December 5 2005



December 5 2005





Closure on two fronts

On the same day Ottawa agreed to an inquiry, led by former Ontario premier Bob Rae, into the troubled Air India bombing investigation, it announced $2 billion in payments to natives who were abused in residential schools. The moves may bring some much needed closure on two fronts, better late (even if by decades) than never.

Goofy for turkeys

In American Thanksgiving tradition, U.S. President George W. Bush pardoned two turkeys. In addition to being spared from becoming dinner, they were not sent to Frying Pan Park, where past birds went and often promptly died. This year, in a welcome change, the two turkeys flew first class to Disneyland to live out their days.

Finally it ends

Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey officially ended their three-year marriage, and along with it months of incessant gossip and speculation on the status of their relationship. Fortunately, the split also rules out another season of their inane reality TV show Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica.


When Jiri Fischer, defenceman for the Detroit Red Wings, suffered a seizure on the bench during a game last week, it looked like a tragedy was unfolding. But quick action from the team’s medical staff managed to restart the 25-year-old’s heart and save his life. Is anybody still questioning the value of portable cardiac defibrillators?

Beating the Danes

Canada’s Mega Bloks Inc. has won another round in its longrunning legal feud with Danish

toy giant Lego. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled the Montreal company’s interlocking plastic blocks do not infringe on Lego’s trademark. First Hans Island, now this. That’s Canada 2, Denmark 0.

Hardscrabble town

Adam Logan, a mathematician from Montreal, won the World Scrabble Championships, be-

coming the second Montrealer, after music professor Joel Wapnick won in 1999, to be crowned king of the word-making board game. Now, along with being known for its smoked meat and European ways, Montreal can be hailed as one of the truly great Scrabble capitals of the world.

The new 30

His Argos may not have made it into the Grey Cup, but quarterback Damon Allen still won the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player award. A pick-me-up for fortysomethings everywhere: Allen, a 21year veteran, is 42.

Bombs away

A leaked memo reveals Tony Blair had to talk George W. Bush out of bombing the Qatari headquarters of Arabic TV network al-Jazeera in April 2004. The White House refused to comment on the “outlandish” report, but Britain charged a top civil servant with sharing government secrets. Word has it that CBS News is now looking for basement offices.

Bad rap

French politician François Grosdidier is launching a petition for legal action against rap musicians he claims have stoked racial strife in his country. More than 9,000 cars were lit up in France’s three weeks of rioting. Meanwhile, Toronto area Liberal MP Dan McTeague wants the government to deny the rapper 50 Cent entry to Canada. Toronto has suffered a record 48 shooting deaths so far in 2005, and McTeague says 50 Cent celebrates gunplay. There is no clearer way for a politician to show he’s out of his depth than to blame musicians.


Money talks

The federal Liberals continued their pre-election bacchanal with myriad spending announcements, bringing the total pledged over the past three weeks to well past $25 billion. All the while, government and opposition MPs plumbed new rhetorical depths, labelling each other “criminals,” “liars” and “sleazebags.” Finally, something we can all agree upon.

A matter of priorities

Conrad Black, facing fraud charges in the U.S., walked out of aToronto literary party last week and told reporters he expected to be vindicated. CTV News, the National Post and several other news outlets gave his comments precedence over news that a Canadian soldier, Pte. Braun Scott Woodfield of Nova Scotia, had died in Afghanistan when his armoured vehicle rolled over during a patrol. Lord Black is a magnetic figure, but last we looked it was a rarer thing for a Canadian to give his life for his country than for him to proclaim his innocence.


At her annual literary awards ceremony, Michäelle Jean handed out an English fiction prize to novelist David Gilmour. She wore a by-now de rigueur strapless gown that was ruined from standing next to Gilmour’s Mondrian-berserk necktie. She was scheduled to fly to Vancouver to attend the 93rd Grey Cup (presumably wearing something toastier), and would see the parade, the game, and was even slated to squeeze in a meeting with B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell.


Light show of force

PHaSRs seem to be more disco inferno than hell of war. They are laser-emitting rifles the U.S. military has created to dazzle the enemy. A1995 UN protocol forbids use of laser weapons to blind enemies, so the new guns use lower-powered beams to bewilder and flummox opponents.

Flipper’s going deaf

Sonar noise, commercial vessels and oil rigs are making enough noise in the world’s oceans to threaten dolphins and whales that rely on sound to mate, find food and avoid predators. The U.S. Natural Resources Defense Council said last week the effects of the undersea racket could cause behavioural changes, loss of hearing and even death.

Found in Space

Einstein’s theory that there was a “cosmological constant” ruling the universe has finally been vindicated by astronomers measuring light from distant supernovas. They suggest that the theorized “dark energy” that seems to repel ordinary matter is moving the supernovas at a constant rate. Scientists believe this is Einstein’s proposed constant.

Undersea symphony

Earthquake researchers using listening equipment in the Antarctic Ocean have recorded musical sounds from current-driven water

rushing through crevasses on the bottom of an iceberg that ran aground. “It sounds like a horror film,” says geophysicist Vera Schlindwein. The sounds vary from a buzzing noise to melodies played by a string orchestra.


Carrion call

Forestry officials in the remote Indian state of Assam appealed last week for dead animals to feed rare and dwindling populations of sacred vultures. India has lost 95 per cent of its vultures, and the carcasses will be placed near remaining populations.

Better than vampires

Suceava, a small town in Romania, has been overrun by hundreds of owls. Although they have done no harm, residents have asked the mayor to take action. Romanian superstition says owls are harbingers of death. One theory about the invasion is that the birds were looking for food after a severe frost in the nearby woods.

Must look better dead

Sam, a Chinese-crested dog so homely that it repulsed his owner’s boyfriend into breaking up with her, has died at age 14. Featured on international TV, his hairlessness and crooked teeth earned him the label “world’s ugliest dog.” “I don’t think there’ll ever be another Sam,” his owner said. “Some people would think that’s a good thing.”

SAM: Gone to a prettier place

Don’t bite down

Jake, a 15-year-old Labrador retriever, is blind in one eye, unsteady on his feet and partly deaf. But that didn’t stop him from finding and retrieving a live grenade from a hedge in Norfolk, England, last week. Jake presented the rusting lump of metal to his owner, Stefan Bojanowski, who realized it was a Second World War grenade. Army experts safely detonated the device.

Polly wants a divorce

Hugo is a clever bird. The 12-yearold parrot could imitate perfectly the voice of his owner, Frank Ficker of Freiburg, Germany. Too clever, it turns out: Hugo imitated Frank’s voice saying “Uta, Uta.” Frank’s wife, Petra, realized he was having an affair with a woman named Uta. Proof turned up in the form of two plane tickets to Paris for Frank and Uta. Petra says she threw Frank out of the house, adding, “It’s just me and my parrot now.”


Peroxide lung

Hair-bleaching chemicals used by hairdressers can lead to asthma or rhinitis, an inflammation of the nasal membrane. A study of 47 hairdressers revealed last week that exposure to persuphate salts caused either permanent or transitory asthma.

Don’t come too soon

Males who are bom preterm seem to be have increased risk of developing high blood pressure, according to a study of 300,000 Swedish men. Males born at less than 29 weeks gestation had double the risk for high pressure than those born at full term.

Noisy recovery

The average noise levels in hospitals have been increasing, a global study disclosed last week. With sounds ranging from elec-

tronic beeps, heating and cooling rumbles and loudspeaker announcements, the decibel level in patient rooms jumped from 57 in i960 to 72 today. This may affect patients’ recovery times.

But what flavour?

Silicone breast implants are making a comeback. Nicknamed “gummy bear” implants because of the gelatin-like consistency of the material inside, their pliable but solid state means they cannot leak, unlike the old-style ones that were withdrawn amid a flurry of liability lawsuits.

Nursing an infection

A study of breast-fed Libyan babies infected with HIV suggests that they might be transmitting the disease to their mothers. The study found that among 402 children with HIV, some probably infected 18 mothers through breaks in the mothers’ skin.


Apple’s greatest hit

Apple’s iTunes has become the seventh largest seller of recorded music in the United States, passing Tower Records, Sam Goody and Borders. Although digital music sales still account for only four per cent of all music sales, it’s a 400 per cent jump over 2004. On Windows computers iTunes accounts for 70 per cent of on-line music sales.


The trial of former strongman Saddam Hussein resumes despite a threat by defence lawyers to boycott proceedings following assassinations of two colleagues. Meanwhile, creditors will vote whether to accept a restructuring plan for Stelco, which has been in bankruptcy protection for 22 months. The U.S. is scheduled to execute convicted murderer Robin Lovitt, bringing the number of executions to 1,000 since the lifting of the capital punishment moratorium in 1976.


A European currency printer made instant collector’s items recently when it printed 100-peso notes for the Philippines with the name of President Gloria MacapagalArroyo spelled incorrectly. A small number of bills were released, officials admitted last week.

Too big for backyards

The owner of the original “Hollywood” sign is selling off its remnants. Dan Bliss, who bought the sign two years ago, offered it on eBay for a minimum US$300,000. The sign was taken down in 1978 to make way for a new one.


Time over money

Among Canadian entrepreneurs, women are more interested in flexible work time than are men, according to results of a poll last week. Sixty-three per cent of women said they prized family time, compared to 51 per cent of men. Generally, men put greater emphasis on making money than did women.

Few hillbillies

Only one per cent of Ontario students say they’ve used OxyContin, the controversial prescription-drug pain reliever nicknamed “hillbilly heroin,” according to the first-ever survey for the drug, released by Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. Overall, the survey found that use of legal and illegal drugs among students in grades seven to 12 declined significantly between 2003 and 2005.


Ruth Siems, 74, the American home economist who invented Stove Top stuffing. She was credited with creating the precise size of bread crumb to give the convenience product its unique “mouth feel.”

Charles Keating, 72, Nova Scotia cable-TV entrepreneur and philanthropist and provincial Liberal backroom player. An expressway built by the Liberals near Dartmouth stands testimony to his influence: a sharp turn in its course passes directly next to the Lakeview Shopping Centres owned by Keating.

Pat Morita, 73, movie actor best known as the car wax-preoccupied mentor Mesuke Kiyagi in the 1984 hit The Karate Kid.


Dumpster gourmets

Concerned that Americans waste 27 per cent of that country’s food production, a New York City group of epicures are creating the “ffeegan” lifestyle. They hold gourmet dinner parties using only foods rescued from dumpsters. A recent evening included eggplant Parmesan and smoked mozzarella. “We find more food than we could ever eat,” says enthusiast Adam Weissman.

Winged nut

Police in Florida, brought down a fleeing naked man with a direct taser hit to his genitals. The nude 26-year-old was breaking windows and accosting females. He was taken to hospital to have a taser prong removed, and faces charges of indecent exposure and resisting arrest.

Amazon.com River

An Idaho town voted to adopt a dot-com name last week. It chose secretsanta.com, to support the online presence of a local mailorder business.

Lawns and furniture

City council in Thorold, Ont., is studying legislation to stop the use of indoor furniture outdoors. The bylaw would address the growing and unsightly practice of putting chesterfields on front

lawns for parties. This decorating idea much favoured by male university students—and the ensuing garbage-strewn mess—would result in a $2,000 fine.

Credits check

Alexei Britov had eluded police for three years. He was wanted in connection with the murder by fire-bombing of a coast guard official in the Russian Far East. But thanks to the wife of a police investigator, Britov is now in custody. She spotted his name in the closing credits of a television program on which Britov had been working as a costumer.

Making an ass of cops

It took four police cars an hour in the small Greek town of Patras to catch a gang of teenage thieves fleeing with a safe in a cart pulled by a donkey. The donkey proved more adept at negotiating the town’s narrow, winding alleys and was only thwarted when the thieves turned into a blind alley.

Kabob kibosh

The Nov. 16 World Cup soccer playoff in Istanbul was riotousvictorious players from Switzerland were pelted and even beaten as they left the stadium. Last week the miffed Swiss fought back with a local boycott of Turkish

foods. The problem is: 90 per cent of the country’s kabob stands are run by Kurds, who do anything but identify as Turks.

Chicago meats

An unenterprising bandit attempted to rob a bar in Humboldt Park, 111., last week with a ham sandwich he had moulded into the shape of a gun. The robber fell on his way out and was arrested. Meanwhile, in nearby Northlake, good Samaritan Mark Copsy rescued an elderly couple trapped inside a burning car by bashing in the windows with an eight-kg frozen turkey he’d just bought for U.S. Thanksgiving.

Think before you act -

When safety inspectors asked Benedict Frank, owner of the Cabaret Club in Switzerland, whether his decorations met fire-safety standards, Frank confidently demonstrated by setting them alight. The subsequent fire gutted not only the club, but the restaurant next door. And in Arizona, a 77-yearold hiker broke his leg while alone in the wilderness, lit a small campfire to stay warm, then tried to stand up. He fell into the fire and, by early last week, the spreading embers had burned 64 hectares. M