What are we reading? March 25, 2021

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Each week, BIV staff will share with you some of the interesting stories we have found from around the web.


Kirk LaPointe, publisher and editor-in-chief:

UBC scholar Minelle Mahtani writes lovingly of how her mother’s battle with tongue cancer gave her a voice. – The Walrus



Media columnist Ben Smith profiles a promising media startup conceived by a Boston University academic who has redefined “racist” and a former Boston Globe editorial page editor. Their two institutions will back the venture. The Emancipator pledges a more urgent dialogue on race. – The New York Times



A lengthy but fascinating look at the quest to build the perfect. . .pitching machine. It might level the playing field in baseball, no pun intended, between hitters and pitchers. – The Ringer



Mark Falkenberg, deputy managing editor:

Lethbridge, Alberta, police are in hot water following allegations of corruption. This week, the province’s justice minister gave Lethbridge Police Chief Shahin Mehdizadeh three weeks to come up with a plan to reform the force or see it dissolved. Six officers are accused of unauthorized searches of police databases for personal information on former Alberta environment Minister Shannon Phillips, while another two officers have been disciplined for conducting unauthorized surveillance of the NDP MLA and her brunch guests. – CBC



How the current spike in lumber prices in the U.S. springs directly from the mountain pine beetle infestation of B.C. forests going back two decades. – Quartz



Timothy Renshaw, managing editor:

Will there be life on Mars? If you're interested in being part of that life, start saving now. Estimates have your ticket to Mars and its proposed first city [Nüwa] priced at  around US$300,000. That's a one-way ticket. Accommodations? A cozy retreat inside a Martian cliff. – Popular Mechanics



Not sure where your Martian water will come from when you get to Nüwa, but here are some insights into how the planet's original supply disappeared. – European Space Agency



Meanwhile back on Earth, more good news in the race to develop better energy storage. – Popular Mechanics



And at least some good news in prosecuting data thieves and cybercriminal accomplices. Consequences for cybercrime need to be far more severe if we are to make any headway in the war against online frauds, bullies, creeps and criminals.  – Digital Guardian



Glen Korstrom, reporter:

I enjoyed this tale behind Sobeys buying a majority stake in rival Longo’s for $357 million – mostly for its charming introduction that documented how its executives met on a park bench in desolate downtown Toronto during the pandemic because it was the one place they thought there would be no one around to spot and recognize them. – Financial Post



It is not only get-togethers with friends that I have missed during the pandemic, but also the social interaction with people at large. This article explores the dynamic of social interactions with people who are acquaintances, or even less than that, and how important they are. – Atlantic



One intriguing new investment opportunity is to invest in Hipgnosis, an LSE-listed company that trades in North America on the OTCBB (HIPGSF:OTCBB). It has spent about US$1.75 billion to buy rights to 60,000 songs, and gets revenue when those songs are streamed, or are in TV shows, games or movies. One recent US$2 million transaction it signed was to allow the use of its Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin’. 

The company reminds me a bit of the old NYSE-listed CKX Inc. (Content is King), which owned Elvis’ likeness and commercial royalties until it was bought by a private equity firm. 

I’m not recommending anyone buy Hipgnosis shares, but it’s good to know that it is possible to invest in owning music rights. – Barron’s



Nelson Bennett, reporter

Lessons from the past. The parallels between the Spanish Flu 100 years ago and today’s COVID-19 pandemic are remarkable. Then, as now, people initially abided by public health orders to stay indoors, wear masks and avoid public gatherings. But human nature being what it is, people eventually grew impatient and started bending the rules. The result was a vicious second and third wave. The Conversation



Regions that get a lot of sun are logical places to develop solar power, as California has done. But these hot dry places also have water conservation challenges. Researchers in California have come up with a pretty smart idea. Rather than build new solar farms in large patches, why not install solar panels over water canals used for irrigation? The benefit would be two-fold. First, covering canals with solar panels would reduce evaporation of precious water. But photo voltaics also become less efficient the hotter they get. Placing them over canals would cool them down, which would mean increasing their energy efficiency. Popular Science