Good news, bad news

NASA aims for life on other planets, while forest fires rage in B.C.

Game on: Susan Nattrass, the world’s most decorated trap shooter at age 63, was the flag-bearer at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland (Andrew Vaughan/CP)

Game on: Susan Nattrass, the world’s most decorated trap shooter at age 63, was the flag-bearer at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland (Andrew Vaughan/CP)

Good news

A mother’s resolve

A self-proclaimed jihadist blogger posted an open letter to a grieving Calgary mother, urging her to “die as a Muslim” like her son, Damian Clairmont, a convert to Islam who was recently killed after leaving Canada to fight with terrorists in Syria. “I pray that Allah opens your heart to Islam so that you may live a life of honour and dignity” and join “Damian in paradise,” the blogger wrote. Chris Boudreau responded in the most courageous way possible, saying she is now dedicating her life to combatting the type of homegrown radicalization that brainwashed her 22-year-old son. The letter, she says, only proves that “I must be getting to somebody.” Indeed.

Death penalty offside

Props to Cormac Carney, a U.S. District Court judge whose landmark decision could bring an end to capital punishment in California. Delays of 25 years or more in deciding appeals, and carrying out occasional executions, have created an arbitrary system that is unconstitutional, the judge ruled. Carney’s decision applies only to the case before him, and America’s most populous state had already halted executions because of problems with lethal injection procedures. But if the ruling holds up under appeal, it could bring California to its senses on this issue for good.

Somewhere out there

Three weeks after a setback in the hunt for alien life, NASA scientists are once again offering hope. We may discover some extraterrestrial form of life within 20 years, says Charles Bolden, the agency’s administrator—despite recent revelations that two supposed planets around the dwarf star Gliese 581, thought to be potentially life-supporting, are not planets at all. “Do we believe there is life beyond Earth?” Bolden asked at a panel discussion. “It is improbable that in the limitless vastness of the universe we humans stand alone.” Which is NASA-speak for stay tuned.

Safe bet

Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy captured the 143rd British Open golf tournament, leading the rest of the field from opening tee to final putt. But McIlroy’s dad was a big winner, too. Ten years ago, when his son was a talented but relatively unknown teenager, Gerry McIlroy placed a £200 wager ($367) with a London betting firm—at 500 to 1 odds—that his boy would win the Open championship sometime over the next decade. When Rory hoisted the coveted Claret Jug, his proud papa collected $171,000.

Flames from a forest fire are seen burning on a hillside in West Kelowna, B.C.

A forest fire burns in West Kelowna, B.C. About 2,400 people were forced to flee the blaze, which hit dead forests killed by mountain pine beetles. (Jonathan Hayward/CP)

Bad news

House poor

A troubling new survey from CIBC says Canadians, on average, expect to be mortgage-free by age 58, one year later than the results of a similar poll conducted last year. Homeowners in British Columbia are the least optimistic, saying they won’t make their final mortgage payment until their golden years (66, on average). Even more concerning, the number of Canadians taking advantage of record-low interest rates by paying more than the minimum instalment has also plummeted—to 55 per cent from 68 per cent. It’s frightening to think what would happen to some of those homeowners if interest rates ever rise, even just a little.

The opposite of honourable

Try to imagine a more horrifying scene: A 10-year-old Afghan girl who was raped by a mullah at a mosque in northern Afghanistan has been reportedly targeted for “honour killing” because she brought shame to her family. According to an official indictment, the rape was so vicious that the young victim, who weighs just 40 lb., nearly died. The 10-year-old did find refuge at a local women’s shelter, but police eventually brought her back home—despite the family’s stated plans to murder her. The mullah, of course, proclaimed his innocence, insisting he thought the girl was 17, not 10.

Whole lotta shakin’

If you thought a series of recent minor earthquakes along California’s San Andreas fault is easing the pressure within the Earth, you were wrong. In fact, says Lucy Jones, Los Angeles’s newly appointed “earthquake czar,” they presage a dreaded megaquake of 7.5-plus magnitude, for which the city is more than a century overdue. As luck (and Hollywood) would have it, Americans will flock to cinemas next year to see a blockbuster called San Andreas, in which L.A. is wiped out by an apocalyptic shaker. We pray that, by then, they won’t mistake it for a documentary.

The ‘perfect’ employee

This may help curb worker abuse in China, but it’s a tad unnerving: Hon Hai, the parent company of the Taiwanese manufacturing giant Foxconn, announced that it will deploy 10,000 assembly line robots to help meet the overwhelming demand for the new iPhone 6. Apple will be the first customer to rely on the new fleet of robots, which leads to the inevitable question: As technology rapidly advances toward Terminator levels, when will the iPhone be capable of building itself?

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