By Bookmarked and Richard Warnica - Friday, May 10, 2013 - 0 Comments
It’s hard to say whether now is a great or a terrible time to publish a novel about Chechnya. On the one hand, more Americans than ever before probably know where Chechnya is. On the other, few of them are likely to view Chechens in a particularly favourable light. The Boston bombings—and the Chechen immigrants accused of pulling them off—seem bound to hang over Vital Phenomena. Which is too bad. Set in the Chechen countryside in the war years between 1994 and 2004, the book is strong enough to be judged on its own merits.
Marra, a recent M.F.A. graduate now on a fellowship at Stanford, has pulled off a difficult trick for a debut novelist. His characters occupy a world foreign to his own, yet he makes them believable. The story stretches back over the two Chechen wars, but its main plot spans just five days in 2004. It centres on: Akhmed, the worst doctor in Chechnya; Havaa, a young girl left in his charge after Russian soldiers kidnap her father; and Sonja, a London-trained surgeon drawn back to Chechnya when her sister disappears.
The book encompasses torture, infidelity, heartbreak and human trafficking, but also love, friendship, family and humour. Marra doesn’t gloss over the horrors of the Chechen wars. But he doesn’t dwell either, and despite the subject matter, this is not an exclusively dark book. In his afterword, Marra acknowledges a debt to Michael Ondaatje. Like Ondaatje’s Anil’s Ghost, Vital Phenomena is about the gaps left behind by the forcibly disappeared. It’s a difficult subject for fiction, but one Marra manages with a voice that approaches something like the gauzy beauty of Ondaatje’s prose.
Visit the Maclean’s Bookmarked blog for news and reviews on all things literary
By Bookmarked and Richard Warnica - Friday, April 19, 2013 at 11:00 AM - 0 Comments
A young American, the son of a single flight attendant and a man she met once in New Jersey, grows up poor in North Carolina. He works in an Austrian bakery, ogles a young debutante, and dreams of becoming a writer. Eventually, he wins a scholarship, goes away to school and meets the man who will become his chief rival and best friend. A third is added to their troika when the rival’s old school chum, a beautiful and fantastically rich young actress in a leopard-skin hat, appears on the scene.
Over the next decade the three swirl in and out of each other’s lives. The young American fails at writing. He steals another man’s identity, teaches journalism in Dubai, and travels the world penning fraudulent papers for rich young students in China. All the while he pines for the actress and plots to get her back, even as his own life and identity disintegrate around him.
Such is the plot of Leopards, a compelling and remarkably assured debut novel from Jansma, a Columbia writing graduate who now teaches writing himself in New York. Or at least it might be. Then again, it might not. As a narrator, the young American is fantastically unreliable, so it’s a bit hard to tell. As the novel proceeds, he changes people’s names, shifts their biographies and constantly calls into question his own version of events.
Jansma is playing here with notions of truth and narrative. But he isn’t doing so at the expense of his story. The result is a work that feels both classic and novel, a winking shuffle through narrative tropes that mines each for all the good it contains. It is, in short, a fantastic read, hopefully only the first of many to come.
Visit the Maclean’s Bookmarked blog for news and reviews on all things literary
By Richard Warnica - Saturday, April 13, 2013 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
The appeal of serial stories is all in the delayed satisfaction. It’s about waiting the whole summer to find out who shot J.R., or three years to see if Han Solo would make it out of the carbonite. It’s about cliffhangers and the blissful agony of wondering what’s next. But for fans of The Wheel of Time—a massively popular series of fantasy novels that debuted in 1990 and recently came to an end—it must have felt at times that the payoff would never come.
Set in an imaginary world of squabbling kingdoms, magic and swordplay, The Wheel of Time set a new standard for delayed gratification. Originally intended to be a handful of books, the series eventually stretched to 14, spread across 23 years, with more than 2,000 characters and nearly 12,000 pages. For a time, fans—who number in the millions and rival Trekkies for their fervour—wondered if it would ever end. In 1996, with eight books and nearly 17 years still to come, a writer in the New York Times joked that “humankind may well reach its promised apocalypse before Mr. Jordan’s characters do.”
The human race did survive to see the conclusion of The Wheel of Time. But its creator, Robert Jordan, did not. He died in 2007 with only 11 books written. Brandon Sanderson, a young fantasy writer, was brought in to finish the series, and fans stayed loyal. In January, Sanderson released A Memory of Light, the final book. Like the titles before it, it debuted at number 1 on every major book chart in the U.S. To date, the entire series has sold at least 25 million copies in North America alone, according to Tor, its publisher. With international sales rolled in, that makes it quite possibly the most popular series of adult fantasy books since The Lord of the Rings.
By Richard Warnica - Friday, August 17, 2012 at 10:20 AM - 0 Comments
According to all the available evidence, winning the lottery is at best a mixed blessing for most. Money can be a destabilizing force. It can end marriages, change lives and rarely lasts—especially when it arrives suddenly and in great quantities.
Take the case of Michael Carroll. Dubbed by the British tabloids the “Lotto Lout,” Carroll blew through $20 million in less than eight years after he won a big jackpot in 2002. He was repeatedly arrested after his win and admitted to spending a fortune on drugs, prostitutes and jewellery. In 2005 he was given an anti-social behaviour order—an ASBO, in the common parlance—for destroying more than 30 cars with steel balls launched from a slingshot. He now lives on the dole.
Amis likely had Carroll in mind when he created Lionel Asbo, the title character and beating heart of his new novel. Like Carroll, Asbo is of the British class best characterized by a love of lager, bad food and casual violence. In prison after sparking a riot at his best friend’s wedding, Asbo wins a massive lottery. When he gets out, he uses his new money to humiliate rivals, buy women and fund a lifestyle of gilded squalor.
Lionel Asbo clatters along with a kind of giddy chaos. The book opens with Asbo’s nephew—the moral centre of the story—contemplating a sexual affair with his grandmother and it never really looks up from there, as if Amis was channelling Borat, aiming for the squirms as much as the laughs. Luckily for the reader, he delivers plenty of both.
By Richard Warnica - Friday, July 20, 2012 at 9:50 AM - 0 Comments
Book by Dave Eggers
Eggers does so many things so well it can be hard to remember the things he doesn’t. Still only 42 years old, Eggers has already been an influential indie editor (Might magazine), a magazine prodigy (Esquire), a bestselling memoirist (A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius), a sports editor (ESPN The Magazine), a publishing magnate (the McSweeney’s empire), an ace reporter (Zeitoun), a philanthropist (826 Valencia, a group of literacy charities) and a screenwriter (Where the Wild Things Are). But what he hasn’t been, at least until now, is a novelist of any acclaim.
Eggers’s first work of fiction, You Shall Know Our Velocity!, was a nearly unreadable failure. His “novels” since have been either loosely fictionalized reporting (What is the What) or adaptations of other work (The Wild Things, based on the film). A Hologram for the King is something else entirely. A purely original story, it is also Eggers’s best writing in years.
Set in Saudi Arabia in the present day, the book tells the story of Alan Clay, a middle-aged consultant trying to broker a technology deal between a U.S. firm and the country’s royal family. The plot trucks heavily in a kind of industrial nostalgia. Clay used to sell bicycles for Schwinn before the company went bankrupt. Today’s he’s desperately peddling a hologram, trying to keep his career—and life—above water.
By Richard Warnica - Tuesday, June 12, 2012 at 7:20 PM - 0 Comments
Book by Irvine Welsh
Welsh was 35 when his debut novel came out in 1993. The Edinburgh native had already worked as an electrician, a city worker and a property speculator. In the years since, he has done nothing but write more books, a tribute to the success of that first one, Trainspotting, a disconnected narrative about Scottish junkies and alcoholics—written in a sometimes impenetrable phonetic patois—that became an unlikely worldwide hit. Skagboys is the third Welsh novel to feature the characters introduced in that book. (A sequel, Porno, came out in 2003.) Set in the years immediately preceding Trainspotting, it tracks childhood friends Renton, Sick Boy, Spud and Begbie (and a bushel of others) in the early years of Thatcher’s Scotland, as unemployment soars and heroin first floods the streets of Leith, the working-class Edinburgh neighbourhood where the boys (and Welsh) grew up.
Fans of Trainspotting will find plenty to like here. Skagboys, like most of Welsh’s work, comes stuffed with sex, drugs, violence and black acts. (Sick Boy and Begbie are especially vile.) But Skagboys is also both more political and less urgent than Trainspotting was. Welsh goes some way to explain, if not excuse, the lives his characters live here. The book opens with a long set piece, narrated by Renton, about a strike-breaking police raid, and Thatcher’s war on the working class is a recurring theme. What’s lacking, however, is the giddy, anarchic chaos that made Trainspotting feel so vital on first read. The narrative in Skagboys always comes off a bit preordained (maybe that’s inevitable in a prequel). Still, it’s a dark, funny, sometimes sexy read, just not necessarily an essential one.
By Richard Warnica - Tuesday, June 12, 2012 at 6:50 PM - 0 Comments
The true story of Stephen Lea Sheppard … after Wes Anderson, and after Freaks and Geeks
Stephen Lea Sheppard wakes early most mornings. About 6 a.m. he cuts an orange, makes tea, and sits at his desk, which has five video game consoles and two large computer screens stacked on top of it. For five or six hours he’ll play games, write reviews or talk online, sometimes to Richard Clayton in Virginia, his best friend even though they’ve never met. Sometime after noon he’ll clean up, head outside and wait for the bus that will take him to his job as a dispatcher for a cable company in B.C.
Twelve years ago, Sheppard was the most authentic geek on television. As Harris Trinksy on the Judd Apatow-produced Freaks and Geeks, he developed a cult following for his deadpan delivery and hyper-realistic demeanour, not to mention the wispy moustache, the long hair, and the body that looked so uncomfortable to be in. A year later, he played Dudley Heinsbergen in Wes Anderson’s The Royal Tenenbaums. Acting alongside Bill Murray, he delivered some of the funniest lines in a very funny movie. And then he never acted again.
Freaks and Geeks and The Royal Tenenbaums were two of the most influential comedies of the last decade. They are also the only credits on Sheppard’s CV. After auditioning on and off for a few years, he stopped looking for parts. At 29, he lives alone in a one-room apartment in Surrey, B.C., that he can walk the length of in 10 steps. There are boxes of role-playing games stacked along its walls.
By Richard Warnica - Wednesday, May 30, 2012 at 10:13 AM - 0 Comments
Book by Jonathan Franzen
Jonathan Franzen is quite likely the most celebrated and least liked author in America today. His novels Freedom and The Corrections were deliriously praised. But in his non-fiction, whether in writing or in interviews or speeches, he has a way of enraging some readers, especially those online.
Nothing in Farther Away, a collection of essays, reviews and reporting—most of which have already appeared elsewhere—is likely to change any minds. Franzen is, throughout, his usual self: brilliant and erudite but also technophobic, unpleasant and occasionally snide. He’s like a wonderfully insightful friend you love but never want to bring out: you just know that eventually, somehow, somewhere, he’s going to bring you down.
New Yorker readers will recognize most of the longer reported pieces here. There’s one on bird poachers in southern Europe, another on bird watching in China and a long piece on loneliness, Robinson Crusoe and his friend David Foster Wallace’s suicide. Franzen’s address from Wallace’s memorial is also included, as is a 2011 commencement speech from Kenyon College that treads familiar ground: the narcissism of technology and social media, the messy difficulties of real love and why songbirds are really the best. (Seriously, Franzen loves birds.)
By Richard Warnica - Tuesday, May 29, 2012 at 2:50 PM - 0 Comments
Apparently, they can save lives–and political careers
Two years ago, Árni Johnsen, a member of Iceland’s Parliament, flipped his car on the highway. The accident sent the vehicle tumbling 40 m down a cliff. Johnsen, remarkably, was largely unharmed. He attributed his survival to three things: angels, luck and—this being Iceland—elves. Johnsen’s car landed next to a large boulder, which an expert later told him was home to three generations of a single elf family. To thank them for sparing him, Johnsen had the 30-tonne rock moved to the front lawn of his home last week. (The expert told him the elves wanted an ocean view and, possibly, some grass to raise sheep on.)
In Iceland, road construction is often rerouted to avoid what is believed to be elf habitat, and polls consistently show a majority of Icelanders either believe in elves or are unwilling to rule out their existence. But Páll Stefánsson, editor of the Iceland Review, says Johnsen has another reason for his recent boulder relocation: image repair. In 2002, the MP was convicted in a massive corruption scheme and served jail time. Being nice to elves can only help his rehabilitation.
By Richard Warnica - Wednesday, May 16, 2012 at 12:16 PM - 0 Comments
Police working Toronto’s G20 summit committed systemic civil rights violations, resorted to violence and…
Police working Toronto’s G20 summit committed systemic civil rights violations, resorted to violence and blindly followed orders, even those they questioned, according to a scathing report from the Office of the Independent Police Review Director.
The 300 page tome found the Toronto Police Service planning for the summit “incomplete and inadequate.” The Prisoner Processing Centre, where more than a thousand prisoners were detained was “poorly planned, designed and operated.” And record keeping means no one actually knows how many people were arrested that weekend.
By Richard Warnica - Wednesday, May 16, 2012 at 11:18 AM - 0 Comments
Ioan Mang, the education and research minister in Romania’s new government, resigned Tuesday after…
Ioan Mang, the education and research minister in Romania’s new government, resigned Tuesday after allegations surfaced that at least eight of his academic papers had been lifted, nearly entire, from other sources.
The allegations first began circulating on 7 May, just hours after Prime Minister Victor Ponta, a Social Democrat, announced the appointment of Mang and other ministers of the new government. Last week, former prime minister Emil Boc, of the Democratic Liberals, called for Mang’s resignation, dramatically waving the allegedly plagiarized articles and the original papers in front of television cameras.
The scandal has dismayed many Romanian scientists, who are already nervous that the incoming centre-left coalition government might reverse some of the energizing reforms that were introduced by the previous centre-right coalition to improve the country’s sluggish research system.
Mang is, or was, I suppose, a computer scientist. His political career in Romania is now over. But should he wish to restart it somewhere else, he might want to consider Alberta, where copying academic papers is somewhere above throwing money at homeless people on the list of acceptable political sins.
By Richard Warnica - Wednesday, May 16, 2012 at 10:15 AM - 0 Comments
Facebook is moving to increase the size of its initial public offering by 25…
Facebook is moving to increase the size of its initial public offering by 25 per cent, a source has told Reuters, a move that comes despite increased fears over the social media giant’s longterm revenue potential. General Motors announced plans Tuesday to pull its advertising from the site. But that doesn’t seem to have quelled investor interest in the stock.
Facebook, founded eight years ago by Mark Zuckerberg in a Harvard dorm room, will add about 85 million shares to its IPO, floating about 422 million shares in an offering expected on Friday, the source told Reuters, declining to be identified because the information was confidential.
The expanded size, coupled with Facebook’s recently announced plans to raise the IPO price range, would make Facebook the third-largest initial share sale in U.S. history after Visa Inc and GM. Facebook declined to comment on the increased IPO size, which was first reported by CNBC on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, on Gizmodo, Mat Honan has a long, interesting read on how Yahoo killed Flickr and what lessons that failure holds for other tech giants swallowing startups.
Because Flickr wasn’t as profitable as some of the other bigger properties, like Yahoo Mail or Yahoo Sports, it wasn’t given the resources that were dedicated to other products. That meant it had to spend its resources on integration, rather than innovation. Which made it harder to attract new users, which meant it couldn’t make as much money, which meant (full circle) it didn’t get more resources. And so it goes.
As a result of being resource-starved, Flickr quit planting the anchors it needed to climb ever higher. It missed the boat on local, on real time, on mobile, and even ultimately on social—the field it pioneered. And so, it never became the Flickr of video; YouTube snagged that ring. It never became the Flickr of people, which was of course Facebook. It remained the Flickr of photos. At least, until Instagram came along.
The whole piece is worth reading, but if you want Honan’s view on Yahoo in one sentence, this one probably does it:
If the Internet really were a series of tubes, Yahoo would be the leaking sewage pipe, covering everything it comes in contact with in watered-down shit.
By Richard Warnica - Wednesday, May 16, 2012 at 9:52 AM - 0 Comments
Ontario may soon have allies in its fight to claw back fees for some…
Ontario may soon have allies in its fight to claw back fees for some physicians. Alberta, which recently gave doctors an $181 million raise, has signalled it too is looking to cut costs, joining B.C., Nova Scotia and Manitoba in the battle against the (medical fee) bulge, according to a story in Wednesday’s Globe.
The Globe’s Adam Radwanski, meanwhile, has a good breakdown of exactly who stands to lose money under the Ontario plan, and why:
Three groups of specialists – radiologists, cardiologists, ophthalmologists – have seen their pay rise astronomically since the 1990s, largely because advances in technology have enabled them to perform more procedures than previously. Now, Dalton McGuinty’s Liberals want to cut their rates by double-digit percentages, generating hundreds of millions of dollars in savings. It’s not the only measure aimed at freezing the total amount spent on doctors’ wages, which effectively means a cut to per-doctor spending, but it’s the largest one.
It’s easy to see where the government is coming from. Cataract surgeons are acknowledged even by many doctors to be overpaid, with some making more than $1-million annually. Diagnostic radiologists join them in averaging more than $650,000 in annual fees, making them the two highest-paid groups of doctors. Cardiologists aren’t much behind, averaging nearly $600,000 annually. Even subtracting overhead costs that doctors pay, that’s a lot of money for fairly straightforward work, by medical standards.
By Richard Warnica - Wednesday, May 16, 2012 at 7:56 AM - 0 Comments
The trial of Ratko Mladic, the former Bosnian-Serb general who helped plan and oversee…
The trial of Ratko Mladic, the former Bosnian-Serb general who helped plan and oversee the Siege of Sarajevo, is underway in The Hague. Mladic stands accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity for orchestrating a savage program of ethnic cleansing that culminated in Srebenica in 1995, where more than 7000 Muslim men and boys were murdered.
From the BBC:
Prosecuting counsel Dermot Groome said they would prove Gen. Mladic’s hand in the crimes.
“Four days ago marked two decades since Ratko Mladic became the commander of the main staff of the army of Republika Srpska – the VRS,” he said.
“On that day, Mladic began his full participation in a criminal endeavour that was already in progress. On that day, he assumed the mantle of realising through military might the criminal goals of ethnically cleansing much of Bosnia. On that day he commenced his direct involvement in serious international crimes.”
Mr Groome said that by the time Gen. Mladic and his troops had “murdered thousands in Srebrenica” they were “well-rehearsed in the craft of murder”.
Mladic, who spent more than a decade on the run, hidden from justice in Serbia, has called the charges “monstrous.” In court Tuesday, he faced not only the prosecutors but a hostile audience as well.
From the NY Times:
In the crowded public gallery, a group of survivors from Bosnia murmured insults as Mr. Mladic appeared with one woman shouting “vulture” as he turned to scan the crowd and give a thumbs-up sign as he spotted an acquaintance.
During a break Kada Hotic, who had traveled from Srebrenica, was sobbing “He ordered the killing of my husband, my son, my two brothers and my brother-in-law,” she said. “Now that I look him in the face, I want revenge.”
By Richard Warnica - Wednesday, May 16, 2012 at 7:53 AM - 0 Comments
A former top U.S. intelligence official is sounding the alarm about a Chinese tech…
A former top U.S. intelligence official is sounding the alarm about a Chinese tech firm’s entrance into the Canadian telecom market. In an interview with CBC, Michelle K. Van Cleave, who was the head of U.S. counter-intelligence under George W. Bush, called Huawei Technologies a “stalking horse” for Chinese military and security designs. The company has been banned from major telecom projects in the U.S. and Australia, but has already inked partnerships with Canadian companies including Telus, Bell, SaskTel and WIND Mobile.
From the CBC:
Van Cleave says the intelligence community fears digital “back doors” could be hidden in the telecommunications networks, allowing spies to steal American and Canadian secrets and ultimately disrupt everything from public utilities to military operations in the event of international conflict.
She says the U.S. government’s actions to prevent Huawei from taking over U.S. telecom companies, or participating in major infrastructure projects, “is the right thing to be doing.”
The Harper government’s own Department of Public Safety warned more than a year ago that Canada’s telecommunications network is too important to be left to foreign companies.
In a secret memo written in 2011 and obtained under the Access to Information Act, a senior public safety official says “the security and intelligence community” believes that throwing open the Canadian telecom market to foreign companies “would pose a considerable risk to public safety and national security.”
By Richard Warnica - Tuesday, May 15, 2012 at 4:59 PM - 0 Comments
General Motors announced plans to stop advertising on Facebook Tuesday, just days before shares…
General Motors announced plans to stop advertising on Facebook Tuesday, just days before shares in the social media giant are set to hit the open market. Executives at the auto making giant just aren’t convinced the ads work, according to the Wall Street Journal, which—though I’m not an expert on the subject—seems like a pretty good reason not to spend money on something.
GM plans to continue pouring money into its Facebook presence, but only through “content” (branded pages, etc) as opposed to paid advertising. The move comes at an unfortunate time for Facebook, which is set for an initial public offering with a valuation of up to US $104 billion dollars Friday. From the WSJ:
Although GM’s $10 million worth of ad spend on Facebook won’t impact its $3.7 billion in revenue, the move is a disappointing development for the social network and could hurt if more big advertisers choose to follow suit.
GM’s pull back comes as marketers are increasingly questioning paid advertising on Facebook. Some advertisers said they find it very difficult measure the effectiveness of Facebook ads.
By Richard Warnica - Tuesday, May 15, 2012 at 4:10 PM - 0 Comments
A new investigative report by the Columbia Human Rights Law Review is providing the…
A new investigative report by the Columbia Human Rights Law Review is providing the best evidence yet for what many have long suspected, that Carlos Deluna, executed by the State of Texas in 1989, did not kill gas station attendant Wanda Lopez in 1983. Deluna denied the killing until the moment of his execution. For years he told police and that another man, Carlos Hernandez, had committed the crime. (Hernandez was well known to police; after his death he bragged about getting away with Lopez’s murder, according to relatives.)
You can read a good summary of the Law Review argument, as well as an interview with the original prosecutor— who defends his work—in the Houston Chronicle. The journal itself has published a massive online archive of interviews, sources and documents related to the investigation on its website. (You can also read the entire 400-page investigation there.) The Chicago Tribune did a three-part investigation of the same crime in 2006, which you can read here. David Grann, arguably the best magazine writer in the world, wrote an award-winning piece on another disputed Texas execution in 2009. Read it here.
By Richard Warnica - Tuesday, May 15, 2012 at 1:36 PM - 0 Comments
The EU and the Eurozone narrowly dodged a second recession in three years, with…
The EU and the Eurozone narrowly dodged a second recession in three years, with better than expected growth in Germany masking continuing weakness elsewhere on the continent.
Initial readings on gross domestic product, the broadest measure of an economy’s health, released Tuesday showed Germany’s economy grew 0.5% in the first quarter, an improvement from the decline of 0.2% at the end of 2011.
The growth in Germany was enough to have GDP in the 27-nation EU and the 17-nation eurozone that uses the common currency both remain unchanged compared to the previous quarter, following a 0.3% decline on that basis at the end of last year. Economists had forecast that both would fall into recession with another quarter of falling GDP.
Eleven EU 11 countries remain in recession, however, including Italy, where GDP fell by 0.8 per cent in the first quarter. In Greece, meanwhile, coalition talks collapsed less than two weeks after national elections were held.
(A) spokesman for President Karolos Papoulias said the process of seeking a compromise had been declared a failure and a new vote must be held.
He did not immediately give the date for the new vote, but elections rules suggest it will be in mid June. A caretaker government would be formed on Wednesday, the spokesman said.
“For God’s sake, let’s move towards something better and not something worse,” Socialist party leader Evangelos Venizelos told reporters after the meeting. “Our motherland can find its way, we will fight for it to find its way.”
By Richard Warnica - Tuesday, May 15, 2012 at 1:10 PM - 0 Comments
Byron Sonne, an accused G20 saboteur and professed civil libertarian, was found not guilty…
Byron Sonne, an accused G20 saboteur and professed civil libertarian, was found not guilty on all charges in a Toronto court Tuesday.
Sonne spent 11 months in jail after his initial arrest before being bailed out. He was accused of four explosives-related charges and a single count of counselling mischief not committed for exposing flaws in the G20 security fence. Macleans.ca blogger Jesse Brown is tweeting live from the courtroom. You can read his life scroll of the judge’s verdict there.
You can also read his extensive coverage of all things Byron Sonne at Macleans.ca here.
By Richard Warnica - Tuesday, May 15, 2012 at 11:41 AM - 0 Comments
Rupert Murdoch’s former top-lieutenant in the UK was charged Tuesday with conspiring to pervert…
Rupert Murdoch’s former top-lieutenant in the UK was charged Tuesday with conspiring to pervert the course of justice. Rebekah Brooks, her husband and three aides stand accused of trying to hide information from police investigating the News of the World phone hacking scandal.
From the BBC:
The charges relate to alleged offences in July last year including concealing documents and computers from police.
The former News of the World editor and her husband said in a statement: “We deplore this weak and unjust decision.”
The charges are the first in an inquiry lasting 18 months – more than 40 other people remain on police bail in the investigation.
Brooks stands accused of, among other things, conspiring to remove seven boxes from the archives of News International, a move reminiscent of one that proved problematic for Conrad Black.
By Richard Warnica - Tuesday, May 15, 2012 at 11:36 AM - 0 Comments
The Conservative party has quietly shelved Bill C-30, the Internet surveillance act Toews once…
The Conservative party has quietly shelved Bill C-30, the Internet surveillance act Toews once asserted was vital to cracking down on kiddie porn. The bill is unlikely to resurface before the summer recess. In fact, it may never come back at all, wrote John Ibbitson in Tuesday’s Globe:
If the Harper government still wants to pass a law that would make it easier for police to track people who use the web to commit crimes, it will have to start from scratch.
That new bill, if there is one, will probably be shepherded by a different minister. That’s how much damage this botched legislation inflicted on the government and on Mr. Toews.
Ibbitson believes the prime minister is likely to prorogue Parliament before holding the debate necessary to send the bill to committee. If that happens, the so-called “lawful access” bill dies and the Tories start over, possibly with a new public safety minister to shepherd it through Parliament and the court of public opinion.
By Richard Warnica - Tuesday, May 15, 2012 at 9:46 AM - 0 Comments
Cross-border crime is only one of the issues affecting ‘the Fort McMurray of the U.S.’s north’
The strip clubs in Williston, N.D., are the rowdiest that Tatiana, an exotic dancer who has performed in Las Vegas and New York, has ever seen. Oil workers coming off the nearby rigs pack the city’s two clubs, Whispers and Heartbreakers, every night. They smell like work. They wear dirty T-shirts. They fall asleep face first on the bar. And then there are the prostitutes. Tatiana, who asked that her real name not be used, noticed them wandering though the crowd looking for customers on her first night in North Dakota. “They’re not in there to tip the dancers,” she says with a laugh.
Williston is the heart of Bakken oil country, the Fort McMurray of the U.S.’s north, for all the good, and bad, that brings. There are at least 3.1 billion barrels of recoverable oil trapped in the Bakken shale, a teardrop-shaped formation spread between North Dakota, eastern Montana and Saskatchewan, and likely many billions more. In recent years, new technology and high prices have made that oil both easier to get at and more valuable to sell. Today the race to pump it out—via a complex process known as hydraulic fracturing or “fracking”—is running at an Olympic pace.
As a result, North Dakota’s economy is the hottest in the U.S. Unemployment there was just three per cent in March, the lowest in the country. In neighbouring Montana, where oil exploration has been far more modest, the jobless rate stands at six per cent, well shy of the national average of nine per cent. All those jobs have served to make the Bakken region a magnet for newcomers. As many as 30,000 job hunters are expected to flood the area in the coming years, either to work for oil companies directly or, like Tatiana, to sell things to those who do.
By Richard Warnica - Tuesday, May 15, 2012 at 9:27 AM - 0 Comments
No job is a bad job, according to Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, who…
No job is a bad job, according to Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, who made the comments Monday in the latest sign yet the Tories will soon expect Employment Insurance recipients to take whatever work is available, no matter the pay or their own qualifications.
Government leaders have hinted for months that an EI overhaul is on the way. But the details have remained murky. Speaking to reporters Monday, Flaherty fleshed out those plans somewhat, saying there will soon be a “broader definition” of what’s known as “suitable work”—in other words, the kinds jobs recipients are expected to apply for and take before qualifying for benefits. “I was brought up in a certain way,” Flaherty said, according to the Globe and Mail. “There is no bad job. The only bad job is not having a job. So I drove a taxi. You know, I refereed hockey. You do what you have to do to make a living.”
By Richard Warnica - Monday, May 14, 2012 at 5:08 PM - 0 Comments
Quebec’s education minister is resigning, not just from cabinet, but from politics altogether, walking…
Quebec’s education minister is resigning, not just from cabinet, but from politics altogether, walking away from a tuition dispute that has sparked months of protest and chaos across the province.
From the Canadian Press:
Line Beauchamp said she was not resigning because of violence and intimidation related to the student strikes this spring.
The move leaves Premier Jean Charest with the thinnest possible parliamentary majority — with a one-seat advantage in the legislature, where the Liberals hold 63 of 125 seats including the tie-breaking Speaker.
Making the announcement at a news conference with the premier, Beauchamp said she was actually leaving because she didn’t feel like she was helping to solve the problem.
‘I am resigning because I no longer believe I’m part of the solution.’
Maclean’s Alex Ballingal was in Quebec recently reporting on the demonstrations.
Students began walking out on their classes in February. More than three months later, the dispute has become the longest student strike in Quebec history. The stubborn persistence of the strike has left many in the rest of Canada scratching their heads over why there’s been such uproar. Even in Quebec, the intensity of the protests has puzzled observers. “The whole political and media class has been taken by surprise,” says Eric Pineault, a sociologist at the Université de Quebec à Montréal (UQAM). Quebecers currently enjoy the lowest tuition in the country. And never mind that with Premier Jean Charest’s proposed hike, the average tuition in Quebec would then be the second-lowest in Canada. Yet more than 165,000 students are on strike indeﬁnitely. Many of them will lose their semester if they don’t head back to class soon. How did the movement attain such strength and longevity?
The answer lies largely with a particular thrust in Quebec society that links ideals of social democracy—such as widely affordable university education—to a sense of national identity. These ties date back to the Quiet Revolution of the 1960s, a time when Quebecers became maîtres, or masters, of their own province, instituting changes that gave Quebec a more left-leaning bent than elsewhere in North America. “The Quiet Revolution is a very important moment in Quebec history,” says André Pratte, editor of Montreal’s La Presse newspaper. “Every time someone questions the decisions that were made at the time, it’s almost as if you are trying to destroy a very important part of that moment.”
Martin Patriquin, meanwhile, analyzed the fallout from strike on his blog on Friday.
And as bad as it is, the situation is actually worse than it appears. That’s because the government has, in the last round of negotiations, allowed the student associations a say over how the universities spend their money—a power the student associations themselves won’t likely relinquish in the future.
Though it was scuttled by the students, the deal hashed out last week will likely serve as a blueprint for any settlement between the students and the government—which will come some time in the next year, Inshallah. It includes a clause by which an ”interim council” is set up to examine university expenditures, and apply the savings (if any) to a corresponding reduction in student fees, up to $125.
By Richard Warnica - Monday, May 14, 2012 at 3:17 PM - 0 Comments
Republican hopeful and noted gold bug Ron Paul announced to his followers Monday that…
Republican hopeful and noted gold bug Ron Paul announced to his followers Monday that he would stop actively campaigning in new states.
From the NY Times:
Mr. Paul made no mention of Mitt Romney, and he did not say he would spend time helping defeat President Obama. Instead, he vowed to continue pursuing a “delegate strategy” that would provide his movement influence at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., this summer.
“I hope all supporters of liberty will remain deeply involved — become delegates, win office and take leadership positions,” he wrote. “I will be right there with you. In the coming days, my campaign leadership will lay out to you our delegate strategy and what you can do to help, so please stay tuned.”
What exactly Paul plans to do at the convention remains to be seen. Some believe he’s mostly angling for a prominent speaking role at what is, essentially, a televised infomercial for the Mitt Romney campaign. Others, however, believe he’s in it at this point to build cache for his son, and likely successor to his movement, Rand Paul.