On the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11 last weekend, Americans grieved and nerves were frayed over warnings of potential repeat attacks, but the occasion passed peacefully. And with ceremonies, remembrances and rousing displays of patriotism at packed football and baseball stadiums, it perhaps even drew Americans closer at a time when the nation is badly divided politically and its economic future looks bleak. The event offered a reminder that there’s hope even in the darkest periods.
A step forward
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird announced this week that Canada will reopen its embassy in Libya. Diplomatic officials are already on the ground in Tripoli. Baird also said Ottawa will release $2.2 billion in Libyan assets that had been frozen during the uprising against Moammar Gadhafi. While isolated fighting continues with remaining Gadhafi loyalists, the hunt continues to capture the former strongman. Last week Interpol issued arrest warrants for Gadhafi, one of his sons and his intelligence chief for alleged crimes against humanity.
In a welcome and astounding shift, the rate of smoking for teens has fallen to just 12 per cent, dropping by more than half, from 28 per cent in 1999. Overall smoking rates are also at a record low—with just 17 per cent of Canadians over the age of 15 smoking. That’s not just positive news on the health care front. Teens who choose not to smoke may find it easier to get ahead in life: according to a new Gallup poll, one in four people say they respect a person less when he or she smokes, up from 14 per cent in the 1990s.
A better shade of green
B.C.’s abnormally wet, chilly summer was a bust for residents, but it did have one useful side effect: a considerably smaller marijuana crop that’s even put some grow-ops out of business. The RCMP destroyed just over 7,000 marijuana plants this summer on Vancouver Island, compared to 30,000 last year. One more reason to celebrate in B.C.: Vancouver placed first in Canada and second overall in a ranking of the greenest cities in North America. It topped the ranking in cities with the lowest carbon dioxide emissions and best air quality.
Canada continues to deny refugee status to the vast majority of Afghans who served as interpreters for the military. Two out of three applicants have been caught up in red tape, including a requirement that they worked for 12 consecutive months with the Canadian Forces. Meanwhile, life in Afghanistan is as dangerous as ever. In a brazen Taliban attack in Kabul this week, insurgents hit the U.S. Embassy and NATO headquarters with rocket-propelled grenades and small arms, killing six people and wounding 19.
Hundreds of Egyptian protesters stormed the Israeli Embassy in Cairo, sending the ambassador and his staff fleeing. Tensions between Egypt and Israel (strong allies for some 30 years) have been rising since last month when Israeli forces killed five Egyptian border guards on the Sinai peninsula. Israel’s relations are also souring with another key ally, Turkey, which last week expelled Israeli diplomats. And this month, Israel will face more scrutiny when Palestinians mount a bid for statehood recognition at the United Nations. The road map to peace in the Middle East now appears to be completely off the map.
Selling new energy developments continues to be a challenge. A new report by the World Wildlife Fund says Arctic oil spills will be impossible to clean up given the harsh conditions there. The report comes as the National Energy Board develops guidelines for Arctic drilling. Meanwhile, the oil sands got another taste of bad press when nine Nobel Peace Prize laureates wrote a letter to U.S. President Barack Obama urging him to reject the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. Then, tragically this week, a gas pipeline exploded in Nairobi, Kenya, killing more than 100 people.
A study from Harvard University showed that people are less likely to cheat and more prone to ethical behaviour if they are first exposed to stuffed toys or children’s activities. However, it may be of little value in the real world. Last week a man in San Diego tried to rob a 7-Eleven while wearing a Gumby costume. He fled without any cash. Police are offering a $1,000 reward for his arrest.