Good news (freedom!), bad news (stoplight timers) ... and the week that was

A round up of the news of the week

Rupak de Chowdhuri / Reuters

Good news … 

A principled stand

Prime Minister Stephen Harper took a hard line on government human rights abuses in Sri Lanka this week. The PM will boycott the country’s Commonwealth Summit next month, and review the annual $20 million Canada contributes to the Commonwealth. Sri Lanka has refused the UN’s request that it investigate allegations of military war crimes and crimes against humanity stemming from its long civil war. Yet, as host of the summit, it will be made chair of the Commonwealth, and a member of its Ministerial Action Group—granting the nation power to amend official Commonwealth values.

Free at last

Canadians John Greyson and Tarek Loubani were freed from a Cairo prison last weekend. They had been detained for seven weeks after Loubani, a doctor, helped injured protesters while Greyson, a filmmaker, videotaped. Though the pair may have naively put themselves in a volatile situation, their treatment was unjust; neither was charged with a crime. They were prevented from immediately leaving Egypt, but Ottawa, which has been criticized by Greyson for its ties to Israel, continues to lobby on their behalf.

Rob Ford’s new tune

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s newfound zeal for turning Canada’s largest city into a live music mecca is a welcome surprise. The mayor returned from the Austin City Limits festival this week, where he worked to “solidify” Toronto’s music alliance with the Texas city. “Toronto the Good” could benefit from a boost to its nightlife. And Ford could benefit from a boost to his public image. As a next step, he should work to reverse Ottawa’s unpopular new work-permit rule forcing U.S. musicians to pay a $275 fee to play in Canadian bars and pubs.

Step on it

Walking does a body good: British researchers have found that walking just 20 minutes a day can reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer, depression and diabetes—and could save 37,000 lives in the U.K. annually. This news comes on the heels of an American Cancer Society study showing that women who walked seven hours a week had a 14 per cent lower risk of breast cancer than those who walked three or fewer hours.

Bad News …

Leadership crisis

Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai chose the 12th anniversary of the American-led NATO invasion that removed the Taliban from power to proclaim to local women that they have nothing to fear from a return of Taliban influence. Karzai, who became leader after the invasion and has since been described as “an ineffective partner” by the United States, also claimed foreign military efforts have had no effect on the country’s welfare. Maybe Karzai should look in the mirror when assigning blame for his country’s lack of progress.

The saga continues

Barely a week before a Throne Speech that Conservatives hoped would put the Senate scandal behind them, new court documents allege former Tory Sen.Mike Duffy fraudulently doled out taxpayers’ money to a friend. The RCMP claims Duffy hired his long-time pal Gerald Donohue as a consultant over four years and paid him $65,000 “for no tangible work.” The document also says Nigel Wright, the Prime Minister’s former chief of staff who resigned over a $90,000 payment to Duffy, handed hundreds of pages of Duffy’s emails and calendar entries over to police—suggesting this scandal isn’t about to go away.

Eyes off the road

A new report suggests that stoplight timers in Toronto, meant to warn drivers of upcoming red lights and cause them to slow down, have had the opposite effect—leading to a 26 per cent jump in accidents between cars and pedestrians. Meanwhile, a recent Australian study reveals there is a greater threat than texting behind the wheel: children. Over the course of a 16-minute car trip, distracted parents take their eyes off the road for three minutes and 22 seconds.

Facebook feminism

So much for “leaning in.” Despite Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s feminist manifesto about women in the workplace, the tech giant revealed that its new employee housing compound will include a “doggy daycare”—but no daycare service for human children. Rival company Twitter is also in trouble this week for perceived sexism. Its IPO filing revealed that the tech firm has only one woman among its top officials.