Good news, bad news: April 21-28, 2011

WikiLeaks cables prove Omar Khadr was no naive bystander, while Syria cracks down hard on protesters

Good News

Good News

Khadr context

Omar Khadr should never have spent nine years of his young life locked inside the U.S. military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. But as the Toronto native prepares for his imminent return to Canada—and the hero’s welcome he will no doubt receive—newly released Pentagon documents offer a timely reminder of why the Scarborough-born teenager was such a prized catch. According to a 2004 intelligence assessment published on the WikiLeaks website, Khadr’s father was al-Qaeda’s “fourth in command,” and young Omar provided “valuable information” about the inner workings of Osama bin Laden’s network. Child or not, Khadr was hardly a naive bystander.

Resurrecting road hockey

Another week, another doomsday report about Canada’s obesity epidemic. The latest version, from the advocacy group Active Healthy Kids Canada, says only seven per cent of children in the video game generation get the recommended 60 minutes of daily “active play.” Which is precisely why we’re rooting for Alexander Anderson, Andrew Polanyi, Liam McMahon and Bowen Pausey. The Toronto teens are petitioning the city to overturn its long-standing ban on road hockey—a misguided bylaw that has no place in any Canadian neighbourhood.

Doing the right thing

It was a good week for those who act on instinct. In Fayetteville, N.C., a high school basketball coach saved dozens from a tornado by herding 300 players and parents into a safe area of the school—just before the twister began shredding cars and flipping vans. Then on Sunday, crew members on an Alitalia fiight from Paris to Rome overpowered a would-be hijacker who was armed with a knife, and who demanded to be flown to Libya. Not everyone can play the saviour. But when crisis calls, it’s reassuring to know that some folks step up.

#$%! Tylenol

Researchers have found a natural remedy for stubbed toes and hammered thumbs: swearing at the top of your lungs. According to a British study, F-bombs and other curse words help relieve drastic pain, especially if the person cussing isn’t a typical potty mouth. Michael Ignatieff may want to remember that tip next week.

Bad News

Bad News

Rude awakening

Bashar al-Assad’s bloody crackdown on Syrian protesters drove home the cost of political freedom in certain Arab countries—leaving open the question of whether the international community is willing to help pay the price. No sooner had U.S. drones levelled part of Moammar Gadhafi’s compound in Tripoli than al-Assad unleashed tanks and troops on his own people, killing as many as 25 in Daraa. Britain, France and other countries voiced outrage, but having already committed air and logistical support in Libya, the best they could do was seek a toothless condemnation from the UN Security Council. The long-awaited Arab Awakening may yet reach Damascus. For now, though, it must proceed without help.

Shawshank Kandahar

Later this year, Canadian soldiers will begin the next phase of our military mission in Kandahar: training Afghan security forces. Perhaps they could help the prison guards, too. In a plot straight out of Hollywood, nearly 500 inmates—including senior Taliban commanders—escaped from the Saraposa jail through an underground tunnel burrowed by insurgent allies on the outside. A Taliban spokesman said the getaway route took five months to dig, with the help of “skilled professionals” and “trained engineers.” Said one escapee, in between giggles: “The guards are always drunk. Either they smoke heroin or marijuana, and then they just fall asleep.”

Spare us the spin

Well, that’s puzzling: after the fatal tasering of Robert Dziekanski, the mysterious death of a man in custody in Houston, B.C., a series of botched 911 calls in Saskatchewan, an officer’s kick to the face of a co-operative driver in Kelowna, and obstruction of justice charges against an allegedly drunk-driving Mountie who killed a motorcyclist, a survey has found that nearly 85 per cent of Canadians still trust the RCMP. And who commissioned this survey? The RCMP, you say? Never mind. Puzzle solved.

Head in the clouds

The union representing U.S. air traffic controllers is pushing for new measures to stop members from sleeping on the job. Their recommendation? Monitored naps. Here’s a better suggestion: a coffee maker in each tower, and a good night’s sleep. At home.

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