April 19, 2010

Pt 1: Afghan Detainees & Somalia? - In the wake of new and potentially damning testimony about the Afghan detainee scandal, we look ahead to what's at stake at the hearings and consider the comparisons some critics are making to Canada's ill-fated mission in Somalia.

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Pt 2: Housing Bubble - New rules about mortgages come into effect across Canada this morning. They're meant to stave off a housing bubble. But at least one financial analyst says they may be too little, too late.

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Pt 3: Compulsory Volunteering - If you force someone to volunteer, does it defeat the purpose? This is National Volunteer Week. And a large percentage of high school students have to do a certain amount of volunteer work before they can graduate. We look at how well that's working out.

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Whole Show Blow-by-Blow

It's Monday, April 19th.

KFC has introduced the 'double down' sandwich, which is bacon, cheese and sauce stuck between two pieces of fried chicken.

Currently in Canada it will be called the Guergis-Jaffer Affair.

This is The Current.

Afghan Detainees & Somalia?

It has been just over 15 years since the federal government called a public inquiry into Canada's peacekeeping mission in Somalia. By the time it was called off, we discovered that Canadian soldiers had shot two Somali civilians and tortured-to-death a 16-year-old Somali boy named Shidane Arone. It is one of the most shocking episodes in the history of the Canadian military. And to this day, it is something many Canadian soldiers are acutely aware of when they are on mission.

We aired a clip of Lieutenant Colonel Douglas Boot testifying last week at the Military Police Complaints Commission, which is probing Canada's record on Afghan detainees. He was a Senior Military Police Officer in Afghanistan and he's not the only one who has Somalia lingering in the back of his mind. The Afghan detainee story is still evolving. And allegations that military and government officials ignored warnings of abuse for detainees handed over to Afghan authorities are unproven.

But according to Retired Colonel Michel Drapeau, what is happening in Afghanistan could turn out to be worse than what happened in Somalia. He served in the Canadian military for 34 years. He is now a law professor at the University of Ottawa and a lawyer who specializes in military law. Michel Drapeau was in Ottawa. Tim Powers is a Conservative strategist. He also lectures on communications at the University of Ottawa.

We did request an interview with Defence Minister Peter MacKay. But he was not available this morning.


Housing Bubble

New rules about mortgages kick in across Canada this morning. They make it tougher for people to qualify for a mortgage. Borrowers will need to meet more rigorous requirements to show they can afford a home. Among other things, they must meet the standard for a five-year fixed-rate mortgage.

Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty says the goal is to avoid a housing bubble. The concern is that extremely low interest rates have driven huge numbers of people into the housing market and that many of them will be at risk as rates rise. But that's not how Kathy Podolski of Port Coquitlam, British Columbia sees it.We aired a clip.

Danielle Park has different concerns about the new mortgage rules being brought in. She's worried they may not be enough to deal with a housing bubble that might already be here. Danielle Park is a portfolio manager and the President of Venable Park Investment Counsel. She's also the author of Juggling Dynamite: An Insider's Wisdom on Money Management, Markets and Wealth That Lasts. She was in Toronto. Gregory Klump is the Chief Economist with the Canadian Real Estate Association. He was in Ottawa.

We requested interviews with Finance minister Jim Flaherty, the CMHC and the Bank of Canada. All declined.


Compulsory Volunteering

This is National Volunteer Week in Canada. And as part of our on-going series Work In Progress, we're asking about the merits of giving time in the name of volunteer work. More than a decade ago, the Ontario Government introduced a new requirement for high school students. Before they can graduate, they have to do at least 40 hours of community service. Since then, British Columbia, Yukon, the Northwest Territories, Nunavut and Newfoundland and Labrador have all brought in similar policies. Students have mixed opinions about them. But the irony of being forced to volunteer isn't lost on them. We heard from High School students in St. John's.

For their thoughts about the value of requiring people to volunteer and whether it encourages people to contribute to their communities down the road, we were joined by three people. Penelope Rowe is the CEO of the Community Services Council of Newfoundland and Labrador. She was in St. John's. Margaret Somerville is the founding director of the McGill Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law. Today she was in Barcelona, Spain (stuck due to the volcanic ash). And Steven Brown is a professor of Political Science at Wilfrid Laurier University. He's also the Director of the Laurier Institute for the Study of Public Opinion and Policy. He was in Elmira, Ontario.

Last Word: Wall Street - The Musical

We ended the program with a show tune about hedge funds, collateralized debt obligations and Mel Brooks. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is moving forward with a lawsuit against the banking giant Goldman Sachs, alleging that it defrauded its investors by neglecting to tell them that one of the hedge funds that helped create a collateralized debt obligation - deliberately made it very risky and then bet that it would fail.

And that's where the show tune comes in. It's courtesy of the radio program This American Life and the podcast Planet Money, both of from National Public Radio in the United States. Two weeks ago, they told the story of another similar arrangement involving another investment bank. And to them it began to sound like the plot to the Mel Brooks' musical, The Producers. They commissioned their own musical number and called it Bet Against The American Dream.

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