By The Canadian Press - Monday, December 9, 2013 - 0 Comments
OTTAWA – Canada says it will try to extend its territorial claims in the Arctic all the way to the North Pole, although it hasn’t yet fully mapped the area and does not have the scientific evidence to back the claim.
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird says scientists have been asked to do additional work following a 10-year exercise in mapping Canada’s continental shelf.
A formal scientific submission was made to the United Nations last week covering territorial claims in Atlantic, but the government says the material submitted for the Arctic Ocean is only preliminary.
Baird does not dispute reports that Prime Minister Stephen Harper stepped in at the last minute to insist that the North Pole be included in the claim, even though the geological justification for the claim — the Lomonosov Ridge — has not been fully mapped by Canada.
The U.N. submissions do not lead to a binding decision but lay the groundwork for future country-to-country negotiations over competing territorial claims in the Arctic that could take many years to resolve.
In all, the Canadian claims cover 1.2 million square kilometres of ocean, an area the size of Alberta and Saskatchewan combined.
By The Canadian Press - Monday, December 9, 2013 at 1:51 PM - 0 Comments
MONTREAL – The federal public safety minister has announced the creation of an RCMP enforcement team to help fight human-trafficking.
Steven Blaney says significant progress has been made over the past year but that much work remains to be done on what he calls the despicable crime of modern-day slavery in Canada.
Blaney also released the 2012-2013 annual report on progress of a national action plan to combat human-trafficking.
The plan involves 18 federal departments and is described in a statement as a comprehensive blueprint to guide the government’s fight against the serious crime of human-trafficking.
The RCMP unit will work closely with law-enforcement partners in Quebec to fight human-trafficking in Canada and abroad.
By The Canadian Press - Monday, December 9, 2013 at 1:46 PM - 0 Comments
BRAMPTON, Ont. – A Toronto police officer convicted of assaulting a protester during the G20 summit was sentenced Monday to 45 days in jail.
Const. Babak Andalib-Goortani was convicted in September of assault with a weapon for using excessive force during the arrest of protester Adam Nobody on June 26, 2010, on the lawn of the Ontario legislature.
Ontario Court Judge Louise Botham delivered the sentence after hearing submissions from both the Crown and defence.
“Citizens will respect the rule of law when they can be confident that those with the power to enforce our laws do so fairly,” said Botham.
“When that trust is abused citizens need to know that police will be held accountable.”
The judge said it was an aggravating factor that Nobody was already on the ground surrounded by other officers at the time of the assault. She also noted Andalib-Goortani’s name tag and badge weren’t visible.
“I can only conclude this was a deliberate act on the defendant’s part to make it harder for people to identify him.”
Crown attorney Philip Perlmutter had called for a short jail term or a conditional sentence that would send a message denouncing Andalib-Goortani’s conduct.
“The court by its sentence must send a message…that the rule of law will be respected, that those who abuse their positions of public trust and authority will be dealt with severely,” Perlmutter said.
As it became clear the judge was going to send him to jail, Andalib-Goortani held his head in his hands. He was then led into custody by court officers.
Andalib-Goortani’s lawyer, Harry Black, had asked for his client to receive an absolute discharge.
Black said earlier on Monday that the officer had suffered enough already. He has post-traumatic stress disorder, his psychological state is fragile and his marriage has fallen apart, Black said, as Andalib-Goortani dabbed a tissue to his eyes.
“It seems inhuman to take the position now that he should be out of a job, take away his career, put him in jail or give him a conditional sentence,” Black said.
“It’s hard to imagine what motivates the Crown to say he should suffer some more. He should be penalized some more. He has not been hurt enough by this process.”
Black didn’t comment after the sentence was read except to say he would try to get his client out on bail pending appeal.
Andalib-Goortani’s trial took place in Toronto but the sentencing was moved to Brampton, Ont., where the judge brought in to hear the case normally sits.
Botham found that Nobody was minimally resisting arrest after he was tackled by other officers. Video footage shows him on the ground with officers piled on top of him. Moments before Andalib-Goortani delivers a second set of blows with his baton, another officer can be seen kneeing Nobody in the face.
More than 1,000 people were detained by police that weekend after protesters using so-called Black Bloc tactics broke away from a peaceful rally and ran through the downtown, smashing windows and burning police cruisers.
The vast majority of those detained were released without charge within 24 hours.
Andalib-Goortani was one of two officers to face criminal charges stemming from the arrests, but earlier this year Const. Glenn Weddell was acquitted.
By Nick Taylor-Vaisey - Monday, December 9, 2013 at 1:36 PM - 0 Comments
Documents, if they’re the right kind, are sacrosanct in Ottawa. When allegations swirl, documents tell their stories, and those stories are gospel to anyone hoping to gain political advantage. Stephen Harper’s opposition regularly latches on to two cast-iron troves of documentary evidence: an audit, and its number-crunched conclusions; and a sworn affidavit, known as an Information to Obtain, and its investigated claims. These documents come to light and launch a million questions, but they rarely face public scrutiny.
Documents are the driving force behind the Wright-Duffy affair, the ongoing mess of emails and audits that forced the suspension of Sen. Mike Duffy and the resignation of ex-Harper chief of Staff Nigel Wright. RCMP investigators believe both men broke the law when Wright paid Duffy’s improperly claimed expenses, and a judge approved the public release of the ITO—with the consent of Cpl. Greg Horton, the investigating officer—outlining the Mounties’ claims. The ITO’s many details have informed relentless opposition attacks in the Commons for weeks. Ottawa Citizen reporter Glen McGregor wrote about the circumstances of the ITO’s public release, about which some questions linger. “The RCMP claims it was only following court procedures but Horton’s consent to release the ITO could raise concerns about the fairness of making unproven allegations public in such a politically-charged case,” he reported.
Earlier this year, the Senate asked an auditing firm to comb through Duffy’s expenses. Deloitte, the chosen firm, did the job and calculated the total amount of improperly claimed expenses. That’s how Wright knew what number should grace his cheque to Duffy. Last week, a Senate committee called a trio of Deloitte auditors to defend the soundness of their Duffy audit. They admitted that a senior partner at their firm called them up and started asking questions about their work, and reassured senators that they hung up the phone abruptly. For the first time in recent memory, an audit was given a second look.
Now, someone’s actually questioning the heretofore (mostly) unquestioned ITO. Today, The Hill Times quotes an outspoken defence lawyer in Ottawa, Lawrence Greenspon, as saying the document should be taken with “more than a grain of salt.” There’s more to the truth than an RCMP investigator’s opinion, he says. “The ITO is not evidence.” Simply, it’s the truth as an investigator sees it, and the basis for further investigation. Greenspon’s opinion won’t put a damper on opposition efforts to embarrass the government, but it’s worth considering. Documents are important, but they’re not by definition the final word.
Maclean’s is your home for the daily political theatre that is Question Period, when MPs trade barbs and take names for 45 minutes every day. If you’ve never watched, check out our primer, which we produced with J-Source. Today, QP runs from 2:15 p.m. until just past 3. We tell you who to watch, we stream it live, and we liveblog all the action. The whole thing only matters if you participate. Chime in on Twitter with #QP.
Expect more questions on the Wright-Duffy affair, but perhaps a lower-octane session because of the predictable absence of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who’s in South Africa for Nelson Mandela’s funeral.
By The Canadian Press - Monday, December 9, 2013 at 1:20 PM - 0 Comments
EDMONTON – Music legend Neil Young is playing four concerts in his native Canada to benefit a northern Alberta aboriginal band fighting oilsands development in its territory.
Canadian jazz singer and pianist Diana Krall is to appear as a special guest.
Tickets for the January shows scheduled for Toronto, Winnipeg, Regina and Calgary go on sale Tuesday.
“The theme of the concerts is honour the treaties,” said Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation spokeswoman Eriel Deranger. “All the ticket sales, all the proceeds from the concerts, not a single cent goes to anyone other than (the First Nation).”
Young made his opinion of oilsands development clear when he visited the band and the region last fall. He compared the sight of massive open-pit mines to Hiroshima after the nuclear bomb blast.
Young is one of a number of global entertainment celebrities who have visited the oilsands. The list includes actresses Darryl Hannah and Neve Campbell and film director James Cameron.
All have offered to help local aboriginals in their protest over what they say is exploding development occurring on their traditional lands without adequate consultation.
Young’s gesture is by far the largest, said Deranger. The band hadn’t even asked for support during his brief visit in early September.
“When he left, we didn’t ask him. We were kind of surprised by his, ‘I’m going to do something for you.’ We’ve heard that before.
“It’s fantastic to have someone follow through and giving directly to a community, the grassroots people.”
The Athabasca Chipewyan band is gearing up for a major legal fight against the latest oilsands development to be approved.
The federal government announced on Friday that Shell Canada’s Jackpine mine expansion could go ahead. The approval came before a 35-day delay to give the band a chance to make its concerns known to Ottawa had expired.
The review panel that looked at the project concluded it would create irreversible environmental damage. It said Jackpine would mean the permanent loss of thousands of hectares of wetlands, which would harm migratory birds, caribou and other wildlife and wipe out traditional plants used for generations.
It also said Shell’s plans for mitigation are unproven and warned that some impacts would probably approach levels that the environment couldn’t support.
The company has purchased about 730 hectares of former cattle pasture in northwestern Alberta to help compensate for the 8,500 hectares of wetland that will be lost forever.
Shell has said the expansion will double its production and create 750 jobs.
Deranger said the band plans to file legal action against the development in January.
“The finances that will come from (the concerts) will be beneficial,” she said. “This type of financial fundraising strategy with such a big name can make or break our ability to move forward with a large legal strategy.”
Geraldine Anderson of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers said Young is welcome to voice his opinion.
“We would also encourage Mr. Young and his fans to learn about the innovation and technical advances that are helping to develop oilsands and develop (them) responsibly.”
The benefit concerts are to be held Jan. 12 in Toronto (Massey Hall), Jan. 16 in Winnipeg (Centennial Concert Hall), Jan. 17 in Regina (Conexus Arts Centre) and Jan. 19 in Calgary (Jack Singer Concert Hall).
Deranger said the news is a huge emotional boost to the band.
“Sometimes we feel as though our work and our struggle is going unnoticed. But when you have the backing and support of people like Neil Young, it revitalizes the spirit of the community and strengthens our struggles to move forward.”
By The Canadian Press - Monday, December 9, 2013 at 12:29 PM - 0 Comments
TORONTO, Cananda – Toronto’s embattled mayor has told ex-media mogul Conrad Black he’s willing to submit to a urine test to prove he has no drugs or alcohol in his system.
Rob Ford’s comments have aired in a promotional clip for an interview with Black that was recorded last week and will air on Vision TV on Monday night.
Ford has been under scrutiny since May, when two media outlets reported the existence of an alleged video which showed the mayor smoking what appeared to be crack cocaine.
After a string of denials, Ford stunned observers last month by admitting he had smoked crack in one of his “drunken stupors.”
The mayor is also facing allegations he offered purported gang members money and a car in exchange for a video — unproven claims contained in police documents that are part of a guns and gangs investigation.
Meanwhile Black — who served 37 months in a Florida prison after being convicted in the U.S. for fraud and obstruction of justice — says Ford should be accorded a full presumption of innocence unless he is justly convicted and “beyond that his accusers should put up or shut up.”
Black has argued repeatedly that the U.S. case against him was the result of an unfair prosecution.
By Emily Senger - Monday, December 9, 2013 at 12:18 PM - 0 Comments
By The Canadian Press - Monday, December 9, 2013 at 11:40 AM - 0 Comments
JOHANNESURG, South Africa – A Canadian delegation landed in Johannesburg, South Africa today to pay final respects to Nelson Mandela.
The contingent headed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper with a host of notable politicians left the airport in a 14-vehicle motorcade with the prime minister in a silver Toyota SUV.
The group includes former prime ministers Brian Mulroney, Jean Chretien and Kim Campbell.
Opposition leader Tom Mulcair is with them, as is one of Mandela’s former lawyers, Quebec MP Irwin Cotler, representing the Liberals.
The delegation includes the premiers of the Yukon, Nova Scotia and Alberta and Shawn Atleo, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations.
Alberta Premier Alison Redford worked with Mandela to develop South Africa’s legal system.
Former prime minister Joe Clark, Mulroney’s foreign minister when his government pushed South Africa to free Mandela, is already in South Africa.
The delegation will join world leaders at a memorial for Mandela in Johannesburg on Tuesday and will be on hand in Pretoria on Wednesday when the former president’s body lies in state.
A state funeral will be held Sunday for Mandela, who died last Thursday at the age of 95.
The flight brought Harper and predecessors Chretien, Mulroney and Campbell together in close quarters in an aircraft Chretien once dubbed dubbed the “Taj Mahal,” a reference to the front stateroom installed when Mulroney bought a fleet of the jetliners during his time in office.
But the animosity of the past seems to have dissipated, at least on the surface.
“I’m not a grumpy politician anymore,” Mulroney said with a smile as he spoke of the significance of being in such close proximity with his former rivals.
“I’m a statesman now.”
As Chretien took one of his trademark strolls to the back of the plane, the former Liberal prime minister openly lamented that he never used this particular aircraft during his three terms in office, mainly because of the way he painted Mulroney as a free-spending politician with a taste for Gucci.
Chretien also expressed his disappointment that Canada doesn’t put its former prime ministers to work for the country’s betterment and to promote international relations after they leave office.
“It’s not our tradition,” he said. “And it’s too bad.”
It was a less-than-subtle point that highlighted the tug-of-war style of Canadian politics as the two former PMs reflected on Mandela’s unique consensus-building abilities.
When Mandela was released from custody after 27 years in prison, many a pundit noted he could have launched his country into civil war.
Instead, he chose the path of peace, and eventually saw South Africa’s apartheid regime crumble.
As the Canadian delegation flew across the Atlantic, just prior to refuelling in Cape Verde, Harper spoke briefly of Canada’s role in ensuring Mandela’s release from prison.
“It really tells you about the long and leading history of Canada from the days of Mr. (John) Diefenbaker on, and the struggle that defined Nelson Mandela’s life — the struggle against apartheid and the transition of South Africa to a modern, non-racial state,” Harper said, flanked by Chretien to his right and with Mulroney and Campbell facing him at the stateroom’s wood- grain table.
“It’s something we should all be very proud of and I’m greatly honoured to be joined by Mr. Mulroney, Mrs. Campbell and Mr. Chretien as well as Mr. Clark who will join us when we reach South Africa.”
But 30 years ago, it was a huge gamble on Canada’s part to support the fight against the country’s racist policies and to demand the release of Mandela, said Mulroney.
The United States and the U.K. were “offside,” he noted, and Mandela’s African National Congress needed a G7 country in its corner.
“We knew we were doing the right thing, but on the other hand we also knew that it was a tough battle,” he said, adding that other nations — including Canada — could learn from how Mandela brought people together.
“When you just get one look at what president Mandela did in South Africa, you know it was all worthwhile.”
“It’s an over-wrought expression, but Nelson Mandela was an iconic figure who was truly a great man.”
Chretien, who will celebrate his 80th birthday next month, said there is no true comparison to Mandela among world leaders, because every one of them is different.
“We are all people coming from a long way from (South Africa),” he said, adding with a smile: “You know I’m from rural Quebec.”
Chretien pointed out that Russia’s Vladimir Putin was an orphan who never met his parents and that Britain’s John Major “was the son of a circus acrobat.”
Mandela was a tribal leader’s son who became a lawyer and a prisoner.
Former governor general Michaelle Jean said the respect for the man that Canada’s leaders share is what is important, as South Africa shows the world both its pride in Mandela and its pain at losing him.
“To see representatives of all political families together going to South Africa to pay tribute to Mandela is totally in the spirit of the man,” Jean said as she prepared to board the plane.
“So I’m proud of us.”
By Julian Beltrame, The Canadian Press - Monday, December 9, 2013 at 11:24 AM - 0 Comments
OTTAWA – Canada’s much-scrutinized housing market showed signs of softening last month, with starts falling a little further than expected but still to levels many analysts consider too strong to sustain.
Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. said Monday housing starts declined to an annualized rate of 192,235 in November, three per cent lower than October’s result and about 3,000 fewer than economists expected.
Most of the weakness was concentrated in Ontario, which saw a drop of 16.6 per cent, and in Atlantic Canada, where starts fell by a whopping 24.8 per cent. But condo building in British Columbia drove starts there up 12.5 per cent and the Prairies and Quebec saw gains of 9.1 per cent and 0.8 per cent respectively.
The Bank of Canada and the federal government have long fretted over housing in Canada, fearing that if it continues to rise above potential it will result in a sudden and damaging crash once interest rates start rising, triggering an overall economic slowdown.
Analysts say the ideal situation is for the market to slowly decline, but not crash and burn.
“It’s a step in the right direction but not aggressive enough — we need the number to go to about 180,000 (annualized),” said Benjamin Tal, deputy chief economist with CIBC World Markets.
“But this is not a housing market that is melting,” he added. “People who expected to see a crash and smoke will be disappointed.”
Economists believe starts should average about 175,000-180,000 annually in order to absorb demographic growth in Canada.
Still, housing is moving in the right direction, analysts said. The market heated up somewhat during the summer and early fall, but November’s numbers suggest there has been a levelling off.
RBC economist Laura Cooper noted that despite the recent gains, starts so far this year have averaged 187,600, well below the 215,000 pace set for 2012 as a whole. She expects next year to settle in at about 180,000.
Also encouraging was the decline in condo construction in Toronto. Multiples fell by 21.4 per cent in Ontario, according to CMHC, although that mostly retraced the 27 per cent surge seen in October. Multiples fell even further, relatively speaking, in Atlantic Canada, which saw condo starts plummet by 41.6 per cent, but that also comes off a big number in September.
Tal said he expects condo construction in Toronto — one of the country’s hottest markets — has reached its limits.
“The cranes you are seeing in the skyline now are decisions that were made two years ago, but if you look what’s in the pipeline, you see significant downscaling,” he said. “Developers are realizing this market is already oversupplied and that you cannot just add to it if you want to maintain stability.”
Nationally, November’s pullback was evenly distributed between single family homes (down 3.1 per cent), and multiples, which declined 3.5 per cent.
In raw numbers, not annualized, there were 17,153 actual starts in November, down from 18,173 in November 2012.
Urban starts decreased by 3.4 per cent on a seasonally adjusted annual rate, while rural starts were flat.
By The Canadian Press - Monday, December 9, 2013 at 10:52 AM - 0 Comments
TORONTO – The sentencing hearing for an Ontario company convicted in a deadly explosion of a Toronto propane plant has been postponed until March 12.
Sunrise Propane and its directors Shay Ben-Moshe and Valery Belahov were found guilty in June of nine provincial offences related to the 2008 blast that forced thousands of people from their homes.
Twenty-five-year-old employee Parminder Saini died in the blast and a 55-year-old firefighter who responded to the emergency on his day off died of a heart attack.
The court ruled that Sunrise failed to provide safety training and a safe working environment, discharged a contaminant and contravened a number of provincial orders related to the cleanup after the blast.
The court also found that Ben-Moshe and Belahov failed to take all reasonable care to prevent the company from flouting those orders.
Following the blast, the government shut down all three of Sunrise Propane’s facilities.
By Nick Taylor-Vaisey - Monday, December 9, 2013 at 9:29 AM - 0 Comments
Ukrainian protesters screamed in the streets for the resignation of President Viktor Yanukovych, the pro-Russia leader who turned away from trade with the European Union and toward Ukraine’s former Soviet ally to the east. Rarely are protests so perfectly symbolic as an attack by a group of demonstrators on an 11-foot statue of Soviet revolutionary Vladimir Lenin—a “symbol of Ukraine’s shared history with Russia,” writes the U.K.’s The Telegraph. The demonstrators toppled the statue, decapitated its head, and handed out remnants to onlookers.
500,000: the estimated number of protesters, by some counts, who took to the streets in Kiev’s central square
“It’s not just a simple revolution. It’s a revolution of dignity.” —Oleh Tyahnybok, a leader of the opposition Svoboda party
What’s above the fold
The Globe and Mail Canadian judges are refusing to force offenders to pay victim fees. National Post
Protesters in Ukraine toppled a statue of Lenin. Toronto Star The Harper government‘s approach to social programs is changing Canada. Ottawa Citizen At least 200,000 protesters gathered in Kiev, Ukraine. CBC News A Calgary woman with dementia was “warehoused” in hospital. CTV News South Africa’s Parliament opened special session for Nelson Mandela. National Newswatch Conservatives in tight ridings are nervous about their re-elections.
What you might have missed
THE NATIONAL Peace Valley. Landowners near Fort St. John, B.C., stand opposed to a proposed $7.9-billion hydroelectric dam and 83-kilometre reservoir that the B.C. government—which claims only 30 homeowners will be affected—says will power the equivalent of 450,000 homes. THE GLOBAL India. The Bharatiya Janata Party picked up momentum from the ruling Congress party in four state elections, a shift that signals the waning influence of a dynasty that’s held ruled since India gained independence. “The charisma of the Gandhi family is basically more or less gone,” said a historian.
By The Associated Press - Monday, December 9, 2013 at 9:20 AM - 0 Comments
LONDON – Eight major technology companies have joined forces to call for tighter controls on government surveillance, issuing an open letter Monday to President Barack Obama arguing for reforms in the way the U.S. snoops on people.
The companies, which include Google, Facebook and Twitter, said that while they sympathize with national security concerns, recent revelations make it clear that laws should be carefully tailored to balance them against individual rights.
“The balance in many countries has tipped too far in favour of the state and away from the rights of the individual — rights that are enshrined in our Constitution,” the letter said. “This undermines the freedoms we all cherish. It’s time for a change.”
The letter follows this summer’s revelations by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, who leaked details of the secret programs that critics argue violate privacy rights. Intelligence officials argue that the NSA’s tactics have helped to disrupt terror attacks and that they’ve taken care not to routinely look at the content of conversations or messages by American citizens.
By The Canadian Press - Monday, December 9, 2013 at 7:41 AM - 0 Comments
OTTAWA – The Commons is set to debate a bill this week that would revoke the pensions of MPs and senators convicted of indictable crimes.
Conservative MP John Williamson’s private member’s bill appears to have some momentum, at a time when three of his former Tory colleagues from the Senate are facing RCMP allegations.
Bill C-518 has already gotten the thumbs up from Treasury Board President Tony Clement, and also appears to have the backing of the NDP.
Under the proposed legislation, any MP or senator convicted of an indictable offence that carries a minimum sentence of two years in prison would only keep what they put into the pension plan, losing the generous government contribution.
But while the offence must carry at least a two year sentence, the convicted parliamentarian doesn’t need to have served that long to be penalized.
The penalty would also apply retroactively to conduct that occurred prior to June 2013. The misdeeds need to have taken place at least in part while the person was serving in Parliament.
The proposal comes at a time when three senators and one former colleague are facing RCMP allegations related to their expense claims.
Suspended Senators Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau and recently retired Sen. Mac Harb have been the subject of police allegations of fraud and breach of trust, with Duffy also accused of bribery.
No charges have been laid in connection with any of the investigations and the allegations have not been tested in court.
But Williamson, former national director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, says the inspiration for the bill came to him when former Liberal Senator Raymond Lavigne retired shortly after he was convicted of fraud and breach of trust in March 2011.
“I remember the reaction of many Canadians who said, here’s a senator who’s been found guilty of breach of trust and is keeping his pension,” said Williamson.
He noted that a similar law in Nova Scotia has already resulted in a convicted former provincial legislator losing his pension.
NDP Leader Tom Mulcair sent an email in response to a member of the public this fall saying the “NDP will support this legislation.”
“New Democrats welcome these changes,” Mulcair wrote in a copy of an email obtained by The Canadian Press.
“However, we feel that this is a half-hearted attempt by the Conservative government to restore its reputation badly damaged by the growing number of scandals on its watch.”
The bill is scheduled for debate on the floor of the Commons on Tuesday.
By The Canadian Press - Sunday, December 8, 2013 at 8:24 PM - 0 Comments
PHILADELPHIA – A powerful storm that crept across the country dumped a mix of snow, freezing rain and sleet on the Mid-Atlantic region and headed northeast Sunday, turning NFL playing fields in Pennsylvania into winter wonderlands, threatening as much as a foot of snow in Delaware and New Jersey and raising concerns about a messy morning commute.
The storm forced the cancellation of thousands of flights across the U.S. and slowed traffic on roads, leading to a number of accidents, including a fatal crash on the Pennsylvania Turnpike near Morgantown that led to a series of fender-benders involving 50 cars.
What was forecast in the Philadelphia area to be a tame storm system with about an inch of snow followed by rain mushroomed into a full-blown snowstorm that snarled traffic along Interstate 95 in Pennsylvania from the Delaware to New Jersey state lines.
Paul Jones, 24, a youth hockey coach from Warminster in the Philadelphia suburbs, was on his way to a game in Lancaster when he got stuck — along with his fiancee, another coach and three players — in a major backup on the turnpike.
The roadway was “snow-covered, slick,” Jones said in an interview from the car, where he was a passenger and had been at a standstill for more than an hour.
“People are in and out” of their vehicles, he said. “Kids are having a snowball fight on the side of the road, making snow angels, people are walking their dogs.”
The National Weather Service said the low pressure system from North Carolina north to New England was being fed by disturbances from the southwest and moist air off the Atlantic.
The forecast called for the wintry mix to continue through Sunday, turning to rain early Monday. Total snow accumulation in some sections of southeastern Pennsylvania, Delaware and southern New Jersey could reach 9 to 11 inches, while other areas could see as little as an inch or 2, said Valerie Meola, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Mount Holly, N.J.
The snow fell so heavily in Philadelphia on Sunday that yard markers at Lincoln Financial Field — where the Eagles beat the Detroit Lions — were completely obscured. It was almost as bad in Pittsburgh, where the snow intensified after opening kickoff.
Philadelphia fan Dave Hamilton, of Ivyland, layered up for the game, wearing an Eagles shirt topped with an Eagles sweatshirt and Eagles winter coat.
“Twenty-seven years I’ve been a season-ticket holder, I’ve never seen snow at the game like this,” he said. “It just kept coming down. But we are all having fun out there.”
Philadelphia International Airport had a temporary ground stop Sunday afternoon with snow totals around 4 to 6 inches. Spokeswoman Stacey Jackson said a number of passengers were expected to remain in the airport overnight since area hotels had been full for several days. She said staff would hand out pillows and blankets to travellers to make them “feel at home even though they are not.”
Air passengers in the Washington-area experienced increasing delays as the season’s first real snowstorm set in. The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority said many flights had been delayed at Dulles International and Ronald Reagan Washington National airports.
Virginia, parts of West Virginia and the metropolitan Washington, D.C., area braced for blackouts under steady freezing rain, wet snow and sleet. Parts of northwest and southwest Virginia and southern West Virginia were getting snow, while sleet and freezing rain prevailed west and north of Richmond.
In Maryland, a chain-reaction accident on Interstate 81 in Washington County involving more than 20 vehicles delayed snow removal efforts for hours. The highway was closed for more than three hours after a tractor-trailer ran into the median to avoid cars that had spun out. It was hit by another tractor-trailer that overturned and spilled its load. Several other tractor-trailers ran off the road and jackknifed as their drivers tried to avoid the crash.
North Texas started to thaw out slightly Sunday after two days of a near standstill with icy roads and low temperatures. About 400 departures from Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport were cancelled Sunday. It will likely be a couple of days before the ice that’s coated the region melts completely.
The snowstorm raised fears about a potentially dangerous Monday morning commute, with snow-laden cars and perilous, icy roads. New Jersey’s new U.S. senator, Cory Booker, tweeted a promise to a Mount Holly resident to help him shovel out his car if he still needed the help in the morning.
But the heavy snow wasn’t limited to the East Coast. A snowstorm that hit along the Utah-Arizona border left hundreds of travellers stranded on Interstate 15 overnight into Sunday. The Arizona Highway Patrol said passengers in about 300 vehicles became stranded after up to 10 inches of snow and slick road conditions prompted the closure of part of the highway. There were no immediate reports of serious injuries.
Rubinkam reported from Pennsylvania. Associated Press writers Steve Szkotak in Richmond, Va., Ben Nuckols in Washington, D.C., Jamie Stengle in Dallas, and Samantha Henry in Newark, N.J., contributed to this report.
By The Canadian Press - Sunday, December 8, 2013 at 8:22 PM - 0 Comments
LAC-MEGANTIC, Que. – Residents in this Quebec community gathered on Sunday to pay tribute to those who were first to arrive on the scene of the train derailment that devastated the town five months ago.
Paramedics, police and Red Cross volunteers were among those given medals for their service.
But it may have been the community’s 45 firefighters, who battled the flames for two days following the explosion, and then spent weeks sifting through the rubble, who received the biggest ovation.
“It was very touching to see our work recognized, and also the work of other first responders,” said Lac-Megantic fire chief Denis Lauzon.
“Firefighters are on the front lines, but we have we had a lot people working behind us and helping out.”
By The Canadian Press - Sunday, December 8, 2013 at 8:20 PM - 0 Comments
SAO PAULO – Brazilian media reports say a Canadian businessman has been killed in an attempted car-jacking in Sao Paulo.
Globo media and other outlets say the man was fatally shot on Saturday on a highway outside the city.
Globo identified the man as Dean Tiessen and reported he is from Leamington, Ont., southeast of Windsor.
They’re reporting he had been in Brazil since last month on a business trip for his agricultural company, New Energy Farms.
Foreign Affairs has confirmed a Canadian died in Brazil but is providing no other details, only saying consular officials are in touch with the family.
Tiessen’s second cousin describes Dean Tiessen as a “very nice guy” with deep ties to the community.
Tiessen’s uncle, Victor Tiessen, told the Windsor Star his nephew was in Brazil on business and was supposed to return to Leamington Thursday.
“The family is just in shock, total shock,” Victor Tiessen told the Windsor Star. “We still don’t know what actually happened.”
Victor told the Star he believes this was only the first or second trip his nephew made to Brazil to expand business ties. He said he was a family man and his wife and four kids are devastated by the loss.
(Windsor Star, The Canadian Press)
By Anne Kingston - Sunday, December 8, 2013 at 9:46 AM - 0 Comments
Terence Young’s 13-year crusade for greater regulation of prescription drugs has lead to proposed legislation, tabled in Parliament on Friday, that will give Health Canada greater power policing unsafe health products in the marketplace. Young, the Conservative MP for Oakville, Ont., joined Rona Ambrose, Minister of Health, in a press conference to introduce the Protecting Canadians from Unsafe Drugs Act. The legislation will be known as “Vanessa’s Law,” after Young’s 15-year-old daughter, Vanessa, who died in 2000 of a heart attack caused by Prepulsid, a prescription drug later removed from market.
If passed, the legislation will set new standards for prescription and over-the-counter drugs, vaccines, gene therapies, cells, tissues and organs, and medical devices (“natural health products” will not be affected).
The legislation’s objectives include introducing mandatory reporting of adverse drug reactions from healthcare institutions, which includes hospitals and other facilities yet to be determined. This is a major change. Currently only manufacturers are required to submit reports of adverse reactions; it’s believed only a tiny fraction are reported, and it can take years for Health Canada to remove a dangerous drug from the market. The new legislation will also impose stiffer penalties on unsafe products and enable swifter regulatory action, such as a product recall or label change. The agency will be able to recall unsafe products; impose new penalties for unsafe products, including jail time and new fines of up to $5 million per day, up from the current $5,000; provide the courts with discretion to impose even stronger fines if violations were caused intentionally; compel drug companies to revise labels to clearly reflect health risk information; and compel drug companies to do further testing on a product, including when issues are identified with certain at-risk populations such as children.
Some of the new measures, such as increased fines and penalties, will become law immediately upon Royal Assent. Other changes to the Food and Drugs Act cannot come into force until supporting regulations are published.
At Friday’s press conference, Young, who militated for plain-language drug labelling introduced in June, and who has also advocated for an independent drug regulatory arm (currently drug approval is based on data supplied by the drugs’ manufacturers), expressed optimism: “It is difficult to overstate the impact this bill will have for Canadians who take prescription and over the counter drugs,” he said. “It represents a quantum leap forward in protecting vulnerable patients and reducing serious adverse drug reactions. It is absolutely necessary to reduce deaths and injuries caused by adverse drug reactions, 70 per cent of which are preventable, and will serve Canadians extremely well.”
Initial reaction from drug-safety experts is cautiously optimistic. “My impression is generally favourable, says David Juurlink, a Toronto physician with Sunnybrook Hospital and a scientist with the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences. “If the elements are enacted, it would represent a considerable step forward from the status quo—which is pretty bad.” Some elements are more enforceable than others, he says: “I’m glad hospitals will have to report adverse reactions; it’s impractical to expect every family doctor to report every adverse reaction they see, though I hope they report it anyway.” He dismisses the notion that we’ll see drug company executives behind bars. ”Lawyers make deals to prevent that,” he says. ”People who go to jail sell marijuana in the street.”
The legislation is only useful if the adverse effects reports are used by Health Canada in “a meaningful, thoughtful and deliberate way,” Juurlink says, adding that he hopes the proposed legislation will increase transparency within the agency: “I don’t know what the heck happens behind the walls of Health Canada,” he says. “It’s an inscrutable black box. Their MedEffects data base is garbage. Hopefully the adverse-effects reports they receive will be sufficentially detailed to draw inferences from them. But would be nice if we knew what Health Canada was going to do with tsumani of reports they are going to get.”
Health Canada claims they’re ready for the influx: ”An influx would be a great thing for our scientists,” says David Lee, director, Office of Legislative and Regulatory Modernization, in an interview with Maclean’s. “They’re ready for that. We’ll be able to organize how information comes in and streamline that. We will do that in conversation with doctors and hospital pharmacists; that will make us more efficient.” As for changes to the agencies systems or staffing, there are no plans right now, he says: “We will be monitoring resources in department.”
Dr. Supriya Sharma, a senior medical adviser and assistant deputy minister, says that the new law will provide more “tools” for Health Canada to use. There will be no “magic number of adverse reactions that tip the balance” of a drug coming off the market, she says: “We have to look at the entirety of information. If a product issue comes up, we look at benefits and risks. Do the risks outweigh benefits? For example, with a cancer drug you’ll except higher level of risk than something used to treat a cold.” Under the proposed law, the agency could compel drug companies to provide information, something it couldn’t do before, she points out.
Lee says some new tools will be really helpful with “populations we can identify.” Not everybody taking a drug is in the same place, he says, citing a drug people might be taking for acid reflux where there’s lots of options. “But others, for example small children, are taking it for obstruction, a very serious condition. So do you make it available for those whose will be of great benefit but we have to put controls around risk. But if it’s a light indication for use we’ll take a more aggressive stance. This gives us tools to really act decisively.” It’s a fitting–and poignant–example. For it was an acid reflux drug taken for a non-serious indication and known to be a danger that killed Vanessa Young.
By The Canadian Press - Sunday, December 8, 2013 at 8:34 AM - 0 Comments
TORONTO – Stock markets could be in for a positive week after a string of reports, capped off by strong recent jobs data, showed that the U.S. economic recovery is firmly on track.
A government report Friday reported that 203,000 jobs were created during November, adding to strong manufacturing and housing reports, better than expected third-quarter economic growth and improving consumer confidence.
On Thursday, traders will look at the U.S. retail sales report for November for further reinforcement on whether the Federal Reserve thinks the economy is strong enough to start cutting back on a key area of stimulus.
“If you believe these jobs numbers, you would think this would reflect better consumer spending in the month of November when these jobs gains took place,” said Andrew Pyle, associate director of wealth management at ScotiaMcLeod in Peterborough, Ont.
“If these numbers are correct, then we should see a very healthy November retail sales number.”
By The Canadian Press - Sunday, December 8, 2013 at 8:32 AM - 0 Comments
OTTAWA – At least two more key Conservatives got gold-embossed business cards, contrary to long-standing government rules against fancy stationery.
Tony Clement was given his gold cards shortly after being promoted to Treasury Board president in the May 2011 cabinet shuffle, following the election of a Conservative majority.
And colleague Laurie Hawn, an Edmonton MP appointed temporarily to a cabinet committee looking at cost-cutting, got his own set of gold-embossed cards at the same time.
The Arms of Canada on both sets of cards was highlighted in gold foil.
By The Canadian Press - Saturday, December 7, 2013 at 10:13 PM - 0 Comments
OTTAWA – A who’s who of Canadian politics is on its way to South Africa with Prime Minister Stephen Harper to pay their final respects to Nelson Mandela.
Harper will attend a public memorial for Mandela on Tuesday in Johannesburg, as well as his lying in state in Pretoria on Wednesday.
He’s being accompanied by three of his predecessors — Brian Mulroney, Jean Chretien and Kim Campbell, all of whom were invited by Harper to fly on the prime ministerial plane to attend the service. Joe Clark, meantime, is already in Africa and will join the Canadian delegation when it arrives in South Africa.
“He was a great, great man,” Chretien said of Mandela as he boarded the plane.
Harper and his wife, Laureen, waved to the assembled media on the tarmac at the Ottawa airport as they got on the plane, a chilly sunset serving as their backdrop.
NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair also joined the delegation, but not Justin Trudeau, the Liberal leader. Instead Quebec Liberal MP Irwin Cotler, who was part of Nelson Mandela’s international legal team during his 27 years in prison, was also travelling on the plane. A spokesman for Harper’s office said the Liberals decided the slot they were offered on the plane should go to Cotler because of his deep personal connection to Mandela.
Assembly of First Nations national chief Shawn Atleo was also on board. Former Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean, Premiers Darrell Pasloski of the Yukon, Nova Scotia’s Stephen McNeil and Alison Redford of Alberta are also travelling to South Africa with the prime minister.
“To see representatives of all political families together going to South Africa to pay tribute to Mandela is totally in the spirit of the man, so I’m proud of us,” Jean said as she prepared to board the plane.
Redford, a lawyer specializing in constitutional and legal reform law, worked for Mandela in the early 1990s in efforts to rebuild South Africa’s legal system and lay the groundwork for the first all-race elections that led to him becoming president.
Mulroney spearheaded Canada’s efforts to free Mandela from prison and pressure South Africa to end apartheid, while Chretien was prime minister when Mandela was granted honourary Canadian citizenship in 2001.
Mandela died on Thursday at the age of 95.
His body will lie in state from Wednesday through Friday.
A state funeral for the former South African president is planned for next Sunday.
By The Associated Press - Saturday, December 7, 2013 at 9:44 AM - 0 Comments
Jay Z easily led Grammy Award nominations announced Friday with nine, but left-of-center rappers Macklemore & Ryan Lewis and Kendrick Lamar were among a group of new stars who took many of the major nominations.
Macklemore and Lewis’ gay marriage anthem “Same Love” was among song of the year nominees and the Seattle rap crew joined Los Angeles rapper Lamar with seven nominations apiece, including best album and best new artist of the year. Pharrell Williams had four major nominations among his seven and Justin Timberlake also had seven.
Macklemore and Lewis dominated a nominations TV special from the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles that also included performances by nominees Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, Lorde and Robin Thicke. They opened the show with a colorful, high-energy version of their hit “Thrift Shop,” featuring Wanz, and immediately picked up a song of the year nomination for “Same Love.”
Two nominations later, Ben Haggerty, the rapper known as Macklemore, was noting it was a “very surreal moment,” during an on-air interview with host LL Cool J. “It’s like we’re not supposed to be here, but we’re here with LL Cool J.”
Recording Academy favorites Timberlake and Jay Z teamed up for two nominations apiece, but they only had one major nomination between them this year and that came for Jay Z’s participation on Lamar’s album of the year nominee “good kid, m.A.A.d city” instead of his own “Magna Carta … Holy Grail.”
Williams, who seemed to be everywhere in 2013, is up for producer of the year and faces himself in three categories, including record of the year for “Get Lucky” with Daft Punk and “Blurred Lines” with Robin Thicke, and album of the year entries “Random Access Memories” by Daft Punk and Lamar’s “good kid.”
Drake and sound engineer Bob Ludwig were next on the nominees list with five apiece.
Joining Lamar, Macklemore and Lewis and Daft Punk in the album of the year category were Sara Bareilles’ “The Blessed Unrest” and Taylor Swift’s “Red.” Swift is among five acts with four nominations apiece along with Daft Punk, Bruno Mars, Lorde and Kacey Musgraves. British musicians James Blake and Ed Sheeran round out the best new artist category with Musgraves, Lamar and Macklemore and Lewis.
Imagine Dragons’ “Radioactive,” Lorde’s “Royals” and Mars’ “Locked Out of Heaven” join “Get Lucky” and “Blurred Lines” are up for record of the year. The Lorde and Mars entries also are up for song of the year with Pink’s “Just Give Me a Reason,” Katy Perry’s “Roar” and “Same Love.”
Perry said of “Roar” in an emotional moment before a pre-taped performance: “I didn’t think that it would take on such a life of its own, and so I hope that the song has inspired you guys and it will bring out that kind of self-strength that you need a little bit to go through your days when they get a little bit hard.”
Jay Z and Timberlake teamed for two nominations: best rap/sung collaboration for Jay Z’s “Holy Grail” and best video entry “Suit & Tie.” Jay Z is competing against himself rap/sung with “Part II (On the Run),” featuring his wife, Beyonce, also nominated. And he’s up for best rap performance for Tom Ford. He also grabbed a best music video nomination for “Picasso Baby: A Performance Art Film” and again teamed with Timberlake in that category for their video for “Suit & Tie.”
Timberlake picked up a handful of nominations in pop categories, including pop vocal album of the year for “The 20/20 Experience.” Other nominees in that category include Lana Del Rey’s “Paradise,” Lorde’s “Pure Heroine,” Mars’ “Unorthodox Jukebox” and Thicke’s “Blurred Lines.”
“The Heist,” “good kid” and “Magna Carta” are also on the best rap album list with Drake’s “Nothing Was the Same” and Kanye West’s “Yeezus,” which was mostly shut out of the nominations. West also got a nomination for best rap song for “New Slaves.”
There were six rock album of the year nominations, meaning there was a tie in the category. Nominees were Black Sabbath’s “13,” David Bowie’s “Next Day,” Kings of Leon’s “Mechanical Bull,” Led Zeppelin live album “Celebration Day,” Queens of the Stone Age’s “… Like Clockwork” and Neil Young and Crazy Horse’s “Psychdelic Pill.”
Swift’s “Red” is up for country album of the year with Jason Aldean’s “Night Train,” Tim McGraw’s “Two Lanes of Freedom,” Blake Shelton’s “Based on a True Story …,” and Musgraves’ “Same Trailer Different Park.” The country newcomer also faces herself in the country song of the year category where she helped pen her own “Merry Go `Round” and Miranda Lambert’s “Mama’s Broken Heart.”
The major nominations were an acknowledgement of 2013′s top hit-makers. “Get Lucky,” “Blurred Lines” and “Royals” took turns ruling the pop radio airwaves this year. Macklemore and Lewis had two hits — “Same Love” and “Thrift Shop” — that led to nominations.
And Lamar seemed like he was everywhere, managing to keep his profile high with a number of hits, guest appearances and moments of bravado that helped voters forget his album came out 14 months ago. Lamar called himself the greatest rapper in the game earlier this year, calling out Drake and several others in verse, and voters mostly backed him up.
West may have suffered the most from the large hauls of Lamar and Macklemore and Lewis. His “Yeezus” is already making many year-end lists, but had no hits and spawned controversy among some listeners.
Others who might consider themselves snubbed are 2013′s most visible country stars Luke Bryan and Florida Georgia Line, who were both shut out.
The show featured some of the year’s top songs. Lorde performed a starkly different version of “Royals.” Swift performed her hit “I Knew You Were Trouble” in a performance pre-taped in Australia. And Thicke, T.I. and Earth, Wind & Fire teamed on “Blurred Lines.”
Among those celebrating nominations:
@TheGRAMMYs !!!! THANK YOU!!!
— Bruno Mars (@BrunoMars) December 7, 2013
HOLY SHIT!!! I’M NOMINATED FOR A GRAMMY w/ CLARITY!!!!!!
— Zedd (@Zedd) December 7, 2013
Humbled and honored by the 2 nominations from @TheGRAMMYs I'm at a loss for words, thank you
— Daniel Platzman (@DanielPlatzman) December 7, 2013
The Grammys will be handed out Jan. 26. To check out the official nomination forms, see below:
By The Associated Press - Saturday, December 7, 2013 at 8:17 AM - 0 Comments
LOS ANGELES, Calif. – An Andy Warhol portrait of Farrah Fawcett currently held by actor Ryan O’Neal is worth an estimated $12 million, an appraiser told a jury Friday.
New York art appraiser Lee Drexler testified in a lawsuit by the University of Texas at Austin against the actor in which the school is seeking to gain possession of the Fawcett portrait for its art museum.
O’Neal contends the artwork was given to him as a gift by Warhol and did not belong to Fawcett when she died in 2009. The “Charlie’s Angels” star left all her artwork to the university; her gift included another version of the Warhol portrait.
Drexler was the university’s final witness in its principal case, which started with opening statements Nov. 25. Her estimate could be used by a jury to award damages if it finds that O’Neal improperly took the artwork after Fawcett, his longtime partner, died.
By The Associated Press - Saturday, December 7, 2013 at 8:11 AM - 0 Comments
BALI, Indonesia – A deal to boost global trade has been approved by the World Trade Organization’s 159 member economies for the first time in nearly two decades, keeping alive the possibility that a broader agreement to create a level playing field for rich and poor countries can be reached in the future.
WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo shed tears during the summit’s closing ceremony Saturday as he thanked host nation Indonesia, WTO member countries and his wife.
“We have put the world back into the World Trade Organization,” he said. “For the first time in our history, the WTO has truly delivered.”
Trade ministers had come to the four-day WTO meeting on the resort island of Bali with little hope that an agreement would be reached after years of inertia in trade negotiations.
By The Canadian Press - Saturday, December 7, 2013 at 8:08 AM - 0 Comments
OTTAWA – The movers and shakers on Parliament Hill usually know where the bodies are buried.
But deposits of human bones uncovered within sight of the Peace Tower seem to have caught everyone off guard.
Construction workers digging out part of downtown Queen Street have come across yet another burial under the busy road, the third finding of human remains since September.
The excavation is to upgrade old watermains before the Big Dig, a massive tunnelling project for light-rail-transit trains that will rumble for 2.5 kilometres under the city core, dubbed the Confederation Line.
But some pre-Confederation history has been mucking up the process.
By The Canadian Press - Saturday, December 7, 2013 at 8:06 AM - 0 Comments
OTTAWA – It’s the time when tourists usually begin posing for family photos with the newly strung holiday lights on Parliament Hill.
This year the festive visits will almost certainly be captured by RCMP lenses, too.
The Mounties have recently added new video cameras near pedestrian entrances and a vehicle screening facility along Wellington Street, the boulevard in front of the Parliament Buildings.
The RCMP and its Hill security partners have also bowed to the wishes of the federal privacy commissioner by posting signs on bollards that read: 24 hour video surveillance for security of the grounds.
The notices mark the end of a behind-the-scenes tussle between the commissioner’s office and the RCMP about whether people visiting Parliament Hill should be advised of the unblinking electronic eyes that expand video coverage of the precinct.