Gerald Flood

  • Another day older and deeper in debt

    The Manitoba government operates an apple-polishing service that daily spits out breathless "news releases" extolling the "investments" the government is making with taxpayer money (about $12.3 billion this year, up $6 billion from $6.3 billion when the NDP took charge of the spigot 14 year ago). As of Friday, the service had posted 40 "news releases" this month, so it is safe to say that by month's end, it will have issued 50. Let's say 50 is the average number of news releases each month. That would amount to 600 a year, or 8,400 good-news stories since this bunch first was elected in 1999.
  • Conspiracy arrests take a bite out of Bitcoin

    On Jan. 26 Charlie Shrem was a featured speaker at a gathering of Bitcoin enthusiasts in Miami. The next day he was making less-welcome headlines, after being arrested and accused of conspiring to provide $1 million worth of the virtual currency to shoppers on Silk Road, an online marketplace for illegal drugs. Silk Road was shut down last year. Its alleged founder, Ross Ulbricht, has since been indicted. Now crimebusters are turning their attention to the exchanges that allowed customers at such black-market bazaars to trade traceable old-economy currencies for near-anonymous virtual ones.
  • Sister relationship begins to thaw

    An emperor's palace once stood on Tianfu Square in the heart of Chengdu. It was destroyed, as were so many of China's ancient treasures in the 1960s during the Cultural Revolution, disastrously launched by Mao Zedong to rid China of "capitalist elements." The revolution, which led to the persecution and deaths of millions, generated a fanatical Mao personality cult, which led to a frenzy of monument-making.
  • So many police, and so little crime

    CHENGDU, China -- I arrived in China more than a bit paranoid. I was travelling on a tourist visa, which was easy to obtain, and not a journalism visa, which, after several weeks of trying, I concluded was impossible to obtain, more so since the Communist government's clampdown to prevent foreign journalists from snooping around for corruption stories.
  • In China, the only child prevails

    CHENGDU, China -- The announcement that China was relaxing its one-child policy coincided with my arrival in Chengdu. That the draconian law, enacted in 1979 to slow population growth, was being reformed to allow two children was big news around the world, but it caused hardly a stir in Chengdu. Why was that?  
  • Megalopolis a village at heart

    CHENGDU, China -- Chengdu is a city of open storefront shops. There are tens of thousands of them. And without them, it is difficult to imagine the city of 14 million could function. To be sure, Chengdu has gargantuan superstores, like the world's largest building by floor space, the Global Centre, which measures 100 metres by 500 metres by 400 metres.
  • It's a different kind of cold

    CHENGDU, China -- It was 12 C as I left Chengdu on a morning in late November. (It was -14 C in Winnipeg, a difference of 26 degrees). And yet as mild as it was, and with the forecast for a high of 16 C, my translator Duanduan Liu shivered and called it "a snow day" as she drove me to the airport in her new Buick Regal. What passes for winter in Chengdu is mild by Manitoba standards. But all the same, residents dread the arrival of snow days that portend the winter to come when the average temperature slips to 5.6 C in January and often plunges to zero, even as low as -5 C -- minus five!
  • 'Tree kings' a highlight of city's flora

    FOR all of its pollution issues, Chengdu is a surprisingly green city. It has a canopy of trees, not as dense as Winnipeg's, I would guess. But I can only guess because in Chengdu it is hard to see the trees for the forests of towering buildings. There were no uninterrupted green vistas like you see from downtown Winnipeg when you look west across Wolseley.
  • Hot on the recruitment trail

    CHENGDU, China -- Sandy Prentice is the international program administrator for the Kootenay Lake School Division. The name rang no bells for me. It helped, however, when Sandy explained Kootenay Lake is the school division that serves Nelson, a town of 8,000 in southwestern British Columbia. What on earth are you doing here? I asked.
  • A recipe for trouble

    CHENGDU, China -- The KFC restaurant at the intersection of Zong Fu Road, a six-lane main street, and the Chunxi Road pedestrian mall seats 300. It is not the size of the restaurant, however, that is remarkable, although by Winnipeg standards it is very large indeed. No. What is astonishing is it is one of three identical KFCs on the block, along with three McDonald's, three Starbucks, three Pizza Huts and one Burger King, newly arrived in Chengdu and trying to establish a presence by slashing prices by one-third.
  • Winnipeg's sister city: The bold and the beautiful

    CHENGDU, China -- I arrived in Chengdu so exhausted I remember nothing about that night except thinking, as we drove up a broad avenue lined with buildings alive with moving light shows, I had mistakenly landed in Las Vegas. The events of the next day, however, were the eye-opener, a crash course in modern China, and the seeming effortless speed with which the Chinese adopt and adapt modernity, as if the transformations, especially over the last decade, had been there all along. Everything I did or saw after that first day was mere elaboration.
  • Head and shoulders, ears and toes

    CHENGDU, China -- My interpreter, Yanjiao (Ivy) Zhang, one day pointed out a clinic a few doors up the street from my hotel where I could get a foot massage for a reasonable price. It's a common and sensible thing in Chengdu but seemed a foolish extravagance at the time. As the days passed and the miles piled up, however, a foot massage seemed ever more inviting -- even necessary, I rationalized.
  • Meet our 'estranged' sister

    As with all journeys, my 12,000-kilometre trip to Chengdu, China, began with a first step -- meeting researcher Ken Klassen at a restaurant in August. There, he told me he had been travelling to Chengdu for more than a decade, had met his partner, Nuo Yang, there and that they now live in her home city of 14 million for part of the year.
  • Historical thriller on Everest climbs to spellbinding greatness

    When we say something is a "complete fiction" we usually mean that it is a lie, beginning to end. And, of course, The Abominable, American author Dan Simmons' historical thriller about five daring friends climbing Mount Everest in 1925, one year after British climber George Mallory famously fell to his death there, is a fiction in the usual sense of the word.
  • West-side farmers to carry can for Gary Doer's folly

    BRUNKILD -- There were 28 pickups, nine cars and a few vans parked outside the Brunkild Community Hall when I pulled up a few minutes late on Wednesday afternoon. It was an impressive turnout, about 60 of an estimated 300 farmers in southwestern Manitoba who are being forced to carry the can for Gary Doer's folly -- the decision to ban Manitoba Hydro's Bipole III transmission line from Manitoba's east side wilderness and move it instead to a longer, less-efficient, less-secure corridor through rich, west-side farmland at a waste of at least $1 billion.
  • Writing contest was peppered with coincidences

    The 2012 Free Press/Writers Collective non-fiction contest is over for another year, which means that we can begin to present the top six stories in this space each day, ending on New Year's Eve. Every contest (and this is my 15th) has its own internal story. This year, I would say the internal story is coincidence.
  • The North: Canada's missing link

    Would a road and power line from Sundance in northern Manitoba to Rankin Inlet, at a cost of at least $1.7 billion, kick-start economic development in the region? That's been the dream for the past 50 or so years, and it's a question a task force looking into economic development opportunities in the southwest basin of Hudson Bay is expected to answer later this year.

  • Churchill must diversify, but how?

    CHURCHILL -- The annual migration to Churchill of hundreds of polar bears -- and thousands of polar-bear watchers -- is underway as you read this. Seasonal hotels and restaurants are opening, rooms are being prepared, linen is being aired, shelves are being stocked with souvenirs and native art. Mechanics are tuning up tundra buggies, the improbable balloon-tired buses that carry tourists willing to pay up to $6,000 for up-close encounters with ursus maritimus on the Churchill lowlands, where about 1,000 of the white bears gather in anticipation of freeze-up and their winter seal hunt on the ice in Hudson Bay.
  • Adversity not all bad for port

    Setbacks and uncertain futures are not new to Churchill. Adversity, it could be said, is its middle name, and has been since 1782, when Fort Prince of Wales, built to protect the territory, surrendered to the French without a shot being fired. Some of that adversity is the result of bad luck, but much of it can be traced to northern boosterism, a penchant to overstate and then under-deliver the "vision" of Churchill as the "Gateway to the North."
  • Gold mine in the backyard

    RANKIN INLET, Nunavut -- Mining has eclipsed government as the No. 1 contributor to Nunavut's GDP, a government official told me recently. That's good news across the 13-year-old territory, but it's an odd kind of good news in that no matter how quickly it travels, it arrives very slowly. Such is the nature of mining.
  • A mining 'whopper'

    The two-billion-year-old rock that Eric Prosh, director of the Nunavut minerals department, placed on his desk was the size of a cantaloupe but as heavy as a pumpkin -- not surprising, given that rich-black rock is 65 per cent iron, three times the concentration of typical iron ore. The ore body from which Prosh's sample was taken is so rich, in fact, that it has launched the biggest development in Arctic history -- an open-pit mine at Mary River near the top of Baffin Island, 1,200 kilometres north of Iqaluit (3,500 kilometres north of Winnipeg).
  • Pangnirtung capitalizes on climate change

    PANGNIRTUNG, Nunavut - It's likely the person who wrote "Welcome to Pangnirtung" in white-painted rocks on the side of a 2,000-foot "hill" overshadowing the airport here was well-meaning. But the cruel irony is the same massive rock that welcomes visitors also is the source of Pang's notoriety as the "stuck" capital of Nunavut -- a place that's often easier to get into than out of. Winds sweeping over the hill tumble down onto the airstrip creating a vortex that makes it impossible for aircraft to land when crosswinds are a mere 20 mph (they can land in 45 mph crosswinds most anywhere else). I flew in for a three-hour stay. When the winds freshened, as they say, three hours became 30.
  • A capital ambition

    IQALUIT, Nunavut -- From the moment I first saw Iqaluit from the air, I was intrigued, could not stop marvelling at it, could not stop thinking -- might this be it? Might this be, if not the realization of aboriginal aspiration, at least a shining example of what it might be? An Inuit city in an Inuit territory governed by Inuit according to Inuit principles, and succeeding. What I first saw from the air was a small city rising as high as eight storeys above a baked-brown, treeless landscape of bulging rock dotted with fall-coloured plants and shimmering pools of water.
  • From China to Iqaluit

    IQALUIT, Nunavut -- The thing that you never think about as a passenger on an aircraft hurtling toward takeoff is that the length of the runway is finite -- it has an end, marked by big yellow-and-black barriers that could, shall we say, trip the aircraft, snag its wheels and bring it down before it gets up. But looking forward from the cockpit of a Boeing 767 taking off from Winnipeg International Airport at 270 km/h, the end of the road very quickly becomes clear. It wasn't frightening, but I must say the approaching end focused my mind until the instant when all became comparatively silent and we "slipped the surly bonds" with lots of runway to spare, climbing at a rate that was exhilarating to witness through the large and panoramic windows of the cockpit.
  • The Forks a place for fun and life

    I quite like Allen Mills, enjoy his company and I'm always pleased to publish his stuff, which is consistently provocative and incisive. That doesn't mean I always agree with Allen, and I certainly don't agree with his glib dismissal of a water park at the The Forks.

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