Taking control of the Hill
Four months after a masked gunman managed to get inside Parliament—and within steps of the Prime Minister—the federal government is pushing a plan to have the RCMP assume full control of security on the Hill. If October’s attack revealed anything, it’s that the heart of Canada’s democracy is protected by a mishmash of agencies, each one responsible for a particular section of the grounds. Amazingly, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, rifle in hand, was able to breach each one. Placing a single force (the RCMP or otherwise) in charge of public safety is a common-sense upgrade long overdue.
A peace process with bite
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President François Hollande pushed for a peace deal for the Ukraine this week that would build upon the ceasefire Russia co-signed back in September (and then promptly ignored). While some have labelled such diplomatic efforts as appeasement, the difference this time around is that the talks come as the U.S. contemplates sending arms to Ukrainian forces—a badly needed show of resolve that should force Vladimir Putin to think long and hard about his next moves. (Update: Here’s the latest on that deal.)
Back to work
Despite all the economic doom and gloom wrought by plummeting oil prices—shelved oil sands projects, falling Alberta home sales, a surprise rate cut from the Bank of Canada—there are nevertheless reassuring signs Canada will weather this storm, too. The national unemployment rate fell to 6.6 per cent in January as employers added more jobs than forecast. Meanwhile in the U.S., on which Canada now increasingly depends, the job market is continuing to gather steam, with the unemployment rate ticking up slightly to 5.7 per cent last month as more Americans resumed looking for work.
Eat, drink and be skinny
North Americans have long marvelled at “the French paradox,” wondering how an entire nation can eat so much cheese, bread and rich, buttery sauces and stay relatively healthy. Now a new study by American researchers adds to the theory that it has something to do with the bottles of wine used to wash it all down. The study found that red wine in particular helps the body burn off harmful fats that build up in the liver and cause disease. Of course, a glass of grape juice offered similar benefits, the research showed, but where’s the joie de vivre in that?
A new report calls the 2008 death of Winnipegger Brian Sinclair an example of “fatal racism.” Sinclair, an Aboriginal, died of a bladder infection after sitting in an emergency room waiting area for 34 hours. “Racism, the refusal of care and poor treatment of indigenous peoples in the Canadian health care system are well documented in health research,” said the Wellesley Institute report. “For Mr. Sinclair, the impact of racism proved fatal.” As the Winnipeg Free Press noted, it was the second time in less than a month that a “Toronto-based organization” pointed accusations of racism against Winnipeg—a reference to Maclean’s recent story noting Canada’s race problem is at its worst there.
Flight school failure
Taiwan’s TransAsia Airways is retesting its pilots after last week’s turboprop crash in a Taipei river that killed at least 40. Investigators say the plane appeared to experience problems with one of its two engines shortly after takeoff, but pilots inexplicably responded by trying to restart the engine that was still working. The apparent lapse comes as Indonesian divers pulled more bodies from the wreckage of AirAsia Flight 8501, which, for reasons still unknown, plummeted into the Java Sea in late December, killing all 162 aboard. Flying may be the safest mode of travel, but there’s clearly still room for improvement.
Big brother TV
Owners of Samsung SmartTVs might want to think twice about yelling at the screen. The TV’s voice-activation feature quietly records conversations in the room and sends them to another company that translates the sounds into text. But don’t worry. Samsung says the Orwellian-sounding technology, revealed in dense click-to-agree legalese, is meant to capture only voice commands directed at the TV, not idle background chatter. Besides, as long as you’re not doing anything wrong, there’s nothing to worry about, right?
When it snows, it blizzards
A record 180 cm of snow fell in Boston in the past 30 days while a cluster of winter storms across the U.S. northeast have caused travel chaos. On the other side of the country, heavy rains caused floods and mudslides in northern California and Washington. Meanwhile, in British Columbia, Kitamaat Village was evacuated after getting hit with 109 cm of snow in 24 hours—three centimetres short of an all-time record snowfall.