Good news, bad news

Pamela Wallin does the right thing, while the NHL enforces rules on shirttails

This year’s International Fireworks Competition showers Kuala Lumpur (Bazuki Muhammad / Reuters)

Good News

Payback time

Embattled Sen. Pamela Wallin reimbursed the government $100,600.98, plus $13,938.19 in interest, last week for improperly claimed travel expenses. That’s in addition to the $38,369 she has already repaid. Wallin lashed out at the auditors who examined her expenses and accused the Senate committee overseeing the review of having a “lynch-mob mentality.” But she did the right thing in the end. And her experience will no doubt prompt all senators to have a sober second thought when claiming hotel and flight expenses: Am I really on Senate business, or am I asking taxpayers to fund my lifestyle?

Up, up and away

Bombardier’s new C-series jet completed its first test flight this week. The fuel-efficient plane puts Bombardier in direct competition with Boeing and Airbus for the first time. It’s a huge, $3.4-billion gamble, but also a promising development for the company, and for taxpayers who have supported it. And it’s welcome news for Toronto’s Porter Airlines, which wants to fly at least 12 of the jets to destinations as far away as Vancouver—providing it gets permission to lengthen the runways at the city’s island airport.

Friendly neighbours

North Korea broadcast the raising of the South Korean flag and the playing of its national anthem for the first time at an awards ceremony for a weightlifting competition it hosted last weekend. It wasn’t the only recent sign of warming relations on the Korean peninsula. A jointly operated industrial park in North Korea reopened, allowing South Korean managers and materials to cross the border. The park was closed in April amid rising tensions over Pyongyang’s nuclear testing and joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises.

To infinity and beyond

The Voyager 1 probe has left the solar system and ventured into interstellar space, NASA reported last week. It is currently an incomprehensible 18.8 billion km from Earth, which it left behind in 1977 on what was to be a four-year trip to Saturn. Scientists can now get a glimpse of what they could once only imagine: what the universe is really like in the cold, black expanse beyond the influence of the sun.

Bad News

Tragedy strikes again

America witnessed yet another shocking case of gun violence this week. Aaron Alexis, a former navy reservist and defence contract employee being treated for mental health problems (and who had a record of weapons violations), went on a shooting rampage and killed 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard before being gunned down by police. That the incident occurred in the heart of the nation’s capital, not far from the White House, serves as a particularly vivid reminder to the U.S. President and lawmakers of their failure to enact any meaningful gun control legislation.

Know your enemy

The United Nations last week called the deadly gas attacks in Syria a war crime. But while Russia and the United States negotiated the destruction of chemical weapons in Syria, avoiding a wider conflict, the troubles are anything but over. Bashar al-Assad remains in power and the civil war continues. Meanwhile, it’s getting harder and harder to identify the good guys. According to one recent report, almost half the 100,000 rebel fighters in Syria are now hardline Islamists or jihadists with ties to al-Qaeda.

Taking the easy way out

Hells Angel member René Charlebois escaped from a minimum-security prison in Laval, Que., where he was serving a sentence for second-degree murder, drug trafficking and participation in a criminal organization. Charlebois, who had been behind bars for 13 years, was the third inmate to escape from the Montée Saint-François prison in recent months. It raises serious concerns about security at the prison, and also about the wisdom of keeping murderers there in the first place.

Dressing down

The NHL’s apparent war against individuality reached new depths this week when it decreed that players must stop tucking their jerseys into their pants. Gone, then, is the trademark look of one the game’s biggest stars, Alex Ovechkin—not to mention Wayne Gretzky, whose tuck made it possible to pick out the Great One while watching a tube-TV with no rabbit ears during a snowstorm. The league cites safety reasons, but it looks more like a control thing. What’s next? No playoff beards?

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