Stuff Still Happens, week 2: Caution, bad news ahead

Hoo-boy, what a bad news week for Alberta, and Canada.

Oil continued its slide, falling to below $30 a barrel. The Canadian dollar continued its slide, falling to below 70 cents US. If it weren’t for the fact that Mexico already has the peso, we’d be calling the loonie the peso of North America. Thanks to the falling dollar, the cost of fresh veggies and fruit is going through the roof here. And not to be outdone, the stock markets are tanking, for no obvious reason other than that’s what they do sometimes. The situation looks bleak for the long term, and yet there was some good news on the Edmonton economy. A hotel announced some time ago for the Ice District (sorry, that’s Ice District, with no ‘the’) has been upgraded from a mere Delta to a JW Marriott, a luxury brand of the Marriott chain. There are about 75 JW Marriott hotels around the world in resort destinations and luxury markets such as Hong Kong and Dubai, and this will be only the third in Canada. Even Calgary doesn’t have one (nyah-nyah). Quite a vote of confidence in a shaky economy.

The Mexican drug kingpin known as El Chapo was el capturedo last week, but the backstory came to light this week, and it’s straight out of Hollywood. Literally. Turns out that sometime actor and full-time scold Sean Penn tracked down El Chapo in his hideout and interviewed him for Rolling Stone magazine. Apparently, the Mexican cops got wind of it and used phone calls to track him (El Chapo, not Penn) down and capture him. Worse yet, Rolling Stone allowed El Chapo to read the article ahead of time. Now, that’s a crime.

This week in terrorism:

• a suicide bomber affiliated with ISIS detonated a bomb in a historic district of Istanbul Turkey popular with tourists, killing 10 people — at least eight of them German tourists — and wounding 15 others;

• a car bomb detonated outside a polio clinic in Pakistan (yep, they still have polio in Pakistan), killing 15;

• a couple of suicide bombers in Jakarta, Indonesia, that killed seven people (five of them the terrorists, so kind of a failure), one of them a Canadian;

• an Al Qaeda affiliate in the North African nation of Burkina Faso attacked a hotel popular with Westerners, killing at least 20. Shockingly, six of them were Canadians.

Professional blowhard Kevin O’Leary, formerly of Dragon’s Den until he took the money and ran to Shark Tank, offered to invest a million dollars into the Alberta economy if NDP premier Rachael Notley steps down, claiming she is doing so much damage to the Alberta economy that she must step aside for the good of the province. Incredibly, this bit of asinine hyperbole got major play on TV and newspapers. Marginally more interesting was O’Leary musing that he might run for the leadership of the federal Conservative party. This could be fun.

The media always likes to make a big deal out of the Golden Globes, a trinket handed out some some group called the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. They’re a nothing group that actually has only about 84 members, who are easily swayed by the attentions of the movie and TV industry. While you can certainly push an Oscar your way, you can pretty much buy a Golden Globe. As evidence of their total lack of credibility, the Golden Globes placed the film The Martian in the comedy category, and gave its star Matt Damon the best actor award, and the film the award for best comedy. Damon and director Ridley Scott accepted their awards with a straight face and without a trace of irony. Just because The Martian had more laughs in it than the last six Adam Sandler movies combined does not make it a comedy.

RIP: The biggest news of the week was the unexpected death of David Bowie, 69, one of the most influential musicians of the 20th (and 21st) centuries. Bowie released his first album in 1967, on the same day The Beatles released Sgt. Pepper’s. It bombed, but he continued on and created a staggering body of work under various guises. Incredibly, he released his latest album just two days before his death. Few performers have had as great an influence on popular music and styles as Bowie  … Lawrence Phillips, 40, a gifted running back who derailed his own career — and his life — with a series of violent criminal acts off the field, died in prison, apparently a suicide … Alan Rickman, 69, terrific British actor most famous for playing the classic villain in the first Die Hard movie, and later master of potions Severus Snape in the Harry Potter movies … Rene Angelil, 73, husband and manager of Celine Dion. Angelil heard a tape of 12-year-old Celine, took over managing her career (later marrying her), and turned her into an international megastar … Dan Haggerty, 74, bearded, manly star of the 1977-78 TV series The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams.


By Maurice Tougas

Maurice Tougas is a lifelong Albertan, award-winning writer and reporter, and a former MLA for Edmonton-Meadowlark.

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