AT THE G20, WHERE THE PROTESTS ARE PLENTY: London’s G20 summit opened yesterday under two different clouds. There was the standard protesting that has become par for the course for such events, including a violent clash between demonstrators and police at outside London’s central bank. Perhaps more alarming was the gulf separating the opinions of many leaders when it came to hammering out a plan to breathe life into the ailing economy, although U.S. President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown both sounded hopeful tones that a plan would take shape.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper was among those calling for dramatic action from his counterparts, part of a political tightrope act that involved prodding reluctant European nations toward stimulus spending, and promoting a regulatory framework for the financial system that rile a sensitive America.
THE STARS OF THE SHOW: To the surprise of very few, President and First Lady Obama were the star attraction for media covering the summit. The president ran a hectic dawn-to-dusk schedule, discussing nuclear threats with Russia, launching new arms control talks, refreshing ties with China, and of course, giving the Queen an iPod. For her part, the first lady inspired breathless talk with every fashionable outfit and sip of tea.
DISSENTING OPINION: Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney diverged from Prime Minister Harper’s sunny diagnosis of the country’s ability to withstand the trauma of the recession. Carney, who himself opened the year with an optimistic glow, said that Canada was mired in the worst downturn in half a century and that pressure for additional stimulus spending should be considered with “an eye to the scale of what has already been done.”
SADLY FAMILIAR: In a tragedy that is likely achingly familiar to Canadians, a helicopter carrying 16 oil workers crashed off the coast of Scotland. Police confirmed that eight people had been killed and that the chances of survival for the remaining eight were grim. The crash was the second to occur in the North Sea this year. In a February crash, everyone aboard was rescued.
FUELLING THE FIRE: Reports indicated that North Korea had begun fuelling a long-range rocket for an impending launch that has inflammed tensions in the region. South Korea has sought to galvanize international support for punishing its neighbour if it goes ahead with the test, an effort Pyongyang attempted to thwart by threatening war with Japan.
WHODUNNIT?: Nearly five years after his death, Arab doctors will meet in Jordan to probe rumours that former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was poisoned. Arafat suddenly fell violently ill in October 2004, and died a few weeks later in France. French doctors were intially tightlipped about the cause of Arafat’s death, while his wife refused to allow an autopsy — both instances being factors in a lingering suspicion that he was poisoned by Israel.