This year Canadians have been focused on one major theme: the rise and fall of the loonie against the U.S. dollar. For the first time in decades, our dollar not only reached parity with the American dollar but actually exceeded it a couple of times. The rise of dollar values played havoc with bank transfers and currency exchanges, but it was a point of pride for the country and a sign that our economy is finally starting to reach its potential. So what’s happening with our currency today? According to currency valuators XE.com and Oanda.com, we’ve dropped back down to the point where one American dollar will buy $1.006 Canadian; the loonie is still very high with respect to its place in the currency exchange just a few years ago, however, and today’s dip doesn’t necessarily mean that it will keep falling.
Another big news item this year was the deaths of two men as a result of police Tasering. The deaths brought increased criticism of the use of Tasers by RCMP, and although CBC says that more than 50 people have died as a result of Tasering in North America since 2001 (17 total in Canada) the RCMP maintains that this is the safest way of dealing with certain individuals.
Amnesty International Canada had been asking for more research to be conducted on the health risks of Taser guns, and after this year’s deaths it has called for the suspension of any use until further studies are undertaken. So far, no formal action has been taken by the government.
In Foreign News
In September this year, the ruling Burmese junta (formally known as the State Peace and Development Council) did away with gas subsidies in a move that saw prices rise 100% in some cases. This led to massive protests not only by average Burmese citizens, but most notably by Burmese monks. Protests were not specific to the gas subsidies, and were actually directed at the eradication of the military government and the establishment of a democratic system. The current Burmese junta is supported by the Chinese government, and this has inspired many international activists to call for a boycott of the Beijing 2008 Olympics as well as Chinese imports. After United Nations envoy Paulo Sergio Pinheiro visited Burma on November 14, the UN reached no satisfactory compromise; China continues to support the current government.
In the United States, the Writers Guild of America went on strike this November and we’ve subsequently been subjected to reruns of Hollywood-based shows like The Colbert Report, The Daily Show, and many other late-night talk shows. The strike was called by the Writers Guild because Hollywood writers wanted a bigger percentage of earnings, particularly in terms of Internet sales. As yet, there has been no resolution to the matter. However, certain onscreen personalities have begun to rethink their options. David Letterman has decided to try to reach a compromise directly with his writers, and Jay Leno and Conan O?Brien have said they will be back at work January 2. Despite the return to their respective shows, Leno and O?Brien will be working without their regular writers and therefore the established format will have to be changed. For the most part, writers and big Hollywood names remain on the picket line.