Overture

THE WEEK THAT WAS

June 25 2001
Overture

THE WEEK THAT WAS

June 25 2001

THE WEEK THAT WAS

Overture

RESCUE IN ROMANIA

For six hours, citizens of Romania were transfixed by live television coverage of attempts to rescue a twoyear-old girl who had fallen down a narrow well in the village of Pipera. As broadcasters asked the public for ideas on how to proceed, rescuers finally managed to lower Oana Furnica, a slender 18-year-old, down the shaft. On her second attempt, she successfully pulled Alina Pascaru to safety. Furnica received a plot of land for her efforts, while TV viewers also pledged to give her a total of $7,500.

A FRAGILE CEASEFIRE

Under the mediation of U.S. Central Intelligence Agency director George Tenet, Israelis and Palestinians fi-

nally agreed to a fragile truce designed to end nine months of bloodshed. Under the pact, Israel withdrew tanks from some areas near the West Bank and Gaza, and reopened a border crossing between Gaza and Egypt, among other things. Palestinians promised to confiscate illegal weapons. But the primary aim of the agreement—an end to all violence—seemed out of reach as violations continued. Still, both sides expressed cautious optimism about the accord. “They’ve pulled us back from the precipice,” said Nabil Shaath, a senior Palestinian official. “Maybe this is a moment.”

Citizen Mandela

A hill house it wasn’t. With summer holidays about to start, barely 10 per cent of the 301 MPs were in the Commons to

unanimously cast their votes for honorary citizenship for South Africa’s Nelson Mandela. Among those absent: Alliance MP Rob Anders, who foiled the first attempt on June 7 to honour Mandela, calling the anti-apartheid icon a Communist who had supported vigilante killings in South Africa. (After Prime Minister Jean Chrétien called the MP “stupid,” none of Anders’s Alliance colleagues defended him.) Mandela spent 27 years in prison because of his fight against the apartheid

regime. He is expected to accept the honour when he visits Ottawa in the fall.

Blair gets richer

Four days after his overwhelming June 7 electoral victory, British Prime Minister Tony Blair gave himself a 40-per-cent pay raise—about $101,000, bringing his annual salary to the equivalent of $350,000. Blair’s cabinet members got an 18-percent increase, raising their pay to just over $250,000 a year. Perhaps Canada served as an example to the Labour leader: on June 7, federal politicians voted themselves a hefty raise, with Prime Minister Jean Chrétien getting a 42-per-cent increase that will bring his annual salary to about $263,000.

Nortel crashes again

Formerly high-flying Nortel Networks Corp. is about to set a new record for red ink. The Brampton, Ont.-based tech giant forecast it will lose $28.7 billion in April, May and June—the largest quar-

terly loss in Canadian corporate history. It announced that 10,000 jobs will be slashed, on top of 20,000 already cut. Since its peak in July, 2000, the company’s stock market value has fallen from $396 billion to $48 billion, described by an analyst as “one horrific haircut.” Canada’s other tech titan, Ottawa-based JDS Uniphase Corp., also reduced its quarterly sales forecast by 14 per cent and said layoffs are “a possibility.”

A spinal breakthrough?

After a new surgical treatment by Israeli doctors, a paraplegic American teenager recovered some movement in her toes and legs. Melissa Holley, 18, who was left paralyzed after suffering a severed spine in an automobile accident, received spinal injections of her own immune-system cells that, doctors say, helped damaged nerve cells regrow. “She recovered very significant motor function in her legs, although she is not yet walking,” said Dr. Valentin Fulga of Proneuron Biotechnologies (Israel) Ltd., which conducted the clinical trial.

‘I thought of her’

For some, it was the announcement they had long been waiting for. On June 11, at 7:14 a.m. CDT, Warden Harley Lappin of the federal penitentiary in Terre Haute, Ind., appeared before reporters to say that Oklahoma City

bomber Timothy McVeigh had been ) put to death by lethal injection. In the city where his April 19, 1995, bombing had killed 168 people at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, 232 survivors and family members of the victims wimessed McVeigh’s execution on f closed-circuit television. Among them was Kathleen Trcanor, whose in-laws j died in the blast along with her fouryear-old daughter, Ashley. Afterwards, Treanor held up a picture of her daughter and said: “I thought of her every j step of the way.”

Defamation and the CBC

The Court of Appeal for Ontario upheld two defamation rulings against j CBC TV’s the fifth estate, going so far as to increase one of the awards. The libel actions by two Ontario doctors rose out of a February, 1996, exposé of a controversial heart drug that implied the physicians had helped cover up a J scandal involving the medication. In the original judgment, one trial judge j called the CBC “parasitic sensational\ ists” who “should not be allowed to prey upon society’s obsession with j scandal.” Last week, the appeal court upheld the almost $ 1.8-million award to Dr. Frans Leenen and increased the $200,000 originally awarded to Dr. Martin Myers by another $150,000, plus legal costs. Myers was “defamed j through the distortion of his own j words,” said the appeals court.

POLITICAL HEAT WAVE

MPs may be heading home for vacation, but there may be no summer respite for Stockwell Day and the Canadian

Alliance. Last week, the embattled leader revealed a new plan for bringing about a merger between his party and the Toriesdrawing a new round of criticism. In a speech in Toronto, Day called for fast-track talks with the Conservatives, saying he would push for an Alliance referendum on the issue in 90 days and asking Tory Leader Joe Clark to do the same. But Clark dismissed

the notion out of hand, calling it a “flight of fancy” intended to divert attention from the internecine Alliance battle over Day’s leadership.

It didn’t end there. Alliance co-president Ken Kalopsis, who is also co-chair of a special committee on uniting the right, said the proposal came as a complete surprise. MP Monte Solberg, the Alliance’s foreign affairs critic and, until then, not yet an outright member of the dump-Day movement, called on the leader to resign, saying that Day had bypassed his caucus and party council. Summer heat, indeed.

THE 'TOXIC TEXAN' GETS A CHEEKY RECEPTION

To many in Europe he is known as the "Toxic Texan," and protesters in Goteborg, Sweden,

showed their contempt for U.S. President George W. Bush by bending over, pointing their rear ends towards his hotel window and dropping their pants. The President was on his first tour of the Continent since his election last November, and bringing a controversial agenda that also sparked violent protests in Göteborg. Bush has not only angered many European

leaders by scrapping the 1997 Kyoto Protocol on reducing gas emissions, but American plans to build an anti-missile defence system have aroused fears that it will ignite a new arms race.

Throughout his five-day, five-nation tour, which began in Madrid and ended in Slovenia, where he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Bush pursued two themes. One was the expansion of NATO to possibly include Slovenia, Slovakia and the former Soviet Baltic republics of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. And he attempted to overcome European objections to his anti-missile defence system by promising to help the Europeans build a similar network. But talks with European Union leaders at the summit in Göteborg failed to overcome stiff opposition to his missile defence program or resolve the deep rift over global warming. Bush did, however, receive support from Tony Blair, Britain’s Labour prime minister, when Blair made a passionate speech calling for better relations between Europe and the United States.