Good news, bad news

This week: kidney swap, Lance Armstrong, and protesting MP Kelly Block

Stefano Rellandini/Reuters

Domino effect

Economics is the dismal science, but three Canadians who received new kidneys in August must feel good about it. The Vancouver Sun profiled a chain of donations made possible by the National Kidney Registry under a system devised by economist Alvin Roth, who won this year’s economics Nobel for applications of game theory. Three incompatible donor-recipient pairs in Ontario, B.C., and Quebec made a successful three-way swap of kidneys, bringing the total number of transplants performed under the registry to 141.

Safer seas

Is Somali piracy ending? The International Maritime Bureau reports that over the first three quarters of 2012, ships reported only 70 attacks off Somali shores, compared to 233 in 2011. Only one ship encountered trouble between July and September. The bureau praises EU-organized warships and stronger security aboard merchant vessels, but pirates still have 11 ships and 167 hostages captive.

Bike gang boss

Loathsome Lance Armstrong hit bottom as the International Cycling Union (UCI) accepted findings of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, banning the superstar for life and vacating his seven Tour de France championships. The UCI had been reluctant to act against Armstrong, but overwhelming evidence that Armstrong led (and provided muscle for) a doping conspiracy left cycling’s governing body with no choice. Nike has led an exodus of sponsors from Armstrong, and he may forfeit almost $4 million in Tour winnings.

Anglo relief

The new Parti Québécois cabinet has promised that Bill 101 will not be extended to daycares, something the province’s family minister had seemingly threatened to do in an interview with La Presse. Nicole Léger’s comments expressing the intent to deny language choice in daycare was met with wrath from the opposition Liberals, whose interim leader Jean-Marc Fournier said, “There’s a limit on the state deciding everything for people.” The Parti Québécois’s minister responsible for language, Diane De Courcy, quickly popped Léger’s trial balloon. “Applying Bill 101 to [daycare] . . . is out of the question.”


Galileo wept

Seven Italian scientists were handed six-year prison sentences for supposedly giving false assurances to the people of L’Aquila in 2009, a week before the city was annihilated by an earthquake. The septet had been summoned to L’Aquila after minor tremors to assess the need for evacuation. The death toll from the quake topped 300. Scientists worldwide denounced the ruling, noting that earthquakes cannot yet be predicted and that the verdict was bound to throw a chill over expert advice in Italy.


The scandal over sex abuse of youngsters by BBC host Sir Jimmy Savile continued to spread. Rumours of predatory activity had pursued Savile, who led children’s charities and compèred youth programming, until his death a year ago. An ITV news documentary interviewed five victims, with dozens more coming forward afterwards, and a BBC executive admitted to being suspicious of Savile as early as 1973. Anti-Beeb criticism intensified when it was learned that the broadcaster’s Newsnight show produced a report on Savile in December but squashed it at the last minute.

Mixed messages

Some 300 protesters rallied outside the Saskatoon office of Tory MP Kelly Block, denouncing her for a flyer that boasted of Ottawa’s elimination of “unfair” free dental and vision care for refugee claimants. The cuts were announced in April (though the Tories have backtracked partially) and were criticized by some physicians, who believe claimants should get the same care as citizens on ordinary welfare. That is perfectly debatable—but not if a citizenship issue is going to be obfuscated by accusations of the sort levelled by the protesters, whose signs accused Block of “xenophobia” and “racism.”

Board games

The European Union’s justice commissioner, Viviane Reding, is pushing for a clumsy EU regulation that would require companies to allocate 40 per cent of board seats to women. The issue heated up when the board of the European Central Bank almost became all-male. The European Parliament was set to debate Reding’s quota, but EU lawyers delayed discussion to study the measure’s enforceability. Several EU members already have such gender quotas.