“Writers are naturally drawn, chimpanzee-like, to the color and the music of this English idiom we are blessed to have inherited. When given the choice we will usually try to use the more vivid and tuneful among its words.” “Thomas Pynchon on plagiarism” (Letters of Note)
“Video Messages From Trapped Chilean Miners” by Alexei Barrionuevo and Robert Mackey (The Lede) The three-week-old rescue effort to reach miners who have been trapped in a collapsed shaft beneath Chile’s Atacama Desert is moving at the pace of a British Petroleum recovery effort: industry experts estimate it will take another three to four months of continuous drilling to reach the men. Rescuers, however, have managed to lower a miniature video camera through a four-inch feeding tube. On Thursday night, Chilean national television broadcast a video message recorded by the thirty-three miners to their loved ones. (more…)
Recommended browsing for the weekend of August 14-15, culled from the blogroll
“The End-of-the-World Hotel” by Will Wlizlo | UTNE Reader
As we all know, the world is scheduled to end in 2012. Are you ready? The good people at Del Mar, California’s Vivos Group are here to help. For the low price of $50,000 per adult (kids cost half!), you can purchase a spot in a luxury, 200-person underground bunker — then safely ride out the mega-tsunamis and nuclear explosions that are surely coming our way.
“Lest we forget Omar Khadr” by Parker Donham | Contrarian
After eight years of incarceration, Omar Khadr — the only citizen of a Western democracy still in detention at Guantanamo Bay — is finally being subjected to the first war crimes prosecution of a child soldier in US military history. (Actually, the military is attempting to try Khadr: his lawyer collapsed on Thursday, and will soon be airlifted from Gitmo for medical treatment. Proceedings are now postponed for at least a month.) The UN and the American Civil Liberties Union have both warned that the mere fact of the trial’s existence sets a dangerous precedent.
“Poll: Majority of Americans Approve of Gay Marriage” by John Hudson | The Atlantic Wire
A recent CNN poll (PDF) asked 1,009 Americans: “Do you think gays and lesbians should have a constitutional right to get married and have their marriage recognized by law as valid?” Fifty-two percent of respondents answered yes (with a three-point margin of error), in stark contrast to the conventional wisdom that a majority of Americans disapprove of same-sex marriage. Hudson surveys the reactions of Andrew Sullivan, Glenn Beck, and other prominent pundits.
“Wyclef Jean Says Haitians ‘Don’t Need a Local President’” by Robert Mackey | The Lede
Musician and philanthropist Wyclef Jean has announced his intent to run for president of his native Haiti. In the Al Jazeera interview linked here, Jean argues that Haitians need a leader who can travel the world and solicit donations for the island’s post-earthquake rebuilding process. However, he may not meet the job’s eligibility requirements — and ex-Fugee Pras Michel, who is supporting a rival candidate, has allegedly called his former bandmate “the Haitian version of Sarah Palin.”
“NHL marketing — the female fan blunder” by Cassie McClellan | From The Rink
This week, the NHL released horrendously ugly, sparkly “champagne” jerseys for female fans of the game. (From the online sales copy: “Show off your feminine figure with a flirty side drawstring cinch.”) McClellan discusses this latest blunder, and other generally clueless attempts by the league to market hockey to women. (more…)
“California’s Gay Marriage Ban Overturned” by Jacob Sullum | Hit & Run
On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker overturned California’s controversial Proposition 8, the 2008 ballot initiative that banned gay marriage in the state. “Moral disapproval alone is an improper basis on which to deny rights to gay men and lesbians,” Judge Walker wrote in his decision. “The evidence shows conclusively that Proposition 8 enacts, without reason, a private moral view that same-sex couples are inferior to opposite sex couples.” Nonetheless, the ruling is certain to be appealed.
“New Orleans: A Timeline” | GOOD Blog
Floods, hurricanes, wars, oil spills — the Big Easy has had a hard life. This timeline, from GOOD magazine’s New Orleans issue, charts the city’s highs and lows.
“Despite Steroids, Does A-Rod Deserve to Make the Hall of Fame?” by Ray Gustini | The Atlantic Wire
This week, the New York Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez became the youngest player to join baseball’s 600-home run club. Such an accomplishment would typically guarantee a spot in the sport’s Hall of Fame, but Rodriguez is an admitted former steroid user, which casts a shadow on his career numbers. Will voters forgive and forget, or will they keep him out of Cooperstown forever? Gustini surveys the opinions of several well-known baseball scribes.
“Condé Nast to license magazine names for restaurants” by Jim Romenesko | Romenesko
Publishing giant Condé Nast has come up with a novel solution for declining revenues – loaning out the names of its famous magazine brands to international restaurant chains. I wonder what they’ll serve at The New Yorker Restaurant: poutine and burritos? No doubt the menu will feature impeccable writing and witty cartoons.
“Microscope a marvel for Third World countries” by Mike Williams | Futurity
For his senior design project, Rice University alumnus Andrew Miller created Global Focus, an inexpensive ($240 US), battery-powered microscope that performs as well as units that cost up to $40,000. Testing has shown that Miller’s device is 98.4 percent effective in diagnosing tuberculosis, a disease that still ravages developing countries. Given that an estimated 1.3 million people died from TB in 2008, there’s tremendous demand for diagnostic tools such as this. (more…)
Recommended holiday browsing from the blogroll: “You can really smell the oil”
“YouTube Video of Michigan Oil Spill” by Robert Mackey | The Lede
The US Environmental Protection Agency estimates that a ruptured pipeline has leaked more than one million gallons of oil into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River — a figure far greater than the data supplied by line’s owner, Calgary’s Enbridge Inc. Hmm… an oil company downplaying the environmental impact of a spill. Where have I heard that one before?
“Educating Michael Ignatieff” by Jane Taber | Bureau Blog
This week on his cross-country bus tour, Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff caused quite the uproar by claiming that he received a “publicly funded education” — despite famously attending Toronto’s prestigious, private Upper Canada College. So what did Iggy actually mean? Taber explains (a party flack’s less-than-convincing explanation).
“Swimming pool or toxic brew?” by Jennifer Shike | Futurity
According to a study conducted by the University of Illinois, disinfectants used in pool water may be contributing to chronic health problems such as asthma and bladder cancer. Such disinfectants interact with sunscreen, cosmetics, and other consumer products — then become chemically modified toxic agents. So, some kid peeing in the corner: no longer the worst thing to worry about at public pools. (more…)
“BP Creates a Flickr Set of Its Own Deception” by Andrew Price | GOOD Blog
This week, after being caught photoshopping press pictures of the Gulf of Mexico disaster, BP created a Flickr gallery of the doctored photos. The company’s description of the set includes a slick passing of the buck: “Although BP is a private company, we’ve instructed the photographer who created the images to refrain from cutting-and-pasting in the future and to adhere to standard photo journalistic best practices.” What a relief! I feel so much better about the planet now.
“Scots Defend Lockerbie Convict’s Release” by Robert Mackey | The Lede
The Scottish government is rebuffing American efforts to investigate a bizarre rumour: that BP lobbied for the release of Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, the man convicted of the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, in an attempt to curry favour with the Libyan government. BP representatives deny the claim — and they’d never lie to us, right?
“Helena Guergis wants meeting with Harper” by Gloria Galloway | Bureau Blog
Having been cleared of any criminal wrongdoing by the RCMP, the former minister of state for the status of women is demanding face time with Stephen Harper. The PMO, however, is still defending its decision to sack Guergis, saying “several factors” contributed to her ouster from the Conservative caucus.
“The Bechdel Test for women in movies” by Lisa Katayama | Boing Boing
Think about the last major Hollywood movie you watched. Now ask yourself these questions, first posed in 1985 by cartoonist Allison Bechdel: (1) Are there two or more women in it that have names? (2) Do they talk to each other? (3) Do they talk to each other about something other than a man? As this clip from the blog Feminist Frequency points out, a tremendous number of popular films fail this simple test.
“Inception, Explained” by The Mark | The Mark
Speaking of Hollywood, if you’ve seen Christopher Nolan’s Inception, chances are you’re a little confused by everything that happened, especially the ending. If that’s you, check out this round up of the web’s best explanations. (And if that’s not you, spoiler alert!) (more…)
“The Air You Breathe, the Water You Drink, the Google You Search” by Peter Suderman | Hit & Run
Also on Thursday, the New York Times published an editorial arguing that since Google is “the main map to the information highway,” it functions like a public utility. Therefore, the US government should have some measure of oversight on the company’s search algorithms in order to ensure fairness in the internet economy. The question, Suderman asks, is how much oversight?
“US: Ratify Women’s Rights Treaty” | Human Rights Watch
On July 17, 1980, Jimmy Carter signed the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. Thirty years have passed since that day, yet the US Senate still has not ratified the treaty. HRW calls on the Obama administration to take action on this issue.
“A Grilling on Oil Dispersants” by Matthew L. Wald | Green Inc.
The use of oil dispersants in the Gulf is both “troubling” and “unprecedented,” according to top Obama administration officials testifying before a Senate subcommittee. The good news? There has been a 72 percent drop in their use since May, and now that the oil has stopped flowing, the cleanup effort can stop using them altogether. (more…)
Recommended browsing from the blogroll, featuring Octopush, G20 fallout, and potential disaster beneath the Grand Banks
“Octopush — Underwater Hockey — Will Haunt Your Dreams” by Zach Dundas | GOOD Blog
Octopush is the strangest sport I’ve seen in a long time. The game is played almost exactly as you’d imagine underwater shinny — provided you imagine snorkelling, swimming-trunked combatants with miniature sticks trying to score a weighted puck into trough-like goals at opposite ends of a pool.
“Canada’s year in the limelight, are we any cooler now?” by Louise Elliott | Inside Politics
The year is only half over, but 2010 is already a big one for Canada. We’ve hosted the world twice — first for the Olympics, then for the G8 and G20 conferences— and our banking system is the envy of a world still recovering from recession. As Elliott explains, however, there is a certain “smug” gap between how Canadians think of ourselves and how the rest of the planet perceives us.
“Airplane! Turns 30: The Internet Reminisces” by John Hudson | The Atlantic Wire Airplane!, recently counted among the greatest slapstick comedies of all time, recently celebrated its thirtieth birthday: and I swear the internet nearly crashed due to the glut of critic’s mash notes for the film. Hudson compiles the best of the bunch (and several ha!-ha! video clips).
“What Is the Public Works Protection Act Anyway?” by Jean-Marc Leclerc | Slaw
The author, a partner at Toronto business law firm Osler, Harkin & Harcourt LLP, explains the Public Works Protection Act, the previously little-known Ontario law that became notorious during the G20 conference, when it was invoked to declare vast sections of downtown Toronto as “public works” — and therefore help police conduct warrantless searches of activists, anarchists, and everyday people.
“Four journalists file police complaints” by Dana Lacey | J-Source
Pardon me: I almost forget journalists. Four reporters who covered Toronto’s G20 protests say they were beaten, arrested, and even threatened with rape while in custody. So much for the protective power of the press pass. (more…)
“Reusable grocery bags carry E. coli” by Jennifer Fitzenberger | Futurity
A study has found that reusable, woven polypropylene grocery bags can be rife with dangerous food-borne bacteria. Researchers at the University of Arizona have learned that most people are unaware of the need to wash or bleach their bags between uses; the data also suggests that as more people use the bags, the practice will begin to pose a serious risk to public health.
“Shapiro: Say farewell to fly-on-the-wall journalism” by Jim Romenesko | Romenesko
This week, Barack Obama took U.S. Army General Stanley McChrystal’s resignation in advance of a Rolling Stoneprofile of McChrystal that includes derogatory comments about White House officials made by the General’s aides. While the article is a testament to the continuing power of hard-hitting, mainstream journalism, Romenesko spots columnist Walter Shapiro warning that the aftermath could spell an end for the reporting access that made it possible.
“BP Starts Using Kevin Coster’s [sic] Oil Cleanup Gizmo” by Andrew Price | GOOD Blog
You know things have become desperate in the Gulf now that BP has turned to Mr. Dances with Wolves to assist with the disastrous cleanup of its deep-sea disaster. Hopefully, Costner will be The Bodyguard for the people of the Gulf Coast, and his Tin Cup contraption — nicknamed Ocean Therapy — won’t be a Field of Dreams, meaning BP can return the Gulf’s Waterworld to normal in less than Thirteen Days… aaaaaand I could go on like this for a while.
“Unlocked iPhones Could Herald True Mobility” by Michael Geist | Michael Geist Blog
Apple’s iPhone 4 went on sale in the United States this week. Its mid-July introduction to Canada could herald a new era in mobile phone purchasing. Apple will be selling the device here in its “unlocked” mode, meaning that, unlike most phones, it will not be tied to a specific carrier. Geist explains why this decision is likely a forward leap for consumer freedom in the national wireless market. (more…)
Recommended browsing from The Walrus Blogroll, featuring the Karma Cup, outlaw fashion, and the Polaris Music Prize
“Gay Men Make Up Most Victims of Hate-Motivated Violence” by Mark | Slap Upside the Head
According to recently released crime data from Statistics Canada, there’s been a huge jump in hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation. Of the 1,036 hate crime incidents logged by police in 2008, 16 percent were perpetrated against homosexuals — more than double the number from the year before. Most disturbing, 75 percent of all violent hate crimes were motivated by the victim’s sexual orientation.
“Why Boycotting BP Isn’t Helping Anybody” by John Hudson | The Atlantic Wire
Recently, while vacationing in Florida, I refused to stop at BP gas stations as a protest against the corporation responsible for the ongoing oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Many Americans have had the same idea. Hudson’s roundup of smart commentary on the subject, however, explains why this tactic barely affects BP’s bottom line.
“The Left: A lot of activity, but lacking definition” by Rick Salutin | rabble.ca
Salutin makes a case why the left wing of Canadian politics — the focus of recent media scrutiny, via coverage of the rumoured Liberal-NDP merger and Quebec billionaire Pierre Karl Péladeau’s plans for a right-wing, Fox-style television news network — is actually a “phantom limb.”
Recommended browsing from The Walrus Blogroll, featuring Charlie Riedel’s wildlife photos from the Gulf of Mexico
(AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
“Wildlife: Brought to you by BP” by Alheli Picazo | rabble.ca
With so much coverage of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill focused on (failing) efforts to stop the leak, the disaster’s impact on the Gulf of Mexico’s wildlife had gone largely unreported. That changed this week, when Associated Press photographer Charlie Riedel published this series of gruesome pictures.
“Oil, the Loop Current and the Atlantic” by Mireya Navarro | Green Inc.
According to a computer simulation by the US National Center for Atmospheric Research, BP’s oil leak may “loop” around Florida and travel north, reaching as far as the Carolinas by later this summer. Watch the linked video and be horrified, and/or bring the crisis to your doorstep by visiting ifitwasmyhome.com.
“The Commons: Aboard this tiny ship” by Aaron Wherry | Capital Read
With spending for this summer’s G8/G20 summits climbing beyond control, it seems the Liberals have finally decided to act like the opposition. Wherry’s report from this Thursday’s question period details an exchange between Liberal MP Dominic LeBlanc and Conservative Transport Minister John Baird about one of the budget’s most egregious expenditures: $400,000 to restore a vintage steamboat which, in LeBlanc’s words, “will not even be in the water until after the G8 is over.”
“Reporters Dispute Israeli Account of Raid” by Robert Mackey | The Lede
Israel’s raid on Turkish ships carrying aid to the blockaded Gaza Strip instantly became a major international incident: death on the high seas is unfunny that way. Mackey rounds up several of the journalists, including Al Jazeera English’s Jamal Elshayyal, who was on board one of the flotilla’s ships, who are disputing Israel’s official account of the incident.
Back from vacation with recommended reading from the blogroll
Weekend Links returns from a week-long vacation.
“The iPad + Velcro” by Mark Frauenfelder | Boing Boing
In the words (er, title cards) of Northern California filmmaker Jesse Rosten, who made this inspirational video, “two of mankind’s greatest inventions[,] together at last.” It remains an open question which of the pair is more useful on its own.
“Breathing Soil Bacteria Makes You Smarter” by Mother Nature Network | GOOD Blog
The newest miracle medicine is… dirt? Injections of Mycobacterium vaccae, a naturally occurring soil bacterium that we inhale innocuously while outdoors, have been found to temporarily increase intelligence in mice. M. vaccae stimulates the brain’s level of serotonin, the chemical that decreases anxiety and boosts neurotransmission rates.
“The Best Sunscreen May Be No Sunscreen” by Keith Goetzman | UTNE Reader
Before stepping out to breathe all that mind-enhancing bacteria, it would be a good idea to apply some sunscreen — or would it? According to the Environmental Working Group’s 2010 Sunscreen Guide, many popular brands contain ingredients that actually heighten your risk of skin cancer.
“CNN’s Larry King Problem” by John Hudson | Atlantic Wire
CNN has a problem. The ratings for the cable newsers’ prime time programs — especially septuagenarian stalwart Larry King’s nightly talk show — have fallen way behind competitors Fox News and MSNBC. Hudson considers the costs of the network’s breakneck race to the middle of the political road.
“An Ode to the G20” by General Tao | Food Court Lunch
The G20 conference accomplishes nothing and is incredibly expensive for the host city, postulates one angry resident of its restricted security area. To Torontonians unlucky enough to live and/or work inside the impending summit’s red or yellow zones — my condolences. (more…)
“Cover of the Year Nominations” by Scott Sellers | Covers Sell
Spotted on Covers Sell, a new blog by newsstand circulation expert Scott Sellers, a readers’ poll to select the best of this year’s National Magazine Award–nominated cover designs. (Shorter version: Vote for us!)
“Barrick Gold blocks mining book from B.C. small press” by Stuart Woods | Quill Blog
Censorship is a warm drill. For the time being, Talonbooks has halted work on a book called Imperial Canada Inc.: Legal Haven of Choice for the World’s Mining Industries. The stoppage follows an aggressive legal challenge from Barrick, the Toronto-based mega miner, that has publisher Karl Siegler fearful of losing a catalogue of some 500 books. Talonbooks, Quillblog reports, is now receiving pro bono legal assistance from the BC Civil Liberties Association.
“Flavorwire: The Dion Abides” by Carl Wilson | Zoilus
Three years ago, Céline Dion was the subject of Wilson’s tiny, tremendous book Let’s Talk About Love: A Journey to the End of Taste. This week, the Toronto writer, blogger, and editor spoke to New York’s Flavorwire about her status as America’s favourite singer (still). There’s no rust on his blade: “She makes the sentimental music that’s the soundtrack to courting, marrying, and burying. It’s music for the wedding dance floor and the family-video montage.” (more…)