QuickNews (Friday, May 28)
BP's Gulf of Mexico oil well is capped, says U.S. Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen. But BP warns that another 48 hours is need to determine if its "top kill" effort to inject mud into the world's deepest oil well has succeed in corking the spill.
Ford is widely rumored to be poised to kill Mercury brand. Ford itself mum on putting down 71-year-old Mercury. But firm is known to lack necessary funds to revamp tired Mercury nameplate, and Ford's flagging Lincoln marque needs whatever resources the company can spare from its core Ford brand.
Calderon, in presser with Harper, embarrasses PM by insisting climate-change action is required now, not after waiting to see what U.S. does. Grow a pair, Mexican president says, in breach of diplomacy. This is the same Calderon who in D.C. last week upset the applecart demanding tougher U.S. crackdown on flow of guns into Mexico. Sensible, if impolitic, statements on both occasions. I've taken a liking to this man, victim of assassination threats since launching a war against Mexican drug lords. Please let's put him in charge of a big issue requiring bold, urgent attention. McCain, of course, was among GOP solons asserting Calderon has no right telling U.S. what to do. Only the U.S. has the right to tell others what to do - or did Caleron not get that memo? (Photo: Calderon and Harper at Ottawa press conference yesterday. CP)
It's official, or as official as it can be yet: BP spill is worst in U.S. history, eclipsing Exxon Valdez, 21 years ago. BP's 38,000-ft. well, deepest ever attempt, has already released an estimated 19 million gallons of crude into the Gulf of Mexico, compared with about 11 million barrels spilled by an Exxon Valdez tanker run aground in the pristine Prince William Sound in 1989. (See related Business stories)
Obama officially takes responsility for BP spill in first formal presser in a year, something he actually began doing April 20, the day BP's Deepwater Horizon rig exploded. Head of Mineral Management Services is sacked, an unfair scapegoating as she's barely a year into the job, and her superior at the Interior Department, a former BP exec, is the scalp the environmentalists actually want. The upsides of this tragedy: It has potential as one of Obama's "teachable moments," and sure enough yesterday the president referred to increasing dangers of oil reliance as remaining crude reserves become more remote and technology fails to keep up. Also, it's in no one's interest for BP or U.S. to fail in their mission to put a cork in this thing - unlike, say, your average foreign policy crisis. (Think South Korean anger over alleged Pyongyang sinking of SK ship, where there are a bunch of conflicting agendas, including Beijing's.) Example: BP's rivals are suffering collateral damage, as Obama abruptly revokes Royal Dutch/Shell's permission to proceed with deep-sea drilling in Alaska, a hostile terrain in which post-spill oil recovery would be hugely more difficult. Example: someone might finally get around to pointing out the hypocrisy of our blithe ignorance of the far more routine oil spills in non-U.S. jurisdictions, notably poor West African nations and Indonesia, on which N.A. and Japan rely heavily on imported crude.
Good news/bad news: Smitherman, likely next Toronto mayor come October election, will announce today campaign pledge to expand subway and LRT lines. But Smitherman's proposed expansions to be funded and operated by public-private partnerships, the same "P3s" with which, as Ontario health minister, he oversaw new hospital construction. So all you fans of the pay-as-you go ETR can cheer. Will the new lines be non-union?
McGuinty, in radical step, wants to put docs on the provincial payroll. Some are already, of course. Scrapping the current pay-per-service, for which private-sector docs bill provincial health plans, would effectively make them civil servants and save taxpayers a ton of money. (Docs, after hospitals, are second-largest healthcare cost centre, ahead of drugs.) In France, most caregivers are civil servants and hospitals are government owned and operated. Ontario reacting, in part, to TD Bank report this week advising a move away from pay-per-service for docs. Nice idea, should apply it to Big Five bank CEOs no longer lavished with special bonuses for reaching a profit target they're already paid to meet, takeovers they're already paid to make or in their good judgment reject, and so on. (Photo: CP)
Ah, the good old days: Pierre Trudeau and Gerry Ford at the G-7 summit in Puerto Rico in 1976, the first year of Canada's membership in the exclusive club. No huge leaders' entourages, no armies of media and protesters. -CP)
Jeffrey Simpson complains of a wasteful "siege mentality" in security prep for next month's G8 and G20 summit in Huntsville and Toronto, respectively. Admittedly, $1-billion security tab is a shocker. Then again, wasn't the time to start fretting about this a while ago, not a month before the thousands of guests arrive? I'm thinking we knew this might be an issue when, say, the Pittsburgh G20 concluded last year. Globe commentor says $1 billion would have paid for 2,500 Pride Days and 12,500 Lethbridge Whoop-Up days; another rushes to claim "Securitygate" tag for growing controversy. Good 'em both. Globe economics blogger Kevin Carmichael, veteran of mucky-muck summits, insists they're valuable and defends cost. Me too. If you've going to invite these folks, you have a solemn responsibility to protect them. Question is whether we should have accepted host role. Related: Parliamentary budget watchdog Kevin Page wants to examine the $1-billion in security expenses.
U.S. Senate panel and House vote on compromise language that will eventually scrap odious "Don't ask, don't tell." The catch is that the 17-year-old policy stands until Pentagon studies how to best deal with possible negative repercussions. This is, uh, sickening. Even before the Clinton-era DADT, the issue was well-known to everyone in U.S. military command. In the 17 years since a DADT policy widely recognized to be unworkable and morally crippled, the defense establishment - including its proxies on Capitol Hill - had time to examine the possible repercussions. When Candidate Obama, who vowed to scrap DADT, was poised by the late summer of 2008 to become Commander-in-Chief, that would have been a good time to start studying repercussions. The Department of Defense spent a nanosecond planning an Iraq invasion and occupation compared with the time wasted on joining the 34 other nations in which gays, lesbians and bisexuals are invited to serve their nations without fear of sanction. These include most of America's NATO partners, plus mildly to extremely homophobic Russia, Brazil, Australia, South Africa, Argentina and the Philippines. It's by now obvious the only way this belated progress will come about is to impose it, then let the armed forces cope with it. And discover, as Canada has since outlawing such discrimination eight years ago, that there's practically nothing to cope with. A disappointing dodge by Obama on this one, I'm afraid. (Above: The Pentagon, for decades the world's largest office building. -AP)
Canadian polar bear population forecast to drop by at 20% to 30%, maybe more, next year alone. Longer hibernation periods because of melting polar ice needed for travel and mating, and increasing scarcity of seals and other food. With only 900 polar bears remaining in Canada's Western Arctic, prospect of endangered-species status is increasingly likely.
Federal court ruling overturns Canadian immigration officers' practice of denying refugee status to Haitian women claiming they will be raped if returned. Judge cites a two-decade-old Supreme Court ruling that sexual abuse is so prevelant in developing-world nations and that overwhemingly the victims are women that special consideration should be made for refugee applicants on these grounds.
Amazing, Apple overtakes the much larger Microsoft in stock-market value. In the 1990s, before an ousted Steve Jobs' return, Apple was given up for dead. In fact, on his return one of the first things Jobs did was swallow his pride and ask, and receive, a bailout cash injection from Bill Gates. ("You're helping save the world," or words to that effect, Jobs told Gates - a hint of Jobs' Mount Baker-sized ego. But as Reggie Jackson said, "It ain't braggin' if you can do it.") Lots of lessons here. The crippling power of complacency, which caused a then king-of-the-hill Microsoft to "miss the Internet" phenomenon's impact, as Gates conceded in the late 1990s. And the paramount importance of product design and marketing, of which Apple is the undisputed master from notebooks to smartphones. (Photo: Wikipedia Commons)
Royal Dutch/Shell to pay $4.7 billion for a firm with shale-gas expertise. Stiff price, but shale-gas is viewed by some experts as a plentiful alternative to conventional crude.
U.S. revises Q1 growth down to 3.0% from 3.2%; and latest weekly jobless claims, while lower, still disturbingly high. Signals that U.S. recovery, while not stalled, isn't as robust as previous post-recession comebacks.
BP's Gulf of Mexico fiasco has already cost it $930 million. Which, some say, makes the weakened BP a takeover target. BP might have thought of that before learning the hard way that blowout devices might not worked at unprecedented depth of one mile below sea level, where water pressure is exponentially greater than at shallower depths where they have reliably functioned. And that fixing a leak with that kind of water pressure to contend with makes everything more difficult.
Canada's Big Five banks post impressive numbers, but market punishes their stock as performance fails to meet or exceed high Bay Street expectations. If only Citi, Bank of America and Royal Bank of Scotland could complain of such woes.
Bark & Fitz, upscale pet-supplies retailer, at odds with franchisees. Relations are so bad B&F franchisees want to keep the stores but drop the name, alleging franchisor abuse.
THE WAY WE LIVE TODAY
Teen pregnancies in Canada plummeted 40% in decade following 1996. And by 25% in U.S. during that time, the commencement of which coincides with the Clinton's scrapping of Aid to Families with Dependent Children, the principal welfare program. Cash-strapped provinces, notably Ontario, also began slashing welfare payouts in the mid-1990s. Two ways to look at this: The progressive argues that the drop in household income encouraged teens to engage in safe sex and dissuaded them from the financial burden of committing to bringing a pregnancy to term, either way depriving a young woman the opportunity to have a child. The conservative argues that reducing income supports ended child-raising as an affordable means of achieving self esteem for impoverished potential mothers. Some truth in both views, I expect.
Cyberspace swallows the phone book. Following Verizon's lead, Canada's Yellow Pages seeks regulatory permission to stop distributing residential phone books. In Toronto alone, ending this 121-year-old tradition will save estimated 3,500 metric tons of paper. Since choosing not to deliver the Toronto books at the usual time earlier this year, just 1,000 of the more than 1 million households that stopped receiving the doorstoppers have complained.
Offensive Blackhawks Indian warrior logo has to go, argues Star's Damien Cox. Montreal varsity footballers are no longer the Redmen, after all (Red Storm now), and no one today would name a team for an ethnic group. No P.C. backlash in D.C., though, where Redskin tickets still the hottest in town, especially among lobbyists and their pol and bureaucrat guests at RFK Stadium. I dunno. It has been an issue for the Cleveland Indians for decades. But, and I don't pretend to be right about this, the Indians' and Blackhawks iconography suggests to me only good things - bravery, persistence, ferocity, nobility, pride. Just me, I suppose.
Your guide to Top 10 one-day motor getaways in Ontario, from Mark Richardson, editor of Star's Wheels section. His picks: Belfountain, Hockley Valley, Campbellville and escarpment, Niagara Peninsula, Port Britain/Cobourg, Hastings/Rice Lake, Collingwood/Owen Sound, Picton ferry, Muskoka cottage country and Bancroft and Rte. 509. Be sure to read commenters on the unfairly omitted, including Port Elgin, Port Dover and Creemore. (There will be more after I write this.) Richardson did say he wasn't making a complete list.