This Week: Good news/Bad news

A week in the life of simon cowell

Simon CowellA week in the life of simon cowell
The upcoming season of American Idol (the reality hit’s ninth) will be the last for snarky British judge Simon Cowell. But don’t worry, he’s not going far. Cowell’s moving on to produce an American version of his own hit British competition show, The X Factor, which is pretty much the same thing as Idol, to be aired in the U.S. on Fox, which—you guessed it—is the same network that carries Idol. And guess who he may be bringing along with him? Former Idol judge Paula Abdul.

Hope in Afghanistan
Canadian Forces in Afghanistan had a bad year in 2009—32 of our soldiers died and many more were injured. A Canadian journalist, Michelle Lang, also lost her life. But there is hope that with a troop surge and new commitment on the part of NATO troops to live and work among ordinary Afghans, 2010 could bring better news. Plus, a new poll suggests that Afghans are more supportive of NATO’s mission there and less supportive of the Taliban. This is an important step in the fight to rid Afghanistan of extremists: unless Afghans themselves are on our side, all the peacekeeping and anti-terror missions in the world will not bring peace and democracy to the country. NATO relies heavily on Afghans—for goodwill and information regarding terrorists. With them on our side, the fight against the Taliban could take a turn for the better.

The war on salt
New York is at the forefront of the war on unhealthy foods. The city famously banned trans fats and forced restaurateurs to post calorie counts on their menus, a move that has been largely successful. Now the Big Apple is planning to stick it to another food foe: salt. It has set a goal of reducing the amount of salt in packaged and restaurant food by 25 per cent over the next five years. The city may have more difficulty convincing citizens to go easy on the sodium—while high levels of salt intake can cause strokes and cardiovascular problems, consumers have traditionally been wary of low-sodium products, fearing that they won’t taste as good. New Yorkers may soon be carrying salt shakers in their pockets.

Beware Kim Jong-Il
North Korea has said it is open to new talks about nuclear disarmament, in exchange for a peace treaty with the U.S. and an end to crippling sanctions. While we are wary of any platitudes that come out of Kim Jong-Il’s mouth, we are still encouraged that peace with North Korea may indeed be a possibility. If ending the awful human rights crisis in the Hermit Kingdom means dealing with a two-faced despot, we’d say it’s worthwhile. As long as we remain wary of Kim and his cohorts.

Medal domination
Our athletes are winning medals left, right and centre in the run-up to the Olympics. Snowboarder Jasey Jay Anderson has won his last two races; Pierre Lueders won two bobsled events last week, and our long-track speed skaters are dominating their sport. Combine that with the technological advantages (profiled last week in Maclean’s) developed for our athletes, and it looks like we may very well own the podium in Vancouver.

The return of Palin
She’s baaack! Sarah Palin has signed on as a regular contributor to Fox News, where she will also host occasional series. We don’t expect “her rogue-ness” to contribute anything worthwhile about serious news topics and politics—she’s more likely to offer shrill, empty jabs at the left-wing mainstream media, mixed with cringe-inducing memories of aw-shucks Alaska. A new book about the 2008 presidential campaign claims that John McCain’s advisers warned of Palin, “She doesn’t know anything.” That sounds just about right.

Ironic academics
On Monday, a group of over 100 Canadian university professors sent a letter to newspapers voicing their discontent with Stephen Harper’s decision to prorogue Parliament. They accused the Prime Minister of violating “the trust of the Canadian people [and] thus acting anti-democratically.” Recent polls suggest many Canadians support that statement, but we find the professors’ stance more than a little ironic, given that Ontario community college teachers are currently threatening to strike. That would be another blow to Ontario’s post-secondary students, who have endured countless walkouts and strikes by faculty and teaching assistants in recent years. Academics in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

Another wall?
Israel is planning to build another separation barrier—this time on its border with Egypt. Unlike its other security fence in the West Bank, which has successfully kept out terrorists, the Egyptian wall will mainly be used to keep illegal migrant workers from entering the country—much like the barrier Saudi Arabia built along parts of its border with Yemen. Egypt has said it has no problem with the barrier—as long as it is built on Israeli land—but we wouldn’t be surprised if the wall produced a sour relationship between Israel and one of its stronger regional allies. More walls don’t make for better neighbours.

Junk snail mail
More woes for those Canadians who still rely on the post office to send and receive mail. Canada Post has upped the price of domestic stamps to 57 cents, a rise of three cents (the largest hike in the Crown corporation’s history). As if that weren’t bad enough for post office users, the infamous “419” online scam—wherein a wealthy African attempts to access bank accounts by promising a massive payout—has made its way to snail mail. There is one alternative that we can think of—it’s cheaper, faster, and you don’t need to leave your couch to send or receive. You’ll still have to deal with 419 junk mail, though.

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