This week: Good news, bad news

France helps arrest Laurent Gbagbo, while Japan’s nuclear crisis escalates to Chernobyl-levels

Good news

Good News

Andy Clark/Reuters

Vive la France!

France played a crucial role this week in the surrender and arrest of the Ivory Coast’s defeated president Laurent Gbagbo and his militiamen. With its troops on the ground, France has publicly pledged to help the troubled nation in its reconstruction. Along with its recent calls for greater NATO involvement in Libya, France has suddenly become a robust player on the international stage, flexing its muscle in the name of democracy and global stability. It’s just too bad that same spirit isn’t on display back home, where French police arrested two women under the ban on wearing face-concealing veils in public.

In the classroom

The organization that regulates Ontario’s 230,000 teachers issued a new rule this week: no more connecting with students on social media. Teachers have been warned not to “friend” their pupils on Facebook, subscribe to their Twitter accounts, or use Flickr, LinkedIn or MySpace to interact online. Give the College of Teachers an A+ on this. The student-teacher relationship belongs in a classroom, not a chat room.

Dropping the curtain

French rocker Bertrand Cantat, who was convicted in 2003 in the beating death of his girlfriend Marie Trintignant, was dropped from a series of plays being put on by Montreal’s Théâtre du Nouveau Monde. Cantat, who was released from prison in 2007, can’t legally enter Canada, and his billing sparked intense criticism in Quebec and abroad. Artistic freedom is one thing, but casting Cantat seemed more an example of crass exploitation, certainly unworthy of an exemption to our rules that keep violent felons of his sort out of the country.

Weighty advice

There is some promising new research in the fight against obesity. A study in The Lancet says a new weight-loss pill can help people drop as much as 22 lb. a year. Another recent study says blueberries may be able to stop fat cells from forming. And if you want to avoid putting on weight in the first place, consider this advice from researchers in the journal Pediatrics: avoid having children. They found that among young adults, those with kids ate more fatty food and exercised less than those without children.

Bad news

Bad News

Seth Wenig/AP

The fallout continues

Hours after ceremonies were held to mark one month since the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan that killed 25,000, a 7.0 magnitude aftershock hit the country. On the same day, officials called for a larger evacuation area around the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant, to 30 km from 20 km, over long-term health threats related to radiation. They also upped the severity level of the nuclear disaster to 7 from 5 on an international scale. That puts Japan’s nuclear crisis on par with Chernobyl—the worst-case scenario many feared at the outset.

Trigger happy

The RCMP in British Columbia are under fire for using a Taser on an 11-year-old boy accused of stabbing a man in a group home. Vancouver police are investigating and Amnesty International Canada is calling for guidelines on shooting children with Tasers. (There’s no guidelines?) RCMP in B.C. have been involved in other ugly Taser incidents, including the death of Robert Dziekanski and the tasering of an elderly man in a hospital bed. Isn’t it time to take their Tasers away?

Inflation fears

The Canadian economy appears to be chugging along, but the Bank of Canada elected this week to stick to its policy of ultra-low interest rates to keep the economic pumps primed. There are still reasons to remain worried about the state of the recovery. The soaring loonie is hurting exports. And rising commodity prices are increasingly being felt by consumers. An RBC report found that 45 per cent of Canadians say rising food and gas prices are “significantly impacting” their budgets. The recession is over, but it doesn’t always feel that way.

Dire prognosis

Still trust your doctor? In B.C., the College of Physicians and Surgeons issued a “gentle reminder” to members after a patient complained his doctor was talking hockey with the nurses during an eye operation. In Pennsylvania, a weight-loss doctor is facing sexual assault charges after allegedly giving patients inappropriate “fat-burning” massages. And a “shocking” new study released this week says the number of people harmed or killed because of hospital errors is actually 10 times higher than originally believed.

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