Good news ... Bad news

Another way of looking at the week
Author Will Ferguson makes a toast during his acceptance speech after winning with the Giller Prize after winning the award for his book "419" in Toronto on Tuesday October 30, 2012. Photo: Chris Young for Macleans
Chris Young

In sickness and in citizenship

Ottawa is cracking down on the use of fake marriages as a means of gaining Canadian citizenship. New rules require newlyweds with no children to stay in a relationship for two years before foreign spouses get permanent resident status. If they fail to “cohabit in a conjugal relationship” for the 24-month period, they will face deportation. It’s a sensible measure that doesn’t put any undue hardship on legitimate applicants. Fraudsters, however, will now be less inclined to seduce Canadians into sham relationships—faking a happy marriage for two years is no easy feat.

Never too late

A major study of more than one million U.K. women shows that quitting smoking early enough in life can erase most of the fatal side effects. Writing in the journal The Lancet, researchers report that kicking the habit before the age of 40 avoids more than 90 per cent of the excess mortality from smoking and stopping before 30 avoids more than 97 per cent. That’s no reason, of course, for young people to keep smoking: death rates for all smokers are still higher overall.

Expiring dates

This cold season, think twice before tossing out that expired bottle of Tylenol or Aspirin at the back of your medicine chest. Drug makers Pfizer, Bayer and Johnson & Johnson were all recently named in class-action lawsuits in the U.S. alleging expiry dates on drug packages are misleading. The suits refer to studies showing most over-the-counter drugs maintain their potency for years after the printed dates, if stored properly. One review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found 90 per cent of more than 100 drugs tested remained stable five years past their dates.

Let it be, already

Forty-two years after the breakup of the Beatles, Sir Paul McCartney has finally exonerated Yoko Ono. “I don’t think you can blame her for anything,” the formerly “cute one” says in a new interview with Al Jazeera television. The group was splintering anyway and John Lennon was destined to go. “It was time for John to leave. He was definitely going to leave.” It’s nice he’s finally ready to let Lennon’s widow off the hook. But really, what are boomers going to argue about in the old folks home?


Shooting the messenger

A New York Times exposé on the $2.7-billion fortune amassed by Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao and his family seems to have touched a nerve. Not only did the Chinese government denounce the piece as lies, it blocked domestic access to the paper’s website. Then the state-controlled People’s Daily ran an editorial questioning the Times’ record, headlined: “New York Times: scandals stack up, prestige declines.” It’s just more of the same old propaganda techniques. But the ruling Communist party might want to rethink its strategy as it prepares to anoint a new generation of leaders. To quote an old proverb: the fish rots from the head down.

Passport fail

Canada unveiled its new security-enhanced passports with images on the formerly blank inside pages. Among those celebrated will be the “Famous Five” who launched a case to prove that women were legally “persons” and could therefore sit in the Senate. Among them is Emily Murphy, a prominent women’s rights activist and racist-conspiracy monger. Murphy professed to believe that a secret society of non-whites called “the Ring” was using drugs to turn good British Canadians into addicts and sex slaves. She appears next to Terry Fox in the new passport.

Shaken and stirred

Thankfully last week’s 7.7-magnitude earthquake off the coast of British Columbia wasn’t the big one. But it should stand as a big warning. The U.S. government quickly sent out tsunami warnings to its low-lying communities in the wake of the tremor, but it took more than an hour for provincial officials to react. Was the fact that the quake struck on a Saturday night part of the problem? Let’s hope not. Public safety shouldn’t be put on hold for the weekend.

On the run from fun

The city of Toronto nixed plans for a bull run down Bay Street. The event was intended to promote the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, but city planners called it a “significant and dangerous precedent in respect to prohibited animal use.” We call it a missed opportunity to do something fun and, yes, even a little risky—just the kind of thing a buttoned-down town like Toronto could use.