By Richard Warnica - Monday, May 14, 2012 - 0 Comments
The top executive in a JPMorgan Chase unit that lost more than $2 billion…
The top executive in a JPMorgan Chase unit that lost more than $2 billion in botched trading is retiring. Chief Investment Officer Ina Drew had been with the firm, which is still reeling from the loss, for more than 30 years.
In Drew’s place, the bank on Monday named Matt Zames, a trader by background who is well versed in risky financial bets. He was at one time employed at Long-Term Capital Management, whose 1998 collapse nearly caused a global crisis.
The biggest U.S. bank by assets said on Monday that Mike Cavanagh, CEO of the Treasury & Securities Services group, will lead a team of executives overseeing its response to the losses.
The bank’s statement made no mention of two of Drew’s subordinates who were involved with the trades — London-based Achilles Macris and Javier Martin-Artajo — who sources had said were expected to leave. Neither could be reached for comment.
JPMorgan shares have lost more than 12 per cent of their value on the New York Stock Exchange since the multi-billion dollar loss was disclosed Friday. They were trading at US$36.18 Monday afternoon, down just over 2 per cent from Friday’s close.
By Richard Warnica - Monday, May 14, 2012 at 11:07 AM - 0 Comments
Internet giant Yahoo lost its fourth CEO in five years—and its second in less…
Internet giant Yahoo lost its fourth CEO in five years—and its second in less than 12 months—Sunday after Scott Thompson, under fire for a fudged resume, left the company.
From the Globe:
Early this month, New York-based hedge fund investment firm Third Point LLC, which owns almost 6 per cent of Yahoo, alleged Mr. Thompson had falsely claimed he earned a computer science degree from Stonehill College. In fact, the former eBay executive earned an accounting degree from the school. Mr. Thompson has claimed he did not file the erroneous information, which had nonetheless made its way into regulatory filings. Third Point has long criticized Yahoo’s board and the company’s largely futile efforts to return to growth.
Had Yahoo’s management shown any signs of turning the company around, they may have been able to withstand Third Point’s criticism. But the company has largely been unable to make much money off its popular websites, especially in the face of stiff competition from Google and Facebook in the online ad market. Once valued at more than $100 (U.S.) at the height of the tech boom 12 years ago, Yahoo shares have hovered between $12 and $18 for almost four years, with no signs of a turnaround.
These days, getting hired as a Yahoo CEO is a bit like getting a gig as the drummer for Spinal Tap, wrote Nicholas Thompson in the New Yorker. Carol Bartz, Scott Thompson’s predecessor, lasted just three years in the post. But whether a new body can really turn the flagging company around is an open question. Online, it’s a thin line between behemoth and afterthought. And while Yahoo was one a giant, so too was Geocities. And look what happened there.
In 1998, at the height of the dot-com bubble, GeoCities went public, becoming a billion-dollar company in a matter of hours. The following year, Yahoo paid an incredible US$4.6 billion in stock for it; news of the sale made the Wall Street Journal’s front page. “I thought Yahoo was a good home for GeoCities,” (founder Dave) Bohnett says. “They had the resources to take advantage of the brand.” Indeed, with roughly 3.5 million Web pages hosted there in the late 1990s, GeoCities was a trafﬁc magnet. But despite the crowds who ﬂocked to it, monetizing the site was another question.
In 2009, Yahoo shut Geocities down. Today the name is like a joke from another Internet era. One wonders whether Yahoo itself is destined for a similar fate.
By Richard Warnica - Monday, May 14, 2012 at 10:52 AM - 0 Comments
Many shareholders, it turns out, belong to the 99 per cent
The global economy may not have completely recovered from the financial crash of 2008, but for senior executives, the hard times, if they ever arrived at all, are now nearly over. American CEOs earned an average of US$11 million in total compensation last year. That’s down just slightly from the US$12.4 million they earned in 2007, the last pre-crash year, according to a new analysis by the Economic Policy Institute, a U.S. think tank. In Canada, meanwhile, the 100 best-paid chief executives earned an average of $8.4 million in 2010, a raise of 27 per cent from 2009.
But there are growing signs that largesse isn’t sitting well, and not just with the Occupy movement. Investors worldwide are protesting more vocally about executive pay. More than half of Citigroup shareholders voted to reject a US$15-million pay package for CEO Vikram Pandit in April. (Shares in the U.S. bank have fallen more than 80 per cent since Pandit took over in 2007.) In the U.K., Barclays’ shareholders heckled board chairman Marcus Agius at a recent annual meeting, while investors in U.S. natural gas giant Chesapeake Energy, CIBC and other firms have been rumbling about similar revolts in recent months. It turns out that institutional investors, too, are part of the 99 per cent.
By Richard Warnica - Monday, May 14, 2012 at 10:17 AM - 0 Comments
Greece inched closer to new elections—and a possible exit from the Eurozone—Sunday after negotiations…
Greece inched closer to new elections—and a possible exit from the Eurozone—Sunday after negotiations on a coalition government again failed.
From the BBC:
The Greek president has called the four main parties, including the centre-right New Democracy and the Socialist Pasok, to try to form an emergency government to avoid new elections.
But Syriza [a far left party]said it would not attend because it could not back any coalition which supported austerity.
A majority voted against last week.
“No unity government can emerge,” Fotis Kouvelis, head of the Democratic Left party, told Greek television.
“A government without Syriza would not have the necessary popular and parliamentary backing,” said Mr Kouvelis.
Eurozone finance ministers are scheduled to meet in Brussels Monday as voters across the continent continue to voice their anger over steep austerity measures. Meanwhile, worries over the fallout from a possible Greek collapse are reverberating on both sides of the Atlantic.
From the Atlantic:
The 2012 U.S. presidential election could be in many ways about the global economy. If Europe stabilizes, the global economy will be more likely to steady itself, which could lead U.S. job creation to tick upward, the stock market to advance, and the odds to favor Obama’s reelection. But if Greece lurches off the cliff edge, taking Europe with it, the markets may tank, job creation could stall, and suddenly we’re looking at a Mitt Romney presidency.
By Richard Warnica - Monday, May 14, 2012 at 10:10 AM - 0 Comments
Three people are thought to have died after a small plane crashed in the…
Three people are thought to have died after a small plane crashed in the B.C. interior Sunday, the second deadly plane crash in the West in a single weekend.
From the Vancouver Sun:
The plane, a privately owned aircraft, left Pitt Meadows earlier in the day with five people on-board, but began its return flight with three. Late Sunday night, officers at Victoria’s Joint Rescue Coordination Centre had yet to confirm any deaths.
Horrified motorists on the Okanagan Connector highway phoned 911 after they saw the single-engine de Havilland Beaver crash into the trees around 6:45 p.m. about 30 metres from the side of the highway near the closed Brenda Mine.
“When I came around the corner and saw the plane in the air, I thought, ‘Whoa! That’s low, by the tree line,’ and then it just disappeared,” said eyewitness Chris Koebel.
The crash came just a day after two small planes collided in the air above Saskatchewan, killing five people in all, including an 11-year-old boy.
By Richard Warnica - Monday, May 14, 2012 at 9:28 AM - 0 Comments
Companies at the centre of a major Quebec corruption probe received money from the…
Companies at the centre of a major Quebec corruption probe received money from the federal government’s multi-billion dollar infrastructure stimulus plan, according to a CP analysis. The investigation of funding in three Montreal-area municipalities found three instances of companies tied to criminal charges receiving cash from the program.
These include companies owned by construction entrepreneurs Tony Accurso and Lino Zambito, both of whom are facing a long series of charges. Money also went to BPR and Transport and Excavation Mascouche (TAM)—two companies charged with fraud and conspiracy.
Word of their success in obtaining stimulus funding comes after a Canadian Press report last week that many individuals facing charges for improper activity at the municipal level have ties to federal parties through political donations.
Despite the flurry of allegations in recent years about corruption in Quebec’s construction industry, the federal government has repeatedly dismissed the idea that it should adopt special safeguards for its historic stimulus program. It has noted that municipal tendering rules are generally a provincial responsibility.
This isn’t the first time questions have been raised about the infrastructure stimulus plan, which saw the federal government pour billions of dollars into projects large and small across the country. Two years ago, Jason Kirby analyzed some of the more dubious spending in the program for Maclean’s.
From the magazine:
The stimulus plan, which the government announced in January 2009 under pressure from opposition parties, was meant to put Canadians to work on shovel-ready infrastructure projects. Originally valued at $40 billion over two years, the Finance Department now says the stimulus measures, including contributions from other levels of government, will hit more than $60 billion. But with the economy well into recovery, critics charge the surge of money flowing out of government coffers is not only needless, in many cases it’s been squandered on frivolous projects. And with at least five years of multi-billion-dollar deficits ahead of us, it threatens the long-term health of the economy.
By Richard Warnica - Friday, May 11, 2012 at 11:41 AM - 0 Comments
David Cameron, the Conservative Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, sometimes signed…
David Cameron, the Conservative Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, sometimes signed his text messages to the ousted former chief executive of Rupert Murdoch’s News International with ‘LOL.’
“He would sign them off ‘DC’ in the main,” Rebekah Brooks told the Leveson Inquiry, which is probing British media malfeasance, according to the Guardian. “Occasionally, he would sign them off ‘LOL, lots of love, until I told him it meant laugh out loud and then he didn’t sign them like that any more.”
Brooks also revealed that Cameron enjoyed a ”Boxing Day mulled wine mince pie party” at her sister-in-law’s, which, as Sportsnet Magazine‘s Shannon Proudfoot pointed out on Twitter, is the “most British thing ever.”
Cameron isn’t the first to confuse the meaning of LOL. Canadian New Yorker writer Adam Gopnik spoke of LOL-worthy confusion at The Moth.
By Richard Warnica - Friday, May 11, 2012 at 10:22 AM - 0 Comments
JP Morgan Chase, long considered the gold standard in prudent money management, lost $2…
JP Morgan Chase, long considered the gold standard in prudent money management, lost $2 billion in six weeks while pursuing a hedging strategy the company’s CEO described as “stupid.” The losses couldn’t have come at a worse time for the bank, which is desperately fighting against new U.S. regulations that would limit its ability to trade with its own money.
From the NY Times:
The centerpiece of the new regulations, the so-called Volcker Rule, forbids banks from making bets with their own money, and a final version is expected to be issued by federal officials in the coming months. With the financial crisis fading from view, banks have successfully pushed for some exceptions that critics say will allow them to simply make proprietary trades under a different name, in this case for the purposes of hedging and market-making.
The missteps by JPMorgan could highlight that murky line between proprietary trading and hedging. The bank unit responsible for losses takes positions to hedge activities in other parts of the bank.
“This is a crucial moment in the debate,” said Frank Partnoy, a professor of law and finance at the University of San Diego, who has been a longtime supporter of tighter rules for the nation’s banks. “It couldn’t have come at a worse time for JPMorgan Chase. After everything we went through in the financial crisis, the fact that something of this magnitude could happen shows that the reform didn’t do the job.”
By Richard Warnica - Friday, May 11, 2012 at 10:19 AM - 0 Comments
A Canadian banker working in London returned home Thursday to find his two infant…
A Canadian banker working in London returned home Thursday to find his two infant children dead. His Ontario-born wife has since been arrested and is being questioned on suspicion of murder. Jeffrey and Felicia Boots had just moved into a new multi-million dollar home in a posh London neighbourhood. According to an anonymous friend who spoke to the Evening Standard, Felicia Boots had been suffering from post-partum depression after the birth of the couple’s second child in 14 months.
By Richard Warnica - Friday, May 11, 2012 at 10:07 AM - 0 Comments
Human Resources Minister Diane Finley overrode the recommendations of her own department to approve…
Human Resources Minister Diane Finley overrode the recommendations of her own department to approve a $1 million grant for an organization led by a close ally of Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird. What’s more, Baird personally spoke to Finley about the project, which was twice deemed sub-par by bureaucrats, according to the Globe and Mail.
From the Globe:
The funding request for the expansion of a Jewish community centre known as a Chabad was submitted by Rabbi Chaim Mendelsohn of the Canadian Federation of Chabad Lubavitch, who serves as the Canadian face of the international Hasidic outreach movement.
The Ottawa-based rabbi recently joined Mr. Baird on a tour of Israel. During that January visit, Mr. Baird repeatedly joked in his speeches that while he was not Jewish, he did have a rabbi.
More than 300 organizations applied for the grants, which were earmarked for improving accessibility. Bureaucrats then ranked the applications and submitted the top 25 to the minister for approval. Only those that scored 82/100 or better by the staffers made the initial cut. The Chabad bid, however, scored only 53/100. Nonetheless, the organization was still given $1 million of public money to spruce up its Markham headquarters.
By Richard Warnica - Friday, May 11, 2012 at 9:18 AM - 0 Comments
In the months before Tori Stafford was kidnapped and killed, Michael Rafferty, the man …
In the months before Tori Stafford was kidnapped and killed, Michael Rafferty, the man accused of her murder, performed Internet searches for “underage rape”, “real underage rape” and “real underage rape pictures,” according to a computer search conducted by police but never shown to the jury now deliberating in Rafferty’s trial.
Police also found evidence Rafferty possessed or accessed child pornography, had a penchant for violent sex and, days before the blond Stafford was killed, downloaded a Hollywood movie about the kidnapping of a young blond girl. None of that evidence made it to the jury either, however, as the judge in the case, Justice Thomas Heeney, ruled that it was either illegally obtained or would have been unduly prejudicial. (Read Blatchford in today’s Post for more on the judge’s pre-trial rulings.)
The jury was sequestered late Thursday afternoon. Rafferty stands charged with first-degree murder, abduction and sexual assault. Heeney, however, told the jurors they could also find Rafferty guilty of manslaughter or second-degree murder, depending on his level of involvement in the killing.
By Richard Warnica - Thursday, May 10, 2012 at 3:33 PM - 0 Comments
Former Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon became the latest losing Tory to cash in…
Former Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon became the latest losing Tory to cash in Thursday, when Prime Minister Stephen Harper named him Canada’s new ambassador to France. Various Parliament Hill types tweeted the news in the early afternoon, with many pointing out just how great a gig losing as a Conservative has become.
“Lawrence Cannon becomes Ambassador to France,” wrote iPolitics’ Elizabeth Thompson. “Unemployment rate among defeated #CPC candidates continues to drop.”
“Lawrence Cannon as ambassador to France,” added Janice Tibbets, formerly of Postmedia News, “talk about coming out ahead after losing the election!!”
Our own Paul Wells, for one, was surprised by the news. “Trying to remember whom I assured that Cannon, a famous Pontiac homebody, didn’t want a foreign post and wouldn’t take one,” he tweeted. “I’m going to be gloated at. Sigh.”
Of course, no one here at Macleans.ca would dream of gloating at Wells, our illustrious Political Editor. In fact, we were not entirely sure, until this moment, that gloating was something you did “at” people at all.
By Richard Warnica - Thursday, May 10, 2012 at 2:09 PM - 0 Comments
DNA evidence has confirmed that an animal shot in New Brunswick last month was…
DNA evidence has confirmed that an animal shot in New Brunswick last month was a wolf, the first killed in that province since 1876. Meanwhile, experts believe an animal killed recently in Newfoundland was also a wolf, the first spotted there since the 1920s. The evidence here points to one of two conclusions. Either wolves are returning to the Maritimes after being hunted to near-extinction decades ago or wolves are taking over Canada, starting from the east and moving inexorably west, conquering a terrified populace one province at a time. It’s impossible for me to say which is true. I am not a scientist. But stay tuned here for more updates. (Hears howling in the background. Looks over shoulder. Flees.)
By Richard Warnica - Thursday, May 10, 2012 at 1:05 PM - 0 Comments
Environmental charities are not the largest recipients of foreign cash in the Canadian non-profit…
Environmental charities are not the largest recipients of foreign cash in the Canadian non-profit sector. At least not according to the Canadian Press. A CP analysis of tax records shows that, for all the heat green charities are taking over foreign money, only one—Ducks Unlimited Canada—is among the top ten recipients of charitable donations from outside Canada.
According to the story, most of the foreign money being funnelled into Canadian charities is actually coming from large organizations like the UN, which provide in-kind donations (food, supplies, etc.) which then end up recorded in tax forms as cash. McMaster University also made the donation list, partly because tuition from foreign students counts as “foreign funding.” (They also received a sizeable foreign grant for nuclear research.)
Still, the debate over foreign money and Canadian charities is, and will remain, about the environment, or, more specifically, the oil sands. People interested in climate change all over the world feel they have a vested interest in slowing or stopping development of the sands. To do that, they quite logically want to influence Canadian public opinion. Donations are good way to do that. The Conservatives, however, feel that’s dirty pool. (Or at least they feel like there’s something to be gained from pretending they feel that way.)
Caught in the middle of this is Tides Canada, a Vancouver charity that acts as a sort clearing house for other donors, including those from abroad. (Full disclosure: I once worked on a journalism fellowship funded by Tides.) Exactly how much money the organization is getting from abroad, however, is a bit of an open question. From the CP piece:
Tides Canada has reported $7.8 million in foreign income, according to CRA tax returns. That makes it the 16th-largest recipient of foreign money.
However, U.S. tax records show a different amount.
Annual filings to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service from tax-exempt and non-profit organizations show the Tides Canada Foundation has received more than $63 million from wealthy American foundations. That would put it third on the list of Canadian charities that received funding from outside the country.
The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation gave the Tides Canada Foundation almost $33 million, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation gave it nearly $14 million, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation gave it $11 million, and other groups gave it smaller amounts.
Ross McMillan of Tides Canada said wording on the CRA tax form changed in 2009 to include a line for revenue received from all sources outside Canada. Prior to this charities only reported foreign funding under “other gifts.”
Perhaps not surprisingly, the Canada Revenue Agency is now auditing Tides to make sure the organization is complying with all relevant laws.
By Richard Warnica - Thursday, May 10, 2012 at 10:59 AM - 0 Comments
It takes some work for the British bar awards to become interesting to anyone…
It takes some work for the British bar awards to become interesting to anyone other than British barmen. So credit distillery giants Diageo for doing something ham-handedly horrible enough to get the world’s attention.
Diageo, owners of Guinness, Johnnie Walker and other big label liquor names, used their influence to quash a top prize for a tiny rival at the British Institute of Innkeeping’s annual award ceremony last Sunday. After learning that an independent Scottish brewer was set to win Bar Operator of the Year, Diageo officials became incensed. They threatened to pull all sponsorship from the evening if one of their own bars didn’t take home the award, according to various reports.
Unfortunately, the name of the original winner—craft brewers BrewDog—had already been carved onto the trophy and when the replacement winner was announced, the victors refused to accept the prize. BrewDog, meanwhile, launched a social media campaign aimed at humiliating Daigeo for its actions. On Wednesday, the larger company backed down, issuing an “unreserved” apology to BrewDog and the BII.
By Richard Warnica - Thursday, May 10, 2012 at 10:58 AM - 0 Comments
At least 55 people were killed and hundreds more injured after two car bombs…
At least 55 people were killed and hundreds more injured after two car bombs exploded in downtown Damascus Thursday. The attacks, which tore the front off a major intelligence compound in the Syrian capital, could signal the end of a fragile cease-fire.
From the New York Times:
Two suicide car bombs laden with more than 2,200 pounds of explosives erupted at the busy Qazzaz intersection, completely destroying 21 nearby vehicles and damaging more than 100 others, according to a statement from the Interior Ministry read on state television.
The compound housed two major branches of the military intelligence, one known officially as the Palestine Branch but ironically nicknamed the “Sheraton” by prisoners because detainees from so many nations had been incarcerated and tortured there over the years, activists said.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility, although the running commentary on the official media was that it was the work of “terrorists” being financed by Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The opposition blamed the government of President Bashar al-Assad, claiming it was trying to frighten ordinary Syrians over the cost of opposing the government by proving its own claims that Al Qaeda was bent on destabilizing the country.
A cameraman filming the aftermath of the first explosion caught the second blast. Via Al Jazeera:
By Richard Warnica - Thursday, May 10, 2012 at 10:07 AM - 0 Comments
A prominent Mountie who came forward earlier this year with claims of widespread sexual…
A prominent Mountie who came forward earlier this year with claims of widespread sexual harassment in the RCMP is now suing the force. Catherine Galliford claims she was sexually assaulted, harassed and abused throughout her 16-year career, according a statement of claim obtained by the CBC.
Maclean’s wrote about Galliford’s ordeal and her claims that sexism within the RCMP hampered its investigation into missing women in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside late last year. From the piece:
Galliford said during an internal affairs meeting with RCMP staff this April that a senior officer “did nothing” with information that could have broken open the Pickton murders more than two years before his arrest, and attributed the flawed investigation to sexist attitudes and misogyny. In two extended interviews with Maclean’s this week, she said her examination of a ﬁle from the Coquitlam RCMP, with information dating as far back as 1997, showed the force had more than enough information by the late 1990s to obtain a warrant to search the Pickton property. Instead, surveillance on the farm was curtailed, indicative, she says, of the “indifference” that marked the investigation of the disappearance of women from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, and a “misogynist” attitude toward women.
She said in October 2001 she read an RCMP file dealing with the Pickton farm as she briefed herself on her assignment with the missing women’s task force. “I had one of those ‘oh, no’ moments because I saw what was already on the file. There was enough evidence there for another ITO (information to obtain a search warrant),” she said. She said the file included evidence of guns on the site of the farm, as well as women’s clothing, government identification and an asthma inhaler later tied to one of Pickton’s victims. Yet, she said there was only a cursory attempt at surveillance, which was cut short because it was impossible to see activity at Pickton’s trailer, which was set back far from the road.
Galliford has been on sick leave from the RCMP since 2007. Her lawyer says her career with the force is likely over.
By Richard Warnica - Thursday, May 10, 2012 at 9:20 AM - 0 Comments
The Conservative government’s so-called “tough on crime” agenda is creating a predictable crunch in…
The Conservative government’s so-called “tough on crime” agenda is creating a predictable crunch in federal prisons. According to documents obtained by the Globe and Mail, prisoners have been sleeping in trailers, interview rooms and gymnasiums in recent years, even as the number of inmates sleeping two-to-a-one-person-cell continues to climb.
Federal incarceration rates have been climbing of late after remaining generally static or falling for decades. From the Globe:
Part of the latest increase can be attributed to the government’s tough-on-crime agenda. At the same time, the government will lose 1,000 beds after it closes aging penal facilities such as Kingston Penitentiary and Leclerc Institution in Laval, Que., but says it will more than make up the difference with new units.
The Office of the Correctional Investigator has fielded increasing complaints from both inmates and corrections staff about double-bunking. Two areas of concern are the Edmonton Institute for Women, where women have been housed in interview rooms and family visiting areas, and Kitchener, Ont.’s Grand Valley Institution, which set up a trailer for up to 16 women inmates. Across Canada, the percentage of inmates double-bunking rose from 9.4 in August, 2009 to 17.4 in April, 2012 – nearly three times the historic low of 6.1 per cent in 2004.
Meanwhile, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews announced plans Wednesday to make more inmates pay for their own room and board while incarcerated. One thing he doesn’t want them to pay for, however, is porn.
By Richard Warnica - Monday, May 7, 2012 at 10:41 AM - 0 Comments
Vancouver’s pot-friendly mayor, Dr. Seuss’s trouble-making turtle, and Obama’s ‘really big stick’
Winning a big lottery jackpot once is improbable. Twice? That’s near impossible. But don’t tell that to Virginia Fike. The Berryville, Va., woman bought two winning tickets to a single Powerball draw recently. Each one was worth a cool US$1 million. After taxes, Fike will take home about US$1.4 million—not a bad haul for what started as a stop at the gas station. Fike found out she’d won while visiting her mother in the hospital. She plans to spend the money on her parents and bills.
Pipelines, no. Pot farms, yes.
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson has come a long way from the juice farm. The former organic smoothie magnate has an iron grip on city hall. Now he’s flexing his political muscle outside his own jurisdiction. Robertson wrote a comment piece for the Vancouver Sun urging the federal government to think twice about a proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion that could nearly triple the number of oil tankers off Vancouver’s coast. Days later, he added his name to an open letter calling for the legalization and taxation of marijuana. Seven other B.C. mayors also signed the letter, but Robertson’s name was by far the most prominent on the page.
By Richard Warnica - Monday, May 7, 2012 at 10:36 AM - 0 Comments
An officer’s bravery award angers a family who say he caused the deadly crash
It’s a thin line, sometimes, between brave acts and foolish ones. Just ask Mike Biron, a constable with the Akwesasne Mohawk police near Cornwall, Ont.
Late last month, Governor General David Johnston pinned the Medal of Bravery on Biron’s chest. In the ofﬁcial citation, he praised the ofﬁcer for trying “desperately” to pull an elderly couple from a burning car. But less than two years earlier, Biron faced criminal charges related to that wreck. Even today, the family of the couple who died in the crash blame Biron for causing it. They’ve sued him and his force, and are outraged by the award.
The controversy stems from a pursuit on Cornwall Island in November 2008, when Biron chased a suspected tobacco smuggler through the streets at more than 160 km/h. The suspect, Dany Gionet, a 21-year-old from Quebec, blew through two four-way stops before his van crashed into another car. The two vehicles caught ﬁre. Biron and Canadian Border Services ofﬁcer Yves Soumillon tried to yank the older couple from the other car, but they were too late. Gionet, along with Eileen and Edward Kassian from upstate New York, died at the scene.
By Richard Warnica - Thursday, May 3, 2012 at 10:20 AM - 0 Comments
Plus, a fugitive penguin in Japan and a fine over facial hair copyright in Russia
Afghanistan: A mid-level Taliban commander hoping to collect the bounty on his own head turned himself in to police. Mohamad Ashan was wanted for planning IED attacks on Afghan soldiers. Officials had offered a US$100 reward for his capture. But Ashan, evidently confused about how these things work, walked up to a police checkpoint, waved his wanted poster and demanded the cash prize, according to the Washington Post. The officers arrested him.
Japan: A Tokyo zoo has called off the search for a baby penguin who flew—or more accurately climbed out of—the coop. The bird is thought to have scrambled its way up a large rock to escape its enclosure. Zoo workers scoured a nearby river with no luck. They hope to start again in a few months when the penguin will have moulted and grown into its more distinctive, adult plumage.
U.S.: The State of California cancelled an annual report on Australia’s kangaroo harvest. Governor Jerry Brown highlighted the marsupial check-in as one of more than 700 unnecessary and expensive reports state bureaucrats file every year. Among others scheduled to be dropped is one on crocodiles and another on the Loma Prieta earthquake, which happened in 1989.
By Richard Warnica - Thursday, May 3, 2012 at 9:38 AM - 0 Comments
Turkmenistan’s autocratic president is obsessed with the game
Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, the president of Turkmenistan, would make a great NHL general manager. He’s a dictator with a history of extravagant, illogical spending. And despite great wealth, mostly from oil and gas, he has failed to lift his country (read team) up the UN standings for health and human achievement.
It is fitting then that hockey appears to be Berdymukhamedov’s newest obsession. The Central Asian autocrat has ordered his government ministries to start their own hockey teams. He appeared recently at a youth hockey tournament in the capital of Ashgabat, decked out in full gear, flaunting his 54-year-old vigour.
The apparent goal is to make Turkmenistan—a largely desert state where summertime temperatures top 45° C—a hockey power. Critics might suggest the country, where poverty remains endemic, could find better uses for its money than pricey indoor rinks. But great hockey minds never listen to the critics. Just ask Brian Burke.
By Richard Warnica - Tuesday, May 1, 2012 at 10:57 AM - 0 Comments
The one-time most hated man in Canadian hockey is in trouble again
In some ways, the most startling part of this story may be that someone gave Peter Pocklington money again. The former Edmonton Oilers owner and one-time most hated man in Canadian hockey has had a string of financial problems since losing his team in 1998. He declared bankruptcy in 2008. He was charged with bankruptcy fraud in California in 2009. To top it all off, he pleaded guilty to perjury in 2010.
Now Pocklington, a resident of California, is in trouble again. He’s been accused of securities fraud in Arizona. According to documents filed with that state’s Corporation Commission, Pocklington and partner John McNeil overstated the amount of gold they could recover from a surface-mining operation in La Paz county. Using estimates investigators allege are faulty, the two raised more than US$4.8 million from investors.
Securities officials have asked the commission to levy cease and desist orders, fines and restitution payments against the pair. But Pocklington denies doing anything deliberately wrong. “Any errors made in the past were born of inexperience and naïveté, not malice or avarice,” he wrote in an email, “and they were quickly rectiﬁed.”
By Richard Warnica - Thursday, April 26, 2012 at 2:10 PM - 0 Comments
The mysterious saga of Kevin Dallman—sent home, it seems, because of his wife’s blog
About four years ago, Kevin Dallman, a Niagara Falls, Ont., native and former junior hockey star, looked set for the kind of journeyman career common to players not quite good enough to be permanent pros.
Dallman, who once scored 86 points in a single Ontario Hockey League season, had spent six years bouncing between the NHL and hockey’s minor leagues. By 2008, he seemed destined for another six of the same. But rather than settle, Dallman took a risk. Instead of signing another two-way contract with an NHL team that would have allowed management to send him back to the minors, he moved to Kazakhstan, where he has since become the unlikely face of professional hockey in Astana, the capital.
But now the honeymoon between Dallman and the Kazakhs looks like it’s over. After four years as captain of the country’s best professional team—Barys Astana of the Russian-based Kontinental Hockey League (KHL)—Dallman is back in Canada now, waiting for his agent to find him a new deal.
By Richard Warnica - Wednesday, April 18, 2012 at 12:25 PM - 0 Comments
‘The coolest singing drummer of all time’
Levon Helm, the drummer and sometime vocalist for iconic folk-rock group The Band, is dying. In a statement released on his website, his family says he is in final stages of lung cancer.
Helm sang on some of The Band’s best known songs, including The Weight”:
Helm was born on May 26, 1940 in Arkansas. The 71-year-old lives in upstate New York. For many years he was the sole American member of the mostly Canadian group, which grew out of a Ronnie Hawkins backing band and played with Bob Dylan for many years. In 2007, New York Magazine named him “the coolest singing drummer of all time”, partly for performances, like the one below of “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”, from Martin Scorsese’s “The Last Waltz.”