Good news, bad news: Dec. 29-Jan. 5, 2011

Good news

Good news, bad news

Preparing for the start of the Chinese New Year, the year of the dragon. (Reuters)

A dose of context

The dreaded bird flu claimed its first casualty in 18 months: a Chinese bus driver who caught the virus while jogging in a park. The good news? The victim contracted H5N1 from wild poultry, which means the highly pathogenic strain still cannot spread from human to human. In another encouraging development, the World Health Organization issued a stern warning to scientists who—in the name of academia—have engineered an airborne strain. Although such research unlocks “critical” knowledge, the WHO said it also raises serious risks that must not be ignored. Indeed.

Better late than never

Ottawa says it will be more flexible when it comes to compensating people who were exposed to Agent Orange spraying near CFB Gagetown. The about-face will mean $20,000 for victims who applied late, or were unfairly rejected. Next up: helping Special Forces soldiers. A new report says support services created for Canadian troops and their families are not reaching the elite units.

Justice abroad

Five police officers appeared in a Grenada courtroom this week, charged with manslaughter in the death of a vacationing Toronto man. The allegations are shocking: after hugging a female cop he mistook for an old friend, Oscar Bartholomew was apparently dragged into the station and beaten to death. But if nothing else, the swift reaction by Grenadian authorities is reassuring. Prime Minister Tillman Thomas demanded a sweeping investigation, and a Caribbean country simmering with accusations of police brutality arrested five of its own. Justice, it seems, will be done.

Sportsmanlike conduct

News flash: not every pro athlete is a selfish egomaniac. R.A. Dickey, a New York Mets knuckleballer, is climbing Mount Kilimanjaro to raise money for sex trafficking victims in India—despite the objections of his team, which threatened to void his US$4.5-million contract if he hurts himself. And it turns out that Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, suspended earlier this season for stomping on an opposing player, is actually quite a softie. A new report says he donated US$2.6 million to charity last year, more than any other athlete.

Bad news

Good news, bad news

Iran tests a long-range shore-to-sea missile near the Sea of Oman. (Reuters)

Double trouble

Team Canada’s much anticipated rematch with the Russians at the World Junior Championships in Calgary ended on a familiar note this week: a tough, tournament-ending loss. Canada cruised into the semifinal round undefeated and seeking revenge for last year’s match, when the team coughed up a three-goal lead in the gold-medal game. But this year, the Russians scored the early goals and hung on to win 6-5. Canada versus Russia is one of the great, exciting rivalries in hockey. It’s just a lot more fun to watch when the home side comes out on top.

Still an axis of evil

Ten years after George W. Bush coined the famous phrase, the description holds up. In Iraq, Sunnis and Shias are on the brink of civil war, just days after U.S. troops finally pulled out. In Iran, scientists have produced the country’s first nuclear fuel rod, the latest step in Tehran’s pursuit of atomic weapons. And in North Korea, Kim Jong Un was named “supreme leader,” replacing his late father, Kim Jong Il. In a nation where one-third of children are stunted from a lack of nutrition, citizens were urged to be “human shields” in defending him “unto death.”

More aftershocks

Just hours into the new year, Japan was hit by a seven-magnitude earthquake. No injuries were reported, but it was a frightening reminder for a nation still reeling from last March’s quake and tsunami, a devastating event that continues to play out. The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says that debris from that disaster, now floating in the Pacific, will reach the shores of Canada and the U.S. over the next year. Researchers are not sure what’s out there (from appliances to building materials) but one thing is certain: the aftershocks are far from over.

Irreconcilable differences

An Italian couple is about to become the world’s oldest divorcees, after a 99-year-old husband discovered that his 96-year-old wife had an affair—in the 1940s. The man was rifling through an old chest of drawers when he discovered love notes that were not addressed to him. The couple was married for 77 years—which is 66 times longer than singer Katy Perry and comedian Russell Brand, who also split this week.

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