Happy and you know it
All things considered, Canadians are a pretty blissful bunch. According to the UN’s first-ever “World Happiness Report,” Canada ranks fifth on a global scale of joyfulness, behind only Denmark, Finland, Norway and the Netherlands. Based on thousands of random surveys, the report measured such factors as family and friends, health, income and freedom. We probably would have landed a few notches higher if not for all the long faces in Toronto, where the Maple Leafs failed—for the seventh season in a row—to make the playoffs. At least the owners apologized this year, publishing an open letter to fans: “We take full responsibility for how this team performs on the ice, and we make no excuses.”
The skinny on fat
Yes, Big Macs and PlayStations deserve some of the blame for North America’s obesity epidemic. But so does our DNA. Researchers in the United States have discovered two key gene variants that appear to play a major role in predisposing some kids to obesity—a breakthrough that could lead to treatments for heavy children. It is encouraging news. In the meantime, though, there is another solution: leave the house. According to a separate study, only half of U.S. preschoolers play outside on a daily basis.
Teachers are not enjoying the best press these days, with so much talk about wage freezes and strike threats. But here’s some encouraging news from the department of education: three Maryland school board employees (two teachers and an administrator) who won part of last month’s record-breaking $656-million Mega Millions jackpot have decided not to retire; they don’t want to abandon their students.
Fly the lighter skies
As it struggles to control costs, Air Canada should take a few cues from the low-cost king, Ryanair. The European airline is famous for its penny-pinching measures. Most recently, it said it is scaling back the size of its inflight magazine and using less ice in drinks to trim weight from planes and save on fuel. It may sound like a joke, but there’s a reason for Ryanair’s success—and it doesn’t revolve around government handouts or sky-high ticket prices.
Lies among friends
Playing fast and loose with Kofi Annan is one thing. But can Syria get away with hoodwinking its few allies? The tottering regime of Bashar al-Assad drew rebuke from Russia for attacking opposition strongholds in contravention of a peace plan brokered by Annan, the former UN secretary general. Damascus offered assurances, yet these too were called into question as reports of further government shelling trickled out of the country. We can only hope Moscow has lost all patience. It’s time for the international community to speak against this brutal regime with one voice.
Tragedy turns to farce
Already beset with troubles, Vancouver’s missing women inquiry now faces a full-blown credibility crisis after reports of sexist behaviour and questionable conduct within the inquiry’s own offices. Commissioner Wally Oppal is demanding answers, but the damage has already been done. The supposedly definitive inquiry into a mishandled investigation is, absurdly, under investigation itself, while key testimony takes a back seat to a sordid backroom drama. The families of Robert Pickton’s victims deserve better.
Former tech wonder Research In Motion announced last week that it will begin offering a corporate email service for iPhone and Android users, the clearest admission yet that it is surrendering any hope of a BlackBerry revival. Meanwhile, the engineering giant SNC-Lavalin was barred from bidding on World Bank-sponsored projects. The news comes on the heels of a separate scandal that cost the CEO his job. Both firms were once world-beating Canadian success stories, and their rapid falls from grace are almost too difficult to watch.
The Republican presidential convention is only a few months away, and the host city of Tampa, Fla., is busy working out the security details. Banned from the downtown core will be all sorts of dangerous weapons, from slingshots to switchblades to paintball rifles. But not real guns that shoot actual bullets. State law prohibits cities from adopting rules that limit the sale, possession or use of firearms. In other words, bring your pistol, but not your water pistol.