At the table
Efforts by U.S. President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to present a united front on the issue of Iranian nuclear weapons appeared to bear fruit, with the Islamic Republic agreeing to talk with representatives of the UN Security Council and to allow inspectors access to a suspect facility near Tehran. The International Atomic Energy Agency says multiple lines of evidence point to military applications for Iranian nuke research, and the European Union has approved tough sanctions against Iranian oil and currency.
Troops of the official Somali government and the African Union captured Maslah, a major operations base belonging to al-Shabab, the Islamist youth insurgency driven out of Mogadishu last year. The battle was another feather in the cap of the UN Security Council, which recently asked the AU to loosen the rules of engagement for its mission in Somalia and to expand its troop complement from 12,000 to 17,700. The Maslah base had allowed al-Shabab to raid the outskirts of Mogadishu, and also reportedly served as a site for executing captives.
Plaintiffs suing BP for its 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico did well in a recent US$7.8-billion settlement. Under the deal, BP will create a system to monitor the health of cleanup workers and residents over a period of 20 years. Meanwhile, the U.S. appears to be warming to a safer source of oil: Alberta. TransCanada says it will begin building the southern leg of its controversial Keystone pipeline—a move that President Barack Obama welcomed.
Search engine Yahoo! emerged as a possible player in bidding for the Canadian broadcast rights to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Traditional broadcasters are lukewarm on Sochi, which may not include NHL players and will take place in a time zone halfway around the world. In a world where social media is obtruding on TV-network power, Sochi represents a chance for a complex major event to go all-Internet.
Fraud victims suing the Royal Bank of Canada over a Ponzi scheme run by disgraced investor Earl Jones came away with a relative mite of $17 million from a settlement by class-action lawyers. After legal fees, about $12 million of that will be left over for the plaintiffs, who originally sought $40 million from the bank. According to his guilty plea last year, Jones took $50 million from clients and parked it in his Montreal-based RBC account. It is, inevitably, an unhappy ending for both Jones’s former clients and the bank, whose involvement was tangential to the true crime.
General Motors announced it will suspend production of the Chevy Volt for five weeks. The electric car, long touted as a saviour of the American auto industry, met with disappointing sales of 7,651 units in its first year and is on track to miss even revised targets for 2012. GM remains optimistic about the Volt’s future, with rising oil prices and the latest Volts eligible for valuable carpool stickers in California. Shortly after the production rein-in, the Volt snagged the respected European Car of the Year award from a group of euro auto magazines.
Six weeks after its ship Costa Concordia capsized off the coast of Italy and killed 25 passengers, the Costa Crociere cruise line faced fresh problems with another vessel, the Costa Allegra. A fire broke out in the generator room, leaving the ship drifting in the Indian Ocean for three days while cruise-goers (including 14 Canadians) slept on deck, and lived without toilets. Meanwhile, the U.S. Coast Guard called off the search for a Canadian woman who vanished from the Bahamas Celebration during a cruise off of Florida.
Scientists from McGill and Concordia sounded a warning about the health of Canada’s game at the grassroots level. Or, more accurately, the bulrush level. They calculated that the season for pond hockey has diminished “significantly” between 1951 and 2005 due to climate change, noting that a “simple linear extrapolation” would see the length of the skating season hit zero days in parts of Canada by 2050.