Wednesday Night #1858

Written by  //  October 17, 2017  //  Wednesday Nights, Wednesday Nights Meta  //  Comments Off on Wednesday Night #1858

A quick tour d’horizon of international events before turning to the Americas, Canada, Quebec, Montreal and – Westmount.

Austria has elected (though not with a clear majority) the ÖVP and 31-year old Sebastian Kurz is set to be the next Chancellor. He will have to form a coalition with either the FPO or SPO, meaning Austria could take a turn further to the right or it could go back to the status quo of a OVP/SPO government. Not all votes have been counted, and it is unclear as of yet which will be the second-biggest party. However, polling before the election showed the far-right FPO as the big favourite to join Kurz’s OVP in a coalition government.

Catalonia‘s independence referendum has been declared illegal by the top Spanish court and Catalan leaders have been given until Thursday to renounce independence.

In China, the Communist Party congress is set to start in Beijing A fresh team of leaders in China’s top decision-making body, the Politburo Standing Committee, is expected to be unveiled, as well as a roadmap for China for the next five years. In the Asia Times, Grant Newsham writes China’s communist party congress stirs echoes of South Africa – The premise underlying both systems? Populations genetically unsuited for consensual government and hence harsh rule by a governing clique being the only alternative to chaos. Quartz helpfully offers Your simple guide to the Chinese Communist Party’s 19th congress

In Iraq, government forces have seized oil city Kirkuk from Kurds. This was the most decisive step Baghdad has taken yet to block the independence bid of the Kurds, who have governed an autonomous tract of northern Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003 and voted three weeks ago to secede. Kirkuk, one of the most ethnically and religiously diverse cities in Iraq, is located just outside the autonomous Kurdish zone. Kurds consider it the heart of their homeland; they say it was cleansed of Kurds and settled with Arabs under Saddam to secure control of the oil that was the source of Iraq’s wealth.

In Mogadishu, Somalia, a horrific truck bomb causing (at least) 500 casualties in the country’s worst terrorist attack. The Guardian states that Officials investigating attack that killed more than 300 people believe the bomber may have been motivated by desire for revenge for a raid in August. Meanwhile, Al Jazeera asks (rightly) ‘Why aren’t we all with Somalia?

IISD offers a quick wrap-up:  Annual World Bank, IMF Meetings Launch Initiatives on Poverty, Women Entrepreneurs, City Resilience

Two great science stories for you:
What’s so cool about the neutron star kilonova astronomers discovered, in 500 words
Two neutron stars collided 130 million light-years away. Thanks to LIGO, scientists were able to witness it.
At the other end of the spectrum (literally) What Scientists Just Found Deep In The Ocean
Off the coast of Egypt divers have discovered something that was thought to be lost a long time ago. It was said that the ancient city of Heracleion was lost under the sea for good. Well 1200 years later, off the bay of Aboukir, this ancient city has finally been discovered. The city dates back to the 6th century B.C. and holds some of the most beautiful artifacts you could imagine. Things like grand statues of gods and goddesses standing well over 15 feet tall and carved out of red granite, treasures of gold and rare stones, elaborate temples and enormous tablets. This find is enormous in the historical preservation community and has been commissioned by museums around the world. Take a look at this incredible city found underwater. This is not such new news (see Lost cities #6: how Thonis-Heracleion resurfaced after 1,000 years under water) , but the pictures are amazing

We do not plan this week on detailing the sins of omission and commission of the Trump administration, it’s too tiring and tiresome and you can look it up. BUT, we do recommend:

The Danger of President Pence
Trump’s critics yearn for his exit. But Mike Pence, the corporate right’s inside man, poses his own risks.
Pence has the political experience, the connections, the discipline, and the ideological mooring that Trump lacks. He also has a close relationship with the conservative billionaire donors who have captured the Republican Party’s agenda in recent years.
Pence leans so far to the right that he has occasionally echoed A.C.L.U. arguments against government overreach; he has, for instance, supported a federal shield law that would protect journalists from having to identify whistle-blowers. According to Bannon, Pence is “the outreach guy, the connective tissue” between the Trump Administration and the most conservative wing of the Republican establishment. “Trump’s got the populist nationalists,” Bannon said. “But Pence is the base. Without Pence, you don’t win.”

Round 4 of the NAFTA negotiations has concluded and Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland calls U.S. NAFTA demands ‘troubling’ and ‘unconventional’. Much has been written about the U.S. and Canadian positions, so we highly recommend How Mexico Deals with Trump – a long and worthwhile read.

While nearly everyone is delighted by the Airbus-Bombardier deal, Jeffrey Jones complains in the Globe & Mail that Bombardier deal kills dream of a new all-Canadian major commercial jet maker  seemingly ignoring the very real threat to Bombardier’s future that the trade dispute posed. He sees it as a win for Airbus, as opposed to a win-win. “There’s no question it’s a sweet deal for Airbus, as rescuer. It gets 50.01 per cent of the partnership behind the C Series, and has agreed to take on procurement, sales and marketing of the aircraft that is now the target of a nasty trade dispute in the United States, triggered by Chicago-based Boeing. Bombardier will have 30 per cent and Quebec will have 19 per cent.”

Is the bloom coming off the Trudeau government? The answer is yes, according to Janice Kennedy: So … what has Trudeau accomplished? (Hint: very little)
“Campaign promises broken or unfulfilled, bungling, displays of ineptitude, fiscal recklessness – all defiantly wrapped in a banner of staggeringly misguided self-congratulation, as if the sun were still shining – have left countless 2015 Liberal voters disillusioned with a government that has a genius for optics and rhetoric.”
and from Maclean’s Evan Solomon: “2019 is coming fast and there are two permanent opposition leaders. If the Liberals don’t start to get their files straight, it will start to look a lot like 1972. Or worse.”
The strange story of how Bill Morneau’s assets are managed absent a blind trust comes at a particularly awkward time, when the government is fiddling with tax revisions and has had to recently back down on several proposals.

In Quebec, we are so not impressed by Robert Libman’s comments about Kathleen Weil’s appointment as Quebec Minister for the anglophone community, but then, we have been deeply unimpressed by Mr. Libman since forever. Philip Authier’s somewhat skeptical take on some of the other cabinet appointments is arguably accurate. We’ll see.

In the category of Old politicians never die they just … become political commentators, Peter Trent is municipal elections commentator for CTV (11:30 pm on Sundays) and The Gazette. He is also appearing with Marlene Jennings on a municipal panel at noon (19 and 25 October, plus November 2 and 6). The October edition of The Montrealer (unfortunately not yet online) features Peter in a cover story by Peter Kerr that includes a tren(t)chant summery of his generally positive views on Mayor Coderre. A good read.

Interesting times in Westmount
We were somewhat surprised to read the Letters to the Editor of the Westmount Independent (October 3, p. 27) from Nicole Forbes and Peter Trent respectively vigorously excoriating Patrick Martin and Beryl Wajsman, candidates for the mayoralty of Westmount. Reaction from residents (and presumably voters) was swift (see the Independent of 10 October starting on p.7) and decidedly negative. Candidates campaigning door-to-door report similar views. These unfortunate interventions appear to have undermined support for Christina Smith, initially heir apparent.
Voters will have the opportunity to meet the sixteen candidates for Council seats on Wednesday evening and the following Wednesday, the 3 candidates for Mayor will be on stage. Meanwhile, you may be interested in this clip from Global news.

The headline that Flooding response dominates Pierrefonds-Roxboro campaign is a perfect segue for our proposed topic next week.  After Harvey and Irma, what’s the future of flood insurance?This hurricane season has caused widespread damage and left some parts of the U.S. and its territories in complete ruins. The National Flood Insurance Program was created in the 1960s to insure high-risk areas like these. But by bailing out homeowners, is the program encouraging people to live in flood-prone areas? ,  prompted Diana to ask Stephen Kinsman:
Is there a Canadian flood insurance equivalent?
Why do we allow people to keep rebuilding in high-risk areas?
How can we compensate them if we insist they move without penalizing all those taxpayers who have no responsibility for the choices of the few?
How to deal with those in areas that only recently – and suddenly – are in jeopardy?
With his usual thoroughness – and naturally inquisitive mind – Stephen went to work and now advises that he is ready to share his findings.

Please let us know if you would be interested and available (we know that some may come only after the Westmount candidate-mayors’ debate); otherwise we can postpone the topic until Hallowe’en.




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