This Week: Good news/Bad news

Plus a week in the life of Jerry Springer

Lance ArmstrongFace of the week
Cyclist Lance Armstrong was in second place overall as he crossed the finish line of stage 15 of the Tour de France last week

Jerry SpringerA week in the life of Jerry Springer
Having taken a sabbatical from his role on tabloid TV, the 65-year-old talk host wound up a run in London as Billy Flynn in the musical Chicago. On Friday, the New York Times reported he is in talks to play the role on Broadway, following in the footsteps of established singers like Huey Lewis and Usher. A contract has been signed, the paper said, while Springer confirmed that he hopes to play the role for a few weeks, then take the show on tour.


Persian progress
The winds of change are blowing again in Iran, despite the ever-present risk of a further crackdown. A momentous speech by Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a former president, gave new life this week to street protests by championing their cause of democratic reform. Meantime, authorities granted bail to Hossein Rassam, an Iranian national working at the British embassy in Tehran who had been held on paper-thin accusations of orchestrating the demonstrations. Not even the dismissal of a moderate aide to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad could paper over the cracks forming within the country’s religious leadership, and if there were ever a time for Washington to get firmly behind the demonstrators, it is now.

Girl power
A federally funded program in Quebec to stop the early sexualization of young girls is a worthwhile experiment. The plan promotes values and self-esteem, aiming to help girls resist peer and media pressure to dress and act in a trashy manner. It has been painted as an attempt by the Tories to push their social agenda; critics say the money would be better spent teaching boys to respect women. Yet anyone who has seen teens in action knows how the dynamic really works: if girls set limits and stick to them, boys learn to live within them. Either that, or they find themselves very lonely, very soon.

A dearth of villains
One day after American cities reported a plunge in violent crime, Canada released its own statistics showing another drop in both the rate and severity of crime in this country in 2008. It was the fifth straight year the crime rate has gone down in Canada, and is part of a 27-year trend in declining rates. We still have our issues—crimes were particularly severe in Saskatchewan, and drunk driving was up—but the overall drift raises a provocative question. If the crime rate is going down, do we really need so many police officers?

Give the man some space
Neil Armstrong took more heat this week for ducking the celebrity that comes with being the first human to set foot on the moon. Yet, even on the 40th anniversary of the lunar landing, the astronaut’s reticence makes refreshing sense. Armstrong is undeniably an accomplished man, but in the larger scheme of the Apollo project he was a Monopoly piece—the right man for the job at the right time. Having neatly summed up the grandeur of the moment with his “one small step” line, he seems unable to summon more words, or better words, to describe it. If that’s the case, he shouldn’t try.


Pen and sword
A new U.S. report says Afghan prisons have become breeding grounds for extremists, highlighting an Achilles heel in the NATO mission that demands quick remedy. The Pentagon review calls for overhauls to procedures in both U.S. and Afghan-run jails, where mistreated detainees have been sharing their grievances. This vicious circle is a direct threat to Canadian troops. Our own soldiers were forced to stop turning prisoners over to a prison in Kandahar after it emerged inmates were being abused by Afghan guards. A dramatic jailbreak by the Taliban followed, setting loose dozens of militants in Canadian-patrolled territory. The prisons must be fixed, and fixed fast.

Auto asphyxia
Ontario must have known it would offend Honda and Toyota with its planned $10,000 rebate for electric cars, tailored as it is to give liftoff to GM’s Chevy Volt. Proponents say the deal ensures investment in electric-car technology, and that manufacturing stays at home. Yet all this money will be spent to help get a measly 10,000 cars on the road. Meantime, the Japanese makers will no doubt develop similar and possibly better versions of the gas-electric hybrid. Show of hands, anyone who thinks they’ll build those cars in Ontario.

Hard to know which is more alarming:’s willingness to flout the privacy of people using its Kindle electronic readers, or its imperviousness to irony. The world’s biggest online bookseller floored Kindle users when a major publisher changed its mind about allowing an electronic edition of two of its books to go out. Numerous copies had already been sold, so Amazon simply went into its customers’ Kindle accounts, electronically deleted the books and credited the customers with refunds. The titles in question? 1984 and Animal Farm, by George Orwell.

But they’re so cute
Spare a thought this week for exotic pets, if not the people who buy them. Oregon introduced a law to eliminate ownership of large exotic animals after assorted wildcats began pouring into animal sanctuaries. Many of those who got them as cubs found that—surprise!—they couldn’t handle them as they grew older. In Florida, game authorities opened a full-on hunt for Burmese pythons that have been invading the Everglades, a legacy of overburdened owners who turned them loose in the wild. Far be it from us to suggest curtailment of the American freedom to possess non-native serpents. But perhaps an ownership course is in order. Like one on the law of unintended consequences.

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