Good news, bad news: August 4-11, 2011

Aid flows into Mogadishu after al-Shabaab retreats, while NATO forces see a deadly week in Afghanistan

Good news

Good news

Thailand elected its first female prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra

Clearing the way

The apparent defeat of the Islamist group al-Shabaab in central Mogadishu offers a glimmer of hope to those trying to get food into famine-stricken Somalia. With the country’s wobbly central government in control of key districts of the capital, workers can now fan aid out to other parts of the country. With luck, they can prevent at least some of the hungry from attempting deadly treks into neighbouring Kenya or Ethiopia. The next challenge: keeping the aid out of the hands of insurgents, while persuading the rest of the world to give.

Grade ‘A’ idea

The U.S. grocer Whole Foods introduced a meat-labelling system in its Canadian stores that outlines how various producers treat livestock on a scale of one to five. It is an enlightened approach to animal welfare, both educating consumers and offering them a choice while forgoing preachy attacks on the meat industry or the livelihood of farmers. It also offers a nice rebuttal to a wave of bad press set off by a disgruntled former Toronto employee who claimed the organic-food-focused company didn’t put its money where its mouth was. Other retailers should be so transparent.

Finally, some straight talk

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney had good grounds this week to pen a lacerating response to Amnesty International, which had complained about the government’s efforts to find and deport war criminals hiding in Canada. The human rights group, wrote Kenney, is “squandering” its hard-won moral authority by suggesting that the use of Canadian immigration law against these men is itself a denial of human rights. We agree, and applaud the minister’s plain speak. Ottawa, in this case, is not the one flouting justice.

All hail G.I. Jane

An excellent week for women in the military. Britain’s Royal Navy put its first woman in charge of a warship—a 5,000-tonne frigate called HMS Portland. Mexico, meanwhile, began training its first class of female paratroopers. Fighting women around the world are still waging an uphill battle for respect in mostly male armies. But winning positions of command, and gaining entry to elite units, are huge steps forward.

Bad news

Bad news

New Delhi police try to contain protesters against government corruption

A battered mission

Afghanistan continues to extract its toll in lives and human dignity. A well-planned ambush of a Chinook chopper claimed the lives last week of 38 U.S. and Afghan soldiers, including members of the Navy SEAL team that took down Osama bin Laden. Meantime, Britain’s military is investigating reports that its soldiers were chopping off the fingers of dead Taliban to keep as souvenirs. NATO allies remain in Afghanistan for the right reasons. These are the sorts of incidents that undermine the resolve of the most well-meaning countries.

Off your knees, governor

Texas Gov. Rick Perry hyped up his expected announcement that he’ll seek the Republican presidential nomination with a seven-hour “prayer rally” in Houston on Saturday that attracted 30,000 people. The hosannas were disturbing—perhaps because they were transparently opportunistic, or because it seems cynical to use prayer for political gain. Jack Layton has this right: the NDP leader says the prayers of Canadians left him feeling buoyed after he announced his prostate cancer last year. But he won his party’s record 102 seats the old-fashioned way: with a strong, secular campaign.

Labelling Lebel

The Conservatives were surprisingly restrained in their reaction to the revelation that NDP interim Leader Nycole Turmel has been a member of two separatist parties, including the Bloc Québécois. Now we know why. From 1993 to 2001, Denis Lebel, the federal transport minister, was also once a member of the Bloc, a fact he’s never tried to hide. In response to the NDP’s troubles last week, Stephen Harper noted that Canadians expect political parties to be “unequivocally committed to this country.” We assume that applies to Tories, too.

Postcards from the idiot box

Shaw Media has announced a Canadian edition of the hit A&E series Intervention, in which families unite to persuade loved ones they need help with their drug and alcohol problems. The format too often treats mental illness as a sideshow, while subjecting the vulnerable to ridicule. Besides, can’t Canada come up with its own prurient reality TV show? Extreme Hockey Dentists, say? Or The Biggest Hoser?

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