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Good news, bad news: Feb. 10-16, 2011


 

Good news

Good news, bad news

Taking advantage of a rare cold spell, skaters take to Amsterdam canals. (Margriet Faber/AP)

Balance of power

The 2011 census reveals that the West and North are rising: more people are moving to Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia, the Yukon and Nunavut for work and school, as the economies soar and the political climate improves. That the country has moved beyond revolving around Ontario and Quebec is a positive sign of a vibrant nation further diversifying and growing—the overall population has climbed nearly six per cent over the last five years to 33,476,688—the fastest increase in the G8. Let the good news spread.

Standing up to bullies

Quebec is tabling new anti-bullying legislation that would enforce a clear and strict obligation on the part of parents, students and educators to intervene when bullying occurs, not just in schools but also online. In Ontario, meanwhile, a judge has allowed the oral statements made by an 11-year-old boy about youth who were bullying him to be included in the court case against them. The comments were made to authorities before the boy committed suicide. The rare decision is vindication for victims silenced everywhere.

Unmistaken identity

India is conducting the world’s largest biometric identification experiment. Half of the country’s 1.2 billion people have already been photographed and had their fingerprints taken and irises scanned in an effort to create a sophisticated personal ID library. While Orwellian paranoia typically surrounds such endeavours, we take it on good faith that this technology will serve its stated purpose: to help the government ensure that those in need receive safety and social services, including food, water and welfare.

Go Ellen! Go Ellen!

After the One Million Moms group—whose actual members total 40,000—protested Ellen DeGeneres becoming the new spokesperson for JC Penney because she is gay, the retailer refused to fire her. Rather, CEO Ron Johnson stood “squarely behind” DeGeneres, emphasizing that she stands for equality. On her talk show, DeGeneres noted the supportive comments posted on—of all places—the Million Moms Facebook page. “Normally I try not to pay attention to my haters, but this time . . . my haters are my motivators.”

Bad news

Good news, bad news

A rhino at a reserve in South Africa after a routine procedure. (Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters)

A case for the ages

The federal government has been taken to court in a precedent-setting case by the Canadian Human Rights Commission, the Assembly of First Nations and child welfare advocates for failing to properly fund child welfare and family services for First Nations children living on reserves compared to those living off-reserve. Given all that we’ve learned about communities such as Attawapiskat, this court case is yet another reminder that Ottawa must get serious about First Nations’ needs.

Dying to give

The Canadian Institute for Health Information reports that 229 people died for lack of organ donors in 2010; another 4,500 were waiting for transplants. The shortage not only costs lives, it costs money: one kidney transplant amounts to $29,000 a year compared to $60,000 for dialysis. Similar problems in the U.K. have prompted the British Medical Journal to consider whether it’s time to use organs from “high risk” groups and pay for the funerals of donors. That we should have to resort to such options is a shame on those of us who can but don’t plan to give.

Taken for a ride

Electric cars, long hailed as the best alternative to gas guzzlers, may cause more pollution than gas vehicles, according to a study done in China by researchers at the University of Tennessee. It revealed that the electricity generated to run “green” machines caused more particulate matter pollution—created by burning fossil fuels—than the same number of cars using fuel. The researchers say this proves that electric cars are only a good option if powered by clean energy. In other words, keep gassing up for now.

Disconnected from reality

A report by the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association insists that WiFi in schools presents a radiation risk, and calls for computers to be connected to the Internet using hard wiring. While the association’s concern for the well-being of children is commendable, in this case there is little evidence it’s warranted: Canadian health authorities haven’t banned WiFi, and the World Health Organization’s warnings have only been cautionary. The lesson? A reflexive fear of technology is dangerous too.


 
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