Clearing the tracks
Transport Canada made a move in the right direction on railway safety last week. Ottawa introduced a directive that will require railways to provide municipalities with quarterly updates about what dangerous goods they’re transporting through town. The Lac Mégantic tragedy last July exposed troubling lapses in security and safety standards on Canadian railways. While these new rules alone won’t prevent a similar disaster from happening again, greater transparency is key—especially at a time when railways are being relied on more and more to transport potentially explosive oil products.
Boots on the ground
The United States has finally come to a bilateral security agreement with Afghanistan that will allow American troops to remain in the war-torn nation for several years. More importantly, the deal does not include reference to a controversial apology letter, which Afghan President Hamid Karzai reportedly asked for from the U.S., apologizing for mistakes made during the decade-long war. Like it or not, the U.S. still remains the biggest buffer between the Afghan people and a return to the dark ages of the Taliban.
No more secrets
In light of the infuriating Senate scandal, Canada’s auditor general, Michael Ferguson, has called for an independent body to review MPs’ expenses. Ferguson cited Scottish parliament—where all expense claims are posted on the Internet with receipts—as a good role model for fiscal responsibility. It’s the least our leaders can do, considering so many of them were elected under a banner of accountability.
A new non-invasive test developed by Canadian scientists will enable men with zero sperm counts to find out whether they are capable of fathering children through IVF. This means men will no longer have to undergo potentially unnecessary surgery to get their results. In other positive penile news, a winner of a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation contest geared toward “creating a condom men will actually use” has proposed an improved design made of cow tendons or fish skin that “might have shape memory to mould to a specific man.”
Hopes of the Syrian conflict waning were dashed this week when the country’s brutal civil war expanded into Lebanon. A Lebanon-based al-Qaeda affiliated group, the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, claimed responsibility for two suicide bombings that partially destroyed Iran’s Embassy in Beirut and killed 23 people. The group has vowed to inflict more violence in Lebanon unless Hezbollah- and Iran-backed forces withdraw from Syria, where they give strength and support to Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
Bunch of knobs
It’s been an off week for common sense in Canada. A Manitoba mom was fined by her children’s daycare for sending her kids to school with a seemingly healthy lunch—roast beef, potatoes, carrots and milk—that didn’t pass the provincial nutritional guidelines. (Because their mom forgot to include “a grain” the kids were given Ritz crackers at a cost of $5 per child.) Meanwhile, Vancouver’s city council voted to amend its building code to ban doorknobs—deemed too difficult to turn and not accessibility friendly. The city will allow existing doorknobs, but new doors will now be built with levers only.
The federal government was right to introduce a bill criminalizing cyberbullying last week, but its reach into areas not related to bullying is inappropriate. In addition to outlawing the sharing of “intimate images of a person without their knowledge,” the bill enables “tracking of individuals and transactions if a crime is suspected” and expands police wiretapping authority to every kind of telecommunication. This bill would sit easier if it didn’t look like the Tories were trying to kill two birds with one stone: cyberbullying and our online privacy.
Can’t sleep? It might just kill you. According to research out of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, insomnia—the most common sleep disorder—is linked in men to “a modest increase in death from cardiovascular-related issues.” Women don’t get off scot-free: A new study of female university students found that getting less than 6.5 hours of sleep per night is associated with increased body fat.