QuickNews, Wednesday, Oct. 27.
U.S. DEMOCRATS FINALLY FLEXING SOME POPULIST MUSCLE.
* Reforms would allow unprecedented state intrusion in badly run financial institutions. Government could intervene early in banks, insurers thought to be courting disaster, dictating changes in pay, scrapping overly risky products and practices, and firing executives. Bailout fund to be created, financed by healthy banks, to prevent repeat of panicked plea to Congress for bailout funds late last year. Fed and U.S. Treasury, like Canada's Mark Carney on Monday, are determined never again to have taxpayers bail out banks and insurers like AIG that are "too big to fail." In future, "shareholders will be wiped out," not taxpayers, says administration official. Specific provisions of proposed bill here.
* U.S. Senate panel approves bill to recapture $8.5 billion (U.S.) from tax evaders. The U.S. crackdown on tax evaders and their bank enablers is designed to stem the tide of estimated $100 billion (U.S.) in annual tax-evasion losses.
* House measure would impose scrutiny of hedge funds, private equity and offshore funds. Currently unregulated "shadow-economy" players had role in epic financial-markets collapse. Panel soon to consider oversight of credit-rating ologopoly that pasted "Triple A" ratings on junk mortgages, even more central to the global credit meltdown.
* Dem leadership in Senate pressuring holdouts to get in line for "public option." Turncoat Lieberman and "blue dog" Dems on the fence or opposed to new government health insurer told they risk being remembered for "being on the wrong side of history" if they vote nay - like opponents of Social Security and Medicare before them.
* Obama announces $3.4 billion (U.S.) funding for "smart grid." Funds are downpayment on overhaul of U.S. power grids that caused 2005 N.A. blackout, and weill enable producers of power from alternative sources like solar to feed into national system. Step in right direction, says eco-columnist, but government and utility bureaucracy will make progress slow.
PENSION REFORM | Nortel retirees encouraged by Flaherty proposals unveiled Tuesday. Could pressure provinces and territories to follow Ottawa's lead.
ALL-DAY KINDERGARTEN | Cash-strapped Ontario to proceed with $500-million initiative.
Katherine Pal, Jack Bates, Fan Fei, Scarlett Moncada at Toronto's Bruce Junior school. Photo: Andrew Wallace, Toronto Star.
TORY TRANSPARENCY | Ottawa at last preparing to provide details on stimulus spending.
IGGY SHAKEUP | Chretien veteran Peter Donolo becomes Grit leader's new chief of staff. Gaffes and slumping polls spur Ignatieff to replace team that helped in his leadership bid with one better capable of running official opposition leader's office.
U.S. RECESSION ENDS | Government to make it official in Thursday announcement. 3Q GDP expected to be about 3%, first positive GDP growth since recession began December 2007. But with jobless rate still high and rising, consumers are hardly celebrating yet. The two key figures to watch for strength of U.S. recovery are weekly jobless-relief claims and ISM index, the pace of economic output. The first continues to rise, the second is too anemic to signal a robust upturn.
THE NEW CZARS | Kremlin says democracy is cumbersome, inefficient. Even with Putin's legacy of quasi-totalitarianism, megaprojects and other initiatives still not getting underway fast enough. Well, at least Ruskies are finally candid about displeasure with brief 1990s experiment with liberal democracy.
THE NEW FORD | Ford quality now meets or exceeds Asians on many models. By contrast, GM still lags far behind, and Chrysler ranks dead last in Consumer Reports' latest survey. Ford Fusion (left) ranks second only to Prius in all-important family category, where unit volume is high. Ford quality eclipses even Toyota and Honda flagships Camry and Accord, respectively. Quandary for Chrysler, especially, is major quality improvements can only be made with costly new-model introductions. Chrysler has fewest new products in pipeline, while Ford will have replaced entire line-up within two years.
HAMMER BLOW | Ritchies, 42-year-old Toronto auctioneer, is bankrupt.
AFGHAN QUAGMIRE | U.S. accepts resignation of one of its top Afghan diplomats, who quit citing likely failure of mission. Big setback for WH's current Afghan strategy, now subject of heated internal debate. Matthew Hoh, 36, distinguished veteran of Iraq war, is highly regarded at State Department, which tried to keep him on with relocation offers he rejected, and arranged for him to personally brief AfPak envoy Richard Holbrooke on his misgivings. Which are that additional forces requested by Gen. McChrystal will only further alienate civilian population; and that U.S. is "a supporting actor" in Afghanistan's decades-old civil war. Logically, routing Taliban and al-Qaeda from Afghanistan would also "require us to occupy western Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen, etc," Hoh wrote in resignation letter. The New Yorker on why Hoh quit, and PDF of Hoh's detailed resignation letter. Meanwhile, Reuters reports Pakistani soldiers ordered to fight insurgents fear Taliban retribution on their families. And Reuters blogger doubts Afghanistan is the right place to fight al-Qaeda, whose operatives are worldwide. Six U.N. staff killed this morning in Taliban attack and hostage-taking in downtown Kabul luxury hotel in third major attack on capital in recent weeks (photo above). ISAF forces don't even control Afghan capital in deadliest month of Taliban attacks since war started eight years ago.
ARE WE PARADISE OR WHAT? | Two of National Geographic's top three vacation picks are Canadian. Top-five ranking, of 133 locations judged, is: 1. Norway's Fjord region. 2. B.C.'s Kootney/Yoho National Parks. 3. Gaspe Peninsula, Quebec. (Photo; Gaspe landmark Perce rock.) 4. South Island, New Zealand. 5. Ancient Kyoto, Japan.
QUOTE OF THE DAY | "It's a war of necessity, not a war of choice. And it's a just war." Timothy Geithner, U.S. treasury secretary, addressing the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association annual meeting in New York yesterday. Geithner, anticipating G.O.P. and Wall Street opposition to proposed financial-markets reforms, said the system's continued fragility requires new regulations and a toughening of existing ones.
Courtesy The New Yorker, Nov. 2 edition.