Good news, bad news

Maryland abolishes the death penalty and the UN celebrates the first 'international day of happiness'

Good news

Good news, bad news

Ben Birchall/PA Photos/KEYSTONE Press

A big stick

Barack Obama’s decision to beef up anti-missile defences along America’s West Coast will be costly—more than $1 billion—but worth every penny if the message gets through to North Korea. In recent months, the regime of Kim Jong Un has started behaving as badly, and erratically, as his late father’s, with rocket launches, nuclear tests and increasingly bellicose declarations. Whether the Hermit Kingdom’s newish leader is trying to strengthen his hand domestically, or is really as paranoid as his predecessors, doesn’t much matter. The time has come for the U.S. to back up sanctions and diplomacy with a little menace of its own.

Better late than never

It took many months—and the threat of jail time—but the family that owned the ill-fated mall in Elliot Lake, Ont., has finally agreed to hand over tens of thousands of internal emails to the public inquiry probing last June’s fatal roof collapse. Bob Nazarian, his wife, Irene, and his son, Levon, had repeatedly ignored orders to produce the documents, but after commissioner Paul Bélanger took the rare step of initiating a court action, they bowed. The truth (or at least part of it) is buried in those emails. The public deserves to read them.

End to executions

Legislators in Maryland have approved a bill that will see the state abolish its death penalty, capping a five-year crusade by Gov. Martin O’Malley, a likely candidate for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination. The measure makes Maryland the 18th state to ban capital punishment and gives momentum to the trend back toward common sense in the U.S. State executions do nothing to reduce crime, but do add mortal risk to the very real problem of wrongful convictions. The five men currently on death row in Maryland are likely to see their sentences commuted to life in prison.

The secret to a sizable smile

The UN marked its first-ever “international day of happiness” this week. Still feeling blue? Try these tips: use Facebook more often, pay for some plastic surgery and don’t be afraid of getting old. New research suggests all three—social media, facelifts and the golden years—are linked to higher levels of joy.

Bad news

Good news, bad news

Hussein Malla/AP

Derailing the debate

It’s one thing to argue the virtues and need for the proposed Keystone XL pipeline to bring Alberta oil to U.S. markets, but it’s another to suggest its opponents are the ones harming the environment. Alex Pourbaix, a senior TransCanada executive, told a New York audience that approval delays are contributing to global warming because transporting oil by rail results in three times the greenhouse gas emissions per mile compared to via the pipeline, not to mention the associated risk of derailments and spills. Technically true, but it sounds like a weak attempt by an industry rep to divert attention from concerns about the much larger emissions caused by the oil’s extraction. Our advice: take the high road.

Mass regicide

The number of monarch butterflies making it to their winter refuge in Mexico has dropped for the third straight year and stands at its lowest point since scientists started monitoring the insects two decades ago. The steepest declines have been noted over the last seven years, but it’s clearly a bigger problem, with one-fifteenth as many now completing the migration as there were in 1997. The reasons include logging, climate change and the use of pesticides by farmers all over North America to kill off milkweed—the main food source for young monarchs. Time for people to fly into action and grow some butterfly-friendly plants in the garden.

Sheer in the rear

Lululemon shareholders may need some extra yoga classes to calm their nerves. Stock in the wildly popular clothing brand plummeted more than five per cent after the company was forced to recall thousands of its trademark black stretchy pants. The reason? The bottoms were too see-through. Lululemon blamed the sheer on its Taiwanese manufacturer, but the supplier insists it followed the company’s design.

Not enough dodge ball

A new report from an education advocacy group says fewer than half of Ontario’s elementary schools (45 per cent) have a health and phys-ed teacher. And most of those are part-time. As childhood obesity rates soar—and governments respond by banning pop machines and dictating cafeteria menus—maybe it’s time for a not-so-new solution: gym class.