Good news, bad news

This week: John Baird, Alison Redford, Daryl Katz, CFIA, Ikea

Good news

Good news, bad news: Sept 27-Oct 4, 2012

Fred Chartrand/AP

Telling it like it is

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird lambasted the United Nations from the podium of the General Assembly, saying that its “preoccupation with procedure and process” is hindering progress in war-torn Syria. “While the brutal and repressive regime of Bashar al-Assad continues the slaughter of its own people,” Baird seethed, the UN “continues to fail to impose binding sanctions that would stem the crimson tide of this bloody assault.” Baird reaffirmed calls for Assad to quit and—making a particularly unrebuttable point—for action to secure Syrian chemical weapons.

Positive energy

Alberta Premier Alison Redford expressed support for the China National Offshore Oil Corporation’s bid for Calgary oil and gas company Nexen, telling the Calgary Herald that Alberta is open for business. Redford chided economic nationalists, noting that outside oil investors “are simply buying leases to extract our resources on our terms.” Meanwhile, Redford stuck to her guns in the battle over the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline, resisting B.C. Premier Christy Clark’s request for a slice of royalties in return for access to the coast.

Apology accepted

Edmonton Oilers owner Daryl Katz, still bargaining for a new arena, met with fan backlash after visiting Seattle in an apparent effort to strengthen his negotiating position. Katz placed a full-page apology in Edmonton papers after flying to Seattle to tour its KeyArena. Even supporters of Katz’s existing deal with the city, which would see him get revenues from a glitzy rink in exchange for no rent or upfront contribution, bristled when Katz demanded still more money. The Oilers’ lease on Rexall Place expires in 2014.

Close encounter

It’s still a billion kilometres away, but Comet C/2012 S1 could be the biggest light show in generations. Italy’s Remanzacco Observatory announced that the comet is following an orbit that will bring it within 60 million km of Earth in January 2014. Comet brightnesses are hard to predict, but C/2012 S1 should pass close enough to Mars to be photographed by NASA’s Curiosity Rover. Here on Earth, it could appear brighter than a full moon.

Bad news

Good news, bad news: Sept 27-Oct 4, 2012

Hasan Jamali/AP

Food scare

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency got tough with meat packer XL Foods, suspending operations at its Lakeside facility in Brooks, Alta. After four cases of E. coli infection were associated with products from the plant, CFIA ordered the recall of more than 250 beef products sold across the country, from sirloin to sausage. An inspection of the plant found fault with health procedures, although since the E. coli cases were all linked to the same retailer, it’s unclear whether XL was responsible for making people ill.

Deadly days

The Iraqi government announced that September was the country’s most violent month since August 2010. In July, al-Qaeda had announced a “new military offensive” against a regime still learning to handle Western-style governmental checks and balances; the death toll for September included 182 civilians, 88 police officers and 95 soldiers, with 683 more people wounded. The worst incidents involved coordinated attacks on Shi’ites, launched Sept. 9 after Sunni fugitive vice-president Tariq al-Hashimi was sentenced to death in absentia.

Haven’t a clue

The U.K.’s Royal Statistical Society inadvertently illuminated an abyss of politician ignorance, publishing results from a stats quiz given to 97 members of Parliament. When asked for the chance of getting two heads in two flips of a coin, only 40 per cent of respondents could give the correct answer (25 per cent). Among Conservatives, 53 per cent solved the brainteaser, but only 23 per cent of Labour MPs could. Labour policy chief Jon Cruddas recently admitted to being “barely numerate” in an interview with the Daily Telegraph.

Saudi syndrome

Ikea faced criticism after a Stockholm newspaper caught it airbrushing women out of a Saudi version of its catalogue. A Metro front page depicted the results, showing how Ikea had obliterated a family’s pyjama-clad mom. Women in Western dress are often blacked out by censors in material mailed to the kingdom. Swedish “equality minister” Nyamko Sabuni persuaded Ikea to concede that its catalogue is a purveyor of Swedish values, adding that Saudi Arabia needs exposure to them “more than any other” place.