January 19, 2009

Pt 1: White Phosphorus - Even before a ceasefire took hold between Israel and Hamas this weekend, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert made an apologetic statement to the Palestinian civilians of Gaza. We aired a clip of that statement.

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Pt 2: Canso Documentary - The town of Canso sits on the eastern tip of Nova Scotia ... right at the edge of the mainland, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. It's the oldest fishing community in mainland North America. And for more than four centuries, the ocean and its bounty sustained the community. Then the fishery collapsed in the early 1990s. Fish plants hung on for a few years, making deals to buy foreign fish. But soon they shut down and moved out.

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Pt 3: Roosevelt/Obama - Tomorrow Barack Obama will become the 44th President of the United States. As he swears to uphold the country's constitution, he will be taking the reins of a nation drowning in debt, weary of war and facing the possibility of financial disaster.

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It's Monday, January 19th.

There is just one more day left in George Bush's presidency.

Currently ... Oh sure, that's great for the rest of you. But what am I gonna do?

This is The Current.


White Phosphorus - Doctor

Even before a ceasefire took hold between Israel and Hamas this weekend, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert made an apologetic statement to the Palestinian civilians of Gaza. We aired a clip of that statement.

He went on to tell Palestinian civilians that their enemy is not Israel, but in fact, Hamas. This weekend, Israel declared a unilateral ceasefire, that was only joined by Hamas 12 hours later. And though Gaza is relatively quiet today, Palestinian civilians subjected to 22 days of fighting and bombardment are still reeling and the controversies raised in this conflict have not gone away.

Late last week, human rights groups raised concerns over the use of a specific munition called white phosphorus saying their information suggested the Israeli army was using the explosive over Gaza. White phosphorus is a chemical sometimes used in military operations to illuminate the night sky or to provide a smokescreen to cover troop movements.

According to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons -- the group that monitors the Chemical Weapons Convention -- those uses are permissible. But white phosphorus also burns most everything it comes into contact with houses, fields, even human skin. And the convention prohibits its use in areas heavily populated.

Officials with the Israeli Defense Forces have said the Israeli military is not using white phosphorus. But Human Rights Watch staff based in Israel reported seeing multiple bursts of artillery-fired white phosphorus over the Gaza Strip. And Mousa Yousef -- a doctor at the Al Awada Hospital in the Jabaliya refugee camp -- said he was treating patients with burns that he just couldn't otherwise explain. We heard from him.

Marc Garlasco has been speaking against what he says is the use of white phosphorus by Israeli Defense Force in Gaza. Marc Garlasco was at the US Pentagon during the initial air war against Iraq in 2003. He is now senior military analyst for Human Rights Watch. He was in Jerusalem.

White Phosphorus Panel

This is not the first time the suspected use of white phosphorus has raised concerns in urban warfare. It's use was controversial during the Vietnam war, and it became an issue in Iraq in 2004. The Pentagon at first denied using it, and then later admitted that its troops did indeed use white phosphorus in the battle of Fallujah in 2004. White phosphorus remains a controversial military tool, even among soldiers and military analysts.

For his thoughts on its use, we were joined by Brian MacDonald. He's a Retired Colonel with the Canadian Forces and the Senior Defence Analyst with the Conference of Defence Associations. He was in Toronto. And Sunil Ram is an international defence and security analyst and a former soldier and officer with the Canadian Forces. He was also in our Toronto studio.

 

Canso Documentary

The town of Canso sits on the eastern tip of Nova Scotia ... right at the edge of the mainland, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. It's the oldest fishing community in mainland North America. And for more than four centuries, the ocean and its bounty sustained the community. Then the fishery collapsed in the early 1990s. Fish plants hung on for a few years, making deals to buy foreign fish. But soon they shut down and moved out.

Canso has never recovered from that. And now, the town's residents have a big decision to make about their future. The CBC's Wendy Martin spent some time in Canso and her documentary, On the Edge is part of our on-going series on water issues called Watershed. Wendy Martin was in Sydney, Nova Scotia.

 

Roosevelt/Obama

Tomorrow Barack Obama will become the 44th President of the United States. As he swears to uphold the country's constitution, he will be taking the reins of a nation drowning in debt, weary of war and facing the possibility of financial disaster.

And as he looks towards a future fraught with danger and angst, he might do well to glance back 75 years ... to another President who came to power facing a dying economy and a world riven with fanaticism and violence. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the 32nd President of the United States.

For a unique perspective on his legacy and how it informs what Barack Obama is facing, we were joined by Curtis Roosevelt. He's the grandson of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. He's also the author of Too Close to the Sun: Growing Up in The Shadow of My Grandparents and he was in Avignon, France.


Last Word - Good Night Bush

Stay with us on CBC Radio One. Q is next. And later today, on The Point, host Aamer Haleem will delve into a court case involving a 12-year-old girl in Quebec who was granted permission to go on a school trip even though she was grounded. The father is appealing by the way. The Point is at 2 o'clock -- 2:30 in Newfoundland and parts of Labrador. And, tonight at 10 o'clock on CBC Television, The National will look at how the U.S. civil rights movement paved the way for Barack Obama.

We ended the program this morning with a bedtime story. Those of you with small children are no doubt familiar with the quintessential bedroom tale, Good Night Moon. Well, Erich Origen and Gan Golan have rewritten that story, line-for-line as a goodbye to President George W. Bush. The result is a picture book called Good Night Bush. And since the sun sets tonight on his Presidency, we let 7-year-old Kaya send him off to dreamland with her reading of the story.

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