HALIFAX (CP) - The disappearance of 17 cruise ship passengers, who slipped into Canada after duping customs officials, highlights a serious weakness in the country's highly touted ports security program, analysts say.I wonder how much involvement the Communist regime has in these innovative exploits. The web of Chinese business-Communist party-Triad gangs is much more intimately woven together than we probably imagine.
David Harris, a former CSIS strategic planner, warns that the breach in security is alarming enough that Ottawa should consider putting more money into beefing up resources at the country's major marine gateways. "This does seem to be a significant failure," said Harris, of Insignis Strategic Research Inc. in Ottawa.
"One of the ways we would be infiltrated by terrorists, or other enemy groups, would be by undocumented entry at ports, so one won't sleep very comfortably knowing that his kind of thing is possible."
Seventeen Chinese nationals presented fraudulent Korean passports to officials from the Canada Border Services Agency and managed to leave their cruise ship in Halifax on Sept. 9 by either claiming they were seasick or saying they wanted to temporarily get off.
They then boarded a train to Toronto and haven't been heard from since.
A spokeswoman with the agency said the matter is under investigation and will focus partly on how agents failed to identify more than a dozen phoney documents.
"The work is being done through our intelligence in reviewing all those procedures," Jennifer Morrison said in Halifax, adding that agents have special training to detect forged identity papers.
The incident was followed by the arrival of another two ships carrying groups suspected of attempting to sneak into Canada with falsified passports.
Police suspect that a criminal smuggling ring has set its sights on the Atlantic Coast as a new entry point for illegal immigrants.
Four Chinese nationals posing as Korean passengers were detained in St. John's, N.L., earlier this week after trying to get off the Star Princess with illegal passports. One man was charged with aiding and abetting illegal immigration and entering Canada illegally.
Two weeks earlier, four Chinese nationals with Korean passports were arrested while attempting to leave the cruise ship Constellation in Halifax. One man is facing charges of aiding and abetting illegal entry into Canada.
RCMP Cpl. Andy Kerr, who is investigating the Halifax incidents, said he's never seen cruise ships used before as a means of entering the country illegally and that this could be a new phenomenon similar to smuggling rings seen on the West Coast.
"Certainly it's a concern, especially when there are three incidents entering illegally," said Kerr, of the RCMP's Atlantic region immigration and passport section.
Now we can see why nondemocratic regimes imperil the security of the world. They stay in power by controlling their populations. This control invariably required an increasing amount of repression. To justify this repression and maintain internal stability, external enemies must be manufactured. The result is that while the mechanics of democracy make democracies inherently peaceful, the mechanics of tyranny make nondemocracies inherently belligerent. Indeed, in order to avoid collapsing from within, fear societies must maintain a perpetual state of conflict. (p. 88)and she goes on to explain why China is vulnerable to a linkage policy that ties progress on human rights to treatment as a legitimate nation.
Indeed, the anti-Japanese demonstrations have served China in the same manner anti-Israeli demonstrations have served Arab countries. It serves as a political safety valve, a warning that a chaotic China is the last thing a world focused on remaking the Middle East needs and most importantly, as a weapon of mass distraction. The last time Chinese students were permitted/encouraged to indulge in behavior which threatens the Communist Party’s much cherished promise of “social stability" was in 1999 after the U.S. bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade. Then, the West was busy in remaking the Balkans and the anti-American demonstrations helped the Chinese government to distract attention from the 10th anniversary of the military crackdown on pro-democracy student rallies at Tiananmen Square. Now, the West is busy remaking the Middle East and the demonstrations help distract attention from the disastrous consequences of the recent passage of the Anti-Secession Law.Read the whole thing, and ye shall surely be enlightened.
The passage of that law not only caused Japan to move visibly closer to the United States but it forced the EU to follow the Japanese example. In an article entitled “ China row shows how little EU cares for democracy" the Telegraph writes:Having hurtled to the edge of the cliff, Europe's leaders have paused on the brink. Last year, they decided in principle to lift the arms embargo on China; now they are agonizing over when and how to do so. Perhaps they have finally woken up to the magnitude of what they are proposing. Unusually, their actions could for once have real and calamitous consequences. In the wider world, it does not much matter whether Cuban dissidents are invited to EU embassy functions, or whether Iraqi recruits are trained by European policemen. But the purchase of lethal arms by Beijing is of more than diplomatic significance.Stung by such criticism the European Parliament passed a nonbinding vote of 431-85, with 31 abstentions to keep the embargo in place. To add insult to injury, the EU assembly did not merely express its ``deepest concern (at the) large number of missiles in southern China aimed across the Taiwan Straits'' and about the recently adopted anti-secession law empowering China to use force to rein in Taiwan." It went on to call Taiwan ``a model of democracy for the whole of China," and its regret that Europe's ties with Beijing were only progressing in terms of "trade and economic fields, without any substantial achievement as regards human rights and democracy issues." The negative comparison to Taiwan merely added salt to the injuries caused by the EU decision not to treat China as a normal country and not to provide it with the cutting edge technologies she needs to win the high tech war against Taiwan as well as to keep its economic miracle going. In other words, China found itself on the wrong side of the tracks along with the Middle Eastern autocracies and throwbacks like Cuba. All in all, it seems that at least in principle the Europeans have decided on a Helsinki agreement type linkage policy which helped end Communist Party monopoly of power in the USSR.
But is China vulnerable to such a linkage policy? The short answer is yes because Communist China, like its Soviet predecessor, has hit the innovation roadblock. In his 1968 essay directed to his country’s leadership, the premier Soviet nuclear scientist Andrei Sakharov warned “that a society that restricts intellectual freedom and prevents the free exchange of ideas would be unable to compete with societies that unleash the creative potential of their people." He went on to compare the race between the US and the USSR to one between two cross country skiers traversing deep snow. If the dictatorships seem to be catching up fast, it is only because they follow in the tracks already smoothed out by democracies. Lack of freedom consigns “fear societies" to the role of followers, never leaders since “a fear society must parasitically feed off the resources of others to recharge its batteries."
If Chinese military buildup is moving faster than some expected, it is because “European nations have been selling China hundreds of millions of dollars worth of dual use military equipment each year, but as long as the embargo is in force, explicitly military gear can only be sold under the table and smuggled in." In “China’s Secret War," Patrick Devenny, lays out the variety of ways China goes about acquiring the technologies it needs but cannot produce.
According to the Economist, the Chinese problem even extends to the economic sphere as an article entitled “China's people problem" reveals: “The particular shortages mentioned most often are of creativity, of an aptitude for risk-taking and, above all, of an ability to manage—in everything from human resources and accounting to sales, distribution, branding and project-management." Interestingly, just as the Soviet leadership was more aware of the problem than its Western counterparts, so is the Chinese leadership. Thus, Hu Jintau, general secretary of the Communist Party of China, identified “increasing the capabilities of innovation in science development" and rural development as the two central challenges facing China.
China is desperately hoping to find a way to institutionalize innovation which is based on risk taking without giving up significant control. Thus, in April 2000, Chinese and U.S. experts on management and innovation came together in Beijing on April 24 - 27 for the "China-U.S. Joint Conference on Technological innovation" sponsored by the National Science Foundation and the National Natural Science Foundation of China. This most enlightening American embassy report on the conference reveals that the Chinese scientists are the most pessimistic about the regime’s chances of success:ESTOFF has on occasion heard Chinese scientists and science policy experts see the problems of Chinese science as being inextricably bound up China's economic and political system. Recently a Chinese scholar remarked to ESTOFF that the lack of intellectual freedom and the extraordinary waste of resources severely handicap Chinese science. Both problems are rooted in the Communist Party's monopoly on power and in the socialist system. The Communist Party alternates between tightening and loosening constraints on society depending upon how secure the Party feels. The scholar said that the latest example of the Party's limitations on intellectual freedom is the firing of four Chinese Academy of Social Sciences researchers. Nobody believes in Marxism, said the scholar, it is just a slogan. Resources are wasted or used very inefficiently much more often in China than in the United States, said the scholar, because under socialism nobody plays the role of the owner who would see that resources are used efficiently. Local protectionism and the struggle between the center and localities are another source of great waste, the scholar said. For example, said the scholar, China has 186 different automobile companies -- many more than in other countries.Recent developments in India have further strengthened these doubters. Paying the "democratic price," India is growing by a mere 6 percent as compared to China’s 10 percent growth rate, but it already enjoys the “democratic dividend," the ability to innovate and develop cutting edge technologies as is evident from the fact that India already supplies software to Boeing and Lockheed. Thus Chinese premier Wen Jiabao began his recent visit to India in India’s Silicon Valley, Bangalore, rather than in New Delhi and brought with him a new Chinese map that showed the disputed region of Sikkim as part of India.
Oil sands?U.S. energy future rests with development of Canadian oil sands
In the north of the remote Alberta province rests the equivalent of 1.7 trillion barrels of oil. An estimated 176 billion barrels is recoverable with today's technology, and perhaps twice that amount is potentially recoverable. But this oil can't be pumped from the ground the conventional way. It's spread across more than 54,000 square miles, about the size of North Carolina, and is mixed with sand and clay.
"It's the single-largest hydrocarbon deposit on the Earth, and it's next door to the biggest market for oil products, the United States. What's wrong with it? It's crap oil," said Neil Camarta, senior vice president of oil-sands operations for Shell Canada.
"You've got to use a lot of energy and a lot of pots and pans to extract it from the sand, and you have low-quality oil. It's a high-cost business and a lot of capital and a lot of operating costs," Camarta said.
Don't mistake that for discouragement.
"The good news is, once you've got those pots and pans on the ground, you never run out of oil. The resource is almost infinite, so we never decline," Camarta said.
Canada already quietly has surpassed Saudi Arabia as the United States' largest foreign supplier of crude oil and petroleum products. The U.S. Energy Department believes foreign oil will account for as much as 72 percent of U.S. supplies by 2025.
The sands contain a tarlike grade of crude oil called bitumen, which must be separated from the dirt through a costly, complicated boiling process. Hydrogen is added, sulfur and nitrogen removed, and the final product is synthetic crude oil.
Shell's Athabasca Oil Sands Project - a joint venture between Shell, ChevronTexaco and other companies - already produces about 155,000 barrels of oil a day. Within a decade, it should produce half a million barrels per day.
America consumes 20.7 million barrels a day, and of that about 12.1 million barrels are imports.
Shell runs the newest of the three well-developed oil-sands operations. All three expect to produce at least half a million barrels of oil within a decade. Suncor Energy Inc., formerly part of the Sun Oil Co., began producing synthetic crude oil in 1967. Syncrude Canada Ltd. has operated since 1978; 25 percent of it is owned by Imperial Oil, whose majority shareholder is ExxonMobil.
"This is the one place where you can bring on oil. You know the costs, you know what you're dealing with," said Robert Esser, director of global oil and gas resources at Cambridge Energy Research Associates. "It's in the process of taking off - it's not just starting; it's there. These are major companies and major sums of money entering this playing field."
Oil-sands operators are expected to produce this year more than 1.1 million barrels of oil a day, for the first time surpassing Canada's conventional oil production, which is forecast for 1 million barrels a day.
By 2020, oil-sands operators and their partners will have invested more than $100 billion to make real what just a few years ago was dismissed as a pipe dream.
"The scale is unimaginable compared to what had been envisioned," said D. Guy Jarvis, a vice president of Enbridge Pipelines Inc., an important piece of the oil sands' future.
Enbridge, based in Calgary with U.S. operations in the Gulf Coast region, plans to build by 2009 the 780-mile Gateway Pipeline. It would take oil-sands oil to the Pacific Ocean, where tankers could take it to California or China, whose state oil companies this year bought into various oil-sands partnerships.
Oil-sands production is projected to reach 2.3 million barrels of oil per day by 2010, 3.4 million barrels by 2015 and 5 million barrels by 2035.
Less than two decades ago, production costs were as high as $30 a barrel. That's come down to less than $18 a barrel - still high considering it costs some countries less than $4 a barrel to produce conventional oil. But oil now sells for between $60 and $70 a barrel. The math is simple. Oil sands are profitable.
"It the early '80s, we had to prove that the technology would work and the system would work and the economies of scale would be there. Then ... we began to hone in on the costs," said Jim Carter, Syncrude's president and chief operating officer. "Fortunately, the timing has just been perfect, with the world's crude oil demand going up and prices going up accordingly. It's made it a pretty attractive business."
Neil Currie, an analyst at UBS, said the situation for supermarkets is dire. For years, he said, supermarkets failed to respond to consumers' migration toward restaurants and their increased desire for natural foods. Today, 46.9 percent of all food dollars are spent at restaurants and similar establishments, compared with 41.3 percent in 1985, according to the Agriculture Department. "If nothing changes, the format could die a slow death as Wal-Mart and other nontraditional formats continue to take market share," Mr. Currie predicted in a report last year.Kroger is trying to solve the problem in the usual bad way, because they're terrified and don't know what to do-they're throwing everything at the wall and hoping something sticks. Kroger is one business that won't survive this shakeup intact. Al Ries can tell you why and why better than I can.
Mr. Dillon of Kroger said supermarkets must provide a variety of shopping experiences and products. To that end, Kroger is building three alternative formats. One is Fresh Fare stores, which operate inside Ralphs stores, and offer a higher level of service and carry many of the products found at Whole Foods, like organic produce, sushi, an olive bar, hundreds of cheeses and 2,000 wines.So basically, Kroger's strategy is to start three new kinds of stores:
Another, Kroger's Marketplace, offers stores that are twice the size of a typical grocery store and sell everything from electronics and kitchen appliances to home office furniture and dishes. The product selection resembles that of Wal-Mart, though prices are not as low.
Kroger's third format is its 142 Food 4 Less stores, which are no-frills warehouse operations seeking to compete with Wal-Mart on price.
Mr. Dillon said Kroger's standard supermarkets would also be increasingly customized, with some carrying more organic and natural food and others offering a specialty cheese section or products catering to Hispanic customers.
"There will be as many kinds of supermarkets," Mr. Dillon said, "as there are variations in the neighborhoods across America."
Food Lion, a 1,220-store chain owned by the Delhaize Group of Brussels, is making changes. Robin Johnson, director for marketing and brand development at Food Lion, said that when her team started working on a new store concept called Bloom three years ago, they took a red pen to every aspect of supermarket design.Wow. I'd shop there. Fantastic!
"For the past several decades, stores have been run in a way that benefits the store and the company's bottom line," Ms. Johnson said.
By contrast, she said, the new store concept "was born from what the customer wants: to take the hassle out of grocery shopping."
Bloom stores - there are now five, all in North Carolina - feature a quick-stop area in front for shoppers who just want eggs and milk or something for dinner. Traditionally, supermarkets have placed such high-volume items at the back of the store in hopes that the journey may inspire other purchases.
"Why have we played these games with customers?" Ms. Johnson asked.
The new stores also have wider aisles, lower shelves and no candy at the checkout aisles, to cut down on temptations for children. Ice cream is at the front so it is less likely to melt before reaching home.
Ms. Johnson and her team have also banned promotional displays from the aisles, saying that they generate nice fees from vendors, but clog cart traffic. "Taking them out is a scary thing for a retailer to do," she said, "because it's revenue and they're designed to drive impulse sales."
Because the problem of supermarkets isn't the lack of olives or that I have to rush home to save my fudge ripple. The problem is trust. I simply don't trust the Safeways and the Krogers of the world.Food for thought.
I don't trust them to put quality meat into the meat counter, because they removed butchers from the store long ago. I don't trust the produce department to have the best tasting produce available, because supermarkets have removed any fruit or veggie that couldn't sit out on the shelf for longer than four days. Oh, and they replaced knowledgable produce staff with people who couldn't tell me the difference between a sweet potato and a yam.
Their dairy departments have practices that almost destroyed the small milk producers and the artisinal cheese makers. Oh, and the markets shelf space is up for sale to the highest bidder, rather than to the companies who have the consumers best interest in mind.
Granted, I'm not representative of your typical shopper. I probably put a little more thought into supermarkets than a great majority of people, but I'm willing to bet that trust ranks high on many people's minds when it comes to supermarkets, even if they can't communicate why they don't trust these mega-corps any more.
But who knows? Once they put in their softer lighting and their wood-simulated floors, they may get my trust back. Because clearly that's why people haven't been shopping at these places as much as they used to.