This week: Good news, bad news

Hosni Mubarak is barred from leaving Egypt, while the Taliban lays claim to a Canadian hostage

Good News

This week: Good News / Bad News
NASA/Getty Images

Closing in

Egypt’s former dictator Hosni Mubarak has been banned from leaving the country and had all his assets frozen as the interim government investigates 30 years of kleptocracy. Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi is running out of both time and money after a UN resolution denied him access to billions stashed away in the U.K., U.S., Austria and Switzerland. And even some of those who shared in the spoils have had a change of heart. Canadian songstress Nelly Furtado says she will now donate the $1 million she earned singing for the Gadhafi clan in 2007 to charity. Who knew that tyrants liked Top 40?

Pre-emptive strike

Speaking of a change of heart, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has vowed to crack down on government corruption and narrow the income gap between the country’s rich and poor. The Communist leader also promised to rein in inflation, stabilize housing prices and address “social conflict.” Of course, his pledges came as thousands of security officials descended on Beijing and Shanghai to snuff out any planned Mideast-style protests. But the mere fact that China is even talking about tackling corruption and poverty is welcome news.

Grow baby, grow

A Massachusetts biotech firm says it has genetically engineered an organism that turns water, CO2 and sunlight into usable fuel—for cheap. The “biodiesel” produced by its cyanobacterium will cost about US$30 a barrel, the company says, with an acre of the algae yielding 57,000 litres of gas. But going green isn’t quite that simple. Burning the biofuel would still produce plenty of climate-changing gases.

It’s only a game

Relax, mom and dad. Just because your kids like to play gory, blood-soaked video games doesn’t mean they will become desensitized to real-life violence. New research has found that gamers and non-gamers displayed the same negative reactions when shown disturbing photos, including one of a man holding a gun to a woman’s head. In fact, parents should worry less about content and more about duration. A Chinese man was found dead at his computer after a three-day gaming bender with no sleep and little food.

Bad News

This week: Good News / Bad News

A different kind of detainee

The Taliban say they are holding a Canadian tourist hostage, claiming he is a spy. Colin Rutherford, a 26-year-old recent graduate of the University of Toronto, travelled to Afghanistan in October for a two-week vacation and hasn’t been seen since. Foreign Affairs says it is working with local authorities to secure his release, but the precedents aren’t good. Beverly Giesbrecht, a Vancouver woman who converted to Islam and travelled to the Afghan border to make a pro-Taliban documentary, has been their prisoner since November 2008. Her fate remains unknown.

Out of order

A Manitoba judge is under pressure to resign after all but blaming a rape victim for the assault she endured. In a ruling that made headlines around the world, Justice Robert Dewar said the attacker was a “clumsy Don Juan” who doesn’t deserve jail because the woman was wearing lipstick, a tight shirt—and suggesting that “sex was in the air.” His conclusion? “This is a case of misunderstood signals.” The only thing difficult to understand is how Dewar still has a job. WikiLeaks founder and accused rapist Julian Assange can only wish he were facing charges in Canada.

Like master, like pet

Does nobody walk the dog anymore? A study released by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (yes, there is such an organization) says 53 per cent of cats and 55 per cent of dogs are overweight or obese. Like their masters, pudgy pets have lower life expectancies and are more likely to suffer from diabetes, arthritis and high blood pressure. The solution? Send your mutt to France, where a luxury hotel built specifically for pets includes swimming lessons, “doggy jogging,” and a pooch treadmill.

Final farewell

The last American veteran of the First World War has died at the age of 110. Frank Buckles joined the U.S. Army in 1917, at age 16, and went on to serve in England and France. Canada’s final vet, John Babcock, died at 109 last year. Authorities believe there are now only two remaining participants in the war to end all wars—109-year-old Claude Choules and 110-year-old Florence Green, both British. Lest we forget.