This week: Good news, bad news

Hope comes to the U.S. economy, while a suicide attack devastates Russia

Good news

Good News
Dens Villeneuve earned a best foreign film Oscar nod for Incendies (Jim Urquhart/Reuters)

Hope, for a change
Barack Obama used to have some powerful political magic, getting millions of Americans to buy into his vision of change. But a deep recession gave rise to Tea Party-style fury among voters and dealt the Democrats serious setbacks in the November elections. Now, just two months later, there are suddenly signs of hope. The economy is slowly improving and Obama’s poll numbers are on the rise. In this week’s state of the union address, he promised to keep the focus on jobs. We’ll see if Americans are ready to believe again.

Glad to go
South Sudan’s overwhelming vote for independence might displease Khartoum, but it’s a key step to ending one of Africa’s bloodiest, most intractable conflicts. Two million people have lost their lives in the war between the country’s mostly Arab rulers and rebels in the south, and there was no sign that the two sides could peacefully coexist. Enormous issues remain outstanding, not least the two sides’ long-standing dispute over oil rights. But this clear expression of democratic will brings U.S.-led efforts to find a permanent resolution one step closer to reality.

Heartbeat of Hunan
Last year, for the first time, General Motors sold more cars in China than in the U.S., and enjoyed large sales spikes in Russia and Brazil, too. An increase of 29 per cent—2.35 million cars and trucks—in China helped the U.S. automaker close the gap on world No. 1 Toyota, and GM recalled 750 laid-off workers to its Flint, Mich., truck plant. At a time when the effect of Chinese exports is front of mind, it’s good to see a North American company holding its own in such a key sector of manufacturing.

Giving back
Thanks to old-style Canadian honesty, there’s never been a better time to be absent-minded. In Surrey, B.C., a mechanic returned an envelope stuffed with $1,000 in pension money to a 70-year-old woman, who had written off the cash for lost; he found it under the back seat of her car while fixing her fuel pump. In Saskatoon, a woman who accidentally mailed an ATM envelope bearing her Christmas cash was impressed by a Canada Post worker who went the extra distance to track it down. It’s the sort of kindness that money can’t buy.

Bad news

A suicide bomber killed 35 at Demodedovo, Moscow's busiest airport (Sergey Ponomarev/AP)

Death and anger
A suicide bomb attack at Moscow’s Domodedovo airport killed 35, injured 180, and exposed the soft underbelly of security screening. Since even before the Sept. 11 attacks, the focus has been on departing passengers and their luggage. This time, the terrorist, suspected to be a Chechen militant, walked unmolested into the arrivals terminal with a suitcase full of high explosives. Heightened security will surely come, as will bloody revenge. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has warned “retribution is inevitable.”

Gag Twitter? LOL!
What is it about “open courts” that judges and lawyers don’t get? Griping about “crude, unnecessary and incomplete” coverage, lawyers for Russell Williams, the disgraced former colonel, called this week for “ground rules” governing the use of Twitter to cover court. Days later, a Calgary judge banned the public from a trial out of fear that prohibited testimony was winding up on Facebook. This is knee-jerk reaction at its worst. You can no more control Twitter than water-cooler gossip, and the existing system of publication bans gives judges more than enough power to protect the rights of the accused. Time for Canadian courts to get with the 21st century.

Two minutes for inertia
Organizers will bemoan Sidney Crosby’s absence from the NHL All-Star game, but the league should consider its own part in knocking its best player off his stride. While junior leagues have introduced blanket bans on concussion-causing head shots, the NHL fiddled with half-measures until a pair of dirty hits interrupted what could have been one of the great single-season performances of our time. Pro hockey likes to market its best players. Why won’t it protect them?

Three’s a crowd
A new U.S. study found that, in 40 per cent of young couples, only one partner said the couple had agreed to be monogamous. Among those who did, nearly 30 per cent admitted to having broken the agreement. Some wonder if all of those surveyed actually understand what “monogamy” means, so here’s a hint: if you have to explain the concept to your partner, your marriage is probably doomed.