This Week: Good news/Bad news

Plus a week in the life of Larry O’Brien

Viktor BoutFace of the week
Still here in Bangkok: alleged Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout in a court cell. He was fighting extradition to the U.S., and won.

Larry O’BrienA week in the life of Larry O’Brien
The Ottawa mayor has wasted little time since his acquittal last week on charges of influence peddling. By Thursday he was back at city hall, tackling an overflowing in-basket after a briefing from acting mayor Doug Thompson. O’Brien had been on a leave of absence since May 1 as the trial dragged on. On Tuesday, he announced he is preparing a major speech on the issues facing the city. It will set priorities for the 2010 municipal elections, where he’ll face the voters’ verdict.


Seeing justice done
Lawyers shouldn’t represent themselves. Doctors shouldn’t treat themselves. Now RCMP complaints commissioner Paul Kennedy rightly says Mounties shouldn’t investigate themselves. In a report issued Tuesday, Kennedy says investigations of fellow Mounties are “flawed and inconsistent.” Among the problems: lead investigators knowing members under investigation; members of lower or equal rank investigating fellow officers; the RCMP’s failure to track internal cases, or their outcomes. The force, says Kennedy, “has no understanding of what the scope of the problem actually is.” The airport tasering and death of Robert Dziekanski and the in-custody shooting of Ian Bush, both in B.C., are two RCMP self-investigations that raised serious public doubts. RCMP brass should embrace Kennedy’s recommendation that arm’s-length bodies investigate serious internal cases. The force’s credibility is at stake.

Sticking it to the flu
The H1N1 flu virus faded from the news this summer, but it’s folly to think the risk from human swine flu is over. Nationally, more than 60 people died and 1,300 have been hospitalized since the pandemic started. The Canadian and provincial governments will spend $400 million on 50.4 million doses of swine flu vaccine. The vaccine, under production in Quebec City, should be available to all who want it by November. “Nobody will be left behind,” says Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq. Vaccine production isn’t a “sexy” political issue, but it’s heartening to see we are prepared when, and if, the flu storms back this winter.

Help is on the way
Overdue reinforcements will aid Canadian troops, who have paid a bloody price in their efforts to protect civilians and drive Taliban insurgents from Kandahar. U.S. General Stanley McChrystal, head of NATO forces in Afghanistan, will boost to 21,000 the number of U.S. soldiers deploying to the region. It’s a belated recognition of the Taliban’s strength, the area’s strategic importance and Canada’s lonely battle to hold the fort.

Candid camera
YouTube is more than a video bazaar of the bizarre. The Internet time-waster is also proving a fine law-enforcement tool. Three Saskatchewan men pleaded guilty Monday to duck hunting with a rifle from a car, tipping off authorities by posting their escapades online. Quebec police are examining the parent-shot video of a seven-year-old boy at the controls of an accelerating Honda. Some bemoan the proliferation of closed-circuit cameras in public spaces, but why worry when we’re incriminating ourselves on YouTube?


Our lost summer
It must be said: this summer stinks. We’re not just talking the weather, but let’s start there. Too hot. Too cold. Too dry. Too wet. Every region has its cross to bear, and sometimes cross bears, too. In B.C., dry weather forced a campfire ban. In Ontario you couldn’t spark one for the rain. At Ottawa’s Britannia Yacht Club, miserable conditions drove kids inside to learn knot-tying or to watch Pirates of the Caribbean. Same story at “Sunny” Acres Day Camp in Montreal, where a treasure hunt for gold-painted rocks had to be held in a hallway. Kids might as well work, but little chance of that. The student unemployment rate hit 21.9 per cent, the highest on record. July has much to answer for, and August is no prize either. And the September forecast? An election, we fear.

Let’s make a deal
Putting avarice in the service of justice can make for gauche public pleas. Consider the P.E.I. man who’s purchased ads in B.C. newspapers offering to split EnCana’s $1-million reward for information leading to the Dawson Creek pipeline bomber with the bomber himself. “He’ll probably find a girlfriend or a friend or a relative to do the same thing, so why not me?” says James Halstrum, who promises to deposit half the cash in an offshore bank account if he’s allowed to turn the bomber in. The RCMP is reportedly looking at whether such a deal would contravene the law as much as it does good taste.

Olympic begging
The Vancouver Olympic Committee faces a financial shortfall six months from the start of the Winter Games. It’s gone begging to both governments and the private sector to donate the services and salaries of 1,500 staff that VANOC needs but can’t pay for. Much of the blame falls on a weak economy, and the International Olympic Committee. The IOC failed to deliver two key sponsors: a shortfall of $30 million. And it required VANOC to buy up all outdoor advertising to resell to approved sponsors. Some $12 million of that is unsold. Organizers are cutting costs and expectations while the IOC sticks taxpayers with its champagne dreams on a hot-dog budget.

Bob Dylan is recording a Christmas album. Try not to fear. He went electric, and the world was only momentarily thrown off its axis. He did TV commercials for the Cadillac Escalade and fans stayed true. But is the world ready for Dylan nasalizing Here Comes Santa Claus? Doubtful. Pray he doesn’t add a Christmas theme to his classics. Sad-Eyed Lady of the Snowlands. Sub-zero Homesick Blues. Just Like a Snowman. Brrrrr. Well, it wouldn’t be Christmas without a turkey.

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