Over the rainbow
He hasn’t agreed to lift his government’s anti-gay propaganda legislation (signed into law this past spring), but Russian President Vladimir Putin has made clear to the IOC that everyone is welcome in Sochi’s Black Sea resort for the 2014 Winter Olympics, regardless of “sexual orientation.” This doesn’t mean much for Russia’s gay residents, but it’s a sure sign that foreign gay athletes have minimal reason to fear a crackdown during the Olympics. It’s also encouraging that Putin cracked, even a little bit, under intense international pressure.
Trim the fat
Junk food is about to get a makeover in the U.K. A number of big junk-food brands—including Nestlé and Unilever—have struck a “responsibility deal” with the U.K. government, promising to reduce saturated fat in their products. This is welcome news for a few reasons: Child obesity is on the rise and 84 per cent of adults don’t know the recommended amount of saturated fats they should be consuming. Oh, and new research shows too much saturated fat can result in low sperm count for men.
When researchers discovered that Canadian university students are extremely anxious and sometimes suicidal—especially those who attend the Ontario College of Art and Design—OCAD’s administration set an example with its smart and speedy response. The school will institute training sessions for instructors to help students deal with stress and anxiety. Other schools are also taking note: Simon Fraser University recently launched its own program, dedicated to eradicating the stigma of mental illness.
Hang a right for rights
Despite threats and warnings from ultra-conservatives and government officials in Saudi Arabia, more than 60 Saudi women got behind the wheel on Saturday to participate in the country’s biggest protest against a ban on female drivers. Fully veiled women, some in designer sunglasses, uploaded pictures and videos of themselves driving in the theocratic nation. Men showed support, too: Saudi comedian Hisham Fageeh wrote a song about the ban to the tune of an old Bob Marley standard. Called “No Woman No Drive,” it quickly went viral on YouTube.
Spies like U.S.
The American espionage embarrassment continues. Spain is demanding the U.S. explain why it allegedly tried to monitor 60 million Spanish telephone calls in the span of one month. This comes on the heels of two other awkward spy leaks: one that the U.S. monitored German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cellphone for a decade, the other that the world power collected millions of French phone records. America wasn’t acting alone, either. Newly released documents suggest Canada, Britain and Australia were complicit in the spying, letting the CIA place eavesdropping equipment in their embassies.
Down low, too slow
The Bank of Canada announced last week that it would not raise interest rates in light of “uncertain” economic conditions. It also forecast the economy will grow at a meagre rate of 1.6 per cent this year. The hope is that its ultra-low interest rate policy will kick-start the economy. Unfortunately, there’s no evidence that it’s working. What it is doing is continuing to fuel record household debt and a dangerously overheated housing market.
The beautiful game?
Soccer officials worldwide have been battling racism in the sport’s professional leagues for years through fines and suspensions. But such measures may not be enough. According to Jeffrey Webb, the leader of FIFA’s anti-racism task force, many of the black and ethnic-minority soccer players he has spoken to feel “demoralized” and “disheartened” by racism in their sport. Their concerns, he said this week, stem from more than on-field taunts; some believe they are being denied jobs in soccer management because of the colour of their skin.
Not in the mood
In a fairly obvious but no less unfortunate finding, researchers at the University of Toronto determined that people in long-term relationships are just as likely to have sex with their partners for “negative reasons” (to avoid conflict or negate guilt) as they are for “positive reasons” (to obtain pleasure). The study found no significant difference between female and male reasons for consenting to sex. Researchers did say, however, that the more “positive” sex a person has, the better it tends to be.