Wednesday Night #1325

25 July 2007
Our mental capabilities are exhausted from the intense and challenging conversation of last week’s Salon covering Global Governance, China, Iraq and the Geopolitics of Environmental Change including Canada’s claims to the Northwest Passage
The relevance of our WN topics was confirmed today by the BBC report today that Russia is sending a mini-submarine to explore the ocean floor below the North Pole and find evidence to support its claims to Arctic territory
We never even touched on:
the Conrad Black saga;
Stephen Harper’s (in our view) misguided pursuit of free trade with Columbia after the American Congress turned down a similar deal;
the disquieting deterioration of Russia’s relations with the West ;
the on-going unrest in Pakistan in the wake of the assault on the Red Mosque;
not even conjecture on the Harry Potter finale. Sometimes, as is the case with HP, the timeliness of the topic quickly disappears.
One week later, there is a host of new subjects to add to the agenda.
Our favorite good news is the report of the vast underground lake in Darfur whose discovery could be the key to establishing peace and economic security in the region. As the International Herald Tribune points out, there is, however, reason to be skeptical of how the government of Sudan will handle this promising development For a cynical view on this astounding news, see
This is closely followed by news of the freeing of the medical workers by Libya – and what exactly was Cecilia Sarkozy’s role in this matter?
The outcome of Turkey’s elections appears to be positive. Moody’s Investors Service anticipates that the newly re-elected Turkish government will press forward with economic and political reforms .
The devastating floods in England, give rise to the thoughtful lead article in the Independent pointing to the tensions between economic development and the environment.
Local news would include the announcement last Friday that Jocelyn Coulon will run for the Liberals against NDP-er Thomas Mulcair in Outremont’s forthcoming by-election. The parachuting of this candidate does not bode well for a free nomination process in Westmount.
The safety concerns regarding Quebec overpasses continues to be a concern, but there is no useful purpose to be served by contributing to the chatter.
We would, however, call to your attention Henry Aubin’s column in Saturday’s Gazette: Quebecers all talk but no action on environment which serves to remind us not only of our own inaction, but also that of the Quebec government on the appalling state of our lakes and waterways.
Our market mavens are once again proven right with today’s substantial drops in the Dow Jones, Nasdaq and S&P/TSX composite as North American stock markets retreated amid concerns over commodity prices, the subprime housing market and corporate earnings.
[David says that all his arrows point downwards]
And, finally, Canada has signed an energy innovation agreement with the United States and Mexico with an aim to fuel joint developments on the energy front that seek cleaner and more efficient ways to use energy. Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn said that the agreement will help set part of the agenda for the summit in Montebello, Que., next month between the leaders of the three countries. This news will likely make some Wednesday Nighters nervous in light of worries that the Montebello meeting is a prelude to full-scale North American integration [see: Canadians Completely Unaware of Looming North American Union]
We hope you will join us to partake of th Mixed Biscuits offering for this week.

The Report

Climate change and national boundaries
The visible effects of environmental change are becoming more evident with the current heat and flooding in the U.K. and Europe. Less obvious, perhaps is its potential effect, in combination with geopolitical developments, on national boundaries, particularly the state and national limits in international waterways, involving jurisdiction and ownership of underwater mineral deposits. A Russian expedition has set out to explore and claim the Arctic based on the continental shelf, by planting a Russian flag on the seabed at the North Pole, which could be detrimental to Canada’s claim. [Editor’s note: the expedition has already suffered a setback when a research ship broke down within hours of leaving Murmansk] It is believed, however, that Russia’s position is negotiable if Canada is sufficiently astute to recognize its best course is defending its own position.
Crimes of aggression & the ICC
The relationship between victory and spoils has become a cliché and while the enslavement of the citizens of the vanquished states is no longer an option, the tendency to try and execute the leaders of the losing side remains strong, with the winners defining the rules. Although the United Nations Security Council is a useful tool limited by the possibility of decisions being vetoed, the establishment of the International Criminal Court, its purpose being to prosecute individuals for war crimes, genocide, crimes against humanity and aggression, is seen as a positive step.
Created in 1998, the International Criminal Court came into being in 2002 to prosecute crimes against humanity, genocide, war crimes and crimes of aggression. However, the definition of the crime of aggression remains unresolved. Perhaps because of a not unrealistic fear of reprisals against the actions of its own leaders, the United States has not joined, although President Clinton had signed it. The American people, nevertheless, appear to have pressured their government into not using its Security Council veto to prevent the Court’s investigation into the genocide in Darfur. It remains to be seen, in light of the actions of Al Qu’aeda and the situation in Pakistan, whether the law is the correct frame to look at the big social geo-strategic problems? Can the Law attribute responsibility in the correct way? Nonetheless, the criminalization of war has been a persistent theme since the Treaty of Versailles and the prosecution of the Kaiser.
Despite the appearance of relative calm, Rwanda is a powder keg ready to explode. Peace appeared to have followed the 1994 genocide of an approximately one million people, but it seems that when the rebel army of liberation overcame the Hutu militias, the soldiers carried out widespread attacks against the civilian population, which have never been prosecuted. Although there are currently many laudatory reports regarding its stability, the reality of the situation is that the Kagamé régime is an apartheid régime with 15% (Hutu) of the population controlling the other 85% (Tutsi), while the violence has been temporarily exported to other African countries, notably the DRC
The Stock Market
Yesterday saw a sharp drop in the stock market. There is bound to be a reaction following a steep upward climb but the reality is that people don’t have much choice as to where to place their money and so they will continue to invest and the markets will continue to rise. Opportunities are still to be found in the emerging markets, where growth is about 2.5 times greater than in our markets, such as Brazil, Korea, Thailand and Taiwan, not fully taken advantage of by investors. Energy markets are much more defensive than they have been but are still growing. It is predicted that the United States dollar will continue to weaken. Wednesday Night Monetary Guru, Jacques Clément predicts that by mid 2008, the Canadian dollar will be at a premium against its U.S. counterpart.
Some Wednesday Nighters with experience of doing business in China see it as living in a bubble, a treacherous place to do business, with very little legal protection for foreign entrepreneurs for patent protection or intellectual property rights. Western firms have generally not done well there, but keep coming back for reasons of image, frequently offering their products to the Chinese market at drastically reduced prices. The recent health and safety issues regarding exports from China to the West in a wide range of goods have raised concerns about quality control across the board. In a classically Chinese solution to the scare over fake medicines, China executed its former chief drug regulator, which doesn’t solve the problem but is intended as a sign that the government takes the question seriously. More appropriate action has been taken by closing several firms at the heart of the food and drug scares.
Observers also note that in an effort to obtain bargaining chips, China has seized upon a statement by the Director-General of WHO, Margaret Chan, that the organization receives some 200 complaints about food-safety issues each month, and has accused the U.S. of exporting flawed pork and poultry
With the exception of such diseases as asthma caused by the deterioration of air quality, more people are living longer, many with a better quality of life, due in large part to preventive measures, diet and technology. Robotic surgery will play an increasing part in the successful maintenance of life, especially as younger surgeons acquire and improve the technology.
Security of Infrastructures
Since Hurricane Katrina, almost two years ago, although security procedures have been updated, very little appears to have been done by governments to secure the infrastructure, particularly in vulnerable areas. Among other known problems, the levees in New Orleans were shown to be incapable of handling a storm of that magnitude. The location of the 911 system resulted in its being knocked out – couldn’t operate under 8 feet of water, but was rapidly replaced and operational. In other places, 911 systems have been installed without backup power. In Québec, the current apparent negligence in maintaining our infrastructure appears to have been a result of the universal appeal to the public of funding more pleasing, readily visible projects.
Conrad Black
As Lord Black faces possible jail time , Wednesday Nighters debate and weigh the justice of that possible penalty and whether it would be determined by the nature and importance of the crime, arrogance, jealousy or making an example of an individual who, although perhaps guilty, may have suffered greater consequences than others before him for similar offenses. The outcome of the appeal process is eagerly anticipated.
In any discussion of Conrad Black, Adam Daifallah’s 2005 profile of this extraordinary man is pertinent and insightful.

One Comment on "Wednesday Night #1325"

  1. Diana Thébaud Nicholson July 30, 2007 at 10:36 pm ·

    COLUMN-Shelter from storm? Look to emerging markets: James Saft

    LONDON (Reuters) – Emerging markets, usually the kind of bet that goes very bad when markets get cranky, should prove a safe haven if problems in subprime and corporate lending prompt a more severe flight from risk.
    Large reserves of cash and the ability to fund in their own currencies mean emerging markets are now resilient in the face of market turmoil even if they are not immune. more

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