PRETORIA — It was one of the odder moments in an already extraordinary trial. And no one knew quite what to do. A teenage boy, bought into the court by his barrister father during a tea break, stood grinning next to Oscar Pistorius, having already shaken hands with him earlier.
AUSTIN, TEXAS—Say this for Kevin Bacon: the guy’s a good sport.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the birth of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, the amusing parlour game in which one attempts to link a given actor back to the Bacon filmography within six or fewer connect-the-dots steps.
That’s an eon in the fast-fade terms of today’s information marketplace, inspiring the programmers of the 2014 South by Southwest Interactive conference — keen observers of social phenomena that they are — to convene a panel discussion on the topic on Saturday afternoon. And wouldn’t you know it? They got Kevin Bacon to come out to it.
Two Kevin Bacons, actually. When the near-capacity crowd cramming an auditorium at the Austin Convention Centre was finally invited to play a round or three of Six Degrees at the end of the presentation, the first guy who stood up was another chap named … yes … Kevin Bacon.
“I started to kind of hear about it in strange ways,” the “real” Bacon wryly recalled onstage in a conversation with Brian Turtle, who dreamed up the game with a couple of pals at Albright College in Pennsylvania in 1994 after drunken viewings of Quicksilver and The Air Up There.
“People would come up to me and say: ‘I was just playing your game! We were doing shots.’ And people would come up to me and touch me and say: ‘I’m one degree! I’m one degree!’ And I really didn’t know what was going on.”
Bacon himself was initially not that thrilled to be associated with the Six Degrees sensation, even recalling some mild anger at not being told he’d been booked on the same episode of MTV’s old Jon Stewart Show with the game’s three creators back in the day.
His attitude has mellowed considerably over time, however. In fact, the good-humoured actor — currently heading into his third season on the creepy Fox series The Following — confessed that he’ll often check guest stars’ “Bacon number” on Google before they come on the show just in case, either through “age or my misspent youth,” he’s forgotten that he’s actually worked with them in the past.
“I was horrified by it,” he laughingly recalled. “I thought it was just a giant joke at my expense. I thought it was, like, ‘Can you believe this a—hole could be connected to Laurence Olivier in six steps?’ At the time, I was very resistant to it.
“Eventually I grew to embrace it. And not to get too heavy about it, I truly believe there are a lot of other people who are probably more connected to more people. It just happened to be me.
“I don’t think it’s any kind of a testament to my abilities … but I do think that if you take me out of the concept, it is a concept that we should embrace the connectivity between all of us here and the responsibility that we have to each other in this world.”
True to his words, Bacon actually now runs a humanitarian website called sixdegrees.org that keys off the original notion of “six degrees of separation” — the idea, first voiced by Hungarian writer Frigyes Karinthy in 1929, that every person on the planet is connected to every other person on the planet through six or fewer relationships — that connects charities with celebrities who are in a position to give their causes a boost.
So far, as sixdegrees.org’s Dan McCabe pointed out during the presentation (which also featured brief, somewhat inexplicable appearances by Game of Thrones’ Maisie Williams and The Guild’s Felicia Day) Bacon’s efforts have helped more than 4,000 small charitable organizations raise more than $5 million.
“Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” has gone on to do some very real good in the world then, besides simply sticking around far longer than most passing fancies that strike our accelerated “here today, gone today” culture — to borrow a nice turn of phrase from Turtle.
Bacon himself can’t believe it’s still around. “You’ve gotta wonder,” he said, “if Six Degrees came out today how fast it would go.”
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AUSTIN, TEX.—Are we in danger of entering a new age of global totalitarianism?
So pondered WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in an unnerving address to the brainy hordes at the South by Southwest Interactive conference in Austin on Saturday afternoon, just one of the many talks and discussion sessions at this year’s event concerned with the intrusion of authoritarian eyes into the former Wild, Wild West of the Internet.
Indeed, Assange’s live interview with Benjamin Palmer of the New York digital creative agency the Barbarian Group, conducted via a somewhat (and somewhat ironically) glitchy Skype link-up from the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where Assange has sought asylum from U.S. charges of espionage since June 2012, will be followed on Monday by a another “virtual” SXSW appearance from an even more contentious exile, National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden.
The music portion of South by Southwest doesn’t start until Tuesday, but the real rock stars might already be here. Or here through the magic of technology, anyway; if either Assange or Snowden, who’s currently hiding out in Russia, were to set foot on American soil at the moment, they’d quickly find themselves being frogmarched to court.
The U.S. government might want him locked up, but the Australian-born Assange got a fond welcome from a packed auditorium at the Austin Convention Centre on Saturday. And his talk went well with the note of caution that’s crept into SXSW Interactive’s usual, enthusiastic futurism this year — particularly in light of Snowden’s ongoing revelations of the extent to which agencies like the NSA have been monitoring normal citizens’ digital comings and goings for years.
“The ability to surveil everyone on the planet is almost there, and arguably will be there in a few years,” said Assange. “And that’s led to a huge transfer of power from the people who are surveilled upon to those who control the surveillance complex. It’s an interesting postmodern version of power . . .
“How is it that the Internet that everyone looked upon as perhaps the greatest tool of human creation that had ever been has, in fact, been co-opted and (is) now involved in the most aggressive form of state surveillance the world has ever seen?”
Assange didn’t pull punches in his assessment of where the situation is headed. We are, he said, worrisomely “moving into a new totalitarian world — not in the sense of Stalin or Pol Pot, but totalitarian in the sense that the surveillance is total.” The penetration of the Internet by the NSA and similar intelligence organizations is “the penetration of our civilian society. It means that there has been a militarization of our civilian space. A military occupation of the Internet, our civilian space, is a very serious one.”
Knowledge is the best weapon against such violations of privacy conducted in the name of “national security,” Assange argued. The thinking behind WikiLeaks, which first ran afoul of the U.S. government in 2010 with the massive release of sensitive documents pertaining to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, has always been that “the best way to achieve justice is to expose injustice.”
Thus, he said, he finds it encouraging that such national reporters as Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, WikiLeaks’ own Sarah Harrison and Tor researcher Jacob Appelbaum — whom he classed as a “new kind of refugee” — have been able to continue their work in exile in friendly countries such as Brazil and Germany despite persecution from the authorities at home.
The only way to stop “rogue” agencies such as the NSA to continue prying into everyday peoples’ lives, after all, is to make it known exactly what they’re up to.
“They are hard to control. So we have to do something about it. All of us have to do something about it,” he said. “You might think we’re small and insignificant and how could we possibly do something about this situation, but what I’ve described is a movement towards a serious form of surveillance and totalitarianism and we know once we have that, if history is any guide, you get the other forms of totalitarianism, as well. So how can individuals do something about it? Well, you’ve got no choice.”
Asked whether WikiLeaks had anything else explosive lurking up its sleeve, Assange promised there would be much more material to come. He just wouldn’t say when.
“Yes, there is important upcoming material,” he said coyly. “I don’t like to give time frames because it tends to give the opponents of that material more time to prepare their spin lines.”
ET Quebec skip Jean-Michel Menard moves on at the Canadian men’s curling championship after defeating Manitoba on Saturday. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press) Quebec’s Jean-Michel Menard will play Alberta’s Kevin Koe to see who will challenge British …
Unionized container truckers will go on strike Monday morning, after members voted Saturday to reject a tentative deal with Port Metro Vancouver brokered by veteran labour mediator Vince Ready, Paul Johal, president of Unifor-Vancouver Container Truckers’ Association, says the deal was “too little, too late.”
Story Live now McLaren was recalled from the AHL’s Toronto Marlies earlier in the day. He took line rushes on the Leafs’ fourth line alongside Jay McClement and Carter Ashton and then was in the lineup for the fifth time…
MONTREAL—A star candidate for the federalist Liberal party in Quebec claimed to have voted to separate from Canada in the 1995 referendum, according to a senior Parti Québécois member.
Dr. Gaétan Barrette, the former head of the province’s federation of medical specialists, boasted in an interview televised Friday night that PQ leader Pauline Marois tried to convince him to run for her sovereigntist party in the run-up to the last election campaign in 2012.
Asked about the overture that was ultimately rejected (Barrette ran as a candidate for the Coalition Avenir Québec but was defeated), outgoing PQ minister Bernard Drainville told reporters Saturday that Barrette had been shopping himself around to all parties ahead of the last election.
Before any offer was made, Drainville said he wanted to test Barrette’s sovereigntist leanings.
“I asked Mr. Barrette: So, are you a sovereigntist? And he told me: ‘I voted yes in 1995,’ ” Drainville said.
Barrette later tweeted that he told the PQ it was his family who voted for independence, not him.
The 1995 referendum was the second attempt by a Parti Québécois government to make Quebec an independent nation. The first was in 1989. The federalist “No” side won the 1995 vote by the thinnest of margins.
In this election, Barrette has been rolled out as one of the Quebec Liberal party’s health experts by leader Philippe Couillard, who is himself a neurosurgeon. Couillard is an unabashed federalist and has repeatedly attacked Marois’s party in the opening days of the campaign for seeking a majority government in order to hold a third referendum.
“It would be interesting to ask Mr. Couillard if there are sovereigntists in his party,” Drainville remarked Saturday.
Couillard, who was campaigning in the towns of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu and Drummondville, did not immediately respond to the revelations about Barrette.
The leader of the Coalition Avenir Québec, which had 18 seats in the legislature when the election was called, said on Saturday that he would vote against independence in any possible third referendum. François Legault, a former PQ minister, was dogged in the 2012 campaign by an ambiguous position that he was neither a sovereigntist nor federalist.
A plane containing nine Lev Tahor members, some of whom are children subject to apprehension orders in Canada, has taken off in Trinidad and Tobago and is bound for Toronto, according to a highly-placed source within the island nation’s immigration division.
The sect members on the plane are in the control of Canadian authorities, the source said. The source said law enforcement agents are on the aircraft.
Peel Regional Police confirmed they are expecting a flight to arrive at Pearson International Airport and will be on-hand for the apprehension of the children by Chatham-Kent Children’s Services. Const. Fiona Thivierge, a communications officer with the force, said they are not expecting any problems.
“Chatham-Kent (Children’s Services) will be there to remove the children,” said Thivierge. “We’re just there to keep the peace while they do that.”
The flight, which departed Saturday afternoon, is scheduled to arrive around 11 p.m. that night, she said. Thivierge said she did not know if any criminal charges were pending and directed inquiries about that to Chatham-Kent police, who are leading the investigation.
A staff sergeant who is assigned to speak with the media on weekends had no information on the pending apprehension Saturday afternoon.
Six children and three adults were stopped at the border in Trinidad and Tobago this week over a ticketing mishap when authorities discovered that the children were the subject of a court proceeding in Canada. Chatham-Kent police said Thursday that 12 children are known to be out of the country, and the whereabouts of the other two is unknown. Denis Baraby, director of the Quebec child protection agency that first investigated the sect, said some of the children are in Guatemala.
MORE FROM THESTAR.COM
In November, a Quebec court ordered the removal of 14 children from three families in the controversial ultraorthodox Jewish sect Lev Tahor.
Quebec child protection authorities and police have documented allegations of widespread abuse within the community. Police documents related to a search warrant executed in Chatham and Quebec contain allegations of physical abuse, including beatings with a coat hanger, and underage marriage. The documents allege members of the sect confined children in the basement for punishment and say leader Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans exerts strict control over all members. The allegations have not been proven in court.
Leaders of the sect have categorically denied all allegations of wrongdoing and abuse. They say they are being unfairly persecuted by the government and child protection workers.
More than 200 members fled the province in advance of that order and resettled in Chatham, Ont., where they have since been mired in a months-long legal battle over jurisdiction.
An Ontario judge ruled in February that the Quebec order still applied to the children, however he placed a stay on his order to allow the families time to appeal. He made an order that the children not leave the region of Chatham-Kent. He did not take their passports or require daily check-ins. Instead the only safeguard in place was the authorization of “announced and unannounced” visits from Chatham-Kent Children’s Services.
News of the children leaving the country broke on the day the appeal was scheduled to be heard.
Superior Court of Justice Judge Lynda Templeton held a secret hearing Wednesday that resulted in an order to apprehend the 14 children. She excluded the media and the public from the proceedings, so the rationale for her order and any evidence presented are not known.
Lawyers for the Toronto Star and other media outlets will attempt to fight the secrecy order before the Ontario Court of Appeal next week.
It is also not known where the children will be placed or for how long. A hearing for the original appeal is scheduled for April 4.
Mark Levinson’s thrilling new documentary “Particle Fever,” which depicts the 2012 discovery of the fabled Higgs boson – the Holy Grail of particle physics, and makes the greatest scientific achievement of our new century come alive, and by making the…
ROSA KHUTOR – Many in the spectator stands had their hearts in their mouth at times Saturday watching the carnage-filled men’s sit-ski downhill race at the Paralympics. Canadian Josh Dueck was one of the guys to thrive, in part he believes, because of the “supernova” that was close to his heart.
ROSA KHUTOR – His regular guide, brother B.J., was in the stands, sidelined by a wonky back. And at 16, as the youngest skier in the field, Mac Marcoux was battling a big case of nerves. But visually impaired teenager from Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., laid down a solid run in this Paralympic debut on Saturday to claim a bronze medal in the downhill.
KRASNAYA POLYANA, RUSSIA—An American skier was stable and conscious Saturday at a hospital, where he was taken by helicopter after he crashed during the men’s sitting downhill competition at the Paralympic Games.
The skier, Tyler Walker of Aspen, Colo., tumbled several times and lay motionless before members of the medical staff rushed to his side.
On his Facebook page, Walker, 27, posted a photo of himself in what appears to be his hospital bed with the message: “I’m ok! I don’t remember crashing but I didn’t break anything. Thanks so much for all the support, it means everything. I totally got a ride in a Russian helicopter, though!”
Walker’s crash was the latest incident on a course that over the last several days has drawn complaints from racers for its bumpy terrain and soft, slushy snow. A freeze Friday night sealed the track and created favourable conditions for the early races, but the temperature rose and the snow had lost its firmness by the time Walker raced in the sixth and final event of the day.
Starting with Walker, who raced 13th of 22, six of the final 10 skiers did not finish the course. In all, only 12 finished as Akira Kano of Japan won the gold medal.
Walker was scheduled to compete in three other events, including the super-G on Sunday, but his participation was uncertain.
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A homeless man with sticky fingers encounters a mysterious mirror in Daisuke Kaneko’s ECIRAVA, a clever little animated short about… well… the title kind of says it all.Read more…
It can be a goofy question because it sets up an expectation that half the world, 3.5 billion people, can answer it the same way if it’s asked in exasperation because a woman was maybe annoyed at a man for insisting on paying for dinner, or didn’t want to go on a second date after all he did for her, or didn’t want him moving in. Something like that. In that context, it suggests women should get it together and be more consistent in their collective behaviour so hetero men can understand the “rules” instead of having to make (Read more…)
Two Canadian passengers aboard the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 that went missing earlier in the day, have been identified.
Xiaomo Bai and Muktesh Mukherjee were among the 239 passengers aboard the MH370 fell off radar screens less than an hour after …
Health officials are warning Fraser Valley residents to be wary of a measles outbreak in low-immunized areas of the region. According to Fraser Health, two cases of the highly contagious virus have surfaced in a Chilliwack school located in a community with “traditionally low immunization rates.”
Abbotsford’s Adam Hadwin will take a one-shot lead into Sunday’s final round of the Web.com Tour’s Chile Classic in Santiago.
Hadwin had six birdies and just one bogey in his five-under 67 Saturday that left him at 13-under par through 54 holes.
It’s rare to see our politicians out-politicked and out-talked by an outspoken business tycoon. But our political classes have been outmanoeuvred by Chrysler chief Sergio Marchionne:
Keep your government subsidies, the flamboyant industrialist huffed as he announced that the carmaker would proceed with minimal upgrades for its Windsor and Brampton plants. By leaving any bigger investments up in the air, he threw everyone off balance.
Blindsided by this bombshell, our politicians are still flying blind. Despite the brave rhetoric, no one saw this coming nor knows where it’s going.
Ontario’s Tories boasted they’d saved taxpayers a “suitcase of cash” earmarked for investment incentives. Opposition Leader Tim Hudak had publicly scorned Chrysler’s demands for more than $700 million in federal-provincial “ransom money” to secure a potential $3.6-billion investment.
Premier Kathleen Wynne, in turn, blamed Hudak for imperilling highly coveted car factories that buttress the economy. Even Hudak’s federal Tory cousins in Ottawa fingered him for generating political turbulence.
And in a scathing open letter, Marchionne lashed out at those who had turned the Chrysler investment into a “political football” — a clear reference to Hudak’s rhetoric. That said, it’s hard to imagine a major multinational changing course based solely on pre-election rhetoric from a little-known provincial opposition leader. More likely, Chrysler is merely biding its time before bidding for more money.
In reality, there are no heroes or villains in this political pas de deux and monetary ménage a trois. Just people role-playing and playing politics to appease voters and shareholders.
Pundits and oppositionists, both left and right, condemned any “corporate welfare” for Chrysler — remarkably united in their ideological if not very practical perspectives. Politicians in power, whether in Ottawa or at Queen’s Park, opted for a more pragmatic approach because they will be held accountable — not just financially, but politically — for any factory expansion or closing.
That’s why the federal Tories and provincial Liberals were actively trying to secure investment commitments and job guarantees from Chrysler. Without warning, Marchionne broke off talks — and peremptorily tossed out minimal, just-in-time (and just-for-now) investments for his Windsor and Brampton plants.
(One unspoken factor at play: Canada’s impending free trade pact with South Korea, which North American carmakers strongly oppose.)
Rather than bind himself to any job guarantees, Marchionne publicly ratcheted up pressure on the autoworkers’ union ahead of contract talks in 2016. His end game became clearer: once Chrysler extracts labour concessions, it will come back for more government incentives, as all carmakers always do.
If Hudak is premier two years hence, what will he do? He’ll woo Chrysler by any means necessary.
That’s what Bill Davis did decades ago, when his Tory government pulled out all the stops to get French carmaker Renault to open the Brampton plant in the first place. And that’s what the federal Conservatives have been doing of late to keep it alive. (The AMC-Renault plant was later bought out by Chrysler.)
In Ottawa, Tory Industry Minister James Moore praised Queen’s Park and questioned Hudak’s rhetoric: “The political dynamic of the province of Ontario … caused Chrysler to make a decision and frankly we’re surprised by it. We’ve worked well with … Ontario to try to move this along.”
If incentives are so bad, why has Hudak attacked the Liberal government for trying to wind down money-losing horse-racing tracks across Ontario? Why would the Tories prop up a relic of the horse and buggy industry while talking down next-generation automobile production?
Like it or not, there is a deeply entrenched global tradition of incentives for carmakers that generate economic spinoffs. Marchionne was shamelessly trying to ratchet up those incentives, but both sides know the standard formula.
With low corporate tax rates, low health-care costs and a declining currency, Ontario remains cost-competitive. But we must also be incentive-competitive: neither too much nor too little.
No point being ideologically purer but economically poorer. At some future point, our governments will have to play the bribery game if we want a bigger and longer term investment from Chrysler.
Would a future premier Tim Hudak choke off the Brampton car plant brought to life by past premier Bill Davis? Would he abandon automakers while subsidizing horse breeders? Don’t bet on it.
firstname.lastname@example.org , Twitter: @reggcohn
Dozens of military trucks transporting heavily armed soldiers rumbled over Crimea’s rutted roads Saturday as Russia reinforced its armed presence on the disputed peninsula in the Black Sea. Moscow’s foreign minister ruled out any dialogue with Ukraine’…
Dozens of military trucks transporting heavily armed soldiers rumbled over Crimea’s rutted roads Saturday as Russia reinforced its armed presence on the disputed peninsula in the Black Sea. Moscow’s foreign minister ruled out any dialogue with Ukraine’…
This week was the 33rd Annual CERAweek conference, described as “the energy industry’s preeminent gathering of industry leaders and government officials, offering new ideas, insight, and discussions on major strategic issues facing the global energy industry.”
So what happens when you get the industry leaders together with government officials at an event where tickets costs as much as $7,500?
Well, it’s always good to warm up the crowd with a joke, as Environmental Protection Agency head Gina McCarthy did in her remarks to the energy executives. She noted how they were preferable to the environmentalists because “They dress (Read more…)
Malaysia Airlines said Saturday it lost contact with a plane carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew on its way from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
Vietnamese air force planes on Saturday spotted two large oil slicks in the area where a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 vanished earlier in the day, the first sign that the aircraft carrying 239 people — including […]
Colleen Barry MILAN, Italy — Foreign ministry officials in Rome and Vienna confirmed Saturday that names of two nationals listed on the manifest of the missing Malaysia Airlines flight match passports reported stolen in Thailand. Neither European was on the […]
Hideki Matsuyama of Japan apologized Saturday to Ian Poulter and other two players behind him for damaging the 13th green at Doral with his putter in the second round and walking off the green without repairing it.
Drawing inspiration from the captivating kinetic sculptures of Reuben Margolin, this beautiful handmade automata by designer Dean O’Callaghan mimics the ripple effect of a droplet making impact with water. Read more…
TORONTO — It was a completely unrepentant Ezra Levant on the witness stand and, oh my, it was a sight to behold. The right-wing conservative writer and TV host — alternately dimpling, pointing his index finger at the judge and […]
The reeling Vancouver Canucks are back at Rogers Arena tonight and will attempt to climb out of their latest hole – a four-game losing streak – against the Calgary Flames.
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and Turkish Foreign Affairs Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu held emergency telephone talks yesterday to discuss shared concerns over the recent troubling developments in Ukraine.
America’s energy infrastructure is dangerously vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, according to a new report released by the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office.
The report, requested by a group of Democratic senators lead by Energy and Natural Resources Chair Ron Wyden of Oregon, breaks down in detail how all aspects of our energy infrastructure — from extraction through transportation through distribution — are even now being compromised by rising seas and water shortages and more extreme weather events and other impacts of climate change.
“U.S. energy infrastructure is increasingly vulnerable to a range of climate change impacts–particularly infrastructure (Read more…)