November 21 2005



November 21 2005





Sex and literature

In a week when a new U.S. study found more sex than ever on television, CTV boldly broadcast the Giller literary award show to a national audience in prime time. Who knows if anyone watched Winnipeg high school English teacher David Bergen win the $40,000 prize for his novel The Time in Between, but we applaud the effort.

Sound the alarm

A consultant’s report recommends that security on Parliament Hill be beefed up, with all visitors being screened. We knew it was time for tougher measures when a disgruntled Canadian managed to drive his vehicle through the gates and all the way up the front steps of the Centre Block.

Muscled out

California voters slapped down Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, voting against all four of his special ballot initiatives, including a proposed cap on state spending. Here’s hoping this stinging rebuke for an actor-turned-politician keeps Warren Beatty, Janeane Garofalo, Sean Penn, and George Clooney (see page 60) down at the studio.

A worthy protest

It’s hard to find a silver lining in a terrorist bombing that killed at least 57 people, but the response ofjordanians to a triple suicide attack in Amman last week was as stunning as it was heartening. They took to the streets in anger against the al-Qaeda-affiliated group that claimed responsibility for the carnage.

Off death row

After being held more than three years in the U.S. military detention centre at Guantánamo Bay,

Toronto-born Omar Khadr, 19, will be tried by a U.S. military commission on charges of murder and aiding the enemy. Authorities said they will not seek the death penalty—clearly acknowledging there were mitigating circumstances. Khadr was just 15 when, during a July 2002 American assault on an al-Qaeda compound in the mountains of Afghanistan, he allegedly threw the hand grenade that killed a U.S. medic.

Denier denied

Holocaust-denier Ernst Zundel, co-author of The Hitler We Loved and Why, finally went on trial in Mannheim, Germany, on charges of incitement, libel and disparaging the dead. But first, the judge decided he had to clean out his legal team, dismissing an adviser who is also a far-right activist, and barred from practising law because of a conviction earlier this year for inciting hatred. Zundel, 66, who spent 43 years in Canada, was deported in March after lengthy legal battles and a short stay in the U.S.

Stop the presses

A tough week for the Fifth Estate. The recently imprisoned Judith Miller parted company with the New York Times. A journalist was arrested in Montana and charged with poisoning his wife by spiking her Gatorade with antifreeze. He apparently planned to spend the insurance money on a new house and a BMW convertible. And New York police are searching for a former journalist wanted in connection with a Halloween

sex attack. The man, dressed as a firefighter, forced himself into a woman’s apartment and sexually assaulted her.

We vote ‘later9

Robert Milton said he may retire as head of Air Canada “sooner rather than later.” He’s been a favourite whipping boy of the financial press in recent years— not without reason—but he’s also piloted the airline through considerable turbulence and recent results are encouraging. The last thing the company needs is more uncertainty.

Bring the heat

An unpublished report on global warming by a blue-ribbon advisory panel says Canada is unprepared for the effects of climate change, and accuses Prime Minister Paul Martin of dodging the issue. Where have we heard that before? Oh yes—from Johanne Gélinas, our commissioner of the environment and sustainable development. She told the Senate in October that Canada cannot prevent environmental degradation

“unless the leadership and performance of the federal government improve markedly.”

Not another one

Like father, like son? Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliyev, son and heir of former Soviet-era strongman Heydar Aliyev, won big in parliamentary elections that were widely seen as fraudulent. And he left the West with a quandary: how to foster reform while still maintaining stability in a country that will soon begin shipping up to two million barrels of oil per day.


Michaëlle Jean bonded with Prince Edward Islanders over the difficulties of island life (daughter Marie-Eden brought along a French copy of Anne of Green Gables); unveiled a plaque at the Confederation Centre of the Arts; said that complaints over her joke about PQ leadership candidate André Boisclair are “some kind of strategy” to embarrass her; faced a sit-in demonstration at Rideau Hall; comforted Claire Léger (whose son, a soldier, was killed in Afghanistan in 2002) during a Remembrance Day ceremony and then hosted tea.


Kiss and make up

There is a biological case to be made for makeup. According to a study published in Proceedings of the Royal Society, women with full lips and large eyes appeal to men. Evidently, it’s a signal that

BIG EYES: It’s evolutionary

such women have more estrogen. The study suggests that makeup fools men into mating with the less fertile.

Shocking car wrecks

Cutting victims from hybrid car wrecks can be dangerous: 500volt wires run through the car body, raising the risk of juicing the Jaws of Life. Hale Products, a manufacturer of rescue equipment, is introducing specially insulated cutters and spreaders.

Not hard to swallow

A recent issue of the British MedicalJournal explains how to swallow swords: thrust the pharynx forward, relax the cricopharyngeus and inhale. Few deaths from sword-swallowing have ever been recorded, although one Canadian practitioner did die after he swallowed an umbrella.

The big breakup

The world’s largest free-floating object, the B-15A iceberg, has gone to pieces. It broke off from another now-extinct iceberg that calved from Antarctica’s Ross Ice Shelf five years ago, and initially covered 2,500 sq. km (about the size of Rhode Island). The berg broke up when it ran aground.

Cold and unreliable

Iceland is the only European nation in which store employees steal more than the customers do. The European Retail Theft Barometer has discovered that 41-3 per cent of retail theft stems from light-fingered staff, vs. an average of 29 per cent from customers.

Nuts to that solution

A fertility expert in Serbia has found a way to put sperm to sleep for up to 10 days by applying lowlevel electric shocks to men’s testicles. Dr. Sava Bojovic says the contraceptive treatment does not kill the sperm and has no adverse health effect.

You’re on Mom’s mind

Scientists have known for years that fetal cells can enter a mother’s body and survive there for decades. Now researchers say fetal cells in mice have been shown to lodge in mothers’ brains and may develop into nervous-system cells.


Bite worse than bark

A South African woman, concerned about a beached sea lion that hadn’t moved in several days, tried to help it back into the water. The Cape fur seal rewarded her efforts by biting her nose off. Elsie van Tonder’s nose was found later, but couldn’t be reattached.

Full-boar attack

Seoul is overrun with wild boars. The aggressive 130-kg pigs have been rooting around in luxury

hotel gardens and garbage bins. Police are on the case, but one pig escaped after leading them on a 90-minute chase.

Bringing up Baby

After residents complained about the noise corning from Jesus Teixeira’s Rio de Janeiro garage, police discovered “Baby,” an adult lion the family had harboured for 15 years. “He is very calm and never attacked anyone,” Teixeira said. “He grew up with my kids.”


Remember the wine

An antioxidant found in wine, peanuts and berries may offer ; protection against Alzheimer’s j disease. Resveratrol seems to atj tack a molecule instrumental in j the formation of lesions on the ! brains of Alzheimer’s patients, i

Exciting cardiac news !

Getting post-surgery patients’ j hearts stimulated can cut deaths j significantly during recuperaj tion, a British study says. “Goal Dij rected Therapy” monitors a paj tient for blood flow and the ; amount of oxygen reaching orj gans. If the level drops, a drug is | introduced to make the heart beat j faster, supplying oxygen.

Grey’s okay

Health Canada has ordered ; hair-dye makers to take lead acj etate out of “progressive” hair j colouring products, such as j Grecian Formula. It made the ; ban “based on data on skin abj sorption and possible links to ; carcinogenicity.”

Self-evident thrills

In case there was any doubt, a j leading cardiologist has concluded j that “Individuals who have had j heart attacks should not ride roller j coasters.” German physician Jurj ' gen Kuschyk found that roller j coaster thrills speed up heartj beats and cause arrhythmia. i

WE NEVER KNEW: The steep drop is bad for the heart

Toxic build-up

A study by the activist organization Environment Defence found an average of 44 chemicals, including PCBs and insecticides, in 11 Canadians who participated in a survey revealed last week. One woman in Winnipeg had four times the acceptable level of DMTP, a derivative of insecticides such as malathion, which is sprayed there to control mosquitoes.

Relax over coffee

Although coffee is known to cause short-term jumps in blood pressure, new research says it doesn’t seem to cause long-term hypertension. More surprising, however, was the discovery that hardcore female cola drinkers may develop high blood pressure, although just why is unclear.

How Strep A kills

Scientists have discovered how the horrific flesh-eating disease functions. Although usually not deadly, streptococcus A bacterium can destroy a key messenger of the immune system, enabling its rampage to go unchecked. The finding could lead to the creation of a vaccine against necrotizing fasciitis, as the disease is properly called.


The federal Liberals are due to issue an “economic statement,” in effect a pre-election budget with tax cuts for lowand middle-income families. Meanwhile, members of the consortium trying to build the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline are expected to greenlight their $7-billion project. And Sony will pull its copy-protection software from music CDs after the program turned PCs’ operating systems into a virus writer’s playground.


Tax investments

Dutch companies have found a lucrative way to invest money: paying excessive taxes in advance. The Dutch treasury pays five per cent on excess tax that is eventually refunded, a higher return than that offered by banks, prompting Dutch companies to intentionally overpay taxes. The Dutch finance minister has called for an end to the practice.

One long lap dance

American Express is suing St. Louis-based Sawis Communications Corp. and its chief executive, Robert McCormick, to recover US$241,000 run up on a corporate credit card at a New York strip club—on a single visit.

It's hardly Adscam

Winnipeg city councillor Donald Benham made a personal purchase on his city hall credit card, it was revealed last week. He spent 99 cents of taxpayer money downloading a Captain & Tennille song from iTunes. Mayor Sam Katz described Benham’s action as “distasteful.”

It pays to be a cop

The pay proposal announced last week by the Toronto Police Service adds up to some fine money. After just four years on the beat a cop can earn a base of $69,348. Compare that with an Ontario emergency medicine resident in her fourth year of training: her base salary is $59,465.

Virtual money bags

A 23-year-old player in the online game Project Entropia spent $28,000 on virtual real estate, which he has since recouped through “rentals” and “taxes” from users of his cyberlands. The game enables players to buy and sell virtual things with real funds converted into a cyber currency.


Mystery ingredient

One in three children surveyed in Britain say they do not know what french fries are made from. Among the sources children suggested were flour, oil and apples.

Good rocking tonight

Canadians have sex on average 108 times a year, slightly ahead of a global average of 103, according to an international survey. And they’re pretty happy about it, too. Only eight per cent are dissatisfied with their sex lives. Women claim to be more satisfied than men.

Reno TV guts wallets

Canadians who watch home-renovation programs are apt to spend more money on their own home fix-ups. Twenty-nine per cent of homeowners are spurred to renovate by watching the shows and 27 per cent overspend.

Great wall of Tijuana

Sixty per cent of Americans, concerned about immigration across the Rio Grande, want a 3,200-kmlong wall between the U.S. and Mexico. The cost—US$1.4 billion.

Flu denial

Almost no Canadian companies are taking steps to address a possible influenza pandemic, such as laying in a supply of influenza drugs for key employees. But almost two-thirds believe that governments are not adequately addressing the issue.


Beland Honderlch, 86, newspaper publisher who revamped the Toronto Star from a sensationloving paper into a liberal beacon for that city’s middle class. He diversified Torstar Corp. with investments in romance novels.

John Fowles, 79, British novelist remembered mainly for The Magus and The French Lieutenant’s Woman, which was hailed for technical innovations such as its multiple endings.

Lord Lichfield, 66, celebrity photographer and cousin of the Queen. He snapped official photos of the monarch as well as film stars and politicians such as Margaret Thatcher.


Getting above it all

Roxana Pons, of Argentina, thought it was “a fantastic idea” when she read a book that outlined how to build a human-sized nest. For a year she’s lived in the one she made, explaining: “I’m not homeless, I have a house to live in. I just chose to live in a tree.”

Pikachu could cater

Getting married doesn’t mean severing childhood joys. Japan’s Hankyu-Daiichi Hotel Group offers Hello Kitty-themed weddings, with cartoon characters Hello Kitty and Dear Daniel escorting brides and grooms down the aisle.

Queen of the stars

Bulgarian astronomers have changed the name of a newly discovered asteroid in the Taurus constellation from “2005 UT12” to “Azis,” in honour of a Bulgarian transvestite gypsy folk singer.

Gems in her drawers

An Italian grandmother stole $145,000 worth of jewellery from several shops by hiding the valuables in her underwear. The 59year-old resident of Genoa said when she was caught: “I got bored with expensive holidays and little treats. It just wasn’t enough for me anymore.”

Hairstylist needed

Tyler Ing, of London, Ont., has won a place in the Guinness World Records for having the world’s longest nipple hair: 8.89 cm. Ing says his parents “looked at me kind of weird,” but now “my mum shows the book off to her friends.”

Cut across the border

Two Chinese men were arrested while trying to sneak across the border into Russia on a lawnmower. They told border guards in Russia’s Far East that they’d gotten lost while cutting grass.

For the love of Bambi

Lewis (Scooter) Libby, the Washington aide now indicted in the CIA agent scandal, will see his 1996 novel, The Apprentice, republished. Sales of the first edition are selling for thousands of dollars. One highlight is a character who has sex with a dead deer. M