CANADA'S AFGHAN DETAINEE SCANDAL
OTTAWA CHOOSES TO SHOOT MESSENGER
SIMILAR ALLEGATIONS BY NGOS DATE BACK TO 2007
Top photo: Canadian Afghan detainees. Below, right: Richard Colvin, former Canadian diplomat in Afghanistan, since reassigned to the U.S., who testified this week that Canada is complicit in abuse, even torture, of detainees handed over to the Afghan National Army, and that Canada's highest military and diplomatic officials have known this for years. Below, right, Peter MacKay, defense minister during the period of abusive treatment described by Colvin, sought yesterday to discredit Colvin. "His entire testimony is suspect," MacKay said. Yet in harsh Commons questionning, MacKay acknowledged it was Colvin's many secret cables warning of abuse that triggered Ottawa overhaul of hand-over procedures.
AFGHAN DETAINEE SCANDAL | Ottawa rejects widespread calls for public inquiry. Ex-diplomat Colvin's explosive allegations touch MacKay, former chief of defense staff Rick Hillier, top Foreign Affairs department mandarins. Tories better hope Colvin is a fantasist, as they yesterday depicted him, otherwise we have a government-defeating cover-up conspiracy on our hands. This is not a new development. Canadian officials discussed torture issue as early as 2006. Amnesty International among NGOs sounding early alarms, back in 2007, about abusive treatment of ISAF detainees, including those handed over to Afghan army by Canadian forces.
Harry Reid, Senate majority leader, and Nancy Pelosi, House Speaker. The House has narrowly passed a healthcare reform bill. Now it's the Senate's turn.
CLIFFHANGER | Historic U.S. Senate healthcare reform vote set for tomorrow. Will be a close thing. First vote scheduled for 8 p.m. Reid is recounting heads every few hours as blue-dog Dems and moderate Republicans waver. Dem pollster Mark Mellman, in session with Senate Dems, reminds them of Dem loss of Senate after 1994 healthcare initiative died. Quoting Ben Franklin, Mellman says: "We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately." Call for party unity hasn't worked so far, not likely to this time either, even in rebuke to party's leader, Obama. Will come down to individual conscience - a chance to make history, or set back healthcare reform another 15 years.
OPRAH TO QUIT SHOW | Will announce today end of talk show in 2011, 25th year. World's first African-American woman billionaire wants to focus on entrepreneurial interests. LA Times has speculation on biggest winners and losers from long-rumoured decision. If nothing else - and she's done a great deal of good - Oprah will be remembered for popularizing reading with Book Club. And GM will miss her for all those free Pontiacs she gave away to entire first-day audience awhile back.
EUROPE'S FIRST FULL-TIME PRESIDENT | Meet Herman Van Rompuy, Belgian PM. EU chooses obscure figures for first president and first European foreign minister. Drives me nuts. Tony Blair's a lightening rod, I get that. But these two compromise candidates - neither of them widely known in Europe, never mind world stage - won't be the dynamic figures to rally Europe as a scold on Darfur or Iranian nukes, to create first pan-European armed forces so America needn't intervene in Balkans and other parts of Europe's backyard, or to contend with strong egos of a Sarkozy or Merkel.
OBAMA REJECTS MAMMOGRAM REPORT | Will still fund tests for 40+. Government-appointed panel had recommended no mammograms for under-50s, finding them - and even self-examination - a pointless source of anxiety. Panel has since backed off own counsel, buckling under controversy. WaPo columnist bemoans missed chance to cut healthcare costs. NYT column on ritual of self-examination. Meanwhile, pap smears should begin at 21, OB-GYN group says.
SWINE FLU SNAFUS | Americans annoyed about vaccine distribution. So Canadian media not alone in playing up alleged Canadian concern about line-ups. Complaints flooding into CDC HQ in Atlanta.
CHINA BUBBLE | U.S. bond maven Bill Gross warns China economy overheating. Stimulus and rapid infrastructure spending will drive up prices, already triggering irrational exuberance. Consumer spending a disconnect with real incomes.
SACRAMENTO, NEW CAPITAL OF ONTARIO | Energy-hog big-screen TVs to be discouraged here too. Once green-conscious California does it, Ontario officials acknowledge, we're obliged to follow suit.
HIZZONER'S HIGHER AMBITIONS | Rudy to run for U.S. Senate. Will he represent Empire State or War on Terror State?
WHO KNEW? | New Yorker's Calvin Trillin on "Canada's national dish," poutine. Huh? Okay, the goopy mess is migrating west from Quebec, but Timbits still rule, no? Magazine also spends quality time with hyper-picky Michelin arbiter of restaurants and hotels.
QUOTE OF THE DAY | "The English instinctively admire any man who has no talent and is modest about it." -James Agate, British theatre critic.
Courtesy The New Yorker.
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