This Week: Good news/Bad news

A week in the life of Yulia Tymoshenko

a week in the life of Yulia TymoshenkoA week in the life of Yulia Tymoshenko
The prime minister of Ukraine, Tymoshenko is set to face Viktor Yanukovych in second-round
voting for the country’s presidency, expected to be held next month. Tymoshenko was a leader of Ukraine’s Orange Revolution, the popular uprising against Yanukovych in the aftermath of the country’s 2004 presidential election. While Tymoshenko blamed Russian interference back then, she is now seen as being in favour of closer ties with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

Correct punishment
A Canadian man who conspired to commit mass murder in the name of Islam has been handed the harshest punishment possible: life behind bars. The judge who delivered the sentence said it best: “It is difficult to put into words Zakaria Amara’s degree of responsibility. He was the leader and directing mind of a plot that would have resulted in the most horrific crime Canada has ever seen.” The confessed ringleader of the “Toronto 18”—a man obsessed with detonating truck bombs—was hoping for a 20-year term, which, with credit for time served, may have put him back on the streets by the end of the decade. But the life sentence ensures Amara will remain in prison until the day he dies, or the day the National Parole Board decides he is no longer a threat to fellow Canadians. We hope that’s a very, very long way off.


Chile’s new leader
Sebastian Pinera was elected president of Chile on Sunday, giving the country its first right-wing leader since the ouster of dictator Augusto Pinochet 20 years ago. While Pinera is likely to maintain many of Chile’s social-welfare policies, he has also stated his intention to revitalize the country’s economy, increase productivity and promote entrepreneurship. A self-made billionaire, Pinera could be the man to fix Chile’s faltering economy. He also stands to be an ally of the West against Hugo Chávez. Which is exactly what Latin America needs right now: Chávez’s most recent autocratic move saw him take control of a supermarket chain after he accused the company of hiking its prices.

Looks good on paper
When Canwest placed its newspaper group into bankruptcy protection, many worried Canada would lose some of its most storied local newspapers, plus an important national paper. But a number of bidders have expressed interest in buying some or all of the Canwest chain. Potential buyers include former senator Jerry Grafstein, National Post president Paul Godfrey, and Alberta’s provincial pension fund. With many quality suitors (and potentially even more), it seems likely that Canwest’s newspapers, or at least some of them, will stay in print.

Conan gets paid
After a week of haggling, NBC has agreed to pay Conan O’Brien US$40 million to vacate The Tonight Show in favour of Jay Leno. Considering how he was mistreated by the network, he deserves every penny. His impending departure, regrettably, will rob us of his nightly eviscerations of Leno—some of the best late-night TV we’ve seen in years. Here’s hoping he finds a new perch soon.

Insite debacle
What happens when criminal law clashes with health care in Canada? Health care wins. Ottawa has long sought to shut down Vancouver’s Insite heroin injection clinic as contrary to federal laws on possession of illegal drugs. But last week, the B.C. Court of Appeal ruled the drug clinic should be considered a provincially regulated “hospital” and thus protected from federal powers. Insite remains open. Yet placing broadly defined health care beyond the reach of criminal law will inevitably create trouble for many other areas of federal jurisdiction, such as euthanasia or reproductive issues. Ottawa seems likely to appeal to the Supreme Court, as it should.

Head shots hurt
A new study of concussions among children suggests we don’t treat them as urgently as we should. According to the report out of McMaster University, concussions are essentially brain injuries and should be treated as such—with longer hospital stays and more medical observation. The author, Carol DeMatteo, also argues that incurring multiple concussions can lead to serious neurological damage. We recommend the head honchos at the National Football League give the study a good read: when questioned by a U.S. House judiciary committee last month, Dr. Ira Casson, former co-chairman of the league’s panel on head injuries, claimed there is no proven connection between football head injuries and brain disease.

A bad call
An NHL referee embarrassed himself and the league last week. Stéphane Auger allegedly used his position to get revenge on a Vancouver Canucks player. Auger called a penalty on Alex Burrows late in the third period of a tie game. TV footage from the pre-game skate showed the two in conversation—Burrows claims Auger threatened to get him back for an incident earlier in the season. The NHL fined Burrows, arguing there was no substantial evidence for his claim. And Auger got off scot-free.

Kennedy bleating
Environmentalist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. pronounced that 90 per cent of fish in Alberta are inedible because of contamination. That’s odd, because according to studies by Health Canada and the government of Alberta, most of the fish in the province is perfectly fine to eat. This wouldn’t be the first time Kennedy’s environmental claims turned out to be demonstrably false: in 2005, he alleged that the U.S. government was covering up a connection between a mercury-containing preservative found in inoculations and autism. He was wrong about that one, too.

Sir Paul McCartneyface of the week
FORMER BEATLE Sir Paul McCartney chats it up on the red carpet at the 67th annual Golden Globe Awards in Beverly Hills on Jan. 17

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