In a move that is sure to rile grammarians the world over, the Mid Devon District Council is planning a ban on apostrophes in street names to avoid "potential confusion," according to the BBC (the official pronouncement is largely symbolic, since only three streets in the district currently have apostrophes). Already, Britons like proofreader Mary de Vere Taylor of Ashburton are speaking out against the proposed prohibition:
"It's almost as though somebody with a giant eraser is literally trying to erase punctuation from our consciousness," she told BBC News.
She said there was something "terribly British and terribly reassuring" about well-written and well-punctuated writing.
The North Devon Journal adds that the North Devon Council and Torridge District Council have implemented bans as well:
While Torridge has an official policy against the use of apostrophes North Devon's assistant chief executive Anne Cowley said although it was not a council policy it is historic practice not to use apostrophes in street names.
"When the council names a new street the details are entered onto the Local Street Gazetteer," she said.
"This feeds into the National Street Gazetteer and there are no street names on the Local Street Gazetteer for North Devon containing an apostrophe followed by a letter S."
The debate about apostrophes in public signage is actually not new in Britain. In 2009, for instance, the Daily Mail profiled a "punctuation hero" who was accused of being a vandal after he pained a missing apostrophe on a sign near his home (the man also refused to get in the 'five items or less' line at the supermarket because the notice should read, 'five items or fewer').
That same year, the Birmingham City Council got in a feud with the U.K.'s Apostrophe Protection Society -- yes, the Apostrophe Protection Society -- after authorities refused to add apostrophes to the city's road signs. "I have done my own research into the use of the possessive apostrophe in place names," one council member declared in defending the decision.
As for the latest punctuation dustup, the Mid Devon District Council's statement declares that "our proposed policy on street naming and numbering covers a whole host of practical issues, many of which are aimed at reducing potential confusion over street names." Careful readers will notice that the statement does not include a single apostrophe.
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Argentina, home to more than 30 million Catholics (out of a population of over 40 million), is now also home to the first pope from Latin America -- or from the Southern Hemisphere, for that matter. How is the Argentine press reacting to the historic election of Pope Francis I?
All outlets, of course, are leading with Jorge Mario Bergoglio's nationality. Here's Cronica, which simply lets the headline "the pope is Argentine" sink in before declaring today an "historic moment for our country."
The popular daily Clarín, which has clashed repeatedly with Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, has been highlighting the "acrimonious relationship" between Bergoglio and the country's leaders in recent years. The paper points out that Kirchner's husband, Néstor, once called Bergoglio the "true representative of the opposition" when he was president, adding that his wife has had a more "cordial" relationship with the new pope, albeit with "ups and downs" (despite the rancor, Bergoglio still officiated at a mass to mark Néstor's death). One of those downs came in 2010, when Argentina became the first Latin American country to legalize same-sex marriage. Bergoglio denounced the legislation as a "destructive attack on God's plan."
The Argentine newspaper La Nación has also highlighted the "tense relationship" between the Kirchners and Bergoglio, in addition to profiling the "man who made a cult out of keeping a low profile" (in the picture below he's drinking Argentina's iconic yerba mate):
Clarín has two other fascinating bits of coverage. It notes that when the papal news broke today, a heated dispute erupted in Argentina's Chamber of Deputies between the opposition, which wanted to interrupt a ceremony for the late Hugo Chávez to listen to the new pope give his first address, and the ruling party, which wanted to continue the tribute to the Venezuelan leader (the ruling party won out).
The paper is also running a biting article about how Argentina's president was complaining on Twitter about minutia -- specifically how newspapers weren't paying attention to her local infrastructure projects -- while the Vatican was announcing Bergoglio's momentous appointment.
A su Santidad Francisco I twitter.com/CFKArgentina/s…— Cristina Kirchner (@CFKArgentina) March 13, 2013
Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images
RIA-Novosti wins the prize for the scariest headline of the day (though Kim Jong Un's pledges to obliterate a South Korean island are giving the Russian news agency a run for its money): "Ukrainian Killer Dolphins Deserted to Seek Mates - Expert."
According to the state-owned outlet, the Ukrainian navy took control of a Soviet program to train dolphins for combat purposes after the breakup of the USSR, and has more recently been training the mammals to "attack enemy combat swimmers using special knives or pistols fixed to their heads."
But before you start having nightmares about dolphins shooting out of the ocean with weapons jutting out of their snouts, consider this: Today's report is based on unconfirmed speculation from one expert -- and there's no indication that the dolphins were armed even if they did escape earlier this month:
Three of the Ukrainian navy's "killer" dolphins that swam away from their handlers during training exercises probably left to look for mates, an expert said on Tuesday.
Ukrainian media reported earlier this month that only two of five military-trained dolphins returned to their base in the Crimean port of Sevastopol after a recent exercise.
Ukraine's Defense Ministry denied the reports, while refusing to confirm the navy makes use of dolphins, despite the frequent appearance in Ukrainian media of photographs of dolphins with military equipment strapped to them.
"Control over dolphins was quite common in the 1980's," said Yury Plyachenko, a former Soviet naval anti-sabotage officer. "If a male dolphin saw a female dolphin during the mating season, then he would immediately set off after her. But they came back in a week or so."
Hysteria about Ukraine's killer dolphins last surfaced in October, when the same Russian news agency -- RIA-Novosti -- reported that the Ukrainian navy had begun training attack dolphins, triggering headlines like, "The Ukrainian Navy Is Strapping Dolphins With Guns To Attack Swimmers." The basis for the report? An anonymous "military source."
U.S. Navy/Getty Images
For all those wondering what kind of leader Venezuelan Vice President Nicolás Maduro will be when he succeeds the ailing Hugo Chávez, you may have just gotten your answer. During a televised address Tuesday on the Venezuelan president's fragile health and the country's political future, Maduro ripped several pages from Chávez's populist, anti-imperialist playbook.
First there was the announcement that Venezuela will be expelling David Del Monaco, an Air Force attache for the U.S. Embassy, within 24 hours for allegedly trying to rope the Venezuelan military into a "conspiratorial plan" to destabilize the government. Back in 2008, Chávez gave the American ambassador 72 hours to leave the country after accusing the Bush administration of supporting a military plot to overthrow him.
Then there was Maduro's promise to reveal "scientific proof" that Chávez's foreign and domestic enemies had poisoned the Venezuelan leader (presumably with cancer). In 2011, Chávez leveled a similar charge -- wondering aloud whether the United States was infecting Latin America's leaders with cancer.
Maduro also referred to the country's political right-wing as an "enemy of the nation" -- language Chávez employed, even more bitingly, when describing his opponent, Henrique Capriles Radonski, during the last election.
In his December profile of Maduro for FP, Peter Wilson quotes a professor of Latin American history arguing that it's "impossible to expect Maduro to be another Chávez." Instead, the professor explained, "he represents continuity with the policies and programs that the president has promoted." If today's address is any indication, Maduro is planning to cloak himself in the more conspiratorial dimensions of Chavismo as well. What'll be interesting to watch is whether he succeeds -- or comes across as an inferior imitation of the Bolivarian Revolution's original steward.
JUAN BARRETO/AFP/Getty Images
The Moscow Times reports that the Russian television network NTV, which is owned by the state-run energy giant Gazprom, boldly tested the limits of criticizing President Vladimir Putin on Sunday night by broadcasting a sketch featuring comedian Dmitry Grachyov as the Russian strongman. The parody poked fun at Putin's legendary antics, including his "discovery" of Greek urns while scuba diving:
The pro-government channel had whetted viewers' appetites earlier Sunday by publishing an article on its website under the headline "'Yes, Mr. President!' We're Really Showing This on Air."
Bloggers spent the early hours of Monday morning debating whether the new show reflected a loosening of the Kremlin's grip over the media, even though similar hopes were quashed after Channel One broadcast a humorous cartoon on New Year's Eve in 2009 showing Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev dancing and singing.
Just one catch: According to the Moscow Times, Putin watched the sketch in advance. And he apparently approved, however grudgingly. "He invariably welcomes humor, in the best sense of the word," spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the Interfax news agency. Channel One, I imagine, might disagree.
Here's a trailer for the parody:
You can watch the full sketch here.
As if Dennis Rodman calling Kim Jong Un an "awesome guy" whose people "love him" wasn't enough to stoke outrage about the former NBA star's utterly bizarre visit to North Korea this week, North Korean television is now running images of Rodman bowing to North Korea's new leader. Here's a still, which appears at 6:16 in this report:
According to the state-run Korean Central News Agency, Rodman's visit included not only a basketball game and an "amicable" dinner with Kim Jong Un, but also a stop at "the halls which house cars, an electric car, a boat and train coaches used by [Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il] during their field guidance and foreign trips till the last moments of their lives," and a visit to the Rungna Dolphinarium, where Rodman and his entourage "spent a good time watching dolphins dancing to the tune of cheerful music, jumping in group, spinning rings, jumping into the air and shaking hands with people." (The photo below shows Rodman and some Harlem Globetrotters touring another monument in the capital.)
As he was leaving North Korea on Friday, Rodman told reporters that "Kim Jong Un is like his grandfather and his father, who are greater leaders." Kim "is an awesome kid," he added, "very honest and loves his wife so much." Here's footage of Rodman's impromptu press conference:
For those people worrying that Rodman's visit has only emboldened North Korea's repressive leader, consider this: Yes, the NBA star bowed to Kim Jong Un. But he also referred to the head of a nuclear power as an "awesome kid."
(h/t: Adam Cathcart)
We're excited to announce that Louie Palu's powerful photography from the U.S.-Mexico border, which appeared in FP's January/February issue, has won multiple awards from the White House News Photographers Association (WHNPA). The image above, which shows a 20-year-old from Chiapas, Mexico in a migrant shelter the night after she was deported from the United States, won first place in the WHNPA's Portrait category. The picture also finished in second place in the Pictures of the Year International's Portrait category.
The photo below, of a man shot multiple times in drug-related violence in the Mexican city of Culiacán, won first place in the WHNPA's International News Picture category.
You can see Palu's full photo essay for Foreign Policy here. And check out this video of Palu discussing why he embarked on the ambitious project, which was funded by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. "I had been seeing a lot of news reports on the escalating violence, and I wanted to peel away the layers of what's really happening on the border," he explains.
Louie Palu/Zuma Press for FP
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