Need an answer for that? Trying to look like the smartest person at the dinner party? Our Talking Points have you covered. Read our short takes on some of the big stories from the week that was:
Is there finally a vaccine for Ebola?
All credit to scientists at the Public Health Agency of Canada, whose Ebola vaccine has proven 100 per cent effective in individuals, and who will soon find out whether VSV-EBOV confers the herd immunity necessary to fend off further mass outbreaks. If the confirmation seems late—the epidemic that started in West Africa has claimed more than 11,000 lives since 2013—consider reports this week that the deadly pathogen has resurfaced in an area of Sierra Leone, where it hadn’t been detected for months. This vaccine, noted Dr. Margaret Chan, head of the World Health Organization, will be an “important tool for both current and future Ebola outbreaks.”
Will there be meaningful action on climate change?
After years of talk, the United States is finally poised to act on climate change. This week, President Barack Obama unveiled an ambitious plan to force states to close coal-fired power plants, and cut the country’s overall carbon emissions by 32 per cent (of 2005 levels) by 2030. The measures aren’t guaranteed to succeed—the energy industry is already mobilizing against them, as are Republicans—but at least there’s something concrete to debate. The Harper government announced a 30 per cent reduction target this past May, but has yet to provide any details on how it intends to get there.
How quickly can I get to Europe?
Airbus Industries has filed a U.S. patent for an “ultra-rapid” passenger plane that uses a combination of jet, rocket and air-compressing ram engines to fly at more than 4½ times the speed of sound. It would be twice as fast as the now-retired Concorde, and would make the trip from London to New York in an hour. The wait to pass through security may soon be the longest part of a transatlantic journey.
What happened to the hitchhiking robot?
The unhappy story of hitchBOT being curb-stomped and dismembered on the mean streets of Philadelphia has taken a redemptive turn. A Kickstarter campaign to repair the Canadian robot quickly hit $4,000, with a Philly-area tech firm offering to perform the reattachment surgery. A manhunt for the assailants, meanwhile, has turned up damning video footage of the dismemberment. These developments are as uplifting for Philadelphia—where football fans once pelted Santa Claus with snowballs—as for hitchBOT. Even if our roving ’droid is gone, brotherly love lives on.
Are we in a recession?
If the economy is the defining issue of the federal election campaign, we could be in for a grim 11 weeks. Canada’s GDP shrank for the fifth straight month, while the Toronto-Dominion Bank is flashing “cautionary yellow” signals about Toronto and Vancouver’s frothy housing markets. On the international-trade front, the Trans-Pacific Partnership talks bogged down over, among other issues, protection of Canada’s dairy industry. You’re forgiven in advance for wanting to change the subject.
Why are there so many drug-related deaths in B.C.?
A spike in fatal overdoses, including the death of a 17-year-old in a Vancouver park, has authorities in B.C. warning about the dangers of fentanyl. The powerful painkiller, which is up to 100 times more potent than morphine, is widely abused in both its prescription and illicit forms. But new government measures to try to make other opioids “tamper-proof” may worsen the problem. A recent study found that overdose deaths in Ontario have actually increased since the province enacted its 2012 ban on OxyContin, as doctors started prescribing more fentanyl, and addicts embraced the drug.
Is the death of the Taliban leader good news?
Reports that Taliban leader Mullah Muhammad Omar is dead bode well for the war against the Afghan insurgency, but maybe it’s best not to crow. Disturbing new research out of Germany suggests media coverage of terrorism actually spurs the terrorists to do further harm. No one’s suggesting the press turn a blind eye. But the study of 60,000 attacks dating back to 1970 leads one to wonder: Where would Islamic State and al-Qaeda be without us?
Do cheaters really never win?
Blood-doping in track and field may be an epidemic, according to an investigation by a U.K. newspaper and a German TV network. The Sunday Times and ARD had experts examine 12,000 leaked test results from 5,000 elite athletes over the past decade, and found widespread “abnormalities.” The analysts identified more than 800 highly suspicious cases, mostly from endurance events, including 146 medal-winning performances at the Olympics and World Championships. The IOC and World Anti-Doping Agency are promising to follow up, but the reaction from the head of the International Association of Athletic Federations was not encouraging. Lamine Diack called the allegations a “joke.”