Good news, bad news: Oct. 21-27, 2011

Charest finally calls an inquiry into corruption in Quebec, while new parents struggle to keep up

Good news

Good news

Pan American Games silver medal-winning gymnasts sing O Canada. (Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)

We were on to something

After two years of saying no, forget it, absolutely not, Quebec Premier Jean Charest has performed a 180-degree demi-pas and ordered an inquiry into the province’s crooked construction industry. Headed by a judge, the inquiry will examine how contracts are awarded, though it will have to do so without subpoena powers. Charest has also mandated that much of the inquiry take place behind closed doors, leading to accusations that the whole exercise is “a hoax.” Nevertheless, as Maclean’s argued on its cover last year, shedding light on a demonstrably corrupt industry is good news for all.

Harvest time

The Conservatives unveiled a new bill to do away with the Wheat Board monopoly, clearing the way for Prairie farmers to sell their barley and wheat wherever they wish. Critics say the move benefits big agri-business, but farmers also stand to gain. More competition means more control over their prices and customers, and farmers will also have the choice to continue using the Wheat Board, which will receive federal support for the next five years as it transitions into a private grain-handling firm. The shift won’t be easy, but everyone stands to reap the rewards of an open market.

A victory for free speech

The Supreme Court clarified an important question this week, ruling that Internet users are allowed to post hyperlinks to websites that contain defamatory information. In other words, pointing readers to libelous material is not the same as publishing that material. We hope the top court also comes down on the side of free expression in its next major ruling: the case of a crusading homophobe who was hauled before Saskatchewan’s human rights commission. William Whatcott is a bigot of the worst kind, but he has a right to express his opinions—just as others have the right to denounce them.

X-ray vision

Superman fans are buzzing about the upcoming movie, now filming in Vancouver. But the real superheroes can be found inside the labs of MIT, where researchers have developed a cutting-edge radar system that can literally see through concrete walls. Next up: a cape that actually works.

Bad news

Bad news

Protests in Athens, Greece, during a two-day general strike turn violent. (John Kolesidis/Reuters)

Unethical oil

Despite some lingering environmental questions, the proposed Keystone XL pipeline is a critical piece of energy infrastructure that will benefit both the U.S. and Canada, creating thousands of jobs on both sides of the border. But the company behind the plan could certainly use a lesson in public relations. The controversial project hasn’t even received Washington’s approval yet, but TransCanada Corp. is already threatening to expropriate private land along the proposed 2,700-km. route unless American homeowners agree to sell. There must be a less crude approach.

Generation squeeze

Today’s parents are under such financial, emotional and logistical strain that a University of British Columbia professor has dubbed them “Generation Squeeze.” Paul Kershaw says soaring housing costs, longer work hours and a lack of child-care spaces have created a perfect storm of parental stress not seen since the 1970s. Oh, and don’t let your baby watch TV while you scramble to do the laundry or cook supper; a separate study says kids under two can develop language problems if they’re exposed to even a minimal amount of television. And don’t leave them in the stroller, either. That makes them fat, says Britain’s minister of public health.

When animals attack

Being locked in a cage is never fun, but it was an especially bad week to be an animal on display. At the Toronto Zoo, a polar bear lashed out at her newborn pups, killing two and leaving one clinging to life. A rhino at the Melbourne Zoo did the same, goring to death her three-day-old baby. And in Ohio, authorities were forced to kill dozens of animals—lions, wolves, bears and at least one tiger—after the owner of an animal preserve set them free before shooting himself.

Talking dirty

A stomach-churning study out of Britain has found that 92 per cent of cellphones are crawling with bacteria. (So is Anderson Cooper’s. The CNN anchor had his BlackBerry tested.) The good news? Your phone may infect you with E. coli, but not cancer. A separate study, the largest of its kind, has finally put to rest a long-standing fear: there is no link between mobile phones and brain tumours.

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