#WelcomeToCanada: This is how to win a propaganda war

By Steve Saideman

Lots of folks criticize Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about being more about style than substance (see his Vogue pics), but the style can be substance.  How Canada has welcomed the first batch of refugees could be seen as a photo opportunity. And 25,000 refugees can be seen as too little.

However, it can also be seen as a vital effort in the war against ISIS/ISL/IS/Daesch.

The videos and pictures counter the messaging by our adversary that the West will not welcome Muslims into their country, that the West is hostile, and all that.  And the images are going viral.

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Is Argentina back on the world’s map?

By Jean Daudelin

Argentina has the second largest economy of South America (after Brazil), its third largest population (after Brazil and Colombia) and, in spite of all the problems of recent years, the region’s second highest GDP (PPP) per capita (after Chile). It’s a huge country whose agricultural potential and agro-business productivity are phenomenal, it has large reserves of gas and, for almost a century and in spite of recent difficulties, it has boasted one of the best-educated population of the continent.

And yet, it has had no significant international or even regional presence or influence for at least 50 years.

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Why compassion for incoming refugees is now so crucial

By Nicole Tishler

On whether and how to accept Syrian refugees into Canada, social media and political commentators have been firmly divided into two camps: those motivated by humanitarian responsibility, and those who prioritize national security.

But with the first plane of government-airlifted refugees arriving at Toronto’s Pearson Airport Thursday evening, it is ironic that the most vocal proponents of the security camp are likely candidates for undermining Canada’s future safety.

When the government first confirmed its intention to fulfill its campaign promise of resettling 25,000 Syrian refugees in Canada by the year’s end, there was widespread concern that attention to security screenings would be sacrificed in the name of expediency. When the government unexpectedly extended its campaign-promised deadline by two months, not all opposition was assuaged. Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, for instance, still takes issue with the setting of a deadline altogether, since Canada must take “all the time that might be necessary to ensure security and successful settlement.”

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Why invite Montenegro into NATO? It’s all about Russia

By Steve Saideman

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) announced this week that it is inviting Montenegro to join the alliance.  The essential meaning of this is that once it is a member, Montenegro will be committed to participate in the defense of NATO members if anyone is attacked AND the alliance will be committed to defend Montenegro if it is attacked (Article V of the NATO treaty).  To be clear, this commitment is not as ironclad as people believe, but still has much political weight.

To borrow from Bill Simmons, when considering membership in NATO, the question to ask is: How much does potential member X bring to the table versus take off of the table?  What kinds of contributions to NATO capabilities/geographic position/whatever does a country bring?  What kinds of problems, such as domestic conflicts, extending NATO credibility too far, risk of international adventures, does the potential member bring?

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The mosquito-transmitted virus that is causing alarm in Brazil

By Jean Daudelin

A little-known virus called Zika has led to the declaration on Sunday of a state of emergency in Pernambuco, Brazil’s sixth most populous state. An unusually large number of suspected cases of microcephalia, a neurodevelopmental disorder, has been detected among newborns here over the last few months. The babies affected have an abnormally small cranium, a condition that is often associated with intellectual and developmental handicaps. This past weekend, Brazil’s health ministry has formally established a link between the presence of the virus and that condition, which however may also have a variety of other causes, from syphilis to malnutrition.

Still, the number of suspected cases identified this year so far (more than 1,000 in the country as a whole as of November 30, and around 500 in Pernambuco alone) significantly exceed the normal incidence of cases in Brazil, which have ranged between 139 and 175 per year since 2010. In addition, a small number of infected people have died in recent days, including a few adults, though it is unclear if the virus itself was the cause of death, if it interacted with another disease, or if the person died of an unrelated condition.

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Is excluding Syria’s unaccompanied men evidence-based policy?

By Simon Palamar

Among the promises the federal Liberals made in the recent election campaign were to bring 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada by year’s end, and a return to evidence-based policy making.

Now the government admits that they will not be able to settle 25,000 Syrians in Canada by the end of the year, and that it may take until February. This may be a good thing. After all, taking a few more weeks to ensure that services and support are in place is an acceptable delay, especially if it improves the chances that refugees coming to Canada will be able to successfully restart their lives here.

The more troubling issue is the decision on who from Syria will be allowed into Canada; that is, no unaccompanied males under the government-sponsored program (except for gay, bisexual, and transsexual males, who are remarkably vulnerable to predation in parts of Syria, and who should be welcomed to Canada). Is the new Canadian government  already violating its pledge to make policy on the basis of evidence, rather than ideology?

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Reframing the Global Health Debate

By Valerie Percival

Transition planners are laying the groundwork for Canada’s new government.  One issue that has received little mention as a key issue for the new government — global health — deserves more scrutiny.

Canada has the expertise to shine on the world stage.  Canadian scientists are often at the forefront of solutions to global health problems, undertaking cutting edge research and innovation.

But our government machinery is outdated.  We are unable to effectively engage with international initiatives and promote and showcase this expertise.  Sounds a bit boring and bureaucratic.  But it’s true.

The world of global health is a complex mess of institutions, private actors, donors and recipient countries, and countless international initiatives and commitments.  Hundreds of millions of dollars flow through the system.

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