Body of OPP officer to be brought to hometown today : In The News for Dec. 30

In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what's on the radar of our editors for the morning of Dec. 30 ...

What we are watching in Canada ...

The body of an Ontario Provincial Police officer who was shot dead earlier this week will be brought to his hometown north of Toronto today.

Police in Barrie, Ont., say members of the public can watch the procession for 28-year-old Const. Greg Pierzchala from overpasses along Highway 400.

The procession is set to leave the chief coroner's office in Toronto at 9 a.m.

Police say Pierzchala responded to a vehicle in a ditch west of Hagersville, Ont., Tuesday afternoon and was fatally shot in an ambush when he arrived.

The OPP says details on funeral plans for Pierzchala are expected to be announced in the coming days and that the investigation into the shooting continues.

Randall McKenzie, 25, and Brandi Crystal Lyn Stewart-Sperry, 30, each face a charge of first-degree murder in his death.

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Also this ...

The Competition Tribunal has dismissed an application from Canada's competition watchdog to block Rogers Communications Inc.'s proposed $26-billion purchase of Shaw Communications Inc., clearing a path for the deal to go ahead.

The Competition Bureau Canada has argued that the merger of the two telecommunications companies would lessen competition in the telecom market, trigger higher prices and lead to poor service.

However, in a summary of its decision released Thursday, the Tribunal said the merger would not result in materially higher prices.

It said the deal, which includes the sale of Shaw-owned Freedom Mobile to Quebecor-owned Videotron Ltd., would not likely prevent or lessen competition substantially.

The deal still requires approval from Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada.

The Competition Bureau Canada said it was very disappointed with the Tribunal's decision.

“I am very disappointed that the Tribunal is dismissing our application to block the merger between Rogers and Shaw," Matthew Boswell, Commissioner of Competition, said in a brief statement late Thursday. "We are carefully considering our next steps."

The deal's current closing date is Saturday, though the parties have the option to extend through to the end of January if needed.

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What we are watching in the U.S. ...

The U.S. Coast Guard spent hours searching the waters off Louisiana for four people on board a helicopter that crashed Thursday while departing an oil platform.

``It is always a difficult decision to suspend a search,'' said Lt. Cmdr. Kevin Keefe, Coast Guard Sector New Orleans Search and Rescue Mission Coordinator. It was not immediately clear if the search would resume Friday morning.

The helicopter's pilot and three oil workers went down in the Gulf of Mexico at about 8:40 a.m. CST, said Petty Officer Jose Hernandez, a spokesperson for the Coast Guard's 8th District, which is headquartered in New Orleans.

``So far we've only found debris and no people,'' Hernandez said. Photos of the debris released by the Coast Guard showed a cluster of cylindrical yellow objects bobbing in the water.

One of the missing workers is 36-year-old David Scarborough of Lizana, Mississippi, according to his wife, Lacy Scarborough. She told the Sun Herald newspaper that they are expecting a baby, and that her husband recently got a job promotion.

She said her family was praying that her husband and the others would be rescued safely.

``He enjoyed his job and his coworkers,'' she said.

Crews in a boat and a helicopter searched for eight hours, covering and area of roughly 460 square kilometres.

Weather didn't appear to be a factor in the crash, Hernandez said, as there were no reports of storms in the area Thursday.

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What we are watching in the rest of the world ...

A court in military-ruled Myanmar on Friday convicted the country's ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi of corruption, sentencing her to seven years in prison in the last of a string of criminal cases against her, a legal official said.

The court's action leaves her with a total of 33 years to serve in prison following a series of politically tinged prosecutions since the army toppled her elected government in February 2021.

The case that ended Friday involved five offenses under the anti-corruption law and followed earlier convictions on seven other corruption counts, each of which was punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a fine.

The 77-year-old Suu Kyi has also been convicted of several other offenses, including illegally importing and possessing walkie-talkies, violating coronavirus restrictions, breaching the country's official secrets act, sedition and election fraud.

All her previous convictions had landed her with a total of 26 years' imprisonment.

Suu Kyi's supporters and independent analysts say the numerous charges against her and her allies are an attempt to legitimize the military's seizure of power while eliminating her from politics before an election it has promised for next year.

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On this day in 1912 ...

A train was used to carry wheat in Canada for the first time.

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In entertainment ...

It's not your imagination: ``Jeopardy'' streaks are getting longer.

Ray Lalonde, the Toronto-based scenic artist who's won 11games and counting, is just the latest in a new generation of trivia titans to take up residence on the Alex Trebek Stage.

After Thursday's game, Lalonde had amassed US$311,500.

Consider also Mattea Roach, the 24-year-old Canadian ``Jeopardy'' phenom who won 23 straight games earlier this year, giving her the fifth-longest streak in the show's history.

The two are among only 16 contestants in the show's history with winning streaks of at least 10 games, said Andy Saunders, the Guelph, Ont.-based blogger behind ``The Jeopardy! Fan.''

Of those 16, seven appeared on the show in 2021 or 2022, including Amy Schneider and Matt Amodio, who hold the second and third-longest streaks of all time.

Saunders has a theory as to why.

``The show lowered its barrier to entry,'' he said.

Near the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the show's producers began allowing would-be contestants to audition at any time, rather than only being able to take an entrance test a few days out of the year.

And for those who ace that initial test, the second round of auditions is now conducted via video call, Saunders said, rather than requiring quiz show hopefuls to travel to a major metropolitan centre to try out in person.

``There were a lot of people out there who are very good at 'Jeopardy' and just needed that extra nudge to try out, making it that little bit easier for them,'' Saunders said.

A spokeswoman for ``Jeopardy'' did not immediately respond to a request for comment about whether the number of applicants has gone up in recent years.

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Did you see this?

The war in Ukraine has identified critical gaps in the Canadian Army's ability to fight and survive on the battlefield, leading to an unanticipated rush to buy new military equipment.

In an interview with The Canadian Press, Canadian Army commander Lt.-Gen. Joe Paul said that includes anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles as well as systems to protect against drones.

The Army is also hoping to purchase the types of long-range, precision missile systems that have given Ukrainian forces a distinct advantage over their Russian foes, and state-of-the-art command-and-control technology.

``These are the capabilities that are making a difference right now in Ukraine,'' Paul said. ``We have paid a lot of attention to that right now.''

The new weapon systems the Army is hurrying to purchase were not included in the Liberal government's defence policy when it was released five years ago.

But Paul said the Canadian Armed Forces has studied the fighting in Ukraine since Russia invaded in February, launching Europe's largest war in generations.

As a result, the Army has identified deficiencies in its equipment, including the need for weapons to defend against traditional threats like tanks and aircraft -- and new threats such as drones.

``I'm moving forward on these three programs to satisfy my really immediate needs,'' Paul said.

Not all of the gaps are a complete surprise. For example, the Army has repeatedly warned that it needs weapons and other defences to protect Canadian troops from air attack. But while there have been plans to buy a new system for years, little has happened.

There is now a sense of urgency, particularly as the Army prepares to send hundreds more soldiers to Latvia to shore up a Canadian-led NATO battle group designed to help protect eastern Europe in the event of a broader war with Russia.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 30, 2022.

The Canadian Press