Good News, Bad News

Canadian Olympians are ready for Sochi, but bombings in Russia are reason for concern

Antonio Bronic/Reuters

Good News

Crazy Canucks

Canadian Erik Guay won bronze at a World Cup downhill event last week in Italy. It was his second medal in a month and 21st career podium appearance, breaking a Canadian record. Guay is Canada’s best hope for an alpine Olympic medal, and he seems to be peaking at just the right time. Another good omen for Team Canada: Sidney Crosby is back at the top of his game, leading the NHL in points, and last month pushing his Pittsburgh Penguins to a seven-game winning streak. Here’s hoping for a repeat of Vancouver.

Sending backup

Saudi Arabia said this week it would offer $3 billion in aid to the Lebanese army as it struggles to contain sectarian violence spilling over the border from the Syrian civil war. French President François Hollande, meanwhile, said France is prepared to sell new weapons to Lebanon. The country has been hit by a wave of deadly terrorist attacks, including a car bomb last week that killed Mohamad Chatah, a former Lebanese finance minister and critic of Hezbollah, the powerful, Iran-backed militant group. Lebanon, which emerged from its own 15-year civil war in 1990, seems perilously close to once again being overrun by extremism and violence. The Lebanese army may be the only hope for stability.

Family ties

According to a U.S. government survey, fathers are more engaged with their kids now than they were in 2002. Nine in 10 fathers with children under the age of five reported that they bathed and diapered their kids frequently and two out of three “played with them and ate meals with them often.” Maybe dads are learning from their spouses’ experience: A new study by the Pew Research Center found that the vast majority of working mothers who reduced their work hours or took time off to care for a child are glad they did. A little family time, it seems, is good for everyone.

Texting from the heart

Technology doomsayers like to argue that our phones make us dumber and more emotionally detached. The University of Nebraska, however, released survey results that say otherwise. According to 80 per cent of the study’s respondents, text messaging makes people “more likely to express their feelings honestly.” Researchers also argue that texting “brings families closer together.” The results corroborate an earlier study suggesting texting is actually good for intimacy. Gr8 news.

Bad News

Russian insecurity

While Canada’s athletes are primed for the Sochi Olympics, Russia, apparently, is not. Volgograd, located 700 km north of Sochi, was hit by two suicide bombings in 24 hours, raising serious concerns about security during the Games. On Monday a bomb attack on a bus killed 14 people, while a day earlier a suicide bombing at the city’s main train station killed 17. Sochi, a resort town on the Black Sea, and Volgograd are both relatively close to the volatile North Caucasus region, where Russia has been struggling to contain a radical Islamist insurgency. In July, one Chechen rebel leader called for attacks on Russian targets, including at the Olympics.

Cold-hearted cuts

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s goal to eliminate the federal deficit by 2015 is a noble one, but budget cuts shouldn’t leave members of the military in the cold. The government’s plan to cut $2 million from the military’s outfitting budget would force some of the 58,000 youth in Canada’s cadet program to acquire their own parkas. Several military cuts, like those proposed to limit the purchase of armoured vehicles and potted plants at Army headquarters, make sense, but surely Canada can afford to keep its youngest members warm through the winter.

Pitiful progress

On Christmas Eve, just days after the one-year anniversary of a woman’s fatal rape on a Delhi bus, a 21-year-old woman was raped twice by two separate gangs of men in southern India. Ten men were arrested in connection with the crime soon after, but two of the police officers involved in the case refused to register the victim’s complaint when she first tried to report the rape. The incident, among many others in the region, proves how short India’s leaders have fallen in making their country a safer place for women.

Weather or not

Environment Canada is planning a new cold-weather alert system that will take into account days when it is cold but there is no wind chill. As an Environment Canada meteorologist explained, on a recent day in Edmonton an alert was issued when the temperature fell to -32° C with a wind chill of -42° C. But it would not have been issued had the temperature fallen to -42 with no wind. While that might seem like a flaw in Environment Canada’s system, here’s another question it might consider: Does anyone even need an alert to tell them that -42 is bleeping cold, windy or not?