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Good Reads: From animals in films, to Wikipedia’s slump, to the cost of making a T-shirt

This week's roundup of Good Reads includes animal safety on movie sets, the story behind the original 'welfare queen,' Wikipedia's hopes for survival, Asian 'words of the year,' and how much it costs to make a $25 T-shirt.

By Staff writer / January 11, 2014

The film ‘Life of Pi’ mostly relied on a computer-generated tiger.

20th Century Fox/AP


HBO made headlines in 2012 when four horses died on the set of “Luck,” a drama that revolved around a racetrack. The American Humane Association stepped in to investigate, prompting HBO to cancel the show the next day. For 136 years, the AHA has watched over the welfare of animals in show business. But according to Gary Baum of The Hollywood Reporter, the AHA has repeatedly overlooked or failed to report serious accidents and animal cruelty.

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“In fact, the AHA has awarded its ‘No Animals Were Harmed’ credit to films and TV shows on which animals were injured during production,” he writes. “It justifies this on the grounds that the animals weren’t intentionally harmed or the incidents occurred while cameras weren’t rolling.”

The exposé describes several instances of dubious supervision, including when dozens of dead fish and squid washed ashore after a special-effects explosion during “Pirates of the Caribbean,” and a near drowning of King, the real tiger used in a few scenes in “Life of Pi.”

The legend of the ‘welfare queen’

On the campaign trail, Ronald Reagan regaled audiences with stories about a woman who “used 80 names, 30 addresses, 15 telephone numbers to collect food stamps, Social Security, veterans’ benefits for four nonexistent deceased veteran husbands, as well as welfare. Her tax-free cash income alone has been running $150,000 a year.”

This “welfare queen” became a symbol of a government system rife with fraud, much to the chagrin of some on the left, who considered the tale racist malarkey.
But Mr. Reagan spoke of a real woman. Her name was Linda Taylor, and, as Josh Levin reports in Slate, her crimes reached far deeper than welfare fraud. The con artist was accused of kidnapping, baby trafficking, regularly bilking government services, successfully posing as multiple races (she was white), impersonating a heart surgeon, and possible homicide.

Will Wikipedia survive?

Wikipedia relies on volunteers. They write the encyclopedia entries, add new information, fight off vandals, squash hoaxes, and enforce quality standards. But Wikipedia is in trouble, writes Tom Simonite of MIT Technology Review. Its volunteer workforce has dwindled by more than a third since 2007 and continues to shrink.


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Danny Bent poses at the starting line of the Boston Marathon in Hopkinton, Mass.

After the Boston Marathon bombings, Danny Bent took on a cross-country challenge

The athlete-adventurer co-founded a relay run called One Run for Boston that started in Los Angeles and ended at the marathon finish line to raise funds for victims.

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