Brick by brick
The U.S. housing market is back on solid ground. Home prices rose for the third straight month in July in all 20 cities in the Standard & Poor’s Case-Shiller index. With homeowners feeling richer, consumer spending is likely to increase, leading to a wider economic boost. Indeed, this week consumer confidence in the U.S. rose to its highest level since February. There is some reassuring news here, too, for Canada, which appears to be in the midst of a housing correction, if not a crash. Where the U.S. economy goes, Canada’s always follows, sooner or later.
Learning to share
Ottawa’s decision this week to start sharing some Canadian embassies around the world with Britain received plenty of criticism. But let’s be clear about what the move really involves: modest measures to share expenses and administrative duties. Canada is not handing over its foreign policy to the British, nor will it be flying the Union Jack abroad. What we are getting is greater efficiency in our diplomatic corps and a greater presence around the world. All at lesser cost to taxpayers.
We’re all aliens
Researchers say a newly discovered planet 50 light years away called Gliese 163c is a prime candidate to support life. It orbits at the edge of its star’s so-called habitable zone where water could exist. And there was more promising news for those hoping we are not alone: researchers from Princeton University concluded that life on Earth may have started when micro-organisms from other planets crashed here. New simulations, they say, show that the movement of material between solar systems could have been more likely than once thought.
A bridge too cool
A $6-million bridge linking the Bratislava region of Slovakia with Austria finally has a name. An online poll to name the new bridge was swamped with over 12,000 votes for “Chuck Norris,” the action-movie star and source of countless jokes about his fighting skills. However, officials decided the more descriptive “Freedom Cycling Bridge,” which garnered only 457 votes, was a better choice. Why is this good news for cyclists? Because no one has ever crossed Chuck Norris and lived.
It’s hard to get too worked up about outrageous statements by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but his declaration during a visit to the UN this week that Israel will be “eliminated” seems, frankly, foolhardy. Concerns over Iran’s nuclear program continue to mount, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is hardly making his desire for a pre-emptive military strike a secret. It’s time for real talk, not tough talk—before the war of words morphs into something far more dangerous.
A new SARS-like virus was identified in a 60-year-old Saudi Arabian man who has since died. This week another case emerged: a 49-year-old who fell ill in Qatar and who is now in critical condition in a London hospital. So far, the virus hasn’t spread to health care workers like SARS did in 2003, but health officials are concerned: they don’t know the origin of the virus. Meanwhile, Ontario reported a new case of the swine flu virus this week. It follows an apparently unrelated swine flu outbreak in the U.S. that sickened more than 160 people this summer.
Apple sold five million iPhone 5s in three days, but nobody seems impressed. Analysts had been expecting sales of six million. Consumers were irked that the company ditched rival Google’s map service with its own buggy one. And the people who make iPhone parts in China were up in arms this week. A brawl erupted involving 2,000 workers at Foxconn. It reportedly took 5,000 police officers to break it up.
The American Academy of Pediatrics is telling parents to keep their children away from trampolines—indoors or outdoors—warning that bouncing can lead to serious injuries, a danger that only increases if more than one kid is leaping at the same time. The alarm follows a similar call from Canadian doctors. No one wants to see children hurt, but such warnings seem to be missing the point. Isn’t the issue inadequate supervision rather than inherent risk? After all, we all cheered when Rosie MacLennan bounced to Canada’s lone gold at London 2012. Maybe it’s time for parents to get out and spot.
Thursday, September 27, 2012