Wednesday Night #1634

Written by  //  June 25, 2013  //  Wednesday Nights  //  No comments

The good news is that Montreal again has a mayor  (our third in seven months) – the bad news is that it isn’t Naheed Nenshi, new Canadian super hero.

More good news: the Alberta floods have abated and Calgary clean-up is well underway, with commitment that the Stampede will open on July 5thcome hell or high water, says the CEO in a singularly apt turn of phrase. We continue to be impressed by the amazing spirit of Albertans, the leadership of afore-mentioned Mayor Nenshi, along with Premier Alison Redford and her team.
The only discordant note is that Alberta could have reduced flood damage, critics say
Government failed to act on report shelved after disastrous 2005 flood
Successive Alberta Conservative governments failed to act on a shelved 2006 flood-mitigation report that critics now say may have significantly reduced flooding, the displacement of thousands of people, and potentially hundreds of millions of dollars in damages.

In contrast with the Alberta news is the devastation wreaked by flash floods in India and Nepal where it is estimated that more than 50,000 people are still stranded.

And in Singapore the prevailing winds have changed, clearing the dangerous haze caused by the slash-and-burn fires on Sumatra. Indonesia’s president has apologized – and two farmers have been arrested. Somehow, we doubt that these two unfortunates were solely responsible for the crisis, but we aren’t holding our breath in anticipation of the prosecution of the big companies.

Of course, many Canadians (along with much of the world) are riveted to the story of the elusive Edward Snowden, his flight from Hong Kong, aided and abetted by Julian Assange’s band of merry wikileakers. It appears that he is currently holed-up in the international transit lounge – the pre-immigration area of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport, therefore technically not yet on Russian soil – and the Russians have no intention of handing him over to the U.S.  In all the coverage of Mr. Snowden, the aspect that struck us comes from the statement in Monday’s piece in the New York Times about his departure from Hong Kong — “Mr. Snowden was deeply dismayed to learn that he could spend years in prison without access to a computer …” One might have thought that he would have other preoccupations. Is he now worried about Internet access in Ecuador?

Meantime, the refusal of the Russians to cooperate in the Snowden case as President Obama requested casts an addiitional pall on the (albeit somewhat remote) possibility that the two countries might be effective in bringing Syrian factions and other interested parties to the table for talks.  Already, there are too many squabbles among the states on the same side of the table.

But between Alberta’s floods and Snowden’s fate, this and many international stories are being overlooked.

One would be last week’s massive protests in Brazil triggered by an announced increase in mass transportation fees, but symptomatic of a much deeper malaise of the middle class over the stagnating economy, inflation, corruption, and massive spending on infrastructure for the World Cup and Olympics. (Sounds familiar) Spiegel has published a very thorough – and disheartening analysis Inflation and Corruption Fuel Revolt

Another is the deterioration of prospects for peace talks in Qatar with the Taliban. Initially characterized by spats over protocol, Tuesday’s attack on buildings near the presidential palace has every possibility of derailing the talks, at least temporarily.

Surely not related, however today’s news from Qatar (last in our spotlight for its attempt to woo ICAO from Montreal) is that the Emir has abdicated in favour of his son. The Guardian helpfully posts 12 things you ought to know [about Qatar] Not only does the emirate have a new emir, it has money – and gas – to burn. We’re going to hear a lot more about this country in the coming decades. Not only does it remind us that Qatar is very, very rich, but in case that didn’t sink in, “They own everything”, including “Harrods, the Shard, the Chelsea Barracks site, the US embassy and the Olympic village site, among many others. It is also the largest shareholder in Sainsbury’s, with just over a quarter of the business. And it co-owns Miramax Films after purchasing it from Disney with a group of other investors.”

What of Turkey, where protests similar to those in Brazil, but for somewhat different reasons, occupied the attention of traditional and social media for nearly three weeks? For three days there has been no news other than the delay of the talks on EU membership.

As all await the pundits’ dissection of President Obama’s speech at Georgetown University (plug for Diana’s alma mater) on his proposed climate change action plan, we would direct your attention to a news item forwarded by Teresa Jones (interesting that she sees these items long before we hear anything about them in our media) Too Green to Be True? Researchers Develop Highly Effective Method for Converting CO2 Into Methanol – and where are these researchers? Université de Laval.

Lighter moment:
As most of you must know, Jon Stewart is taking a three-month holiday from The Daily Show, leaving its anchor in the hands of John Oliver. While it got off to a slightly rocky start, we think you will enjoy this segment on the perils of emulating the Canadian banking system

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