You better have a forensic fact-checker.

Two scandals this week show how the business of shame is always evolving.

The first involves Buffy Sainte-Marie who seemed as Indigenous as can be.

But the CBC’s Fifth Estate shocked us all by uncovering documentation and witnesses that claim she was not born into the Cree First Nation north of Regina, but is an Italian-American raised in Stoneham, Massachusetts.

The Fifth Estate exposé is very compelling. It would be hard to refute a birth certificate in the county records office, plus the testimony of nieces, nephews and cousins that this woman, who has been singing professionally for over 60 years, isn’t just another pretendian.

Her response has been muted; the response of Indigenous Canadians has ranged from cancelling to accepting; and the response of her millions of Canadian fans is a mix of denial – “Give her a break, she’s 82” – and disappointment – “Why didn’t she just tell us? We’d still love her.”

In other words, sad, not mad.

This is not the situation in America where last month The New Yorker published an exposé of comedian Hasan Minhaj, claiming he often uses ‘embellishments” which he calls “emotional truths.” The magazine claims: “In his standup specials, the former “Patriot Act” host often recounts harrowing experiences he’s faced as an Asian American and Muslim American. Does it matter that much of it never happened to him?”

Did Mr. Minhaj call the article “hurtful?” Did he claim “I know who I am?”

No way. He counter-attacked. That’s the American Way. He did it via a 21-minute video that feels like one of his stand-up routines. He takes down The New Yorker chapter and verse for factual inaccuracies and wildly out-of-context quotes. And he also thought to audio record his conversations with the reporter, Clare Malone. Like any good performer (and he’s won an Emmy, a Peabody and made Time’s 100 most influential people in the world), Minhaj minimizes where he has to. But what’s really shocking is that the best checking department in all of media seems to have gotten a lot of things wrong.

So now, we have the CBC, pinched in size and reputation, pulling off a major investigative coup, and The New Yorker, attacked at its strongest point — by an investigative coup.


1. Fall back. When we go to bed on Saturday, fewer of us have to turn our clocks back because our smartphones (which number 33 million in our nation of 40 million) will do that automatically. It’s a bit harder in England.

2. Margaret Atwood learns a new skill. When I had my pacemaker installed, I was 61 and I can’t remember dancing afterwards at the nurse’s station. But then, I’m not 83 like Ms. Atwood is. She also found time to deliver a Hallowe’en message from “your Batty Old Hungarian Vampire Granny.”

3. Our thoughts and prayers are… America’s Gun Violence Archive is the best way to keep track of their daily mass shootings. It has a handy new gun violence map that asks, with a straight face: “How many people have been shot near you?” Good question.

After the mass shootings in Maine, America’s new House Speaker said: “Prayer is appropriate in a time like this, that the evil can end and this senseless violence can stop.” He’d met a few days earlier to endorse Women for Gun Rights whose motto is: “If safety is important to you, join the journey.” Finally, here’s how The New York Times reports on mass shootings, and what to do if an active shooter’s near you.

Speaking of maps, here’s an extremely detailed one of New York neighbourhoods and an extremely detailed guide to that map.

4. Two Brits walked onto a screen. One, Irving Finkel, makes learning worth living. The other, Boris Johnson, not so much. Oh, and speaking of men in suits

5. Quick looks into odd corners. Couples with joint bank accounts are happier. A look inside a Taliban Court. Plus: Why does the new speaker of the US House have no bank account? And why are social media’s new ‘beauty filters’ so  terrible for teens. Worse still: the rise of deepfake pornography.

6. Rick Mercer and Jann Arden. See them live! Read their books!! Be a proud Canadian !!! Tuesday, Nov. 14. Tickets.

6a. RH Thomson and Eric Peterson. See them live! Read the book!    Be a proud Canadian!!! Tuesday, Nov. 7. Tickets. And see a preview here.

7. Big reads on very big things. “Marc Andreesen’s “Techno-Optimist’s Manifesto”. Yes, this antidote to being miserable about the future is written by a tech-investor gazillionaire. But it’s a timely and articulate reminder that our civilization was built on technology.

Next up: why technology usually fails in public places, via how Israel’s Gaza Fence failed. It seems that “systemic weaknesses are often more apparent to outsiders than to insiders”.

And her again: Margaret Atwood on AI.

8. Stayin’ alive. What does living happily ever after look like? If you’re a romance book designer, it’s changed over the years. And what does science say about “déjà vu”, that sense you’ve been someplace before when you haven’t? What’s the relationship between alcohol and cancer? (Sadly, “direct”). Plus how to give a kidney. Finally, Canada’s latest MAiD statistics, tracking just how often we call on medical assistance in dying. It’s growing.

9. Aural and visual charms. Finally, the final Beatles song, rescued via AI. And what did you do today? Plus the 6th and final season of The Crown, debuting on Netflix on November 16th.

10. What classical music will look like. It’s still concert halls and high heels. But it could be what Norman Lebrecht foretells from watching “Yuja Wang playing Pierre Boulez at a David Hockney exhibition in a box-room behind London’s Eurostar terminal.”

11.  What I’m liking. Very long, multi-gen streaming series. My fave used to be A French Village, 7 seasons of drama about how a French village coped in the Nazi occupation and afterwards. I’ve now finished This Is Us, the 6-season drama of a contemporary mixed race family in America. I mourn its loss and am searching for a new family (or village) to give my life over to.




Jean and I are happy veterans of the small-ship peak-experience people at Lindblad Expeditions.

In fact we’re so happy that we’re taking our friends on three of their wonderful new trips next year and we’d like you to join us on any or all of them.

· February 25 to March 9 – From Fiji to Tahiti aboard the National Geographic Orion

· May 29 to June 5 – Down the Amalfi Coast of Italy, aboard the tall ship, Sea Cloud II.

· September 2 to 9 – Through BC’s Great Bear Rainforest, aboard the National Geographic Venture.

So please join us at an information reception on Monday, November 27th. There will be wine and nibblies, and the experts from Lindblad will join us online to detail each of the three trips and answer your questions. We’ll also talk – live and in person – about our own experiences with Lindblad and why nearly 50 of us have already signed up for one or more of these trips next year.

Date: Monday, November 27

Time: 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Place: 102 Bloor St. West, Toronto (between Avenue Rd. and Bay St.) Penthouse [Detailed directions will be emailed before the event]

**Please RSVP to me at if you can join us on Nov. 27. 

As we can never say too often, adventure is not in the guidebook and beauty is not on the map. What better time to test that theory than next year? And what better way than with your fellow travellers?


Bob Ramsay

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