talking points

Talking points: On deals made and being afraid

Speed read the news with our Talking Points round-up—our short takes on the week’s news—and sound like the smartest person in the room.

Kevin Garratt, left to right, Julia Dawn Garratt, Hannah Garratt and Simeon Garratt pose in this undated handout photo. The son of two Canadians being detained in China on suspicion of stealing state secrets says the allegations against his parents don't make any sense. Simeon Garratt says his parents were out for dinner with friends in the Chinese city of Dandong - near the border with North Korea - where they own a coffee shop, when they were detained Monday night. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Garratt Family

Kevin Garratt, (left to right), Julia Dawn Garratt, Hannah Garratt and Simeon Garratt pose in this undated handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO – Garratt Family

Free at last

Just a few weeks after prying Kevin Garratt free from a Chinese prison—though perhaps at the eventual cost of an extradition treaty— Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is being lauded for helping secure the freedom of Montreal university professor Homa Hoodfar, who was jailed by Iran in June for “dabbling in feminism and security matters.” Things apparently got rolling earlier this month after Trudeau held a private meeting with Oman’s foreign minister, who helped facilitate the deal, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. The release of Hoodfar, who is in frail health, comes as Ottawa seeks to restart diplomatic relations with the Middle Eastern country.

Leave them guns behind

After more than half a century of violent bloodshed, Colombia’s government has signed a historic peace treaty with the Marxist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, the fearsome guerrilla group known as FARC. The peace deal ends Latin America’s longest-running armed conflict by making FARC a legitimate political party. In acknowledgment of the hundreds of thousands who died over the past 52 years, the treaty was even signed with pens made from spent shell casings. The inscription on them said it all: “Bullets wrote our past. Education, our future.”

Crime against culture

Islamist militants might want to think twice about destroying shrines and other holy sites with pick axes and bulldozers. An international court has just handed down a nine-year sentence to Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi, a member of an al-Qaeda-linked jihadist group who led the destruction of 10 mausoleums and holy sites in Timbuktu, Mali—nine of which were UNESCO World Heritage sites. It’s the first time the sickening practice has been prosecuted as a war crime, as it should be. It’s unfortunate al-Mahdi’s sentence wasn’t twice as long.

Now that’s a scary ride

Many amusement parks are breathing new life into old roller coasters by equipping them with virtual reality gear. Six Flags, for one, now operates roller coasters where headsets simulate battles with aliens or a superhero adventure. Doctors, meanwhile, may have found their way to repurpose one of Disney World’s biggest attractions. Confirming patient reports, a new study found that riding the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad increases by as much as 64 per cent the chance of passing a kidney stone. Everybody scream!

Two women embrace while looking at a police officer in uptown Charlotte, NC during a protest of the police shooting of Keith Scott, in Charlotte, North Carolina, U.S. September 21, 2016. (Jason Miczek/Reuters)

Two women embrace while looking at a police officer in uptown Charlotte, NC during a protest of the police shooting of Keith Scott, in Charlotte, North Carolina, U.S. September 21, 2016. (Jason Miczek/Reuters)

Attacks on all sides

Islamic State fighters are “dead set” on using chemical weapons against Iraqi troops as they prepare to retake Mosul, according to the U.S. military. The Pentagon says jihadists have already used mustard gas a “couple of dozen times,” although not in lethal concentrations. As the fighting rages on, new concerns about refugees emerge. Amnesty International had sharp words for Hungary’s immigration policies, which it said are “blatantly designed” to keep people fleeing Islamic State-controlled regions from seeking asylum. So much for compassion.

Trade gap

Between Brexit and Donald Trump, the backlash against global trade has reached a fever pitch—and the world may be starting to feel the impact. The World Trade Organization recently slashed its forecast for global trade growth by more than a third to 1.7 per cent, noting it’s the first time global trade is expected to trail global economic growth in 15 years. Sure, globalization causes temporary pain by disrupting inefficient industries and sending jobs overseas, but study after study has shown we’re all wealthier as a result.

Good game?

Hockey is a cornerstone of Canadian culture, which makes it all the more sad that Calgary’s minor hockey league brass feels it necessary to ban post-game handshakes with referees or linesmen. Though players will still line up after the final buzzer, Hockey Calgary says it doesn’t want officials to be involved, or anyone to approach them, because of the risk of verbal altercations when players’ and coaches’ emotions are running high. It’s supposedly all about maintaining “a high level of respect for officials.” So why, then, does it feel like the exact opposite?

A failure to communicate

The privately funded searchers who found HMS Terror, missing in the Arctic for nearly 170 years, created waves by waiting more than a week to inform their Parks Canada partners about the big discovery. The Arctic Research Foundation, co-founded by former BlackBerry boss Jim Balsillie, says it notified the Prime Minister’s Office once it determined the sunken ship found near King William Island belonged to the lost Franklin expedition. But Parks Canada didn’t find out until the rest of the world did, and so spent days combing a barren patch of ocean 100 km away for a shipwreck that had already been found.