This week: Good news/bad news

A week in the life of Nicolas Sarkozy

Face of the weekFace of the week
An unidentified soldier salutes the casket of Pte. Jonathan Couturier, who died from an IED blast southwest of Kandahar

A week in the life of Nicolas Sarkozy
In a case that the French have dubbed the “trial of the century,” current president Nicolas Sarkozy and former prime minister Dominique de Villepin faced off in a Paris courtroom on Monday. De Villepin is charged with instigating a smear campaign against Sarkozy in 2007, when Sarkozy was embroiled in French presidential elections (which he eventually won). The stakes are high for the former PM, who still holds ambitions to unseat Sarkozy as France’s top elected official.


Revving up
Finally some good news for the troubled auto sector. Toyota announced this week it will spend $1 billion in advertising to boost sales in the U.S., which are off nearly 30 per cent. Investment bank Goldman Sachs plans to invest $250 million in the Chinese automaker Geely (money that could help it in its efforts to purchase Volvo from Ford), and even GM is opening its purse strings, offering a 60-day money-back guarantee and rescinding white-collar pay cuts. With sales growing again in both Canada and the U.S., it looks like the auto industry is on the way back. Now maybe we should talk about a repayment schedule for all that bailout money.

Olympic advantage
It has long been an Olympic tradition that home-country athletes enjoy extra practice time at the venues that will be used for upcoming Games. The U.S. employed that strategy prior to the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City (where Americans took home 34 medals—17 more than Canada). But some American and international athletes are now publicly grumbling that our athletes are getting unfair extra time at facilities in Vancouver and Whistler. We hope Canadian officials stand fast. Remember, nice guys finish last, and we had more than enough of that at the Calgary Games.

Who’s watching who?
The Net just got a little less creepy. Facebook has agreed to shutter its Beacon program, after users of the popular social networking site complained their privacy was being compromised. Beacon tracked Facebook purchasing activities at partnering e-tailers—so, for example, you could see items that your friends recently bought online (possibly as a surprise present for you). But don’t let your guard down yet: Facebook has also announced it’s teaming up with the Nielsen Co. to add polls to Facebook pages. The two companies expect to glean precious marketing data, which will then be sold to third-party companies looking to make money online. On the Web, someone is always watching.

Must-see TV
Actor Neil Patrick Harris won rave reviews for his hosting performance at the Emmys this week. The star of How I Met Your Mother opened the evening with a tongue-in-cheek number about the death of TV, and the evening included a surprise appearance by Dr. Horrible (Harris’s online alter ego). Harris, along with actor Hugh Jackman, who hosted the 81st Oscars to critical praise, are making awards shows watchable again, after a decade of long, over-the-top broadcasts and lame monologues by hack comedians.


Body bag brouhaha
All hell broke loose when stories surfaced that Manitoba’s Wasagamack First Nation had received a surprise shipment of body bags from the federal government. The Health Department said they were part of a routine shipment to help the remote community prepare for the winter—not, as native leaders charged, a racist kiss-off to a community trying to cope with H1N1. Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq has apologized for any misunderstanding, but both sides should consider this: if a pandemic strikes—in northern Manitoba or anywhere else—public health officials must be ready to send in whatever they deem necessary, without worrying about causing offence.

Alzheimer’s fears
A new report projects that incidences of dementia will double every 20 years, and that the condition will affect 115 million by 2050. According to the 2009 World Alzheimer Report, developing countries where life expectancy is rising should expect to be hit hardest—people in those countries will soon be living long enough to become victims of the disease. There is hope, though: 30 minutes of exercise every day can reduce your risk of developing dementia by as much as 35 per cent.

Fast democracy
Everyone gets a vote: that is a basic pillar of democracy. But the UN-backed Election Complaints Commission, tasked with investigating and correcting fraud in Afghanistan’s recent election, has decided to recount only a sample of votes from the 3,000 polling stations that reported irregularities. The decision is intended to speed up the process of recounting in Afghanistan—and the commission claims the sample will provide an accurate picture of all the votes in question. That may be true, but as their nascent democracy struggles to survive, it is unfortunate that some Afghans will be denied a voice out of expedience.

Track and field fixers
A race-fixing scandal has the world of motorsports reeling. Last year, Renault’s Formula One racing team ordered one of its drivers, Nelson Piquet Jr., to deliberately crash during the Singapore Grand Prix so that his teammate, Fernando Alonso, would win the race. Last week, F1’s governing body put Renault on probation through 2011. As if that weren’t enough to shake the confidence of sports fans, another match-fixing scandal rocked the world of lawn bowling this week, when Canada accused New Zealand of throwing a match against Thailand during last month’s Asia-Pacific championships. Cheating is unconscionable, at any speed.

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