[See correction and clarification at end.] Two months ago, Atlantic journalists James and Deborah Fallows began traveling around the United States in a small plane, visiting relatively obscure cities in a quest to find out what makes some thrive while others struggle. They spent much of last week in Eastport, Maine, hard up against the New Brunswick border. Jim's initial blog posts bespeak a community well on the way to recovery, populated by leaders determined to go the distance. Since Eastport shares much in common with struggling Atlantic port communities, Maritimers might want to perk up their ears. In a post last...

Pitch Interactive, a data visualization shop in Berkeley, California, has produced an interactive infographic illustrating the results of US drone attacks in Pakistan. I can't embed it, but clicking on the link will take you to a 90-seconds chronological overview. Clicking on the ATTACKS, VICTIMS, NEWS, and INFO links in the upper left corner of the infographic adds background information and sources. Less than 2% of the victims are high-profile targets. The rest are civilians, children and alleged combatants. This is the story of every known drone strike and victim in Pakistan. Since 2004, the US has been practicing in a new kind of clandestine military...

Perhaps you have seen this speech Kevin Spacey gave at the Edinburgh Television Festival last month. It's been making the rounds on tech and entertainment sites, and has more than a million views. But if not, please take four minutes for the pithiest explanation I've heard of the disruption that has upended the television and motion picture industries. [Video link] A few excerpts: The success of the Netflix model—releasing the entire season of House of Cards at once—proves one thing: The audience wants the control. They want the freedom...

Our friend the curmudgeon has been quiet for a while, but the spectre of Detroit's decayed grandeur propelled him to the keyboard: Move along, Nova Scotians. There's nothing for you to see in the grotesque collapse of the city of Detroit. Keep your focus on rural development. Don't worry about Halifax. It's wealthy beyond imagination. There's nothing wrong with its downtown that arresting a few panhandlers won't fix. Avoid tall buildings; spread out instead. Never mind that only seven of 16 HRM electoral districts are genuinely urban. You can count on the other nine councillors to keep the urban centre healthy and...

The number of "significant" natural catastrophes in North America causing more than $1 billion in losses of more than 50 deaths, 1950-2012: Number of natural catastrophes in North America, 1980-2011: For the climate change skeptics in the audience, these charts come not the Ecology Action Centre, the Natural Resources Defence Council, or the Pembina Institute, but from Munich Re, a $265-billion company that is one of the world's leading reinsurance brokers. (A reinsurer is an outfit that re-sells insurance liabilities when the risk becomes too great for a single retail firm, so it is on the front lines when catastrophic events loom.) Bear...

Facebook continually pesters me to entrer the "city" where I live, but rejects Kempt Head, Ross Ferry, Boularderie, and Cape Breton all of which are more-or-less accurate. It will allow me to enter Halifax, Sydney, or Baddeck, none of which is accurate. Contrast this with Google, which embraces locations with admirable granularity. Google effortlessly adopts islands, villages, hamlets—even micro-locations like Frankie's Pond and Parker's Beach—as long as it sees real people using them. This may seem a small thing, but it strikes me as a profound difference in the cultures of the two organizations. One constantly cajoles you into ill-fitting pigeonholes. The...

Here's the view this morning from the second storey of the Nova Scotia Power building on Lower Water Street. Photo: David Rodenhiser. Click image for full sized version. Of course, you can't see the NS Power building from this photograph, but I will take this opportunity to note that it is the most under-appreciated architectural marvel in Nova Scotia—a magnificent structure with many interesting features that combine to make it an exceptionally beautiful and functional workplace. The ground floor of the defunct coal-fired generating station is accessible to the public from the boardwalk side. If you are in the neighbourhood during business hours, you really should...

The James McGregor Stewart Society, a small voluntary group with a single summer intern, has managed to pull off in a month what the Disabled Persons Commission of NS (annual budget: $600,000) and the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission ($2.1 million) have not achieved in the decades of their existence. It has surveyed the accessibility of MLAs offices throughout the province. The results will not be a source of pride for Nova Scotia or its legislators. The survey rated MLAs' constituency offices based on parking facilities, power door buttons, entrance accessibility, washroom accessibility, and proximity to accessible bus routes. Since accessible bus routes are...

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that New York City has become the first major municipality to adopt the new active symbol of accessibility, which Contrarian first wrote about in September, 2011. The result of a collaboration between Sara Hendren, graduate student at the Harvard School of Design, and Brian Glenney, philosophy professor at Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts, the revised icon recasts the passive, static International Symbol of Accessibility (demeaningly known as the "handicapped sign"), investing it with vigor and a sense of motion. The Chronicle reports: New York, in a move that could spark similar updates worldwide, has now agreed to use...