We’re not alone
NASA announced that its Messenger mission to Mercury has confirmed the existence of ice in deep, perpetually shaded craters at the poles of the planet nearest the sun. Neutron spectroscopy established the existence of hydrogen-rich deposits that must be water, but perhaps more interesting are signs that Mercury possesses chemically organic material: molecules containing carbon, captured from comets and asteroids. That could provide a crucial data point for measuring the extraterrestrial incidence of chemical preconditions for life.
A line in the ocean
The Canada-Denmark doomsday clock inched backward from midnight as the countries reached formal agreement on a maritime boundary between Canada’s Arctic possessions and self-governing Greenland. “Denmark and Canada are showing that we can settle our disputes peacefully,” said Denmark’s foreign minister, Villy Søvndal. “One might wish the same for the rest of the world.” But keep your powder dry: the status of disputed Hans Island, lying athwart the sea boundary, awaits disposition.
The twin governing bodies of golf inaugurated a 90-day “comment period” on a rule outlawing the use of “belly putters” anchored to the abdomen. “I would stress this is not a popularity contest,” said Peter Dawson of Scotland’s Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, which publishes the Rules of Golf along with the U.S. Golf Association. Both bodies believe a putter should swing freely like any other club; sports that succumbed to mechanical innovations like composite tennis rackets and hockey sticks might do well to follow golf’s conservative example.
U.S. Senator-elect Ted Cruz continued to develop presidential buzz last week, calling for Republicans to transcend class war and advocate a conservatism that emphasizes social mobility. Cruz was born in Calgary in 1970 to an oilman father, and the Constitution requires the President to be a “natural-born citizen.” Cruz has told the New Yorker he believes he qualifies. And why not? The U.S. has had good luck with chiefs born in British North America—i.e., the first seven presidents.
A deputy in Hungary’s National Assembly called for a “tally” of Jewish citizens, reviving old fears in a country hit hard by the Holocaust. Márton Gyöngyösi, foreign affairs critic for the nationalist Jobbik party, said fighting between Israel and Gaza “makes it timely to count people of Jewish ancestry who live here,” adding that Jews in government were a “national security risk.” Jobbik, which advocates an expanded “Greater” Hungary, drew one-sixth of the votes in the most recent national election. Out for a pound Figures from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs revealed that the number of U.K. taxpayers declaring annual income of £1 million fell from 16,000 to 6,000 last year in response to a new 50 per cent top tax bracket. Conservatives in the coalition government said the rate cost more than it raised, driving rich taxpayers out of Britain; opponents said the one-year change was caused by payments being shifted forward. Whatever the details, though, the tax was evaded with ease—a reminder that high marginal-tax rates are no budget panacea.
The espionage case involving former Canadian naval intelligence officer Jeffrey Delisle took yet another embarrassing turn. New documents show the RCMP only uncovered that Delisle was leaking secret files to Russia after being tipped off by American investigators. There were also reports this week that Canadian officials deleted important intelligence documents while reviewing an access-to-information request related to the Delisle case. Canada’s security measures, it seems, still leave much to be desired.
Religion and politics
The struggle in Egypt between Islamists and liberals intensified as supporters of Muslim Brotherhood-backed President Mohammed Morsi blockaded the nation’s Supreme Court. Secularists and Christians had boycotted the creation of a new constitution, leading the Brotherhood-dominated constituent assembly to adopt a draft that would give Sunni clerics a legislative role and extend religious freedom only to “Abrahamic faiths.” The situation threatens to degenerate into a war between the judiciary and the country’s Islamist mainstream.