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Canada's Coverage of the Ottawa Shootings Put American Cable News to Shame

| Wed Oct. 22, 2014 5:28 PM EDT
Police set up a perimeter near Parliament Hill, in Ottawa, Canada.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation today gave a master class in calm, credible breaking news reporting.

Anchored by the unflappable Peter Mansbridge, news of the shootings in Ottawa unfolded live on the CBC much like they do here in the United States: lots of sketchy details, conflicting reports, unreliable witnesses, and a thick fog of confusion. All of that was familiar. What was less familiar was how Mansbridge and his team managed that confusion, conveying a concise and fact-based version of fast-moving events to viewers across Canada and the world.

This live bit of level-headed reporting by Mansbridge, from around 11:10am Wednesday, should be given to journalism students around the country. It basically contains everything you need to know about why CBC did its audience proud:

MANSBRIDGE: And so, the situation is, as we say, tense and unclear. And it's on days like this—we keep reminding you of this and it's important—it's on days like this, where a story takes a number of different pathways, a number of changes occur, and often rumors start in a situation like this. We try to keep them out of our coverage, but when they come, sometimes from official sources, like members of Parliament, you tend to give them some credence. But you carefully weigh it with what we're also witnessing. It's clear that the situation is not over. It is clear the police are in an intense standby situation and continue to be on the lookout, and until somebody blows the all-clear on this we will continue to stay on top of it and watch as the events unfold.

Watch below, courtesy of the CBC:

The broadcast was deliberative and deferential to the facts even when they were sparse. Exacting and painstaking, but never slow or boring, Mansbridge weighed the credibility of every detail, constantly framing and reframing what we knew and, most crucially, how we knew it. He literally spoke the news as it happened, using his experience not to opine nor fill the gaps in his knowledge, but to provide the necessary support for his team's reporting.

Getting things wrong during fast-moving live coverage is, of course, common. Coverage of the Washington Navy Yard shooting last year got the details wrong early and often: It misstated the perpetrator's name, age, and how many guns he had. Following the Boston Marathon bombing in April 2013, there was false coverage about the identity of the bombers, and anonymous sources leading journalists to nonexistent bombs and arrests. On The Media's handy "breaking news consumer's handbook" is a great round-up of the reporting errors that get repeated every time there is a mass shooting.

No newscast, especially live news, is immune to mistakes, and during the initial haze of leads and counter-leads, it's easy to point fingers. But for the six-some hours of CBC broadcasting I watched off-and-on (mostly on) today, I never once felt lost in the wall-to-wall speculation that has characterized so many recent breaking news broadcasts in the United States.

It seems like others on Twitter agree that CBC did pretty damn well today:

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Map: The Most Popular NFL Teams Everywhere in America—According to Twitter

| Wed Oct. 22, 2014 3:39 PM EDT

For now, even after all the concussions, the domestic violence, and the still-horribly named team from Washington, DC, Americans still love their pro football. Twitter took a stab at measuring the popularity of every NFL franchise by looking at the official Twitter handle for each team and then counting followers of those teams in each county. It's an imperfect measure, for sure, but it's a nifty interface and a lot of fun! Take a look:

Fox News Thinks Young Women Are Too Busy with Tinder to "Get" Voting

| Wed Oct. 22, 2014 3:09 PM EDT

Fox News host Kimberly Guilfoyle, a woman, shared some advice for us feeble-minded young ladies out here: Let's not burden ourselves with voting! After all, we're far too busy swiping for a man on Tinder to cast an educated vote in the midterm elections, or any election for that matter.

"It's the same reason why young women on juries are not a good idea," Guilfoyle explained to her approving co-hosts. "They don't get it!"

"They’re not in that same life experience of paying the bills, doing the mortgage, kids, community, crime, education, healthcare. They’re like healthy and hot and running around without a care in the world," she added.

But what to do with all of our overabundant, perky energy!? Guilfoyle says not to worry–just "go back on Tinder or Match.com" and all will be right in the world.

Sigh. For a more detailed look into what a war on voting looks like, check out our coverage here.

The Midwest's Vast Farms Are Losing a Ton of Money This Year

| Wed Oct. 22, 2014 2:57 PM EDT
A bin-busting harvest.

Think you have it tough at work? Consider the plight of the Midwest's corn and soybean farmers. They churn out the basic raw materials of our food system: the stuff that gets turned into animal feed, sweetener, cooking fat, and even a substantial amount of our car fuel. What do they get for their trouble? According to a stunning analysis (PDF) by Iowa State ag economist Chad Hart, crop prices have fallen so low (a bumper crop has driven down corn prices to their lowest level since 2006), and input costs (think seeds, fertilizers, pesticides) have gotten so high, that they're losing $225 per acre of corn and $100 per acre of soybeans.  So if you're an Iowa farmer with a 2,000-acre farm, and you planted it half and half in these two dominant crops, you stand to lose $325,000 on this year's harvest.

If you're an Iowa farmer with a 2,000-acre farm, and you planted it half and half in corn and soy, you stand to lose $325,000 on this year's harvest.

Over on Big Picture Agriculture—the excellent blog that alerted me to Hart's assessment—Kay McDonald wonders: "Is organic corn the way to go next year?" She points out organic corn receives a large premium in the market, and key input costs—seeds, fertilizers, and insecticides—are much lower, making the economics better.

Another possibility is one I've been banging on about for years: why not take some of the Midwest's vast stock of farmland—say, 10 percent?—and devote it to vegetable and fruit production? And take another slice of it and bring it back to perennial grass for pasture-based beef and pork production? Both vegetables and pastured meat deliver much more income pre acre than commodity corn and soybeans, once the systems are up and running and the infrastructure in place. And considering how much of our produce comes from drought-stricken California, that would likely be a wise move from a food security standpoint.

Alas, none of this is likely to happen, at least not anytime soon. That's because crop subsidies, enshrined by the farm bill signed in February, will likely wipe out much of the huge gap between farmers' costs and what the market gives them. According to Bloomberg, taxpayers are set to pay "billions of dollars more to subsidize farmers than anticipated just months ago," before crop prices plunged.

I don't begrudge federal support for farming. As I argued in a post last year, large-scale commodity farming is a vicious business—farmers are caught in a vice between a small handful of buyers (Archers Daniels Midland, Cargill, Bunge) that are always looking to drive crop prices down, and a small handful of input suppliers (Monsanto, DuPont Pioneer, Syngenta, etc) always looking to push the price of seeds, fertilizers, and pesticides up. It's no wonder, as Iowa State's Hart has shown, that the "long run profitability" of such farming is "zero."

But as it's structured now, the subsidy system keeps farmers chugging along on the corn-soy treadmill. Meanwhile, transitioning to organic ag and diversifying crops to include vegetables and pastured meat would also require much more hands-on labor and a new set of skills for Midwestern farmers, who have been operating in a corn-soy-chemical system for decades. It would also require the rebuilding of infrastructure—small-scale slaughterhouses, canneries, cold storage, etc.—that were dismantled as corn and soy came to dominance. Supporting such a transition, and not propping up an unhealthy food system suffused with cheap corn and soy, seems like a good use of the billions of federal dollars that are about to be spent.

I Am Being Followed By an Army of Twitter Lady Bots

| Wed Oct. 22, 2014 2:50 PM EDT

I've been making a real effort to be better at Twitter lately. I've been tweeting more, striking a conversational tone, and trying to "just be myself," like people who know more about Twitter than me told me to. So I was thrilled this week when my follower count zoomed up from 3,030 to 3,066 over the course of just a few days. My efforts must have paid off, I thought.

But then, I looked at my new followers. They all seemed pretty annoying. IN EXACTLY THE SAME WAY. Check it out:

"Hipster-friendly music practitioner"? "Total travel advocate"? "Beer practitioner"? Ew!

The formula for the handles seems to be: first name, middle initial, last name. And the bio items look like they're generated from a list of bland hobbies and jobs or something. All over the backdrop of some irrelevant stock art.

Here are some of their tweets:

Creepy Twitter lady bots, what do you want from me?

Housekeeping Update

| Wed Oct. 22, 2014 10:58 AM EDT

Just a quick update. Yesterday my doctor decided to do a "little bedside test" to get a better reading on the state of my bones. It was indeed bedside, and it was indeed done with just a local anesthetic, but I guess it wasn't a very powerful one. Hoo boy, did that hurt, and naturally I was a total baby about it. In any case, they want to keep me here for at least another day to make sure I didn't get infected etc. Also, today I get my first monthly dose of some bone-strengthening med whose name escapes me. So it looks like it'll be tomorrow at the earliest before I go home. It depends on how I'm doing and what the doctor gods decree. But I walked 300 feet this morning without too much trouble, so that has to be a positive sign, doesn't it?

When will blogging recommence? I'm not sure. In the meantime, though, enjoy a bonus cat.

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In Just 15 Years, Wind Could Provide A Fifth Of The World's Electricity

| Wed Oct. 22, 2014 10:36 AM EDT
The Scroby Sands Offshore Wind Farm off the coast of Great Yarmouth in Norfolk, UK.

Up to one fifth of the world's electricity supply could come from wind turbines by 2030, according to a new report released this week by Greenpeace and the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC). That would be an increase of 530 percent compared to the end of last year.

The report says the coming global boom in wind power will be driven largely by China's rebounding wind energy market—and a continued trend of high levels of Chinese green energy investment—as well as by steady growth in the United States and new large-scale projects in Mexico, Brazil, and South Africa.

The report, called the "Global Wind Energy Outlook," explains how wind energy could provide 2,000 gigawatts of electricity by 2030, which would account for 17 to 19 percent of global electricity. And by 2050, wind's share of the electricity market could reach 30 percent. That's a huge jump from the end of 2013, when wind provided around 3 percent of electricity worldwide.

The report is an annually produced industry digest co-authored by the GWEC, which represents 1,500 wind power producers. It examines three "energy scenarios" based on projections used by the International Energy Agency. The "New Policies" scenario attempts to capture the direction and intentions of international climate policy, even if some of these policies have yet to be fully implemented. From there, GWEC has fashioned two other scenarios—"moderate" and "advanced"—which reflect two different ways nations might cut carbon and keep their commitments to global climate change policies. In the most ambitious scenario, "advanced," wind could help slash more than 3 billion tons of climate-warning carbon dioxide emissions each year. The following chart has been adapted and simplified from the report:

In the best case scenario, China leads the way in 2020 and in 2030:

But as the report's authors note, there is still substantial uncertainty in the market. "There is much that we don't know about the future," they write, "and there will no doubt be unforeseen shifts and shocks in the global economy as well as political ups and downs." The more optimistic results contained in the report are dependent on whether the global community is going to respond "proactively to the threat of climate change, or try to do damage control after the fact," the report says.

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for October 22, 2014

Wed Oct. 22, 2014 10:28 AM EDT

A US Marine Sgt. speaks with a local child while on patrol in Afghanistan. (US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Darien J. Bjorndal)

RIP Ben Bradlee, 1921-2014

| Wed Oct. 22, 2014 8:58 AM EDT

Ben Bradlee, the legendary Washington Post editor, who led the paper during its Watergate era and turned it into a national and global reporting powerhouse, died on Tuesday at the age of 93.

"I don't mean to sound arrogant, but we are in a holy profession," Bradlee once said.

He was the Post's executive editor from 1968 to 1991. RIP.

Voter's Boyfriend to Obama: "Mr. President, Don't Touch My Girlfriend"

| Tue Oct. 21, 2014 3:11 PM EDT

President Barack Obama was in Chicago on Monday to cast an early vote for the midterm elections. He did so while standing next to fellow voter Aia Cooper. Cooper's boyfriend, who was also standing nearby, issued a remarkable warning to the president:

"Mr. President, don't touch my girlfriend."

With Cooper laughing, but clearly mortified, the exchange that follows is just priceless. (Well played, Mr. President.) Watch below: