WEST COAST WOES: When the Liberal government of British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell delivers its throne speech today, the document is likely to sound reassuring political and economic tones
in order to combat the onslaught of bad economic news that closed out
2008. After years of record job growth and billion-dollar surpluses,
recession has hit the province hard and the government must now choose
its priorities as it proceeds with planned deficit spending aimed at
reviving the economy.

 

BRITTLE BRITAIN: There has been much
national anxiety in Britain about the decline of standards for morality
and public behaviour, kicked up by many incidents of knife crime, binge drinking and
teen pregnancies being frequent. The story of Alfie Patten --
a new father and tabloid obsession at the age of 13 -- intensified the
naval gazing and raised even more severe questions about "broken Britain."

 

NOW THAT'S A PARLIAMENTARY CRISIS: Israeli
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni
said that if she does not become prime
minister, she would lead her governing
Kadima party into opposition, which could stall Middle East peace efforts indefinitely.
Livni's won the most seats in last week's election, barely edging out
Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud part 28-27, however, the remaining seats were
mostly won by hardline hawks naturally aligned with Likud when it comes time for coalition making. If Livni
does lead her party into opposition, some observers speculated the
party's loose amalgam of centrists and hawks could break apart.

 

NEIGHBOURHOOD WATCH: If the suspicion that a recent housefire in rural New Brunswick was the work of an arsonist holds true, an expert said that it would be the latest in a string of worrying cases of vigilante justice. Police said the house belonged to a man facing charges related to child pornography and sexual exploitation, and a recent blaze in another town was allegedly started by neighbours of a rumoured drug dealer.

 

YOU'VE GOT A FRIEND IN ME: Wading deep into Western Canada's Conservative bedrock, Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff acknowledged the mistakes his party had made in the region and vowed to respect the "tremendous importance" of the western energy sector. Citing former prime minister Pierre Trudeau's maligned National Energy Plan and Stephane Dion's ill-fated carbon tax -- both widely unpopular -- Ignatieff said it was dumb to run against Western Canada and that Canadian environmental initiatives needed to be pursued in co-operation with the energy sector.

YOU'VE GOT A FRIEND IN US: Giant tulips, "ObamaTails" and other fanfare were rampant as Obamania gripped the nation's capital ahead of President Barack Obama's Thursday visit. A U.S. State Department official said the president will use his first official visit to show the world that he is listening to their concerns, and plans to spend most of his brief visit to Parliament Hill to address the economy and trade -- most notably, the contentious Buy American provision in the economic stimulus plan Obama is expected to sign into law this week.

Even before deciding to make Canada the destination for his first official presidential visit, Obama had deep personal and political connections to the country. Among the Canadians in his circle are his brother-in-law, an Ontario native, and his campaign's key logistics man, to whom Obama gave significant credit for his political rise.

OFFICE SPACE: In the White House's West Wing, the standard criteria for prime office real estate -- scenic views, picture windows and raw square footage -- matter less than does proximity to the president's suite. Senior adviser David Axelrod has the most coveted space, next to Obama's personal study and perfectly placed for presidential pop-ins, but his domain is a modest space boasting a view of a concrete barrier. Past presidential aides have sacrificed bright, spacious offices in favour of dark and tiny rooms where some hung windowframes on windowless walls.

ROCKET MAN: North Korea strongly hinted that it was preparing a rocket launch, claiming it has the right to "space development." The announcement came on President Kim Jong Il's 67th birthday and on the heels of repeated warnings from South Korea that the North was preparing to launch a missile capable of reaching the United States.