April 27, 2010

Pt 1: Oil Spill - A deepwater well off the coast of Louisiana is leaking an estimated 42,000 gallons of oil per day into the Gulf of Mexico and threatening eco-systems closer to shore. Critics say it illustrates the dangers of trying to exploit oil reserves in areas that are increasingly difficult to reach ... especially without adequate emergency planning. (Read More).

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Pt 2: Thalidomide - Fifty years ago this month, Thalidomide was approved for use in Canada. It was banned two years later. But not before 125 babies were born with severe birth defects. Meet the Canadian woman who helped make sure Thalidomide was never introduced in the United States. (Read More).

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Pt 3: Robert Fisk - Celebrated reporter Robert Fisk connects the dots that spell big trouble in Pakistan and big headaches for the countries that cross paths with it. (Read More).

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Whole Show Blow-by-Blow

It's Tuesday, April 27th.

A French Muslim man accused of polygamy now says he only has one wife, but several mistresses.

Currently, score one for cultural assimilation.

This is The Current.

Oil Spill - Ray Brandhurst

Investigators still don't know what caused last week's explosion on an oil rig off the coast of Louisiana. But the effects are all too clear. Eleven crew members are missing and presumed dead. A deepwater well is leaking about 160,000 litres of oil per day into the Gulf of Mexico. That's the equivalent of dumping the full fuel tanks of 1,800 SUVs into the water every day.

And an oil slick that's now nearly the size of Prince Edward Island is getting bigger by the day. BP, the company that operates the Deepwater Horizon rig, has sent robot submarines to try to activate valves that could stop the leak. The company hopes to learn later today whether that will work. If it doesn't, the leak could take weeks to fix.

That's a big problem for Ray Brandhurst. He has been fishing along the coast of Louisiana his entire life. And the inshore shrimping season is expected to start within the coming weeks. We reached Ray Brandhurst at his home in Slidell, Louisiana, about 45 kilometres north-east of New Orleans.

Oil Spill - Craig Stewart

About a thousand people from BP and a number of U.S. federal agencies are working to staunch the oil spill. But they had to suspend their work yesterday because of choppy waters. U.S. government officials estimate the spill is at least three days from reaching shore.

Doug Suttles, an executive with BP, says the company is hopeful it can cap the leak. But he also says the company isn't sure that its plan will actually work. We aired a clip of Doug Suttles responding to questions in a media conference call yesterday.

BP declined our request for a one on one interview.

Despite oil spills from the infamous Exxon Valdez in Alaska's Prince William Sound 21 years ago, to the one on Australia's Great Barrier Reef nearly a month ago, companies are continuing to drill in increasingly difficult locations. And in some cases, they are doing it without proven technologies and practices for stopping or cleaning up oil spills.

Craig Stewart finds that deeply troubling because he knows where the next frontier of off-shore drilling is going to be. He's the Director of the Arctic Program at World Wildlife Fund, Canada. He was in Ottawa.

Article of interest: Arctic 'more vulnerable' as ice melts


Thalidomide - Talk/Tape

We started this segment with a clip of 95-year old Frances Kelsey talking about her rustic arrival in Cobble Hill on Vancouver island. Frances Kelsey is not a name many Canadians would know. But some Americans would.

Frances Kelsey was a key voice in Washington DC in 1960 and what she said saved untold thousands of American families from a pill whose name has become synonymous with pharmaceutical disaster. That pill was Thalidomide.
Thalidomide was the sleeping pill that created the nightmare of thousands of armless, legless and severely injured children all over the world, including more than a hundred here in Canada.

And this month marks the 50th anniversary of Thalidomide being introduced onto the market in Canada. It's also the 50th anniversary of Thalidomide not being introduced in the United States. Our Current producer Howard Goldenthal introduces us to Frances Kelsey and tells us the story behind Thalidomide.


Pakistan - Robert Fisk

Yesterday, the United States military fired three missiles into a house in northwest Pakistan and killed five people it alleges were Taliban insurgents. So far this year, the U.S. has used un-manned drones to fire - a reported 30 missiles - at targets inside Pakistan, along the border with Afghanistan.

Add to that the increased number of suicide bombings in several Pakistani cities, as well long-running internal conflicts that seem to be restricting the Pakistani government's ability to secure the country and there's a growing sense that civilians are getting caught in the middle of a power struggle over which they have little control.

Robert Fisk has been covering the situation in Pakistan. And he says that its troubles have a great deal to do with the politics of the countries that surround it. Robert Fisk is a correspondent with the British newspaper, The Independent. He was in Toronto this morning.

*** You can watch this interview on our video edition of The Current. ***

Last Word - Thalidomide Musical

We ended the program with a thought about the legacy of Thalidomide ... something we touched on earlier in the program. In Britain, 400 disabled babies were born in the 1950s and 60s. Mat Fraser was one of them. He's an actor, a writer and a musician who appeared most recently in a BBC Channel 4 drama called Cast Offs. But he made headlines in 2005 when he created Thalidomide!! A Musical. It's a dark comedy about a Thalidomide boy who learns to accept his disability, and the girl who loves him. It stars Mat Fraser and Anna Winslet. We played his song, It's Hard to Hitch Down Life's Highways With No Thumbs.

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