Wednesday Night #1836

Written by  //  May 17, 2017  //  Wednesday Nights  //  No comments

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MONTREAL!
On May 17, 1642, the city was founded by Paul Chomedey de Maisonneuve, who led French missionaries and settlers onto the island.
The list of events marking the occasion is varied; Wednesday evening concludes with the inauguration of the pricey new illumination of the Jacques Cartier Bridge.
This being Montreal, there will be protests.
The Montreal police union plans one in front of City Hall and another one will address catch-all animal rights/control issues (including the ill-conceived pit-bull legislation.
And there will be traffic jams as we continue to attempt to navigate around the construction on  almost all city-center streets.

What could be more appropriate than to mention here that city planner and urban designer Jeff Speck –  international expert and advocate of the importance of making cities walkable – is coming to Concordia on Thursday, June 1 as part of the 2017 Next City Vanguard Conference. His talk, The walkable city: why access is the new mobility, will be open to the public. Tickets are $10. More information

Not everyone is celebrating Montreal’s birthday. U.S. media are filled with increasingly alarmed and alarming accounts of White House misdeeds sprinkled liberally with words like Nixonian, impeachment and removal via the 25th Amendment. At a time when even The New York Times sounds somewhat hysterical, one of the more reasoned and reliable sources of information is LawFare. While it is the Comey affair that has provoked accusations of obstruction of justice -an impeachable offense- , we are far more concerned by the revelations of Mr. Trump’s handling of sensitive intelligence, with the inevitable loss of confidence among the important allied intel services (despite some public pronouncements to the contrary). We are not sure whether we are relieved or dismayed by the comment that the “strongest excuse for the president is that he had no idea what he was doing and unintentionally blurted out classified information—which isn’t very reassuring.” It is apparent that at the least, he has exhibited, as David Brooks says: ” a carelessness that quite possibly betrayed an intelligence source, and endangered a country.”

The dollar has given up all the gains it made following Trump’s presidential election win in November, and a pull-back from record highs for world stocks points to investor unease about this week’s headlines from Washington.

All of this is leading up to Trump’s trip overseas at the end of the week. A scary prospect, indeed. We wish he were not headed for the Middle East on this first trip, there is so much that can go wrong and the news that it will include an ‘inspiring yet direct’ speech, as well as a Twitter forum with young Saudis is hardly reassuring. In the run-up meeting with Turkish President Erdogan, there were no obvious gaffes, but neither was there favorable response to immediate problems (YPG & Fethullah Gülen). Trump seems to have toed the State Department line and/or the Russian one.

Beyond the turmoil in Washington, the world had other worries including North Korea‘s latest missile test on Sunday. South Korea’s new President, Moon Jae-in, is warning that there is a “high possibility” of war with North Korea. At the same time, sources are now saying that the WannaCry ransomware cyber-attack  may well be linked to North Korea. Canada did not suffer greatly from the attack, however, it was reported that the Université de Montreal was hit, with 120 of the French-language university’s 8,300 computers affected.

Meanwhile,  China was playing host over the weekend to the massive Belt and Road Forum (BRF) also known as the new Silk Road. Thirty heads of state were present including Duterte of the Philippines and Vladimir Putin.  Commentators are skeptical (See  Chinese foreign policy: Reviving the Silk Road and What Did China Accomplish at the Belt and Road Forum?)

Cause for celebration. France has installed a new (refreshingly young) President, who is firmly committed to the EU. He has a tough road ahead, with the challenge of forming a real party to successfully compete in the forthcoming parliamentary elections. Now, Austrian Foreign minister Sebastian Kurz wants to emulate Emmanuel Macron’s success. Pretty soon, Justin Trudeau will look like an elder statesman.
In Canada, we  celebrate Minister Marc Garneau’s introduction of a Passenger Bill of Rights  which  spells out clearly: people who are legitimate passengers can’t be denied boarding or [be] removed from the plane against their will.  We welcome the news that the bill also will prevent airlines from charging parents to sit next to their children if the kids are under the age of 14 (something we have found to be completely outrageous), and will have to create new standards for transporting musical instruments. To our delight, we found that
There will also have to be compensation for lost or damaged bags. Airlines will have to spell out what they will do for passengers who are delayed due to situations within an airline’s control, as well as how they will ensure passengers complete their travel if they are delayed due to weather.
The bill also will prevent airlines from charging parents to sit next to their children if the kids are under the age of 14, and will have to create new standards for transporting musical instruments. To our delight we learned that ‘United Breaks Guitars’ singer says airline passenger bill of rights signals positive direction
In the wake of a flurry of news items about Air Canada’s shoddy treatment of passengers, this is welcome news.

Aren’t we lucky to have Peter Berezin with us tonight – he has recently written that “Steady growth and falling unemployment will reduce support for populist parties over the coming 12 months. This will help keep global equities in an uptrend. Beyond then, the clouds are likely to darken.” He has an unfortunate habit of being correct.

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