Gen. Walter Natynczyk, under fire this week over reports he took $1 million worth of trips on government jets since 2008, says he will reimburse taxpayers and pay for flights if the Prime Minister asks him to. Natynczyk has proven to be a tough and reliable soldier, and there’s no doubt he will do what’s right in this case, whatever that turns out to be. Still, it appears he should be cut a break. In some cases, the planes would have been flying whether he was on them or not. And his travels around the world—whether to rally troops or attend repatriation ceremonies for dead soldiers—are all part of his weighty responsibility as the chief of defence staff.
Into the light
What a week for scientific discovery. First, dinosaur feathers were found preserved, exquisitely, in Alberta amber. Ryan McKellar, a University of Alberta paleontologist, found 11 samples in hardened tree sap—what is described by the journal Science as “the richest amber feather find from the late Cretaceous period,” some 70 million years ago. Also, astronomers found the first planet orbiting two suns. That means that at the end of every day on Kepler 16b—200 light years from Earth—there are two sunsets.
British Columbians are breathing a sigh of relief. Returning B.C. salmon—which migrated through waters feared to be contaminated by the nuclear disaster at Fukushima—were found to be free of radiation. In Japan, meanwhile, officials say fallout from the damaged reactors has been drastically reduced and a full “cold shutdown” could happen by year’s end, far sooner than expected.
Some small inventions this week that could make life a whole lot better: Heinz unveiled a new car-friendly ketchup packet, developed after studying how people eat french fries in their minivans. The packs can be squeezed at one end or opened for dipping at the other. Better still, an Ikea in Australia has set up a room modelled after its in-store child-care centres, only this one is for adults. People can play video games, eat free hot dogs and watch sports while spouses shop. No more getting dragged through the labyrinth.
The bloodshed in the Middle East continues to mount as government forces crack down on protesters in Yemen—missiles were fired at a protest camp earlier this week—while an 11-year-old boy was shot in the head in Syria, where six months of protests have led to 2,500 deaths. With the international community focused on Libya and supporting its provisional government, clashes elsewhere in the region threaten to spiral out of control, with some fearing an all-out civil war in Yemen. The Arab Spring’s early promise of speedy regime change may give way to a bloody stalemate this fall.
As if Europe didn’t have enough to worry about, a trader at the Swiss bank UBS has been charged in a US$2.3-billion accounting fraud. UBS, which was nearly wiped out during the financial crisis, has accused Kweku Adoboli of faking numbers to hide huge stock risks. The behaviour is reminiscent of a 2008 scheme in which Jérôme Kerviel racked up US$6.7 billion in losses for France’s Société Générale. It’s as though the global banking crisis never happened.
A new report cleared the RCMP in the 2007 death of a British Columbia man who was tasered during his arrest. But the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP was critical of the force for taking 21 months to respond to its investigation. Meanwhile, Vancouver police recommended against charging the B.C. Mounties who used a Taser on an 11-year-old boy last April. Investigators said the officers involved did not violate the Criminal Code. Whether they violated good judgment when they shot a child is another matter.
Two minutes for tweeting
The NHL is banning players from using social media on game days—starting two hours before the puck drops. The policy is aimed at “mitigating some of the risks” associated with Twitter and Facebook. But it also means some of the rivalries and tensions hashed out online—as well as some athletes’ true characteristics—will now be muted. At least the policy won’t deny us gems that NHLers might offer when not at the rink—like Winnipeg’s Blake Wheeler, who recently tweeted: “I’m at a movie having a Slurpee.”