Good news, bad news: May 11-17, 2012

South Sudanese refugees return home after months stranded in Sudan, while 1,500 Nepalese are homeless after an illegal slum is demolished

Good news

Good news, bad news

Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/Reuters

Take it from us

It’s not polite to gloat, but we’ll still point out that Canada is the only country in the Americas—and one of the few in the world—that still has its triple-A bond rating. It was from this perch that Finance Minister Jim Flaherty took the opportunity to scold Europe this week, saying it needs to “show courage” to tackle its banking crisis and use taxpayer money to rescue weaker eurozone countries. He’s right, of course. Failure in Europe would slam the global economy, and after years of little progress, it’s time for bold, decisive action.

Bag it and tag it

Toronto’s embattled Mayor Rob Ford has a new cause: scrapping Toronto’s five-cent plastic bag fee. Retailers collect more than $5 million a year charging for bags and the money simply goes to the companies—it is not earmarked for green initiatives. The Retail Council of Canada says consumers “like doing their part.” But plastic bags are themselves easily recycled—more than 75 per cent of shoppers reuse their bags two or more times, according to Decima Research. The real effect of the fee is to hike grocery bills, and in these uncertain economic times, who likes that?

Same-sex settled

U.S. President Barack Obama’s endorsement of gay marriage turned out to be a non-event. His political opponents largely attacked it as a political ploy rather than an affront against traditional marriage. Republicans even said they’d rather focus on the economy. Canadians won’t be surprised. Seven years after endorsing same-sex unions federally, traditional marriage is going strong and our social fabric hasn’t frayed. In other heartening non-event news: a new Mayan calendar was discovered that shows the world won’t end in 2012, after all.

Lights, camera, action!

It’s like The Terminator, only less evil. Scientists at Stanford University in California have created a solar-powered bionic eye that, when implanted, allowed blind test subjects to discern light and shapes. In another Hollywood-inspired breakthrough, a group of engineers say they have the technology to build a full-sized, functioning model of the Starship Enterprise that could travel to Mars. All they need now is $1 trillion.

Bad news

Good news, bad news

Navesh Chitrakar/Reuters

Lessons in bad behaviour

With hundreds of arrests in daily clashes with police, Quebec’s three-month student strike continues unabated. A recent smoke-bomb attack disrupted Montreal’s metro system and waylaid some 300,000 commuters for hours. With upwards of 70 per cent of students back in the classroom, the movement’s hard-core elements are the only ones staying on the street. This includes a group of protesters who recently blocked the media from covering the court appearance of the alleged smoke bombers because, as one striker put it, “The media treatment of our comrades has been dirty.”

The war at home

A NATO summit in Chicago this weekend will focus on the ongoing troubles in Afghanistan and tensions with Pakistan. But North American leaders might want to pay attention to trouble brewing in their own backyard. In Mexico, 49 mutilated bodies were found on a highway outside Monterrey, victims of a violent drug cartel. This comes after 23 bodies were found hanging from a bridge or decapitated near Nuevo Laredo, where 14 bodies were also left in a van downtown. This is the picture of a country at war and it is staggering in its barbarity.

Against all odds

Two tiny planes flying over Saskatchewan collided, killing all five people on board. How such an accident came to pass may never be fully understood. A grain farmer, his 11-year-old son and a neighbour set off from Nanton, Alta., for St. Brieux, Sask. At the same time, a Regina couple were headed north to La Ronge, Sask. Investigators are searching for clues and say they face a difficult task. The planes’ paths should never have crossed in such a vast space—the very definition of an incomprehensible tragedy.

Resistance is futile

Dedicated treadmill users, beware. You might be better off on the couch. A report in the British Journal of Sports Medicine says weight loss may be more determined by biological factors, like how much one’s body relies on fat for fuel, than the amount of exercise. Add to this a new threat to waistlines: the U.S. Girl Scouts has teamed up with Nestlé to create a line of Crunch candy bars. They will come in three flavours: thin mint, caramel and coconut, and peanut butter crème.

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