Good news, bad news: August 11-18, 2011

Canada's navy and air force are Royal once more, Syrian forces launch a brutal naval assault on its own people

Good news

Good news, Bad news: August 11-18, 2011

Serena Williams celebrates winning the Rogers Cup. (Reuters/Peter Jones)

Military pride

Forty-three years after Canada adopted the ugliest of bureaucratic names for its military services, Ottawa has reversed itself. Now, Land Forces Command will once again be called the Canadian Army; the Royal Canadian Navy replaces Maritime Command; and Air Command returns to the Royal Canadian Air Force. While some opponents call the royal names divisive, the Canadian Forces calls them an “important and recognizable” part of our military heritage. But let’s hope it doesn’t put a crimp in the military’s budget: that’s a lot of letterhead to replace.

The oracle has spoken

Warren Buffett says it’s time to stop coddling billionaires. In an opinion piece this week, the famous investor argues ultra-wealthy Americans like himself should pay income tax at the same rate as the middle class. “People invest to make money, and potential taxes have never scared them off,” he wrote. It’s a useful counterpoint to anti-tax conservatives like U.S. presidential hopeful Rick Perry, who said recently that making the rich pay income taxes kills investment. Shared sacrifice, both in spending cuts and higher taxes, are needed to get the U.S. economy back on track.

Taking on Pyongyang

Canada tightened sanctions against North Korea, including bans on exports and imports, in response to “aggressive actions” like the 2010 sinking of a South Korean naval ship. Ottawa also outlawed new investment and providing financial services to the country. The decision comes days after North Korea was accused of firing artillery into the Yellow Sea, on the border with South Korea. It attempted to explain that away as noise from a construction project—a bizarre excuse that only confirms Canada is right to limit ties with this untrustworthy regime.

In the name of science

A small group of Russian cosmonauts broke the record for the longest mission spent in isolation: 438 days and counting. One catch: they’re not actually in space, but in a capsule in a hangar outside Moscow, and are free to leave at any time. Still, the group continues to live in cramped quarters to study the impact of future long-term missions to Mars. The space race lives on, if only in spirit.

Bad news

Good news, Bad news: August 11-18, 2011

The aftermath of a series of bomb attacks in Iraq that killed at least 60. (Khalil Al/EPA/Keystone Press)

Mideast madness

In Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, a French warship indiscriminately shells the African jungle—“incomprehensible, firing into a continent.” This week, President Bashar al-Assad’s Syria echoed that madness, sending navy vessels to fire willy-nilly into the port city of Latakia, killing 25 or more, including three children. The assault was part of a countrywide campaign to quell Syria’s five-month-old popular uprising. Some 1,700 have been killed; refugees are fleeing by the thousands. Even long-time ally Turkey says the violence must stop, immediately.

Eyes on the road

Chinese military engineers were reportedly granted access by Pakistan to examine the tail rudder of the U.S. stealth helicopter that crashed during the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. China also recently launched its first aircraft carrier. Both events raise some cause for concern about the nation’s growing military abilities and ambitions. And in case anyone questions its technological progress, consider a report from China Daily that says a Chinese driverless car travelled nearly 300 km, at around 90 km/hr, on a highway with other vehicles—using only cameras and radar sensors.

Hard knocks

When the Sheepdogs, a Saskatoon retro-rock institution, became the first unsigned band ever to win Rolling Stone’s “Choose the Cover” contest, Saskatchewan prepared to savour its hour in the sun. Instead, the magazine dwelled on the band’s hodunk cred—the “remoteness of Saskatoon,” its hick “Saskatchewan accent” and bars “full of toothless degenerates.” Meanwhile, Vancouver’s Empire Field stadium forced Roughriders fans to remove their watermelon helmets, causing the entrance to look like a Rider Pride abattoir. The Riders lost 24-11.

Say it ain’t so, Sid

More evidence this week that the effects of concussions can be both unpredictable and long-term: Ray Shero, general manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins, said Sidney Crosby is still suffering “on and off” from the symptoms of a concussion that may keep him sidelined when the new NHL season starts. “I’m only interested in making sure he’s comfortable when he returns,” says Shero. Or could that be if he returns?

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.