April 10 2006


April 10 2006





Next to a cure

A Canadian Catholic bishop working in Papua New Guinea voiced objections last week to the Vatican’s policy against the use of condoms to stop the spread of AIDS. Bishop Gilles Côté’s stand was especially welcome given a report published last week in The Lancet, a British medical journal. It suggested that the number of fresh HIV infections in the world appears to have peaked, thanks largely to education programs and the promotion of condom use in parts of the Third World plagued by the disease, including India, Uganda, Ethiopia and Haiti.

No mas Hamas

Canadian foreign policy has been most notable in recent years not for good decisions or bad decisions but for indecision. Ottawa, in fact, seemed perversely averse to clear and timely stances on important issues. It was thus welcome news last week that Foreign Minister Peter MacKay, without waiting for permission from the U.S. or European nations, announced Canada is cutting aid and ties to the Hamas-dominated Palestinian Authority for its failure to recognize Israel, renounce violence, and engage in peace talks. Ottawa considers Hamas a terrorist organization. Humanitarian aid will continue to be sent to Palestinians.

Until we get HBO

It’s hardly a revolution, but it’s reason for hope. After years of confusion about its mandate, and a long string of failed programs, the CBC finally appears to be focused on making shows that Canadians want to watch. Last week’s appointment of Fred Fuchs as executive director of arts and en-

tertainment programming brings in a seasoned pro with an impressive resumé, including a stint as president of Francis Ford Coppola’s American Zoetrope studios. He joins new executive director of English-language programming Kirstine Layfield, who was recently hired away from Alliance Atlantis. This injection of new blood into CBC management is a welcome sign for anyone who has trouble with the idea

that Ken Finkleman is the embodiment of Canadian culture.

Mopping up the juice

The boys of summer return this week, and Major League Baseball has finally acknowledged the obvious: the game has a steroid problem. Pro baseball last week launched an investigation into the use of performance enhancing drugs by players, to be led by former U.S. senator George Mitchell. The flaws are many. For instance, there’s no agreement on how to deal with cheaters and their places in the record books. Nevertheless, the investigation is an essential step to save what remains of the game’s integrity.


Sanction this

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard last week announced that it has successfully tested a new generation of missiles that can evade radar and anti-missile missiles. The test was one in a series of Iranian naval manoeuvres designed to emphasize the country’s “defensive capabilities.” Western military observers say the new missiles have the potential to cause havoc with Western navies and

shipping fleets in the Persian Gulf. Diplomats in Europe also warned recently that Iran is stepping up development of missiles capable of carrying atomic warheads. China and Russia were nonetheless cool last week to U.S. proposals to impose diplomatic sanctions against Iran.

The wild, wild vest

On three separate occasions leading up to the Mexico summit last week, White House spokesman Scott McClelland referred to Stephen Harper as “Prime Minister Martin.” In hindsight, his mistakes were excusable. At the summit, Harper showed up wearing the same sort of ratty fisher-

man’s vest that Paul Martin donned for a visit to the Bush ranch last year.


Presumed Liberal leadership candidate Michael Ignatieff made his coming-out speech in Ottawa last week. The most interesting, leastcovered moment came when reporters asked why he was returning to Canada after an absence of approximately his entire adult life. He answered he no longer had an appetite to live in the U.S., where 40 million people lack health insurance, 38 states allow capital punishment, abortion remains a battleground, and gay rights haven’t been entrenched. We can’t figure out why none of that bothered Ignatieff in 2000 when he left London to take a position at Harvard. We’re also puzzled that he hopes to return to Harvard when his political career here is over. But, then, we don’t lecture at Harvard.

Pray they’re wrong

According to a scientific study published in this week’s issue of the American Heart Journal, prayer is not sufficient to heal the sick, even when an entire congregation gets down on its knees. In fact, it might have a detrimental effect. Researchers recruited churchgoers to pray for designated hospital patients. But instead of getting well, prayer recipients actually suffered from increased complications—possibly, doctors speculated, due to the added pressure to heal. What’s worse, it appears a drink won’t cure you, either. Researchers found serious flaws in recent studies claiming “moderate” drinking improves heart health. No word yet on the combined effects of drinking and praying. M


The two Thunder Bay, Ont., women, who remain suspects in the Mexican resort murders of a couple from Woodbridge, Ont., called upon the Prime Minister to speak on their behalf when he visited Mexico last week. They also asked him to push for more RCMP involvement. Kim and Everall, who’ve grown much closer as friends during this month-long ordeal, said they weren’t looking for a favour, but rather justice. Asked about the case, Mexican President Vicente Fox refused to say whether they remained suspects.


Back in the saddle

Researchers at the University of Alberta asked l60 rodeo athletes and 140 spectators to recall whiplash injuries from automobile accidents. Symptoms typically lasted about half as long for

cowboys as they did for the spectators. Cowboys also took much less time off work during recovery. Scientists say it may be an attitude thing since rodeo riders don’t seem to fear pain as much as most people.

So lonely It hurts

Loneliness may be bad for your health. In a study of 229 Americans aged 50 to 68, researchers at the University of Chicago noted blood pressure tended to be higher among individuals with limited social contact. One scientist speculated the difference may be attributable to how they perceive stress—as a challenge or a threat.

Another missing link

Paleoanthropologists, working in Ethiopia’s Gawis River basin,

have unearthed a near-complete skull—found in two pieces in a gully. Although the face and cranium are different from those of modern humans, the skull clearly belongs to our ancestry. They estimate it to be between 250,000 and 500,000 years old, and say it promises to reveal a wealth of new information.

Not ready yet

If the H5N1 avian flu virus were to ever reach global pandemic levels—the possibility of that occurring is hotly debated—the news on the vaccine front isn’t promising. Research shows that the first human vaccine to protect against bird flu works only about half the time, even though doses tested were as much as 12 times stronger than those normally administered for a regular winter flu shot.

Vitamin danger

Scientists at London’s King’s College claim that high doses of vitamin supplements may increase the chances of pre-eclampsia in high-risk pregnant women. Preeclampsia, which causes dangerously high blood pressure, occurs in about three per cent of pregnancies. Earlier research suggested that vitamin C and E supplements could reduce the odds.

Safer sex on the rise

The number of HIV infections in southern India has decreased by a third among young adults over


a four-year period ending in 2004• The slowdown in one of India’s most heavily infected areas is attributed to the government’s largescale anti-AIDS effort.


Potty mouths

Adults do it, kids do it, even politicians do it. Profanity in America is commonplace—a poll found that 74 per cent say they’ve heard profanity in public and two-thirds say people swear more now than they did 20 years ago. More than 60 per cent of people polled say they use the king of all four-letter profanities—the f-word.

Web nation

Canada is now the second most wired nation in the world, behind Japan and just ahead of the United States. But the survey of 12 countries also found that regular Internet users increased only five per cent last year compared to 20 per cent in 2004And in Canada and the United States, there was no increase at all.


Nine toilets to clean

Entertainment mogul Edgar Bronfman Jr. shelled out US$26 million—more than US$7 million an acre—for a non-oceanfront estate in tony Bridgehampton, N.Y. The Warner Music CEO’s new 3.4-acre compound includes a 9,500-sq.-foot colonial-style residence with eight

bedrooms, nine washrooms and four fireplaces—but only secondfloor views of the distant Atlantic.

Monets to modern

Starting this month, Microsoft Corp. co-founder Paul Allen will make his extensive art collection-including a US$39-million Gauguin and a Bruegel, which

hasn’t been seen in public for 100 years—available at the Experience Music Project, the billionaire’s Frank Gehry-designed museum in Seattle.

On the cheap £

IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad—

whose estimated US$28-billion In-

fortune makes him the fourth richest man in the world—drives >

a 15-year-old Volvo and always “ flies economy class. The bilt

lionaire Swede, who turned 80 last 5

week, says, “People say I am

cheap and I don’t mind if they ¡5 do. But I am very proud to fol£ low the rules of our company.” d


NATO ambassadors will meet in the Moroccan capital of Rabat with officials from the so-called Mediterranean Dialogue to talk about such issues as illegal immigration. Italians will decide if they want to give PM Silvio Berlusconi another term, or dump him for a leftist. And Maoist rebels in Nepal will begin a nationwide general strike on April 3, in their ongoing campaign against King Gyanendra, who sacked the government and took absolute power last year.


Prison break

The number of young Canadians in jail dropped sharply in the year after the Youth Criminal Justice Act came into effect—April 2003. There were 17,100 youths between the ages of 12 and 17

taken into custody in those 12 months, compared to 22,700 in the previous year. One of the aims of the act, which replaced the Young Offenders Act, was to use jail as a last resort for all but the worst offenders.

Sleep well, stay thin

Still more incentive for parents to make sure children are put to bed on time each night. A study by Université Laval’s faculty of medicine found a link between lack of sleep and weight gain in children between the ages of 5 and 10. Researchers concluded the risks of a child becoming

overweight are 3.5 times higher in sleep-deprived children. It is ironic, the researchers noted, that sleep, the most sedentary activity, might be part of the obesity solution.

Thick-headed geeks

Children with the very highest IQs have brains that develop more slowly in parts than normal. The brain’s cortex, or the outer thinking part of the brain, gets thicker and then thins as a child grows into the teen years. A study in Nature claims that the cortex is thickest a few years later in kids with superior intelligence compared to those with normal IQs.


Hopped-up bison

Canada has donated 30 bison to an ice age wildlife park in far-eastern Russia—5,000 years after the last bison roamed the area. The herd, which is preparing for the trip with a menu of hay, molasses and bison “energy drink,” will travel 15 hours on a cargo plane before settling among wild horses and musk oxen. Scientists in Russia hope to eventually clone woolly mammoths, which died out more than 10,000 years ago.

Cat on the prowl

After analyzing feces found in a nature park, a Spanish ecology professor is convinced that the Iberian lynx, an endangered feline seldom seen beyond Anda-

lusia, is living near Madrid. His claim, still unconfirmed, has skeptics miffed since it comes just as the government plans to take over parkland for a motorway expansion. The highway project is now on hold.


Crude messages

Email and text-message technology has made women more susceptible to sexual harassment at work, according to an Australian study. Perpetrators are increasingly using computers and cellphones to send pornography, threats and inappropriate propositions to women.

Nice Hpiiner, soldier

The U.S. army, which was 7,000 recruits short of its 80,000 target last year, has loosened personnel policy to allow soldiers to have tattoos on their hands and the backs of their necks, as well as permanent eyeand lipliner for women. One army official explained: “The army is America. We are America’s sons and daughters. America’s sons and daughters are getting tattoos.”

Stop the music

The Chinese edition of Rollmg Stone was shut down by the government in Beijing. The music magazine sold out its first issue last month, but officials say the local publisher did not properly register the U.S. title.

Endangered mermaid

The Little Mermaid may soon find herself heading further offshore. That’s because officials in Copenhagen are considering moving one of Denmark’s most famous landmarks (it draws more than a million visitors a year) to protect the 93-year-old bronze sculpture from tourists and vandals. Over the years, she has lost an arm and been beheaded twice.


Caspar Weinberger, 88, former U.S. defence secretary. As Nixon’s budget director, he was known as “Cap the Knife” for his hardnosed frugality, but under Reagan he persuaded Congress to spend more than US$2 trillion on the military. He was later indicted but then pardoned in the Iran Contra scandal.

Giuseppe “Joe” Morselli, 67, a former fundraiser for the Quebec wing of the Liberal party. Morselli, often described as the party’s “godfather,” was one of the key witnesses at the Gomery inquiry last year, where he was accused of soliciting cash donations and accepting improper benefits for the Grits. He died of a heart attack in Florida. M