Showing posts from January, 2012

Davos World Economic Forum ended Sunday Jan. 29

Worries about the world economy and in particular the European debt situation dominated the Davos summit that ended on January 29th. This was the 42nd annual meeting of the World Economic Forum.
    Last Thursday the Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper warned European leaders that they would need to institute difficult reforms. Harper said that western countries needed to pursue economic growth to prosper. Harper himself is prepared to make cuts in government spending and also make the waiting period for pensions longer. He seems eager to increase the sale of Canadian resources such as oil from the Oil Sands to global markets.
     Business leaders joined in the Harper chorus. The CEO of Unilever Paul Polman sang the common refrain that "we" have lived beyond their means. Of course the we that are to make sacrifices are not banks but workers who must make things better for those who would exploit them.
     The founder of the forum Klaus Schwab said he was still a bel…

Canada protests to Libya over reports of torture

The Canadian government is criticizing Libya after reports of torture by both Amnesty International and Doctors without Borders. The latter group is withdrawing doctors from Misrata because patients were brought in to be treated only to face further interrogation. The Libyan embassy in Ottawa made no comment on the accusations.
   The Libyan government the NTC has not been able to centralize power so far. Many of the cases of torture and abuse may be happening in areas still controlled by militias rather than by the central government. Canada was an active part of the coalition that helped the rebels defeat the Gadaffi regime.
    No doubt the Canadian complaints will not interfere with developing commercial relations any more than Gadaffi's abuse of prisoners in an earlier period. Not long before the rebellion started  Canada still had good commercial relationships with the Libyan government including a large project to build a new prison being carried out by a Quebec firm. For …

Canada: Several groups concerned that Canada may allow privatization of water services to foreign companies

Leaked documents that set out Canada's position on trade talks with the EU do not exempt water services. Canada is presently considering a free trade deal with Europe called CETA (Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement).
   The documents show that Canada is trying to exempt telecommunications from the agreement and also some agricultural sectors of the economy. There is no mention of water services.
     Attached to this article is a CBC audio clip that discusses the issues. On the tape there is a discussion with Stuart Trew representing the Council of Canadians. The Minister of International Trade was not available to take part in the discussion. His office did send a statement however:"The Council of Canadians and the Canadian Union of Public Employees have long claimed, erroneously, that a Canada-European Union Free Trade Agreement will threaten Canada's sovereignty over its water. Those claims are simply not true. As our government has stated previously, Cana…

Canada: Aboriginal groups claim their consent needed for Northern Gateway pipeline

The proposed Northern Gateway pipeline would run from the Tar Sands in Alberta to the Pacific Coast where oil would be shipped to mostly Asian markets. The pipeline planned by Enbridge Inc. would cost 5.5 billion dollars.
    The route of the pipeline would take it through land that belongs to several aboriginal groups. Shawn Atleo, who is national chief of the Assembly of First Nations said that the bands involved had "the right to free, prior and informed consent" over any projects that affected their territory.
    The federal Conservative government is a strong backer of the pipeline and claims it would provide jobs for natives. But a number of bands oppose the project because of the risk of a spill. The concern is not only about leaks along the route but accidents involving oil tankers along the B.C. coast. Some of the bands threaten to block the pipeline construction even if it is approved. However other bands made be able to negotiate a deal with Enbridge.

Canada: Here pussy pussy. Loose cat delays Air Canada flight

A cat escaped from its carrier before an Air Canada flight took off from Halifax Nova Scotia bound for Toronto. The flight was scheduled to leave at 5:30 AM but it was not to be.
    As soon as the cat escaped it ran into the cockpit. Then the real trouble started. The terrified cat managed to get into an area where there were wires. To get at the terrified cat part of the cockpit actually had to be disassembled.
   The plane ended up being grounded for several hours even after the cat Ripples was returned to its carrier. The wires within which the cat found refuge had to be inspected for damage. This is the first time Air Canada personnel can remember a cat getting into the cockpit of a plane. For more see this article. There is a poll about policy re pets at the bottom of the article. Those in favor of allowing pets were more than those opposed. Of those opposed most supported guide dogs as an exception. You still have time to vote.

Canada and U.S. agree to extend softwood lumber agreement for two years

The Canadian Trade Minister, Ed Fast, announced that a softwood lumber agreement between the U.S. and  Canada will be extended for another two years. The agreement settled a long running dispute between the two countries. Both countries decided that extending the current seven year agreement would be preferable to further negotiations.
  The agreement was due to expire in 2013 but will now run until 2015. The U.S. had imposed various measures on Canadian softwood lumber imports before the agreement was negotiated. The deal returned several billion in tariffs collected by the U.S.
    Canada's lumber market is more or less in the doldrums since the recession and with a slow construction industry in the U.S. Canada is expanding markets into Asia especially China. The U.S. still disputes some aspects of Canadian trade and there is an ongoing panel that is expected to give its ruling this fall. Fast says he is confident that Canada will win out. For more see this article.

Was Canadian naval officer spying for Russians?

An article in CBC news suggests that perhaps naval officer Jeffrey Delisle was spying for Russia. Delisle is accused of giving secret material to a foreign entity.
    The article points out that four Russian diplomats have had their names removed from a list of those recognized by Canada. However on reading the details of the article it is not really clear that the removal was related to the spying case.
    Two of those involved were leaving in any event simply because their terms were up. However two others had their credentials revoked after the announcement of the arrest of Delisle. Canada has made no comment on the issue. Russian media quotes the Russian foreign ministry as surprised at Canadian reports since two of the diplomats were finishing their terms in Canada.
   This does not address the issue of the other two individuals. Some commentators expressed skepticism that the Russian embassy personnel would be involved in spying. One analyst said that the Russian embassy wo…

South Korea removes ban on Canadian beef imports

South Korean media reports that imports of Canadian beef into the country can resume. The government has lifted an eight year ban on Canadian beef.
    South Korea imposed the ban after Canada had a case of Mad Cow disease. Local South Korean distributors will be allowed to sell meat from Canadian cows less than 30 months old.
     Canada has always maintained that there was no scientific evidence to support the ban and has sought a WTO review of the ban. However, in June last year Canada and South Korea agreed on a plan that would remove the ban by the end of last year. Canada agreed to suspend its plans for a WTO review in return.
    South Korea was the fourth largest importer of Canadian beef before the ban. The re-opening of the market will mean millions in returns to Canadian cattle producers. For more see this CBC article.

Bank of Canada Governor: Europe situation will slow Canada's growth

The governor of the Bank of Canada Mark Carney claims that the European debt crisis will slow both Canadian growth and global growth. Carney predicted that Canadian growth will be lower by approximately .6 per cent for the year. This will mean the Canadian GDP will be about 10 billion lower than otherwise.
    Carney decided that the Bank's key interest rate would remain at 1 per cent, a very low rate. As well he estimated that the debt crisis in Europe would lower the global growth rate by one per cent and growth in the U.S. economy by .8 per cent.
    As he has done earlier Carney warned about the high level of personal debt in Canada. This runs at about one hundred fifty per cent of personal income. Carney said:"High household debt levels in Canada could lead to a sharper-than-expected deceleration in household spending," "If there were a sudden weakening in the Canadian housing sector, it could have sizable spillover effects on other areas of the economy.&quo…

Canadian naval officer arrested for spying

Sub. Lieutenant Jeffrey Delisle who lives in the Halifax Nova Scotia area has been arrested on charges that he communicated information to a foreign entity or terrorist group. He has agreed to stay in custody and has not sought bail.
    The alleged incidents in the charge took place between July of 2007 and January of  2011. There is no indication as to what information exactly Delisle is accused of passing on nor to whom it was communicated.
    The charges involve both a breach of trust under the  Criminal Code with up to five years in prison if convicted and under the Security of Information Act that could lead to life in prison.
     Delisle has a long history with Canadian Forces having joined the reserves in 1996 and has been with the regular forces sine 2001. He was promoted in 2008. Delisle worked at HMCS Trinity intelligence. The facility tracks vessels, drones, and underwater devices as they enter and exit Canadian waters. The facility has access to secret NATO data as …

Canadian Premiers meet to discuss health care

At a meeting in Victoria B.C. Canada's premiers and territorial leaders are trying to hammer out a common policy on health care. The Conservative federal government has announced that it will guarantee health-care funding increases right up to the 2016,2017 year. Up until then the yearly increases were set at 6 per cent.
   After that, increases will be related to the growth of GDP but increases will continue at the rate of at least three per cent per annum. These increases were announced unilaterally and without consultation with the provinces as is usual before the federal government announces policy.
   Premier Jean Charest of Quebec was angry that there was no consultation with provinces on the question of funding but this unilateral declaration by the Harper federal government. Charest noted:"We have always in Canada, because of our federal system of government, had a dialogue on this, an exchange of information, a dialogue and decisions were made" Charest wants to…

Are the Liberals radical monarchists?

At the Federal Liberal convention that part members voted to retain ties with the monarchy but in a radical move also voted to legalize marijuana. In a move to encourage more people to be involved with the party the convention also passed a motion to a free category of membership. A motion to have U.S. style primaries was also rejected but narrowly.
  The motion to legalize marijuana was proposed by the Young Liberals of Canada. However, passing a resolution is one thing having it as part of the Liberal Platform come election time is quite another. Interim leader Bob Rae was coy about whether he supported legalization and whether it would be in the platform. He was also coy about whether he would be in the running for leader of the party.
    The rules now prohibit Rae from running. However those rules could be changed should the party executive decide it would be a good idea. Rae has been getting a lot of media coverage of late and sounds as if he is campaigning for leader even …

Canada: Some Canadians wait up to eight weeks for unemployment checks

As the Canadian Conservative government cuts back on government jobs there is a noticeable effect on some services including payments to jobless Canadians who collect Employment Insurance. Of course it is really unemployment insurance but the new positive spin Orwellian language  calls it Employment Insurance-as if one could not admit such an abomination as unemployment.
     At the peak of the recession Service Canada whose task is to ensure that Canadians receive their entitlement payments there were 3,000 term workers hired. However when the terms expired they were not rehired. Only about 450 workers remain and their hours have been cut from full to part time.
   Some people are waiting more than eight weeks for their first check to arrive. Service Canada promises to process claims within 28 days. However, there are now more than 80,000 claims that have gone beyond this promised deadline. Is anyone punished. Of course not.
  What the government is doing is closing about 100 proce…

Do you suffer from friggatriskaidekaphobia ?

That is fear of  Friday the Thirteenth if  the term was Greek to you! If  you do, you are not alone. The Stress Management Centre and Phobia Institute in the U.S. estimates that losses to businesses on Friday the 13th is a whopping 800 to 900 million dollars. Many people in particular avoid flying on that day. Perhaps that is lucky for people on standby!
   A National Geographic website claims that in the U.S. alone there are between 17 to 21 million who fear Friday the 13th. Statistics in Canada on auto accidents do not show any increase on Friday the 13th. Some insurers even say that claims drop because fewer people drive on that day.
   There are varying theories as to the origin of the superstition. Some claim that Cain slew his brother Abel on Friday the thirteenth. Others say the superstition arose because King Philip the fourth of France arrested the Knights Templars on Friday Oct. 13th 1307. For much more see this CBC article. Some skeptics even schedule special events for F…

Internet addicts may damage brains

Those addicted to the Internet show differences in their brains from those who are not addicted. MRI scans of those classified as addicted show damage to both the white matter and fibers that may damage cognitive functions.
    However the study of 17 adolescents by Chinese researchers with 16 controls is relatively small. The resulting cognitive impairment is similar to that observed in alcoholics and compulsive gamblers.
  Internet addiction is not officially recognized by health care authorities. However there are individuals who appear to feel a compulsion  to be on line. The desire  is compelling enough to interfere with their everyday life. If forced to stay off line such individuals show withdrawal symptoms. Certainly such behavior is very much like that of an addict. We all probably know such people as well. Perhaps even some bloggers suffer from the addiction. For much more see this CBC article

Canada: Military equipment goes missing on return trip to Canada

Ten containers shipped from Afghanistan to Canada contained sand and rocks rather than military equipment. Whoever pilfered the goods replaced them with rocks and sand so that the containers would still have significant weight.
   The good  consisted of tires, tools, and tents. There were no weapons or uniforms included.
       A.J. Maritime a Canadian company moves the materials from Afghanistan. The company president said that both in Afghanistan and Pakistan pilfering is a problem for other countries as well.
        The Canadian Dept. of  National Defence estimates the costs due to losses or property damage to be 4.7 million for 2010. Given the level of losses that work done by private contractors encounter perhaps it would actually be cheaper if such goods were moved by the military and properly guarded. For much more see this article.

Libyan students in Canada hope for funding from new government

Adel Aktaibi of St. John's Newfoundland and Labrador is one of several thousand Libyan students studying across North America. The students were being funded by the former Gadaffi government.
   However, with the rebellion and civil war the program ground to a halt temporarily. Students faced worries about their families back home as well as their financial situation where they were studying.
   The head of the Canadian Bureau for International Education went to Libya to meet with members of the Libyan Department of Higher Education and Scientific Research. The new government has guaranteed funding for students such as Aktaibi until the end of May. Nevertheless the students still face some uncertainty for the future. For more see this article.

Conservative Government calls opponents of Northern Gateway Pipeline radicals

The minister of natural resources Joe Oliver claims that what he calls radical environmentalist are trying to delay Alberta oil sands developments and thereby also derail the Canadian economy. This warning comes just a day before hearings begin into the projected Northern Gateway pipeline.
    The prime minister Stephen Harper joined the chorus by noting that the hearings could be hijacked. The proposed pipeline would deliver oil from the Alberta oil sands to Kitimat on the west coast of Canada.  From there the oil would be shipped to overseas markets.
     Over 4,3000 people are slated to speak on the pipeline over a period of 18 months. The project is naturally supported by big oil companies. The Conservative government is very much favorable to Big Oil and would like to make the process of approval of projects much quicker. In Oliver's letter there is virtually no recognition that there might be serious environmental problems that could trump development. The letter is fille…

Canada Party running for U.S. presidency

A video by a retired U.S. marine suggests that the Canada Party --his own invention--should be the U.S. presidential candidate. Comments have been both favorable and unfavorable but the likes are 3,300 with just 100 dislikes so far.
    The video touts Canadian superiority in various areas but also makes fun of Canada as well including our prime minister Stephen Harper. Chris Cannon is the name the Vancouverite uses on line.
   Cannon claims that he served six years with the U.S. marines including time as an intelligence officer and a counter-terrorism specialist. Now he teaches creative writing at the University of British Columbia. He could teach creative video production if he put his mind to it as well! His video has received more than 27,000 hits since being posted on January 3rd. I am not sure how a party, particularly a foreign party, could run for the U.S. presidency. Perhaps an Israeli party might manage it though.

While the job statistics in the U.S. looked somewhat brighter in December the situation was somewhat gloomier in Canada. Nevertheless the unemployment percentage is still considerably less here than in the U.S. even though there was a slight increase to 7.5 per cent here.
   While 18,000 new jobs were created in Canada overall there was a loss of 26,000 full time jobs in December. More Canadians were looking for work and this caused the unemployment rate to edge up by .1 per cent.
   In 2011 the Canadian economy has added 199,000 job but almost all of this growth was in the first half of the year. Most job growth has been in part time jobs rather than full time positions. Quebec has been worst effected by slow job growth losing 25,700 jobs during the year. Alberta is the province with the lowest unemployment rate at 4.9 per cent. Alberta is rich in oil and natural gas deposits. For more see this article.

Canada: Feeding the military industrial complex through the JSF

Back in 1996 the JSF Joint Strike Fighter program was begun. The program aims to replace aging existing planes with new advanced planes both in the U.S. and some allies. The program was supposed to make affordable planes by using 80 per cent of the parts of the three different models in common. But critics complain that not only is the plane not turning out to be cheap but is not even very functional. For example Winslow Wheeler an analyst for the Center for Defense Information in the U.S. says: "The history of multi-role fighters, even for single services, is terrible. They do nothing well. ... The F-35 never will be able to fulfil its mission, because it is too heavy to fight other aircraft in the air, but too fast, thin-skinned and lightly armed to support troops on the ground."
      Nevertheless nine countries signed on to the program. Canada is one of the participants. Others include the UK, Australia, Israel, and even Singapore. The U.S. will pay the bulk of develo…

Canadian Junior teams loses to Russia

Russia downed the Canadian juniors even though the Canadians had a perfect record in the preliminary round. The final score was 6 to 5.
  Russia had built a huge lead eight minutes into the third period of 6 to 1. But the Canadians fought back and scored 4 goals. It was not enough to defeat the Russian squad.
    In the second period after they got close to the Russians the Canadians took several damaging penalties. The Canadian goal tender Scott Wedgewood was not at his best either. He left the game after the fourth Russian goal after a Russian forward crashed into him.
   The Canadians will now face Finland on Thursday for the bronze medal. For more see this CBC article.

Canada: Occupy Fredericton Camp is dismantled

While many Occupy sites have already been closed down an Occupy encampment next to the city hall in Fredericton New Brunswick has been ongoing since October 15th last year. In November the mayor Brad Woodside said he wanted Fredericton to be a shining example of how to deal with protesters. He said at that time that he had no plans to close down the encampment. Fredericton is the capital of the province of New Brunswick on the Canadian east coast.
    However Woodside now claims that the protesters have stayed too long and that he is concerned about health and sanitation issues. The city ordered an evacuation notice for Jan. 1 2012. There were three protesters and one police officer at the site when it was dismantled early this morning (Jan. 3) by city workers. I have appended a video. As you can see it was still dark. It takes a minute or so to see much. You can hear the chainsaws at work. There were no arrests or injuries.
    Dana Hart a protester said that it was a cowardly act…

Canada: Nutritional supplements slow aging in mice

The entire article can be found here in CBC news. The article says it might be possible to "cure" aging. This language is a bit strange. I did not know that aging was a disease. I thought it was a natural process common to all living beings. However, the idea of extending our life span is no doubt something that many of us would desire as long as we remained relatively healthy.
    Researchers at McMaster University in Hamilton Ontario  found that mice that took their supplement actually learned tasks faster as they aged! Instead of their motor functions slowing down as is common as people age they acted like restless teenagers! This could be embarrassing for teenagers if the same thing happens with grandpa and grandma when they partake of this potent cocktail of nutrients.
   The researchers were able to double the lifespan of crickets. Although most of the supplements used in the experiments can be found at health food stores, researchers warn that they have not been…

Canada scores perfect record at World Junior Hockey Championships

In the preliminary round the Canadian junior team scored a perfect record of 4 wins and 0 losses. Their final game of the first round was against the U.S. Canada won by a score of 3 to 2. The Canadians scored 27 goals while letting in only 5 in the games played so far.
  The U.S. Canadian game was close even though Canada was ahead 3 to 0 after the first period. The U.S. fought back in the third period and scored two goals in the third period with just under seven minutes remaining. The Canadians manage to regroup and hold off the U.S. for the win.
   The U.S. has had a poor series. A 5 to 2 loss against the Czech Republic knocked the U.S. team out of the medal round after an earlier U.S. loss to Finland. For more see this article.