Wednesday Night #1721

Written by  //  February 25, 2015  //  Wednesday Nights  //  No comments

A quick reminder to all that on Wednesday, the CIC is hosting an event at the University Club with Ray Boisvert, Former Assistant Director, Intelligence with CSIS and familiar to us all as a frequent television commentator (most recently  on The National‘s story on the mystery tunnel in Toronto). Titled “Terrorism in Canada: Domestic or International Challenge?”, the talk is exceptionally timely given terrorism concerns abroad and the anti-terror legislation at home. Start time 6pm for non-CIC members For more details and to register, please see http://opencanada.org/event/cic-montreal-terrorism-in-canada-domestic-of-international-challenge/

The ISIS rampage continues. Following the beheadings in Libya of the 21 Coptic Christians last week, Tuesday’s news is of the abduction in Syria of some 90 members of an ancient Assyrian Christian sect from villages near Hasaka, a city mainly held by the Kurds. The good news/bad news is that “military experts said militants were trying to open a new front to relieve pressure on Islamic State after several losses since being driven from the Syrian town of Kobani.”
Kyle Matthews writes: Combating extremism requires much more than military might. A digital strategy is key, but needs government, the private sector and NGOs to get on board (Five ways to fight ISIS online) A propos, it is appropriate to repost the news that Kyle  is taking a novel approach to raising funds that will enable a team from the the Digital Mass Atrocity Prevention (DMAP) Lab to attend an important conference in Europe. Not busy enough with his duties as senior deputy director of the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies at Concordia, Kyle is the founder of DMAP that aims to “ make Montreal a centre for combating people who are using technology and social media for evil purposes.” Every little bit helps.

As usual whenever he does anything, President Obama has been excoriated by the Fox News camp for meeting with Muslim Leaders at the White House to discuss civil rights, anti-Muslim bias, and extremism. Among the 14 was comedian Dean Obeidallah, whose somewhat light-hearted account Muslims Infiltrate the White House! Me Included! casts a very positive light on the roundtable. The kerfuffle about the meeting will pale by comparison with the firestorm unleashed by Tuesday’s veto of the Keystone XL pipeline.

In Canada, Bill C-51 dominates the news and many conversations de vive voix and on social media. It has now passed second reading with a vote of 176-87 (only the NDP and Brent Rathgeber voted against) and this despite the joint statement calling for stronger oversight of Canada’s security agencies, which was backed by four former prime ministers and five former Supreme Court justices. Now it’s off to committee. As Campbell Clark points out in the Globe & Mail, “Presumably the hearings will be brief, as they were for the last anti-terror bill. [C-51: Conservatives demand limit on anti-terror bill expert testimony] The government basically says there’s no point to much more talk. The public wants action. Just look at the polls.”. Well, yes, look at the polls and in particular, this interesting take on the Angus Reid poll: New anti-terrorism act: Irresponsible polling and media coverage which reminds us that The online poll, which had responses from 1,509 Canadians, was conducted only among members of the “Angus Reid Forum,” an online club in which people self-select and enter to win [prizes] by responding to polls sent out over e-mail.

On Stratfor Reva Bhalla links three issues: Germany and the [Greek] Eurozone crisis, the crisis in Ukraine and the nuclear negotiations with Iran. “Understanding how these crises are inextricably linked is the first step toward assessing when and where the next flare-up is likely to occur.” Her conclusion:

Germany needs a deal with Russia to be able to manage an existential crisis for the eurozone; Russia needs a deal with the United States to limit U.S. encroachment on its sphere of influence; and the United States needs a deal with Iran to refocus its attention on Russia. No conflict is divorced from the other, though each may be of a different scale. Germany and Russia can find ways to settle their differences, as can Iran and the United States. But a prolonged eurozone crisis cannot be avoided, nor can a deep Russian mistrust of U.S. intentions for its periphery.
Both issues bring the United States back to Eurasia. A distracted Germany will compel the United States to go beyond NATO boundaries to encircle Russia. Rest assured, Russia — even under severe economic stress — will find the means to respond.

The Greek crisis appears to have been temporarily solved as Eurozone Ministers Approve Greek Reform To Extend Bailout — Greece’s creditors in the 19-country eurozone have approved a list of reforms Athens proposed to get a 4-month extension to its bailout, which would keep the country afloat.Not as much as Greece wanted, but still better than an impasse. However, Greece’s future is its past gives a less sanguine view and one with which we suspect a number of knowledgeable Wednesday Nighters will agree: By letting its focus continue to be on austerity, debt renegotiation, and structural reform, Syriza and now the Greek government, seem intent on playing by the same rules as the Troika, the ECB and Germany. For an economy that has shrunk by 25% since the beginning of the financial crisis, this is extraordinary. Instead it should be looking at debt re-payment over the longer term.

The vaunted (well, maybe not) cease fire in Ukraine has been more honored in the breach. Mr. Putin maintains that ‘war is unlikely’  but we doubt that the residents of Debaltseve are totally convinced. David Cameron has announced that Britain is sending a military training mission, which will not please the Russians. Meanwhile, foreign ministers from Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France met in Paris in an attempt to bolster confidence in the ceasefire agreed in Minsk on 12 February. Not surprisingly, reports said they made little progress. Next area of concern is the Baltics.

The U.S.-Iran nuclear talks appear to be advancing, slowly, but at least there are encouraging headlines, e.g. U.S., Iran positive after nuclear talks, say much left to do. This does not make Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu happy; he has called it a bad deal and said he would do everything possible to stop it. Secretary Kerry has responded rather curtly. Obviously, once again, Bibi is trying the patience of the Administration and we can count on his doing further mischief when he speaks to Congress next Tuesday, March 3rd.

Random notes
Gerald Kaplan’s Harper is right: Foreign radicals are after the oil sands is a must-read. Dripping with sarcasm.  The radicals are the Koch brothers and his target is Senator Nicole Eaton [could someone please remind us of her qualifications].
If you missed this gem of government spending, Clement defends $2.3 million to photograph cabinet ministers . We thought the thousands of selfies would have more than responded to any need for photos of any politician.
Cambridge Five spy Guy Burgess interview unearthed by CBC — A lost 1959 interview with infamous Cold War spy Guy Burgess was found in our archives.
The story of the amazing Somaya Amiri, a refugee from Afghanistan, who has been named one of 30 Loran Scholars (out of 3,800 applicants) and will receive up to $100,000 over four years to attend university. Just over three years ago, Amiri couldn’t speak English beyond “hi” and “bye.”
For the theatre buffs among you, Jimmy Fallon’s readings of three very short- scripts by kids is guaranteed to entertain.

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