Good news, bad news: January 19 - 26, 2012

An Aboriginal bank in Iqaluit is doing brisk business, while Ottawa denies it wants to sell off part of Via Rail

Good news

Good news, bad news

Melinda Guido, born in August at just 9.5 ounces, leaves the hospital. (Christina House/Pool/Reuters)

Healthy attitudes

Provincial and territorial governments appear to have put aside partisanship to launch a national effort to improve patient care and save money. During a summit in Victoria, the premiers established a working group that will begin a six-month review examining innovative ways to pay doctors and care for patients, and identify what kinds of treatments should be available. Given the $130-billion price tag attached to our current system, finding efficient and collaborative ways to do business is healthy for everyone.

Lost and found

After years of belief that the Miller’s Grizzled Langur monkey was extinct, a team of researchers discovered the primate in a rainforest in Borneo, outside its known range. The monkeys were thought to have disappeared due to mining, forest fires and “human encroachment.” The scientists were able to identify them using photos from a museum. In other extinction news, Gilles Duceppe will not restart his political career, despite signalling last week that he was “available” to succeed Pauline Marois as Parti Québécois leader. “It is impossible for me to envisage a return to active politics,” he said. Let’s hope he’s not monkeying around.

A sound investment

The First Nations Bank of Canada plans to open three more branches in Nunavut this year, on top of seven existing stores. Business in Iqaluit is “better than expected,” according to company CEO Keith Martell, with net income up by 33.4 per cent last year. Amid the deluge of news about First Nations communities’ financial struggles, the success of the First Nations Bank, which is 80 per cent owned by Aboriginal organizations, is a beacon of light.

Let there be life

New research suggests that the evolution of life, while one of the most complex processes on Earth, might have occurred faster than previously imagined. U.S. scientists who hatched a single yeast cell in a lab found it took less than two months for the cell to evolve into the complex, multicellular splendour that resembles life as we know it. The many-celled clusters behaved as individuals, complete with a division of labour and a Darwin-like ability of the strong cells to live as others died.

Bad news

Good news, bad news

Students protesting Chile's education system are hit with water cannons. (Ivan Alvarado/Reuters)

Enemies amid allies

A report commissioned by the U.S. military shows Afghan troops turn their guns on NATO allies because of mistrust and contempt, while foreign soldiers taunt them with “crude behaviour.” The number of attacks on NATO soldiers has totalled 26 since 2007, during which 58 personnel were murdered. The data, which comes after four French troops were killed last week by an Afghan soldier, “reflect a rapidly growing systemic homicide threat (a magnitude of which may be unprecedented between ‘allies’ in modern military history).” An ominous development in the decade-long war.

Last stop

The federal government denies it is considering selling off part of venerable Via Rail as a means of cutting down the deficit, after Reuters obtained a briefing note prepared for Transport Minister Denis Lebel recommending as much. But why not consider privatizing? Via may be a national emblem of unity, but it is a business that experienced a 5.3 per cent drop in annual revenues in 2010 from 2005, and roughly 80 per cent of its traffic is between Windsor, Ont., and Quebec City. A new owner driving Via might serve it well.

Plugging holes

Jeffrey Delisle, a Halifax-based navy intelligence officer, became the first person charged under the Security of Information Act, which was enacted after 9/11. He is accused of giving “a foreign entity” secret information between 2007 and 2012. Delisle had access to sensitive military information, but little has been said about what he allegedly leaked and to whom. Maybe wisely so. The incident could prove highly embarrassing to both Canada and its military allies.

Take a hike

Forty per cent of Quebec students say they may have to drop out of university if a proposed tuition hike, reportedly amounting to $1,625 over five years, goes ahead, according to the province’s largest student union. This despite Quebec’s well-deserved reputation for bargain-basement higher education—even with the hike, university tuition would cost less than half the Canadian average—and the proven value of a post-secondary degree. Perhaps the university union types need to take a class in economics.

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