Good news, bad news: Mohamed Fahmy’s family finds hope

Good news, bad news

Mohamed Fahmy’s family has some hope for the detained Canadian and Brad Wall won’t ask for flood help

Todd Korol/REUTERS

102 years old and still kicking: Attendance at the Calgary Stampede is up, after the 2013 event was hampered by flood recovery efforts. (Todd Korol/Reuters)

Good News

Paid in full

Debt, public and private, remains a ball and chain to Canadians, but green shoots of fiscal good sense are appearing: 4½ years after the Olympic cauldron went dark, the Vancouver Organizing Committee announced that the 2010 Winter Games broke even, with total revenues and expenses just shy of $1.9 billion. Next door in Alberta, the province is back in the black, says Finance Minister Doug Horner, as higher-than-expected energy revenues transformed last year’s forecasted $1.97-billion deficit into a $755-million surplus. Easy enough for a province with oil. But it’s the principle that counts.

Right these wrongs

Imprisoned Egyptian-Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy’s future appeared a little less bleak this week. Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi expressed regret that Fahmy and his two Al Jazeera colleagues were sentenced to at least seven years in prison on charges of defaming Egypt and aiding the banned Muslim Brotherhood Islamist group. “The sentencing of several journalists had a very negative effect, and we had nothing to do with it,” Sisi told Egyptian media. His comments have raised hopes that Sisi will free the three men by issuing a presidential pardon.

Marc of defiance

Canada’s so-called “Prince of Pot” has finished his U.S. prison sentence, and is coming home to a changed—more rational—landscape, as far as cannabis is concerned. Marc Emery was jailed in 2010 for selling marijuana seeds to American buyers through the mail; the week he got out, Washington became the second state to legalize pot sales, suggesting his chronic disobedience may soon be redundant. Then again, Canadian border authorities are promising to crack down on anyone bringing legal U.S. dope into the country. If Emery hasn’t lost his taste for showboating, there’s still trouble to be had.

Nerds win

Is your child uncool? Were you? Don’t fret. New research suggests belonging to the cool crowd isn’t something to be celebrated. A University of Virginia study found that teens who exhibited “cool” behaviours—like sex and delinquency—were more likely to have relationship issues, substance abuse problems and run-ins with the law later in life. Meanwhile, there are more opportunities than ever for nerds: this fall a Chicago university will begin offering athletic sponsorships to students who excel in video games.

REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

War footing: Israel launched air strikes in the Gaza Strip in retaliation for Palestinian rocket attacks on Israeli towns; escalation seems inevitable (Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters)

Bad News

A nightmare goes on

Mystery surrounding the disappearance of five-year-old Nathan O’Brien and his grandparents, Alvin and Kathy Liknes, in Calgary only deepened this week, as police questioned a man they described as a “person of interest,” yet charged him only with offences unrelated to the case. With no custody dispute under way in the family, police have no obvious clues to follow, and the few signs aren’t good: Markings on the interior walls of the house suggest at least one person was injured before the three went missing, police say. Western Canadians have been encouraged to keep their eyes peeled. The rest of us wait and hope.

Runaway election

Afghanistan risked slipping toward division and civil strife this week as presidential contender Abdullah Abdullah claimed victory in last month’s election, despite early results showing that his rival, Ashraf Ghani, had the lead. Alleging massive fraud, Abdullah told supporters at a Kabul rally: “We will not allow a fraudulent government to take power for one day.” There had been rumours that Abdullah would declare a parallel government, possibly sparking a crisis in the country. But he insisted his goals for Afghanistan were stability and national unity. Final results, which will follow recounts, are expected July 22.

The sin of pride

The Manitoba government was right to declare a provincial state of emergency, as water levels along the Assiniboine River east of Portage la Prairie neared levels unseen since flood-ravaged 2011. The measure allowed Premier Greg Selinger to call in the military to help fortify dikes and protect homes, leading some to wonder why Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, whose province was also devastated by summer floods, hadn’t done so already. By then, estimates of the damage in that province had topped $360 million. Honestly, premier: There’s no shame in asking for help.

Keep looking

A pair of potentially life-supporting planets discovered to some fanfare four years ago orbiting Gliese 581, a faint dwarf star 20 light years away, aren’t even planets at all, according to a new study. Apparently the starlight-measuring technique used to detect planetary masses in the so-called “goldilocks zone” of distant star systems—not too hot, not too cold for liquid water to exist—isn’t entirely foolproof. The search for life out there continues, but progress seems far, far away.