Awash in oil
The International Energy Agency said the United States will become the world’s largest energy producer by 2020, overtaking Saudi Arabia. It will also surpass Russia as the top producer of natural gas, thanks to new technologies like hydraulic fracking. Though the tectonic shift underscores the importance for Canada to sell more oil sands crude overseas, the prospect of North American energy independence promises to eliminate a key source of geopolitical instability: America’s long and often troubled relationship with the Middle East.
According to the latest data, women now make up almost half (46.6 per cent) of the U.S. labour force, while a recent American study found that if female employment rates were to match male levels, overall GDP would rise by five per cent. In other encouraging news, Lockheed Martin named Marillyn Hewson its new chief executive, which means half of America’s six most powerful defence contractors are now led by women. We can only hope the Pentagon—and the C.I.A.—are taking note.
For the first time in the 64-year history of Motor Trend magazine’s prestigious car of the year award, an electric vehicle won: Tesla’s Model S sedan. The car is a testament to American engineering, said the magazine, noting “it drives like a sports car . . . but it’s also as smoothly effortless as a Rolls-Royce, can carry almost as much stuff as a Chevy Equinox and is more efficient than a Toyota Prius.” That a small, California-based start-up can top all the global automakers is a wake-up call for the industry. Silicon Valley is the new Detroit.
Trimming the fat
Last year, Denmark introduced the world’s first “fat tax,” hiking the price of any product with a saturated fat content higher than 2.3 per cent. This week, it became the first country to ditch the idea. It may not be the healthy choice, but it’s the right one. Danish shoppers simply looked to other countries for their junk food, while local retailers felt the financial pinch. Thankfully, the folks at Pepsi have developed a better plan to fight obesity. In Japan, they plan to launch a “fat-blocking” soda made with fibre.
Israel fired at a Syrian artillery unit after a mortar shell landed in the Golan Heights this week. The attacks followed the bombing by Syria of a rebel-held town near the Turkish border. The exchanges raised fears that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is looking to drag his more powerful neighbours (and by extension their enemies, like Hezbollah) into Syria’s civil war. With opposition forces in Syria now operating under a strong, unified coalition, Assad’s regime is becoming increasingly desperate—and has never been more dangerous.
Canada will run bigger deficits a year longer than planned—until 2016—due to deteriorating economic conditions, said Finance Minister Jim Flaherty. Things could be worse. Europe had to grant Greece a two-year extension to meet its deficit targets. Spain, meanwhile, is struggling to implement austerity measures: one theatre there is dodging a 12 per cent tax hike on tickets by selling carrots (taxed at four per cent) for $16 and giving buyers “free” admission. The theatre is calling it a success. Others, tax evasion.
Don’t bet on it
David Braley, a Tory senator who owns the Toronto Argonauts and B.C. Lions football clubs, appeared at a recent Senate committee to show his support for a bill that would allow betting on single sporting events. Though Braley is not voting, critics note the legislation would benefit his teams by boosting interest in the CFL and deterring expansion to Canada of the NFL, which strongly opposes single-game betting. Such gambling can create the perception that games can be fixed. Unfortunately, thanks to Braley’s awkward involvement with Bill C-290, Canadians might be inclined to wonder the same thing about the Senate.
The arthritis tour
The Rolling Stones launched a 50th-anniversary tour. Tickets to see the oldies act are going for as much as $1,500. “You might say, ‘The tickets are too expensive,’ ” Mick Jagger told Billboard magazine. “Well, it’s a very expensive show to put on.” The band is also releasing yet another compilation album (with two new songs) and a documentary. Aren’t these the same guys who sang, “What a drag it is getting old”?