Good news, bad news: U.S. gets in the game, Pistorius guilty

The earth heals, an expensive scandal investigation, and other stories we give a thumbs up or down to from this week

The World Health Organization partnered with UNICEF to immunize children against measles, rubella and polio in Manila, Philippines (AP)

The World Health Organization partnered with UNICEF to immunize children against measles, rubella and polio in Manila, Philippines. (The Associated Press)

Good news

Back to school

The B.C. government and its public school teachers have finally struck a deal to end a labour dispute that has dragged on since last spring and delayed the beginning of school by three weeks. It took a mediator to drive home the obvious need for compromise. In the end, the union gave way on wages and benefits, and the B.C. Liberals relented on class size and composition. The settlement also lays out a plan to rebuild trust between the parties. We suggest they all get together and write, “We will never do this again,” 1,000 times, as the first bonding exercise.

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Getting into the game

Under the cool and cautious leadership of President Barack Obama, the United States has shied away from areas where it used to barge ahead. But, in the last couple of weeks, the President has proved he is more willing to apply American muscle. U.S. air strikes against ISIS fighters in Iraq have been followed by an international coalition to fight the Islamic extremist group. A tough new round of sanctions against Russia’s largest companies is ramping up the pressure on President Vladimir Putin to stop meddling in Ukraine. And the U.S. has taken the lead in the fight against Ebola, committing $750 million and dispatching 3,000 troops to build treatment centres in West Africa. All welcome moves, even if a long time coming.

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Healing the planet

The Earth is still warming, with sea ice and glaciers melting at an unprecedented pace, but this past week offered some hopeful climate news. First, a new study of marine algae found that the tiny creatures are evolving faster than previously believed and are more resilient to changes in temperature and CO2 levels. That won’t halt the advancing acidification of the oceans, but it does suggest nature can hang on longer than scientists have feared. And an atmospheric review has discovered that the man-made hole in the ozone layer has begun to repair itself, since harmful fluorocarbons were banned in the late 1970s. It’s not too late to clean up our mess.

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Prince Charming

Prince Harry hit 30 this past week, and the royal renegade is showing signs of growing up. It’s been almost two years since he last appeared naked in a tabloid, and the news he has been making is generally positive. The latest word is that he cancelled his birthday day bash at Kensington Palace because Kate, his sister-in-law, is suffering from morning sickness. Maybe age does bring wisdom.

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Tourists sit in a Mexican resort’s shelter after Los Cabos was hit by hurricane Odile, which pelted the area with heavy rain and wind (AP)

Tourists sit in a Mexican resort’s shelter after Los Cabos was hit by hurricane Odile, which pelted the area with heavy rain and wind. (The Associated Press)

Bad news

Personal foul, necessary roughness

The NFL’s image took another bruising last week. With commissioner Roger Goodell already facing calls to resign over his delayed reaction to the Ray Rice domestic abuse scandal, Minnesota Vikings star Adrian Peterson was charged with child abuse for disciplining his four-year-old son with a tree branch in May. Then, the Carolina Panthers benched Greg Hardy, who was convicted on July 15 of assaulting a woman. The NFL said this week that it has hired three female consultants to help shape its domestic violence policies. But it seems its problems run much deeper than a lack of clarity about league rules.

Still running

There was a still bigger controversy in the world of athletics last week: Olympic runner Oscar Pistorius was found not guilty of murdering his girlfriend when he shot her four times through a locked bathroom door on Valentine’s Day last year. He was found guilty of culpable homicide (the South African equivalent of manslaughter) but could yet avoid prison time under South African law. He will be sentenced on Oct. 13. In the meantime, the South African Olympic committee said this week that Pistorius is now free to compete again.

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Costly mistakes

The RCMP revealed that the cost of its investigation into the Senate expense scandal is now nearing $1 million. “People might say that’s a lot of money,” Assistant Commissioner Gilles Michaud told the Ottawa Citizen—especially considering that the alleged crimes involve $480,000 of public money. But “these are the types of (alleged) crimes, if we don’t address properly, will end up costing us more than just the (alleged) frauds themselves.” Just imagine how many costs we could avoid without a Senate at all.

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No info

The Harper government has quietly expanded the use of “cabinet confidences” as a way to keep documents, reports and memos secret. A Treasury Board directive last summer permitted departmental lawyers to decide which access-to-information requests can be off-limits to media by labelling routine information a cabinet secret, meaning it can be sealed for 20 years. Among the subjects since deemed too sensitive, according to a Canadian Press report: a program that supplies Viagra to the military, and Transport Canada’s thoughts about the auditor general criticizing rail safety. So much for the new era of accountability.