September 9, 2009

Pt 1: Pandemic of Indecency - We started this segment with some tape of Marc Gentilini in translation. He's an infectious disease expert and the former Head of the French Red Cross. And his rather blunt assessment of the world's decision to spend billions of dollars getting ready for the return of the H1N1 flu virus has generated an uncomfortable debate over how the globe - and rich nations in particular - prioritize disease.

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Pt 2: When Obama Asks - President Obama has made Afghanistan a central part of his foreign policy agenda. Prime Minister Harper has committed to withdrawing Canada's troops from Afghanistan by 2011.

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Pt 3: Camel Cull - Australia has a big problem. Camels first came to Australia more than a hundred years ago. Settlers valued their strength and stamina ... useful traits for navigating the harsh outback. But after a while, the camels weren't needed anymore. So they were set loose.

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It's Wednesday, September 9th.

Hamid Karzai says it isn't in anyone's interest to have an Afghan President who is an American puppet.

Currently ... He realized this about the time the U.S. State Department started putting its boot where its hand used to be.

This is The Current.

Pandemic of Indecency

We started this segment with some tape of Marc Gentilini in translation. He's an infectious disease expert and the former Head of the French Red Cross. And his rather blunt assessment of the world's decision to spend billions of dollars getting ready for the return of the H1N1 flu virus has generated an uncomfortable debate over how the globe - and rich nations in particular - prioritize disease.

Mr. Gentilini even went so far as to call H1N1 a "pandemic of indecency"... saying it is indecent for countries to be spending billions on vaccine development, and other flu pandemic measures compared to what's being spent fighting diseases such as Malaria, TB, and HIV-AIDS:

The Canadian Government hasn't said exactly how much it plans to spend on the H1N1 flu virus. But we do know that it will cost upwards of 400-million-dollars just to vaccinate Canadians.

For their opinions on whether the money being spent to fight the H1N1 flu pandemic is an indecent waste - - or a good investment... we were joined by Ross Upshur. He is the Director of the Centre for Bioethics at the University of Toronto. And Rachel Kiddell-Monroe is the Policy and Advocacy Advisor for the Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative and the President of Universities Allied for Essential Medicines. She was in Montreal.


When Obama Asks - U.S.

President Obama has made Afghanistan a central part of his foreign policy agenda. Prime Minister Harper has committed to withdrawing Canada's troops from Afghanistan by 2011.

And so, as Prime Minister Harper gets set for his official visit to the White House next Wednesday, many Washington watchers think it's inevitable that President Obama will try to corner Prime Minister Harper with a question he probably doesn't want to deal with.

For her thoughts on how that meeting may play out, we were joined by Patricia DeGennaro. She is a Senior Fellow at the World Policy Institute and a professor of Global Affairs at New York University. She was in New York City.

When Obama Asks - Panel

John Wright has been monitoring Canadian opinions on the mission in Afghanistan ever since the mission began. He's the Senior Vice-President with the polling firm Ipsos Reid. And he says that these days, Canadians may not be all that willing to jump at President Obama's request.

If and when President Obama does ask Prime Minister Harper to extend Canada's mission in Afghanistan, it's going to provoke a potentially fierce debate in the House of Commons.

For a little preview, we decided to reconvene some members of the House of Commons Special Committee on the Canadian Mission in Afghanistan. Laurie Hawn is a Conservative MP and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence. He was in Edmonton. Bob Rae is the Liberal Party's Foreign Affairs Critic. He was in Toronto. And Paul Dewar is the NDP's Foreign Affairs Critic. He was in Ottawa.

We extended an invitation to the Bloc Quebecois but no one was available this morning.


Camel Cull - Supporter

Australia has a big problem. Camels first came to Australia more than a hundred years ago. Settlers valued their strength and stamina ... useful traits for navigating the harsh outback. But after a while, the camels weren't needed anymore. So they were set loose.

According to the Australian Government, there are now about a million feral camels wreaking havoc across the country ... trampling sensitive vegetation ... sucking up scarce water resources ... even breaking into people's homes. And despite protests against the plan, the Australian Government has set aside nearly 20-million-dollars to kill about half of them and bring the camel population back into check.

Jan Ferguson supports the cull. She is the Managing Director of the Desert Knowledge Cooperative Research Centre. She was in Alice Springs, which is pretty much right in the centre of Australia.

Camel Cull - Animal Rights

But despite the damage the camels are doing, not everyone supports a cull. Mark Pearson is the Executive Director of an animal rights organization called Animal Liberation. He was in Newcastle, Australia.

Camel Cull - Moral of Story

Australia offers a good case study in the damage that foreign species can do when they're introduced to a new environment. Beyond the camels, Australia has European red foxes, feral horses, pigs and about 2 million feral goats.

To get a sense of the scope of the problem, we were joined by Tony Peacock. He is a professor of all things feral at the University of Canberra. He's also the Chief Executive of Australia's Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre and a regular guest on a talk show called "Feral Talk Back." Tony Peacock was in Canberra.

Last Word - WIP Promo

As you may have heard, we've launched a new, season-long series about the changing nature work. It's called Work In Progress. And tomorrow morning, we'll hear about occupations that are disappearing from the employment landscape as well as the new kinds of jobs that are springing up to take their place.

Among the people we'll meet is Dave Robinson. He's the sustainability and community involvement coordinator at Mountain Equipment Co-op's location in downtown Toronto. We aired a clip with a brief history of this new line of work.

Dave Robinson has another connection to our work series -- kind of. In the 1980s, he was the singer with UIC, one of Canada's best-loved garage punk bands. And that's U-I-C, as in "Unemployment Insurance Commission" ... the precursor to what is now Employment Insurance.

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