Good news, bad news: Jan. 12-19, 2012

Burma's Aung San Suu Kyi is awarded France's Legion of Honour, while violence in Sudan prompts mass evacuations

Good news

Good news, bad news

Burma's Aung San Suu Kyi is awarded France's Legion of Honour. (Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters)

Logic prevails

The federal government plans to repeal a section of the Canada Elections Act to allow the transmission of election results before the polls close in all regions. The Internet and staggered voting times have made the 70-year-old ban on real-time results “dated and unenforceable,” Tim Uppal, minister for democratic reform, said—appropriately, via Twitter. In another boon for political transparency, the federal Liberal party is moving toward a system of election “primaries” where anyone with an interest, not just card-carrying members, can vote. It’s a little more democracy all around.

Hope for a cure

Multiple sclerosis patients in Saskatchewan will be the first Canadians to participate in a randomized study of the controversial “liberation” treatment. Premier Brad Wall announced last week that the province is accepting applications for 86 individuals to join a two-year double-blind clinical trial in Albany, N.Y. The treatment is not approved in Canada and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research has yet to announce details of a phase 1 trial that looks only at the safety of the procedure, despite the plethora of Canadians travelling elsewhere for it.

Dialling up a trial

The collapse of Nortel Networks decimated countless mom-and-pop investors, put a question mark over the pensions of thousands of employees, and saw a good part of Canada’s tech sector sold off. Thank goodness a trial has begun. Prosecutors allege that after Nortel’s stock crashed, former CEO Frank Dunn, one-time chief financial officer Douglas Beatty and Michael Gollogly, Nortel’s former controller, presided over fraudulent accounting practices that inflated profits, resulting in bonuses totalling $5 million going to the accused. The three men deny committing the fraud. Canadians deserve to know what went wrong.

Off the gravy train

Finally, a bully pulpit put to good use. Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, who tips the scales at 330 lb., and his brother Doug, 275 lb., have challenged themselves, and everyone else, to lose weight and live healthier. Is it a smokescreen designed to win PR points while they tackle an overweight budget? It doesn’t matter. We wish them luck on both fronts.

Bad news

Good news, bad news

Ethnic violence forces thousands to flee their homes in South Sudan. (Michael Onyiego/AP)

An abhorrent practice

In an editorial in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, editor Rajendra Kale argues that doctors should withhold the sex of a fetus from parents until 30 weeks into a pregnancy to prevent the possibility of female feticide—the termination of a pregnancy due to a preference for sons over daughters. The practice, which reportedly occurs in the millions in places like India and China, is not common in Canada or condoned in any way by the Asian community. But there is evidence it happens here, says Kale. Withholding the sex is a simple fix to what he rightly describes as “discrimination against women in its most extreme form.”

Dangerous sports

While the dangers of brain injury in hockey have dominated the sports pages lately, another exciting winter sport has seen a vivacious young athlete taken out of competition indefinitely. Freestyle skier Sarah Burke, 29, was knocked unconscious and sent into cardiac arrest during a superpipe training event in Utah last week. She tore the vertebral artery in her neck, which supplies blood to the brain stem, and was placed in an induced coma. She has undergone surgery but remains in critical condition.

Tarnished honour

Four U.S. Marines who urinated on the bodies of dead Afghans broke international laws of war, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says they’ll be held accountable for committing war crimes. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, scrambling to keep his presidential bid alive, accused the Obama administration of overreacting to the incident. Meanwhile, members of the Australian military have been linked in a series of internal memos to misconduct as varied as sexual assault, child pornography possession and drug use. With soldiers like these, who needs enemies?

That’s entertainment?

On stage, the Golden Globes fell a bit flat this year, with host Ricky Gervais toning down his comedic shots at the Hollywood elite. But off-screen, Elton John’s husband, Toronto-born David Furnish, provided some cattish commentary, tweeting that Madonna’s acceptance speech for Best Original Song was “embarrassing in its narcissism.” So much for the polite Canadian.

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