• Toronto Star
    reporter Daniel Dale reluctantly launched legal action against Mayor Rob Ford over comments he says paint him as a sexual deviant amid concerns that the quest to clear his name would be portrayed as a political attack.

    Dale served Ford with a libel notice on Thursday after the mayor made claims in an interview with Conrad Black that alluded to him as a pedophile. Ford later said he stood behind "every word" and repeated the claims again on a Washington sports radio program on Thursday.

    Vision TV and ZoomerMedia, the television channel and production company that first aired Ford's comments, were also served with notice and asked to apologize immediately.

    “The false and defamatory statements have caused and are continuing to cause serious harm to Mr. Dale’s professional and personal reputation. Mr. Dale reserves all of his rights, including to seek damages from Mayor Ford and ZoomerMedia,” reads the libel notice.

    “ZoomerMedia and Rob Ford should immediately retract the false

    Read More »from Daniel Dale’s reluctant decision to sue Mayor Rob Ford
  • The hollowing out of many of Canada's small towns, especially on the Prairies, is forcing some difficult choices.

    Once vibrant communities have seen their populations shrink as people migrate to large cities in search of jobs and better services. Towns that once had their own banks, post offices, fire departments and commercial sectors have become shells. Their tax bases have shrunk accordingly.

    Manitoba has taken a drastic step of ordering all municipalities with populations of less than 1,000 to amalgamate with larger communities before next year's municipal elections.

    Amalgamation has a long tradition in Canada as a way of consolidating the tax base and eliminating costly duplication of services such as police, fire, water, sewer and garbage collection. It's not uncontroversial, as some communities see their identities fade away and residents complain of services being eroded.

    The Manitoba government said its policy covers almost half the province's 196 municipalities, the Winnipeg Free

    Read More »from Manitoba’s small communities push back against force amalgamation plans
  • A Canadian university student attempted suicide on the social media network 4chan.Suicide is not a crime in Canada, nor is attempting it, though it will earn someone a psychiatric assessment.

    But potentially putting others in danger and damaging property in a suicide bid will get the police's attention.

    That's why police in Guelph, Ont., have charged a 21-year-old university student who allegedly downed some pills and vodka, then set fire to his dorm room. All of it was streamed live as an estimated 200 looked on.

    The Nov. 30 incident triggered debate over the morality of treating the actions of someone in evident mental distress as a form of entertainment without interceding to stop it.

    [ Related: Guelph student charged with arson in apparent suicide attempt ]

    Regular readers of this blog will remember what happened: The young University of Guelph student, identified only as "Stephen," served notice on 4chan that he was prepared to kill himself and was ready to do it online if someone would help set up a broadcast.

    Another 4chan user obliged and "Stephen" sat in front of

    Read More »from Guelph U student who broadcast suicide attempt charged by police
  • Kirk Rockwell will get his Christmas wish (CBC)

    Pity the plight of poor Santa Claus in the 21st Century. Old Saint Nick's largely been stripped of his religious meaning to become a much more sanitized symbol of holiday merry-making and a vehicle for commerce.

    With all that, Santa carries on as a harmless avatar of good cheer, welcome almost everywhere. Except behind the wheel of a Vancouver transit bus, apparently.

    Kirk Rockwell, a veteran driver for the Coast Mountain Bus Co., was in a fight with his bosses over a longstanding tradition to dress up as Santa during the Christmas season. And it took a massive public outcry for them to have a change of heart.

    Rockwell, 52, has been doing it for 16 years with the company's blessing. Seeing Santa behind the wheel brings a smile to harried riders' faces and takes of a little of the tension out of the Christmas rush.

    But this year was different.

    When he submitted his request as usual for permission to wear his costume, he got a letter back in early December turning him down.

    [ Related: 'Santa

    Read More »from Vancouver bus-driver gets small win in growing battle against Santa
  • The controversial brother of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has been accused of buying votes after he was caught handing out a stack of $20 bills to residents of an Etobicoke public housing building.

    CBC News recorded Coun. Doug Ford who, like his brother, has been a lightning rod for controversy throughout the crack cocaine scandal playing out at city hall, handing out a stack of cash to voters Wednesday night.

    The revelation has led to accusations of vote buying by the wealthy Fords from at least two city councillors.

    "This is how rich people buy votes," tweeted Coun. Joe Mihevc.

    The councillor defended his actions on Thursday, telling the Globe and Mail that it is entirely up to him how he chooses to spend his money.

    “There’s no difference in going to Tim Hortons, waiting in line and getting gift certificates,” he

    Read More »from Toronto Coun. Doug Ford denies buying votes with $20 bills he gave to constituents
  • The memorial for departed South African champion Nelson Mandela was a historically significant moment that will be remembered by many for something as meaningless as an Instagram photo: Three world leaders caught taking a “selfie” of themselves.

    The four-hour celebration held in Johannesburg earlier this week was a moving and celebratory tribute for the former president and activist who made it his life’s work to end apartheid in South Africa and work for equality around the world.

    Leaders and dignitaries gathered from around the world to pay their respects and celebrate his life, including U.S. President Barack Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron and Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt.

    Midway through the memorial, a photographer for the Agence France-Presse newswire snapped a photo of the three leaders posing for a photograph on Thorning-Schmidt’s cellphone, with an apparently furious Michelle Obama sitting nearby.

    The image took the world by storm, but the photographer

    Read More »from Obama’s Mandela memorial ‘selfie’ controversy is overblown, photographer says
  • Conrad Black speaks in Toronto on June 22, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris YoungMuch has been made about a controversial interview between Conrad Black and Toronto Mayor Rob Ford. From the mayor's side of it, anyway.

    It was the mayor who alluded to a member of the Toronto city hall press corps as a pedophile. It is the mayor who is now being called a vile liar and threatened with a possible lawsuit. But on Wednesday night, someone held Black's feet to the fire over his role in the controversy.

    The former media baron, who spent time in U.S. prison on fraud and obstruction of justice charges, is now part of The Zoomer, a debate show that airs on Vision TV. For the show, he conducts conversations with people in the news, most recently Ford.

    During the interview, Ford again accused Toronto police of being part of a conspiracy against him, and discussed a run-in with Toronto Star reporter Daniel Dale last year, during which Dale was investigating a piece of public land adjacent to Ford’s home, that the mayor had made an unusual request to purchase.

    During the conversation

    Read More »from Conrad Black defends Rob Ford interview, but would ‘resent’ mayor if he lied
  • Toronto Mayor Rob Ford does not want to call a holiday truce with Toronto media, despite the potential legal ramifications he could face after alluding to one reporter as a pedophile. In fact, he repeated those allegations on a U.S. sports radio program just this morning.

    On Thursday, Ford appeared on The Sports Junkies, a Washington, D.C., radio show that has him on to make weekly NFL picks. The previous night, he held a Christmas party at his mother's house, to which he invited every councillor, their staff and family, and even members of the city hall press corps.

    It was a begrudging invitation, but it was an invitation nonetheless.

    According to the Toronto Sun, only three councillors turned out for the fest – Gary Crawford, Frank Di Giorgio and his brother Doug Ford – and members of the media who came agreed to stow their recording devices.

    [ Related: Toronto Star reporter calls Rob Ford a liar, considering lawsuit ]

    It seemed that, perhaps, Ford was angling for a Christmas truce with

    Read More »from Naughty or nice? Rob Ford attacks Toronto reporter on U.S. sports radio
  • I first set foot in a Tim Hortons in December 1972 outside Thunder Bay, Ont. A friend and I were driving home to Calgary after spending much of the year working construction in Ottawa.

    My clapped out '58 Pontiac had blown its front wheel-bearings in Sudbury, forcing an expensive repair and motel layover we couldn't afford. That meant a largely non-stop drive for the rest of the trip.

    After a sphincter-tightening 1,000-kilometre day and night run from Sudbury to Thunder Bay through an endless snow storm, we took a break at a Tim's off the Trans-Canada around 2 a.m. as the weather cleared.

    A coffee and doughnut never tasted so good, but the waitress and handful of other patrons must have thought these two grizzled, hollow-eyed guys in their beater car looked extremely dodgy. The place emptied out within a few minutes of us sitting down at the counter.

    Chances are, every Canadian has a story like mine. We're so inured to Tim Hortons being embedded in the Canadian psyche – right up there

    Read More »from How a Toronto-area Tim Hortons helped the franchise get its start
  • A sign language interpreter employed at the Nelson Mandela memorial service on Tuesday has been accused of faking his way through the service, an accusation that shakes one's faith in humanity and begs the question: Did he really think he could get away with it?

    The unidentified interpreter apparently made up motions that did not match either South Africa or American sign language during the service, according to several experts contacted by the Associated Press and the Deaf Federation of South Africa.

    Director Bruno Druchen said the man "was moving his hands around but there was no meaning in what he used his hands for."

    @rainbowtaylor @Deaf @Jorob534 he is not using sign language at all..he is making up the signs,have NO idea how he got the job

    — Bruno Peter Druchen (@BrunoDruchen) December 11, 2013

    [ Related: Man signing on stage for Mandela memorial was an imposter ]

    The incident was especially troubling considering how close the imposter impersonator was able to get to several world

    Read More »from Nelson Mandela memorial’s ‘fake’ sign language interpreter casts a pall over community


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