Good news, bad news: Nov. 10-17, 2011

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad comes under increasing pressure to stop the crackdown on protesters, while Europe teeters on the brink of a recession

Good news

Good news

Plastic $100 bills—hard to counterfeit and rip—are put into circulation. (Mark Blinch/Reuters)

A call to action

Jordan’s King Abdullah called on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to resign this week. It’s the first time an Arab leader and neighbour to Syria has called for regime change in the country where an eight-month-long uprising has led to 3,500 deaths. The European Union, meanwhile, extended sanctions against Syria. The moves come on the heels of a decision by the Arab League to suspend Syria’s membership. The international community has been reluctant to step in to stop the violence, but these rebukes are a welcome sign that there are limits to its tolerance.

Last one out . . .

The police in Halifax moved to evict Occupy protesters. “Our parks are for all of the public, not an unregulated campground for some,” said Mayor Peter Kelly. In New York, campers were removed from the original Occupy site, and in Toronto they were served eviction notices this week. The Occupy movement has been a positive voice, but its tactics have run their course, with sites devolving lately into fire and health hazards. To the credit of city officials and most protesters, the camp cleanups are being handled patiently and peacefully.

Paradise regained?

Ever since park wardens found her body on Feb. 2, Kimberley Blackwell’s relatives in Canada have wondered what led to her shooting death, at age 53, in the remote corner of Costa Rica where she’d lived for 18 years. Last Friday, police arrested a local man living near Blackwell’s cacao farm. Blackwell was an eccentric animal-lover who courageously, sometimes recklessly, defended wildlife against the poachers her family believed killed her. The arrest appears to support their theory.

Air recompense

The holiday travel season is set to begin. As terrible as that sounds—think lineups, pat-downs, cancelled flights—things may be better this year for those travelling south. The U.S. Department of Transportation fined an airline $900,000 for keeping hundreds of passengers on planes for hours on a Chicago tarmac earlier this year. It’s the first time a tarmac-delay rule has been enforced in the U.S. and sends a loud warning to airlines that mistreating passengers won’t be tolerated.

Bad news

Bad news

Hollywood great Brad Pitt says he may retire from acting in three years. (Jo Yong-Hak/Reuters)

Euro crash

Europe is facing its most difficult hour since the Second World War, said German Chancellor Angela Merkel this week. Under the strains of its debt crisis, stocks are falling, industrial production is down and GDP growth is grinding to a near halt. The EU economy grew just 0.2 per cent in the third quarter. Many economists now fear that the barely two-year-old recovery may be dead and a double-dip recession is in the cards. That would spell trouble for North America, too. A study by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, citing Europe’s difficulties, put the odds of a U.S. recession at 50 per cent, up from 30 per cent last summer.

Damage control

The Conservative party has pleaded guilty to charges relating to the “in-and-out” campaign case. While the Crown dropped charges against two Tory executives and two sitting senators, the party admitted it exceeded election spending limits in 2006 and improperly reported expenses. Curious, then, that the party issued a statement that it had scored a “big victory” and that it “plays by the same rules as everyone else.” The only victory was dodging the embarrassing scenario of four of its officials being found guilty.

Is nothing safe?

A 16-year-old hockey player, Kyle Fundytus, died in Edmonton after being hit in the neck with a puck. It was a tragic fluke, as his coach described it. This week, there is also new evidence that even seemingly harmless plays can have serious impacts on young athletes. University of Rochester researchers examining brain scans of high school football and hockey players found that routine, mild hits to the head cause “subtle injury.” They hope to uncover if there is a critical number of head hits young players can endure.

Party pooper

U.S. President Barack Obama said world leaders at the Asian-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit in Hawaii won’t be wearing traditional dress for photo ops—a break from a long-standing custom that has seen leaders dressed in memorable costumes from Canadian bomber jackets to ponchos in Peru. These were the best parts of the suit-and-tie summits. And we were so looking forward to the aloha shirts and grass skirts.

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