Wednesday Night # 1772

Written by  //  February 16, 2016  //  Wednesday Nights  //  No comments

Sad news – Trailblazer, bridge-builder, Victor Goldbloom dies at age 92, but what an amazing life he led! Many believe that he should have a state funeral and we concur. Saw him and Sheila at the Annual Meeting of the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada last Thursday and Friday, and had a wonderful chat with them. He looked so well.

Bombshell of the week and nothing to do with Russia and/or the Middle East, North Korea or China:
Quartz’s laconic summary Antonin Scalia died and a fight broke out over his replacement pretty well sums it up, but hardly hints at the epic struggle between President Obama and the Republican Senate that will ensue. Competition for attention is already fierce between the eulogies from all political perspectives and the adamant declarations that President Obama must not nominate a successor.  As the Boston Globe points out, “the Constitution says the president will nominate justices to fill openings on the court – not that he will do so only in odd-numbered years, or only at the beginning of his term, or only when Ted Cruz thinks he should.”

The news from Syria simply gets worse. As Faysal Itani and Hossam Abouzahr write in the World Post,  Assad and Putin Will Likely Disregard the Syria Cease-Fire and Destroy the Opposition as they “have little reason to abide by the terms, given the military imbalance on the ground. They also have several ways to work around them. Diplomacy will not survive first contact with military reality in Syria, unless the U.S. and its allies take concrete steps to ensure the regime and its backers cease all hostilities and allow humanitarian assistance to move freely.” In Russia is the big winner in Syria’s flawed ‘truce’, Shashank Joshi agrees. “As Russian airstrikes help the Assad regime make gains, and refugees flee to Europe, the agreement sees Moscow trouncing the US and its allies.”
For other twists in the Byzantine tale, see Russia’s Syria dilemmaCould the Syrian army’s recent military successes against rebel forces, and its possible conquest of Aleppo, be too much of a good thing for Moscow? Or, on the other hand Refugees are becoming Russia’s weapon of choice in Syria
Many observers look at Russia’s intervention in Syria as a means of distracting the population from the sad state of the Russian economy, while others focus on the potential gains for a strong military and economic presence in the eastern Mediterranean. Or Is the fight over a gas pipeline fuelling the world’s bloodiest conflict?

Over the past years, we have become almost inured to the barbaric practices of terrorist groups — murders, torture and suicide bombings that wreak death and havoc among civilians in public areas. But last week’s event in Nigeria was surely one of the most terrible. Three girls who showed at a camp for people who had fled Boko Haram, were welcomed and offered a place to sleep.
Early the next morning, two of the girls blew themselves up with bombs they had been concealing, killing 58 people and wounding 78. The victims were all innocent displaced persons. Young Bombers Kill 58 at Nigerian Camp for Those Fleeing Boko Haram.

In Ottawa and Montreal last week, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon was enthusiastically welcomed by politicians and the students whom he addressed alike. Our favorite opinion-maker Céline Cooper reminds us that A renewal of Canada’s relationship with the UN is good news for Montreal. However, true to their Harper government anti-UN stance, the Conservatives say Ban Ki-moon flattered Trudeau to get new UN funding. As an aside, we understand that Ban Ki-Moon and Denis Coderre hit it off at ICAO’s 70th anniversary celebration in Chicago (extra points if you know why it was held in Chicago).
There was more good news for Montreal. The Greater Montreal area has been named one of the seven smartest communities in the world due to the region’s creation of a Smart City plan dating back to 2011, its focus on extending its wired and wireless broadband infrastructure, new technologies to make city services more efficient and creating a collaborative system among businesses, institutions and citizens. In addition to Montreal, Winnipeg and Surrey, BC were also named.
This next item might please the judges as well.
Oh joy! Montreal is FINALLY studying how to improve parking. Seems the City hasn’t updated its parking policy since 1957! You’ll be happy to hear that “Harmonisation of the system across the island is a priority, officials said”; however the downside is that “boroughs would still have a say in local parking rules, and the limit of that say is still being negotiated.” And, wait for this: Wayne Larsen reveals that Westmount is ditching parking meters and most designated parking spots painted on the pavement will also disappear which should improve walkability [surely not Peter Trent’s word] and make it a lot easier for Public Works snow removal operations … the elimination of designated spaces — each one large enough to accommodate an SUV — should create room for more cars, possibly six or seven in what is now five spaces, depending on their size.
As a counterweight to all that good news, Concordia is again involved in controversy over an exceptionally generous separation payment.This time the University paid out $235k severance to Sonia Trudel who worked exactly 90 days as CFO. In an exquisite bit of irony, Trudel was recruited for her experience working with public institutions facing budget cuts.Isn’t it about time that Concordia hired a skilled negotiator for senior management contracts?
And here is depressing news: Extra, extra! More Canadians than ever don’t even follow the news
According to New data released by Statistics Canada, the number of Canadians who follow the news on a daily basis dropped from 68% in 2003 to 60% in 2013. Meanwhile, over the last decade, the number of Canadians who “rarely or never” follow the news nearly doubled from 7% in 2003 to 13% in 2013. And some of these people vote?

Just in case you missed this item while worrying about the state of the world.
Another Russian former anti-doping chief died suddenly. Nikita Kamaev, who left his post as head of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency two months ago, reportedly died after a “massive heart attack,” aged 52. The sports watchdog’s founding chairman died two weeks ago. The agency is facing a major doping scandal – but presumably these suspiciously convenient deaths will allow the blame to fall on the departed.

There hasn’t been much good news out of Nigeria recently, however, this should make you smile.
Infamous Nigerian prince is trying to scam people from space now
That Nigerian fellow who used to send you emails — he’s just not as communicative as he used to be. There’s a good reason for that: he’s trapped in space and can’t get home without your help!
It turns out that Dr. Bakare Tunde’s cousin, Abacha Tunde, has been stuck aboard the ISS for the past 14 years. According to the friends who are now trying to bring him home, he was bumped from the Soviet vessel that was supposed to return him to Earth in order to make room for additional cargo. That’s not the kind of treatment you’d expect for a man who’s been to space twice.

At the other end of the entertainment scale — as we contemplate the awful truth that Downton Abbey is really coming to an end, we ask, What will we do without the dowager countess,aka Maggie Smith,’s marvelous insults? Slate offers The Dowager Countess’ Finest Burns as a small, but valuable consolation.

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