Short Takes: News From All Over

Best Buy
By Agents, Improv Everywhere
Just after 3:30 p.m. on April 23rd, an army of 80 people descended upon the Best Buy on 23rd Street in Manhattan, every one of them dressed in blue polo shirts and khakis. The mob’s cohorts were instructed not to work, and not to shop, but to be helpful if anyone were to ask them a question. As expected, chaos ensued. The project was the latest creation of Improv Everywhere, a group based in New York City that uses the world as its stage, leaving a trail of confusion and comedy in its path. — Bennett Gordon

Greeenpeace And Nestle Clash Over GM Coffee
By Staff, Agence France-Presse via Terradaily
Here’s some news that might wake you up: The European Patent Office just granted Nestle, the world’s largest food producer, a patent for a genetically modified coffee plant. Agence France-Presse reports that the patented technology is designed to make the coffee more soluble, while Nestle representatives insist that no genetically modified organisms are currently being used in its coffee production. In spite of such assurances, the environmental watchdog Greenpeace is opposing the technology, calling on Nestle to withdraw all patents on genetically modified food. (Thanks, Organic Consumers Association.) — Bennett Gordon

Canada’s First Privately Run Jail Returns to the Public Sector
By Staff, National Union of Public and General Employees (Canada)
Corporate corrections facilities may be increasingly running the show in the United States, but in Canada, an experiment in privately run prisons is coming to an end. Located in Penetanguishene, Ontario, it was the first private adult jail in Canada. Later this year it will return to government hands as a result of a study showing the jail was out-performed by a government-run jail in areas including security, health care, and the reduction of recidivism. (Thanks, rabble.) — Nick Rose

Steal This Book, and That Book, and That Book…
By the Editors, The Morning News
Following the recent Kaavya Viswanathan plagiarism scandal, the editors of The Morning News are taking literary theft to another level. The challenge: Write an essay consisting entirely of other people’s words. The meta ‘work of fiction,’ at a maximum of 750 words, must contain plagiarized material from no less than five different published books (the number of authors used doesn’t matter), and you must properly cite the pilfered phrases. The essays, judged on creativity and excellence, are due May 12, so start ‘writing.’ — Miriam Skurnick

America’s BookShelf
By Staff,
An online library is letting readers across the country check out their fellow bibliophiles’ private collections. Members of the online community America’s BookShelf can list their books online, peruse other people’s catalogues, and simply ‘check’ books in and out. The annual membership fee is $12 (or $1 per month) and each book credit, used to request books, costs $3.50. Each time a book is requested, America’s BookShelf sends a postage-paid (and recycled) envelope with the address of where to send the book. (Thanks, Treehugger.) — Miriam Skurnick

Western Montana Growers Go Beyond Organic and Get Local
By Tad Sooter, New West
While many of us may want tomatoes in the dead of winter, a group of farmers in Western Montana thinks the idea is silly. Even if they’re organic, those tomatoes probably traveled thousands of miles to reach your table. All of a sudden, ‘USDA Organic’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘environmentally benign.’ As a solution, the Montana farmers have developed a new ‘Homegrown’ label certifying that the food has traveled no more than 150 miles from producer to consumer. ‘Homegrown’ food is organic, to be sure, but it has the added benefit of using less fossil fuels en route to your tummy. (Thanks, Organic Consumers Association.) — Nick Rose

Comments? Story tips? Write a letter to the editor

Like this? Want more?Subscribe to Utne magazine

In-depth coverage of eye-opening issues that affect your life.