This Week: Good news/Bad news

Plus a week in the (after)life of Kurt Cobain

Justin MorneauFace of the week
Fouled out: B.C. slugger Justin Morneau is nursing more than a sore cheek. His season is over, thanks to a fracture in his back.

Kurt CobainA week in the (after)life of Kurt Cobain
Dead for 15 years, the Nirvana singer has made a comeback—in Guitar Hero 5. Cobain’s widow, Courtney Love, originally agreed to the digital resurrection, but now that it’s on store shelves she is threatening to sue. His former bandmates are equally livid that players can use the Cobain character to sing dozens of different songs, and not just the two Nirvana selections. Consumers aren’t too upset. At week’s end, Guitar Hero 5 was outselling the much-hyped Rock Band: The Beatles.


Listeriosis lessons
One year after 22 Canadians were killed by listeria-laced lunch meat, the Harper government is promising to overhaul the country’s entire food safety system. Gerry Ritz, the agriculture minister, says the $75-million plan follows all 57 recommendations made by the investigator who probed the Maple Leaf outbreak. The feds don’t exactly deserve a pat on the back simply for listening to the experts—especially amid all the election chatter—but considering that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency still can’t figure out how many employees are monitoring ready-to-eat foods, this announcement is certainly a step in the right direction.

A Wild upset
Paul Hinman, interim leader of Alberta’s Wildrose Alliance Party, captured the Calgary-Glenmore by-election this week, soundly beating the Tories, who have held the seat since 1969. For an upstart party trying to work its way in from the fringes of Alberta politics, the result was heartening. The publicity, and public accountability, of having even one elected member under the dome will help the party evolve. And for Albertans, any crack in the monolithic, one-party-state political culture is a welcome change. Democracy is always better served by more voices, more choices.

Nuclear meltdown
Iran has long refused to give up its nuclear program, and years of ignoring the international community suggest its motives are hardly peaceful. But there were signs this week that Iran is finally looking to ease the standoff. The country announced it will co-operate more with the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog and will hold talks with six world powers next month for what it described as “constructive negotiations.” Most importantly, the United States has agreed to attend. President Barack Obama has always pushed a policy of open dialogue with Iran, and the quiet diplomacy appears to be paying off.

Good Samaritans
Thankfully, the world is still full of honest people. In Winnipeg, a bike courier who found $20,000 atop an ATM returned the loot to the bank—and was more than happy to receive a $50 Boston Pizza gift card in exchange for his honesty. In Calgary, a man who accidentally left $1,000 on his car bumper was equally thrilled that a stranger went out of his way to return the cash. But not everyone appreciates a Good Samaritan. An Oregon man picking up litter found a wallet with $700, but when the local newspaper tried to contact the owner, the last thing he wanted was his name in print. Turns out the man dropped his wallet while being arrested for child pornography.


Secrets and lies
Osama bin Laden—or someone claiming to be the al-Qaeda leader—has issued another audiotape from his hidey-hole, warning the West that it is engaged in an unwinnable war in Afghanistan and destined for defeat like the Soviets. Coincidentally, it’s almost the same message that Jimmy Carter’s former national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, delivered this week. Meantime, it seems that Canadians, who have now seen 130 of their soldiers make the ultimate sacrifice for Afghan freedom, are no longer allowed to know the other costs. Amazingly, the Defence Department invoked “national security” grounds to censor budget information released to the federal NDP. The battle for hearts and minds should start at home.

The future is dry
A new report from an international think tank predicts that global warming could cost nations up to 19 per cent of their GDP by 2030. Modelling the impact of droughts, hurricanes and other natural disasters on economies, especially in the developing world, the UN-backed Economics of Climate Adaptation Working Group concluded that worldwide trouble lies ahead unless more money is spent on strategies to adapt to climate change and blunt its effects. Sadly, it may already be too late to save good beer. Czech scientists say the quality of hops used to make their country’s distinctive pilsners has been declining year by year since the late 1950s due to temperature increases. Hotter weather and no decent cold ones? Save us.

Hand to mouth
Six out of 10 Canadians would have trouble paying the bills if their paycheques were delayed by one week, according to a troubling new survey released this week. The fact that 59 per cent of us don’t have any financial wiggle room—let alone retirement savings—comes as bankruptcy filings are at an all-time high (up 32 per cent from last year). Maybe Nicolas Sarkozy is right. The French president says we should scrap depressing terms like “gross domestic product” and start measuring economic success according to “happiness.” Ignorance is bliss, after all.

Come here often?
Ladies beware. A new BlackBerry application provides guys instant access to hundreds of cringe-worthy pickup lines. Even the name of the app is lame: “Random Pickup Line Generator.” Don’t be shocked if the program is popular among priests, rabbis and imams. A new study found that 3.1 per cent of adult women who worship at least once a month, regardless of religion or denomination, have been the targets of a clergy come-on.

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