Second largest country

February 5, 2010

Do you know what the five largest countries in the world are, measured by square miles? (You can measure them in square kilometers if you prefer – the same ones still come out the largest.) In case you don’t know and want to guess, I’ll put the answer after the “Read the rest of this entry,” although that isn’t really the focus of this post.

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North to Iqaluit

February 4, 2010

One day last year I started working on a blog post about Canada, having just learned the answers to a couple of questions about Canada’s history that had always puzzled me. But then something else came up that I wanted to blog about, and again the next day, and that blog post never got written. I told myself that I’d work on it when Canada came up in the news.

I’m sure Canada has been in the news a number of times since then, but it was an article I read in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal that got my attention. Why are the G-7 finance ministers meeting in a city so small (population of 7000) that it doesn’t have a single traffic light? (The traffic does pile up three times a day at the four-way stop sign, but with only 700 taxpayers, Iqaluit would have trouble paying for a traffic light.)

The article doesn’t mention why this remote capital of the Canadian territory of Nunavut was chosen for the event, but I quickly thought of a reason. For years I have read about the protests – ranging from merely disruptive to openly violent – that meetings of the G-7 (or is it G-8?) attract. (One novel I read last year had the U.S. host its foreign dignitaries on a cruise ship to avoid those problems.) Situating the event in the far north, where access is only by airplane (except in the summer and early fall when the ocean thaws and boats can approach), will keep most if not all protesters away.

A column in Tuesday’s WSJ confirms my guess – and also points out that “The benefits of keeping these officials far from their normal levers of power even for just a couple of days would be well worth the effort.” I hadn’t thought there was anyplace that global telecommunications could not keep one in touch these days, but apparently a phone-rental system has to be set up for the meeting because “the area lacks coverage for popular GSM cellphones.”

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