Good news, bad news

Justice in Phnom Penh, tragedy on the track, and the world’s first “tractor beam”

Derik Hamilton/AP

Derik Hamilton/AP

GOOD NEWS

Temporary peace

There have now been seven failed attempts to forge a lasting ceasefire between Israel and Hamas—but the latest pause in hostilities in Gaza seems to have the prospect of sticking, at least. Negotiations over a long-term truce continue in Cairo. And while no one expects a major breakthrough, it seems clear that the two combatants have battled to a stalemate. For all the affected civilians on both sides, here’s hoping it will be eighth time lucky.

Slow justice

It took more than 30 years, but a court in Phnom Penh has finally punished two senior members of the Khmer Rouge for their part in the genocide that killed 1.7 million Cambodians. Khieu Samphan, now 83, and Nuon Chea, 88, were among the late dictator Pol Pot’s key henchmen. Both have been sentenced to life in prison. The investigation took a decade, and the much-delayed prosecution cost $200 million. But it sets an important precedent in a country were 14,000 Khmer Rouge commanders still walk free.

Tractor’s pull

A team of real-life Australian scientists have finally caught up with science fiction by creating the world’s first “tractor beam.” The Australian National University physicists used calibrated wave patterns to make a Ping-Pong ball float around a water tank in whatever direction they wish, even pulling it toward them. The tiny wave pulses, as many as 100 a second, effectively control surface flow and, once scaled up, could be applied to watery problems such as oil-spill cleanups or the collection of floating debris. Good work. Now, let’s all turn our attention to flying cars.

Two-minute warring

Whether it’s a masterful PR stunt or an honest attempt to reach a generation with stunted attention spans, a Calgary radio station’s decision to edit every song down to two minutes is a big hit. The format change for 90.3 AMP FM, introduced last week, promises “twice the music,” by cramming 24 songs into an hour, where its competitors play only 12. Some would say that a half-dose of Katy Perry or Chromeo is more than enough, but not everyone is happy. Calgary-born songstress Jann Arden took to Twitter to lambaste the move as disrespectful to artists. She demanded that the station stop playing her music, and then upped the ante—disparaging the judgment and manhood of the executive overseeing the change. He responded by banning her songs from all 95 of the chain’s Canadian stations. Brief revenge.

 

BAD NEWS

No small potatoes

There was something fishy about the stunning news that Canada’s economy created just 200 new jobs in July, falling cataclysmically short of the 20,000 analysts were expecting. Now Statistics Canada admits it made a huge mistake and that it plans to issue new numbers later this week. So far the agency hasn’t said exactly what is wrong with its numbers, but the error underscores growing concerns that Canada’s jobs data is becoming unreliable. (Including revelations that the government gets its information on job vacancies from online ad site Kijiji.) But even if revised numbers show an uptick in employment, the trend toward slower jobs growth is clear enough to see. The country created just 115,000 jobs in the past 12 months, compared to 226,000 at the same time last year. Last week, McCain Foods announced plans to shutter a P.E.I. french fry plant, showing 121 people the door, and blaming, in part, the strong Canadian dollar. The great recession supposedly ended here in July 2009. So when does the recovery begin?

Sins of the Father

Australians have long known Khaled Sharrouf to be a dangerous man. Back in 2007, he was arrested for stockpiling bomb-making materials and plotting attacks on Sydney and Melbourne, and was eventually sentenced to four years in jail. Yet, last year, using his brother’s passport, he, his wife and four children slipped out of the country and travelled to Syria to join ISIS rebels waging jihad against the Assad regime. Recently, Sharrouf posted pictures of his seven-year-old son holding up the head of a decapitated Syrian soldier, along with the caption, “That’s my boy.” Many world leaders, including Aussie PM Tony Abbott and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, have since denounced his sick parental pride. Few will mourn if Sharrouf meets a violent end. But let no one forget that his nearest and dearest are among his biggest victims.

Death on the track

It’s quite possible that NASCAR star Tony Stewart will never be charged for running over and killing Kevin Ward Jr., his competitor in a small-time New York state race. It was dark. Ward ran out on the track. And although the two had just tangled, that doesn’t prove malice. But the non-reaction of broadcasters, sponsors and NASCAR itself is inexcusable. The sport loves to play up its rivalries, and embraces “competitive” drivers like Stewart, who is famously quick-tempered. Road rage is a real-world problem, and treating it as small-screen entertainment betters no one.

Winterpeg

It hasn’t been a great summer in much of Canada, but how does one explain Winnipeg? It’s mid-August and winter’s remnants still linger on in city snow dumps, with one pile measuring 18 m high. Municipal workers plan to break the mounds up soon to speed melting—and to make room: Southern Manitoba’s first snowfall hit on Oct. 3 last year.




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