Stuff Happens, week 34: One little boy changes everything.

The Syrian refugee crisis has convulsed Europe for weeks now, while making only the tiniest dent in the North American conscience. But that all changed this weeks thanks to one little boy, and one gut-wrenching photograph.

All this year, thousands of desperate Syrian refugees have been pouring into Europe in numbers far too numerous for Europe to handle. They’re escaping the six-year Syrian war which has pitted the dictatorship of Bashar Assad (who has no problem killing his own citizens) against anti-government rebels (no slouches in the atrocity department) and ISIS (which has no problem killing everyone). An estimated 3,000 refugees have drowned trying to get anywhere but Syria. Earlier this week, a truck jammed with 71 dead migrants was found at the side of a road in Austria. Horrible events all, but the death of one boy has galvanized the world. Three-year-old Alan Kurdi drowned along with his brother and mother trying to get to Greece; the father survived. Alan’s body washed ashore in Turkey, and the photo of his lifeless body, clad in a cheery red shirt,  lying face down on the beach, is perhaps the most heart-wrenching photo ever (I won’t add it here, it’s just too, too sad). If one photo can galvanize the public and politicians to do something, this might be it. I am reminded of that famous photo from the Vietnam war of the napalmed little girl running naked down a road. Now, Alan Kurdi’s tragic death might become the enduring image of the worst humanitarian crisis since the second world war. On Saturday, Germany allowed 7,000 migrants into the country, welcomed with applause from some. What has Canada, land of immigrants, done during this crisis? We’ve allowed 2,400 Syrians into the county — over the past two years.

The Rachel Notely government laid on the bad news for Albertans this week … the provincial deficit would be as high at $6.5 billion this year. So, how does that rate on the deficit scale? Well, Justin Trudeau has campaigned on running small deficits of a couple of billion dollars or so, and that’s for running an entire country. So, yes, this is pretty grim. Alberta is in recession, and unless oil prices rebound big time — this doesn’t seem likely in the short term — massive deficits are going to be the norm for Alberta. Of course, the NDP blamed the former Conservative government, but that’s pretty much the last time they can sing the ‘Blame Prentice’ song. Tough decisions will have to be made, so, welcome to the big time, NDP. It’s your show now. And still in the bad news department, the Wildrose won the byelection in Calgary called to replace Jim Prentice, who cowardly PC leader who quit on election night. The good news? The new MLAs name is Panda! Adorable!

From the Only in America department comes the story of the Kentucky country clerk, Kim Davis, who refused to issue marriage licences to gay couples, claiming the usual religious objections. You’d think there would be some amicable way to settle this — maybe move her to another department, get someone else to issue the licenses, or even fire her — but not in America. A country clerk is an elected position, for whatever reason, so you can’t just fire her or move her somewhere else. She has defied court order to issue licences, so she has been sent to jail, where she is as of this writing.

And finally, at the West Point military academy last month, someone thought it would be a great idea to have a huge pillow fight for the cream of the American military’s future leaders. Didn’t go quite as well as planned; some of the future military leaders thought it would be fun to load the pillow cases with items a little heavier than feathers — like helmets. Twenty-four cadets suffered concussions.

RIP: Wes Craven, a master of horror cinema and a proponent of the slasher genre who was best known for creating the “Nightmare on Elm Street” and “Scream” franchises, at 76 … Dean Jones, all-American nice guy star of innumerable Disney movies (The Love Bug) in the 1960s, at 84 … Wayne Dyer, American self-help author and motivational speaker, at 75. His first book, Your Erroneous Zones (1976), sold an estimated 35 million copies. 

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