Good news, bad news: July 8 – July 14, 2011

South Sudan celebrates the birth of a nation, while Ontario struggles to contain a C. difficile outbreak

Good news

Good News

Citizens wave the flag of the newly formed Republic of South Sudan. (Barbara Davidson/Los Angeles Times/Polaris)

Tough love

The U.S. finally took a firm stand on Pakistan by suspending $800 million of the more than $2 billion in aid it offers the country each year. Pakistan has been, at best, an unreliable ally in the war on terror. It recently arrested a number of CIA informants who helped locate Osama bin Laden within its borders and cut visas for U.S. personnel operating near the Afghan border. Pakistan may not always see eye to eye with the U.S., but the fact is that American aid is what keeps its military and, lately, economy afloat. This warning shot should provide a crucial dose of reality.

Happy days, here again

A new quarterly Bank of Canada survey suggests a record 57 per cent of businesses “across all regions and sectors” will hire new employees over the next year (the highest level reported since 2005), while only four per cent expect to reduce staff. This coincides with a Statistics Canada report showing solid job growth for the third straight month, with a net gain of 28,000 jobs in June. That’s in sharp contrast to the U.S., where only 18,000 jobs were gained last month.

In the middle of our street

The past days have seen welcome rebukes against real estate monopolies and mindless development. For starters, two discount property sellers, Realtysellers and PropertyGuys.com, struck a deal that may finally give buyers a serious, cheaper alternative to Canada’s 100,000 real estate agents and their Multiple Listing Service website. In another development, Maclean House, once the Toronto home of this magazine’s founder, J.B. Maclean, was rescued from a wrecking ball. The building was languishing on a list of potential heritage sites when, in 2009, a developer planned to raze it and build townhouses. A new owner has now stepped in who promises to restore the place.

The last word

Good on those at News of the World who spiked the paper’s last-ever crossword with nasty references to former editor Rebekah Brooks, who, despite a phone hacking scandal, kept her job with the tabloid’s parent company even as 200 staffers didn’t. Answers included “stench,” “disaster” and “tart,” while a clue read: “Woman stares wildly at calamity.”

Bad news

Bad news

At least 120 were killed in the sinking of a boat on Russia's Volga River. (Natalia Kolesnikova/AFP/Getty Images)

A hell on earth

The extreme drought in Somalia, a country already plagued by rising food prices and terrorism, has been called “the worst humanitarian disaster in the world” by the UN. Desperate for refuge, hundreds of Somalis are making the long trek across the desert to a Kenyan camp. Many die of starvation on the way or within a few days of arriving. The horror can be worse for fleeing Somali children: reports say some have fallen prey to famished lions and hyenas.

The final frontier

The space shuttle lifted off from Cape Canaveral for its 135th and final mission, marking the beginning of the end of an era of space travel that began 30 years ago with an ambitious plan to send regular, affordable manned flights into space. Now with the shuttles destined for museums and the U.S. in debt crisis, it is unlikely we will see another endeavour as daring or inspiring as the shuttle program. Children could once dream of growing up to be astronauts. No longer.

Outbreak

Ontario’s latest C. difficile outbreak has spread to half a dozen hospitals, infected a hundred people or more, and has killed nearly two dozen since May. While Ontario’s health minister has downplayed the outbreak, critics say it highlights problems with hospital overcrowding and cleanliness. Meanwhile, a whole new superbug may be emerging: gonorrhea, a common sexually transmitted infection that can lead to infertility, is growing resistant to antibiotics. The World Health Organization, heeding scientists’ fears of “untreatable gonorrhea,” has acknowledged the need for a global response.

Democratic deficit

As if low voter turnout wasn’t bad enough, now even the people manning our polling stations aren’t turning out. According to the Canadian Press, the last federal election saw dozens of people hired by Elections Canada to facilitate voting and count ballots oversleep, call in sick, or abruptly quit. In one incident, two surprise resignations before voting opened left one poll unstaffed; when the station was merged with another, a third person quit over the workload. In Toronto, a woman failed to show up at all—a disaster given that she had the ballot box.

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