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I visited Durkee in November, hoping to see the new $20 million mercury control system, reportedly in the initial phases of construction. But my request for a tour was denied. Jacqueline Clark, Ash Grove’s head of public relations, e-mailed me that the Durkee plant was facing imminent layoffs and could not accommodate a tour. Indeed, a few months earlier, Ash Grove announced plans to halt production at its nine U.S. plants, including Durkee. (In early December, the company temporarily ceased production and laid off more than half of the plant’s 115 workers.) Company officials said they might close the facility altogether if proposed federal regulations on mercury are enacted next year.–“Mountains of Mercury,” Jeremy Miller, High Country News
Also by Harper’s contributor Jeremy Miller, please see: Tyranny of the Test: One year as a Kaplan coach in the public schools” (free)
Important questions about nothing: who owns the grammar?;
at what age should parents stop drinking in bars with their babies? (proposed answer: 21);
when is it okay to wear fatigues to work? (answer: not anymore)
Consider the incident a few years ago that involved Yulia Romanova, a 22-year-old model. On a winter evening, Romanova was returning with her beloved Staffordshire terrier from a visit to a designer who specialises in kitting out canine Muscovites in the latest fashions. The terrier was sporting a new green camouflage jacket as he walked with his owner through the crowded Mendeleyevskaya metro station. There they encountered Malchik, a black stray who had made the station his home, guarding it against drunks and other dogs. Malchik barked at the pair, defending his territory. But instead of walking away, Romanova reached into her pink rucksack, pulled out a kitchen knife and, in front of rush-hour commuters, stabbed Malchik to death. Romanova was arrested, tried and underwent a year of psychiatric treatment. Typically for Russia, this horror story was countered by a wellspring of sympathy for Moscow’s strays. A bronze statue of Malchik, paid for by donations, now stands at the entrance of Mendeleyevskaya station.–“Moscow’s Stray Dogs,” Susanne Sternthal, Financial Times
New York is so safe that we now must consider “how does a young gangbanger represent?;
well, he (or she) could try to kill the pope, get out of prison, and declare himself “Christ Eternal”;
or, he could be arrested for tweeting a joke-threat to blow up an airport
Has anyone ever offended you in the bedroom?
I don’t know if I was necessarily offended, but I’m really not a fan of dirty talk. It really throws me off and turns me off, a lot.
So a guy busted it out?
Oh, he busted it out. Which it shouldn’t have been offensive, because it was only compliments, they were just compliments.
They were dirty compliments?
I don’t know, like “Tiny Dancer.”
What? Tiny Dancer?
He called me names, as if I was some hot princess or something, like, “Tiny Dancer.” I was like, “No.” –“Talking to Strangers,” interview by Meghan Pleticha, Nerve
Refreshingly honest: Tobey Maguire on weight loss: “I couldn’t eat much food and I had to work out a lot”;
honest, perhaps, but not so refreshing: Lisa Taddeo on Jay-z: “Look up, left, and listen. Jay-Z’s vamping scowl is paraded everywhere, his presence vibrates from sound systems and is woven into the fabrics.”;
not honest, not refreshing: Rush Limbaugh on Haiti relief: “Nobody here ever said don’t donate. We just pointed out you already contribute to the government with your income taxes.”
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.”