Take a Peek Inside The Leonard Cohen Exhibit In Montreal

Visitors to Montreal still have time to see Une brèche en toute chose (“A Crack in Everything”), a multimedia art exhibit that pays tribute to the late Leonard Cohen.

More than a year after his death, Montreal is still celebrating Leonard Cohen’s life. The poet, novelist, songwriter and singer is everywhere—from the Main Deli, where he enjoyed smoked meat in the second booth against the wall, to the Jewish Public Library, with which Cohen was affiliated. But one of the largest tributes began two years before Cohen’s death—at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (MAC) as part of the city’s 375th anniversary celebration. It opened one year after his passing.

The exhibit contains no artifacts belonging to Cohen; no fedoras, long black coats or guitars—only his olive-green Olivetti manual typewriter on which he composed his first novel. What there is, though, is more impressive: filmmakers, musicians, contemporary artists and their takes on how Cohen influenced society.

The exhibit—which runs until April 9, 2018— titled Une brèche en toute chose(“A Crack in Everything”) features tribute pieces from filmmakers, musicians and contemporary artists.

With Cohen’s blessing, and with his complete artistic output made available to them, curators John Zeppetelli and Victor Shiffman, compiled the museum’s most ambitious exhibition, commissioning 20 works from 40 artists representing 10 countries to bring a unique vision to Cohen’s effect on music and literature.

Consider Berlin-based Candice Breitz’s offering: the life-sized projection of 18 ardent male fans aged 65 and older encircling the viewer as they sing, “I’m Your Man,” backed by the all-male Shaar Hashomayim Synagogue Choir (the synagogue Cohen attended throughout his life).

British Columbia-based Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller pay homage to Book of Longing with an interactive sound installation called “The Poetry Machine.” Pressing a single key on the vintage Wurlitzer organ generates Cohen’s voice reading an excerpt from the book from one of the gramophone horns. Play more than one key, and the room is filled with Cohen’s voice reading several selections simultaneously.

American Taryn Simon offers a mixed media installation of the front page of the New York Times, Friday, Nov. 11, 2016, with Cohen’s obituary published beneath a photograph of the first meeting between Barack Obama and President-elect Donald Trump. Cohen is doffing his hat in greeting or farewell.



6 Ways to Stay Ahead of Common Online Scams

Online phishing scams
 Online phishing scams

Photo: Pixabay

Phishing scams, where fraudsters trick users into providing them with sensitive information, are one of the most common online threats. Here, six ways you can avoid becoming a victim.

You’re scanning through your inbox and see an authentic-looking email from your bank — right down to the logo. It says they’re verifying your online banking information, and so they ask you to click on a link and type in your credentials.

Sounds legitimate, no?

Unfortunately, this is a case of a “phishing” scam, a malicious attempt by a person (or program) to “lure” you into giving out personal info, such as banking info, a credit card number, or social security number — with the intent to steal your identity for financial gain.

Here are some suggestions to avoid being taken by these scams.

1. If you get an email, text message, or pop-up message that asks for personal or financial information, don’t reply and don’t click on the link in the email. Your bank, financial institution or credible online payment service (such as PayPal) will never ask for sensitive information via email. When in doubt, call your bank or credit card company.

2. Anti-malware software (which includes virus detection), a computer firewall and web browser with an anti-phishing feature can all help act as an extra line of defense from some of these malicious phishers.

3. Look at the link in your email. You’ll notice the URL it wants you to click on isn’t an official site (e.g. — instead it’s something else (like

4. To stay ahead of these scams it’s important to know what these phishing emails and text messages look like. They often indicate a sense of urgency so it’s important to look at the language used (“we need you to confirm your information right away to avoid any problems,” etc). You may also spot spelling and grammatical mistakes as these phishing attempts are usually generated in non-English countries (but not always).

5. Stick with reputable retailers when giving out financial information, like your credit card, and always be sure to look for indicators that the site is secure, such as a little lock icon on the browser’s status bar or a URL for a website that begins with “https:” (the “s” stands for “secure”).

6. Whenever you sign up for something online, try to use a secondary email account — such as a free webmail address from Gmail, Yahoo, or — and not your main email address at work or from your ISP (e.g. Rogers). That way you can better manage the “spam” (and resulting phishing scams) you might expect from registering online for gaming, shopping and social networks.


The Surprising Thing Flight Attendants Say You Should Never Do on an Airplane (Though You’ve Probably Done It Many Times)

f you’re like me, you’ve probably lost count of how many times you’ve flown in an airplane from one place to another. And if you’re like me, you’ve probably also lost count of all the different things you’ve had to eat and drink along the way.

But, according to flight attendants — the men and women who should know — there’s one thing you might want to think twice about consuming on your next flight.

That one thing?

A hot cup of coffee or any other drink that uses water from the airplane’s onboard water system.

A flight attendant for a major airline, who was quoted anonymously to protect her job, explained in an interview for Vice:

Don’t drink the coffee on airplanes. It’s the same potable water that goes through the bathroom system. We recently had a test for E. coli in our water and it didn’t pass, and then maintenance came on and hit a couple buttons and it passed. So, avoid any hot water or tea. Bottled and ice is fine, of course.

Another flight attendant told Business Insider,

Flight attendants will not drink hot water on the plane. They will not drink plain coffee, and they will not drink plain tea.

You’d think that an airplane’s water storage and plumbing systems would be designed in a way that would prevent any possibility of contamination from occurring, and according to the airlines, that is the case. However, some flight attendants claim that these systems are not cleaned on a regular basis. According to a flight attendant interviewed by Travel + Leisure magazine, airplane water tanks “are probably only cleaned out every six months to a year.”

Indeed, when the EPA tested water from a variety of commercial airlines in 2012, the agency found that 12 percent of aircraft in the U.S. had at least one positive for coliform bacteria, which are found in the waste of humans and animals and are an indicator of the presence of pathogens, such as E. coli, that can cause illness and even death.

Surprisingly, this is about the same figure as eight years earlier, when the EPA tested the drinking water from 158 randomly selected domestic and international passenger airplanes and found that 12.6 percent did not meet EPA drinking water quality standards.

An investigation by Dallas-based television news station NBC 5 found that some airlines do better than others. In 2012, 13 percent of American Airlines planes were found to have coliform bacteria in their onboard water supplies (with fewer than half of 1 percent testing positive for E. coli), while only 3 percent of Southwest Airlines planes tested positive for coliform (with no tests positive for E. coli).

So, the next time you’re thinking of asking for a hot cup of coffee or tea on a commercial airline flight, think again. Or even better, grab a cup of Starbucks in the terminal and bring it on board with you. And if you’re going to drink water at all, make sure it’s poured out of a bottle — or bring your own.

Pinkerton Detective Agency of the Wild West that tracked Jesse James’ train-robbing spree with revolutionary strategies is still up and running

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“You think it’s all made up don’t yea, think it’s all yarns and newspaper stories”. – Charley Ford, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.

On March 11, 1874, Pinkerton agent Joseph W. Whicher’s body was found lifeless near Independence, Missouri. He was 26, he was married, and had a whole life ahead of him to father and raise children with his loving wife, Mollie Hildenbrand.

However, fate had other plans for this young blood who was sent to find and arrest one of the most notorious gang leaders at the time.

That man was Jesse James, the outlaw, the folk hero, the legend, and the murderer, and his partner in crime and a fellow former Confederate soldier, his older brother Frank. Both were wanted criminals in various states on multiple accounts of larceny, extortion, and murder, as well as suspected of additional illegal activities. As of December 1869, when both robbed the bank in Gallatin, Missouri, and Jesse in cold blood shot and killed the bank president John W. Sheets, a “Wanted Dead or Alive” price had been set on their heads, after which both were constantly on the move, robbing the rich from state to state along with their gang of outlaws and giving the loot to the poor, allegedly.

“Got out of there, damn you get out of there; we are grangers, and rob the rich and give to the poor,” wrote the St. Louis Daily Globe under the headline “Diabolical Attempt to Wreck a Night Express Train – Engineer Killed, Engine Ditched and Tender and Baggage Cars Crushed,” published on July 23, 1873, about the attempted robbery of a Chicago, Rock Island, and Pacific night train that took place two days previously in Adair County, Iowa, of which Jesse and Frank, as well as the Younger brothers, Cole and Bob were suspected.

Nine months, a couple of stagecoaches and some train robberies later, and seemingly out nowhere, on March 9, agent Whicher was allegedly seen on a horse, bound and gagged, with three other men alongside him. The next day he was found dead with fatal wounds in his head, neck, and shoulder, all from shots fired from close range, which strongly indicates he was executed. According to Frank and Jesse James: The Story Behind the Legend by Ted P. Yeatman, descriptions given by the occasional passerby and the ferry operator suggested the three men were Arthur McCoy, Jim Anderson (“Bloody Bill” Anderson’s Brother), and non other than Jesse James himself.

So how does a young man, freshly wed, get himself executed by a legend who was labeled a Robin Hood and a gentleman by commoners?

Well, as banks were long shots even for criminals of Jesse James’ caliber, or that of Butch Cassidy, his Wild Bunch and the Sundance Kid, who truly knew how to pull off a heist, stagecoaches with loot that only had a driver and one armed guard to protect it were the best next thing. And then there were trains. Everyone knew what train would pass where and when precisely, and some passed during night hours, carrying money from banks related to esteemed Union generals and various politicians in the express safe down in the baggage car. Interestingly enough, the safes were more often than not unusually low on cash.

By this time, the reward offered for the capture of Jesse and the members of his gang was off the roof. Realizing that trains were their, let’s say, preferable cup of tea, Alan Pinkerton, a leader of the Union’s Intelligence Service throughout the Civil War and currently head of the Pinkerton National Detective Agency that he founded in 1850 in Chicago, got an offer he could not refuse and turned to tracking down train robbers in the 1860s when the American Railroad Express hired him and his agency to assemble a special task force in order to put an end to it.

They paid a lot, but he was worth it, every penny of it. After all, his reputation preceded him. In 1861 he successfully uncovered a sinister plot and saved the life of the President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln.

Anyhow, the time had come and he was assigned in the 1870s to track down and capture the James brothers and the Youngers “dead or alive.” The agency’s code strictly forbade the Pinkerton’s agents from accepting reward money, so they were never really after the bounty, but the challenge was still greater than any other. Not to mention the fact that the capture alone of Jesse James and his gang, if executed efficiently, was about to bring a priceless reputation for him and his agency.

Turn down reward money, was yes, their first rule of conduct, but the Pinkerton Code set some other standards within its ranks. Such as, accept no bribes, never compromise with criminals or partner with local law enforcement agencies among the rest. Going first and foremost by their own rules, the agency devised a fine plan of how to catch their targets, as well as a practice that was revolutionary.

According to Larry Earl Schweikart, an American historian and professor of history at the University of Dayton who wrote the article “The Non-Existent Frontier Bank Robbery,” Pinkerton detectives put together a special operations force of crack shots and expert riders who rode in separate cars with their horses, or even separate trains that trailed behind the ‘target.’ The Pinkertons could react rapidly to a robbery, ultimately making it too difficult to consistently hit trains.” This was perhaps the reason why safes in these so-called target trains were unusually low on cash, like on July 21, 1873, when Jesse’s gang hit the Night Express Train in Adair, Iowa, we previously mentioned and found only $3,000, and the same amount, more or less, when they robbed the safe of a train in Gad’s Hill, Missouri, on January 31, 1874. They were probably baits.

As for Jesse, according to Pinkerton’s official website, the Pinkerton Agency composed huge criminal databases out of everything that was related to the criminals they were after. And we mean everything! Mugshots, people’s recollections, witness accounts, hearsay, as well as every single newspaper story published that in one way or another was somehow about them and the things they did, praised, or condemned.

And there were a lot. Many believed they were heroes and tried to depict them as such. Others wished nothing else than their capture. But for Pinkerton, they were just tiny pieces of evidence and clues about their potential whereabouts, and he used them to track them down. It was a practice not heard of before and it proved to be effective. They were found at last.

In March 1874, one of their agents was tasked to infiltrate the home of  Zerelda Samuel, Jesse’s and Frank’s mother. Some believed the agent was a former criminal who wished to redeem himself and could get inside their circles with ease. Some say his alleged criminal activities were just a cover-up story made up to help him get inside. Nonetheless, he did get in but never made the trip back out alive. His name was Joseph W. Whicher and he was found dead in a ditch, executed.

At the same time, according to multiple reports (William A. Settle, Marley Brant, Ted P. Yeatman, Homer Croy), two other agents Louis J. Lull, aka W. J. Allen, aka Lull, and Ed Daniels were sent for the Youngers. Both died in a gunfight, though Lull managed to kill one of the brothers, John Younger.

After these unfortunate events, Alan Pinkerton personally tried to catch Jesse himself and avenge the agents’ deaths but never did. On April 3, 1882, Jesse was assassinated by Robert Ford, in a cowardly fashion.

“Can’t figure it out, do you want to be like me or do you want to be me?” – Jesse James to Robert Ford.

He was 34 and he was killed at close range by a shot fired through the back of his skull, and by a man who he believed was his friend, but turned out to be something else. Pinkerton died two years after Jesse’s death. He had personally never managed to catch Jesse James, but his legacy lives on.

By the end of the following decade, the agency had 2,000 active agents and an additional 30,000 within its ranks. The Pinkerton Detective Agency was credited with disbanding the Wild Bunch, and by the 1960s had earned such glory and fame that it had no less but 60 offices nationwide. On one occasion in 1968 they were even called on to protect and escort Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa across the Atlantic.

At the turn of the millennium, Securitas AB, probably the largest provider of security services across the world, bought both Pinkerton and Burns detective agencies, the same year that Pinkerton was celebrating its 150 years of existence and good service for people in need.

To honor the legacy, all that was salvaged over the years and was theirs to give, was given to the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., accompanied by a statement that reads:

We are honored that the Library of Congress considers our archives to be of historical significance and are proud to share the details of our organization’s past with the nation.” The agency was never known to be an all-boys club, was never a white-only organization either, and today, after almost 170 years of existence, Pinkerton Consulting and Investigations is still here if needed.

 Martin Chalakoski

(Related story from us: Jesse James was a “cool and deadly customer” who masterminded daytime robberies that taunted law enforcement)

A Winter Boom of Snowy Owls Masks a Host of Climate Threats

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Snowy owls may be a nice surprise in more Southerly climes, but these charismatic birds are also at risk.(Andrew(Chungho) Kim / Alamy)
With their powdery white feathers and haunting yellow eyes, snowy owls are one of the most iconic animals of the Arctic. They’re also one of the only ones that makes regular visits into the non-Arctic, with jaw-dropping owl blizzards making regular appearances in southern Canada and the northern United States during their annual winter migration.

This year we’ve been witnessing a “mega-irruption”—an irregular, dramatic migration—with owls sighted in places as far-flung as New York state and Odessa, Texas, and even atop the U.S. Department of Agriculture building in Washington, DC. Needless to say, bird enthusiasts are having a field day.

Yet this seeming abundance of snowies masks the unfortunate fact that these charismatic birds are in more danger than ever before. Exactly what threats they’re facing has been tough to suss out, because snowy owls don’t have easy-to-trace regular migrations; they’re “highly nomadic at all points in their life cycle,” says Scott Weidensaul, a Pennsylvania naturalist and owl researcher who runs a program to track these birds on their far-flung travels.

For scientists, where snowy owls go and what they do throughout the year is still largely mysterious—which is becoming a problem as climate threats to the birds mount.

In December 2017, the International Union for Conservation of Nature changed the snowy owl’s status to “vulnerable” on its updated Red List of endangered species in light of new research. That designation will allow researchers to monitor the species with more scrutiny and better argue for their conservation, says wildlife biologist Denver Holt, founder of the Owl Research Institute. “The snowy owls are an indicator, in my mind, of the health of the Arctic environment,” he says. “They’re also clearly the avian icon of Arctic conservation.”

Until recently, researchers estimated that there were 300,000 owls (including 140,000 in North America) in the wild, a number extrapolated from an early-2000s population sample from one portion of Arctic tundra taken during peak season. In 2013, Bryn Athyn College biologist Eugene Potapov and Arctic expert Richard Sale challenged that estimate, saying it didn’t reflect snow owl cycles and their nomadic lifestyle. In their book The Snowy Owl, they took a different approach, looking at owls during breading seasons across the tundra subzones to find that their population was more like 30,000—though the authors caution that even that is simply “a guesstimate.”

In his annual research trips, Potapov has witnessed a changing Arctic, with transformed snow conditions and melted sea ice. Based on this rapid environmental change, he and others believe the snowy owl population may be even lower. In its 2016 annual report, bird research and conservation organization Partners In Flight noted that the snowy owl population is “believed to be rapidly declining” while acknowledging that “populations are difficult to estimate.”

A lemming, the preferred food of the snowy owl. (Eugene Potapov)

The snowy owl’s irregular movements are tied to a semi-regular natural process: the lemming population cycle. Lemmings may be best known for the urban myth of jumping off cliffs en masse (which dates back to a 1950s Disney “documentary” that involved manually driving lemmings off of a cliff). In reality, they a key food source for the snowy owl. But there’s a lot of boom and bust in the lemming population, meaning that means every few years—around four years in many areas across the Arctic—an extra-cold year with fluffy insulating snow creates the perfect conditions for these rodents to have lots and lots of delicious babies.

A high lemming year is a feast for carnivores like the Arctic fox, the Arctic wolf, and, of course, the snowy owl. The raptors, who like every other Arctic species live in extreme conditions, rely on the wealth of prey provided by a lemming boom to have a good breeding season. After they breed, snowy owls head south in great numbers for the winter. This year’s owl boom is an echo of the 2013 snowy “mega-irruption,” when an estimated 8,000 birds headed south to the United States, reaching as far as Florida and Bermuda.

Previously, scientists believed snowy owls irrupted because they were starving in the Arctic, having exhausted their lemming supply. However, it turns out that the snowy owls who come south actually tend to be relatively healthy and well-fed. Weidensaul says that irruptions may actually signal a boom year for the birds, when so many have bred that they can’t all stay in the Arctic, on sea ice or in the tundra, throughout the scarce winter.

During an irruption, younger owls strike out on their own in search of food and space. That quest kills many: the low-swooping birds get hit by vehicles, attacked by other raptors such as eagles, or poisonedby eating prey that has been exposed to rodenticides. Yet their fates, as well as their non-Arctic activities, are still poorly understood.

Weidensaul aims to change that. He is also the cofounder of Project SNOWstorm, which tracks the “winter movement ecology” of individual snowy owls. For the past five years, the project has been following around 65 individual owls that have been tagged using tiny solar-powered trackers attached to the birds like backpacks.

The trackers offer researchers an unprecedented amount of data on where the birds are, how they interact when they’re near each other, and what kinds of habitat they prefer. When the birds head out of cell range, the trackers store data and transmit it when they’re back in range, which means that even when they’re back up in the Arctic, chances are researchers will be able to collect their data when they head south again.

The information from these trackers has helped to confirm that many snowy owls who come south are in good health, partly by enabling dead birds to be found and analyzed. It’s also revealed that the snowies have wildly different habits: , while some birds cover thousands of miles over their wintering season, flying from place to place, others don’t move around very much at all. Those include Badger and Arlington, two owls that have stayed close to where they were tagged in Wisconsin during the 2017-2018 winter.

The data Badger, Arlington and their fellows collect helps conservationists make decisions that help snowies survive their changing world. A big part of that is an interruption to their stable relationship with lemmings. “The Arctic has changed,” Potapov says. “So you’ll see more irruptions and less breeding.”

In the meantime, know that the out-of-place owls you enjoy spotting outside the Arctic come with an important backstory. Snowy owls have be referred to as “possibly the world’s sexiest bird”—but for scientists, they are also one of the world’s most mysterious.


Polar bears ‘running out of food’

High-tech tracking collars on nine female polar bears have measured the animals’ efforts to find food on the diminishing Arctic ice.

Each bear wore a collar – recording video, location and activity levels – for 8-12 days, while metabolic tracers tracked the bears’ energy use.

This revealed that most of the animals were unable to catch enough prey to meet their energy needs.

The team says wild bears have higher metabolic rates than thought.

GPS video-camera collars were applied to solitary adult female polar bears for 8 to 12 days in April, 2014-2016. These collars enabled researchers to understand the movements, behaviors, and foraging success of polar bears on the sea ice.Image copyrightANTHONY PAGANO/USGS
Image captionThe team tracked nine solitary female polar bears over 8-12 days

Moreover, climate change appears to be having dramatic effects on the Arctic sea-ice, forcing polar bears to move greater distances as they hunt, and making it harder for them to catch prey.

The vision of a polar bear plucking a vulnerable seal off an ice floe is something familiar to wildlife documentary fanatics. Earlier this winter, though, an image of an emaciated polar bear went viral, with many asking if this was the telltale image of climate change.

The authors of this study, published in the journal Science, point out that the animals do now need to travel further to find seals, and that this is likely to be an “important factor explaining declines in their body condition and survival” of polar bears.

Tracking every move

polar bear on sea iceImage copyrightATHONY PAGANO/USGS
Image captionPolar bears use the sea ice to hunt seals and, as it diminishes, have to travel further to find their food

In Spring of 2014, 2015, and 2016, Anthony Pagano, a researcher at the University of California Santa Cruz and his colleagues, set out to track the polar bears’ hunting and survival during this critical season. They captured nine females on the sea-ice of the Beaufort Sea and measured the metabolic rates of each bear using blood and urine samples.

They also fitted the bear with the GPS-camera collars, to record and film their activity.

“We found that polar bears actually have much higher energy demands than predicted. They need to be catching a lot of seals,” Mr Pagano explained.

The extent of Arctic sea-ice, as measured at its minimum in September, is decreasing at a rate of about 14% per decade, which is likely reducing polar bears’ access to seals. And their plight could be exacerbated by the need to alter hunting strategies with the seasons.

In the spring, the researchers explained polar bears are mostly preying on juvenile seals. But later in the year, after the bears’ long summer fast, those young seals are older and wiser, meaning polar bears are not able to catch as many.

“It’s thought that bears might catch a couple per month in the fall, compared to five to 10 per month in the spring and early summer,” Mr Pagano said.

“We now have the technology to learn how they are moving on the ice, their activity patterns, and their energy needs, so we can better understand the implications of these changes we are seeing in the sea-ice.”