QuickNews, Thursday, Nov. 19.
AFGHAN DETAINEE SCANDAL | Probe sought in alleged abuse of Afghans detained by Canadian forces. High-level diplomat astonishes Commons committee with assertion of routine abuse, even torture, of Afghan detainees turned over to Afghan National Army. Norman Spector, former high-ranking PMO official, argues for full inquiry - strange bedfellow with NDP demanding same. Meanwhile, U.N. today declares Afghanistan the world's worst country in which to be born.
Afghan detainee with Canadian troops in Kandahar.
CANADA LAGS IN SOLVING YOUTH UNEMPLOYMENT | Richard Branson backs report released today in Toronto. Australia, Britain, U.S. all doing a better job in addressing youth joblessness.
CANADIAN HEALTHCARE COSTS TO HIT RECORD HIGH | Crisis is common to all affluent nations. Search is on in Canada, U.S, Europe, Japan for greater efficiencies, more emphasis on preventive medicine.
CANADIAN RETAILERS POISED FOR BIG HOLIDAY DISCOUNTS. Economy still soft. Jobs and income drought prompt merchants to promote lower-cost items, cut prices to bone on must-have kids' requests to Santa.
CREDIT CARD RELIEF? | Flaherty unveils voluntary code of practice for credit and debit card issuers, so merchants can determine lowest-cost transaction fees and pass savings on to customers in current highly competitive market conditions. Visa, Mastercard, et all are studying non-binding code. Resistance likely futile, though. Non-compliance, with federal election in the offing and Tories wanting to appear consumer-friendly, will only provoke feds to make the changes mandatory rather than voluntary.
Muslin pilgrims from more than 160 nations converge on Mecca's Grand Mosque, among the 2.5 million Muslims who make the annual hajj pilgrimmage to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina in western Saudi Arabia. Photo: Mahinud Hams, AFP-Getty Images.
NEXT GLOBAL FINANCIAL CRISIS IS DEBT | Britain vows budget surplus in four years. Obama acknowledged this week that debt-reduction is a must to avoid double-dip recession. Just the same, two prominent U.S. deficit "hawks" say inflation not yet a problem.
U.S. FORECLOSURES STABLE BUT HIGH | One in seven U.S. homeowners faces foreclosure or delinquent. Especially hard hit are Florida, California and pockets of Midwest, where previous record housing boom was most pronounced. Congress and administration likely to push early in New Year for additional homeowner assistance with renegotiated mortgages and direct subsidy relief. Not much hope for recovery in broader consumer economy until distressed homeowners are able to keep their homes and jobless rate stops rising.
9/11 TRIALS | WaPo's Ezra Klein is short and sweet on why Khalid Sheikh Mohammed should be tried in NYC. See later post.
INDIA AFFLUENCE | Forbes reports doubling in Indian billionaires in latest Forbes 400 ranking of world's weathiest people. David Olive, who again failed to make the cut, would have ranked higher than his 32,639,038th spot had he and Gus's power bill not skyrocketed from all this blogging.
INDO-CANADA TRADE PROGRESS NEGLIGIBLE | Harper's recent did little to advance the cause. Globe's John Ibbitson's back-to-back reports on necessary steps for stronger trade ties with emerging South Asia economic superpower.
NOT SO FAST | VW declared world's largest carmaker. Maybe so, for large part of this year. But VW counts entire production of minority-owned affiliates, while former No. 1 Toyota does not. Also, Toyota cut production in half for first six months of 2009 as its key North American and home market in Japan collapsed. VW will soon lose its crown as Toyota brings idled production back onstream. Indeed, its increased production in this year's second half may yet see Toyota City triumphant for 2009 as a whole.
SOUTH AFRICAN SPORTS DRAMA | South African runner Caster Semenya (above, left) to keep medal. Her gender tests following 800-metre gold medal victory in world championships will be kept confidential, South African sports ministry says today. Irish incensed at dubious goal by which France secures World Cup berth in South African games next year. Watch the video and decide for yourself. Here's list of the final 32-nation line-up for World Cup, in which U.S. once again qualifies and Canada once again doesn't. Brilliant Irish deserve better outcome, columnist argues.
INTERNET MILESTONES | Wikipedia, iPhone among 10 turning points, tech journal says.
NORTH KOREAN OVERTURE | Obama, in Seoul, extends friendly offer to North over nukes. U.S. president wants to work with Pyongyang toward nuclear free Korean peninsula. Music to ears of South Korean leadership, which has financially supported Hermit Kingdom for years and sought peaceful co-existence.
DUDE, WHERE'S MY SUMMIT? | Disorganized Ottawa hasn't settled on venue for G-20 next year. Mandarins are trapped in in pre-G-20 mindset, when soon-to-be defunct G-8 could have met at likes of Deerhurst Resort. But much larger, less intimate G-20, for which Canada has ostensibly selected the Muskokas as the venue, will inevitably end up in Toronto - for which neither Ottawa nor Toronto have prepared. Time to study this year's London and Pittsburgh G-20 summits for tips on accommodating 20 heads of state, their advisers and security details.
DUBIOUS HONOUR | Will Farrell declared most overpaid actor. Billy Bob Thornton, Tom Cruise and Jim Carrey also made Forbes' top 10 ranking of actors whose compensation far exceeds their films' box-office proceeds. As noted here earlier, Hollywood is currently turned off A-list actors for this reason.
DUMB BLONDE | Kate Moss criticized for encouraging anorexics. Waif-like British supermodel, 35, says in interview she subscribes to motto found on many pro-anorexia websites, "Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels." I'm guessing we can trace "dumb blonde" jokes back to the first woman of fair hair who said something this stupid and uncaring.
QUOTE OF THE DAY | "He had drifted into the habit of winding up every meal by taking out his false teeth and hurling them at his wife." -Arthur Conan Doyle, A Case of Identity.
Courtesy The New Yorker, Nov. 16 edition.
Please consider joining me as an elf this holiday season by participating in the Toronto Star's Santa Claus Fund, a century-old Toronto tradition. The Star uses donations to assemble and distribute gift boxes to thousands of less-financially advantaged children throughout the GTA. Each box contains a book, clothing and a toy. You can read all about it, including first-hand accounts of Toronto families in need, at http://www.thestar.com/santaclausfund. I'm counting on your kindness to help put smiles on thousands of young faces this December 25th! Many thanks, David