May 13, 2009

Pt 1: Mulroney - Why Care? - You'd think that the prospect of a former Prime Minister appearing before a commission of inquiry into some allegedly shady business deals would transfix the nation. But according to the latest poll from Nanos Research, that's not the case. The poll is accurate to plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. And among other things, it found that 45 per cent of Canadians said the inquiry was not a good use of taxpayer money while only 7 per cent thought it was.

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Pt 2: Babylon - Tourism - The Hanging Gardens were just one of Ancient Babylon's many invaluable treasures. Four thousand years ago, Babylon was a vibrant city and an important trading centre on the Euphrates River, in what is now Iraq. It's ruler, Hammurabi, created one of the world's first written codes of law. Alexander The Great lived in Babylon's palaces. And ancient writers marveled at the city's imposing walls, grand gates and striking statues.

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Pt 3: Drunkyards Walk -We started this segment with a scene from the movie version of Tom Stoppard's play, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. In it, the two characters stumble on a paradox -- With every toss of a coin, there is a 50-50 chance that it will come up heads. But to do that again and again and to have it come up heads again and again ... Well, that just seems to defy the odds. Even though the odds on any given toss are 50-50.

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It's Wednesday, May 13th.

Brian Mulroney has begun his testimony at the inquiry into his business dealings with Karlheinz Schreiber.

Currently, Mulroney is sticking to his story: he's never hired a nanny in his life.

This is the Current.

Part One: Mulroney - Why Care?

We started this segment with Brian Mulroney testifying yesterday at the Oliphant Commission into his business dealings with fugitive German businessman Karlheinz Schreiber.

And you'd think that the prospect of a former Prime Minister appearing before a commission of inquiry into some allegedly shady business deals would transfix the nation. But according to the latest poll from Nanos Research, that's not the case. The poll is accurate to plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. And among other things, it found that 45 per cent of Canadians said the inquiry was not a good use of taxpayer money while only 7 per cent thought it was.

Nik Nanos is the President and CEO of Nanos Research. We heard from him with his analysis of the poll results.

For their thoughts on why Canadians don't seem interested in the Oliphant Commission and whether the inquiry into Brian Mulroney's business dealings with Karlheinz Schreiber is a useful or productive exercise, we were joined by two guests. Greg McArthur is a national writer with the Globe and Mail. Along with CBC Television's The Fifth Estate, he broke the stories that led to the Oliphant Commission. He was in Ottawa. And Bob Plamondon is a former insider with the Progressive Conservative Party, and the author of the book, Blue Thunder: The Truth About Conservatives From MacDonald to Harper. He was also in Ottawa.

Babylon - Anti-tourism

The Hanging Gardens were just one of Ancient Babylon's many invaluable treasures. Four thousand years ago, Babylon was a vibrant city and an important trading centre on the Euphrates River, in what is now Iraq. It's ruler, Hammurabi, created one of the world's first written codes of law. Alexander The Great lived in Babylon's palaces. And ancient writers marveled at the city's imposing walls, grand gates and striking statues.

These days, after years of war and political instability in Iraq, the site where ancient Babylon once stood has seen better days. But local authorities think the site still has enormous economic potential. So they have taken control of Babylon and opened it up to tourists on a limited basis ... for a price of course.

Not everyone thinks that opening the ancient site of Babylon to tourists is such a good idea. Donny George is an Iraqi archaeologist, anthropologist, author and curator. He is the former Director of the Iraq Museum and the former Chair of Iraq's State Board of Antiquities. He's now a visiting professor at Stony Brook University and he was in Stony Brook, New York.

Babylon: Pro-tourism

Iraq's Ministry of Tourism is eager to re-open museums and make archaeological sites such as Babylon accessible to people from around the world. The idea is that this will project a sense of stability and attract tourists. Now thousands of pilgrams already travel to Iraq, most of them religious piligrams, mostly from Iran to visit Shiite shrines.

But the idea of a Iraq as a wider a tourist haven probably seems a little far-fetched to many. Not to Geoff Hann. He is the Managing Director of Hinterland Travel. Two months ago, he started taking tourists to Iraq for the first time since 2003. And Geoff Hann was in West Yorkshire, England.

Drunkyards Walk

We started this segment with a scene from the movie version of Tom Stoppard's play, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. In it, the two characters stumble on a paradox -- With every toss of a coin, there is a 50-50 chance that it will come up heads. But to do that again and again and to have it come up heads again and again ... Well, that just seems to defy the odds. Even though the odds on any given toss are 50-50.

According to Leonard Mlodinow, there is an important life lesson in this. Whether we leave things to chance, randomness pretty much has its way with us. Leonard Mlodinow is a theoretical physicist who teaches randomness at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. He was a writer for the TV series, Star Trek: The Next Generation. He's also the author of several books, including his latest, The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives. His next book, The Grand Design, is co-authored with Stephen Hawking and it will be published later this year. And Leonard Mlodinow was in our Toronto studio.

Last Word - UK Spat

We wanted to end the program with a very public confrontation over a burning issue in the United Kingdom. For several days now, stories have been trickling out about MPs and Lords who allegedly stretched the boundaries of fair play with their expense claims at a time when fiscal austerity is supposed to be the order of the day. It has led to a lot of outrage including this televised exchange between BBC Presenter Carrie Gracie and Labour peer, Lord George Foulkes. We gave them the last word this morning.

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