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The Current

Whole Show Blow-by-Blow

The Current for Show April 19, 2004



It's Monday April 19th and this year marks the 15th Anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil tanker disaster, when 11 million gallons of crude oil wreaked havoc on Prince William Sound, resulting in the world's worst environmental disaster.

Currently, former Valdez captain Joseph Hazelwood is once again transporting large quantities of oil - from the fryer to the dumpster, at the back of the McDonald's.

This is the Current.

Art and Porn/Cronenberg

Politics and artistic expression usually sit growling at one another from across the room. But this week they crowd together in bill C-12, the government's attempt to tighten child pornography laws. In its words, it's designed for the quote "protection of children and other vulnerable persons from sexual exploitation, abuse and neglect".

It's parliament's answer to the work of Vancouver writer John Robin Sharpe. Two years ago the B.C. Supreme Court ruled that some forms of child pornography are legal if they are judged to have artistic merit.

We broadcasted some of the reaction to that ruling starting with John Sharpe. The last voice was John Dixon of the B.C. Civil Liberties Union, and before that Renata Aebi of the Alliance for the Rights of Children.

Most Canadian artists are likely very uncomfortable with the work of John Sharpe. But they worry about the language of Bill C-12. You might expect a film-maker who's turned men into insects and explored the erotic potential of car crashes not to turn away from the controversy. And he hasn't. Canadian Filmmaker David Cronenberg joined us in our Toronto studio.

Bill Defender

Maybe artists don't vote as a block. If they did, there might be someone to take their side in Ottawa. Because Bill C-12 appears to be moving through parliament without opposition. One of the supporters of Bill C-12 is Randy White. He is the Conservative Member of Parliament for Langley-Abbotsford. He was in our Ottawa studio.

Canadian Banned Films Factboard

Canada's history of censoring artists goes back at least to 1914. Balzac's Droll Stories - about life in 16th century France - was considered unfit for Canadians. Its banning was followed by D.H. Lawrence's, Lady Chatterley's Lover in 1930, and James Joyce's Ulysses in 1933.

In 1918, the first film censors snipped away in Manitoba, where all comedies were outlawed for being frivolous.

The Academy Award-winning German film "The Tin Drum" was banned in 1980. The adaptation of the novel by Gunter Grass was first cut, then banned as child pornography by the Ontario Censorship Board.

In 1994, Saskatchewan's film censors briefly kept Exit to Eden out of cinemas. The comedy starred Rosie O'Donnell and Dan Aykroyd as police officers investigating an S and M resort.

The Maritime film board banned the theatrical AND video release of Angelica Houston's film, Bastard Out of Carolina in 1997. The film examined incest through the eyes of a sexually abused girl.

Two years ago Ontario's Film Review Board censored the coming-of-age movie Fat Girl-- but reversed its decision a few months later.


Listen to The Current: Part 1


The Current: Part 2

Naomi Klein

It seems wherever you stand in Iraq there’s a different ditch to die in. The US coalition fights rebels, police fight insurgents, Sunnis and Shia kidnap relief workers. The Kurds bide their time.

Behind all the mayhem however, more subtle battles are won and lost. The Iraqi loot is being divvied up and the Iraquis themselves haven’t had much say in where it goes.

One of the great critics of the way corporations bend public policy has been watching a very different war than the one shown on television. You probably know Naomi Klein for her book No Logo – it made her a reluctant spokesperson for the anti-globalization movement.

Activist Naomi Klein just returned from a month in Baghdad. She was in our Toronto studio.


Listen to The Current: Part 2


The Current: Part 3

Exxon – Fisherman

It was a big tanker and a big spill that became a big lawsuit and a 15-year wait.

It's been 15 years since a drunken captain ran the Exxon Valdez into the rocks of Alaska's Prince William Sound. A few extra ounces of alcohol in the bloodstream led to 11-million gallons of crude oil in the Sound; 11- thousand workers were needed to clean it up. Exxon says it spent $2.2 billion on the cleanup, another $900 million in settlements for environmental damages.

But in 1994, an unprecedented development. The courts awarded a $5-billion (US) penalty against Exxon in a class action suit involving 32,000 claimants. All said they'd been economically injured by the spill. However, they're still waiting to cash their cheques. In subsequent rulings the award was overturned -- then reinstated. It is still tied up in appeals.

Arguably the community most affected was the remote fishing town of Cordova, accessible only by ferry or plane. Kory Blake's family has lived in Cordova for three generations and he's one of the claimants in the class action suit. He joined us from his current home in Wasilla, outside Anchorage. Fisherman, Kory Blake is from Cordova, Alaska.

Exxon – Spokesperson

So from Alaska it looks as if Exxon Mobil is dodging its responsibilities. The view from Dallas -- where Exxon has its head office -- is quite different. Tom Cirigliano is a spokesperson for Exxon Mobil.

Exxon – Legal Analyst

At the time of the judgment in 1994, the $5-billion award in the Exxon Valdez case was a record sum for any civil lawsuit. It's also the kind of case that author Robert A. Kagan worries about in his book "Adversarial Legalism: The American Way of Law." Professor Kagan teaches political science and law at the University of California at Berkeley.

Oil Spill Factboard

If it's a massive oil spill involving Exxon you're looking for, you don't have to go as far from the madding crowd as Alaska to find one.

The largest urban oil spill in the history of North America has been quietly percolating beneath the feet of Brooklynites for more than 50 years, underground and mostly unnoticed.

The volume has been estimated at 17-million gallons -- 6 million more than the Exxon Valdez. As of last year, less than a third of the oil had been recovered.

Meanwhile the oil is leaking into a local creek and has contaminated the aquifer that used to supply Brooklyn with well water.

No tanker hit the rocks to cause the Brooklyn spill. In fact the source of the spill isn't clear. It might have been the result of a 1950 explosion at a Rockefeller Standard Oil facility. Exxon Mobil, the successor to Standard Oil, says the spill was only discovered in 1978 when it was spotted by the coast guard and the state ordered a cleanup.

Compared to the billions of dollars in cleanup costs and compensation already paid by Exxon for the Valdez disaster, penalties in the Brooklyn oil spill are predicted to reach a comparatively cheap $50-million. A lawsuit initiated by the environmental organization Riverkeeper is just getting underway.

Last Word

Earlier on the show, we spoke to David Cronenberg about why he opposes the new child pornography legislation, Bill C-12. He pointed out that works like Lolita might never be published if the bill was law.

Ah Lolita, the most controversial 12-year-old in literature. Although she'd be 61 today -- Lolita was published in 1955 -- she can still cause a stir just sitting on the shelf. Lolita is making trouble for her author again because it looks as if Vladimir Nabokov could have copied the story. No one's suggesting Nabokov consciously plagiarized -- but a recently discovered German short story collection is raising questions.

Among the stories, an 18 page tale called --- Lolita. It's about an older man bewitched by an underage girl. Nabokov apparently lived in Berlin during the twenties and thirties -- did he read the story and turn it into a three hundred page book? We ended the show this morning with an excerpt from Lolita. Actor Jeremy Irons read from Nabokov's controversial classic.


Listen to the Current: Part 3


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