Greenpeace activists unfurl a banner on the facade of Parliament's West Block in Ottawa. The message is directed at Stephen Harper, prime minister, and Michael Ignatieff, the Liberal official opposition leader. In recent weeks, Greenpeace has rappelled the parliament buildings in London and Paris as well to display climate-change messages. In Copenhagen, one of many stylized globes throughout the city marking history's biggest climate summit, with more than 15,000 participants from 192 nations. The 12-day summit began yesterday.
BROWN UPS THE CLIMATE-CHANGE ANTE | British PM sets bar higher for EU. Tells Guardian yesterday EU should pledge to cut emissions by 30%, not planned target of 20%, by 2020 from 1990 levels. Gordon Brown, who weeks ago was among first heads of state to say he would go to Copenhagen at a time when the talks seemed doomed, is still in the lead to be the political hero of this historic event. Obama, who conferred with Al Gore at WH yesterday and has a mini eco-summit at WH scheduled for Wednesday, is not far behind. His EPA yesterday declared greenhouse gas emissions a threat to human life, thereby giving itself the authority to monitor emissions, regardless of whether a climate bill now stalled in the U.S. Senate is passed or not. Bill Clinton urges Copenhagen participants to emphasize the upside of curbing climate change. Echoes Obama theme since last year's presidential campaign that green-tech jobs and investment will define 21st century. Clinton, whose post-presidency has largely been occupied with raising awareness and funds for climate-change progress, says global warming needs to be sold as an economic opportunity, not "a dose of castor oil you have to swallow." Spirits high in the Danish capital for the opening day kick-off. What a difference U.S. leadership makes. Canada, major CO2 emitter, effectively AWOL. Jim Prentice, environment minister, says Ottawa's widely condemned resistence to meaningful emission-reduction targets won't be changed by Copenhagen "hype." Globe says Canada in "climate doghouse." Twas ever thus, but no longer our dirty little secret. Canada yesterday awarded a "Fossil of the Day" by coalition of more than 450 eco-NGOs for its laggardness. Since our position is unlikely to change for the duration of the summit, we may end up bringing home 12 of these "trophies." Here's the official U.N. Climate Change Conference site for breaking news, calendar of events and more.
Richard Colvin, former Canadian diplomat, testifying to a Commons committee on Afghan detainee transfer practices, and the warnings he made to Ottawa about them. Right, Peter MacKay, defense minister, who responded to Colvin's testimony by mauling Colvin in Commons debate. Public-opinion polls a few days later found Canadians believed Colvin over the Tories by a 2-to-1 margin.
RESIGN | 23 former Canadian ambassadors protest Tories' attack on Richard Colvin. Former Afghan diplomat exposed Harper government complicity in handing over detainees to Afghan National Army globally notorious for torture. Tories' instant reaction was attempt to discredit Colvin, rather than explain what Ottawa knew and when it knew it. In their letter, the 23 former ambassdors worry Colvin's fate will discourage candid reporting to Ottawa from foreign postings. Well, yes. Former senior foreign service officers rarely speak out in unison like this, but Defense Minister Peter MacKay's public vilifcation of Colvin prompted them to. "[MacKay] savaged [Colvin] in public, and ridiculed him. And that's not the way to treat a guy who's doing his job," said Paul Durand, former Canadian ambassador to the Organization of American States, Chile and Costa Rica. "He is not a whistleblower. He was hauled before a parliamentary committee and had to state the truth." It's MacKay, on whose watch the dubious 2006-era detainee handovers occurred, whose credibility is in tatters. He should resign until a public inquiry determines what exactly Canada knew about the real or likely fate of detainees it handed over to an Afghan army widely known to torture detainees for sport. Globe editorial on Tories' falsehoods.
Student supporters of opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi hold red roses during protests in central Tehran. Foreign press was ordered not to cover the event, and cellphone network and newspapers were shut down by ruling regime. (Photo: Reuters.)
IRAN'S DOMESTIC INSTABILITY | Regime forced to suppress still more student protests. In latest of several demos, at Tehran University and several other colleges, thuggish police beat up protesters yesterday while state shut down cellphone network so activists still angry over flawed June 12 re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad can't communicate with fellow democracy advocates in other cities. Modesty requires the West to approach Iran realizing we know little about Iranian internal conditions. Having said that, waiting out an unstable status quo is an attractive alternative to external bullying that would almost certainly awaken national-unity sentiments that would trump growing internal dissent.
RUSSIAN NIGHTCLUB TRAGEDY DRAWS PUTIN'S IRE | PM excoriates local officials. These include fire marshalls whom, Putin hints, might have been on the take in failing to inspect frequently enough the Perm nightclub where 118 patrons died over the weekend. Putin also faulted the local hospital, which had insufficient supplies to treat the fire victims. With Putin and Medvedev around it's almost tough for outsiders to criticize Russia, since this pair does such a good job of that itself. Medvedev last month, in a high-profile speech to Duma, ripped the nation's cumbersome bureaucracy and rampant corruption, and Russian business sector's sloth in innovation. Another case where external pressure is adviseable in minor doses only, as Russia appears to be entering a period of self-criticism. China for now is a different story: euphoric over strong GDP growth, Beijing is convinced China can do no wrong. So stronger words with Beijing are appropriate within limits, especially as China finally seems intent on joining larger world community. Incidentally, not one BBC, NPR or other radio report of the Perm disaster that I heard failed to mention "Russia's notoriously lax fire regulations." Lax they might be. But it was only six years ago that 100 people died in a horrific fire that destroyed The Station nightclub in West Warwick, R.I., preceded three days earlier, on Feb. 17, 2003, by a stampede at Chicago's E2 dance floor that killed 21 people as more than 1,500 patrons attempted to escape the over-crowded facility after a pepper-spray incident. In both cases, safety protections and regulatory inspections were inadequate and club owners went to prison.
OBAMA WATCH | President says he'll be candid about Afghan conflict in his Nobel speech Thursday. Not that he was likely to ignore the elephant in the parlor in Oslo acceptance speech for Nobel Peace Prize, but it's been done before. On employment front, despite encouraging jobs report last Friday showing first decline in unemployment rate since beginning of U.S. recession in December 2007, Obama in speech today will outline additional proposed job-creation stimuli. These will include tax breaks for businesses that hire, and redeploying estimated $200-billion surplus from bank-bailout funds to finance job-creation projects. (Photo: Obama greets workers at Nestle Purina Pet Care plant in Allentown, Pa. on Friday.)
U.S. MEDICARE EXPANDED? | Senate Dems mull lowering Medicare eligibility to 55. Stunning move is response to GOP canard that seniors would suffer big reduction in benefits under proposed reforms. (Any losses would be minor, and many seniors would see increased benefits.) Dems also twisting "public option" all out of shape, contemplating Rube Goldberg idea of having a government agency merely monitor a public option that would be operated by private insurers. So the costly middleman and costly profit margins would remain, and the public option's appeal as the major device for lowering healthcare costs would, in this iteration, be a failure. But if Dem public-option holdouts like conservative Blanche Lincoln (Ark.) are to be won over, these are the kinds of sops to blockheads we're going to see. Atul Gawande, New Yorker contributor and surgeon, on how the Senate bill would contain spiralling healthcare costs. (This is the same Gawande who earlier this year wrote of wide disparities in medical costs among cities and regions for same-quality care, which was must-reading in the West Wing and Congress.)
ATHABASCA AND CARCINOGENS | Alberta water scientist discovers dangerous levels of toxins in Athabasca River. Faults Ottawa for under-funding federal monitoring. Enraged Alberta government accuses him of spreading mistruths, says its own monitoring is comprehensive and finds only tolerable levels of toxins in tar-sands effluent.
TODAY'S HEADLINES | Hunger and family homelessness on the rise in U.S. cities... Struggling Japan unveils $81 billion (U.S.) additional stimulus to head off double-dip recession...Toronto building permits up a stunning 42% in October, up 18% nationwide...Harper makes it official: Toronto, not Muskoka, to host G-20 next June 26-27. Second G-20 summit next year will be in Seoul. Doubly good news for Muskoka. It won't briefly be shut down to tourists, and instead will become refuge for Hogtowners fleeing security, protesters and entourages of 20 heads of state.. Scotiabank profit nearly triples. BNS is the last of our Big Five banking oligopoly members to report, on a spectacularly good year considering the global meltdown...Conrad Black's lawyers make last-ditch pitch today to U.S. Supreme Court to drop fraud charges...Possible foretaste of post-U.S.-occupation Iraq in string of Baghdad car bombs that kill 121 people...Resurgence in popularity of vinyl records and turntables... "New hottie outs tomcatting Tiger Woods" (I just like the tab Boston Herald's headline). And Orlando neighbors report that Elin Nordegren is no longer in the building. Counting the minutes before someone suggests Mrs. Mark Sandford as a roomie, or Mrs. John Ensign - no wait, don't think she's moved out yet...
QUOTE OF THE DAY | "Nature never did betray / the heart that loved her." -William Wordsworth, Tintern Abbey.
Courtesy, The New Yorker, Nov. 30 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