Good news, bad news

Brian McKeever's gold in Sochi, and Lev Tahor on the run made the list of the best and worst news this week

Hannah Peters/Getty Images

Canadian Brian McKeever wins gold in the men’s 20-km visually impaired event at the Sochi 2014 Winter Paralympic Games (Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

Good news

A bet on better trade

Prime Minister Stephen Harper went to South Korea and all he got, aside from a free-trade agreement, was teeth-gnashing from protectionists warning that Canada will be flooded with cheap, Korean-made cars. Such fears are misguided. Never mind that, as Korean carmakers sell more in Canada, they may choose to start production here—after all, Japan’s Toyota and Honda now build nearly as many vehicles here as do the Detroit Big Three. Axing tariffs will lead to lower prices for consumers—a huge win—and boost exports. In fact, while he’s over there, Harper should swing by Tokyo. What’s the holdup with free trade with Japan?

Hope for a cure

The results are preliminary, but offer hope: Researchers say five Canadian newborns at high risk of contracting HIV from their mothers have responded positively to AIDS medicine administered within hours of their births. Doctors say the level of HIV in the babies’ blood has remained undetectable. On the other end of the age spectrum, researchers say they’ve developed a blood test that may be able to predict whether a person will develop Alzheimer’s within three years. Neither breakthrough can be described as a cure, but research is going in the right direction.

Pipe up over there

While the White House dithers over whether to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, Americans have given it a thumbs-up. In a poll for ABC News and the Washington Post, 65 per cent of respondents said the pipeline from Alberta’s oil sands to Gulf Coast refineries should be approved. Close to half worried that Keystone poses a significant risk to the environment, and yet, 85 per cent still said they believe it will create a significant number of jobs. The results come days after former U.S. secretary of state and likely presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said Ottawa’s offer to work with America to reduce oil and gas-related carbon emissions is a “welcome” move.

Nun too soon

Good news is hard to find in Syria, but a group of nuns kidnapped by jihadists in December are now free and unharmed. The 13 Greek Orthodox nuns were abducted from a mainly Christian town by rebels linked to al-Qaeda. Talks to obtain their freedom had been under way since, and their release came as part of a prisoner exchange involving scores of women and children held by the Syrian government. With no lasting peace in sight, such developments are all the more welcome.

Bad news

Into thin air

One minute it was there; the next, gone. Even without the mystery of the whereabouts of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, it has been a terrifying ordeal for the families of the 237 confirmed passengers who were on board when the plane vanished en route to China on Saturday. Among the missing are two Canadians, Muktesh Mukherjee, 42, and Xiaomo Bai, 37. Also of great concern to authorities is the mystery of two passengers who boarded the plane using stolen visas on one-way tickets. If wreckage is recovered, it will help answer some questions, but many more will remain.

Oceans away

Experts working with Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco), the operator of the Fukushima nuclear power plant, have warned that the utility may have no choice but to dump contaminated water into the ocean. One adviser said Tepco has yet to devise a plan to handle the hundreds of thousands of tonnes of radioactive water. The warning came as Japan marked the third anniversary of the quake and tsunami. Nearly 100,000 survivors are still living in temporary homes, as red tape and delays stall the recovery. Long after the world moved on from the crisis, the fallout is not over.

Making a run for it

The controversy surrounding the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community of Lev Tahor continues. Police have accused families in the sect of child neglect, assault and forcing underaged girls into marriages with older men. After an Ontario child welfare agency launched a court case to remove 13 children from their homes, several families were stopped in Trinidad and Tobago last week while trying to make their way to Guatemala. Upon being sent back to Ontario, seven of the children were taken by child services. Over-the-top claims by the sect’s leaders that they’re being persecuted as though “it’s 1939” are a disgraceful attempt at playing the victims.

Nutty for gun nuts

When America’s obsession with guns meets its obscene fixation on celebrity, no good can come. George Zimmerman, who shot and killed unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin and was then acquitted, attended a grip-and-grin at an Orlando gun store where he signed autographs for fans. As gun enthusiasts celebrated one killer, the world heard the first detailed comments from Peter Lanza, father of Sandy Hook shooter Adam Lanza. In a feature story in The New Yorker, Lanza said of his offspring: “You can’t get any more evil.”

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