Good news, bad news

Conrad Black, whale adoption and diploma duds

Todd Korol/Reuters

GOOD NEWS

Closing ranks

The gap between the rich and the poor in Canada is shrinking. According to a new Statistics Canada report, the top one per cent—those who earn more than $201,400—accounted for 10.6 per cent of income in Canada in 2010. That’s down from a high of 12.1 per cent in 2006. The one-percenters are also paying their fair share of income taxes: 21 per cent in 2010 compared to 13 per cent in 1982. Within the one per cent, the gender gap is closing, too: the number of women among the richest Canadians has doubled in the past 30 years: to 21 per cent of the total, from just 11 per cent.

Black on TV

Conrad Black is set to host a weekly talk show on a revamped version of ZoomerMedia’s Vision TV channel. On his show, which he will co-host with media executive Denise Donlon, he’ll take on issues that “really get under his skin,” the company said, like the U.S. judicial system and prison reform. Vision has been a mostly unknown and unloved channel on cable dials. But if Black is anything like he was when he made the rounds on British talk shows last year (sparring with interviewers and calling one a “gullible fool”), that won’t be a problem for long.

Here’s the beef

A decade after the 2003 mad cow scare, Japan is finally easing restrictions on beef imports from Canada and the U.S. The move had been a subject of debate for years in Japan, a key market for high-end cuts of beef, and is a positive sign coming in advance of the next round of Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade talks among the three countries. In other welcome news for Canadian cattle producers, four new beef facilities won approval earlier this month to export beef to China.

Undersea adoption

A group of sperm whales off the coast of the Azores Islands in the North Atlantic have taken in a deformed bottlenose dolphin as one of their own. German scientists reported the surprising alliance—the S-shaped dolphin playing with and nuzzling its giant cousins as if it were one of their own calves—in the journal Science last week. But they’re at a loss to explain why. Could it be that the big lugs have an oversized sense of compassion, too?

 

BAD NEWS

A broken vow

Lost in the hoopla over U.S. President Barack Obama’s progressive new agenda is a big promise he failed to keep in his first term: the closure of the prison at Guantánamo Bay. Now it seems he’s given up trying. A State Department envoy tasked with the job was quietly reassigned this week, the New York Times reported, and there are no plans to replace him. That’s a scandal. Indefinite detention and lack of due process undermine democracy.

Diploma duds

Hate your job? Here, probably, is the answer why. Nearly half of all college grads, or 48 per cent, work in jobs that don’t require a degree, says a new U.S. study. Thirty-seven per cent have jobs that require only a high school diploma. Economists at Ohio University say the ranks of over-educated workers are growing fast, too. In 1970, one per cent of college grads drove taxis, compared to 15 per cent in 2010. Underemployment “is almost the new normal,” the study’s lead researcher told USA Today. Most depressing: it comes at a time when education costs are rising fast.

Engineering trouble

A newly released RCMP affidavit alleges former SNC-Lavalin employee Riadh Ben Aissa paid $160 million in bribes to help secure company contracts in Libya. He was also accused of playing a role in a plot to whisk Moammar Gadhafi’s son out of the country. The revelations come just months after the engineering giant’s former CEO was charged with fraud in apparent connection with a $1.3-billion hospital contract in Montreal. The company says it’s “eager for this situation to be resolved in the courts,” but it has a long way to go before getting back to business as usual.

Dead wrong

Russia is forging ahead with the trial of a whistle-blowing lawyer who exposed a $230-million fraud by law enforcement and tax officials, in spite of the fact that he’s been dead for years. Sergei Magnitsky died in custody in 2009, and an investigation by a human rights body alleged he was beaten to death. But after the U.S. imposed sanctions aimed at penalizing his killers, Vladimir Putin’s government has redoubled efforts to discredit Magnitsky. The case resumes Feb. 18.




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