Sunday, May 8, 2011

 

ALERT AND WEARING YOUR SUNDAY BEST

The grip of winter's cold stubbornly hangs on here in eastern Ontario. The agricultural sector complains that the "planting" season is at least 3 weeks delayed. In the Nation's Capital the spring's bloom of the city's 4-Million or so tulips (I've stopped counting) sputters and shivers much to the dismay of the thousands of tourists who flock here each year for the iconic Canadian Tulip Festival.

There is much hope for more appropriate and welcoming early summer weather by the last week of June; and most especially on June 30 and July 1 when Britain's newlywed "Royals"; the future King William and Kate, arrive the city on a first "official" visit to a Commonwealth Country. Canada was first of now 53 nations to join the modern British Commonwealth. It's a favorite of the Royals and William's grand-mother, Elizabeth II, also toured Canada in 1953 before ascending the Throne. The Queen was in Ottawa last year for the annual July first "Canada Day" celebrations. William and Kate will be here next month.

Billions worldwide watched the couple's wedding a couple of weeks ago; perhaps none more enchanted than our southern neighbours in the USA where the tale of the commoner princess and her handsome prince kept the national media on the story for most of April. - To be knocked-off the front pages only by the assassination of Osama Bin-Laden in Pakistan.

The news of William and Kate's visit to Ottawa, about an hour's drive from the U.S. border, means that thousands of American well-wishers will be flocking to Parliament Hill along with the usual quarter-million Canadians (or so) to celebrate the nation's 144th birthday and the start of America's own July 4th holiday weekend. Major hotels in downtown Ottawa already report full occupancy bookings for that long weekend.

Doubtless on many levels that the visit is a logistical nightmare. And, most likely in the aftermath of the death of Bin-Laden, also an issue of increased threat and security concerns for the authorities responsible for the safety of the Royals and the many thousands of people who will greet their visit to Parliament Hill on July first. In the past both the United-States and the United Kingdom have suffered indiscriminate murderous attacks from the al-Qaida network and though reaction to the assassination in the Muslim world has been muted; supporters of Bin-Laden have vowed revenge on the infidels.

In the United-States the "colour warnings" that became the Government's most visible anti-terrorism program after September 2001, and which were frequently mocked by stand-up comedians, has been quietly abandoned effective two weeks ago, on April 27. A new somewhat classified system now in effect places the American Homeland Security Secretary (Janet Napolitano) in charge of a "National Terrorism Advisory System" with step-by-step procedures in place "behind the scene" when the government believes terrorists may be threatening Americans. Governments have frequently struggled with how much information to share with the public about specific threats largely over concerns about revealing intelligence and/or their efforts to disrupt unfolding plots.

Information obtained by the Associated Press claims the new advisory system is more efficient; involves better intelligence sharing; and aims to address specific areas of concern such as transportation hubs, airlines and airports or public events. Only under what are described as "special circumstances" will a public terror alert be relayed to the public: That would include using social media outlets such as FaceBook and Twitter, "when appropriate."

Though we may quite never know for sure: In effect since just a few days before the demise of Osama Bin-Laden; this is most likely the warning system's first test under fire. I suspect that they are being extra vigilant and alert.

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