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Your Friday reads

Jack Kapica searches the Web and offers a selection of the week's interesting stories: a post-mortem on Hillary; a Canadian spoof by The Onion, Carl Icahn's thoughts on his bid for Yahoo and how sewage treatment makes for a role model in Newfoundland

Globe and Mail Update

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In one of their alleged man-in-the-street interviews, the satirical website The Onion asked a question after Robin Long, an American war resister, was sent back to the United States by the Canadian government.

The item was titled U.S. Deserters Not Safe in Canada, and the question went as follows: "Canada, long considered a safe haven for deserters from the United States armed forces, have been toughening their stance against Americans seeking not to serve. What do you think?"

Those interviewed: Scott Diego, Fireman: "I don't understand what the problem is for Canada. American deserters are the best in the world."

Alex Nathan, Meteorologist: "Oh, come on. At least let them stay for rest of the Toronto Jazz Festival."

Heather Kwilos, Phone Saleswoman: "What? I thought we had a deal: Canada accepts our military deserters and we make a celebrity out of Alan Thicke."


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In How I Spent My Weekend, serial billionaire and proxy-war martial artist Carl Icahn posts a reverie on what happened to his failed bid to oust the board of Yahoo and replace them with his own people, who would then (presumably) sell Yahoo to Microsoft.

He writes: "Proxy fights are very expensive and time-consuming. Unlike political elections, where change is often seen, it is unfortunately extremely difficult to take control of a company. By the end of last week, I realized that although many large shareholders supported me and my slate for the board, they were nervous about having a complete change of control. From prior proxy contest experience, I have discovered that a minority position on the board can be also quite effective. Therefore, I determined to attempt to reach an agreement with Yahoo! which had reached out to me several times during the past week to reach a compromise. Many hours were spent over the weekend and I am very encouraged by the conversations I had with Roy Bostock and Jerry Yang. At 5 a.m. on Monday morning an agreement was finally reached. An important provision in the agreement which should not be overlooked is that it provided that I will be offered the chance to serve on any committee established to consider material transactions out of the ordinary course of business."


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Newfoundlanders can be refreshingly candid, and so is the writer of the Sex and The Island blog, in his piece titled In the Outhouse, about the Beaverwood Sewage Treatment Plant.

"In my younger days," he writes, "we were always in search for drinking spot in the woods. Why? Besides the long standing tradition of minors imbibing alcohol in the sticks, I figure it is a nice bridge between childhood and adulthood. You have the wild adventuring of youth and the absolute drunken wreck of being an adult (at least this is what we thought adulthood was at the time: an excuse to drink all the time).

"We found one particular place which we called Beaver Lodge, because in our drunken stupor, we had misread the name on the nearby Beaverwood Sewage Treatment Plant which is on the outskirts of Gander, located between the Anglican Cemetery and Walmart. Yes it stunk and yes it STUNK. But it was something to call our own, and we made quite the weekend home of Beaver Lodge.

"And now it has come back to me because I write a blog about inadvertently dirty things in Newfoundland. Now naming a sewage treatment plant Beaverwood makes sense. You have the beaver, the great Canadian icon, and its favourite food. And since a sewage treatment plant cannot discriminate between either gender's pee, you have to name the place after both sexes' genitals: the woman's beaver and the man's wood.

"Ah. Sewage treatment plants. Role models for an equal society."


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Thank heavens Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams confessed that on July 23 "I nearly killed a million people," or we would have never known.

"It all started as I sat in front of my drawing workstation and wondered how to finish a comic. The best solution I could come up with involved mocking Microsoft's Vista operating system. While I have no personal gripe with Vista, I know that many of my readers do, so it would have been a popular strip. After years of cartooning, I have a good sense of which comics will end up on cubicle walls and be passed around the Internet. This one would have been huge.

"I wrote the line and leaned back, admiring my work. Then I had the 'Holy crap!' moment. If I mock Vista, and it has an impact on Microsoft stock value, then Bill Gates will have a few billion dollars less to spend on humanitarian projects. Therefore, the comic could end up killing a million people. Those people are all strangers, but still.

"I deleted the reference to Vista and went another direction.

"I know what you're thinking. You think that a Dilbert comic isn't going to influence Microsoft's earnings. But what you don't know is that Dilbert has been used in several court cases where an attorney tried to demonstrate the date when obscure technical issues became 'common knowledge' and therefore something that a reasonable person should know. The importance in the court cases is that a defendant couldn't claim ignorance about something that is so widely known it can be included in a Dilbert comic without explanation. If a Dilbert comic mocks Vista, the criticism transforms into 'common knowledge' and could influence Mac versus Windows buying decisions.

"Okay, granted, it is unlikely a Dilbert comic would have any impact on Microsoft. But given the non-zero risk that I could end up killing a million people, I decided to go another direction with the comic.

"When those people I saved yesterday solve their malaria issue and get some food, I hope they chip in to buy me a card to say thanks."

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