with the IAEA known as the “small quantities protocol” that allows countries with negligible nuclear programs to be exempt from regular inspections or nuclear monitoring.

However, once nuclear fuel is brought into the country to operate this small reactor, inspections by the IAEA would be required, Kelley said.

Saudi Prince has not ruled out developing a nuclear weapon

“It’s simply that they’re crossing a threshold in terms of their requirements,” Kelley said, explaining the significance of the construction of the reactor, which is much smaller than the ones the kingdom has said it wants to build for energy purposes.

The type of reactor being built now, according to the satellite images Kelley identified, is used by technicians for learning and training purposes.

“The reactor is at the bottom of an open tank filled with water 10 metres high. It’s very, very small,” Kelley said, adding that the core of the reactor is about the size of a gallon-sized paint can.

He said the Saudi reactor is being built by the Argentinian government-owned company INVAP. Before Argentina brings nuclear fuel to Saudi Arabia for the reactor, the IAEA agreement in place that exempts Saudi Arabia from inspections would need to be rescinded, Kelley said.

“I think it’s a 100 per cent certainty that Argentina is not going to supply uranium fuel to a country that doesn’t have a safeguards agreement in force,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration last week said it approved seven applications for U.S. companies to sell nuclear power technology and assistance to Saudi Arabia. Republican and Democratic lawmakers, however, have expressed concerns that Saudi Arabia could develop nuclear weapons if the U.S. technology is transferred without proper safeguards.

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has also not ruled out developing a nuclear weapon. He told CBS last year, “Saudi Arabia does not want to acquire any nuclear bomb, but without a doubt if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible.”

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17 Charts That Show Where Social Media is Heading

17 Charts That Show Where Social Media is Heading

social shares

You already know it’s harder to get traffic from the social web unless you spend money on ads.

There’s nothing new with that fact… just look at the graph above: It breaks down how the average number of social shares per blog post has been dying year over year.

But the reality is you can’t ignore platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube or any other new contender that comes out and gains traction.

These social sites command so much traffic, that we have no choice but to be on them.

Just look at the Similar Web numbers for Facebookthey get an estimated 19.2 billion visits a month.

That’s ridiculous! And it’s not just Facebook either… according to Similar Web, all of the big platforms get tons of traffic:

  • LinkedIn – 917 million visitors a month
  • Twitter – 3.62 billion visitors a month
  • YouTube – 22.77 billion visitors a month
  • Pinterest – 722 million visitors a month
  • Instagram – 2.86 billion visitors a month

In other words, whether you like their algorithm tweaks or not, you have no choice but to be on these platforms as they attract so many eyeballs.

So, what should you do with your organic social reach? How should you combat their algorithms so you can generate a positive ROI as their ad prices keep going up?

Well, I surveyed 183 companies that generate at least 5 million dollars in revenue a year all the way up to $1.7 billion to show you where social media is headed and what you should do to succeed in the landscape.

Let’s dive into the data…

Expect less traffic from the social web, even if you pay for it

Look at the graph below. What do you see?

social shares per post

Since 2015, the amount of shares a blog post receives from the social web has been declining. One of the large reasons for social sites to clamp down on organic reach is that that makes it so you need to spend money to get the reach that you were once used to and relied upon to generate traffic.

Now let’s look at the percentage of digital ad spend going towards social media sites.

ad spend

Over time it has increased, and you’ll notice that things really started to ramp up in 2016.

An interesting fact is that in the United States during mid-2017, Facebook had more advertisers than inventory. In other words, the demand was higher than the supply which caused CPM and CPC rates to increase.

But similar to the game of cat and mouse SEOs play with Google, marketers also play that game with social networks. In recent years, marketers have figured out how to reverse the trend of their dying organic reach.

organic social traffic

2017 was a low point, but since then marketers have figured out a way to boost organic social traffic.

It won’t last forever… but can you guess how?

Don’t expect your employees to help

Well, it’s not by asking your employees to share your content.

employees content share

Roughly 74% of the companies we surveyed asked their employees to share their content. Might as well get those extra likes and comments, right?

I know I used to do it.

employees don't share

But then I stopped because the majority of my employees didn’t want to share the content. And it’s not just my companies, other companies experienced the same thing.

In other words, the first few times you ask your team members to share, they’ll do it. After a while, they’ll ignore you.

So how are marketers boosting their organic reach?

You have to use chatbots

Here’s how much time companies are spending on each form of social media content.

time spent on content

As you can see, everyone loves posting images and text-based updates because they are easy to post.

But they don’t produce the best engagement. It’s actually live video and other forms of video.


Social platforms are trying to compete with television networks and they are even competing with platforms like Netflix.

So, if you want the most engagement you have to feed into their goals. If you start producing live video or even recorded video, you’ll find that you can boost your engagement. What this will do is get more of your followers engaged so when you post other forms of content they’ll be a higher probability that the content will be seen.

The other reason videos work so well is because they keep people on these social platforms versus driving people back to your site.

But of course, you want your followers to go back to your site… and you can do that through chatbots.

biggest social gains

As you can see, 41% of the companies reported that chatbots (also knowns as messenger bots for social sites) provided their biggest traffic gains.

In other words, if you want to drive people from social sites like Facebook, you’ll have to start using messenger bots like Mobile Monkey.

The chances are you aren’t using messenger bots yet, but they are super effective. Just follow this guide and it will walk you through setting them up.

Now, not every social network has messenger bots, but over time you’ll see this change.

You’ll have to start expanding globally

I’ve been blogging a lot about global expansion from an SEO perspective, but the same goes from a social media perspective as well.

social traffic english

The chart above clearly shows how people are now getting traffic from regions where English wasn’t the native language.

And as companies noticed that trend, they also started posting their social content in multiple languages.

language post in

You’ll see a trend of this continuing over the next few years in which companies will be leveraging globalization as social marketing campaigns in non-English speaking countries in most cases is more profitable.

If you want the most out of your organic social traffic and paid ads you should consider posting content in multiple languages.

Some social networks like Facebook give great targeting options where you can pick which regions you want to show your content in.


For other platforms like Twitter and Instagram, this doesn’t exist yet.

When you also look at it from an advertising perspective, ads are expensive in regions like the United States, Japan, Canada, United Kingdom, Germany… but they aren’t as costly in most parts of Latin America and Asia.

Now let’s look at social media from a sales perspective.

Here’s how to maximize your social media revenue

Similar to content marketing, don’t expect social media visitors to convert right when they land on your site.

On average, a social media visitor will convert after 3 visits.

visit before customer

That means you are going to have to focus on getting people to continue to come back to your site if you want more sales.

In other words, you’ll have to play the long game.

The simplest way to do this is to remarket your social visitors. But there are other solutions as well that you aren’t currently using.

convert social customers

You can use a combination of the methods above. You’ll find that one won’t be enough and you’ll have to combine a handful of methods, including SMS.

You’re probably not using SMS marketing yet, but did you know that when I send SMS messages my response rates are 68%?!

That’s crazy high!

I’m not talking about opens, I am talking about responses!

For email, you can use tools like Hello Bar and for push notifications, you can use tools like Subscribers.

But there are multiple ways to boost your sales from social media, including focusing on specific content types.

Did you know that if you leverage chatbots (messenger bots) and post video-based content you’ll generate more sales on average than if you just posted status updates?

organic sales

I know that sounds counterintuitive as it is easier to drive people to your site using status updates than to create a video, but you have to consider that social algorithms favor video.

You can also optimize your sales by picking specific social networks

Sales is a complicated formula. There’s more to growing your revenue than just focusing on specific types of content social media sites love and optimizing your landing pages.

To get a full picture, you also have to look at the first touch and last touch sales.

First touch sales are the traffic source that people first found you from. They don’t necessarily convert right then and there, but it’s the way they first found you.

first touch sales

It’s no shocker, but Facebook is the leader when it comes to first touch sales.

Now let’s look at last touch sales, which is where a visitor comes from right before they convert. Remember, someone may have found your site from Facebook, but they may not convert right away.

last touch

Sure, Facebook is still the winner, but YouTube is a close second and, shockingly, WhatsApp is in 3rd place.

It makes sense as texting has an extremely high open and click rate. I know you aren’t using WhatsApp for your business yet because that’s what the data shows, but you should check out their business API.

social platform


Over the upcoming years, you can assume social algorithms are going to get tougher from both an organic and paid perspective.

Social media companies are facing heavy governmental pressure due to fake news, privacy concerns, and issues related to political campaigns.

But that doesn’t mean you can ignore the social web or stop using it. It’s not dying and it is here to stay.

customers find you

The data shows social media is on the rise. Sure, these sites aren’t growing at a rapid pace anymore but that’s due to the majority of the world already being on one of these platforms if not a few of them.

They are effective because people trust what they see on these sites and that should continually increase as they fix issues like fake news.

As long as you follow the tips above, you’ll be able to maximize your social media traffic and revenue even when the algorithms change in ways that don’t favor you.

So how are you maximizing your social media traffic?

PS: If you want to know where content marketing is heading, check this out.

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Kenney, Callaway campaigns collaborated to attack Brian Jean during UCP leadership race, leaked documents show

Kenney, Callaway campaigns collaborated to attack Brian Jean during UCP leadership race, leaked documents show

The leadership campaign of Jason Kenney collaborated with fellow candidate Jeff Callaway’s campaign during the party’s 2017 United Conservative Party leadership race, leaked internal UCP documents obtained by CBC News show.

The leaked cache of documents show Kenney’s campaign provided Callaway with resources including strategic political direction, media and debate talking points, speeches, videos, and attack advertisements, all aimed at undermining Kenney’s main political rival, Brian Jean.

The documents also show Matt Wolf, a senior Kenney campaign staffer and his current deputy chief of staff, communicated regularly with Callaway’s communications manager Cameron Davies, and also on occasion, with Callaway’s campaign manager, Randy Kerr.

A document prepared by Davies for the office of Alberta’s election commissioner, with whom he is cooperating, alleges the Kenney campaign made a concerted effort to recruit a “stalking horse” candidate for the specific purpose of attacking Jean, the former Wildrose leader.  

The documents include several emails between Wolf, Davies, Kerr, and sometimes Callaway. The emails reveal Wolf and the Kenney campaign were providing not just communications support, but also planned, regular strategic political direction throughout Callaway’s campaign.

In a telephone interview Saturday, Davies confirmed to CBC News the campaigns had even decided in advance when Callaway would quit the race.

“Callaway’s withdrawal was something that wasn’t necessarily negotiable,” Davies said. “It was something that had been decided in a meeting in mid-July, between Callaway and the Jason Kenney leadership team.”

Senior Kenney campaign staffer Matt Wolf provided Callaway’s campaign with a suggested speech for Callaway to give when he dropped out of the race and endorsed Kenney. (CBC)

In an Aug. 13, 2017, email entitled “Week 1 & 2 Comms Draft,” Davies wrote to Wolf: “Please review, thoughts appreciated.”

“The themes I’m pushing for are: Seeds of Doubt (Aug. 14-26); Consistency (Aug. 23 – Sept. 6); Trust (Sept. 1 – Sept. 13),” Davies continued.

“Jeff drops (although depending when debates are, you may have other ideas?),” Davies’s email to Wolf continues. Davies confirmed to CBC News that was a reference to Callaway’s planned withdrawal from the race.

The email adds that “by this time we hope Jean has attacked Jeff, lost his cool in a debate or two, gone off script to the media so we can release a series of ‘Screamin’ Jean’ SoundCloud files in which he is screaming at the [executive committee].”

Davies’s final suggested weekly theme was “Temperament (Sept. 15 – Oct??)”

Wolf also provided Callaway’s campaign with a suggested speech for Callaway to give when he abruptly quit the race weeks before the vote and endorsed Kenney, the documents show.

Following Kenney’s landslide win, it was alleged Kenney’s campaign ran Callaway as a so-called “kamikaze” candidate to attack and undermine Jean, Kenney’s main political rival.

Both Callaway and Kenney have denied their campaigns collaborated.

On Friday, CBC News revealed RCMP were investigating allegations of irregular political contributions to Callaway’s campaign.

The police investigation is “not about our campaign; it is about someone else’s leadership campaign from 18 months ago,” Kenney said Friday at an unrelated news conference, adding later that “all I can tell you is that the campaign that I ran was in full compliance with all of the financial and legal requirements.”

UCP says inter-campaign communications normal

An emailed statement from UCP executive director Janice Harrington simply repeated the claim made previously by Kenney that there was communication between his campaign and the Callaway campaign and this was “perfectly normal in a preferential ballot election and was within the rules of the 2017 UCP Leadership Election.”

Harrington also included a statement from another leadership contender, Doug Schweitzer, a lawyer, who said he and his campaign team “kept lines of communications open with all other registered, and prospective candidates in the UCP leadership race.

“Ongoing dialogue across all campaigns is normal throughout leadership races within the same party, especially those with ranked ballots,” Schweitzer’s statement said.

The statement from Harrington doesn’t address the fact that Alberta’s election commissioner is now conducting an investigation of the connection between the Kenney and Callaway campaigns.

Callaway, Kerr, and Jean did not respond to interview requests.

Davies told CBC News he is cooperating with investigators from the office of Alberta’s election commissioner. He met with them on Friday and gave them a written statement. He had previously been fined $15,000 by the commissioner for obstructing his investigation into the Callaway donations. Through his lawyer, Davies has said he will appeal the fine.

Davies told CBC News he has not been contacted by the RCMP but if he is, he is prepared to “fully comply with whatever requests the RCMP have.”

Callaway campaign manager claims collaboration from beginning

Davies confirmed the authenticity of a “timeline of events” he prepared for the election commissioner’s investigators that was part of the cache of documents supplied to CBC News.

The document details a concerted effort by the Kenney campaign to first recruit, and then direct, a “dark horse” candidate for the express purpose of attacking Jean.

Callaway was not their first choice.

The timeline states that “around early July 2017, a meeting with (then UCP MLA) Derek Fildebrandt was held to inquire if he would be a suitable candidate to run as a dark horse candidate.”

In December 2018, StarMetro quoted Fildebrandt as saying he sat down with Kenney in the summer of 2017 and the two discussed the possibility of Fildebrandt running “a stalking horse campaign to undermine Mr. Jean.” Fildebrandt told the newspaper he decided he did not want to do that.

But Davies’s timeline says it was determined after several meetings that Fildebrandt was not “suitable” for the role, a conclusion shared by the “Kenney team.”

Callaway’s campaign communications manager, Cameron Davies, told CBC News that both campaigns had decided in advance when Callaway would quit the race. (Supplied by Cameron Davies)

The timeline states that after the Fildebrandt meetings, another meeting was held at Callaway’s home attended by Kenney, Callaway, Kenney’s current UCP campaign manager John Weissenberger, UCP candidate Happy Mann, and several others.

Davies told CBC News he was also at the meeting

“In this meeting, a discussion occurred around running Jeff Callaway to do what had been originally planned for Derek Fildebrandt,” the timeline says.

“It was decided that our teams would work together to ensure proper narratives and messaging coincided at various stages of the campaigns. I have attached emails detailing various communiques with instruction for various talking points and communications from the Kenney team.”

Davies’s timeline says he is “not aware of any funding arrangements that may or may not have been made directly between Jeff Callaway and Jason Kenney.”

It claims Callaway’s campaign provided debate tickets to Jason Kenney team members and supporters at three debates.

“In each debate, campaigns were allotted a certain number of tickets,” the timeline states. “Requests were made by Jason’s team for the Callaway team to provide tickets to lists of people who were either members of Jason’s team or key supporters they wanted in the audience at each debate.”

Davies’s timeline recounts a meeting at Callaway’s house after he dropped out of the race. It says Kenney and 10 other “key members” of Kenney’s team were present.

“Jason was appreciative of the work the Callaway campaign did, and gave a short thank you to Jeff and the team for their support and efforts,” the document states.

Political messaging, speeches provided   

The emails from Wolf to Callaway’s campaign include advertisement graphics and research specifically designed to help the candidate undermine Jean.

They also support Davies’s statement to the election commissioner that political messaging was coordinated at various stages of Callaway’s campaign.

An email from Wolf to Davies, dated Sept. 6, 2017 — one month before Callaway quit the leadership race — entitled “spit-balling copy” provides a speech for Callaway to give, specifically attacking Jean.

“If there is one thing that drives me crazy, it’s self-styled ‘conservatives’ that use the language of the left to attack conservatives,” Wolf’s messaging for Callaway states.

It further suggests Callaway say, “as Wildrose president at the time,” he was “extremely disappointed” by comments Jean made to a Calgary newspaper before the referendum that created the United Conservative Party.

“Jean says he would cut taxes only when the government has the room to do so,” Wolf’s messaging later continues, quoting the newspaper.

“Hold on. Last time I checked, government is supposed to work for us,” Wolf’s speech says. “Maybe government should live within its mean, rather than taking more and more money out of our pockets.” It continues with several further attacks on Jean.

Kenney campaign staffer provided Callaway with suggested drop-out speech

Callaway dropped out of the UCP leadership race on Oct. 4, 2017 and threw his support behind Kenney.

Early that morning, emails show Wolf sent Callaway and his campaign managers a suggested script for Callaway’s speech announcing the news.

“I don’t think you need a script to read, but below is the rough outline of what I’d suggest,” Wolf wrote. “Tweak as you see fit.”

His suggested speech for Callaway begins: “I guess it’s obvious by my being here that my leadership campaign will not be going forward.”

A few paragraphs in, Wolf’s suggested speech includes a dig at Jean.

The documents show Kenney’s campaign provided Callaway’s with messaging that specifically attacked former Wildrose leader Brian Jean (above). (CBC)

“There is obviously one candidate in this race that I know very well: I served as Wildrose president during Brian Jean’s period as leader.

“I see many recognizable faces here today that also served under Brian’s leadership, but are noticeably supporting someone else today,” the speech says.

Wolf’s speech suggests Callaway then segue into comments about how he got to know the other candidates better during the race and admires Kenney’s leadership and experience.

“We need a leader that is consistent in his conservative convictions, a leader that doesn’t wildly change his positions depending on which way the wind is blowing.

“We need a leader with the fortitude to withstand the onslaught from the NDP and its special-interest friends,” the speech continues.

“I’m confident that leader is Jason Kenney.”

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