QuickNews, Wednesday, Dec. 30.
PEARSON TOPS WORLD HUBS AS MOST CONGESTED AIRPORT
U.S.-bound travelers at Pearson last weekend. -CP
DELAYS A MISERY FOR TORONTO TRAVELERS | Multitude of U.S. flights is culprit. Canada is the No. 1 source of U.S.-bound flights, and Pearson handles about half of all Canadian air traffic. Which means U.S.' new screening procedures since Detroit bomb-attempt scare have put Pearson atop the list of world's most congested air hubs, at least for now. “There are some Canadian airports operating very well," a spokesman for the International Air Transport Association (IATA) tells the Globe. "Vancouver is doing well. Calgary seems to have turned around … most of the pressure right now is definitely focused on Toronto.” * NYT expert panel debates shortcomings of air-traffic security.
BUDDING AMTRAK RENAISSANCE? | U.S. passenger rail service still losing money, but traffic up. Problem continues to be reliance on shared freight lines, heavy maintenance costs on outdated trackage, an aging track that can't handle Amtrak's high-speed Acela trains at the speeds of which they're capable. Just the same, traffic has spiked on every route served by the Bombardier-designed Acela, introduced earlier this decade. With mounting congestion and security hassles at airports, Acela already has grabbed majority of travelers on some Northeast corridors.
AL-QAEDA'S YEMENI HAVEN | Goverment says Yemen has about 300 al-Qaeda operatives. That's three times the number the U.S. military estimates are in Afghanistan. It was Yemen's al-Qaeda cell that recruited the Nigerian would-be bomber of a Northwest airliner at Detroit on Christmas Day. Obama has stepped up anti-terrorist activities in Yemen, which seems to have triggered the Christmas Day response. Again, I wonder at the disproportionate U.S. commitment to Afghanistan when the al-Qaeda cells the estimated 60 other nations - including the U.S. and Canada - likely pose more of a threat given they're not under seige.
HOPEFUL LEADING INDICATORS | Canadian and U.S. holiday shopping tops last year's. Retailers pleased that some shelves remain empty even four days after Boxing Day. U.S. home prices rose in October, for fifth consecutive month. And higher-than-expected rise in U.S. consumer confidence reported. (Photo: Boxing day shoppers on a time-out at the West Edmonton Mall.)
U.S. JOBS UPTURN SEEN NEXT YEAR | Pursuit of sales gains gradually overtaking fear of recession. "The employers we're talking to are really shifting from cost containment," says spokesman for CareerBuilder.com recruiting firm. "Now it's really about growth so I think you're going to see customer service jobs added, sales jobs added. Those are really what can grow the business and make the money come back and get the customers back.
VACCINE INC. | Once unprofitable industry now booming. Dates from avian flu crisis earlier in the decade, then SARS, now swine flu. "Between 2004 and 2007," Globe reports, "vaccine sales across the industry soared an average of 32% each year, with flu vaccine leading the way. That is roughly four times faster than any other pharmaceutical product."
PUTIN IN CHARGE? | Premier is fly in ointment in U.S.-Russia nuke-warhead-reduction talks. Obama scrapped Bush's planned missile-shield scheme for Eastern Europe, earning Putin's praise as "brave." But months later Putin now whinging about continued offshore U.S. missile capability. Real issue is national pride. U.S. seeking to contain Russia's nuclear ambit to Russia itself, stripping it of status of nuclear superpower. Another imbalance is U.S. insistence on inspections of Russian weaponry with no reciprocal inspections. This could be a bargaing ploy as START 2.0 treaty talks continue, but fact Medevdev isn't front and centre is a reminder Russia has two co-CEOs.
DEFERRED GRATIFICATION | Studies show procrastinators put off pleasure, not just work. Which accounts for all those unused gift cards, we can always shop later. And the phenomenon of North Americans who visit fewer local attractions in a year than visitors do in a two-week vacation.
PREVIEW | Saskatchewan's transformation into a "have" province chronicled in Globe mag Friday. Or you can read it now, how spiralling commodity prices - especially for the potash Saskatchewan has in abundance, and for which it's the world's leading supplier - has put even Ontario in the shade in its fiscal health.
AFGHANISTAN'S FIRST SKATEBOARD SCHOOL | Kabul academy brings together rich and poor. But even these kids must undergo through screening before arriving each day for lessons and loop-the-loop in adjoining park.
SAD CHAPTER | Bookseller McNally Robinson closes new Don Mills outlet. Part of larger bankruptcy restructuring for customer-friendly retailer, which will be sorely missed in GTA. I wondered, though, why the Canadian chain selected Don Mills for its Toronto debut, rather than a location with more pedestrian traffic and not so remote from downtown. Here's hoping MR's finances recover, and that it takes a second chance on Hogtown.
Courtesy, The New Yorker, Dec. 21 edition.