QuickNews, Friday, Oct. 30.
THE UNITED STATES OF EUROPE
BREAKTHROUGH | Europe on brink of superpower status. EU leaders agreed yesterday to holdout Czech Republic's remaining demands, opening way for ratification of sweeping reform Lisbon Treaty that would create post of EU presidency and more integrated foreign policy. Implications are enormous as a still more unified Europe - the ultimate realization of Jean Monnet's vision - will vie more effectively with U.S., China, India, Russia as a global powerhouse. As first pan-Europe president, Reuters analyst puts his money on Dutch Prime Minister Jan-Peter Balkenende, "a centre-right Harry Potter look-alike devoid of charisma." Mr. B.'s advantage over fading frontrunner Tony Blair is that he has no enemies, while Blair is unfondly remembered as Bush's lap dog in an Iraq invasion deeply unpopular in Europe, especially with leading powers France and Germany.
U.S. RECESSION OFFICIALLY OVER | Reports 3.5% GDP growth in 3Q. Ends longest U.S. recession in 70 years. But end of downturn that began December 2007 is no relief for 15 million unemployed Americans, meaning a brace of new U.S. stimulus measures are in the offing ahead of next year's "off-year" elections. NA. recovery remains fragile: Canada today will post expected anemic GDP growth of just 0.3%.
CANADIAN MEDICAL ADVANCE | Docs pioneer gene therapy for lung transplants. Therapy developed by team at Toronto's University Health Network repairs lungs available for transplant, making more donor lungs available, and improves outcome prospects for transplant patients. Currently more than 80% of donor lungs are discarded because they aren't healthy enough for transplant use. (Photo: Dr. Marcelo Cypel, a surgical lung transplant fellow (left) and Dr. Shef Keshavjee, senior scientist in the McEwen Centre for Regenerative Medicine at the University Health Network. -CP.)
H1N1 PANDEMIC | U.S. says as many as 5.7 million Americans infected with swine flu virus. Number based on computer modelling. Officially, 1,000 U.S. deaths attributed to virus since outbreak began in April, but computer estimates put number of virus-related deaths closer to 1,600. About 6% of those hospitalized with the virus have died. Canadian officials warn Thursday of vaccine shortages. Ontario officials plea for patience.
AFGHAN QUAGMIRE | Obama to reject McChrystal 40,000-troop request, opt for "McChrystal Light." This either is stalling for time or a disaster. A viable counter-insurgency, a la Petraeus' handbook, requires 600,000 troops for a country the size of Afghanistan, compared with only about 100,000 ISAF troops there now. McChrystal's ask was already pitifully small by that standard, doomed to fail. (Not M's fault; he knows that's as much as could hope for, given unpopularity of war in U.S., plus additional troops Obama has already deployed early this year.) My guess is Obama wants out, will give McChrystal a fraction of the 40,000 to retreat to and protect major cities, surrendering rest of country to Taliban. Obama will try in short term to protect cities - although, good luck, as we've seen from killings of U.N. officials in Kabul this week - while establishing contacts with Taliban to strike a negotiated settlement.
WHO KNEW? | In "painful" memoir, Anne Murray deals with drugs, divorce and retirement. As with Lucy Maud Montgomery, the private-life Murray has not been the charmed existence of her public persona. (Photo: Murray in 1975 in Cambridge, Mass.)
THE INTERNET AT 40 | Pentagon-sponsored project, born Oct. 29, 1969 at 10:30 p.m. Pacific Time, crashed on first try. And Net historians have been chuckling about that ever since. But then, the first photocopiers routinely caught fire as toner overheated. Amazing thing is that after four decades, cyberspace still seems bright, shiny and new - and only recently a threat to traditional mass media. A reminder about the slow pace of widespread adoption of new technologies. The internal combustion engine and television are other examples of innovations that took half a century to become pervasive. For practical purposes, the Net wasn't invented until 1990, when Sir Tim Berners-Lee created the World Wide Web, assigning addresses to each of thousands, now billions of pages on the Net, making them easily retrievable.
WE PREFER THE HUGELY FLAWED STATUS QUO | Obama's sweeping financial-market reforms get an initial thumbs-down in Congress. The remarkable scope of audacious proposed reforms was outlined here on Wednesday.
MARS BECKONS | Russian space chief exhorts Kremlin to OK manned flights to red planet. You're thinking, don't the impoverished Russians have better things to spend limited funds on? But this could be our collective Plan B if efforts to curb global heating fail.
U.S. HEALTHCARE DRAMA | Pelosi (left) unveils ambitious House bill that includes "public option." Popular support for government insurer as alternative is high because the likes of Aetna, UnitedHealth and Wellpoint have so powerfully alienated Americans with skyhigh premiums and chronic reneging on claims obligations. And in epic P.R. blunder, they're now jacking up premiums at last minute to cash in before reform passes, further weakening their fierce lobbying effort to block the reforms. Reuters mocks heft of 1,990-page House bill, bigger than War and Peace (just shy of 1,500 pages.) You hear this all the time of supposedly overly detailed legislation. Well, guess what? The most trifling piece of proposed legislation clocks in at 200 to 400 pages. A a great deal of the contents are loopholes secured by lobbyists for special pleaders - among the first to complain the resulting bill is hopelessly complex - and in this case the legislation covers nearly one-fifth of the U.S. economy. Yesterday's Tory data dump on Ottawa's stimulus spending is 4,476 pages. Deal with it.
CLIMATE CHANGE DRAMA | U.S. big business rejects own Chamber of Commerce's anti-reform stance. China, once leading denialist, now trying to take lead in progressive climate-change initiatives and global diplomacy. Scientific report out of Canadian North shows multiyear Arctic ice is now effectively gone. Solar power entrepreneurs upbeat about their profit prospects beyond 2010. Globe's Jeffrey Simpson nails it on the impractical climate-change goals Canada will present at Copenhagen summit. Actually, as Mr. S. says, the goals aren't impractical, it's Ottawa's do-nothing approach that ensures failure - and world leaders know it. Which means we'll be wallflowers in the Danish capital, as usual for these events. Meanwhile, Prentice (pictured) rips climate-change report by David Suzuki Foundation as "irresponsible." Can't imagine he's even read it yet. You see what I mean.
MSM'S ONE BRIGHT SPOT | It's cable. Cogeco Cable reports another strong quarter yesterday, following good numbers from Rogers earlier this week. More evidence that N.A. cable alone is thriving during post-Depression record ad drought. Why? Cable derives revenue not from advertisers but subscribers and the fees it charges networks to carry their signals.
NATIONAL POST R.I.P.? | Bankrupt CanWest threatens to close Post immediately if it can't transfer the loss-making paper to its healthier big-city papers division. Post has lost money in each of the 11 years since its founding in 1998 by Conrad Black. Observers expect bankruptcy court today to approve transfer, since creditors have already approved the request. CanWest argues Post is integral to operations of Ottawa Citizen, Montreal Gazette, Vancouver Sun and its other papers - a specious ploy given that in 2005 reorg CanWest removed struggling national daily from its newly formed newspaper division.
THEY NEVER LEARN | Accounting "irregularities" rise among small and big businesses. A coping mechanism during recession. This is the principal counter-argument to opponents of government-mandated reforms. Left to its own devices, business can't be trusted to do that right thing, just as Adam Smith said. Gresham's Law comes into play (bad money drives out good): Honest businesspeople are forced to adopt methods of unscruplous operators or risk being put out of business by them.
RISKY TRICK-OR-TREATING | Candy collectors in Churchill, Man. on guard against polar bears. Hallowe'en coincides with predatory bears' season of restless wandering until ice floes freeze into solid plain they migrate to. Children in "polar bear capital of the world" taught not to follow bear tracks and not to dress as polar bears or any white blob that could be mistaken for one.
QUOTE OF THE DAY | "Those exertions of the natural liberty of a few individuals which might endanger the security of the whole society are, and ought to be, restrained by the laws of all governments." -Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776).
Courtesy The New Yorker, Nov. 2 edition.