Tagged: Bethany Horne

If you’ve done no wrong, why fear NSA surveillance?

A catchy little ditty about surveillance of citizens, en français.

In partial translation:

If you have nothing to hide, then you could put a camera in your bedroom and your bathroom, and publish images on internet. Or if you have nothing to hide, then you can get your login and your password on facebook or in google, publish and everyone can go dig it.

Our lists of things to do
Our soft sms
Our writings of anger
And our address books
Our favorite pubs
Our schedules pool
Our sworn enemies
And the name of the neighboring

Nothing, nothing, nothing to be ashamed of
nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing to hide

H/T: Bethany Horne

The poorest president in the world?

[Video link] The presidential limo is a 1987 VW Bug. The presidential pooch has only three functioning legs. The presidential laundry hangs on the line, washed in water hauled from a well in the yard.

The president himself, Jose Mujica, who won a landslide victory in Uraguay’s 2009 election, carries six bullet wounds in his body, a legacy of his time with the Tupamaros guerrillas in the ’60s and ’70s. He also spent 14 years in a military prison, including two confined to the bottom of a well.

Mujica donates 90 percent of his $144,000 annual salary to charity, bringing his effective income down close to the Uruguayan average.

“No, I am not the poor president,” he told the BBC. “The poor people are those who always want more and more, those who never have enough of everything. Those are the poor because they are in a never-ending cycle and they will never have enough time in their lives.”

“I choose this lifestyle,” he added. “I choose not to have too many belongings so I can live how I want to live.”

Mujica recently signed a law legalizing abortions in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, and he is pushing a bill to legalize marijuana and give the state a monopoly over its production and sale.

Uruguayan voters appear to have a mixed reaction to Mujica’s ostentatious absence of material wealth. In recent polling, his personal popularity fell below 50 percent for the first time.

He needn’t worry though. When the 2015 elections roll around, he’ll be 79, too old to seek re-election under Uruguayan law.


Why papers sometimes miss stories

Tim Bousquet, pugnacious news editor of the Halifax news and entertainment weekly, The Coast, responds to Contrarian’s chiding of local media for failing to cover issues surrounding The Old Mill’s closure.

Hardly a week goes by that someone isn’t asking me — usually angrily — “Why isn’t The Coast covering issue X???”

There are a variety of reasons. The Coast — which is basically me, plus whatever freelancers I can lure with a minuscule budget, and the occasional intern — isn’t covering an issue.

Sometimes the issues are too far afield, out of our distribution area, so aren’t a priority. Sometimes other media are covering the issue adequately, and it would be silly for The Coast to extend our limited resources to duplicate the effort. Sometimes the issue doesn’t fit our mandate — the unending stream of young people riding/biking/pogo-sticking across Canada to raise money for the disease of the week, for example. Sometimes, believe it or not, we (I) simply don’t have the expertise or background to adequately report on an issue.

And then, sometimes, we might be inclined to report on an issue, but simply don’t know about it.

Which brings me to the “why isn’t The Coast covering the Sobeys/Old mill” thing. See, I even live the neighbourhood, and vaguely (if distantly) was aware that the Old Mill was closing. I knew nothing of the history of the place, and knew nothing about Sobeys plans.

Things like closing neighbourhood stores in poor neighbourhoods do indeed interest me, and I’d love to get some Coast perspective on them… but I can’t write about them, if I don’t know about them. I guess it’s far easier for some unnamed guy to snipe from the sidelines about how stupid/lazy/hypocritical The Coast is, than it is to pick up the phone and say, “Hey Tim! There’s an issue you might be interested in, let me fill you in…” or better yet, seeing how he’s a journalist, you know, *pitching a story about it.*

Jeebus Christ on a stick, I have a lot of shit on my plate, and can’t be on everything. The Chronicle has a bazillion people in its newsroom and misses things. Anyway, even though it was brought to my attention in a less than collegial manner, rest assured that now that I know about the Sobeys closing, I’ve assigned a writer to the story. Too bad your learned correspondent wasn’t interested in writing the story himself, but so it goes.

Contrarian readers unfamiliar with The Coast should know that, by Bousquet standards, the passage above constitutes a fairly restrained response to the poke we gave The Coast and its brethren. Also, notably, Tim’s explanation mirrors the comments that began our post: internet-induced turmoil in the news-gathering business has made it harder to find good reporting and good writing on local issue. In the US, several major newspapers have notoriously been outsourcing local news coverage to writer/researchers in the Philippines, as reported by This American Life and the Poynter Institute. By comparison, Nova Scotia is a local news Nirvana.

Finally, as noted here yesterday, OpenFile Halifax’s Bethany Horne has done what seems to be a definitive roundup of all things Old Mill- and Sobeys-related.

The Old Mill — pushback from preservationists and poverty advocates

Saturday’s guest post about the closure and pending demolition of The Old Mill, a seedy Wyse Road bar housed in the only surviving part of Dartmouth’s historic Rope Works, criticized peninsular Halifax heritage buffs for not trying to save the building. Our correspondent also said a new Sobeys supermarket on the site would lead to closure of the community Sobeys in Woodside, making life harder for impoverished mothers and seniors.

Beverley Miller, a member of the Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia board of directors, responds:

Preservationists can only do something if they know about a pending demolition… Until I saw an article on the closing in the Herald late last week… I heard nothing about this. I agree it is very sad and senseless. Surely Sobeys knows what they are destroying. The Sobey’s situation, like that of banks and gas stations that abandon neighbourhoods, goes against all the best principles of urban planning and the ‘densification’ HRM talks about but constantly undermines. This is a sad situation that pervades so much of our community life and disregards the needs of citizens.

Re: attacks on the ‘peninsula’ and whether anything else is of interest…  The Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia, a provincial body, has both a Communities Committee and a Buildings At Risk Committee. It has taken an active part in attempts to save buildings all over the Province… Issues of planning, such as the Old Mill and  the Sobey’s move, are driven by the communities and neighbourhoods as well as the heritage community.

Somewhat conversely, Phil Pacey, also of the Heritage Trust, responds:

The “protectors of heritage” are not silent on this one. We wrote HRM several weeks ago asking that this building be protected under the proposed HRMbyDesign commercial corridors plan. We did not know of Sobey’s plan. Since the sale was announced, we have written HRM to enquire about the situation.

The redoubtable Bethany Horne of OpenFile Halifax expended some shoe leather following up Contrarian’s post, and turned up many more interesting details. This, in turn, inspired comment from my favorite anti-poverty advocate, Stepping Stone executive director Rene Ross:

I find the comment from Contrarian asking where the anti-poverty advocates on this issue of interest. The Sobeys that is currently in the Primrose location is in extremely poor condition, and the quality of the food there has actually been not up to anyone’s standards, including the women in poverty I work with who live in that area. Yes, we need more grocery stores in low income areas, yet No Frills, which is more central to more surrounding low income areas (i.e. Jelly Bean Square), is much more affordable and of better quality.

Low income areas are wider and more entrenched than just the area close to Primrose. We need to remember areas that do not have any grocery stores nearby for folks on low income with limited transportation. Gottingen Street certainly comes to mind. And indeed, it also unfortunate to see that this old building is being torn down without any consideration for its historical value.

Finally, this note from Jon Stone:

Like the author of that well-written submission, I am a former reporter who once plied my trade amongst a throng of gifted and energetic colleagues who worked for numerous media outlets in what was then called “the twin cities.” The history and culture of my chosen community of Dartmouth was an inexhaustible source of stories linking the past and the present. My employers which included the Herald and subsequently the once mighty Dartmouth Free Press not only encouraged this type of journalism by their scribes but in fact demanded it.

Kudos for raising the flag about the detachment of reporters from the community they are supposed to cover. How can there be any public hue and cry if no one tells the stories? Sadly, we loose our awareness of heritage just as we once gained it through solid, well-supported grass roots journalism which is now absent.


Nova Scotia from space — video edition

Earlier today, I posted a photograph of uncertain provenance showing Nova Scotia as seen from the International Space Station at night, and wondered out loud where it had come from.

The estimable Bethany Horne of Halifax Open File pointed us to this Reddit post, and thence to this collection of NASA astronaut videography, where we tracked down the amazing sequence from which our image — a screenshot, as it turns out — was clipped. Check out this gorgeous time-lapse video from the space station’s January 29 pass up the East Coast of North America, starting at the southern edge of the Gulf of Mexico and ending off the northeast coast of Newfoundland. For full effect, view it in full screen mode.

From NASA’s annotation:

These sequences of frames were taken at the rate of one frame per second, therefore the slower speed of the video more closely represents the true speed of the International Space Station than previous videos.

This video was taken by the crew of Expedition 30 on board the International Space Station. The sequence of shots was taken January 29, 2012 from 05:33:11 to 05:48:10 GMT, on a pass from just southwest of Mexico to the North Atlantic Ocean, northeast of Newfoundland.

This pass begins looking over Central America towards the Gulf of Mexico and the southeastern United States. As the ISS travels northeast over the gulf, some southeastern United States cities can be distinguished, like New Orleans, Mobile, Jacksonville, and Atlanta. Note the numerous bright spots of what are likely oil drilling platforms in the Gulf off the Mississippi Delta.

Continuing up the east coast, some northeastern states, like Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York City stand out brightly along the coastline.

The Aurora Borealis shines in the background as the pass finishes near Newfoundland.

Video courtesy of the Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, NASA Johnson Space Center. View more here.

A sympathetic reporter’s honest account of OccupyNS problems

Lots of reaction to HRMs forcible eviction of the Occupy Nova Scotia protesters. The best piece of actual reporting comes from a blog post by Bethany Horne, news curator for the recently launched indie website Openfile Halifax. A recent King’s grad with a progressive sensibility, Horne didn’t flinch from describing some of the incipient problems at the encampment:

[I]f the events of November 11 hadn’t happened, I’m not sure how much longer the gathering would’ve lasted. At the November 9 general assembly, tensions were high. The camp’s reputation for accepting anyone, giving them shelter, food and a makeshift community was attracting more people who needed help than people who were able to offer it. People who are homeless used the facilities at the camp: the medical supplies, the food, the kitchen, the common “hang-out” area. People are homeless in Canada for many reasons, but there is usually an addiction in their past or present, or a mental health issue. Homeless youth are usually fleeing the addictions or abuse in whatever house they escaped from.

This community of needy people became a sometimes violent place. There were clashes. The healthiest residents, from luckier backgrounds, who were there because of strong political convictions, were being attacked, a lot of times by the residents of the camp who were frequently in need of help. Either the healthy help-givers were not helping the help-needers enough, or they had made some mistakes that tend to happen when you’re overworked and only human. On Tuesday night, many Occupiers had been sick, throwing up in their tents. Sanitation had become an issue. Too many people eating, not enough people doing dishes, or not doing them well enough. Some people had been threatened, verbally or with weapons, and due to weariness some key political organizers had taken to spending more time away from the camp than at it.

In effect, Utopia was already being saddled with the ‘problem people’ our general society has major challenges assimilating. They had to host the rejects we sweep under the rug into jails, homeless shelters and the foster system all over the country.


That retreat away from the square and to the park had already affected the morale of the camp in more ways than was acknowledged to the press. The space was bigger, and camp had been allowed to spread out more. Divisions that already existed were allowed to geographically materialize. The centre of camp life was the paved square at the head of the park, facing the busiest pedestrian corner in the city. The living quarters of the Occupy camp sprawled South, down a narrow and long green space bordered by a much quieter street, residential towers, and a hospital. The deeper into the camp you went, the further away from the public. That’s where kids went to do drugs, and where it felt a little dangerous walking past sunset.

Predictably, many OccupyNS critics took this honest reporting to mean Horne supported the eviction, which she obviously did not. But she had the gumption to report problems on the side of the issue that drew her sympathies, and for that, good on her. The Chronicle-Herald and others could learn from this example of integrity.

Here’s the Halifax I love

While puffed up pols and media toffs worked overtime this week to present Halifax at its snotty, hidebound worst, one local business demonstrated the city’s best spirit. During tonight’s Occupy Nova Scotia rally on the Parade Grounds, a carload of free pizza arrived from Freeman’s Little New York, together with a note:

And how did the Occupy Nova Scotia kids respond? They voted to donate one of the pizzas to the HRM cops. Now that is classy.

Photo: Bethany Horne; H/T: Chris Lambie