Wednesday Night #1459

Everything is soothed by oil, and this is the reason why divers send out small quantities of it in their mouths, because it smoothes every part of which is rough. – Pliny the elder

Argentina and the Falklands – Oil and troubled waters
There is some concern that irrational greed arising from the discovery of oil under the sea off Argentina’s Atlantic coast might once again lead to an illogical confrontation with Great Britain over the Falklands and the waters surrounding them.  Whether morally right or wrong, the U.K. has prevailed during the past confrontation but petroleum increasingly provides powerful motivation and should Argentina be tempted to act in what it might consider national interest, whether rationally or not, Britain would most certainly respond.

The U.S., China and Taiwan

The “oil over troubled waters” metaphor is not universally relevant.  The relatively rapid thawing of the Arctic has posed a theoretical risk of conflict between Russia and North America over the underwater riches on this side of the world.  More recently, however, Russia’s pugnacious profile appears to have diminished considerably, giving way to the greater perceived threat from China the U.S’ largest creditor.  This perception leads one to question why the United States would risk irritating China by authorizing a large arms sale to Taiwan, especially in the light of China’s relationship with Iran.  The answer may lie in China’s decreasing antipathy towards Taiwan’s independence and closer relationship between those two closely ethnically related nations, while the continuing friendship between the U.S. and Taiwan dates back to well over half a century since that country’s independence.

“Post hoc ergo propter hoc.”
There have been some second thoughts among some sectors of the medical community concerning the rationale for mass injection of influenza vaccine.  There appears to be no doubt that there has been less morbidity and a lower rate of mortality from influenza in Canada this past season but morbidity rates fluctuate and there is currently an interesting debate as to whether this was due to the natural fluctuation in morbidity rates or the result of the mass immunization of the population.  Some experts doubt the efficacy of   both the H1N1 vaccine and that of the regular seasonal influenza virus strains and point to the possible risk, regardless of how rare, especially the devastating effects of Guillain Barré syndrome.  Course of action usually follows community standards, with most people said to be following expert advice that is based more on those community standards than on risk analysis.  The question arises as to whether this year’s favourable rate of influenza was due more to chance than to immunization, a hypothesis supported by some research.  While considering that the results of research, which like those of public opinion polls, can be predetermined by how the question is phrased, some investigations have indicated that any influenza vaccine has had nothing but a placebo effect, having no real effect, negative or positive, on morbidity rates.

Haiti

The world has come together to support Haiti in this terrible time of crisis.  France has announced its decision to rescind Haiti’s debt dating back to 1805.  Nations and individuals have demonstrated their support with volunteers, money, expertise and supplies, all freely offered.  Celebrities have given of their time and talent to raise money, although some, including politicians, actors and media stars who appear to have acted more out of self-interest than sympathy by appearing and travelling in Haiti to no obvious end other than a photo-op, thus pre-empting the time of volunteers who would otherwise be working to relieve the suffering of the earthquake victims, this in stark contrast to such celebrities as Bill Clinton and Al Gore who, at their own expense, accompanied neither by cameras nor publicity, flew supplies using private planes, to aid the victims of  Hurricane Katrina’s 2005 Louisiana floods .

The market
The stock market trend, notably high on January 15, was followed by a selloff on February fifth, then an up-leg which may be attributed to the rising fortunes of U.S. companies with an Asian connection.  This upward move is expected to continue until the end of this month.



[1] I got this quote from Bartlett.  I know Pliny won’t object, but I don’t know if Bartlett holds a current copyright.  I trust your judgment.The Year of the Tiger: Drama, intensity, change and travel will be the keywords for the year of the tiger. World conflicts and disasters tend to feature during Tiger years also, so it won’t be a dull 12 months for anyone. New inventions and incredible technological advances have a good chance of occurring. Everything happens quickly and dramatically in a Tiger year – blink and you could miss an important chance of a lifetime!

T H E  I N V I T A T I O N

Hot off the press – or, more correctly, the TV News
Falkland Islands: First it was sovereignty, now it’s oil
Ministry of Defence steps up surveillance of Argentinian navy as tensions escalate over black gold

It will cost between $6 billion and $10 billion to refurbish the Darlington nuclear power station to extend its life by another 30 to 40 years. More

T H E  I N V I T A T I O N

We wish you Gung Hay Fat Choy! Happy New Year of the Tiger and we apologize for this late communiqué – our only excuse is that we have been involved in the frenetic planning of the Governor General’s programme when she gives the inaugural Jeanne Sauvé Address at McGill on Thursday.
What’s on your mind?
Those of you who are familiar with Facebook will understand the allusion. The others will undoubtedly grasp the concept.
Certainly, the most frequent question since last Friday evening has had nothing to do with the debate over who will solve the Greek crisis. Thanks to last Wednesday’s experts, we are well ahead of the National Post Beware Greeks bearing debt  and need no explanation of the PIGS acronym. Should anyone wish to catch up with arcane arguments, do consult EU and European Council and David has more on Wednesday-Night.com
Nor have we heard much from anyone about Sarah Palin and the Tea Party convention, although we highly recommend Frank Rich’s op-ed piece Palin’s Cunning Sleight of Hand about the dangers of mocking an iconic figure of whatever persuasion.
Haiti is still high on the list, but the only new development is Stephen Harper’s trip there (with which we completely disagree – he should stay home out of everyone’s way. People on the ground have better things to do than dance attendance on “Visiting Firemen”. That goes for the PM and all the other politico-media celebrities). We note that with typical empathy for the plight of the people, he used the opportunity to pat himself on the back for his government’s military spending.
We are sure that our nuclear enthusiasts are cheered by today’s news that President Obama announced $8.3 billion in loan guarantees to build the first U.S. nuclear power plant in nearly three decades.
The bizarre weather patterns in the south-eastern U.S. have attracted some attention and some (slightly condescending) sympathy along with considerable envy from our B.C. friends.  For the more sceptical among us, this item may be of interest:
Severe snow supports global warming

With some climate denialists in Washington citing a severe winter as evidence the long-term trend of man-made global warming and further catastrophic climate change is a fraud, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research says more severe snow is further evidence of global warming. Warmer oceans mean more water vapor hovering over the surface, which results in more snowfall for coastal cities. National Public Radio (2/15)
We are not sure how many are following the Rights & Democracy story, but it is becoming more and more of a national embarrassment. We thought David Matas’ piece in the Metropolitain one of the more reasonable accounts we have read, but there are still many questions unanswered.
On the subject of the Metropolitain – please see Alan Hustak on The politics of climate change, Cleo Paskal and her book.
We are also remiss in failing to point everyone to Robert Galbraith’s story in the Gazette on the work of the veterinarian at the Granby Zoo – be sure to check out the photo gallery.
But the burning question on everyone’s mind and lips is “What did you think of the Opening ceremony in Vancouver?” We have our opinion(s) and we look forward to hearing yours. Whatever your opinion, we hope you enjoyed the NBC tribute to Canada:   Unfortunately the YouTube version it is not complete, nor is the quality anywhere near that of the original, but at least it gives a sense of the fine piece by Tom Brokaw in the pre-opening segment of the Games. NBC still has not posted it anywhere for either Americans or Canadians to see. We cannot see why it would be considered part of the Games coverage (and thus covered by the broadcast rights) and one would think that NBC would be pleased and proud that so many people are trying to find it – and would happily link to the NBC site.
There are other notes on the Olympics. Robert Galbraith is justifiably proud of the story he wrote last summer on Alexandre Bilodeau, who won Canada’s first gold medal. Here is link to his feature and photos taken this summer in the Laurentians where Bilodeau trained for this Olympic event. Robert comments “My effort covering this shy, out of the spotlight guy, has paid off with his win. In fact, I did the only story on Alex in training, even scooping the local French media.” And in the tradition of all news is local: McGill’s Jennifer Heil wins Canada’s first medal at Vancouver Olympics

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