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Labatt threatened to sue the Montreal Gazette over a Luka Magnotta photo it really, really didn’t like

(Image: Facebook)

Labatt Breweries got a little testy after the Montreal Gazette recently ran a photo on its website plucked from the Facebook page of Luka Magnotta in which the Toronto-born man accused of sending dismembered body parts to Canadian politicians is seen clearly cradling a bottle of Labatt Blue. Naturally, the brewer wasn’t exactly thrilled at appearing to be the drink of choice of an (alleged) psychopathic killer and responded by sending a letter to the Gazette demanding the paper take the photo down— threatening legal action if it failed to do so (Labatt said the image is “highly denigrating” to its brand—shocker). The newspaper, for its part, noted it had no intention of complying with Labatt’s request, and Labatt decided to drop the suit after being widely criticized and mocked for it. Of course, the non-Gazette-reading population probably never would’ve seen the photo had Labatt not threatened to sue—but, ironically, we’re pretty sure it has now. We figure Labatt had thought of that possibility already, and probably just wanted to put some distance between its signature beer and the (alleged) killer that likes to drink it. Right? [The Canadian Press]

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Jesse Brown: Why the latest multi-purpose e-readers are great for everything but reading books

The Final ChapterThe smell of an old book. The heft of a thick novel. The sensation of turning the last page of a ripping yarn with a freshly licked index finger. It’s all a bit silly, and kind of gross.

Old books smell because they’re rotting. Heavy books require dead trees and burnt fuel, as millions of them are shipped around the globe each year. Digitization preserves books forever while all but eliminating their environmental consequences. There are good reasons to resist e-books, but erotic fixation isn’t one of them.

The advantages of paper books arise not from their weight, their texture or any other feature unique to them, but from the features they lack. You can’t check your email from a book. Books don’t suddenly serve you pop-up ads in high-resolution video. Books don’t allow you to instantly stream porn or play addictive bird-flinging games whenever a narrative gets dull. Books are made to be read, and that’s all they’re good for. They are dedicated hardware.

Until recently, e-readers like the Kindle, Nook and Kobo have also been single-purpose machines, designed for nothing but book reading. Since the iPad, that’s changed. To compete with Apple, e-readers have become fully functional general-purpose computers. You can still buy basic e-ink devices, but these will soon be phased out as the new versions take over. On the new gadgets, book reading is just one of many apps, and not a terribly popular one: Google Books is ranked number 63 on the Android charts, behind Netflix, Pokémon and a video game called Drunken Pee. Apple’s iBooks sits at number 53, behind Sudoku and a Tim Hortons app. The fact is, the new e-readers aren’t electronic readers at all. They’re tablets.

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Don’t worry, everyone, Coco Rocha has finally stepped in to teach us about Facebook

As if it wasn’t easy enough to be a ham on the Internet, supermodel Coco Rocha seems to have decided it’s about time she taught Facebook users how to make their timeline photos more appealing (seriously, this woman is everywhere). In what appears to be a spoof on ’80s and ’90s infomercials—yes, complete with a star wipe—Rocha walks through a series of dos and don’ts: do pose in sunglasses with gal pal Heidi Klum; do have your photo taken by Karl Lagerfeld; but don’t pose with your husband. More of Rocha painfully talking through a script, name-dropping and opening her mouth real big in the James Conran–directed infomercial above.

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Business

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Reaction Roundup: can the PlayBook software upgrade keep RIM in the tablet game?

With the PlayBook’s Hail Mary software upgrade now out the door, Research In Motion can only wait and hope it’s enough to save its much-maligned tablet. Judging by RIM’s stock performance after the release—the price rose in the morning, but ended the day slightly down, only to fall further yesterday—investors don’t seem ready to call it a winner. Tech and finance pundits also wavered, praising the new email and calendar apps, but slamming the lack of a BlackBerry Messenger app (are you listening, RIM? This is why people still love their Blackberries!). A roundup of what they’re all saying, after the jump.

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Culture

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The Canada Reads drama continues, with terrorism accusations and Facebook rebuttals

A White Cedar anti-bullying campaign image posted today to Nemat’s Facebook. Coincidence? (Image: Facebook)

Since when did the Canada Reads book competition turn into a Hunger Games–style death match? In yesterday’s debate, colourful Quebec lawyer Anne-France Goldwater accused Prisoner of Tehran author Marina Nemat of telling “a story that’s not true, and you can tell it’s not true when you read it.” (That goes a long way to explaining Nemat’s angry Facebook outburst yesterday.) But Nemat wasn’t the only one to get a Goldwater smackdown; the TV personality also called author Carmen Aguirre “a bloody terrorist,” adding, “How we let her into Canada, I don’t understand.” In response, Nemat again took to Facebook, this time to ask for a public apology from Goldwater (and to post a photo and link about bullying. Coincidence?). While she waits for that apology, Nemat can take some solace in today’s elimination of John Vaillants The Tiger—the book Goldwater was defending. Karma (and fuming writers) will get you every time.

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Features

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Jan Wong: Why aren’t schools teaching kids about the pleasures and perils of sex?

Body Politics

The answer is simple: our curriculum is shamefully outdated, and the Liberals are too scared to fix it

Adam and Eve nibble an apple from the Tree of Knowledge and suddenly realize they’re both naked. Unfortunately, sex ed isn’t part of God’s plan, and He evicts them from the Garden of Eden. These days, some folks in Toronto are acting quite God-like themselves, insisting that the next generation live in innocence and ignorance. Heaven forbid our youth get to know themselves in the Biblical sense.

Our public schools are under attack by an evangelical Christian organization called the Institute for Canadian Values, whose leaders believe, as a basic ideological tenet, that teaching up-to-date sex education in schools will corrupt and confuse our children. The institute is run by a man named Charles McVety, who is quite skilled at getting media attention. Shamefully, most journalists have checked their brains at the door, blandly covering the institute’s actions and claims without questioning their legitimacy or standing up against the influence of the church on the state.

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Politics

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Rob Ford tells Facebook why his transit plan is the one Toronto transit users want

(Image: Christopher Drost)

Presented with a transit plan from TTC chair Karen Stintz that would save $1.5 billion on the Eglinton Crosstown LRT, contribute to the Sheppard subway extension and bring some form of rapid transit to underserved Finch Avenue, Rob Ford stubbornly dug his heels in and reiterated his commitment to burying the Eglinton line underground. In a note on his Facebook page, Ford insists his own transit plan is “doable,” and moreover, that it’s the plan that city transit users want (apparently, users want “RAPID” transit and they want it in ALL CAPS). He also says that for “100 years, Toronto’s transit system has been based on a backbone of subways” (not true), and that the Pembina Institute supports his plan (it doesn’t). Of course, although Stintz’s proposal appears to be gaining the support of all the right players, we’re not surprised Ford is refusing to budge. If the budget debate has taught us anything it’s that the mayor will turn down a face-saving compromise, even when that compromise is likely the only thing standing between a political defeat and public embarrassment. Read the entire story [Globe and Mail] »

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Jesse Brown: Why smart phones in the classroom equals smarter kids

Fears of cyber-cheating and sexting in school are so last year

Gadget Goes to SchoolWhen Dalton McGuinty suggested in September 2010 that cellphones and tablets might have useful educational applications, he was savaged by both the press and his political opponents. The Toronto Sun called the idea a “terrible” surrender to already tech-addled kids who want to use gadgets only for Facebook. The National Post likened it to welcoming cigarettes and sharp objects into class. Even Wired magazine panned the idea of gadgets in school as “premature,” citing the potential for distraction, cyber-cheating and a digital divide between kids with the latest gear and kids without. The Ontario Tories picked up all the outrage and ran with it, slamming the notion as “absurd,” a prime example of just how out of touch McGuinty was, and asking, “Shouldn’t our kids be learning math and science instead?” They went on to suggest that if McGuinty gets his way, we will soon have “sexting” in our classrooms.

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How bullying became the crisis of a generation

Kids are committing suicide, parents are in a panic, and schools that neglect to protect students are lawsuit targets

The Bully Mob

Mitchell Wilson had a short life. He was born in March 2000 at Markham-Stouffville Hospital to Craig and Shelley Wilson. From the age of three, he had trouble running and jumping. He climbed stairs slowly, putting both feet on each step before moving up. He fell often, and sometimes he couldn’t get up on his own. His doctors thought he had hypermobility syndrome—joints that extend and bend more than normal.

When Mitchell was seven, his mother was diagnosed with an aggressive melanoma. Her treatments left her distant, sometimes testy and mean, and in so much pain that she rarely left her bedroom. “I sort of kept Mitchell away,” Craig Wilson told me.

“He basically didn’t talk to his mother during the last four months of her life.” Wilson often left his son to his own devices while he took care of his dying wife and ran his family’s industrial knife business. Mitchell spent most of his time in his bedroom, playing video games. He comforted himself with food, and by the time he was four feet tall he weighed 167 pounds. Once, in a Walmart, he fell to the ground and his grandmother had to ask store employees to help her lift him.

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Nicholas Hune-Brown: How to die on Facebook

When you’re dead, your Facebook page becomes a permanent digital gravestone, and your family and friends (and quite possibly some strangers) will indulge in a free-for-all of trivializing hagiography. The perils of online legacies

How to Die on Facebook

It was 11 in the morning on a warm Friday in September when a 16-year-old boy named Akash Wadhwa plunged from the Mavis Road overpass onto the busy 401. Shortly afterward, Peel police found the slain body of his classmate Kiranjit Nijjar in a nearby ravine.

At Mississauga Secondary School, what had begun as a series of horrific rumours solidified, piece by piece, into a single, devastating murder-suicide story. According to reports, Wadhwa, a depressed and troubled Grade 12 student, had strangled his 17-year-old friend Nijjar and then jumped onto the highway. Before he leapt, Wadhwa had left a last message on Facebook: “SUICIDE/MURDER NOTE: Three things I learned in life. What goes around comes around. KARMA is the biggest bitch. You should NEVER CHANGE on people who love and care for you… My one main reason I did this is that life let me down way too much.”

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Toronto writer Alexandra Molotkow shares the secrets of her cybersexual education

I’m among the first generation to come of age on the Internet. By 13, I was an expert at chat room sex, spotting cyber-pervs and hiding my secret life from my parents

My Cybersexual Education

In 1997, when I was in Grade 6, my friends and I sat at the back of the classroom and talked about sex. We would speculate on what it felt like and place bets on how old we’d be when we finally lost our virginity. We would make fun of the way orgasms sounded in movies and imagine what celebrities’ sex lives involved. Later, at home, we’d reconvene on ICQ, one of the Internet’s first major instant messaging systems, which allowed us to have conversations we wouldn’t want our parents overhearing. That was what the Internet was to us: pretty much what a tree house would have been a few years earlier.

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Random Stuff

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Adam Giambrone updates his marital status on Facebook

It’s official (Image: Tsar Kasim)

Former councillor and one-time mayoral aspirant Adam Giambrone recently married his long-time partner Sarah McQuarrie, according to, uh, Facebook. The Toronto Star reports that Giambrone changed his marital status on Facebook, provoking an outpouring of likes and comments. Apparently the wedding took place at One King West, although Giambrone, true to form, couldn’t help but post a link to a Torontoist story about transit cuts in the minutes leading up the big moment. At the time of publication, the like count on his post is 135.

Giambrone and McQuarrie now husband and wife [Toronto Star]

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People

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The Q&A: Why the director of the Munk School of Global Affairs Janice Gross Stein won’t be our friend on Facebook

Janice Gross SteinOne of the essays in your new book argues that privacy has become an endangered species. Can you explain?
Threats to our privacy have proliferated. The Citizen Lab here at the Munk School discovered a group operating through servers in China that was able to remotely access people’s webcams. Think about that. As we’re sitting here, someone is hacking into your computer. When you go back to transcribe this interview, they will have a picture of you and a record of everything you have done.

That’s mildly terrifying. But it doesn’t appear that the general public is too concerned. We post every conceivable detail of our lives on Facebook and Twitter.
Well, that’s the really interesting contradiction. Threats to our privacy abound, and yet people voluntarily share intimate details through social media and email.

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Reason to Love Toronto: because our geeks are gaming gods

Sept. 20, 2011, 3:57 p.m. George Brown gaming graduate Billy Matjiunis at Ubisoft’s Wallace Street studio

Sept. 20, 2011, 3:57 p.m. George Brown gaming graduate Billy Matjiunis at Ubisoft’s Wallace Street studio (Image: Sean J. Sprague)

Video gamers are often maligned as dweebs with vitamin D deficiencies and a dearth of flesh-and-blood friends, but that probably described Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg at one point, too. We’re not saying that nephew of yours who posts his Call of Duty missions on YouTube will be the next great tech entrepreneur, but he could be, and Toronto has become the right place to be if he wants to try. Take the success story of east-end studio Capybara Games, whose app Sword and Sworcery ranked only behind Angry Birds on sales charts in March. Or Queen West’s Get Set Games, whose ultra-addictive Mega Jump has been downloaded 17 million times since last May. The triumphs of these smallish firms are part of the reason giants like Ubisoft and Zynga set up shop here, contributing to what has become a $240-million-a-year industry in Ontario. Traditionally, luring console kings into the workforce has been a challenge, which is why we’re big fans of George Brown College’s spiffy new video game incubator. Launching this month, it’s a gleaming space that puts game design students and start-ups side by side. The gadgetry is a geek’s fantasy: a soon-to-be-installed 3-D motion-tracking studio that captures and reproduces human movements with jaw-dropping accuracy, and a sea of tricked-out computers that would give Watson a run for its money. Tech wizards who might have headed to Silicon Valley after graduation can now get schooled and land a job in the same place. And if they invent the next Facebook, well, we can say we saw it coming.

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