Good news, bad news

Hope for the Washington Post, while Vietnam cracks down on Twitter

Good news, bad news

Ulises Rodriguez/Reuters

Good news


Traditional media received a 21st-century vote of confidence as Jeff Bezos, the CEO and founder of online retail juggernaut Amazon, bought the Washington Post and several allied local newspapers. Bezos, whose fortune is estimated at $25 billion by Forbes magazine, will pay $250 million for the titles. The tech magnate says the Post’s future will “require experimentation,” but that its essential values will not change: a welcome message as “legacy media” companies sell for bargain-basement prices.

Let more air out

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. will cap the issuing of securities backed by mortgages insured by the Crown corporation. CMHC said at the start of the year that it would limit the creation of new mortgage-backed debt to $85 billion in 2013. Through July, lenders created $66 billion, requiring CMHC to begin allocating the remaining capacity. The corporation is insuring close to $600 billion in mortgages, the statutory maximum, and has been blamed for inflating a dangerous housing bubble, which it must now help shrink.

The final battle

The Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS announced progress in the fight against the disease in its great redoubt, eastern and southern Africa. The region contains half the world’s HIV-positive population of 34 million, but increasing availability of anti-retroviral drugs has reduced new cases to 1991 levels. HIV incidence in south and east Africa, nearly one per cent in 2001, stands today at just 0.56 per cent. Researchers say increasing condom use and “declines in multiple sexual partners” are contributing to the improvements.

Slimming effects

In what may be the first encouraging news ever about the obesity epidemic, the Centers for Disease Control reported early signs of declining obesity among low-income preschoolers in the United States. Between 2008 and 2010, estimated obesity rates among poor children aged two to five declined in 18 states and grew in only three. Meanwhile, a different fat fight was in progress in London, as workers removed a 15-tonne wad of congealed fat and tissue paper—dubbed a “fatberg”—from a sewer in Kingston upon Thames.

Good news, bad news

Yannis Behrakis/Reuters

Bad news

Some things never change

Robert Mugabe, socialist strongman of ?Zimbabwe since 1980, was re-elected president of the south African nation as opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai complained of election trickery. Britain and the U.S., whose observers were excluded from the proceedings, noted with disapproval that opposition parties were denied copies of the voter register until election day. Mugabe’s ZANU-PF, which enjoys a near-monopoly on state-run media, won 158 of 210 legislature seats in the embattled country. Estimates of unemployment in Zimbabwe range from two-thirds of the working-age population to 90 per cent.

Everybody out

The U.S. waged micro-war in Yemen, days after State Department warnings of heightened terrorist activity in the Middle East. Yemeni officials said unmanned U.S. aircraft had carried out attacks on their soil, and U.S. spymasters confirmed that drones had been used to kill four unnamed targets. The Americans also evacuated diplomatic personnel from the country. Al-Qaeda boss Ayman al-Zawahiri is said to have given new orders to allies in Yemen, perhaps the organization’s strongest remaining outpost.

One born every minute

The NHL found a buyer for the Phoenix Coyotes. The sale of the Yotes for $170 million to a group fronted by Calgary financier George Gosbee ends a long sequence of aborted deals, and the new owners will change the team’s name to the Arizona Coyotes. That’s good for Arizona hockey fans, but the city of Glendale’s budget has been battered by demands for management fees and other revenue streams. Meanwhile, Canadian cities that hoped to win an NHL franchise will have to wait at least five more years—for this one, anyway.

Vietnam vs. Twitter?

Electronic-freedom groups are lambasting Vietnam for a new law, Decree 72, that forbids the use of social media software to propagate news or to oppose the government. The decree states that the only lawful purpose of social media is “to provide or exchange personal information.” Vietnam is said to have jailed 35 dissident bloggers, and Reporters Without Borders lists it as “an enemy of the Internet.”

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