Good news, bad news: ‘Welcome back, Mr. Mayor’

In this week’s news wrap: Rob Ford, Frank Coleman and a breathalyzer for pot

The Taliban cut off the ink-stained part of some Afghan men’s fingers after they took part in the presidential election in Heart province (Mohammad Shoib/Reuters)

The Taliban cut off the ink-stained part of some Afghan men’s fingers after they took part in the presidential election in Heart province (Mohammad Shoib/Reuters)


High priority
A former B.C. Mountie has helped invent what could become a critical tool for all police officers: a Breathalyzer that nabs “drugged drivers.” It’s long been illegal to get behind the wheel after smoking marijuana, but prosecuting puffing motorists is another story. (Although blood and urine tests can detect cannabis, the drug can linger in a person’s system much longer than alcohol, making it difficult to confirm when the weed was actually inhaled.) Co-invented with Vancouver radiologist Raj Attariwal, Kal Malhi’s device provides the most accurate reading yet, revealing whether a driver toked during the previous two hours. It will, without a doubt, save lives.

Righting a wrong
The North Atlantic right whale, one of Canada’s most endangered species, is bouncing back—all thanks to an oil company. In an unprecedented move, Saint John, N.B.-based Irving Oil agreed in 2003 to reroute shipping lanes away from right whale feeding grounds, slashing the number of fatal vessel collisions by 90 per cent. Today, the right whale population is more than 500 strong, the highest tally in three decades. Now if only Greenpeace could boast such a success story. The environmental group says it lost US$5.2 million last year in the foreign global exchange market after an employee bet the euro wouldn’t strengthen against other currencies. “We are obviously very embarrassed,” the group said.

A sharp turn
Nearly six months after being placed in a medically induced coma, F1 racing legend Michael Schumacher is conscious and heading to Switzerland to continue his recovery. The seven-time champion fell and hit his head on a rock while skiing in the French Alps and, ironically enough, he wasn’t even going very fast. (A camera fixed to his helmet recorded the seemingly innocuous, low-speed tumble.) The possibility that Schumacher may yet walk away from the accident is nothing short of amazing. Many aren’t so lucky: Actress Natasha Richardson died shortly after a similar fall at a Quebec ski resort five years ago.

Admit it, you missed him
We’d be inclined to congratulate Rob Ford on his return from rehab if it didn’t look like such a poorly played charade. Alas, Toronto’s chief magistrate seemed to spend as much time outside his facility “running errands” as he did inside. But front pages (and late-night comedy sketches) have not been the same without him. Welcome back, Mr. Mayor.


Downward spiral
The crisis in Ukraine is once again in danger of spinning out of control. Pro-Russian separatists killed 49 soldiers after they shot down a Ukrainian military transport plane; Kyiv is calling pipeline explosions a likely act of terrorism; and two Russian journalists were killed in a mortar attack in eastern Ukraine this week. All this comes amid the potentially destabilizing decision by Russia to cut off the flow of gas to Ukraine following a dispute over pricing. The U.S. claims it will further “isolate” Russia if it continues to provide support to the separatists, but, so far, there’s little evidence anyone in Moscow is listening.

The shipping-out news
Voters often complain about a dearth of quality leaders to choose from (the recent Ontario election is a case in point), but rarely are they faced with the prospect of having no one to lead them at all. That’s the predicament Newfoundland and Labrador now finds itself in, after businessman Frank Coleman suddenly exited politics just a few weeks before taking over leadership of the governing PC party and being sworn in as the province’s 12th premier. Citing a “significant and challenging family matter,” Coleman becomes the latest in a line of Newfoundland politicians to drop out. Former premier Kathy Dunderdale resigned in January amid waning public support, and both of Coleman’s leadership opponents bowed out early on—with one claiming the race was stacked against him.

Bundle up, it’s summertime
Just in time for the hot weather, some depressing news from the Institute of Cancer Research: No matter how much sunscreen you wear to the beach or the backyard barbecue, it’s not enough to completely protect against malignant melanoma. Researchers have found that while sunscreen can significantly lower the amount of DNA damage caused by UV light, no lotion offers absolute assurance. So get out your hats and long-sleeved shirts. Or, better yet, don’t even bother putting away that parka.

A card would be nice
If love is measured in dollar bills, we love Mom a whole lot more than Dad. According to new figures from the U.S. National Retail Federation, people spend significantly less on Father’s Day than they do on Mother’s Day (US$113 compared to US$165). All told, the gift gap is more than $7 billion—which seems fair, considering Dad is seven billion times more likely to forget everyone else’s special day.

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