Friday December 16, 2016

Dec 15, 2016 episode transcript

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The AIH Transcript for December 15, 2016

Hosts: Carol Off and Jeff Douglas

STORIES FROM THIS EPISODE

Prologue

CO: Hello, I'm Carol Off.

JD: Good evening, I'm Jeff Douglas. This is As It Happens.

[Music: Theme]

JD: Tonight:

CO: 'Twasn't right before Christmas. The story of a child dying in the arms of a professional Santa went around the world faster than the bearded man himself, but some unwrapping shows it may not be what we thought it was.

JD: 'Twas the spite before Christmas. A Democrat will be the governor of North Carolina, after a hard-fought election, but state Republicans are doing everything they can to make sure the winner loses.

CO: Loaded questions. On the fourth anniversary of the massacre at Sandy Hook, a rural Colorado school board votes to allow teachers to carry concealed weapons.

JD: All that money, and he stole your hearts as well. It seems most of you think Luke Moore, who spent thousands of dollars of his bank's money, is like Robin Hood, if he robbed from the rich and partied in Thailand.

CO: This kind of thing is extremely rare. Well, somewhere between rare and well done. We'll find out when we investigate the case of the hamburger that's been sitting in the archives of the Alberta legislature for forty-seven years.

JD: Yikes! And... urine luck. A Harvard epidemiologist tests the genes of thousands of asparagus eaters, to find out why some people can't smell the stench the vegetable leaves in our pee, and some can but wish they couldn't.

As It Happens, the Thursday edition. Radio that puts the "reek" in Eureka… and the "whiz" in "wisdom".

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Part 1: Santa child story, concealed carry school, archived burger

Santa child story

Guest: Paul Farhi

JD: "'I cried all the way home:’ Terminally ill 5-year-old dies in Santa's arms."
That's one variation of a headline you've probably seen shared over and over this week. And if you read the story of the little dying boy in Tennessee, it was impossible not to get choked up.
He was scared he was going to miss Christmas. So a man named Eric Schmitt-Matzen, who dresses as Santa Claus during the holiday season, rushed to his bedside in costume, and gave him a toy. And then, like the headline says, the child died in Santa's arms.
Or so the viral story went. But now, many – including the Knoxville paper that first published the piece – admit they're not actually so sure it's true.
Paul Farhi is a reporter with the Washington Post. We reached him in Washington, D.C.

CO: Paul, what were your first impressions when you read this story about the little boy who died in Santa’s arms?

PAUL FARHI: Well I didn't really believe it. I think you read a story like that and you say to yourself there's a few elements that don't add up and maybe you say that if you're a journalist, maybe if you're not, it's heartwarming about a very sad situation. But as a journalist, you can see through the story very quickly.

PF: Any story that has a single source is an immediate red flag. So in this case you had this gentleman, Eric Schmidt Matson, describing events that it comes only from him. We didn't know, for instance, what hospital he was referring to that he went to. We didn't know the name of the family that allowed him to come into the hospital room. We didn't know the name of the child. We didn't know the name of the nurse. And none of those details which would allow anyone to go back and corroborate or verify this story. When those are missing, you say to yourself this is based on one person's account and one person's account only.

CO: But there's so many details in that one person's account. I mean if he made it up, if Eric Schmidt Matson made this up, then it's incredibly vivid story. Is it not?

PF: It is a vivid story and I want to specify Carol that we don't know if the story really is true or untrue. The only thing we can truly say is that we can't verify or corroborate this. And this is something that journalists try to do all the time, which is what journalism is really about. It's about telling you things that we have found to be true through independent an investigation. In this case, you couldn't do the independent investigation. You had to take his word for it. There's a famous old saying, rather cynical but true in the journalism world, that if your mother says she loves you, check it out.

CO: At As It Happens we tend to call these ‘facts too good to check.’

PF: That's right. I think a lot of journalists feel that way. You know this story is so great, it's heartwarming again, about a very sad situation. It's timely because it's occurring just a few days before Christmas. Everybody loves Santa. And you know the fact of a child dying at the age of five is so deeply tragic that if some good, some element of humanity can come out of this, we all feel a bit better about it and it is heartwarming in that sense. But if you spend a few minutes, and we spent a lot of minutes checking into it, you find some troubling elements to it.

CO: Did you contact Santa?

PF: Yes we did. We had two conversations with him. The first one was about the story itself. The story he told us was that he, as a professional Santa for the past six years, received a call one day from a nurse that he knew who worked in the intensive care unit. She told him that there was a little boy who was in very serious health and could he come and comfort that boy? And of course he immediately dropped everything, went over to this hospital, and found this boy and the family, the family gave him a toy to give to the child. The family was quite distraught. He asked the family to leave, and he then presented the present to the child and had a conversation with the child, at the end of which the child closed his eyes and died. And that was the story that the newspaper published, and that more or less was the one that the world knew because that's the story he told.

CO: And he's no longer speaking to the media, nor is the newspaper that originally did this story in the Knoxville News Sentinel. But a local television station tried to verify it and said they did. They've had two other sources who could corroborate the story. Santa’s wife and also a friend. Does that help answer your questions?

PF: No it doesn't really help answer anything about this. It's not really corroboration when you tell someone a story and you talk to that second person they say, yes they told me this story. I'd like to hear independent verification. Someone who he didn't tell the story to. Someone who actually was involved in this event. You know, I hate to being the Grinch in this case, but there are so many elements here that we can't pin down, that it makes you scratch your head and wonder about whether any of it really truly did occur.

CO: And you also attempted to find the hospital, to independently verify the story. What did you find out there?

PF: Well we called every hospital that was within range of Mr. Smith-Matzen's house. He said that he had been called in an emergency, and was at the hospital within 15 minutes so we called every hospital within the Knoxville area, all of which said to us that they have no record of this event occurring. We called hospices. We called the Ronald McDonald House that treats seriously ill children. None of them could verify this. We called coroners, we tried to seek death certificates, obits, death notices in newspapers and such, and none of them none of these things came back with anything.

CO: He says, in your story he's quoted saying, “if some people want to call me a liar, I can handle that better than I can handle a child in my arms dying.”

PF: Yes I really think that he does sincerely believe that this happened. Then again, it may have happened, but you know as a journalistic exercise, there is no way to say it happened. He is very emotional when he talks about this, which is certainly an indication that he believes what he's talking about. His wife told the television station, as you mentioned, that this event occurred. But curiously, she gives a different timeframe than what he gives. He mentioned that this occurred in mid-November. She says now that it occurred in mid-October which is also a curious detail.

CO: I guess at some level, it's the other player in this is the public, the readers, the viewers who want to believe this story is true. And that there is, perhaps, in the end a disposition that if a story has touched people and it affected them, then then the story is true even if it didn't happen.

PF: I think that's right. And I think that's why journalists were so willing to pass the story on because there are stories, there are facts, and those are kind of boring, and you know there's something called myth, which we all need. But we're not mythmakers, we're journalists. We're in the boring world of facts and sorting out what's true and what's not true. And our job is to tell people those things not create fantasies or comforting stories that go beyond the realm of fact. And in this case, again, ‘too good to check’ was kind of the standard because we in the media perhaps wanted it to be true too.

CO: Paul, I appreciate speaking with you, thank you.

PF: Thank you Carol.

JD: Paul Farhi is a reporter with the Washington Post. We reached him in Washington, D.C. We have more on that story on our website: cbc.ca/aih.

[Music]

Trudeau: reporter Fife

JD: Today marked the first day of the House of Commons' holiday break. But the Ethics Commissioner appears to have sent the Prime Minister off with a lump of coal.
In the past, Mary Dawson had said that the Liberals' cash-for-access fundraisers might not smell quite right, but were beyond her power to review. However now, she's written that she has concerns and she plans to follow up on them with Mr. Trudeau. So when the Prime Minister spoke to reporters this morning, Rober Fife of the Globe and Mail had a question ready about the ethics commissioner, and then he asked Mr. Trudeau this:

SOUNDCLIP

ROBERT FIFE: Do you honestly believe that having special access for people who pay fifteen hundred dollars to chat you up is the right thing to do?

JUSTIN TRUDEAU: Thank you Bob. First of all, we will always work with the Ethics Commissioner and anyone else who has questions of this government. I look forward to making sure we provide answers to anyone who is asking us questions about particular aspects of this government's functioning as is responsible for our various commissioners and officials to do. And secondly, I am committed to demonstrating to Canadians that their confidence that they placed in me and in our government is well-placed. The fact that we are working towards building a stronger economy, an inclusive approach to growing the opportunities for middle class Canadians across the country. And we are focused on delivering on the significant real change that people promised. And part of that is making sure that we are respecting all the laws and rules in place and that our government is more open and accessible than ever before. And that is something that we have consistently done and will consistently do. We have very strict rules on fundraising at the federal level and no one is suggesting that we are not following those rules and that's something that's important for Canadians to remember–

ROBERT FIFE: Prime Minister, your own rules that you announced that said there should be, not only no preferential treatment, there should be no perception of preferential treatment. How does that square with rich people meeting you at private mansions where they get to bend your ear for fifteen hundred dollars.

JUSTIN TRUDEAU: The fact is at the federal level, our fundraising rules put very strict limits on personal donations. They have completely eliminated corporate and union donations, and there is absolute and total transparency for anyone who gives money to…. anyone who gives money to the federal level. Our commitment is to show the highest level of ethical standards and that's exactly what we're doing. Merci beaucoup tout le monde.

JD: For the record, that was Prime Minister Trudeau responding to questions from the Globe and Mail's Robert Fife earlier today in Ottawa.

[Music]

Concealed carry school

Guest: Mark McPherson

JD: They say the timing is coincidental. Nonetheless it is hard to ignore. Last night, on the fourth anniversary of the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting, members of a school board in rural Colorado voted to allow teachers to carry concealed handguns at school. They join school districts in states like Texas, California, and Ohio that have passed similar measures.
The school board's president, Mark McPherson, was one of the two who voted against the resolution. We reached Mr. McPherson near Colorado Springs.

CO: Mr. McPherson, how are you feeling today after last night's vote in favor of concealed handguns in schools?

MARK MCPHERSON: Well I am, to be honest, a little disappointed. As you know it was a three to two vote. We have five members on our board. So one of the individuals kind of went with the precipice to go ahead and arm teachers. But nonetheless, now that the vote is over, you know, we will work together to try and go down and make the next steps happen.

CO: Where did the idea come from and who is behind getting this vote before you?

MM: One of our board members, his name is Mike Lawson, back in June, was looking at police response times and the amount of time it took for the police forces to get to our location at our high school should there be an active shooter situation and that timeframe is about 30 minutes. To him that timeframe was distressing. As well, as you know in Colorado, it's legal to grow marijuana. And so we have a couple of areas around us where we have some marijuana growths and he had concerns that that might bring some traffic in that's undesirable. So he brought to a proposition to the board that we arm a staff member or two in each building so that we had somebody there that could protect our students in the event of an active shooter situation.

CO: How would having your teachers armed the buildings protect students from marijuana grow ops?

MM: Well it's not really the marijuana growers, it's the you know, there's a thought process that you might have undesirable individuals in the neighborhood but to be honest those are all rumors we don't really know of where there's any growth facilities other than one that we are aware of that's close to the to the school system. So at this juncture it was just one of the other concerns that was added to the one. The main concern is the response time and how long it would take a deputy sheriff to get to our location.

CO: You voted against this resolution. So are you not worried about the 30 minute delay or that the marijuana?

MM: You know, let me take two issues there separate. The marijuana issue, I'm not concerned about that, because there hasn't been any evidence presented to me that there is any significant growth facilities within about a five mile radius. We do have one small operation and it doesn't act as a business. It doesn't seem like that is something that we need to be concerned about. The response time can be concerning. However we have what we call a school resource officer who is a deputy sheriff who is armed. He is trained, he is a full time deputy who we can rely on, and we call upon when we have issues of this nature. Now he works with our district and a couple of other school districts so his response time may be a little bit lengthier. But my thought was, that we'd be better if we could hire another SRO that is in our facility full time, because I really believe that we need somebody who is well-trained in the use of weapons instead of trying to train a teacher to do so.

CO: And I know that the resolution was passed and you have details to work out, but how would this work? I mean who is going to be armed and how are they trained and what are they expected to do if there is any reason to pull out their gun?

MM: Well, first of all, the first piece is that someone needs to volunteer. We're not going to assign this duty. So if somebody volunteers, they will have to… we have a program called a concealed carry permit here in the state of Colorado. And that's an authorization provided by the state and you have to take classes and weapons classes along with that and be registered with the state and get a concealed carry permit. So that's the first step that someone would have to do is to get that training and get that permit. After that, we would expect additional training and that training is something that we have not decided upon yet we don't know how much. We don't know how long how many hours. We are really at the very beginning of trying to determine those types of qualifications. But once we do we will ensure that the individual goes through all of that and that they are well-trained and ready to roll before we permit them to a weapon within our building. At this point in time, we're still just… because we passed the resolution last night, so it'll take us a month or two to put policies together, to identify that the proper training, to secure and contract the training as well as get individuals together, purchase weapons, and then get them trained. So we really don't expect an armed person in the building until maybe the start of the next school year which for us would be August.

CO: You did the surveys with students with teachers with parents, and then just quickly, some of the comments of the students who voted yes, they said that yes it's a good idea as long as the teachers don't go crazy and kill us. Yes it's good if they have background checks. Yes. If we don't get harmed. And yes, but only if it's Mr. Schmidt. It indicates, the students, there's a high level of fear among the students.

MM: You know, students will be students and they do have a fear, they want to make sure that whoever is carrying a weapon is properly trained and is ready to be there for them. I would understand all of their concerns. You know when you have a weapon in the building, and this is one of the points that I try to put forth, is that you have a certain amount of risk, when you bring a weapon into the building. Whether it's in a biometric container where it requires your fingerprints to open and get to, that that's very safe. But then how long and how available is that weapon should you need it in an instant. And if it's carried on your person, you know, what is the possibility of someone overcoming that individual and then taking that weapon away. There is there's an inherent risk with having a weapon in the building. I can't speak to that other than that’s our thoughts and the students are rightfully concerned. We're just going to have to overcome that.

CO: Mr. Macpherson, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

MM: Oh you're most welcome. Give us a call any time. And I hope you all stay warm up there.

CO: Thank you. Take care.

JD: Mark McPherson is the president of a school board in rural Colorado that voted to allow teachers to carry concealed guns in school last night. Coincidentally, it was the fourth anniversary of the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting. We reached Mr. McPherson near Colorado Springs.

[Music]

Archived burger

Guest: Val Footz

JD: Librarians tending to the records of the Alberta legislature take their jobs very seriously. They follow strict rules that every item tabled by MLA's in the ledge is preserved. No exceptions.
That includes, apparently, an item tabled by MLA Clarence Copithorne in 1969: a hamburger. An actual hamburger. Meat, in a bun. Which, if this story is true, has been in the archive for forty-seven years. To confirm or deny, we reached Val Footz. She's the Alberta Legislature Librarian. We reached her in Edmonton.

CO: Ms. Footz, I understand you have the item with you right now.

VAL FOOTZ: I do.

CO: What does a 47 year old hamburger look like?

VF: it's not something that makes your mouth water, put it that way. It is encased in a resin of some sort. You can definitely tell it is a hamburger

CO: But is it moldy? Is it showing its age?

VF: It’s showing its age as we all are, but it looks like, it's actually quite difficult to describe. It looks like a typical hamburger but it's not very fancy. It's a very plain looking hamburger.

CO: Do you think that's how it looked when it was first tabled in the legislature in 1969?

VF: I believe it does. There are some who say they can see a slice of cheese within the confines of the bun but I can't say that I actually see that.

CO: And what does the label say?

VF: The label actually says “Sessional papers 301, tabled in the Alberta Legislative Assembly by C. Copithorne on March 27 1969. Certified the original document.”

CO: Can you tell us why MLA Mr. Copithorne tabled a hamburger in 1969?

VF: They were in the middle of a long debate about the interim supply. And Mr. Copithorne who was a rancher kind of rose to his feet and said you know, when talking about supply, one thing they should supply us with right upstairs, is good nourishment at noon. So it was a comment on the nourishment that they got from the legislative cafeteria at the time.

CO: And his evidence was this hamburger?

VF: His evidence was the hamburger. He apparently pulled it out of the drawer in his desk and provided it to the pages to give to the clerk as an official tabling.

CO: And do you think that he made his point well with this hamburger?

VF: He did. I don't think there was much disagreement at the time. There was apparently hearty desk thumping from both sides of the house.

CO: So this is obviously far more important than anything else, is that they're not getting good food in the ledge.

VF: Definitely.

CO: So who do you think encased it in this Plexiglas glass box?

VF: Because it kind of has the signature and the sort of credentials of the clerk, it must have been the clerk at the time who again, took it seriously because it was tabled in the house. And anything that members table in the house becomes part of the official record. But what was different is that he actually gave it back to the member rather than putting it in the library or the official papers.
It was something that the family had found when they were cleaning out the garage. It had apparently slipped behind a table and they were they were cleaning out the garage and found it and thought I wonder if the library would be interested. And we were. We were all over it.

CO: Don't you just love archivists?

VF: I do.

CO: I mean and to do this, because it is painstakingly and lovingly encased as an exhibit. Does it matter what it was or why it was done? But could you imagine a thousand years from now if it wasn't labeled, people finding it and trying to figure out what kind of humans we were that we preserved this thing.

VF: And why with everything else going on. Why.

CO: And are there other weird items like this in the library?

VF: We do have a few strange things and some things that we just haven't found but we’ve found records that have been tabled. But so for instance we have a bag of dirt from the Red Deer River. And in 1977 Bob Clark, who later became the Ombudsman in Alberta, among other things, was talking about the land in central Alberta, and the farmland, and what a proposed reservoir would do to the area. So we have that bag of dirt and legend has it that a library staff member decided well, a bag of dirt. I'm just going to take this home. And then they were informed by the legislature librarian at the time, ‘No that's an official document.’ So they actually they had taken it home and planted a plant in it. So they had to unplant their plant and bring the bag of dirt back.
So you know it's interesting and it's… another example is we have a tin of caviar. And the member for Lac La Bishe McMurray at the time in 1980, tabled this can of caviar to say ‘hey are fishermen at the Lac La Biche Co-op are having a terrific year and here everyone, here's a sample of golden caviar from, you know, a Canadian lake. So again, it, in some ways that the objects have more impact than another piece of paper.

CO: If you had a just a document about that we wouldn't be talking about now we would actually. Exactly. Now has the food improved in the ledge?

VF: I will be diplomatic and say I'm sure it has. I wasn’t in here in 1969 so I can't you know the quality of the food there, but by the looks of it, I think it has improved. But I can't say I have bought a burger there lately.

CO: You have the comparative proof you can take your plexiglass burger up and put it up against the other one and see and see if there's anything better about it. All dressed.

VF: I could… exactly.

CO: Ms. Footz, it's great to talk to you. Thanks.

VF: Thank you very much. Bye.

CO: Bye bye.

JD: Val Footz is the Alberta Legislature Librarian. We reached her in Edmonton.

[Music]

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Part 2: North Carolina power, asparagus pee study

North Carolina power

Guest: Jeff Jackson

JD: Politics in North Carolina these days is never dull. But people are starting to wish it was.
The state's incumbent governor took almost a month to concede defeat to his Democratic rival. Governor Pat McCrory and his Republican supporters fought the razor-thin results for weeks after Election Day before he accepted his loss.
Now it seems likely however, that when the new governor takes up his post in January, the job will be seriously diminished – thanks to Governor McCrory's Republican colleagues. Late yesterday, they introduced measures that would strip powers from the incoming governor.
Jeff Jackson is a Democratic state senator. We reached him in Raleigh, North Carolina.

CO: Senator Jackson, how would you characterize this move by the Republicans to curb the governor's powers.

JEFF JECKSON: Well it was a shock move. We came in to a special session outside of our regularly scheduled session in order to provide for relief for victims of a big hurricane we just had in North Carolina. And as soon as we passed that bill, they said we're now adjourned and then they immediately, moments later, called us into a new special session, which no one saw coming and then said we will let you know what the agenda is going to be shortly. And as it turns out the agenda is curbing the powers of our new incoming governor who is a Democrat, and the leadership in our state legislature is a Republican.

CO: In what way. Tell us some of the things that they're attempting to do.

JJ: Well they're going to reduce the number of people who serve at the pleasure of the governor from about 1500 to about 300. They're going to make his cabinet appointments subject to the approval of the General Assembly. I mean that alone is a huge blow to the authority of the governor, especially when the governor is already a member of the other party and a lot of the influence he was going to be able to have was going to be through picking agency heads and being able to kind of see his will done through those executive agencies. Now that's much less likely to occur.

CO: And maybe some other things. There's quite a list.

JJ: Well they're now addressing the State Board of Elections to make sure that the State Board of Elections is going to be run by Republicans and every even year. Every even year of course being every election year here in North Carolina. They are making it much more difficult for cases to reach our state supreme court, because in the last election a few weeks ago the state Supreme Court flipped to the Democrats. So they're making it more difficult for the state Supreme Court to do its job. Just down the line, basically everywhere they think they can constitutionally get away with it, would be constitutionally permissible, they're looking to shift power.

CO: But now they can do that right? I mean Republicans in your state hold a super majority which means they can they can override any veto so they can actually make these changes.

JJ: Well, they can pass the law if they want to pass. And the outgoing Republican governor is unlikely to veto any of those laws. And even if he did, the General Assembly here as you said has super majorities in both chambers and they'd be likely to override those vetoes. But that still leaves the courts and there are major questions as to whether it is constitutional to infringe on the authority of the executive to this extent. It is fundamentally a separation of powers question.

CO: Now again there are also the Republicans are arguing that they these are changes that were long overdue, that these were discussed, some changes to the governor's office that were expected that the assembly needed to reclaim some of those powers. So they're saying this is a logical progression. What do you say to them?

JJ: I say it's a pretty big coincidence that they happened to actually bring those issues up as legislation for the first time once their governor lost an incoming governor started on his way to the executive mansion here. All of the sudden these became top priorities. It's so important in fact, that they thought it was necessary to call in additional special session and keep us here, charging the taxpayers approximately forty thousand dollars a day by the way, in order to get all this done before the new governor arrives. I don't think any of that is coincidence. I don't think any of that is good faith. I think it smacks of power grab.

CO: What's the prevailing theory as to why Pat McCrory, the governor, lost this election? Because his was the only governor's seat in the country and Republicans didn't hold onto on Election Day. And North Carolina voted for Donald Trump. So what are the theories as to why he lost?

JJ: The prevailing theory is you lost because of a bill called HB 2, which was a bill that rolled back protections for members of the LGBT community in North Carolina, and basically said that local municipalities were prohibited from expanding any non-discrimination protection to members of the LGBT community. He signed that bill earlier this year and one of our earlier special emergency sessions, and the blowback from that Bill has just been absolutely astronomical. It has cost our state hundreds of millions of dollars, lost jobs, lost entertainment. It's one of the rare state level political issues that everyone in this state was made aware of and they all tied it to Governor McCrory because he was a strong supporter of that bill. And that's why he lost despite the fact that Trump won in North Carolina

CO: And Roy Cooper won by about 10,000 votes in your state?

JJ: Very close election.

CO: Now, when we covered that story of HB2, they said it was very popular. The public wanted it. So that wasn't the case? Or the public just come to realize that this isn't exactly what they thought they were buying into?

JJ: HB2 was never popular in the sense that most of the state supported it. Most of the state was opposed to it from the beginning, but it became increasingly unpopular. It was roughly 50/50 when it passed. But as every state said that they were going to ban official travel to North Carolina, and as businesses pulled out or said that they weren't going to come to North Carolina, as sporting events said that they weren't going to come to North Carolina, when Charlotte lost the NBA all-star game. I mean the hits kept coming week after week for several months because of that legislation. It became less and less popular.

CO: Just finally Mr. Cooper, Roy Cooper, the incoming governor, says he will sue if they pass this legislation. How will that work and how long will that take?

JJ: Well it depends on whether he files suit in state court or federal court. But it's going to take… It would take well over a year to resolve either way. And the basic question is going to be one of separation of powers. And does the legislature under the North Carolina State Constitution have the authority to infringe on the executive’s power to the extent that they're planning on doing. We don't know exactly what's going to pass and even what's been filed could still change, but it's pretty clear the direction they're going is a massive curtailment of executive authority.

CO: And finally finally, will it pass? This legislation?

JJ: Some version of this legislation is highly likely to pass. It looks like the Republicans in the House and Republicans in the Senate are both on the same page at least when it comes to the concept of restricting the new governor's power.

CO: We will be watching developments in this story. Senator Jackson, thank you.

JJ: My pleasure. Take care.

JD: Jeff Jackson is a Democratic state senator in North Carolina. He was in Raleigh.

[Music]

Listener response: bank glitch opportunist

JD: Now would probably be a good time to lay claim to the licensing rights for the Luke Moore bio-pic.
Last night, the young Australian man told Carol how he milked a glitch in his bank account for years. And when police finally caught up to him, Mr. Moore had blown through two million Australian dollars, a little over that, about a million and a half U.S. dollars. He made several trips to party in Thailand; and accumulated an "Aladdin's cave of treasures." And, of course, in true Hollywood fashion, he walked away from it all a free man. Many of you were inspired by Moore's epic bro-odyssey.
On our website, Fred Whalen wrote: "I'd do six months in jail for two million dollars. Working for fifty dollars an hour, it would take twenty years."
And listener Roland Criukel was also looking to get in on that sweet sweet bank-error action. He wrote: "Send me some cash please Scotia Bank / RBC / TD... I'm ready."
And on Facebook, most of you gave the young Aussie a thumbs up as well. Filipino Dipizzo wrote: "Finally, a feel-good story about banks. Good for you, Luke!" Sarah Shrigley exclaimed: "My hero!" And Tyler Spence was nearly speechless, summing up his admiration with the appropriate bro-to-bro acknowledgement. Simply: "Respect."
But one listener withdrew in horror, after reading all the support for Luke Moore's irresponsible withdrawals.

CO: Diane McLeod wrote: "I am absolutely appalled at the number of commenters applauding this guy. He knowingly took money that didn't belong to him. And before any of you ask the question... yes, if it happened to me, I would notify the bank immediately and get it squared away. Stealing is not my thing, although it seems to be alright with the thieves on this thread. For all of you complaining about how the banks rip everybody off, please tell me your personal story. I don't mean paying fees for services provided. I don't mean paying interest on legitimate loans. Please tell me how you, personally, have been 'ripped off.' I bet not a single person on this thread can do that."

JD: Well thank you, Ms. McLeod, and thanks to everyone who wrote in. If you missed our interview with Luke Moore, you'll find it at cbc.ca/aih. To comment on anything you hear on the program, find us on Twitter and Facebook, both @cbcasithappens. Call Talkback at 416-205-5687. And our email is aih@cbc.ca.

[Music[

Asparagus pee study

Guest: Sarah Markt

JD: Sarah Markt is a cancer epidemiologist at Harvard. The British Medical Journal has just published her latest work, on the genetic roots of asparagus anosmia. But asparagus anosmia isn't some awful new tumor. It's just a scientific way of saying that some people can't smell the unique odour that asparagus gives our urine. We reached Sarah Markt in Boston.

CO: Ms.Markt, how does a cancer epidemiologist wind up studying asparagus pee?

SARAH MARKT: Yes that's an interesting question. So the idea for this study actually came up from a scientific meeting we were having in Sweden. And we were having a delicious dinner of asparagus and you know, we kind of started chatting and had a conversation about the odor in urine that's produced after eating asparagus came up, and we realized that there were, you know, many amongst us that actually could not smell the odor produced.

CO: I think only medical people would have that come up, the smell of their pee would come up during dinner.

SM: Yes. It was an interesting conversation.

CO: So now for listeners, because, we are going to learn that some cannot smell this odor in asparagus pee. What is the smell? What does it smell like?

SM: So to me, being a non-anosmic person, it's sort of a sulfur smell.

CO: You can detect it yourself.

SM: I can yes.

CO: You can.

SM: Yes I’m a non-anosmic.

CO: OK. So you can. And explain what ‘anosmia’ means.

SM: So anosmia means that you're unable to detect an odor. And then there are different anosmias to different compounds. And so one of them is to asparagus, and specifically sort of the metabolites produced in the urine after eating asparagus.

CO: How many people did you ask to sniff their pee for this study.

SM: So we had information on just over sixty nine hundred men and women and we found that 60 percent of them could not smell the odo, or reported that they could not smell the order.

CO: Now more than half reported they couldn't smell the odor.

SM: Yes.

CO: Is it possible that there are people who are delicate and would not either not smell therapy or would not tell you what it smells like.

SM: That is a potential limitation of the questionnaire.

CO: So 60 percent, 6900 people, men and women. Was there a difference between the genders?

SM: A little bit. So in the men we found that 58 percent of them reported that they could not. And in the women, we found 62 percent so was a slightly higher prevalence in the women.

CO: But could it be just because there are more delicate women who don't want to tell you about their pee.

SM: So one of the hypothesized reasons we thought of was, yes potentially underreporting by women.

CO: But you’ve boldly declared it on national radio, so obviously you don’t have a problem.

SM: No we didn't evaluate that in our study, so we're not sure.

CO: Now you also examined these people at a genetic level and this is I guess what's new in this, because people have talked about this ability to smell asparagus pee before. But what did you discover in that study?

SM: Yes so we were able to link. We have a genome-wide data on these same people that answered the question. And so we were able to link that data with their questionnaire data, and we found that there was genetic variation in the ability to smell asparagus. And specifically we found there were over 800 single nucleotide polymorphisms or snips which were associated with the inability to smell.

CO: And what does that tell you?

SM: So they were all in a similar region on chromosome one, and most of them were in olfactory receptor genes. So basically we showed that there was genetic variation between people that sort of leads to asparagus anosmia.

CO: Was there anything else that that was in common or not uncommon among those people?

SM: So we also adjusted for factors such as smoking, with the idea that some smokers have a lower sense of smell. But taking smoking out of the picture, the genetic variation remains.

CO: But what would be the value to us as animals being able to detect this odor in our urine?

SM: You know I think that's a really good question. And we sort of posed that in our discussion. You know, why would what, you know, I think is a delicious vegetable is a nutritious vegetable as asparagus result in such you know a pernicious odor. And what are some of the selective pressures driving genetic variations that lead to asparagus anosmia. And I think that's sort of an open question.

CO: But there might be advantages to not being able to detect this odor in your pee.

SM: Potentially yeah.

CO: But you don't know which way?

SM: But we don't know, yeah exactly. We did not ask the participants whether or not the ability to smell was associated with whether they consumed asparagus or not. Well that could be a future research question.

CO: Ah ha. So there may be people who just don't like asparagus who also can't smell. If they didn’t eat it at all, they couldn't detect the odor.

SM: Right exactly. It could be you know perhaps they're not eating it because they don't like the smell or they just don't like the taste.

CO: Well we will await your further research, your next meal where you come up with something else that you have to study and it’s good to talk to you., Ms. Markt.

SM: Thank you very much for your time.

JD: Sarah Markt is an epidemiologist at Harvard's T.H. Chan School of Public Health. We reached her in Boston. There's more on this crucial story on the As It Happens website: cbc.ca/aih.

[Music]

Jerry Maguire art

JD: In the heartwarming 1996 movie Jerry Maguire, Tom Cruise and Cuba Gooding yell. And then, at another point, Tom Cruise and Renee Zellweger say these things. And other things happen at other points. I mean, it's 139 minutes long, so other things must have happened. I just don't remember any of them to be frank.
But at the time, it was a big movie right? We were all yelling "Show me the money!" at each other. Personally I told at least eight people that they completed me. But over time, it's lost some of its magic.
But it's time to get that magic back, thanks to a new art project that started with a dream. According to the artists, a "stupid dream:” The Jerry Maguire Video Store.
The people behind the website Everything is Terrible are making their dream come true. It will be an exact replica of a video store from the heyday of VHS. But the only thing on its shelves will be... Jerry Maguire. Thousands and thousands of VHS copies of Jerry Maguire.
Why? Well, the people at Everything is Terrible say that, "Seeing thousands of Jerrys finally reunited will forever destroy the viewers' previous perception of culture, waste, and existence as a whole." Which doesn't clear anything up. Nor does it explain the proposed second phase of the project, in which they will build a pyramid in the desert where, the organizers say, "all the world's Jerrys will live until the end of time."
In a way, it's brilliant. In another way, in the words of Everything is Terrible: "This is the stupidest incarnation of the American dream and it must be realized."
Both things are true. And we support it. You had us at "stupid dream."

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Part 3: Lakes database, new ransomware, toxic fish

Lakes database

Guest: Bernhard Lehner

JD: Bernhard Lehner and his colleagues have spent the past three years assessing the depths of the world's 1. 4 million biggest lakes. And, like the bodies of water that they have studied, the result is profound. It's the most complete model that scientists have ever had for analysing the impact on these water systems of everything from climate change to the stuff we flush down the drain. It's published in today's edition of the journal Nature Communications. We reached Professor Lehner in Montreal.

CO: Professor Lehner, how is it that no one before you bothered to figure out how deep the world's major lakes really are?

BERNHARD LEHNER: I don't know if anyone ever or didn't bother before. I think people wanted to know that. It's quite difficult. We have a lot of lakes, millions of them and even with satellites today, you can’t really easily look down there and see how deep they are. So you would have to go and measure one by one, and that's a big task.

CO: And you didn't do that though. How did you do it?

BL: No we didn't do that either. I would have loved to go there but it's a bit too far. So in the end we estimated we don't measure it directly, we estimated by looking at elevation around all lakes and we have quite good data for that today from satellites. And then we basically we assume that the slopes that you find around the lake will continue inside the lake in about the same manner. And from that we can generate an estimate on the depth of a lake and then calculate how much water must be in there.

CO: Does that mean that lakes within mountain ranges tend to be deeper?

BL: Yes. Basically yes. They tend to be deeper. At the same time, of course it also has to do with how big a lake is. The bigger a lake is, the deeper it gets typically.

CO: As fascinating as it is to know how deep these lakes are, what value is it to science or to the work that people are doing in various disciplines? What does it tell us?

BL: It's probably less the depth of a lake that is the key here, it’s how much water is in there, and from that, the second estimate we make is how long is that water is in there. So the average age of water has a lot to do with how much water flows into rivers. And the age and volume together, they play a big role in both the chemistry of a lake, what's happening inside and the ecology that depends on that. Maybe an example is that if you have a big lake where sediments flow in, and there’s little water coming in, so the sediments have a long time to settle in the lake, and that changes the water quality that comes out of the lake and it changes the sedimentation and the quality of water inside the lake.

CO: Who would use your database of these lakes?

BL: Well when we made the data, we believe there's quite a lot of applications. I myself am an eco-hydrologists. I’m interested in ecological applications, working with environmental groups to figure out how maybe biodiversity is different in different lakes. Then there's another group of researchers who do climate change research. Lakes are very important because they change weather. They have water surface, they evaporate. So where we have lots of lakes you will find different climate zones. Sometimes at least on a smaller scale, lakes can bury or emit greenhouse gases so they can directly contribute or reduce their effect on climate change. Then you have lakes that are very important for drinking water. So it might be cities, or municipalities that depend on lake water. There's more examples like health studies on very large scales. A lot of waterborne diseases depend on where we find lakes or standing water. Temperature of lakes plays a big role in that.

CO: Your study also includes a very beautiful map that shows much of… how many lakes there are in Canada. Of the world's freshwater, we always pride ourselves in knowing that Canada has so much fresh water. What does that map mean for you?

BL: Well maps are often great storytellers if we put down just in numbers how many lakes in Canada against a different country, that is, well correct, but it doesn't tell the story that a map does visually. If you look at our global map you see that Canada really completely stands out as the one country that is dominated by lakes worldwide. Personally, coming from Europe in and there when I grew up, in school we learned that it's Finland that’s the land of a thousand lakes. Little did I know back then that Canada would be the country of a million lakes then. It's really completely unique. It has a lot to do with the last glaciation. The surface of Canada is very different in that it has a lot of depressions and lots of lakes that still exist there.

CO: And lots of lakes we have to take care of.

BL: I strongly believe that you want to take care of those lakes. They play a big role for the entire earth system. They are beautiful. There’s many reasons why you want to keep those lakes.

CO: It's a big responsibility for us in Canada. Professor Lehner, thank you.

BL: You’re welcome.

JD: Lakes are beautiful. Bernhard Lehner is a professor of geography at McGill University. We reached him in Montreal.

[Music]

Kouma

JD: Taxi drivers welcome all kinds of passengers into their cabs. But usually, even if they're impossibly drunk, or totally rude, they're at least human.
Now I’m not insulting the passenger a Casino Taxi driver in Halifax picked up last night, mind you. She was as polite as she could be. It's just that she was… well, she was little more than a kid.
The CBC's Jennifer Macmillan spoke with Casino Taxi driver Mark Thurston, who's been a cab driver for 30 years.

SOUNDCLIP

MARK THURSTON: I've had some unusual customers over the years at nighttime, but I’ve never had a baby goat before.

JENNIFER MACMILLAN: And what was the baby go like as a passenger?

MT: Well, very noisy at first. When I first got him in the taxi, he was doing a lot of his noises. Going ‘bahh bahh,’ whatever noise a baby goat makes. I didn't imitate him very well. But yeah, he was very noisy at first and I just kind of turned the music on low and was talking to him and calmed him down, and he was fine after that, the half hour drive.

JM: And I understand he was in a carrier, but he was traveling on his own.

MT: Yes he was. I had to go into the cargo area and pick him up and we put him in the car. I put something down on the seat there, and he was always all neat and clean, and he seemed like he was very… a fine little goat. I put him in the car and it was just me and him.

JM: So you picked him up from the airport because his flight was cancelled is my understanding.

MT: That's right yeah his flight was canceled going to New Foundland so I guess they didn't want to keep him in the warehouse all night, so they wanted a taxi to take him to the emergency medical veterinarian clinic there in Dartmouth. So you know, I'd look after him properly I guess, feed him water and he was fine, healthy little goat, and then he caught the next flight the next morning.

JM: And do you know why he was going from Nova Scotia to Newfoundland?

MT: You know I don't know that. I think he was somebody pet. But I don't know for sure.

JM: When you got the call to pick up a goat, did you have any hesitation?

MT: No, I thought it was going to be kind of fun. I said sure I'll take the goat. What could possibly go wrong? So I said that I'll try that sure, he was fine. I was kind of talking to him like a little dog or cat, and when he was making all his noises at first, he's probably nervous you know, getting in the car. And cold at first from the warehouse to the car, and then he was warm again and then he was fine yeah.

JD: That's Halifax taxi driver, Mark Thurston, speaking with the CBC's Jennifer Macmillan. We have since learned that the little baby goat was making its way to Newfoundland, as a Christmas gift. Her name is Gidget. She's three months old. She was raised on Rosehip Farm in Freeport, Nova Scotia. And Gidget is now going to be a pet on another farm in Newfoundland.

[Music]

New ransomware

Guest: Molly Sauter

JD: Just in time for the holidays, cyber criminals have come up with their own version of finding out whether you're naughty or nice.
It is a new type of ransomware called Popcorn Time. It’s a novel computer infection that presents victims with a nasty choice: pay up, or pay your misery forward.
We reached tech researcher Molly Sauter in Toronto to explain.

CO: Molly what's different about this type of ransomware called Popcorn time?

MOLLY SAUTER: So the new thing about popcorn time is that, in addition to demanding money to decrypt your hard drive, Popcorn Time also gives you the option of sending the malware infection on to your friends. And if two or more of your friends download the malware, get infected, and then pay to have their hard drive decrypted, you get your hard drive decrypted for free.

CO: Yikes. And would your friends know you did this to them?

MS: I mean in theory, they might be able to trace the infection back to a fishing e-mail that they got from you, or from a fishing link that you sent on to them. They might be able to figure it out.

CO: But you would know.

MS: You would certainly know and I'm sure feel very very bad.

CO: And why would it be worth it for someone to do that?

MS: So there are a couple of reasons why people might do this. One, they might legitimately be confused. They might be confused about who the scammers are, whether or not they are actual computer security professionals or people who are trying to help, or they might just not be able to afford it. The current ransom for this type of a ransomware program is one bitcoin which currently trades that about, almost $800, a little under $800, and that's a lot of money. And a lot of people can't afford that. And so if someone says well, if you have information on your computer that is irreplaceable and you need it in and you can’t afford this almost $800 ransom for it. You know what? Here's a free way to handle this problem.

CO: Now is this the first time you have seen this kind of ransomware?

MS: So this is the first piece of malware that is offering this option. Ransomware is actually a fairly common piece of malware. People certainly have had their hard drives encrypted by this type of phishing in the past. The fact that this is adding this new sort of wrinkle and turning what used to be just extortion into, almost a pyramid scheme, is interesting but not super novel, not super new.

CO: And would the people inventing this new scheme, are they just very clever? Are they mean spirited? What would be behind this?

MS: They're criminals. They're there to extort your money. So this is a way for them to spread the pieces malware and to extort more money from more people.

CO: And is it working do you think?

MS: I'm not sure. We haven't done the research yet to determine how many people are passing on these pieces of malware. The report about Popcorn Time came from a research group that had received a report that this type of this type of malware was in development. So it's not necessarily even in the wild or super popular right now, but it is something that's in development and is around and available. So it hasn't become super widespread yet, so there's really no way of knowing how many people are taking the bait and passing this infection on to their friends.

CO: Who is most vulnerable to malware or ransomware?

MS: So really everyone is pretty vulnerable to this type of scheme. Phishing emails these days and phishing websites are really well-constructed, and they're really well constructed to fool you into thinking that you're talking to someone you know, or you're talking to someone who you trust. And that's really unfortunate. But what it means is that people have to be very careful no matter who they are, no matter how experienced with computers you are. Just be sure, if you're clicking on a link, or if you're downloading an executable file, that you know where these things are coming from and where they're going. Another thing that people can do is to make sure that they always have up to date backups of their computers, because if you do contract this type of malware and your computer becomes suddenly inaccessible to you, if you have an up-to-date backup, you don't have to negotiate with these criminal organizations. You can just wipe your machine and restore it from a backup.

CO: Memo to self I’ve just made there. Yes when I get home tonight. Now once you have done this, lets say you have gone along with this and either passed it on or paid it, what guarantee do you have that they'll actually decrypt the computer and get you out of this.

MS: That's the other thing, there's absolutely no guarantee. You are dealing with a criminal organization. You are materially potentially supporting a criminal organizations, so the best thing for you should be doing is to be practicing good computer safety and security maintenance, and maintaining a backup either through one of the numerous reputable cloud services that provide backups in the cloud or just going out and buying an external hard drive. It'll probably cost way less than the computer that you are backing up, and just routinely backing that up every week, maybe every day, depending on how much you use your computer, so that you always have access to this safety net, even if you do accidentally fall prey to one of their schemes.

CO: But if you do and you haven't done any of those things. You're not backed up you are completely screwed because of what's happened. What do you advise? Do you pay?

MS: I would not advise paying these organizations because one, you are then materially supporting a criminal organization and two, you don't have a guarantee that they're not leaving something in your computer, that they're not leaving a little program that allows them say, remote access to your computer, or the ability to control it, or that they'll keep coming back, or they'll continue to encrypt your computer, or even with the encryption key they're giving you is accurate. Really the best thing to do in that scenario is to take a solid stock of whether the information on your computer is irreplaceable and maybe just walk away.

CO: So cut your losses.

MS: Cut your losses and walk away.

CO: All right Molly lots of good advice there. Thank you.

MS: No problem. Good luck. Take care.

CO: Bye bye.

JD: Molly Sauter is the author of The Coming Swarm: DDoS Action and Civil Disobedience on the Internet. We reached them in Toronto.

[Music]

Be Quite

JD: Philip Riteman survived the Nazi concentration camps at Auschwitz and Dachau. But after the Second World War, he had nowhere to go. Until pre-confederation Newfoundland took him in.
Yesterday, Mr. Riteman received the Order of Newfoundland and Labrador, for his life's achievements, including his book "Millions of Souls." And while the 92-year-old was unable to make it due to his health, his son Larry accepted the honour on his behalf.
Earlier today Larry Riteman spoke with the CBC's Krissy Holmes. Here is part of their conversation.

SOUNDCLIP

KRISSY HOLMES: What did you know about his past when you were growing up as a boy?

LARRY RITEMAN: You know they really didn't talk about it in the house that much. Once in a while, but it was usually in context of something else, like oh you didn't finish your soup. Oh my goodness if I would have only had a soup like that in the camps. Right? That kind of thing. So my father started to speak about it more about 1987 88, and it never stopped after that. You know, now he can't do it anymore. See every time he tells about this, he relives it.

KH: The last time he was here, I had the opportunity to speak with your father. And in that interview I remember him repeating two words. “Never forget.”

LR: People learn from the past but they very often learn the wrong lessons. And especially what astonished me was Bosnia and Serbia and all the rest of it, because there was a situation where the Holocaust is not foreign history,y it happened in their territory. It was something in their human memory, they had grandparents that saw Serbs cut off people's heads or Croats drown people in the river or whatever. And then in 1993, 94, the whole thing just suddenly blew up again. And it taught me one thing. You say never again? I say ever and ever and ever again. There's always somebody who comes along later on and sees an upside to doing this. It's sad but it's true. We are a predatory species. That's the truth.

JD: That was Larry Riteman, speaking earlier today with the CBC's Krissy Holmes in St. John's. Larry's father is 92-year-old Holocaust survivor Philip Riteman, who last night received the Order of Newfoundland and Labrador.

[Music]

Toxic Fish

Guest: Diane Nacci

JD: The amount of pollution in New Jersey's Newark Bay is deadly. Or it should be deadly. But the population of Atlantic killifish there has found a way to survive by evolving, and it did that very quickly.
A new study has looked into how the fish adapted to the brutal aquatic environment in just a few decades. Diane Nacci is a biologist with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. She worked on that study. We reached her in Narragansett, Rhode Island.

CO: Ms. Nacci, what does a killifish look like?

DIANE NACCI: A killifish looks like your prototypical little bait fish, about three inches long. It’s a common minnow all along the Atlantic coast from Atlantic Canada down to Florida.

CO: Now you look at populations, four different populations of these killifish. The pollution that these fish are living in, where does it come from?

DN: Here. We are particularly concerned about direct industrial discharges. So that for example in New Bedford harbor, the northernmost site, there were companies that existed right on the harbor that directly discharged PCBs associated with their use in the production of Transformers. PCBs were considered in inert. And in fact they are chemically inert but they are not entirely nontoxic by any means.

CO: These conditions, these fish, these four environments you looked at, would these be lethal levels of pollutants in these waters?

DN: In fact they are lethal levels. And when these studies when the background for these studies first began, we came to some of these sites with the expectation that killifish should not be able to live there, because killifish from normal areas when they're tested in the laboratory are killed by these levels of PCBs in some other related contaminants.

CO: And yet these fish are not dying.

DN: No, in fact, in many, if not all of the sites, the populations are large, the animals appear quite fat and healthy, and have persisted for many decades at large numbers.

CO: So they're thriving.

DN: In fact they are thriving.

CO: How have they done that? How have they adapted to these conditions then?

DN: These fish live in very large populations and each individual fish is highly genetically variable meaning there are lots of different versions of genes floating around in the gene pool of the populations that live in these environments. These are non-migratory fish that lived their whole life history, the whole life cycle, in one place. In this case having a great number of fish with a great deal of genetic variation provided a high opportunity for a few individuals to have the right combination of genes to survive. And they came to predominate the populations that survived there today.

CO: Is this a good news story?

DN: Well it's a good news for the killifish. That's certainly true. But what we also know is that the killifish, because they exist in such large numbers and have such high genetic variation are not typical of many of the species that we wish to protect.

CO: And we've done stories similar to this and different animal populations. Certain birds, certain animals are doing extremely well and thriving and actually adapting very quickly and others are not. But it means that… fewer animals, there's less diversity in the course of it. Is that what you're describing here with the killifish?

DN: That's exactly the case. That the vast majority of species probably will not have the opportunity, will not have the genetic resources to be able to adapt to rapidly changing conditions.

CO: So the killifish will thrive in this toxic environment. But other fish will not. So we will have a lot of killifish but not much else.

DN: Well that is the case. And I really don't like the idea of comparing them to the cockroach, but in fact most species that we wish to protect are not the species that exist in very large populations with short generation times like the Killifish. In fact the species that we're most concerned about, that are at high risk, that are threatened, tend to have long generation times and small populations. So they don't have the inherent genetic resources to be able to adapt to rapidly changing conditions that we live under today.

CO: The cockroaches of the sea.

DN: I really didn't want to go there but yes.

CO: Ms. Nacci, thank you.

DN: Thank you very much Carol. Thank you.

CO: Bye.

DN: Bye now.

JD: Diane Nacci is a biologist with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. She was in Narragansett, Rhode Island.

[Music]

Irish Obituary

JD: Chris Connors didn't have many regrets. But if he had to choose one, it would be that time in the summer of '86 when he ate a convenience store hot dog. That’s not a bad track record for a guy who crammed about 1000 years into 67 calendar years.
Mr. Connors, who lived in Maine, died last week of pancreatic cancer and ALS. And an obituary for Mr. Connors, published this week, paints a very vivid picture of a man you’d be hard-pressed to pin down.
As a young man, he tried circumnavigating the globe. That didn't work. Instead, he ended up spending 40 hours on a life raft, nearly drowning off the coast of Panama.
But his stubbornness was also a virtue. He made a career on Wall Street, his obituary says, thanks to his impish smile and his stunning blue eyes, and despite having no financial background.
He climbed to the base camp of Mount Everest at the age of 64. He was the type of guy who dove into the Atlantic Ocean in the middle of January. But he also craved the simple life. Mashed potatoes with lots of butter. A well-made fire. A strong screwdriver, cocktail that is.
In short, his family wrote: "He grabbed life by the lapels, kissed it, and swung it back onto the dance floor.” It's how he rolled. Even on his last day on this earth, instead of going quietly into the night, Mr. Connors was apparently stark-naked, drinking Veuve, surrounded by friends and family, as Al Green blasted from the speakers. So we'll raise our glass to you, Chris Connors.

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