Downtown Corner Brook, Newfoundland on a beautiful wintery Friday night. Photo by Greg Locke © 2013.
Downtown Corner Brook, Newfoundland, on a beautiful wintery Friday night after more than 30cm of snow fell over the previous two days … just another winter day on the west coast of the Atlantic Canadian province. Photo by Greg Locke © 2013.


New work on Facts and Opinions – and selected reading and viewing from elsewhere in the week past:

This week Facts and Opinions welcomed aboard Jim McNiven with his new regular column, Thoughtlines, in Commentary. In his inaugural column, Bill, Shane and Jim, McNiven tells the tale of three men who changed the modern world, from the baseball field to major political campaigns, but who remain almost unknown.

International affairs columnist Jonathan Manthorpe examined the symbolism of Japanese and Indian military exercises, and their relevance to China, in a column titled Japan moves to unshackle its military as storm clouds gather over Asia. Manthorpe also turned his attention to the renewed threat of civil war in South Sudan. Excerpt:

The sickening smell of unfulfilled vengeance hangs over fighting that broke out Sunday among rival clans in the capital of Africa’s newest nation, South Sudan — and there is an awful predictability about where it will lead.

Included among several new reports in our Dispatches section is a story about an American fraudster sentenced to six years in jail for his exploits in a strikingly grotesque line of work. Excerpt of a ProPublica story:

“Joseph Caramadre saw death as a holiday, a cause for celebration, a way to make money,” U.S. Attorney Peter Neronha declared on the courthouse steps downtown. “He stole the identities of people and used it to make money from companies who should have probably done more due diligence.”

In Canada a panel of the National Energy Board gave conditional approval to the contentious Northern Gateway pipeline proposal by Enbridge, which wants to ship oil from the Alberta oil sands overland to Canada’s West Coast, and then load it on tankers bound for Asian markets. Look for an upcoming F&O feature on the issue.

Spying – or surveillance for those who prefer the sanitized word – was again in the news this week as analysts blamed America’s National Security Agency for the loss of a $4.5 billion Brazilian aircraft contract that American aircraft manufacturer Boeing was widely expected to win. Brazil, publicly irate over American spying, awarded the contract to Sweden’s Saab AB, reported Reuters. See F&O’s Dispatches section for a report on recommendations aimed at curbing the NSA by an American expert panel appointed by United States President Barack Obama.

An interesting development, reported widely, caught our eye in Latin America: Chile’s election of former president Michelle Bachelet on a centre-left platform that promised profound change in the South American country, including using higher corporate taxes for better education, and getting big money out of politics.

And finally, if you’re considering giving someone a new bicycle for Christmas this year, you might consider that the two-wheeled mode of transportation and fun has, at least according to one columnist, become the symbol of a new conservative front in North America’s culture wars. Yes, you did read “bicycle.” No, we’re not kidding. The title of the piece, in the Boston Globe, says it all: Conservatives’ new enemy: Bikes.

— Deborah Jones