Good news, bad news

Syrians finally receive aid, while Russia ramps up its military along Ukraine’s border


Good news: Brianne Theisen-Eaton (left) and Jessica Zelinka won gold and silver, respectively, in the heptathlon at the Commonwealth Games. (Getty Images)

Good News

Finally delivering

Millions of Syrians are now receiving food rations and other supplies after the UN Security Council voted to send aid into rebel-held territories against the government’s wishes. The rare agreement paved the way for UN truck convoys to use four border crossings into Syria, including two shared with Turkey, to give aid workers access to communities that have been essentially unreachable since the conflict began three years ago. It’s about time the UN showed some gumption by ignoring the brutal Syrian regime. When there’s such a clear need for help, the world has a responsibility to deliver it.

Back in BlackBerry

BlackBerry says it’s in a position to resume growing after completing a painful three-year restructuring effort that involved slashing more than 10,000 jobs and selling off non-core businesses. John Chen, who became CEO last year, told staff in an internal memo that the smartphone pioneer had reached a point where it can hire new staff and make strategic acquisitions in key areas like data security and device management. While the company still faces an uphill battle in an iPhone and Android world, at long last it seems to be heading in the right direction.

A measure of safety

Date rape remains among the least reported forms of sexual assault, and among the hardest to prosecute. But Toronto researcher David Wilson has developed a prevention strategy that gives power to potential victims: the pd.id, or “Personal Drink ID,” is a USB-sized device that can detect illicit substances when submerged in liquid. Wilson, who used to work in breast imaging, was inspired to fight sexual assault after hearing the harrowing stories of some of his patients. Some are skeptical about anti-rape technology, arguing that efforts should focus on deterring and re-socializing potential rapists. But any strategy that helps keep people safe is a good one.

‘Hip’ for eight points

Some welcome news for parents this week: according to a recent study out of Oxford University, playing video games for a short period each day can have a positive impact on child development. Of course, board games are still good too, and apparently just as hip—when the updated Merriam-Webster’s Official Scrabble Players Dictionary hits stores this month, it will feature some of Internet era’s trendiest words, including “selfie,” “frenemy” and “bromance.”

Bad News

Big trouble in China

Kevin and Julia Garratt were mostly known in Dandong, a city near China’s border with North Korea, as the Canadian couple who ran a popular coffee shop. Now Beijing claims they were stealing Chinese military secrets, too. While family members say the charges are nonsense, the seriousness of the allegations suggest it’s unlikely to be a simple case that’s easily cleared up. Complicating matters are reports of the Garratts’ Christian activities in a country where being a missionary is illegal—not to mention the recent chill in Canada-China relations after Ottawa accused Beijing of being behind a cyberattack on a federal agency.

Message not received

Russia has dramatically increased its military presence along the Ukrainian border to 20,000 troops, a NATO official said this week. It is now capable of launching a speedy cross-border offensive. The buildup is likely in response to Ukraine’s military efforts to regain control of its eastern region from pro-Russian separatists. It’s a troubling sign not just of how quickly the conflict could expand, but of how little the West’s latest sanctions appear to have influenced President Vladimir Putin.

Tragedy strikes again

Factory work in Bangladesh has been getting increasingly safer since last year’s Rana Plaza factory collapse killed more than 1,100 people. But getting to work is still exceedingly perilous in a country plagued by poverty and disorganization. At least 125 people died at sea this week when a ferry capsized close to the capital of Dhaka. Authorities estimate that there were more than 250 people on board when the ferry tipped due to high waves and intense currents. Poor weather conditions prevented rescuers from accessing the scene, and poor logistics (operators seldom keep passenger lists) have made it difficult to track the death toll.

Not so crazy in love

A recent report by the Urban Institute says that the percentage of millennials that will be married by age 40 is on track to be lower than that of any previous generation of Americans. It now also appears that two of the demographic’s biggest heroes, music icons Jay-Z and Beyoncé, may be joining the ranks of their unmarried fans. Rumours abound that things have turned sour between the influential and creative power couple. Celebrity unions seldom last, but we were really pulling for this one.

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