Wednesday Night #1533

Written by  //  July 20, 2011  //  Guy Stanley, Wednesday Nights  //  No comments

The Prologue
Maureen Farrow‘s appearance this Wednesday could not be more timely; we eagerly await her world view.
World news continues to be dominated by economic issues including the debt ceiling crisis in the U.S. and the Greek Crisis ; on the latter, Rodrigue Tremblay has weighed in with a new commentary — Greece and the Euro: A Time of Excessive and Unproductive Debt and of Financial Implosion . Kimon will no doubt have new interpretations of the ever-evolving scene to share with us.  The Financial Times reports that Jean-Claude Trichet and Angela Merkel are at odds (not for the first time) over the Greek bail-out. Since last week, Italy has been added to the list of concerns. Meantime results of the bank stress tests were released on Friday and greeted with some scepticism by the initiated and bewilderment by the rest of us. Fortunately for us, Tony Deutsch is there to clarify: “Bank stress tests. This is simply an attempt to calculate, based on audited balance-sheet type data, what would happen to the particular bank if the asset values were to shrink by pre-determined percentages , in terms of liquidity and  of invested capital. Obviously, if the asset shrinkage were 100%, all banks would fail. What constitutes “‘pass” or “fail” on these tests depends critically on the assumed percentage of losses.”
The intransigence of the U.S. Congress continues to shock and appall the thinking world. Reuters ‘snapshot’ of developments in the debt talks brings to mind Stephen Leacock’s phrase “Lord Ronald … rode madly off in all directions”. Indeed that is what the various members of Congress are doing. Our favorite panel, Brooks & Shields has gone in a week from mildly optimistic to an admission that neither can predict what will happen. The latest Pew Research Center findings indicate that the public sentiment mirrors the sharp divisions among the politicians, although the public is perhaps somewhat more honest in appraising its understanding of the issue – only 18% feel they understand it very well.   One positive note reported by CTV Independent voters siding with Obama on debt fight  and let us not forget that it is the independent voters who decide elections. Politicians ignore them at their peril.
In a minor footnote, we are dismayed that faced with this unbelievably fractious and fractured Congress, President Obama has decided not to nominate Elizabeth Warren as head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau – the entity for whose creation she battled so fiercely.
China’s misadventures with the 3 Gorges Dam have been a recurring topic, but we have been paying less attention to the fact that Chinese Energy Policies Harming Neighbors – and India in particular. “China’s omnivorous energy requirements have been attracting increasing attention as of late, as Beijing attempts to secure any and all sources of power for its growing industrial base.”  Reuters offers a brief but comprehensive analysis that reminds that even “Plans to use massive new hydropower development to boost China’s power capacity by nearly half by 2015 will not dent coal demand enough to cut greenhouse gas emissions and could further damage the country’s strained river system.”
Moving on to Canada, the Globe & Mail is asking why we are hearing so little about the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), between Canada and the EU, Perplexing silence hangs over proposed Canada, E.U. trade pact contrasting the lack of public discussion with the (to our minds) very healthy debate over NAFTA. In a second article, Stephen Chase cites “The Trade Justice Network, a coalition of groups that includes the Council of Canadians and labour organizations, [which] say studies of the proposed CETA would result in between 28,000 and 150,000 lost jobs and increase drug costs by $2.8-billion. They warn it would also threaten buy-local purchasing policies in Canadian municipalities and utilities.” In our preoccupation with the assorted debt crises (and, of course the News of the World story), we seem to have overlooked this development, which appears to be Fast-tracked (couldn’t resist the play on the Minister’s name).
Another piece of news that may have been overlooked is the report from the Canadian Press that India is looking for Canadian partners to sell nuclear reactors in new markets, like Africa.
And finally, on the Canadian scene, RCI informs us that The Canadian Tourism Commission is launching a new campaign aimed at attracting visitors who don’t worry about how much money they spend on vacation. … the commission is highlighting nearly 50 unique and exotic experiences and adventures that fall outside of the norm. These include a buggy ride to photograph polar bears in Churchill, Manitoba, inching across a swinging suspension bridge over a ravine in British Columbia’s Mountains and tidal bore rafting on Nova Scotia’s Shubenacadie River. Unfortunately, we have been unable to find further details of the campaign (suggesting a certain lack of PR on the part of the CTC), however, we are sure that our intrepid Wednesday Nighters could suggest equally challenging typically Canadian experiences, starting with driving in and out of Montreal!
We leave aside the Middle East and North Africa as the situation doesn’t appear to have changed greatly in any of the countries currently in turmoil, but, in the week in which we celebrate Nelson Mandela’s (93rd) birthday and the world is talking about Keeping Nelson Mandela’s legacy alive, we cannot ignore the devastating drought and consequent famine in the Horn of Africa. CBC’s Brian Stewart’s searing coverage Drought in the Horn of Africa, does the world still care? stands out, along with articles in several of the leading British papers (e.g. The Telegraph reprinted in the Ottawa Citizen), but either world resources are exhausted, or our ability to absorb the depths of the tragedy and the huge needs of the victims has simply run out. World Vision reports that “Half a million children affected by the drought in the Horn of Africa may be separated from their families and loved ones, increasing their vulnerability in the midst of what is being described as the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.” It would be a good thing if the members of the U.S. Congress – and many other politicians around the world were made to sit and watch the traumatising pictures of the suffering – maybe that would force them to put their petty politicking into perspective.
And so we come full circle on a sad and grim note.
But, we must maintain our tradition of offering a tidbit of off-beat news, so this week’s will be the revelation that “Young women across Russia have been called on to show their support for Vladimir Putin in an unusual way: by ripping off their clothes.” We will say no more, you can read the article.

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