Good news: Debt of gratitude
Slowly but surely, Ottawa appears to be repairing its broken relationship with veterans. A new retirement-income-security benefit, announced this week, will provide income to moderately or severely disabled vets after they turn 65, bringing Canada into line with levels of support seen in other NATO countries. It will be hard for veterans to forget last year’s disingenuous announcement of “$200 million over six years” for mental health (the program offered nothing close to that). But this is a significant step forward.
Bad news: Putin’s provocations
Vladimir Putin has never been the apologetic type, but lately, he seems to be revelling in the role of villain. This week, the Russian president revealed he had drawn up secret plans to annex Crimea from Ukraine before any of its residents voted on the matter. Furthermore, he awarded a medal to the leading suspect in the 2006 poisoning death of spy-turned-dissident Alexander Litvineko. Meanwhile, Russian police have arrested a group of Chechens for the murder of another Kremlin critic, Boris Nemtsov, ﬂoating a hard-to-believe theory that he was shot because he supported Charlie Hebdo. If Putin ever gives up politics, he’s got a future in professional wrestling.
Good news: Throwing back the curtains
All credit goes to social media users in India who thwarted their government’s paternalistic attempts to censor a documentary about a gang rape on a Delhi bus. The broadcast ban—rooted in fears the British-made film would fuel public anger—was ill-considered and even more poorly timed. Not only was the doc to run on International Women’s Day, the UN had just released a report suggesting more than one in three women worldwide have experienced physical or sexual violence. No matter: With a link to the BBC website whipping around cyberspace, the movie had been downloaded more than 100,000 times even before it was scheduled to air.
Bad news: Danger, eh
Canadians don’t appear to be spooked by repeated warnings that the economy is in for a bumpy ride. Household debt grew by 4.6 per cent in January, according to a new Royal Bank of Canada study, one of the biggest personal-credit expansions in the past two years. Even so, there are real reasons for concern. Another bank report says job quality in Canada has sunk to its lowest level in more than two decades. The employment index compiled by CIBC found that more people are now self-employed or are working part-time, and that most of the job growth is in low-paying sectors. Is it too late to join the EU?
Good news: Watching the Apple Watch
The unveiling of the Apple Watch drew a predictable wave of snark on Monday because, truth be known, there’s nothing revolutionary about its internal gadgetry. But the sleek new device reflects many of its maker’s traditional strengths: Its attraction lies not in tech wizardry, but in design, cachet and functionality that complement our everyday lives (not to mention compatibility with a certain smartphone a few hundred million of us already own). Recall, too, that the smart alecks laughed when Apple unveiled a seemingly superfluous device called the iPad. “Look!” chirped one on Gizmodo.com. “An electronic buggy whip!” With more than 200 million units sold, who’s laughing now?
Bad news: A real oil crisis
The plunging price of crude has put stress on many nations, but Venezuelans may have it the worst. Food, medicine and other basic goods are now in short supply, due to the rising cost of imports. And inflation continues to gallop, even after the partial devaluation of the bolivar in February. The government has introduced rationing—backed by fingerprint scanners at supermarket checkouts—to try to curb hoarding and panic-buying. But in a country where oil accounts for 95 per cent of all exports, only a big upturn in the market will offer relief—something experts aren’t predicting until at least 2016.
Good news: Operation Drop Dumbo
We’ll miss the big galoots, but the decision by Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus to phase out its iconic elephant performances by 2018 makes sense. Widespread concern about the treatment of animals in zoos and shows is fast bringing an end to the era of using pachyderms for public spectacle (take a bow, Bob Barker). In short, fun does not equal right—which raises a nagging question: Why wait three years?
Bad news: Worst in show
Police in Birmingham, England, are probing a possible case of canine murder at Crufts, the world’s biggest dog show. Following the competition last week, Jagger, a prize-winning Irish setter, died of apparent poisoning, and there were reports that at least two other dogs had fallen ill. Toxicology reports are still pending, but investigators are already looking through surveillance-camera footage for a suspect. Let’s hope they make a collar.
Check out Macleans.ca for our daily newsmakers series, highlighting the names making waves that day.
Newsmaker: Dancing man
A large London man mocked for his dancing on the 4chan website—where an unflattering photo was captioned, “Spotted this specimen trying to dance the other week, he stopped when he saw us laughing”—is now going to be flown to Los Angeles to dance with 1,700 women who want to make a statement about body-shaming. Cassandra Fairbanks of California was outraged at the initial post, and issued a public invitation to the then-anonymous man: “We want to see you dance freely, and if you would have us, we would love to dance with you.” Pharrell Williams, Haim and Dita Von Teese all want to come to the party, which the L.A. Coliseum offered to host for free, and where Moby has volunteered his DJ services.
Newsmaker: Lindsey Vonn
After missing the entire 2014 season due to knee surgeries, Vonn is on the verge of winning her fifth career Super-G World Cup title. Her first-place finish this past weekend in southern Germany brought the American skiing legend’s lifetime-win total to 65, a record, while giving her an eight-point lead in the Super-G standings with one last race to go later this month in France.
Newsmaker: Pamela Wallin
Court documents released Monday in the RCMP investigation of the suspended senator contain accusations of breach of trust and fraud relating to 150 travel-expense claims between 2009 and 2012, totalling $27,493. Many related to trips between Ottawa—which she claimed was her secondary residence, her primary residence apparently being in Wadena, Sask.—and Toronto, where she served on several corporate boards. An earlier audit by Deloitte found Wallin had to pay back $154,191—which she did. But the RCMP now claims Wallin “misrepresented the nature of these trips to Toronto” during that audit, and that she fabricated meetings that “the RCMP was able to determine to have never taken place.” No charges have been laid against her.
Newsmaker: Greg Selinger
Manitoba’s NDP premier won a leadership contest initiated after five cabinet members resigned last fall in protest of a one percentage point increase in the PST. Selinger trumped ex-cabinet minister Theresa Oswald by a mere 33 votes in the second round of voting. Ovide Mercredi, the former chief of the Assembly of First Nations, was voted party president, beating out incumbent Ellen Olfert.
Related: No olive branch so far from Selinger
Newsmaker: Banff Bison
Blake Richards, Conservative MP for the Wild Rose party, announced that the feds are promising to introduce a small herd of plains bison to Banff National Park, stating, “Successfully restoring this keystone species in Banff will allow the public to experience an authentic national park experience.” How authentic, though? Bison have never actually roamed in Banff National Park, which was established in 1885, a decade before North America’s bison count reached a record low of 2,000—down from an estimated 30 million from the time of Europeans’ arrival.