Good news, bad news: July 5-12, 2012

A Syrian general defects, dogs are good for infants and cases of black lung are on the rise
Libyans celebrate on the streets after casting their vote during the National Assembly election in Tripoli’s Martyrs square July 7, 2012. Crowds of joyful Libyans, some with tears in their eyes, parted with the legacy of Muammar Gaddafi on Saturday as they voted in the first free national election in 60 years. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra (LIBYA - Tags: ELECTIONS POLITICS TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)

Good news

Good news, bad news
Zohra Bensemra/Reuters

General message

A Syrian general and commander in the elite Republican Guard, Manaf Tlass, defected last week to France. Tlass is the son of a former Syrian defence minister and family friend of President Bashar al-Assad. His departure, which coincided with an international summit on Syria’s crisis (death toll: 14,000), should send a strong message to Assad’s remaining international backers standing in the way of reform—namely Russia and China. When such a high-ranking insider like Tlass thinks something is wrong with the regime, well, something is most definitely wrong.

Exit $trategy

Almost all the foreign troops will be gone from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, but the world community isn’t totally abandoning the war-torn nation. At a 70-country gathering in Tokyo last week, more than $16 billion was pledged to help aid the government of Hamid Karzai forge a lasting peace and rebuild a shattered land. It won’t be enough to complete the monumental task, but it’s a generous start, especially given the fiscal troubles stalking Europe and the U.S.

Backhanded victory

Korean electronics giant Samsung won another skirmish in its legal war with Apple after a British court ruled the company’s tablets do not infringe on the iPad-maker’s design. Judge Colin Birss rejected a bid for an injunction on sales of the Galaxy Tab 10, but for very unflattering reasons. “They are not as cool,” he wrote. “They do not have the same understated and extreme simplicity.” The firm will be back in a California court at month’s end to try and overturn a sales ban that’s been in place in the U.S. since June, hoping for the same outcome but a kinder review.

Baby’s best friend

Infants who live in a house with a dog are less likely to get sick, have fewer ear infections and require less antibiotics than those without a dog, says a new study in the journal Pediatrics. The healthiest babies were in homes where dogs spent much of the day outdoors and, the researchers suspect, tracked in more dirt and bacteria, which in turn helps build up children’s immune systems. Perhaps there’s an even simpler message here: instead of getting a dog, stop vacuuming.

Bad news

Good news, bad news
Eduard Korniyenko/Reuters

Dudley Do-Wrong

A female Mountie in British Columbia is suing the force, alleging she’s suffering from post-traumatic stress after decades of verbal abuse and sexual harassment from her colleagues and bosses. The lawsuit came the same week that it was revealed an RCMP officer in Coquitlam—a former member of the missing-women task force—is under investigation for posting a series of S&M photos on a personal web page. And amid news that a constable in the Richmond detachment has been charged with assault for an arrest that sent a suspect to hospital. The Mounties may always get their man, but when it comes to good behaviour, they don’t have a clue.

Start bailing

The U.S. economy added an abysmal 80,000 jobs in the month of June—a drop from an average of 225,000 jobs created in each of the first three months of the year. China’s central bank, meanwhile, cut interest rates for the second time in a month as growth slows. With the world’s two most powerful economies seeming to struggle, it may be time to start worrying. If they’re sinking, we’re all going down with the ship.

Old-fashioned killers

Cases of black lung among U.S. miners have more than doubled over the past decade as the coal industry has fought government attempts to strengthen health protection for workers, according to a new NPR investigation. Meanwhile in Florida, the worst outbreak of tuberculosis in 20 years has killed 13, and sickened hundreds. And in Cuba, cholera has caused at least three deaths in the city of Manzanillo, and sent as many as 1,000 more to hospital. There are reports that the water-borne plague has also been found in Havana. All reminders of a past that no one wants to revisit.

Mean girls

A recent survey found that a quarter of female Facebook users admit to “photo sabotage” by uploading unflattering pictures of friends to the site. So it’s no surprise that a separate poll recently found social networks make people feel inadequate and anxious. Meanwhile, an earlier study in the U.K. found that 76 per cent of British users are drunk in their Facebook photos. All this from a website with a market capitalization of $70 billion and rising.