Tuesday Map: Why Canada is rooting for global warming

Perhaps you recall the "Northwest Passage" from your seventh grade social studies class. Until the phrase showed up on the AP newswire and at the center of Canada's aggressive new defense policy, I had almost forgotten about this long-sought-for shortcut to Asia that swallowed up so many European explorers.

Usually frozen, the Passage has historically only been passable for a few days every summer. The onset of global warming has raised its strategic value, since all the ice in the world might be gone soon. In addition to a transcontinental shipping route that's 2,480 miles shorter than going through the Panama Canal, it turns out those northern straits host bountiful fishing stocks, valuable minerals, and—get this—25 percent of the world's undiscovered oil and gas reserves.

In the manner of any self-respecting oil producer (especially given the recent IEA report of an oncoming oil supply crunch), Canada has begun an aggressive campaign to protect what the Canadians say is rightfully theirs. Despite his country's history of turning a blind eye to U.S. usage of the Passage, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has forthrightly asserted Canadian sovereignty over the arctic waterways:

Canada has a choice when it comes to defending our sovereignty over the Arctic. We either use it or lose it. And make no mistake, this government intends to use it. It is no exaggeration to say that the need to assert our sovereignty and protect our territorial integrity in the North on our terms have never been more urgent.

What's more, Canada has recently hoisted the maple leaf over Hans island, a small, barren rock less than a thousand miles from the North Pole. Countering Danish claims of sovereignty over the island, which isn't far from Denmark's Greenland, many Canadians have even called for a boycott of Danish pastries.

First PM Harper won't talk to Bono, and now he's on the warpath, hoping to reap the rewards of global warming. Better keep an eye on this fellow.


Brazilians get angry, people actually notice Pam Am games

It would have to take a controversy, however minor, to get people in the United States to notice the fact that the Pam American games start Friday. And, predictably, that controversy has taken the form of a little anti-Americanism. 

On Saturday, Rio's O Globo newspaper ran a front-page picture of a whiteboard in the office of the American delegation. It read, "Welcome to the Congo!" According to the alleged author of the offensive comment, who was also shown in the photo, he was inspired to write it because "it's really hot in Rio." 

That wasn't a sufficient excuse for the Brazilians, who were swiftly up in arms about being compared to a country not up to their stature. Here's the mayor of Rio:

The U.S. wants to show it is not an imperial country, and along comes this guy to exacerbate that image."

Or this letter to the editor published by O Globo:

With respect to your phrase, typical of Americans who have serious problems with world geography, a piece of advice: GO BACK HOME!...You're not welcome here, or in the Congo either."

Perhaps it's best that Brazilians are distracted by the gaffe. That will keep their minds off the fact that their delegation chief is on the record as saying that it's the country's goal to finish ... third.