By macleans.ca - Friday, December 7, 2012 - 0 Comments
Mercury has ice and golf is riding itself of belly putters
We’re not alone
NASA announced that its Messenger mission to Mercury has confirmed the existence of ice in deep, perpetually shaded craters at the poles of the planet nearest the sun. Neutron spectroscopy established the existence of hydrogen-rich deposits that must be water, but perhaps more interesting are signs that Mercury possesses chemically organic material: molecules containing carbon, captured from comets and asteroids. That could provide a crucial data point for measuring the extraterrestrial incidence of chemical preconditions for life.
A line in the ocean
The Canada-Denmark doomsday clock inched backward from midnight as the countries reached formal agreement on a maritime boundary between Canada’s Arctic possessions and self-governing Greenland. “Denmark and Canada are showing that we can settle our disputes peacefully,” said Denmark’s foreign minister, Villy Søvndal. “One might wish the same for the rest of the world.” But keep your powder dry: the status of disputed Hans Island, lying athwart the sea boundary, awaits disposition. Continue…
By Aaron Hutchins - Monday, November 12, 2012 at 10:55 AM - 0 Comments
Due to Greenland’s lack of facilities with ice, some athletes will be out in the cold.
Over the past four decades, the Arctic Winter Games have emerged as the Olympics of the circumpolar north, with athletes competing in a wide variety of events ranging from cross-country skiing to the more traditional “stick pull,” where players try to pull a greased stick from an opponent’s hand. But with the games set to take place in Nuuk, Greenland, in 2016, there’s concern that some northern athletes are getting the short end of the stick.
In September, games organizers rejected six events—including speed skating, figure skating, curling and midget-level hockey—because the city doesn’t have a suitable ice rink. Gymnastics events and dog mushing were also dropped, the latter due to laws that prevent foreign dogs from entering Greenland. In all, roughly one-quarter of the regular events have been cut, affecting up to 400 athletes from Alaska, Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, as well as parts of Quebec, Alberta, the Nordic countries and Russia. It’s created a political backlash in Canada’s territories. “Some of the games they’re omitting are winter sports that are quite common throughout northern Canada,” says Allan Rumbolt of the legislative assembly of Nunavut. “These sports should be included.” One alternative is to have multiple host cities. Nuuk and Iqaluit co-hosted the 2002 games, and in 2016 some hockey matches are scheduled to take place in Nunavut. To do that for so many sports, however, would drive up travel costs. For now, ministers from all three territories are meeting to discuss other ways to get the events reinstated—and avoid giving hundreds of athletes the cold shoulder.
By Nancy Macdonald - Thursday, September 3, 2009 at 12:20 PM - 4 Comments
For Greenland, global warming spells an era of booming growth
“Cucumbers, lettuce, radish, turnips,” says Buuti Pedersen, ticking off the grown-in-Greenland veggies now available at local supermarkets. For two years, stores have also been stocking home-grown broccoli and potatoes—“bigger, fresher and tastier” than those shipped from Denmark, says the 54-year-old artist, who lives on Ammassalik Island in Greenland’s remote southeast. Since summer now comes earlier and stays longer, Arctic wildﬂowers have become more abundant, sheep have been birthing fatter lambs (and more of them) and cod, which prefer warmer waters, have started appearing off the coast of Greenland—the fastest-warming place on the planet.
While the rest of the world agonizes over climate change, warming is triggering grand dreams on the scantly populated hunk of ice. The polar island, whose capital, Nuuk, barely reaches a population of 15,000, is profoundly rich in mineral wealth—some of it buried deep in ice. Yet, if Arctic waters become free of ice by 2012, as NASA climate scientist Jay Zwally has suggested, there could be a Greenlandic gold rush. Strange as it sounds, some say Greenland could become a vital mining, oil and shipping centre later this century. Continue…
By macleans.ca - Thursday, June 25, 2009 at 10:00 AM - 0 Comments
Plus a week in the life of NHL commissioner Gary Bettman
Face of the week
Ricky Barnes reacts to his missed birdie putt on the final hole of the U.S. Open. Lucas Glover (right) went on to win the tournament.
A week in the life of Gary Bettman
The NHL commissioner has had a hectic few days. At the NHL awards in Las Vegas, he addressed player representatives irked by a falling salary cap, shaky franchises and dubious TV deals. Good news came Monday when Chicago businessman Jerry Reinsdorf confirmed plans to bid on the Phoenix Coyotes. But within 24 hours, Bettman found himself trying to broker peace between the two feuding owners of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Oren Koules and Len Barrie.
Rising petroleum prices have pumped new life into the Alberta oil sands, and that’s good news for Canada. Yes, pricey oil makes for expensive fill-ups. But Canada needs oil-patch jobs, and with a $50-billion deficit, our government needs the tax revenue that oil sands generate. Moreover, plans to renew the North American auto industry are predicated on the development and sale of smaller, fuel-efficient cars, so pricier gas may prove to be the industry’s friend. If these twin engines of our economy—energy and auto-making—get running again, everyone benefits.
A sweeping proposal from Egypt has the potential to raise talks between Israel and the Palestinians to a new and promising level. Under Egypt’s plan, an end to the blockade on Gaza would be followed by a prisoner exchange between the two sides and the formation of a Palestinian unity government, ending Hamas rule in Gaza. The deal includes safeguards to ensure aid isn’t appropriated by militant groups—a major roadblock to reconstruction efforts in Gaza. The approach may appear ambitious, but it addresses a persistent impediment to deals between Israel and the Palestinians: no sooner have you resolved one irritant than another raises its head, shattering the agreement you’ve worked so diligently to reach.
Tennis is cracking down on screamers and grunters, and thank goodness. Up-and-coming star Michelle Larcher de Brito was told in advance of Wimbledon she could be docked points for the prolonged shrieks she makes when hitting the ball. Occasional grunting may be unavoidable in a sport where a powerful stroke wins games. But tennis legend Martina Navratilova was right to label the excess noise “cheating, pure and simple.” If Martina could win 18 Grand Slam titles without moaning on every shot, the lesser lights can do without it, too.
After 300 years of Danish rule, Greenland reached a new self-government agreement this week with Denmark, setting the stage for eventual independence. The move brings decision-making on governance and natural resources closer to Greenland’s 58,000 inhabitants, and may indirectly benefit Canada. Ottawa had been at odds with the Danes for years over Arctic sovereignty, and the more Copenhagen loosens ties with Greenland, the more tenuous its Far North claims become. Not to put too fine a point on it, but we’d much rather deal with a pragmatic neighbour than with its distant and nostalgic European parent.
Price of war
The Department of National Defence is straining Canadians’ patience and credulity by refusing to release the estimated future cost of its mission in Afghanistan, citing security issues. DND has already said that annual costs in the conflict are topping $1 billion, so how does releasing the projected spending on the conflict in 2011-2012 help the Taliban? More likely military brass censored the information to bolster the security of government, which has already signalled it will pull troops out at the end of 2011. If a change of heart is under way, Canadians have earned the right to participate in the debate. We have faced up to the real costs of the mission: the deaths of 120 soldiers and one diplomat. We have a right to know the price tag. We can handle it.
Pluck o’ the Iris
Iris Evans, Alberta’s forthright finance minister, knows something about raising kids. The former nurse and one-time minister of children’s services raised three sons through financial difficulties. So when she offhandedly remarked that good parenting requires one parent to stay home (at considerable financial sacrifice, she noted), she knew of what she spoke. Evans was expressing an opinion, not setting government policy, but you wouldn’t know it from the outrage. She offered grudging regrets, saying she “would have preferred not to have initiated the debate.” But we’re glad she did, and she owes no one an apology.
Picking your battles
French President Nicolas Sarkozy fell into a familiar trap this week when he labelled burkas “a sign of debasement” and declared them unwelcome in France. Time and again, Western politicians have fuelled Islamic anger by fixating on the personal choices of Muslims rather than what really matters: respect for the rule of law and basic civil rights. Fortunately, Sarkozy counted among the few leaders in Europe who responded forcefully to election-rigging in Iran and the brutal suppression of pro-democratic protestors. That’s the kind of intervention Muslims can use.
Ain’t that American?
Several cities in the U.S. have cancelled Fourth of July fireworks this year because of tight budgets. Regrettably, and perhaps unintentionally, at least one Canadian town has stepped into the void. Officials in Kenora, Ont., located near the U.S. border in the province’s northwestern corner, have decided to bump their “Canada Day” fireworks to Saturday, July 4, saying they hope to boost attendance by drawing in the weekend cottage crowd. Shrewd perhaps, but not wise. No one would consider moving Christmas, so why Canada Day?