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The week in seven stories — good, bad, ugly


1. An arrest in the Lindhout case

Colin McConnell / Toronto Star / Getstock

Colin McConnell / Toronto Star / Getstock

Ali Omar Ader’s arrest in connection with the 2008 kidnapping of Amanda Lindhout, a Canadian freelance journalist, demonstrates just how long the arm of Canadian law can be. The Somali national was taken into custody in Ottawa and charged with hostage-taking (the police allege he was the main negotiator) even though both the crime and investigation took place overseas. Canada had also wanted to arrest Mokhtar Belmokhtar, a one-eyed former senior commander of al-Qaeda, for his role in kidnapping a Canadian diplomat in Niger, but reports from the Libyan desert this week say a U.S. drone strike got to him first.

2. Talking containment in Europe

The U.S. is offering to store heavy military equipment—tanks, infantry vehicles and artillery—in the Baltics and Eastern Europe to ease local fears about potential Russian aggression after its intervention in Ukraine. Russia, not surprisingly, has signalled it would retaliate by beefing up its own forces along its “Western frontier.” Caught in the middle are several Eastern European states eager to avoid further inflamed tensions. It’s unsettling that, more than a quarter-century after the fall of the Berlin Wall, we’re once again talking about containment in Europe.

3. What real estate bubble?

dv1734041The number of homes sold in Canada last month was up 3.1 per cent from a month earlier, hitting a level not seen in five years. While ultra-hot Toronto and Vancouver led the gains, there was also evidence of a rebound in Alberta, according to the Canadian Real Estate Association, a sign that concern about the province’s oil-shocked economy may be waning. Meanwhile, new house construction was at its highest level in nearly a year in May—all of which suggests Canada’s decade-long housing boom may not be over just yet.

4. Alberta dials back algae warning

Alberta health authorities are dialling back their warning system for blue-green algae this summer. Under the new rules, swimmers will be told to avoid areas where the toxin-producing blooms are visible. That’s unlike the old system, in place since 2011, which merely listed the bodies of water where cyanobacteria had been detected, causing many people to avoid going to the lake altogether. So don’t be afraid to enjoy summer’s simple pleasures—just use a little common sense and avoid diving into scum.

5. The Philae lander calls home

It’s been seven months since the Philae lander ran out of juice shortly after it bounced and tumbled into a shady corner of an icy comet, where it was unable to immediately recharge its solar-powered batteries. But the European Space Agency has been given new hope after Philae woke up this week and began re-transmitting stored data as the comet hurtled closer to the sun. Meanwhile, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, launched in 2006, is approaching Pluto for a first-ever flyby, sending back pictures of  “an increasingly complex and nuanced surface.” Space probes: boldly going where humans can’t.

6. Only in America

Barack ObamaU.S. President Barack Obama’s efforts to negotiate a 12-nation trans-Pacific trade deal have been sidelined after Congress derailed a bill that would have fast-tracked such trade agreements through Washington. The stumbling block, oddly enough, were Democrats who voted against a companion provision that promised to help American workers whose jobs have been displaced by international trade—long a key issue for Obama’s party. The reasoning: passing the bill could lead to more trade deals and therefore more potential job losses—albeit ones that could be offset by the provision that was actually voted down. Make sense? Of course not.

7. When animals attack

A pair of shark attacks quickly turned a sunny day at a North Carolina beach into a horrific scene from Jaws. A 13-year-old girl lost her hand after she was attacked in waist-deep water. Less than two hours later, a 16-year-old boy suffered a similar attack that cost him his arm. Meanwhile, some 650 km inland, another 16-year-old boy was camping in Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains National Park when he was mauled by a bear, leaving him in hospital. Vacationers take note: nature’s most fearsome predators don’t take the summers off.

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