June 19 2006


June 19 2006



U.S. forces in Iraq have suffered major blows to morale in recent months, led by the investigation into alleged atrocities by Marines at Haditha. Last week brought a much-needed victory: U.S. warplanes killed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq. Tips from Iraqis and Jordanians led the U.S. to bomb a safe house north of Baghdad, killing al-Zarqawi, who was tied to at least 24 bombings, kidnappings and beheadings since 2002. Al-Qaeda vowed to fight on.

Good news

Bigot mouth

Former native leader David Ahenakew’s conviction for promoting hatred was overturned last week by the Saskatchewan Court of Queen’s Bench, paving the way for a new trial. Clearly, Ahenakew’s 2002 statements, in which he called Jews a “disease” and praised Hitler, were reprehensible. But there is an important difference between an ignorant outburst and an organized campaign to spread hatred. As offensive as his comments were, the court was right to recognize that distinction.

China blues

More voices have joined the fight to topple China’s Internet censorship regime. First, the National Union of Journalists, which represents 40,000 reporters, editors and producers in Britain and Ireland, called for a boycott of Yahoo! to protest its co-operation with Chinese authorities in identifying dissidents online. Days later, Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google, admitted the company compromised its principles when it created a Chinese version of its site that blocks access to sites the government finds objectionable. He hinted Google may pull the plug on'the site, saying, “perhaps, now, the principled approach makes more sense.” This from the guy whose corporate motto is: don’t be evil.

Eyes on the road

Montreal city council tabled a proposal to ban cellphone use while driving last week, just a few days after eight-year-old Kevin Lepage-Bouchard was hit and killed by an SUV while riding his bike. Witnesses say the driver was speaking on a cellphone at the time of the accident. Almost all of us do it, and almost all of

us admit that phoning while driving is a distraction. Tragedies like the death of Lepage-Bouchard are becoming common. An outright ban may be an overreaction— hands-free phones, for instance, might be less objectionable—but a serious discussion on these issues is overdue.

On top of the world

A few weeks ago, the world was shocked by news that David Sharp, a 34-year-old Brit, was left to die on Mount Everest as dozens


of other climbers stepped around him on their descent from the peak. But last week, Canada welcomed home Andrew Brash, a Calgarian who proved not all climbers are without conscience. Brash abandoned his Everest ascent in late May to save a fellow climber in distress. He admitted feeling “colossal” disappointment at missing his chance to reach the summit, but said helping his comrade was “the only thing to do.” If everyone on Everest showed the same kind of compassion, perhaps the mountain wouldn’t be littered with the bodies of some 200 climbers.

All those opposed?

The Liberals and NDP accidentally allowed the Conservative budget to pass through the House last week without review. They actually forgot to stand to debate the bill. Then news broke of the anti-terror arrests in Toronto and opposition parties chose not to quiz the government on national security. They didn’t want to appear to be “making political hay” out of a sensitive issue. Those of us who appreciate a properly fiinctioning Parliament welcomed

the emergence of Stephen Harper last year as a viable alternative to Canada’s natural governing party, but substituting one-party Conservative rule for one-party Liberal rule wasn’t what we had in mind.

Woe Stanley!

It appears America has completely lost interest in the game of hockey. Initial ratings indicate that only 611,000 U.S. households watched Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals. That’s less than watched a women’s college softball game between Northwestern and Arizona on the same

Bad news

night on ESPN2, and 39 per cent fewer than watched the hockey finals two years ago on ESPN. Explain to us again why it was a good idea to put NHL games on the Outdoor Life Network? To make matters worse, the country that doesn’t care seems poised to win the cup. The Carolina Hurricanes took control of the finals after the Edmonton Oilers lost their star goalie in Game 1.

Guité guilt-ay

Disgraced former bureaucrat Chuck Guité was found guilty on five counts of fraud related to the federal sponsorship scandal last week. In all likelihood, he will now follow ad executive and co-conspirator Jean Brault to prison for at least two years. Given the evidence showing Guité’s misuse of public money, prison is probably where he belongs. But one statement he made recently can’t be denied: “The program was run by the political system and not by Charles Guité.” The bureaucrats and some of their co-conspirators in the sponsorship debacle are losing their freedom; all their political masters lost was an election.

Still no HBO...

Madness is gripping the nation to our south. Fans of HBO’s gritty western series Deadwood, outraged over the show’s cancellation, have begun to organize “National Cancel HBO Day” in protest. Fortunately, cooler heads appear to be prevailing. A lastminute deal to make a pair of TV movies rather than a full fourth season will at least give fans an appropriate finale. But let us be the first to say, since HBO still isn’t available in Canada, if Americans are determined to cancel their subscriptions we’d be happy to take them. M


The English soccer star was at the centre of the first drama of the World Cup: whether he’d be capable of playing, owing to a recent injury that left him with a broken foot. Late Thursday, medical officials scanned his foot and okayed his participation, a move cheered by teammates and fans. The only ones not applauding were Rooney’s bosses at Manchester United, his professional team. Their fear: playing too soon may cause injury setbacks to their star player/meal ticket.


Women pipe down

In the last half-century, young British women have lowered their voices by an average 23 hertz, the equivalent of a musical semitone. The main reason seems to be, according to music coaches and sound archivists, that they equate lower speaking voices with success. Indeed, politicians such as Margaret Thatcher and the rise of television anchorwomen

have fostered female interest in deeper tones. As well, women are simply bigger and therefore have a lower timbre.

Hard-wired desire

A third of all humans may be carrying a “randy” gene that enables them to have heightened reactions to sexual stimuli, while the other 60 per cent have genes that dampen their responses. In the first study linking desire with DNA, a team of Israeli researchers examined levels of desire in 148 students and found links to variations of the D4 receptor gene. In effect, three out of 10 males and

females are hard-wired for heightened sexual responses. The mutation is believed to be a relatively recent development in human genetic history, dating back no more than 50,000 years.

Magnetic touch

People with rare-earth magnets implanted beneath the skin of a finger develop a sixth sense— that of detecting electromagnetic fields. A graduate student at Arizona State University, working with two body modification artists, found that fingertips were a good place for the implant because of their rich supply of sensitive nerve endings. In the presence of electromagnetic fields, such as those given off by appliance cords, the researcher felt a distinct “buzzing” in the finger. The discovery, while fascinating, has yet to find much application, and those carrying an implant risk an unusual medical complication: the magnets eventually break down and crumble.


Cloned racers

Cloned mules ran in the 20th annual Winnemucca mule races in Nevada. Idaho Gem and his brother, Idaho Star, competed against six “natural” mules for a US$8,500 purse. It was the first time in history that cloned animals participated in a professional contest. In the qualifying heats, Gem completed the 350-yard course in 21.817 seconds and Star came in less than three one-hundreds of a second slower. However, both lost to the naturals in the final race.

Old lions’ den

The Chhatbir Zoo in the Indian Punjab has opened a geriatric home for lions. The space provides a diet of ground meat and vitamins for aging monarchs with

faulty teeth, as well as sanctuary from younger, more aggressive lions. Many of the elderly cats are actually hybrids, remnants of a failed experiment in India to interbreed Asiatic and African lions in order to increase the numbers available to zoos and circuses. Cross-breeding resulted in 300 hybrids more susceptible to disease than their pure-bred parents.


Superior soy sauce

Looking for antioxidants in your diet? Skip the burgundy and tuck into the moo shu pork. Researchers in Singapore claim that dark soy sauce has antioxidants that are 10 times more effective than those found in vitamin C or red wine. National University of Singapore researchers found that soy sauce improved blood flow by 50 per cent. But there is a downside that should discourage significantly increasing consumption of soy sauce: it is high in hypertension-causing sodium.

Eyes on disease

By examining the tiny blood vessels in the human eye, doctors may be able to get a handle on heart disease, stroke and diabetes at an early stage. Research in Australia on 20,000 patients has resulted in an imaging technique that could measure the narrowing of the minute blood vessels as an indicator of underlying disease.

Big temptation

Do oversized wine glasses contribute to alcoholism? A British addiction-treatment specialist, Nick Gully, says that in recent years stemware for wine has grown in size, as have the portions. “People have become used to these outsized glasses. They fill them up and believe it’s OK because they are only having one

glass, but that can now amount to a third of a bottle.” Gully says many alcoholism patients declare they only have one or two glasses a night, not factoring in the larger glasses.


Manilow 911

Rockdale, a suburb in Sydney, Australia, is plagued with “hoons,” hot-rod-owning youths who roar their engines every Saturday night and pump up the volume on their car radios with “doof doof” music. Authorities have enlisted a special weapon to thwart the gatherings: the music ofBarry Manilow. They hope that playing Copacabana and I Write the Songs will make the youths dissipate.

iPods kick beer’s ass

A poll by U.S.-based Student Monitor of things that university undergrads find “in” has shown that iPods are the most favoured item this year, with 73 per cent of respondents putting the music player ahead of such competing


Five days of celebrations of the 60th anniversary of the accession to the throne by Thailand’s revered and beloved King Bhumibol come to a climax in Bangkok with a glittering royal banquet that counts among the guests Prince Andrew, Sweden’s King Carl XVI Gustaf, and Japanese Emperor Akihito.

fashionable items as text messaging and the perennial frontrunner, drinking beer. It’s only the second time in the poll’s 18year history that beer has been deposed from top spot: in 1997 it lost out to the Internet.


Yanks are coming

Despite widespread concerns in the Canadian tourism industry about the decline in the number of Americans visiting, a new U.S. poll shows Americans place Canada as their No. l foreign travel choice. About half of those polled believe a trip north is very likely or somewhat likely for them. Next were Mexico and Britain.


Epic autopilot

A 33-foot sailboat, abandoned by its owner in bad weather because of engine trouble, has been located. The unidentified owner received a call last week from U.S. coast guard saying that the

Chaton De Foi, which he’d left off the coast of Costa Rica, had been found-in Hawaii. The boat simply kept on sailing with no one aboard for 7,500 km. Said a coast guard official, “It didn’t appear to have holes or big damage. It just looked like it needs a really good scrubbing because of the bird poop.”


The House of Paco Rabanne,

40, fashion company. The Paris fashion house, founded by the son of a Spanish army officer executed by Francisco Franco, is closing down in its 40th year. Rabanne introduced Drakkar Noir cologne, at one point the world’s bestselling men’s cologne. The fashion house fell into decline in the 1990s, only to be revived in 2005 under American designer Patrick Robinson, who presented just three collections. In 2000, the company was bought by the Puig family, which also controls the fashion businesses of Carolina Herrera and Nina Ricci. M