QuickNews, Thursday, Nov. 26.
An Afghan vehicle clears a NATO checkpoint northeast of Kabul that is run in part by French Foreign Legion forces. U.S. to tap allies for more troops. Photo: Jerome Delay, AP.
UNCLE SAM WANTS YOU! | Obama seeks 10,000 more troops for Afghanistan from allies. Britain, Italy, Poland and Georgia likely to help, France and Germany won't, Canada and the Netherlands still committed to withdrawal. In TV address Tuesday, Obama will commit about 30,000 more U.S. troops, bringing American total to almost 100,000, and describe exit strategy that has U.S. out of Afghanistan no later than 2017 - 16 years after initial post-9/11 invasion.
CANADIANS DON'T TRUST HARPER ON AFGHAN DETAINEES | They believe the whistleblower. Richard Colvin's grim version of events trumps Harper's in believability by a 2 to 1 margin in survey by former Tory pollster Allan Gregg. Pollster says it was a PR blunder to attempt discrediting Colvin. Yet Tories persisting with that strategy, lining up career-protecting military and other officials to dispute Colvin testimony that for years has aligned with reports of human-rights groups.
A SPECIAL THANKSGIVING FOR U.S. BANKERS | Taxpayer bailout restores lavish pay. The idea, in the U.S. and Europe, was to prevent the bankers' self-inflicted wounds from triggering another Great Depression. The apocalypse was averted, but the public got stuck with the bill while the malefactors of great wealth, as Teddy Roosevelt called them, are hoovering up pre-recession-size bonuses. And fiercely resisting, with success, needed reforms to prevent an even bigger bailout down the road when the bankers are next consumed with recklessness - which happens every decade like clockwork. WaPo columnist Dana Milbank cuts to the nub of the bank lobbyists' special pleading: "Don't regulate us now because the economy is still suffering from the mess we made because we weren't regulated the last time. Chutzpah, it appears, is recession-proof."
"TOYOTA WAY" GOES AWRY | Former quality leader to recall 4 million vehicles. In latest Toyota stumble, company to repair faulty gas pedals that get stuck under floor mats in high-acceleration mode. Vaunted Toyota quality has suffered - this is the latest of several recalls over past two years - ever since firm decided to ramp up production to displace GM as top world automaker. Employees at hastily built new plants, especially in N.A., were not sufficiently trained in Toyota's quality-production methods. Global recession, which prompted Toyota to cut world production 50% for first six months of this year, might give company a chance to upgrade training at its newest assembly plants.
GM EXPANDS ONTARIO COMMITMENT | Will add employees to assemble Buick Regal at Oshawa. Redesigned Regal, Opel-engineered, has won auto-critics' acclaim in Europe. GM will also add employees to boost Oshawa production of hot-selling Camaro and forthcoming 2011 Camaro convertible. Company to will increase Ingersoll, Ont. output of popular Chev Equinox and GMC Terrain small crossovers. Even St. Catharines operations, especially battered by layoffs in recent years, to get new flexible transmission product. A fifth vehicle for GM Canada remains to be named under GM commitment in exchange for $10.5 billion in government rescue funds. But much of this largely unexpected increased activity is due to the popularity of models already assigned to Canada.
FORD THINKS SMALLER, NOT SMALL | Says smaller cars, not minis and micros, are the ticket. North American drivers insist on minimum comfort, capacity, power, while seeking higher fuel efficiency. "Just so nobody freaks out, we won't look like Europe," Ford spokesman reassures analysts. MarketWatch reviewer raves about reborn Taurus, which turnaround CEO Alan Mulally over-ruled subordinates in greenlighting after failure of blobby second-generation Taurus of the 1990s.
ROAD TO COPENHAGEN | Obama will go to climate change summit, Harper to join him. PM until yesterday adamant about not going, since no firm agreement will be struck until next year. But changed his mind this morning, citing what spokesman described as "critical mass" of other world leaders who will attend. Obama will bring commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 17% below 2005 levels by 2020. That's a big cheat on the 1990 baseline used by U.N. Also, Obama will duck out before the heads of state show up to collect his Nobel Peace Prize while he's in the neighbourhood.
ROBUST CANADIAN HOUSING | In stark contrast with U.S., housing supply is tight in Canada. Which means housing costs will rise here, since current low mortgage rates can't last forever, RBC warns in report. U.S. glut of housing inventory, after record housing bubble, will take years to wear off. But in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal supply is drying up, forcing price hikes and, one hopes, soon boosting new-home construction.
GIFT CARDS ARE A GIFT TO ISSUERS | Watch for cards with dormancy and other fees. Over past two years, Americans bought $185.4 billion (U.S.) worth of gift cards, and $14.4 billion (U.S.) was left unused. Think twice about whether these things will get used by recipient. At best, they're interest-free money for the issuer until redeemed. At worst, many cards expire or issuers demand fees for postponed usage.
SELL MORE COOKIES? | 16 of Ontario's 33 Girl Guide camps are slated to close. Roughly half of the Guides' camps will be sold or leases given up, after GG Ontario ran a $1.3-million deficit last year just on camp operation. With membership declining, most of the camps have been struggling for years.
CRY YOURSELF A RIVER | Seven reasons why crying is good for you. It helps prevent dehydration of eyes, kills bacteria, removes toxins and can elevate your mood, among other things. I feel justified now in making An Affair To Remember a quarterly ritual.
QUOTE OF THE DAY | "If you want to kill any idea around the world today, get a committee working on it." -Charles Kettering, U.S. industrialist and philanthropist.
Courtesy The New Yorker, Nov. 23 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