U.S. envoy at table

Wojtek Dabrowski | National Post

TORONTO - Canada’s ambassador to the United States painted an unflattering picture of the way government works south of the border yesterday, calling it “dysfunctional,” overly complex and in dire financial straits, while saying Canada has an efficient system on a solid fiscal footing.

Speaking at a business luncheon—and with the U.S. ambassador to Canada sitting steps away—Frank McKenna said the United States is “a great country in spite of its government structure, rather than because of it.”

“The United States of America is a wonderful creation—the Constitution is a spectacular thing,” Mr. McKenna said.

“But it was anticipated that it would be established as a country in which there would be a check and balance on the exercise of power. And I can tell you categorically that what has been institutionalized instead is total gridlock. The government of the United States is, in large measure, dysfunctional.”

He said one senator there has 75 staff members, which shows that U.S. policymaking is “so complex that even people who work within government need help to navigate through it.”

David Wilkins, the American envoy to Canada, appeared to take his counterpart’s speech to a joint meeting of the Empire Club of Canada and the Canadian Club of Toronto in stride.

Following the address, Mr. Wilkins told reporters that Mr. McKenna is “a great orator and he’s a good friend and he gave a pretty compelling speech about the attributes of Canada.”

Mr. Wilkins said he has been warmly received in Canada, adding: “The United States is a beacon of light for so many people throughout the world. I could not be prouder of my country and I, quite frankly, did not take personally the remarks of Mr. McKenna in any way, period.”

In his speech, Mr. McKenna also attempted to juxtapose what he sees as inferior traits of the U.S. system in painting a positive image of Canada’s government.

For instance, he said Canada’s neighbour to the south is also possessed of “so much independence of political party loyalty, if you like, that everybody in their own way is a freelancer, going off in different directions,” he said.

read rest of story here

clock Posted Mon Sep 30th,  2005 - 9:17pm by CPC  Return to home page Top of page



Oil sands worth $1.4-trillion, study finds

By DAVE EBNER | Globe and Mail

The oil sands are a $1.4-trillion bonanza, according to a study that forecasts the economic impact generated by the world’s second-largest deposit of crude in the 2000-2020 period.

And that conclusion is based on prices of just $40 (U.S.) a barrel of synthetic crude, the type pumped out of northern Alberta, roughly the same quality as West Texas intermediate, which traded at almost $67 Thursday.

Some of the benefits will be spread outside of Alberta, especially in the areas of government revenue and employment. the study says.

But based solely on gross domestic product generated by oil sands activity and expansion, Canada’s richest province is the jurisdiction that will grab most of the riches springing from the gooey black mud surrounding Fort McMurray, it says.

Read the rest here


clock Posted Fri Sep 30th,  2005 - 11:37am by CPC  Return to home page Top of page



How to Win Friends and Influence Culture

A prominent Jewish human-rights activist praises—and pointedly counsels—evangelicals.

by Michael Horowitz | Christianity Today

In almost 10 years of intimate association with Christians engaged in human-rights causes, I’ve watched evangelicals as both an outsider and a sympathetic ally.

I know pastors who have risked all to go into the forests of China to feed and rescue North Korean refugees. I know of some now being tortured in Chinese jails for their “underground railroad” efforts. I know Christians throughout the world who have been tormented, tortured, and martyred for their faith. I’m fortunate beyond measure to count as friends such great figures as Korean underground leaders Chun Ki-Won, Tim Peters, and Kim Hang Soon; Shahbaz Bhatti of the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance; Bob Fu of the China Aid Association; and comparably heroic Christian leaders from Cuba, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Sudan, and elsewhere throughout the world.

In the United States, I’ve seen Christian leaders asked to uproot their lives and families in order to take up causes on behalf of the vulnerable and persecuted. I’ve seen them unashamedly drop to their knees in quiet prayer and then get up to say that, as Christians, they have no alternative but to take those risks. I’ve also regularly seen the faith-based courage and determination of such leaders of the American evangelical community as Chuck Colson, Richard Land, Ted Haggard, Rich Cizik, and Barrett Duke, and seen the near-miracles wrought by such grassroots Christian leaders as Debbie Fikes and her colleagues of the Ministerial Alliance of Midland, Texas.

I’ve been awed in the presence of such faith; its example has helped make me a better and more observant practitioner of my own—for which I will forever be grateful…

Read the rest here

clock Posted Tue Sep 27th,  2005 - 10:25am by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


China wants only ‘healthy’ news on Web

By AUDRA ANG | Associated Press

BEIJING (AP)— China said Sunday it is imposing new regulations to control content on its news Web sites and will allow the posting of only “healthy and civilized” news.

The move is part of China’s ongoing efforts to police the country’s 100-million Internet population. Only the United States, with 135 million users, has more.

The new rules take effect immediately and will “standardize the management of news and information” in the country, the official Xinhua News Agency said Sunday.

Sites should only post news on current events and politics, according to the new regulations issued by the Ministry of Information Industry and China’s cabinet, the State Council. The subjects that would be acceptable under those categories was not clear.

Only “healthy and civilized news and information that is beneficial to the improvement of the quality of the nation, beneficial to its economic development and conducive to social progress” will be allowed, Xinhua said.

“The sites are prohibited from spreading news and information that goes against state security and public interest,” it added.

While the communist government encourages Internet use for education and business, it also blocks material it deems subversive or pornographic. Online dissidents who post items critical of the government, or those expressing opinions in chatrooms, are regularly arrested and charged under vaguely worded state security laws.

Earlier this month, a French media watchdog group said e-mail account information provided by Internet powerhouse Yahoo Inc. helped lead to the conviction and 10-year prison sentence of a Chinese journalist who had written about media restrictions in an e-mail.

As part of the wider effort to curb potential dissent, the government has also closed thousands of cybercafes – the main entry to the Web for many Chinese unable to afford a computer at home.

Authorities in Shanghai have installed surveillance cameras and begun requiring visitors to Internet cafes to register with their official identity cards.

The government also recently threatened to shut down unregistered Web sites and blogs, the online diaries in which users post their thoughts for others to read.


clock Posted Mon Sep 26th,  2005 - 10:28am by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


Pride in a Vintage Cellphone

By M.P. DUNLEAVEY | New York Times

I AM the proud owner of a five-year-old cellphone that I’ve nicknamed Sparky. He’s a hulking vintage Samsung, and when I pull him out of my bag, people tend to gawk. “Oh, my God,” they’ll say. “How old is that?”

Occasionally, because Sparky seems too big to be just a cellphone, some folks mistake him for one of those new phone-palmtop-camcorder gizmos. Then I flip open the dial pad and they realize Sparky doesn’t even have a color screen, let alone the capacity to download Minesweeper.

That’s fine by me because my mobile buddy does everything I need. He makes calls and answers them. He provides voice mail. And I’ve never had to replace the battery, which stays charged for up to 24 hours (go Sparky!).

The trouble is that Sparky may be only five (going on six) by my reckoning, but in cellphone years he’s getting up there. And I dread the day when I will have to replace him. While it’s possible to buy a used phone on Web sites like eBay, I resent the fact that if I want a new one, it seems I will be forced to buy the equivalent of a small production studio, complete with Bluetooth, whatever that is.

I’m not a Luddite, although I can sound like one. I am just weary of the constant pressure to upgrade everything in my life – paying more and more, it seems, for gadgets and services. If you had peered into a crystal ball in 1995 and had seen that in 10 years millions of Americans would be shelling out thousands of dollars a year in subscription fees to live the high-tech life, you would have rolled your eyes and laughed…

Read the rest here

clock Posted Mon Sep 24th,  2005 - 8:11am by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


Hollywood Marketing Films Through Churches

Hollywood Marketing ‘Family-Friendly’ Films Through Churches, to Capitalize on ‘Passion’ Success


At some of the largest and most influential Christian churches in the country, the lights dim and congregants watch a sneak preview of a new movie about golf.

The Walt Disney Co. is marketing “The Greatest Game Ever Played” to faith-based groups even though the film, about Francis Ouimet’s improbable win in the 1913 U.S. Open, isn’t overtly religious.

“Its themes are about family, about not giving up on your dreams, courage,” said Dennis Rice, head of publicity at the Walt Disney Studios. “They are very secular virtues, but they also could potentially be Christian virtues.”

Other major studios have undertaken similar marketing for films that aren’t about God, including the recent father-son story “The Thing About My Folks” and even the dark drama “The Exorcism of Emily Rose.” Twentieth Century Fox has launched a Web site to market family-friendly videos directly to Christian groups.

The approach reflects the next step in Hollywood’s attempt to capitalize on the business lessons of “The Passion of the Christ,” a surprising blockbuster last year thanks to unprecedented marketing and mobilization in churches. With Congress cracking down on indecency in television, video games and films, there’s a political dimension as well…

to read the rest, go here


clock Posted Fri Sep 23rd,  2005 - 12:44pm by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


Linux-Powered Humanoids Go On Sale

From LinuxDevices.com

A run of 100 Linux-powered humanoid robots goes on sale in Japan Friday, priced at 1.5M Yen (about $14,000), not including 10,000 Yen (~$90) monthly service fees. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries conceived of Wakamuru as a pleasant companion offering a range of electronic-age valet services, it says.

Mitsubishi first announced Wakamaru in March of 2003, adding details the following month.

Mitsubishi says it has tried to create a robot that can sustain meaningful relationships with human beings, initiating conversations with family members and offering services such as alarm, news, weather, and email dictation. The device can look after the house, provide video streams over cellular networks, and cull useful information over the Internet, while maintaining its own autonomous “rhythm of life,” the company says.

According to Mitsubishi, Wakamaru was designed by Mr. Toshiyuki Kita, who patterned the robot after a growing child. The name “wakamaru” derives from the childhood nickname of Minamoto Yoshitsune, a twelfth-century Japanese Samurai who engineered military victories that enabled his brother Yoritomo to gain control of Japan. The name is associated with “growth” and “development,” the company says.

Wakamaru uses face recognition to identify up to ten people, including two that considers “owners.” It uses speech recognition technology to identify 10,000 Japanese words. Speech synthesis capabilities include voice modulation and using gestures when speaking. It recognizes names given it by users, Mitsubishi says.

A panoramic top-of-head camera enables Wakamaru to identify its position in the house according to the ceiling. This camera also allows the robot to face others when speaking to them or being spoken to.

Wakamaru stands just shy of 4 feet tall (100cm), and weighs 66 pounds (30 kg). It can travel at 1km per hour, avoiding objects and identifying moving people, Mitsubishi says.

Wakamaru’s claimed battery life is two hours, after which the robot returns to its charging station before power fails completely. It maintains Internet access and communications capabilities while charging, Mitsubishi says.
Additional interesting details and photos are available on Wakamaru’s homepage, here.

clock Posted Tue Sep 20th,  2005 - 10:33pm by CPC  Return to home page Top of page



Psychopaths could be best financial traders?

LONDON (Reuters) - “Wanted: psychopaths to make a killing in the markets.”

Such an advert will not be appearing in the world’s newspapers any time soon, but it may have a ring of truth after research revealed the best wheeler-dealers could well be “functional psychopaths.”

A team of U.S. scientists has found the emotionally impaired are more willing to gamble for high stakes and that people with brain damage may make good financial decisions, the Times newspaper reported Monday.

In a study of investors’ behavior 41 people with normal IQs were asked to play a simple investment game. Fifteen of the group had suffered lesions on the areas of the brain that affect emotions.

The result was those with brain damage outperformed those without.

The scientists found emotions led some of the group to avoid risks even when the potential benefits far outweighed the losses, a phenomenon known as myopic loss aversion.

One of the researchers, Antione Bechara, an associate professor of neurology at the University of Iowa, said the best stock market investors might plausibly be called “functional psychopaths.”

Fellow author, Baba Shiv of Stanford Graduate School of Business said many company chiefs and top lawyers may also show they share the same trait.

“Emotions serve an adaptive role in speeding up the decision-making process,” said Shiv.

“However, there are circumstances in which a naturally occurring emotional response must be inhibited, so that a deliberate and potentially wiser decision can be made.”

The study, published in June in the journal Psychological Science, was conducted by a team of researchers from Stanford University, Carnegie Mellon University, and the University of Iowa.

See also: Psychopaths in Suits at Background Briefing

clock Posted Mon Sep 19th,  2005 - 10:25am by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


About Face

Plans advancing for world’s first face transplant

CLEVELAND, Ohio (AP)—In the next few weeks, five men and seven women will secretly visit the Cleveland Clinic to interview for the chance to have a radical operation that’s never been tried anywhere before.

They will smile, raise their eyebrows, close their eyes, open their mouths. Dr. Maria Siemionow will study their cheekbones, lips and noses. She will ask what they hope to gain and what they most fear.

Then she will ask, “Are you afraid that you will look like another person?”

Because whomever she chooses will endure the ultimate identity crisis.

Siemionow wants to attempt a face transplant.

This is no extreme TV makeover. It is a medical frontier being explored by a doctor who wants the public to understand what she is trying to do: give people horribly disfigured by burns, accidents or other tragedies a chance at a new life. Today’s best treatments still leave many of them with freakish, scar-tissue masks that don’t look or move like natural skin.

These people already have lost the sense of identity that is linked to the face; the transplant is merely “taking a skin envelope” and slipping their identity inside, Siemionow contends.

Her supporters note her experience, careful planning, the team of experts assembled to help her, and the practice she has done on animals and dozens of cadavers to perfect the technique.

But her critics say the operation is way too risky for something that is not a matter of life or death, as organ transplants are. They paint the frighteningly surreal image of a worst-case scenario: a transplanted face being rejected and sloughing away, leaving the patient worse off than before…

Read the rest of the article here



clock Posted Sun Sep 18th,  2005 - 5:33pm by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


“Canada’s weird” Says Geldof

Activist rocker takes poke at ‘poor old Paul’ at UN World Summit

By KATHLEEN HARRIS | Parliamentary Bureau, Ottawa Sun

NEW YORK Canada is “weird,” rocker-turned-poverty activist Bob Geldof told the world yesterday as he met the press at the largest-ever gathering of global leaders.

The mastermind behind this summer’s massive Live 8 concert was disappointed that lifting poverty was sidelined at the UN World Summit, and singled out Canada as one of the countries that should be doing more.

He’s baffled by Prime Minister Paul Martin’s reluctance to commit to the 0.7% GDP target by 2015—a benchmark that was first set by Canada.

“Canada’s weird,” said Geldof, prompting a roar of laughter from the international media.


“Canada invented 0.7. They really invented this great notion. Canada is the sole country of the G-8 enjoying a surplus.”

Holding a joint news conference with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Geldof said the Live 8 concert hosted in Barrie had a “revolutionary effect” in Canada.

He expressed some sympathy for Martin, who’s hounded by grassroots poverty activists and high-profile rockers.

“Poor old Paul. He’s getting it in the neck from Bono while he’s touring up in Canada and he’s getting it in the teeth from me,” he said.

Right now Canada falls far short of the 0.7% benchmark at about 0.3%, or $3 billion a year.


Finance Minister Ralph Goodale has said meeting the target would cost up to $40 billion over the next decade. But Geldof remains hopeful Canada will ultimately rise to the challenge, and urged Martin to play a leading role.

“Paul, join the club, dude!” he said.

International Co-operation Minister Aileen Carrol said Canada won’t be badgered into making a promise until it knows how and when it will be kept.

“To not say yes on this day is to be responsible,” she said in an interview.

Blair called on other wealthy countries to live up to promises to alleviate world poverty by lifting oppressive trade barriers.

Upcoming world trade talks in Hong Kong will be the test of will and a failure would “echo around the world,” he said.


clock Posted Fri Sep 16th,  2005 - 2:26pm by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


Passport Photos: “No Smiling Please!”

This has been policy in Canada for the last two years (I was not allowed to smile for my passport renewal photo). “Specifications state that eyes must be open and clearly visible, facial expression must be neutral (not frowning nor smiling) with the mouth closed, and photos must reflect/represent natural skin tones (amongst a long list of instructions on the passport photo form).

Smiling disallowed in German passport photos

Germans must now have the “most neutral facial expression possible” in passport photos. From the Associated Press:

    Facial recognition systems match key features on the holder’s face and work best when the face has a neutral expression with the mouth closed.

    “A broad smile, however nice it may be, is therefore unacceptable,” the Interior Ministry said in a statement.

Link via Boing Boing

clock Posted Thu Sep 15th,  2005 - 9:22pm by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


Pirate Images


There’s an interesting collection of pirate images here.

clock Posted Wed Sep 14th,  2005 - 11:01pm by CPC  Return to home page Top of page



Mulroney devastated by Peter C. Newman book

G.S.T., Meech Lake, and Airbus… oh my! Yup, Sir John A. would be PROUD!!

CBC News

A spokesman for Brian Mulroney said Monday the ailing former prime minister feels “devastated” and “betrayed” by the release of a tell-all book by Peter C. Newman.

Luc Lavoie said Monday that Mulroney was stunned to turn on the television and learn that what he considered his private reflections would be on store shelves this week. Lavoie said that while Mulroney was furious at his estranged friend, he also blamed himself. According to Lavoie, Mulroney said “I was reckless in talking with Peter.C.Newman. This was my mistake and I’m going to have to live with it.”

Mulroney is undergoing physiotherapy and still recovering from surgery following a severe bout of pancreatitis months ago.

Peter C. Newman
Lavoie said Mulroney is not challenging the accuracy of the book, The Secret Mulroney Tapes, and has no plans for legal action.

The material in the book is based on 330 conversations with Mulroney that took place over 20 years that include crude references about his successor Kim Campbell, startling admissions about the Meech Lake Accord and vicious outbursts at the media and anyone else he felt deprived him of his legacy as the greatest prime minister since John A. Macdonald .

The book quotes Mulroney saying that Pierre Trudeau ’s contribution “was not to build Canada but to destroy it.”

Of Lucien Bouchard , he says, “I have never known a more vulgar expression of betrayal and deceit.”

“By the time history is done looking at this, and you look at my achievements as opposed to others, certainly no one will be in Sir John A.’s league—but my nose will be a little ahead of most in terms of achievements,” Newman quotes Mulroney as saying.

Lavoie said Mulroney and Newman signed a deal when Mulroney became Tory leader in 1983. Under that arrangement, Newman would have unlimited access to Mulroney.

Lavoie said in all his conversations with Newman, Mulroney just thought he was gabbing with an old friend. “Brian Mulroney is a very colourful, entertaining man in a conversation that says things that are said because they’re entertaining,” he said.

Mulroney served as prime minister from Sept. 1984 to June 1993. After he left office, his Progressive Conservative party was trounced by Jean Chrétien’s Liberals.


clock Posted Tue Sep 13st,  2005 - 4:47pm by CPC  Return to home page Top of page



Undoing Darwin

By Chris Mooney and Matthew C. Nisbet | Columbia Journalism Review

On March 14, 2005, The Washington Post’s Peter Slevin wrote a front-page story on the battle that is “intensifying across the nation” over the teaching of evolution in public-school science classes. Slevin’s lengthy piece took a detailed look at the lobbying, fund-raising, and communications tactics being deployed at the state and local level to undermine evolution. The article placed a particular emphasis on the burgeoning “intelligent design” movement, centered at Seattle’s Discovery Institute, whose proponents claim that living things, in all their organized complexity, simply could not have arisen from a mindless and directionless process such as the one so famously described in 1859 by Charles Darwin in his classic, The Origin of Species.

Charles Darwin

Yet Slevin’s article conspicuously failed to provide any background information on the theory of evolution, or why it’s considered a bedrock of modern scientific knowledge among both scientists who believe in God and those who don’t. Indeed, the few defenders of evolution quoted by Slevin were attached to advocacy groups, not research universities; most of the article’s focus, meanwhile, was on anti-evolutionists and their strategies. Of the piece’s thirty-eight paragraphs, twenty-one were devoted to this “strategy” framing — an emphasis that, not surprisingly, rankled the Post’s science reporters. “How is it that The Washington Post can run a feature-length A1 story about the battle over the facts of evolution and not devote a single paragraph to what the evidence is for the scientific view of evolution?” protested an internal memo from the paper’s science desk that was copied to Michael Getler, the Post’s ombudsman. “We do our readers a grave disservice by not telling them. By turning this into a story of dueling talking heads, we add credence to the idea that this is simply a battle of beliefs.” Though he called Slevin’s piece “lengthy, smart, and very revealing,” Getler assigned Slevin a grade of “incomplete” for his work.

Slevin’s incomplete article probably foreshadows what we can expect as evolution continues its climb up the news agenda, driven by a rising number of newsworthy events. In May, for example, came a series of public hearings staged by evolution-theory opponents in Kansas. In Cobb County, Georgia, a lawsuit is pending over anti-evolutionist textbook disclaimers (the case is before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit). And now comes the introduction of intelligent design into the science curriculum of the Dover, Pennsylvania, school district, a move that has triggered a First Amendment lawsuit scheduled to be argued in September before a federal judge in Harrisburg. President Bush and Senator Bill Frist entered the fray in early August, when both appeared to endorse the teaching of intelligent design in science classes.

As evolution, driven by such events, shifts out of scientific realms and into political and legal ones, it ceases to be covered by context-oriented science reporters and is instead bounced to political pages, opinion pages, and television news. And all these venues, in their various ways, tend to deemphasize the strong scientific case in favor of evolution and instead lend credence to the notion that a growing “controversy” exists over evolutionary science. This notion may be politically convenient, but it is false…

Read the rest of this article here


clock Posted Mon Sep 12th,  2005 - 8:55pm by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


Open D tuning…

This is shaping up to be an incredible weekend weather-wise! After the relative heat and humidity we experienced during most of July and August, it’s wonderfully cool and dry here in on the West Island.

I should have gone sailing tonight, but ended up watching the Katrina Disaster Relief concert instead—after that I couldn’t get motivated to be out on the water, since I only wanted to noodle on the guitar. Incidentally, it was very cool to see ol’ Neil Young behind a piano!

Something got me to thinking about slide guitar and Delta Blues… had to have been all the stories about heart-breaking diaspora and images of flooded communities in the Gulf Coast (man, I am furious at the ineptitude and bungling of the U.S. government’s so-called relief effort!). This got me to pickin’ some blues.

I’ve been fooling around with alternate tunings for years, but mostly open E, drop D (sometimes double drop D), and more recently, DADGAD (modal D). This evening I discovered open D, which is DADF#AD. Oh man, what a blast!! Everything I used to do in open E works amazing well in this tuning, only better. I played for hours!

Anticipating leading worship this Sunday, I’ve worked up Chris Tomlin’s Famous One, which we’ll rehearse tomorrow evening. A friend has been asking me to do it since he returned from a year home in England. It’s really a great song—and I’m looking forward to introducing it.

The early part of tomorrow will hopefully be a day on the lake.


clock Posted Fri Sep 9th,  2005 - 11:47pm by CPC  Return to home page Top of page



Watermelons = Dinosaur Eggs

dinosaur egg
When (for some strange reason) watermelons are packaged as dinosaur eggs, they suddenly become twice as appealing.


Cheaper by the dozen?


Link (via Bubblegum Fink)

See also: Prehistoric Oatmeal at Quaker Oats.



clock Posted Thu Sep 8th,  2005 - 8:30pm by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


Krispy Kreme down to a half-dozen stores in Canada

CBC News

The lineups and the media buzz are gone, and so are most of its stores. Krispy Kreme, which entered Canada with a bang, has shriveled to a half-dozen doughnut stores.

KremeKo Inc., which has exclusive franchise in every province except British Columbia, filed for protection from its creditors on April 15. It tried to find a suitable buyer this summer but was unsuccessful.

KremeKo hopes that it can salvage its six remaining stores.

RELATED STORY: June 10, 2005: Krispy Kreme’s Canadian assets for sale

“Although the company has closed six of the twelve stores operating since the granting of (bankruptcy protection), management believes that the remaining six stores represent a suitable core operation and is not planning any further store closures,” the court-appointed monitor, Joe Pernica of Ernst & Young Inc., said in court documents last week.

Krispy Kreme’s hard times are a far cry from the heady days when the treat trumpeted its move north to Canada.

In 2000, KremeKo won the Canadian rights to the Krispy Kreme name. It was required to open 32 stores within seven years. And it had to pay Krispy Kreme $40,000 US for each as well as 4.5 per cent of sales.

When the first store opened in Mississauga, Ont., in 2001, Krispy Kreme’s customers lined up in eager anticipation, and were happy to shell out $70,000 for opening day doughnuts.

But by January 2005, KremeKo had fallen on hard times and had closed six of its 18 stores in Canada.

Things were also tough south of the border. North Carolina-based Krispy Kreme’s once-rosy financial fortunes began dimming in the spring of 2004, when it reported its first quarterly loss, placing much of the blame on the rising popularity of low-carbohydrate diets.

clock Posted Wed Sep 7th,  2005 - 12:11pm by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


‘Katrinagate’ fury spreads

This is interesting; a South African correspondent ’s view of things in DC (and particularly the odd relationship between the American press and the current administration):

Gabrielle Chwallek | NEWS24.com

Washington - “For God’s sake, are you blind?,” a woman shouts at the head of the federal emergency management agency (FEMA), Michael Brown.

“You’re patting each other on the back, while people here are dying.”

The woman is not a victim of Hurricane Katrina. She is a reporter with US television network MSNBC who is so affected by the misery she has witnessed she can hold back no longer.

“Katrinagate” is the term being used by the media to describe the biggest challenge facing the political establishment in the US since the Watergate affair in the 1970s toppled Richard Nixon.

Not for decades has there been such merciless questioning of the president and his administration by the US media.

Even now, as the rescue operation gets underway in earnest and the flood waters in New Orleans are starting to subside, the federal government’s inadequate reaction – in the run-up to the hurricane and directly afterwards – is still being criticized by the media in reports which are anything but detached.

Never before, say some observers, have US reporters been so emotionally involved in a story to the point of being enraged.

They are not just telling a story, they have become part of it.

“Has Katrina saved the US media,?” asked BBC reporter Matt Wells who sees the shift in tone as a potentially historic development.

A number of US journalists who cover federal politics, especially television presenters, had become part of the political establishment, says Wells.

“They live in the same suburbs, go to the same parties. Their television companies are owned by large conglomerates who contribute to election campaigns.”

It’s a “perfect recipe” for fearful, self-censoring reportage, he says, but thinks “since last week, that’s all over”.

The ‘Big One’

But if the Bush administration’s reaction to Hurricane Katrina was slow, so too was the media’s.

On Friday, reporters at the scene were still having difficulties establishing the scale of the disaster and the number of dead.

Used to reporting on comparatively harmless storms, heroically riding out the storms with windblown hairdos, they were then confronted with the “Big One”.

The television reporters, particularly, were left scrambling in the first few hours of coverage as they tried to comprehend the scale of the disaster.

Then came the emotion. A CNN reporter broke down as she described the cries of help of people stuck on rooftops in Louisiana.

Other journalists also related what they saw in broken voices.

Then the federal officials rolled into town and the press conferences started, with politicians thanking one another for their tireless efforts.

Next came anger. “This isn’t Iraq, this isn’t Somalia, this is our home,” one NBC television reporter shouted.

The usually stoic ABC television presenter Ted Koeppel lashed out at FEMA head Brown in a interview, when he could not give any details on the number of refugees waiting to be rescued from the Convention Centre.

“Don’t you people ever look at television?,” the veteran presenter raged.

“Don’t you ever hear the radio? We’ve been reporting on the crisis at the Convention Centre for a lot longer than just today.”


A CNN journalist also attacked Brown. “How it is possible that we have better information than you? Why aren’t supplies being dropped in (by plane).

“In Banda Aceh, in Indonesia, they did it two days after the tsunami.”

Another CNN reporter interrupted senator Mary Landrieu during an interview in which she was praising congress for passing an emergency aid package.

“Excuse me senator, I’m sorry for interrupting. I haven’t heard anything about that, because I was busy these past four days seeing dead people on the street.

“And when I hear how one politician congratulating the others…Yesterday there was a corpse on the street which had been eaten by rats because it had been there for 48 hours.”

If the alarm bells are not already going off in the Oval Office, they should be, because the previously staunchly pro-Bush Fox News is also starting to show signs of disaffection.

As one of their reporters was being directed to another area because of the danger caused by looting, he spoke quickly into his microphone, saying: “These people are desperate.

“Why shouldn’t they try to steal water and food from us?” – Sapa-dpa

See also: BBC | Has Katrina saved US media?


clock Posted Tue Sep 6th,  2005 - 9:02am by CPC  Return to home page Top of page

A few days ago on Good Morning America, President Bush said, “I don’t think anyone could have anticipated the breach of the levees.” Not true. Even animated cartoon characters knew the levees were vulnerable. The disaster currently unfolding in New Orleans was the subject of a 2004 public service announcement starring the perennially imperiled clay-character Mr. Bill (of Saturday Night Live fame). The transcript of the PSA can be read here and the eerily prophetic spot can be viewed here.

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clock Posted Mon Sep 5th,  2005 - 10:47pm by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


At the Front of Nowhere at All

As usual, Tom Englehardt at tomdispach.com nails it:

The Perfect Storm and the Feral City
By Tom Engelhardt

The headline was: “Direct hit in New Orleans could mean a modern Atlantis,” and the first paragraph of the story read: “More than 1.2 million people in metropolitan New Orleans were warned to get out Tuesday as [the] 140-mph hurricane churned toward the Gulf Coast, threatening to submerge this below-sea-level city in what could be the most disastrous storm to hit in nearly 40 years.” That was USA Today and the only catch was—the piece had been written on September 14, 2004 as Hurricane Ivan seemed to be barreling toward New Orleans.

I commented at the time: “When ‘Ivan the Terrible’ threatened New Orleans, correspondents there had a field day discussing whether the city might literally disappear beneath the waves—this was referred to as the ‘Atlantis scenario.’” I was then trying to point out that we might indeed be entering a new, globally warmed world of Xtreme weather and no connections whatsoever were being made in the media. At the time, global warming, if discussed at all, was a captive of the far north (melting glaciers, unnerved Inuit, robins making miraculous appearances in Alaska), and “Atlantis scenarios” were the property of distant islands like the atolls that make up the tiny South Pacific nation of Tuvalu, threatened with abandonment due to rising ocean waters and ever fiercer, ever less seasonal storms And yet just short of a year ago, not only was it well known that New Orleans’ levees weren’t fit for a class 5 hurricane or that the Bush administration was slashing the budget of the Army Corps of Engineers, but the “Atlantis scenario” was already somewhere on the collective mind. Now, it has been upon us for almost a week.

Much of New Orleans has become the Atlantis from hell, a toxic sludge pool of a looted former city, filled with dead bodies, burning in places, threatened with diseases like cholera and typhus that haven’t visited the Big Easy since early in the last century, and with thousands upon thousands of the black poor and a few of the stranded better-to-do like doctors, nurses, and a few local officials left for days on end with next to no way out. It is, in short, the feral city that thirty years of science fiction films (and post-apocalyptic novels) have delivered to the American public as entertainment as well as prophesy. (Think, Escape from New York).

Now, try this passage: “The evacuation of New Orleans in the face of [the] hurricane… looked sinisterly like Strom Thurmond’s version of the Rapture. Affluent white people fled the Big Easy in their SUVs, while the old and car-less—mainly Black—were left behind in their below-sea-level shotgun shacks and aging tenements to face the watery wrath.” Admittedly a vivid description, but certainly commonplace enough at the moment—except that it, too, was written back in September 2004 by Mike Davis, also for Tomdispatch, and prophetically labeled, “Poor, Black, and Left Behind.” It, too, concerned not Katrina’s but Ivan’s approach to New Orleans. So there we are. It was possible to know then the fundaments of just about everything that’s happened now—and not just from Tomdispatch either. ...

Read the rest of the article here.

clock Posted Mon Sep 5th,  2005 - 10:12pm by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


Once more into the breach…

Like any normal person, I’ve been floored by the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina, and the subsequent flooding following the breach of some of the levees surrounding parts of New Orleans.

The human cost is almost unthinkable. So many lives lost; many were left behind because they had not the means to evacuate. Some people are yet unfound, clinging to life or perhaps have just now died. Desperate.

The environmental cost is staggering. At this moment, oil is leaking into the Mississippi by the hundreds of thousands of gallons, chemical and gas fires burn out of control, and raw sewage coats everything submerged. It may be a month or more before the water can be pumped out (assuming the levies are repaired) and not many of the buildings left standing by the hurricane can withstand being submerged for this amount of time without collapsing.

(See: Ann Rice at the New York Times: Do You Know What it Means to Lose New Orleans?)

While activists and politicians point fingers and yell at one another, a couple of million people have been displaced, many (particularly the poorest amongst them) perhaps forever.

What can or should the rest of us do? (That’s rhetorical – I hope you’ve done something).

It was a wonderful rest to have taken time away from my church during the month of August, but I’m glad to be back, and I’m looking forward to the coming season.

I’ll be filling in on the worship team with Nancy tomorrow morning, and my thoughts and prayers will be with the folks on the Gulf Coast.

clock Posted Sun Sep 4th,  2005 - 6:54pm by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


Gumby Lives!

The current owners of National Lampoon have partnered with Art Clokey Productions to recraft the original Gumby TV series into an “edgy, irreverent” reinvention, called Gumby: The Lost Tapes. Lampoon will create and produce all-new dialog (and in some cases music) tracks. The “new” versions will appear on the National Lampoon Network, the largest college dorm television network reaching nearly 5 million college students on 600 campuses nationwide. National Lampoon will also be issuing the “new” episodes for sale on DVD. Full press release here.

clock Posted Sat Sep 3rd,  2005 - 8:22am by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


Filk Music for Nerd People

by Xeni Jardin | Wired News

LOS ANGELES At a suburban hotel here, in a windowless conference room called the “Hollywood” suite, a rapt circle of geeks sings songs about spaceships.

Accompanied by acoustic guitars, clarinets and the quacking of kazoos, the group sounds much like a traditional folk ensemble. But the lyrics and rituals set the music far apart. With its heavy sci-fi themes, this isn’t folk—it’s “filk,” a distinctive genre that took root on folk’s fringes about two decades ago and is now gaining broader attention thanks to internet radio and web downloads.

pig nose
You want miners on the moon who need a labor union? We got songs about that. You want asteroid truckers with broken-down ships? We got songs about that. If you want cats in space we got that too,” explains Mary Creasey, an organizer, producer, vendor and performer of filk music with her son Richard and her husband, John.


“We write about all the great fantasy topics … dragons, unicorns, vampires, castles, wizards, witches, what have you,” she continues in a soft voice with a hint of Appalachian drawl. “All the great contemporary hard science topics, too—computers, space, time travel, nanotechnology, you know—this ‘n’ that. And then, hybrids. Vampire computers. Vampire kittens. The computer necromancer who raises your PC from the dead.”

Several dozen filkers are up early this Saturday morning to attend the 19th annual ConChord, one of about eight yearly filkfests in the United States.

Read the rest of the article here.

clock Posted Fri Sep 2nd,  2005 - 10:48pm by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


The Illustrated ACME Catalog

ACME is a worldwide leader of many manufactured goods. From its humble beginnings providing corks and flypaper to bug collectors (“Buddy’s Bug Hunt/1935“) to its heyday in the American Southwest supplying a certain coyote, from Ultimatum Dispatchers to Batman outfits, ACME has set the standard for excellence.

For the first time ever, information and pictures of all ACME products, specialty divisions, and services featured in Warner Bros. cartoons (made by the original studio from 1935 to 1964) are gathered here, in one convenient catalog.

clock Posted Thu Sep 1st,  2005 - 4:47pm by CPC  Return to home page Top of page