Good news, bad news: September 1-8, 2011

A Syrian official resigns in protest, the UN warns hundreds of thousands could die because of famine in Somalia

Good news

Good news

Villagers in Bunawan, Philippines, catch a 600-kg saltwater crocodile

Taking a stand

After five months and more than 2,200 casualties, the Syrian regime continues its crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators. But at least one official is taking sides against President Bashar al-Assad. Adnan Bakkour, a provincial attorney general, resigned in protest last week via YouTube. The state-run news agency said Bakkour was kidnapped and forced to announce his defection, but that seems about as likely as the latest news on Moammar Gadhafi. A spokesman for the besieged Libyan strongman says he is “still strong and capable of turning the tables on NATO.” Meanwhile, there are reports that a convoy of regime loyalists was fleeing the country for Niger.

Another graceful exit

Olivia Chow has ruled out running for the leadership of the NDP. The amazing public outpouring of grief following Jack Layton’s death suggests she could have won a fair amount of support, and Chow surely was under some pressure to pick up the mantle left by her husband. But sentimentality isn’t what the party needs. It requires a leader who can build, in their own way, on what Layton accomplished. Chow wisely decided to focus her considerable skills on other work.

Medal haul

Canada is well on track for next summer’s London Games. Last week, Catharine Pendrel won a world championship in mountain biking. Shot putter Dylan Armstrong took silver at the world track and field championship. And our rowers and paddlers hauled in the hardware at Olympic test events. Meeting the London target of 22 to 26 medals will be a challenge, but after Vancouver, success may be contagious.

Rock on

It’s been a good week for Canadian culture. Canadian authors Patrick deWitt and Esi Edugyan had their novels named to both the Giller Prize and Man Booker Prize lists. Meanwhile, the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council restored some sanity to the airwaves by lifting the radio ban on the Dire Straits song Money for Nothing. While a word in the song was deemed unacceptable, the CBSC rightly noted songwriter Mark Knopfler was using satire, and did it “deftly, and with a light and genuine touch.” We agree.

Bad news

Bad news

Protesting outside the trial of former Egyptian chief Hosni Mubarak

Revolving door of disaster

Japan was hit by its worst typhoon in seven years last week, leaving 34 dead. The storm hit just one day after Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda took office. He replaced Naoto Kan, who resigned amidst an ongoing public backlash from March’s earthquake and tsunami. That disaster continues to haunt the country. The damaged Fukushima nuclear plant has still not been shut down and continues to leak radioactive material. Officials reported this week that temperatures in one reactor have only now dipped below 100° C.

Time to act

The United Nations this week warned that 750,000 people could die in the coming months as a result of famine in Somalia unless aid efforts increase. Four million people—half the country’s population—have already been pushed into “crisis,” says the UN. The drought is expected to end in October, but the rainfall that follows raises the risk of spreading diseases, already a growing problem in crowded refugee camps.

Carrying baggage

Flying just got a little bit more expensive, and annoying. Air Canada is now charging $25 to check a bag on flights between Canada and the U.S., and $35 for a second bag. The company is following U.S. carriers who took in $3.4 billion in luggage fees last year. Air Canada could use the money. It’s trying to launch a low-cost carrier to boost profits, but last week flight attendants rejected a tentative contract that supported the effort. As for baggage fees, maybe you should just be happy your luggage arrives at all. The U.S. government recently fined Emirates Airline $100,000 for not compensating passengers for lost and damaged bags.

Got the munchies?

A recent survey found that eating at your office desk can be hazardous to your health. Desks may have 400 times more bacteria than a toilet seat, says the American Dietetic Association. There are other risks to eating at the office, as three workers in Victoria, B.C., discovered. They were taken to hospital after unwittingly eating pot brownies from the office fridge. The treats had been made by one of the worker’s sons, forgotten in the freezer at home, and mistakenly brought in to work.

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