Talking points: Of deadly earthquakes and octopus jailbreaks

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.

A police officer stands on debris, next to buildings destroyed by an earthquake in Pedernales, Ecuador, Sunday, April 17, 2016. The strongest earthquake to hit Ecuador in decades flattened buildings and buckled highways along its Pacific coast, sending the Andean nation into a state of emergency. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)

A police officer stands on debris, next to buildings destroyed by an earthquake in Pedernales, Ecuador, Sunday, April 17, 2016.  (Dolores Ochoa, AP)

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:

1. Watch and learn

The Supreme Court answered a pair of deeply divisive questions last week. By granting Indian status to 600,000 Metis and off-reserve Aboriginals, the court took a long-delayed (albeit costly), step toward reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians. It then struck down two of the Stephen Harper government’s more constitutionally suspect laws, ending mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug crimes and restoring credit for time spent in pretrial custody. Neither decision pleases everyone. But say this for the justices: they read the Constitution, considered the facts and gave their best judgment. Parliament might want to try that.

2. The sweet sound of crickets chirping

Awkward was good last week in the U.S. presidential race. Republican frontrunner Donald Trump met with his Fox News nemesis, reporter Megyn Kelly, ending the pair’s tiresome psychodrama. And Bernie Sanders gathered with Catholics in the Vatican—including, briefly, Pope Francis—despite the Democratic senator’s differences with the Church over gay marriage, abortion access and funding for contraceptives. Sanders, a secular Jew, was invited because of his kind words about the pontiff’s social-mindedness. But Francis should be warned: Bernie only makes small talk for so long.

3. Benefits of hindsight

Props to Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, who led a running pack in Montreal to promote fitness and self-esteem among teenage girls. The PM’s wife, who suffered from bulimia as a youngster, has partnered with several organizations to battle negative body image—and she’s not the only one tackling the issue. Jane Fonda revealed in an essay that she waged a decades-long battle with bulimia, which the actor traces to constant hectoring about her weight from her father, Henry Fonda. “It took me 30 years to get it,” she writes ruefully.

4. Rest in pieces

It was a banner week for recycling. Apple Inc.’s annual report showed that its recycling program collected 89 million lb. of old hardware—computer junk that might someday become fresh, new Apples. Meantime, the leader of the Manitoba Green Party, James Beddome, endorsed the idea of “human composting,” noting that coffins are expensive and cremation produces CO2. Turns out four sites in Canada already permit these green goodbyes. Who knew the back-to-earth movement had come so far?

5. Countries are left shaken

When a magnitude-6.4 earthquake killed nine people in Kumamoto, Japan, on April 14, it was just the first of three back-to-back quakes that rattled around the globe before the end of the week. Two days later, a magnitude-7.3 killed 41 in a neighbouring Japanese city, hours before a magnitude-7.8 killed at least 480 people and injured more than 4,000 in Ecuador. There’s no evidence the quakes were related—the two countries are more than 15,000 km apart. But with multiple seismic disasters striking in such rapid succession, you could be forgiven for wondering.

6. Picking their poison

There’s more than one way for a petro province to deal with an oil crash, but none are pleasant. Newfoundland and Labrador adopted an austerity budget of tax hikes and job cuts, pressured by a provincial debt that is already nearly half of its GDP. An average household in the province will pay $3,000 more in taxes and fees, while 650 public sector jobs will disappear. Meantime, Alberta took the red-ink route, maintaining spending on child care benefits and renewable energy projects but driving its deficit up to 15 per cent of GDP. Two different leaps into a fiscal abyss, from which only resurgent oil prices may be able to retrieve them.

7. Tower to moron, do you copy?

A long-feared scenario came to pass on Monday when a British Airways jet reportedly struck a remote-control drone near London’s Heathrow Airport, setting off a search for the operator of the unmanned aircraft. The plane landed without further incident. But the collision put paid to drone owners’ assurances they can be trusted to run their devices safely, and raised the question of whether fines and punishments for failing to do so are sufficient. This errant drone caused no harm, but what if the next one winds up in the blades of a jet engine?

8. Slippery characters

New Zealanders were outraged this week by references in the Panama Papers implying that their nation is a haven for tax-dodgers—their reputation for fiscal probity is hard-won. The country’s good name took another hit when the octopus known as Inky slithered through a drainpipe at the National Aquarium in Napier and escaped into nearby Hawkes Bay. In New Zealand, even when caught, slimy and evasive types evidently stand a good chance of getting away.