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“[But what caused this acceleration of swine flu evolution?] Virologists have long believed that the intensive agricultural system of southern China is the principal engine of influenza mutation: both seasonal “drift” and episodic genomic “shift.” But the corporate industrialisation of livestock production has broken China’s natural monopoly on influenza evolution. Animal husbandry in recent decades has been transformed into something that more closely resembles the petrochemical industry than the happy family farm depicted in school readers. In 1965, for instance, there were 53 million U.S. hogs on more than 1 million farms; today, 65 million hogs are concentrated in 65,000 facilities. This has been a transition from old-fashioned pig pens to vast excremental hells, containing tens of thousands of animals with weakened immune systems suffocating in heat and manure while exchanging pathogens at blinding velocity with their fellow inmates.”
“The case is particularly sensitive because of a series of attacks on Asian fishermen in the [Keswick, Ontario,] area in 2007– given the name ‘nipper tipping’ by locals– which led to a high-profile investigation by the Ontario Human Rights Commission. Five such cases in 2007, ranging from violent car chases to fishermen on piers being pushed into the water, led to criminal charges. As a result of the publicity, many other Asian anglers came forward to say they had been abused or harassed while fishing in the Lake Simcoe area.”
“More than four-in-ten Americans (42%) say they heard a lot about the arrest in Massachusetts last week of a man suspected of robbing and killing a woman he met through the Craigslist web site. That is the same percentage that say they heard a lot about President Obama’s friendly greeting for Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez at a recent regional summit. More than a third had heard at least a little about the arrest (35%) and the Chavez encounter (34%). Republicans were more likely than Democrats to have heard a lot about Obama’s handshake with Chavez (51% vs. 39%).”
“Currently, more than 60 percent of U.S. Twitter users fail to return the following month, or in other words, Twitter’s audience retention rate, or the percentage of a given month’s users who come back the following month, is currently about 40 percent. For most of the past 12 months, pre-Oprah, Twitter has languished below 30 percent retention.”
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”