January 30 2006


January 30 2006




A warm, fuzzy border

India and Pakistan are talking their way to an enduring peace. A summit between the nuclear powers began with an official statement of gratitude for India’s aid to Pakistani earthquake victims in October, and ended with an agreement to develop new measures to ease border tensions. The neighbours still have deep differences, particularly with regard to the disputed Kashmir region. But three years ago, nuclear confrontation seemed terrifyingly close. Both sides have been forced into greater co-operation in the U.S.-led war on terror, and relations have been improving since peace talks started in 2003.

Schooling the U.S.

The Bring Back New Orleans Commission has tabled its strategy for rebuilding the city’s shattered school system. It calls for devolution of power from superintendents and school boards to individual principals, allowing students greater freedom to choose which school to attend. New Orleans based its plan substantially on lessons learned from the school system in Oakland, Calif. Dedicated Maclean’s readers will know Oakland rebuilt its system largely on a model pioneered by Edmonton’s public schools.

‘Vacuous’& dangerous

Two weeks ago, Iran resumed its nuclear program in violation of an agreement with France, Germany and Britain. Last week, it proposed a resumption of talks with the Europeans in an apparent bid to avoid a reckoning with the UN Security Council. The Europeans were having none of it. The proposal was dismissed by Britain as “vacuous,” and by Germany as “unacceptable”—“a lot of nice words without any concrete offer.” The U.S. and Europe

also continued to press Russia and China for a more vigorous response to Iran’s backsliding.

Safe sex workers

The British government is planning to decriminalize small “worker-run” brothels in an effort to provide prostitutes with a safer work environment. The new legislation would allow three women, including a receptionist or

maid, to work under one roof. The decriminalization of mini-brothels is meant to help prevent violent attacks, such as the prostitute murders that have plagued Vancouver and Edmonton in recent years. With the body count in those cities at a minimum of 40, it’s an idea worth considering.

Worth the wait

NASA’s New Horizons space probe was scheduled to blast off from Cape Canaveral last Tuesday, but high winds kept it on the launch pad. The next day, a storm knocked out power at mission control. Finally, on Thursday, the two-metre, 480-kg craft began its five-billion-kilometre, US$700million mission to examine the surface and atmosphere of Pluto. Travelling at the speed of 16 km per second, New Horizons will pass Jupiter in 2007, and reach its destination in Summer 2015.

American Diva

Kelly Clarkson pretty much owes her career to American Idol. As the first winner of the runaway reality-show hit, Clarkson has carved out an enviable career in the music biz. So fans and producers of the show were understandably miffed to discover last week that Clarkson was not allowing new contestants to sing her songs on the show. After some nasty

public rebukes, including a scolding from Idol judge Simon Cowell, Clarkson backed down...a bit. Now her manager says the singer will allow certain songs to be used “on a case-by-case” basis.

Everybody panic!

The Tokyo Stock Exchange has provided the world with an important lesson in how not to deal with a market panic. The trouble started when authorities announced a fraud investigation into a popular Internet company, prompting a rash of feverish selling. Trading got so heavy that officials at the exchange called a press conference to say they were struggling with the volume of trading and asking traders to calm down lest they crash the system. Naturally, this heightened the panic, accelerating the selloff. The exchange was forced to shut down 20 minutes early.

Earth to Ray

When New Orleans mayor, Ray Nagin, went on the radio last September to lambaste the U.S. government for its inaction, it was easy to forgive him. His city was sinking. But then, in October, he angered Hispanic groups by asking how to “make sure that New Orleans is not overrun by Mexican workers,” a reference to the labourers who were helping rebuild the city. On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, he lost it again. In a speech, he argued that the hurricanes that struck the U.S. last year were a sign that God is angry at America and black communities for their violent tendencies. He then described an imaginary conversation that he had with King, during which he asked, “Why do our young men hate each other so much that they look their brother in the face and they will take a gun and kill him in cold blood?” King’s reply, Nagin said, was: “We as a people need to fix ourselves first.” It’s good advice, Mr. Mayor.

Buzz off (II)

First, CAW president Buzz Hargrove ditched his union’s traditional electoral partner, the New Democratic Party, in favour of the front-running Liberals—never mind that the NDP was poised to run its most effective and sensible campaign since at least the Broadbent era. Hargrove then chastised the RCMP for revealing during the campaign its criminal investigation of the Liberal budget leak, as if voters had no right to know. He then levelled the preposterous charge of “separatist” at Stephen Harper and—get this—urged Canadians to vote for any party, including the avowedly separatist Bloc Québécois, in order to stop the Conservative leader from gaining power. How long before CAW members get to vote on Buzz? M