This week: Good news, bad news

The military council provisionally ruling Egypt has scheduled a referendum on constitutional reforms, while forces controlled by Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi gained ground in the country’s civil war

Good News

This week : Good News / Bad News

End of history department

The military council provisionally ruling Egypt has scheduled a referendum on constitutional reforms that would restore judicial oversight of elections, term-limit the presidency, and take away a presidential veto over the formation of new parties. The Muslim Brotherhood and the ousted National Democratic Party favour a “yes” vote; other, newer movements are urging a “no,” saying the reforms don’t go far enough. But the referendum itself will be a milestone for the country’s transition to democracy.

Nine out of 10 ain’t bad

Ministers of health from nine provinces announced that they will create a national storage bank for blood from umbilical cords. Canadian Blood Services will manage the bank; Quebec has its own version, managed by Héma-Québec. Umbilical cord blood contains stem cells useful in treating leukemia and other blood disorders, particularly in children. Until now, the lack of a nationally registered bank for cord blood has made finding stem-cell donors difficult, especially for minorities.

You know what’s cool?

Groupon, the Web phenomenon that lets businesses offer conditional “group coupons” that kick in when a particular number of customers sign up, is facing its long-foreseen ultimate test: competition from Facebook. The social-networking giant, which is the means by which many Group­on users track new offers, will test-drive its own service for time-sensitive discounts from bricks-and-mortar businesses. Groupon rejected a US$6-billion buyout offer from Google in December.

Her royal hipness

Details of a record collection held by the late Queen Mother at a holiday retreat have revealed her penchant for the yodel stylings of Nova Scotia-born cowboy Wilf “Montana Slim” Carter (1904-1996). Carter, called the father of Canadian country music, was not the only surprising element in the consort’s collection. A tiny treasury of LPs, kept for the Queen Mum’s use at the Scottish Castle of Mey, included large helpings of ska and Paul Simon’s 1986 classic Graceland. One hopes Montana Slim’s estate is ready for a revival.

Bad News

This week : Good News / Bad News
The colonelissimo’s edge

Forces controlled by Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi gained ground in the country’s civil war as Western powers squabbled over creating a “no-fly zone” over the North African republic. France and Britain have pushed hard for flight restrictions, but Germany expressed reservations, and the U.S. is demanding UN Security Council support for the potential move—a sure deal-breaker, given Russian and Chinese reluctance.

A recession-proof trade

India has passed China as the world’s largest arms importer, according to a report from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. Figures from the think tank suggest that, for the period from 2006 to 2010, worldwide arms transfers rose 24 per cent over the previous four years. During that time, India is said to have made almost one-tenth of all global weapons purchases. The figures reflect ongoing efforts to modernize India’s military and increasing self-reliance on the part of China’s army.

Tell me on a Sunday

NFL labour negotiations ground to a halt as the players’ union decided to break off talks and voluntarily decertify for the second time in history. The previous instance, in 1989, allowed individual antitrust lawsuits against the league and led to the adoption of free agency. NFL owners responded this time by declaring a lockout, putting the 2011 season in question and leaving congressional figures scrambling for means of encouraging a settlement.

Money never sleeps

Are Canadian coins a spy’s dream? Maybe, hints a report from the U.S. Defense Security Service, a federal agency that teaches the ins and outs of spying to military personnel and contractors. A newly released summary of “technology collection trends” says that, “On at least three occasions between October 2005 and January 2006 . . . Defense contractors’ employees travelling through Canada discovered radio frequency transmitters embedded in Canadian coins placed on their persons.” The report does not say which coins were used, but the bimetallic toonie, with its removable centrepiece, seems to cry out for espionage use.

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