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A gigantic victory for free speech and how Homer Simpson helped fight homophobia
Jul 01, 2013 - London, England, United Kingdom - Hundreds turned out for Canada Day International 2013. The day promotes Canada and all things Canadian on the global stage including guest speakers, music and a giant inflated hockey ring in the middle of Trafalgar Square for several games of street hockey(Credit Any Usage: Press)

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A fond farewell

Thankfully, the days of Canada’s human rights bureaucrats policing free speech are officially over. The Senate passed a bill last week abolishing Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act—a highly contentious provision intended to crack down on hate speech, but which became a misguided means to stifle legitimate expression and even censor media outlets, including Maclean’s. The end of Section 13 is a gigantic victory for free speech in Canada, and the battle against hate speech will continue where it belongs: in court, under the Criminal Code.

Thou shall not lie

Pope Francis is certainly living up to his billing as the rebel pontiff. Just weeks after the new Pope launched a commission to investigate the secretive, scandal-plagued Vatican bank, the director and deputy director both resigned. Three days before that, another cleric was arrested after allegedly trying to smuggle $26 million into Italy from Switzerland. While the Vatican bank has promised to release an annual report for the first time, more radical reforms could be in store. As the Pope himself recently remarked: “Neither St. Peter nor St. Paul had bank accounts.”

Air fair

Air Canada is boosting the compensation it pays to passengers bumped from overbooked flights. People delayed by more than six hours would receive up to $800, while delays between one and six hours would result in a $400 payout. The move comes after the Canadian Transportation Agency recently ruled the airline’s current compensation system—$100 cash or a $200 travel voucher—is unacceptable. Bumped or not, flying will remain a frustrating experience. But that extra cash will help ease the pain.

Homer Simpson, visionary

The U.S. Supreme Court issued two landmark rulings last week that paved the way for sweeping same-sex marriage rights, including benefits for gay couples. Years from now, when historians assess the significance, they shouldn’t forget one person in particular: Homer Simpson. A new study says The Simpsons, in episodes like the one where Homer marches in a gay Pride parade, helped to fight homophobic discrimination.

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The Arizona Republic/Tom Tingle/AP

In the line of duty

As thousands of Albertans pick through the remnants of their flood-ravaged homes, another devastated community is feeling nature’s wrath. In Prescott, Ariz., 19 members of an elite squad of firefighters—the so-called “Hotshots”—were killed while battling a nasty summer wildfire that, in a matter of seconds, overwhelmed their position. It was the deadliest single day for U.S. firefighters since the 9/11 attacks, and a tragic reminder, yet again, of just how suddenly disaster can strike. The dead men are being remembered as heroes, and rightfully so.

Mass extinction

Billions of years from now, the only creatures on Earth will be tiny organisms living deep underground. Such is the doomsday conclusion of a sophisticated computer model that researchers used to map our planet’s fate. As the sun gets hotter, scientists say, the oceans will evaporate to the point where all life as we know it could no longer survive. The good news? Humans may soon be able to start searching for a new home. NASA says it is one step closer to making long-distance space travel a reality, perfecting an ion propulsion engine that has now run, non-stop, for 5½ years.

Respect your elders

Struggling to care for a rapidly aging population, the Chinese government has enacted a controversial new law that forces grown children to visit—or at least phone—their elderly parents on a regular basis. Sons and daughters who ignore the rules could be fined, sued or even thrown in jail. Officials say the new law is meant to raise awareness more than anything else, but it’s ludicrous all the same. The state has no business dictating family dynamics—especially if it is going to limit the number of children a couple can have in the first place.

Hazy equals lazy

Another week, another not-so-groundbreaking scientific discovery: smoking lots of weed saps your drive and ambition. Using PET scans, researchers at three London universities found that long-term cannabis users produce lower levels of dopamine, a chemical in the brain linked to motivation. Next up? Figuring out how potheads muster the motivation to order a pizza.