Asia-Pacific meth drug trade worth up to $61 billion, U.N. says

By Tom Allard and Panu Wongcha-um
FILE PHOTO: Police officers arrange seized drugs before a news conference at Office of the Narcotics Control Board in Bangkok

By Tom Allard and Panu Wongcha-um

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Transnational crime groups are trafficking vast quantities of methamphetamine made in Southeast Asia, the United Nations said on Thursday, putting the value of the Asia-Pacific market for the drug between $30.3 billion and $61.4 billion.

The explosion in the meth trade, from an estimated $15 billion in 2013, comes as powerful syndicates exploit endemic graft, weak law enforcement and lax border controls, the United Nations added.

"In many parts of Southeast Asia, the systematic payment of bribes at borders is as regulated as the payment of fees in official bureaucratic systems," the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said in a report.

The cartels, based in Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan and Thailand, produce most of the meth in northern Myanmar in industrial-scale labs and distribute it as far away as Japan and New Zealand.

"The Asia-Pacific meth market is now the biggest in the world," Jeremy Douglas, the agency's representative for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, told Reuters.

"Of all the organized crime types, meth trafficking is the most dangerous and the most profitable. It underpins the growing power of these transnational crime groups."

The most valuable markets in Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea account for $20 billion, or a third of the high-end estimate of the trade, the agency added.

More than 12 million users in East Asia, Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand consumed about 320 tonnes of pure methamphetamine last year and a record 120 tonnes was seized by law enforcement.

Crystal meth is mostly consumed by middle-class party-goers in developed countries. In poorer nations, users take it as tablets mixed with caffeine, often to help cope with grueling work in factories and at construction sites.


MONEY LAUNDERING

Mushrooming poorly regulated casinos in Southeast Asia offer criminals an easy way to launder illicit earnings, the agency said, and such funds can go through the formal banking system in wealthy Singapore and the financial hub of Hong Kong.

"There has been a proliferation of casinos, something that is rarely talked about and deserves attention," said Douglas, adding that Southeast Asian casino numbers have swelled to 230 after a money-laundering crackdown in the gambling hub of Macau.

Responding to Thursday's report, a Thai senator offered to join hands with the agency and other nations to fight the menace.

"We are ready to take a leadership role and work with UNODC and international partners to build resilience and address cross-border trafficking," said Prajin Juntong, who is also a former deputy prime minister.

Organized crime groups also fuel a rising trade in counterfeit goods and medicines, people-smuggling and trafficking of wildlife and timber, the report added.

"Wildlife and timber trafficking is also an emergency," said Douglas, calling for a joint combat effort. "Extinction is on the horizon."


(Reporting by Tom Allard and Panu Wongcha-um; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

  • As past Tory party players step up, Harper appears to step to the side
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    The Canadian Press

    As past Tory party players step up, Harper appears to step to the side

    OTTAWA — As the federal Conservative leadership race begins drawing party grandees into potential candidates' camps, former prime minister Stephen Harper appears to be taking a step to the side.Harper has left his role with the fundraising arm of the federal Conservative party, posting a message to his social-media account thanking the Conservative Fund for its work."Their record of fundraising and expenditure management has been unparalleled in federal politics, with issues managed quickly and professionally," he wrote."It has been a pleasure to serve with them."He said he looks forward to ongoing collaboration with the Conservatives through his work as chairman of the International Democratic Union, an alliance of centre-right political parties around the world.It was a rare public comment on party matters from Harper since he resigned as Conservative leader in 2015, and came amid speculation that he'd stepped back so he could play a role in the current race to succeed leader Andrew Scheer — as a director of the Fund, Harper was required to remain neutral. But two sources close to Harper told The Canadian Press the decision to step aside dates back months and is linked to his concerns he occupies too large a role in the party's operations. The sources spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak on Harper's behalf.His decision does come as key figures in the conservative world are jockeying into positions either as candidates for the Tory leadership or on the teams supporting them.The teams backing former Conservative cabinet ministers Erin O'Toole, Pierre Poilievre and Peter MacKay include operatives instrumental in Ontario and national conservative politics.They include Jeff Ballingall, who runs right-wing online advocacy campaigns under the banner of "Canada Proud," and who is now working for O'Toole. MacKay is working with Ontario Premier Doug Ford's former campaign chief Michael Diamond.Meanwhile, some Quebec Tories are waiting to see whether Jean Charest, a former federal Progressive Conservative leader and former Liberal Quebec premier, jumps into the race before they sign on to any campaigns. Charest declined comment on the subject Thursday when asked about it as he attended the funeral of former Progressive Conservative cabinet minister John Crosbie."It's not the time," Charest said."The only indirect reference to it is that (Crosbie) supported me in '93, which I was flattered by."Charest sought the leadership of the PCs in 1993 and came second to Kim Campbell, but took over after the party's shattering election loss that year reduced the Tories to two seats in the House of Commons. He led the Progressive Conservatives until 1998.He then became leader of the Quebec Liberals, after extreme pressure to fly the federalist flag in his home province against popular separatist premier Lucien Bouchard, and served nine years as premier between 2003 and 2012.Many prominent former Progressive Conservatives attended Crosbie's funeral; former prime minister Brian Mulroney gave a eulogy, and afterwards was spotted shaking hands with MacKay.MacKay was the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party when it merged with the Canadian Alliance in 2003, creating the current Conservative party.The merger also led to the creation, by Harper, of the Conservative Fund. It was set up to raise and manage the party's money, including the budget for its campaign and operations, separate from the party's national governing council.Harper joined the small board of directors in 2016. The leader of the party also sits on the board; Andrew Scheer currently holds that spot.While he and Harper get along, having Harper sit on a board that controlled the party's finances created an awkward situation for his successor as leader, according to the two people close to Harper.Awkwardness turned into something more problematic when it emerged a stipend the party was paying Scheer was being used to pay private-school tuition for his children.Harper had been unaware the money was being used that way and was furious. After word emerged publicly, an already embattled Scheer resigned as leader. The party's longtime executive director, who had approved the arrangement, resigned as well.Tension over how the Conservative Fund is run has existed since it was created. Repeated efforts at party conventions to open it up to more oversight have failed. The issue with Scheer could put it back on the agenda at the next party convention.Harper is not the only legendary Canadian conservative to announce an exit this week.Preston Manning, the father of the Reform party, which would beget the Canadian Alliance, is retiring and leaving the board of a political training centre he founded in 2005.The Manning Centre is also changing its name, it announced in a press release."This will not happen immediately, but we're working now to solicit ideas as we move forward to create a new name and new brand."This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 16, 2020.—With files from Holly McKenzie-Sutter in St. John's, N.L.Stephanie Levitz, The Canadian Press

  • Mounties, maple syrup, and... Meghan and Harry? Royal move could boost Canada brand
    News
    Reuters

    Mounties, maple syrup, and... Meghan and Harry? Royal move could boost Canada brand

    TORONTO/OTTAWA (Reuters) - Prince Harry and his wife Meghan's decision to step back from royal duties and split their time between Britain and Canada is expected to boost Canada's brand abroad and benefit tourism, although marketing consultants say the effect will be limited. It is estimated that the British monarchy as a whole contributed 1.77 billion pounds ($2.31 billion) to the UK economy annually, a 2017 report by London-based brand valuation firm Brand Finance found.

  • Giuliani associate names Trump, Pence, more in Ukraine plan
    News
    The Canadian Press

    Giuliani associate names Trump, Pence, more in Ukraine plan

    WASHINGTON — A close associate of President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani is claiming Trump was directly involved in the effort to pressure Ukraine to investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden.Lev Parnas says he delivered an ultimatum in May, at Giuliani's behest, to the incoming president of Ukraine that no senior U.S. officials would attend his inauguration and vital American security aid would be withheld if an investigation into Biden wasn't announced.He said Trump was aware of Giuliani's efforts to secure an investigation and the president was briefed regularly.If true, Parnas' account undercuts a key Republican defence of Trump during the impeachment investigation — that Trump's withholding of vital military aid to Ukraine last summer wasn't a quid pro quo for Biden investigations.“President Trump knew exactly what was going on," said Parnas, a Soviet-born Florida businessman facing a raft of criminal charges related to campaign finance violations. "He was aware of all my movements. I wouldn't do anything without the consent of Rudy Giuliani, or the president.”For his part, Trump on Thursday repeated denials that he is acquainted with Parnas, despite numerous photos that have emerged of the two men together , including at a April 2018 dinner with about a half dozen others at the president's Washington hotel.“I meet thousands and thousands of people as president. I take thousands of pictures,” Trump said, speaking to reporters in the Oval Office. “I don't know him, I never had a conversation that I remember with him.”Parnas made several potentially explosive claims in an extended interview with MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, segments of which were aired Wednesday and Thursday.The day after Parnas said he delivered the message, the State Department announced that Vice-President Mike Pence would no longer be attending the inauguration of Ukrainian President Volodymir Zelenskiy.Parnas alleged that Trump ordered Pence to stay away at the behest of Giuliani to send a clear message to the incoming Ukrainian administration that they needed to take seriously the demand for an investigation into Biden, a Democratic presidential candidate seen as a potential threat to Trump's 2020 reelection.Parnas said every communication he had with Zelenskiy's team was at the direction of Giuliani, whom he regularly overheard briefing Trump about their progress by phone.Giuliani called Parnas' statements “sad."“I feel sorry for him,” Giuliani said Wednesday in a text message to an AP reporter. “I thought he was an honourable man. I was wrong.”Asked directly if Parnas was lying, Trump's lawyer replied, “I'm not responding yet.”Parnas said he also heard Giuliani and another Trump-aligned defence lawyer, Victoria Toensing, briefing Attorney General William Barr by phone about their efforts to pressure the Ukrainian government to announce the investigation into Biden and his son Hunter's business dealings.“Barr was basically on the team,” Parnas said.The Justice Department said in September that Trump had not spoken to Barr about having Ukraine investigate the Bidens and that the attorney general had not discussed Ukraine with Giuliani. Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said Wednesday that Parnas' claims were “100% false.”Toensing posted on Twitter that Parnas “absolutely lied" about her conversations with Barr.Pence, who Parnas said raised the need for an investigation into the Bidens in a September meeting with Zelenskiy in Poland, added to the flurry of denials issued Thursday.“I don’t know the guy,” said Pence, who has himself been photographed standing with Parnas. The vice-president called Parnas' claim that he had participated in the effort to spur the Ukrainians to open an investigation into the Bidens “completely false.”Parnas also said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and former Energy Secretary Rick Perry played roles in the scheme. Both have denied wrongdoing.The new accusations came as House Democrats made public a trove of documents, text messages and photos from Parnas' smartphones that appear to verify parts of his account.The documents, released just ahead of the start of Trump's Senate impeachment trial, could raise pressure on the Senate as it debates whether to hear witnesses.A federal judge earlier this month ruled that Parnas could provide the materials to Congress as part of the impeachment proceedings. Democrats voted in December to impeach Trump for abuse of power and for obstruction of Congress.House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, one of seven Democratic impeachment managers who will effectively act as prosecutors during Trump's Senate trial, said Thursday they are reviewing Parnas’ interviews and documents “to evaluate his potential testimony." It is likely that the House managers, not senators, would make a motion to call witnesses such as Parnas.“Mr. Parnas’ public interviews in the last 24 hours shed additional insights into the origins of the scheme, the work he and Rudy Giuliani were doing on the president’s behalf, and other members of the administration who were knowledgeable,” Schiff said.But Senate Republicans appeared largely unmoved, with some suggesting they were unfamiliar with who Parnas is, despite months of media coverage and prior testimony in the House about his ties to Giuliani's efforts in Ukraine.“If I had ever heard of him before yesterday I'm not aware of it," said Sen. Roy Blunt, a Missouri Republican. "This is the indicted guy, right?”House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy deflected questions about donations from Parnas to a political action committee he runs and a photo of him with Parnas at Trump's inauguration in 2017."People come to events, and they take photos with me,” McCarthy said. The GOP leader added that in his view Parnas “lacks all credibility'' and accused the news media of trying to build him up.Democrats, meanwhile, pointed to text messages among the newly disclosed materials that have raised questions about the possible surveillance of former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch before she was ousted by the Trump administration last spring.The messages show that Robert F. Hyde, a Republican candidate for Congress from Connecticut, disparaged Yovanovitch in messages to Parnas and gave him updates on her location and cellphone use.FBI investigators were observed Thursday morning at Hyde's home and business addresses. Charles Grady, a spokesman for the FBI in Connecticut, confirmed that agents had been at the locations tied to Hyde but said he could not provide additional information.The text and phone records show Parnas communicating with Giuliani multiple times a day before Yovanovitch's removal, as well as a handwritten note that mentions asking Ukraine's president to investigate “the Biden case.”Among the documents is a screenshot of a previously undisclosed letter from Giuliani to Zelenskiy dated May 10, 2019, which was shortly after Zelenskiy was elected but before he took office. In the letter, Giuliani requests a meeting with Zelenskiy “as personal counsel to President Trump and with his knowledge and consent.”The Associated Press reported in October that Zelenskiy had huddled three days earlier, on May 7, with a small group of key advisers in Kyiv to seek advice about how to navigate the insistence from Trump and Giuliani for a probe into the Bidens. He expressed his unease about becoming entangled in the American elections, according to three people familiar with the details of the three-hour meeting. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the diplomatic sensitivity of the issue, which has roiled U.S.-Ukrainian relations.One of the documents released by Democrats is a note from Parnas handwritten on stationery from the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Vienna that says “get Zalensky to Annonce that the Biden case will be Investigated."Parnas told Maddow he took the notes as he was speaking by phone to Giuliani, receiving precise instructions about the demands Trump wanted to convey to Zelenskiy's team.Trump asked Zelenskiy in a July 25 call to investigate the Bidens. Hunter Biden served on the board of a gas company based in Ukraine.In a segment aired Thursday, Parnas said he no longer believes that former Vice-President Biden did anything improper and said the concerted effort he'd been involved in to push for an investigation was just about politics.Parnas and his business partner, Igor Fruman, both U.S. citizens who emigrated from the former Soviet Union, were indicted last year on charges of conspiracy, making false statements and falsification of records. Prosecutors allege they made outsize campaign donations to Republican causes after receiving millions of dollars originating from Russia. The men have pleaded not guilty.In several of the documents released as part of the impeachment inquiry, Parnas communicated with Giuliani about the removal of Yovanovitch. The ambassador's ouster, ordered by Trump, was at the centre of the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry. Yovanovitch testified in the House impeachment hearings that she was the victim of a “smear campaign.”Trump on the July call told Zelenskiy that Yovanovitch was “going to go through some things.” She had been recalled from her diplomatic post roughly three months earlier.Parnas told Maddow that Trump actually ordered Yovanovitch fired several times, including once in his presence, but Pompeo and then-national security adviser John Bolton refused to go along. Democrats and a handful of Republicans have been calling for Bolton to testify as part of Trump's Senate trial.On April 23, just before Yovanovitch was directed to return to the United States, Giuliani texted Parnas, "He fired her again." Parnas texted back, “I pray it happens this time I'll call you tomorrow my brother.”After texting about the ambassador, Hyde gave Parnas detailed updates that suggested he was watching her. In one text, Hyde wrote: “She’s talked to three people. Her phone is off. Her computer is off.” He said she was under heavy security and “we have a person inside.”Hyde texted Parnas that ''they are willing to help if we/you would like a price,” and “guess you can do anything in Ukraine with money ... is what I was told.”In a Twitter post Tuesday, Hyde called Parnas a “dweeb” and suggested the messages about surveilling the ambassador were a joke. He said he welcomed an investigation.Parnas, in turn, also said Wednesday that Hyde's texts shouldn't be taken seriously.The text messages show that Parnas consulted Giuliani in January 2019 after the U.S. denied a visa to former Ukrainian Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin. Giuliani replied: “I can revive it.”The following day, Giuliani told Parnas, “It’s going to work I have no 1 in it.” Giuliani then predicted "he will get one," before giving Parnas the phone number for Jay Sekulow, the leader of the president's personal legal team. Sekulow is expected to be part of Trump's legal team during the impeachment trial.Among the materials released from Parnas' phone this week were more photos of him with Trump, as well as the president's son Donald Trump Jr., first daughter Ivanka Trump, and her husband, Jared Kushner.Asked by Maddow about Trump’s denial of knowing him, Parnas said he had spoken one-on-one with the president numerous times.“He lied,” Parnas said of the president. “I mean, we’re not friends. Me and him didn’t watch football games together, we didn’t eat hot dogs. But he knew exactly who we were, who I was especially.”___Associated Press writers Michael Balsamo, Lisa Mascaro, Zeke Miller and Matthew Daly in Washington, and Michael Melia in Hartford, Connecticut, contributed.___Follow Associated Press investigative reporter Michael Biesecker at http://twitter.com/mbieseck , Mary Clare Jalonick at http://twitter.com/MCJalonick and Eric Tucker at http://twitter.com/etuckerAP___Contact AP's global investigative team at Investigative@ap.org.Michael Biesecker, Mary Clare Jalonick And Eric Tucker, The Associated Press

  • Alberta's 'fair deal' could hurt Calgary, says Nenshi
    News
    CBC

    Alberta's 'fair deal' could hurt Calgary, says Nenshi

    Mayor Naheed Nenshi says the province's 'fair deal' panel might not be so fair for Calgary.On Thursday, the city's Intergovernmental Affairs Committee, chaired by Nenshi, passed three recommendations the city will submit to the Alberta government's panel.The city doesn't want the promise to "emulate" the legal requirements in Quebec, where municipalities must get approval from the province before entering into agreements with the federal government.It also asks that the city is involved when it comes to changes made to secure a fair deal within the Confederation and that the province ensures any major change is also fair for Alberta's two biggest cities.Nenshi said those proposals would negatively affect the city, like preventing the city from making deals with the federal government and preventing the city from getting federal funding."That would leave hundreds of millions or billions of dollars on the table, it would lead to enormous administrative inefficiencies and huge red tape," Nenshi said."Certainly there are things in there that could actually hurt Calgary," Nenshi said.Alberta Premier Jason Kenney created the panel in the fall to consider recommendations on how to best advance the province's economic interests within Confederation, considering nearly a dozen proposals including the creation of an Alberta pension plan, a provincial police force, a tax collection agency, a chief firearms officer and a formalized provincial constitution. The panel travelled throughout the province over the last two months holding public forums.Thursday's Airdrie stop was postponed due to the death of panel member Jason Goodstriker, the Alberta government announced in a press release on Friday afternoon.The panel will be in Medicine Hat on Friday evening, which was to be its last stop, but the release stated that the Airdrie visit would be rescheduled.In December, nearly 500 people showed up to have their say in front of the fair deal panel in northeast Calgary. Most supported the Alberta government's call for more power while others called the panel a sideshow that distracted from provincial budget cuts.On Thursday, Coun. Druh Farrell echoed the latter sentiment that and said she questions the motivation behind the panel.She said Calgary and the province need to come up with solutions rather than "live on anger.""Yes we should always be trying to get a better arrangement with our federal partners as the City of Calgary should always be trying to get fairness incorporated in decision making in the province," Farrell said."But I wonder if this is simply a distraction."Meanwhile, Coun. Sean Chu disagreed with his colleagues and said the city should not be taking on responsibilities outside of its jurisdiction."They set out the panel to do the fair deal for Alberta," Chu said. "How can the panel itself (be) a bad thing?"The recommendations were passed on Thursday with just one small amendment — that the word 'direct' be substituted by the word 'request'.

  • Bangladesh says once-submerged island ready for Rohingya
    News
    The Canadian Press

    Bangladesh says once-submerged island ready for Rohingya

    DHAKA, Bangladesh — A Bangladeshi island regularly submerged by monsoon rains is ready to house 100,000 Rohingya refugees, but no date has been announced to relocate people from the crowded and squalid camps where they've lived for years, officials said Thursday.Flood protection embankments, houses, hospitals and mosques have been built on Bhasan Char, or floating island, in the Bay of Bengal, officials said.“Bhasan Char is ready for habitation. Everything has been put in place,” Bangladesh refugee, relief and repatriation commissioner Mahbub Alam Talukder told The Associated Press.The island is built to accommodate 100,000 people, just a fraction of the million Rohingya Muslims who have fled waves of violent persecution in their native Myanmar.About 700,000 people came after August 2017, when the military in Buddhist-majority Myanmar began a harsh crackdown against Rohingya in response to an attack by insurgents. Global rights groups and the U.N. called the campaign ethnic cleansing involving rapes, killings and torching of thousands of homes.Foreign media have not been permitted to visit the island.Saleh Noman, a Bangladeshi freelance journalist who recently visited, described a community emerging there.“I saw a market with about 10 grocery shops and roadside tea stalls. Some were selling fish and vegetables,” he said. “All is set there with a solar power system and water supply lines.”Bangladesh is a low-lying delta nation. The island, 21 miles (34 kilometres) from the mainland, surfaced only 20 years ago and was never inhabited.The Bangladesh navy has been implementing a multimillion-dollar plan to bolster the swampy island, which is submerged for months during annual monsoon season.International aid agencies and the United Nations have vehemently opposed the relocation plan since it was first proposed in 2015, expressing fear that a big storm could overwhelm the island and endanger thousands of lives.Mostofa Mohamamd Sazzad Hossain, a spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees in Bangladesh, said Thursday the agency isn't ready to endorse the relocation and is waiting for a chance to visit the island after a November trip was cancelled."The U.N. has emphasized the importance of undertaking independent and thorough technical and protection assessments that consider safety, sustainability, and protection issues prior to any relocation taking into place. The assessment process should include onsite visits to Bhasan Char,” Hossain said.The current refugee camps near the beach town of Cox's Bazar are overcrowded and unhygienic. Disease and organized crime are rampant. Education is limited and refugees aren't allowed to work.Still, most Rohingya are unwilling to return to Myanmar due to safety concerns. Government officials didn't have an estimate of how many refugees would be willing to be relocated to the island.On Thursday, two Bangladeshi contractors involved with development of the island described construction there. They spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.“We have built quality infrastructure. Bangladeshi villages have never seen such good work. This is like a modern township project,” one contractor said.“We have built multifamily concrete homes, hospitals, mosques, schools, playgrounds and roads. There are solar-power facilities, a water supply system. We constructed raised concrete buildings that could be used as cyclone shelters. Many trees have been planted,” he said.Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has repeatedly told the U.N. and other international partners that her administration will consult them before making a final decision on the relocation, and that no refugees will be forced to move.Bangladesh attempted to start sending refugees back to Myanmar under a bilateral framework last November, but no one was willing to go.The Rohingya are not recognized as citizens in Myanmar, rendering them stateless, and face other forms of state-sanctioned discrimination.A U.N.-sponsored investigation in 2018 recommended the prosecution of Myanmar’s top military commanders on charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity for the violence perpetrated against the Rohingya.Myanmar is defending itself in the International Court of Justice in the Hague, Netherlands, after the West African nation of Gambia brought a case backed by the Organization for Islamic Cooperation, Canada and the Netherlands.Gambia in its submission said there was a “serious and imminent risk of genocide recurring” and called for emergency measures to prevent Myanmar from committing any further atrocities or erasing any evidence. The court is expected to deliver a decision on Jan. 23 on what measures should be imposed.Kamal Hossain, Bangladesh's top government official in Cox’s Bazar, said Thursday that discussions attempting to convince refugee families to move to the island are continuing. “We are ready. This is a continuous process,” he said.Julhas Alam, The Associated Press

  • Royal rift: UK monarchy will look smaller when dust settles
    News
    The Canadian Press

    Royal rift: UK monarchy will look smaller when dust settles

    LONDON — Prince Charles, the future king, has long been seen as a potential modernizer who wants a more modest monarchy in line with other European royal households — and the streamlining process has already begun with the astounding developments of recent months.But the changes have come at a terrible cost for Charles, who has seen his brother Prince Andrew disgraced and his once close sons, Prince William and Prince Harry, become estranged.The trials and tribulations of Andrew and Harry — one tainted for a close friendship with a convicted sex offender, the other unwilling to continue his high-profile role — will take both out of their royal duties, leaving a smaller, more modest royal apparatus.“Charles has been saying for years and years, ‘Let’s make it smaller,'” said Majesty magazine editor-in-chief Ingrid Seward. “He feels quite strongly that with such a big House of Windsor, there are too many opportunities for things to go wrong. And it’s too expensive. And they need too many houses, too much public expenditure.”She does not expect Charles to take any joy in recent events, though, particularly because of the breakdown between William and Harry.“He’s very saddened, as any parent would be if their children have fallen out. But I think he probably feels that in the fullness of time, hopefully, it will get back on track,” she said.The royal focus going forward was neatly summed up by a rare formal portrait released two weeks ago by Buckingham Palace to mark the dawn of a new decade: Queen Elizabeth II with her three direct heirs: Charles, 71, William, 37, and 6-year-old Prince George.It is a serene image of a 93-year-old monarch surrounded by the three people expected to follow her to the throne, and it masks the behind-the-scenes turmoil and disappointments surrounding Andrew and Harry.Andrew’s fall is a full-blown scandal. His conduct has raised ethical issues in the past, but he had managed to retain his royal role until he completely miscalculated the impact of using an extended TV interview in November to defend his friendship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, a wealthy financier.The queen’s second son seemed to have a moral blind spot, defending his relationship with Epstein — who died in a New York prison in August in what was ruled a suicide — as honourable. He did not express a word of sympathy for the girls and young women victimized by Epstein.Andrew still faces possible questioning from law enforcement in the U.S. and Britain over allegations that he had sex with a teen trafficked by Epstein, which Andrew denies, as well as questioning from lawyers representing women who have filed civil suits against Epstein’s estate.When the tempest of bad publicity became unbearable, Andrew announced a decision to step down from royal duties. There was no public comment from the queen or from Charles, who was said by the British press to have advised the queen that Andrew could not continue.There is no scandal surrounding Harry, but it seems painful for all concerned. Even the stoic queen, who seems to refer to private matters roughly once per decade, has spoken of her disappointment.With his charming smile and ginger hair, Harry has long been one of the most popular royals, and with his brother, William, was seen as a key part of making the creaky monarchy vital to younger Britons. Much of the world watched enthralled in 2018 when he married Meghan Markle, a successful American actress, at a storybook event at Windsor Castle.The fairy tale has since fractured. Harry and Meghan, feeling trapped by their duties and warring with the British press, have announced plans to drastically reduce their royal roles and spend much of the year in Canada. In a major breach of family etiquette, they announced their plans without prior approval from his grandmother, the queen, earning a rare display of royal pique from Elizabeth.Harry seems torn between the wishes of his wife, Meghan, and his fealty to queen and country.The queen, whose 98-year-old husband, Prince Philip, is ailing, has slowly cut back on her official duties in recent years and passed more to Charles, who often represents her at overseas events. But Elizabeth took centre stage earlier this week when she summoned Charles, William and Harry to a crisis meeting at her rural retreat to deal with issues raised by Harry's plan to break away.Harry's plan puts Charles in a ticklish spot faced by many parents, albeit on a much smaller financial scale. He is in the position to decide whether Harry and Meghan continue to receive money from the Duchy of Cornwall estate, with annual revenue of more than 20 million pounds ($26 million), once they have for the most part abandoned their royal roles.Collateral damage has included the previously close bond between Harry and William, who hold a special place in many Britons’ hearts as the offspring of the late Princess Diana. Many remember them walking silently in her funeral cortege in 1997. William has not commented publicly on the breach, but Harry has said they are now on “different paths.”Removing Andrew and Harry from the equation will leave the monarchy with a smaller footprint: fewer senior royals gathered on the Buckingham Palace balcony to wave to the throngs at national events, fewer to open hospitals and help raise money for charities, and fewer using public funds to pay for official travel and events. There will also be fewer royal households with competing interests.Until these recent seismic events, the royal entourage has grown along with Elizabeth’s family. She is the longest reigning monarch in British history, with four children who have started families of their own. There are grandchildren and great-grandchildren as well. Some have scorned royal titles, but others have not, leading to a proliferation of princes and princesses.Royal historian and author Hugo Vickers cautions that Charles may be misguided in his plans to shrink the monarchy because the extended family actually provides substantial help.“I think it's most unwise because other members of the royal family help with a lot of things the monarch cannot do,” he said. “He'll soon find he needs to be helped.”Gregory Katz, The Associated Press

  • News
    Reuters

    Eleven U.S. troops injured in Jan. 8 Iran missile attack in Iraq

    The United States treated 11 of its troops for symptoms of concussion after an Iranian missile attack on an Iraqi base where U.S. forces were stationed, the U.S. military said on Thursday, after initially saying no service members were hurt. The attack was retaliation for a U.S. drone strike in Baghdad on Jan. 3 that killed Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the elite Quds Force of Iran's Revolutionary Guard. President Donald Trump and the U.S. military had said there were no casualties after the strike on the Ain al-Asad air base in western Iraq and a facility in its northern Kurdish region.

  • Top court's TMX decision a 'slap-down' for B.C., Alberta government says
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    CBC

    Top court's TMX decision a 'slap-down' for B.C., Alberta government says

    The Alberta government has declared victory after the Supreme Court of Canada on Thursday dismissed British Columbia's attempt to block the Trans Mountain expansion project, a decision that drew swift praise from Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and the province's energy sector.The British Columbia government's appeal represented one of many legal hurdles for the delayed and embattled expansion project.Kenney said the ruling validated the Alberta government's belief that the regulation of interprovincial infrastructure should be authorized exclusively by the federal government."This could not be a stronger affirmation of Alberta's position," he said Thursday. "I really believe 2020 is going to be a good year, a turnaround year, for Alberta."Ruling 'a real slap-down' for B.C., says ministerThe B.C. NDP government had drafted amendments to provincial environmental law to all but ban interprovincial shipments of heavy oil — bitumen and diluted bitumen — and other "hazardous substances" through pipelines, including the Crown-owned Trans Mountain expansion project.The amendments would have required companies transporting these substances through B.C. to first obtain provincial permits.The Supreme Court echoed many of arguments made previously by the five judges on the B.C. Court of Appeal, who ruled unanimously last spring that the B.C. government stepped into federal jurisdiction by imposing conditions on a project that crosses provincial boundaries.At a news conference Thursday in Calgary, Alberta's Minister of Energy  Sonya Savage described the court's decision as a "victory" for Albertans and Canadians alike — but reserved strong words for the B.C. government."It was a real slap-down of one province that was trying to block a project that has been determined to be in the national interest," Savage said."It was a clear and decisive decision that sets out a clear message to ... all governments that they need to stay in their own lane."B.C. Premier John Horgan — who has sought to stop construction of the expansion — said in a statement that he was disappointed by the court's decision, which effectively ends the province's litigation."This does not reduce our concerns regarding the potential of a catastrophic oil spill on our coast. When it comes to protecting our coast, our environment and our economy, we will continue do all we can within our jurisdiction," he said.Decision gets seal of approval from energy sectorFor Canada's largest oil and gas lobby group, the Supreme Court's decision represents another victory in what has been an uphill battle to get the pipeline built.Tim McMillan,  president and CEO of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), issued a statement saying the organization is "pleased, but not surprised" by the ruling against B.C.'s appeal — which it described as "a challenge that was intended to block the Trans Mountain expansion pipeline.""This is a project that has undergone historic levels of consultation, reviews and court challenges, and at each turn has been found to be in the best interests of all Canadians," McMillan said in the statement. "It is time to unite behind the completion of this nation-building project so Canadians can start to benefit from selling our responsibly produced resources to global markets."A separate Federal Court of Appeals case on the project, which considers Indigenous issues, is still pending.

  • 8-storey apartment buildings next to Odell Park in Fredericton win approval
    News
    CBC

    8-storey apartment buildings next to Odell Park in Fredericton win approval

    The City of Fredericton has approved two eight-storey apartment buildings for the Sunshine Gardens neighbourhood across from Odell Park.This week, Fredericton's planning advisory committee approved the project through a variance, a process that doesn't require the approval of city council. The 168-unit project will sit at the corner of Waggoners Lane and Rookwood Avenue across from the entrance to the park. The apartment buildings will also include a commercial use.Work is expected to start in the spring, although dirt was already being piled at the site before the variance granted by the planning committee. There was some opposition to having large apartment buildings alter the neighbourhood so close to the park, but John MacDermid, a member of the planning committee, said Fredericton needs them."The face of our city is going to change," MacDermid said Thursday."I think we can be nostalgic about it and say, 'Look I want to keep it the same.' But the reality is as our economy grows and as the city grows … we have to find a place to put these folks."Right now, the properties at 264 and 270 Rookwood Ave. are both vacant.A city that's growingYear after year, MacDermid said up to 1,500 people move to New Brunswick's capital city, and the apartment buildings will help the city cope with the growth.The city's population is expected to grow by 24,000 in the next two decades.MacDermid said about 8,000 of those people will be living in the core, which extends up to the intersection where the apartment buildings will be built. And he expects more apartment buildings to pop up in coming years."It's a reality, our city is changing," said MacDermid.The councillor said Fredericton also has one of the lowest apartment vacancy rates in New Brunswick, at around 1.7 per cent.Positive public reaction so farMacDermid acknowledged the mixed reaction to the project, including from two residents who shared their thoughts at this week's committee meeting.He has also received some emails expressing concerns about the project, which included the buildings' closeness to Odell Park. But a staff report to the committee also included letters of support, including a letter from Jim Morell.He said there were too many "boxy buildings in the city," adding Fredericton needed more "architecturally unique and eye-appealing, modern-looking structures," which he suggested was what's being proposed by architect and project applicant Ann Scovil. Another letter from Chris Miller said the new buildings would allow easy access to Odell Park, the local trail system and businesses in the area.Only residents living within 30 metres of the planned buildings received letters notifying them of the development.Buildings allowed on vacant lotThe city's zoning bylaw permits more than one larger-scale building on the lot, according to a staff report.But any changes with zoning amendments are required to go through council, which has final approval.According New Brunswick's Community Planning Act, a variance can be voted on at a planning advisory committee."It's being used exactly how the zoning bylaw outlines for it to be used," MacDermid said. "It's just changing the parameters." Those parameters include variances in density that would accommodate the additional units, a three-metre variance in building height, additional space for parking and a side yard setback to permit construction. Wayne Knorr, a spokesperson for the city, said variances can be for a number of different projects that don't have to go through council, such as someone building a shed on their property.The staff report also says the new apartment buildings could speed up a new roundabout that was expected to be built at Waggoners Lane and Rookwood Avenue for 2022.Depending on a traffic study, budget approval and land acquisition, a new roundabout could now be built by 2021.

  • Rental vacancies up in Ottawa, but so's the rent
    News
    CBC

    Rental vacancies up in Ottawa, but so's the rent

    Rental apartments in Ottawa became slightly easier to find but significantly more expensive last year, according to an annual update from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). The average monthly rent increased by 8.4 per cent in 2019, from $1,174 to $1,281, driven largely by the asking price for smaller units. The average one-bedroom apartment rose from $1,184 per month in 2018 to $1,307 per month last year, while a two-bedroom increased from $1,584 to $1,663."Western Ottawa and surrounding areas — the zone that includes Kanata — had the highest and fastest-growing average rent for vacant two-bedroom units. Asking rents in Kanata were 62 per cent higher than the city's average, likely contributing to an increase in the vacancy rate," the report noted.But it was the smaller units that drove the increase in vacancy, too, according to the CMHC."By bedroom count however, only the rise in the vacancy rate for bachelor units was significant, while movements in the vacancy rates for all other bedroom types were not statistically different from 2018," said the report. Vacancy highest near U of OThe vacancy rate for purpose-built rentals rose only slightly, from 1.6 per cent in 2018 to 1.8 per cent last year.The demand for rentals continues to increase in Ottawa as the city's population grows. International students attending the city's universities and colleges are a key driver of rental demand, the CMHC said.Nevertheless, the vacancy rate in Sandy Hill/Lowertown, near the University of Ottawa, was the city's highest at 2.7 per cent, followed closely by 2.6 per cent downtown and 2.3 per cent in Chinatown/Hintonburg.Altogether, 1,233 purpose-built rental units were added to the city-wide stock in 2019, according to CMHC. The steady demand and tight rental market may have encouraged condo owners to get in on the game last year, with a 3.3 per cent increase in offerings in 2019 following a modest decline in 2018.

  • Man revives dog by giving mouth-to-snout after coyotes pounce
    News
    CBC

    Man revives dog by giving mouth-to-snout after coyotes pounce

    Northwest Calgary resident Marc David had his arms full. He was balancing his Yorkshire terrier Woody in his arms while taking out trash last week at his home in Edgemont. It was in the moment that he put down Woody to open the trash can and put the bag in the bin that the coyotes struck.He looked up to spot his dog, but instead saw a coyote at the corner of his driveway."I looked back and saw a second coyote with Woody in his mouth," said David. "And then he just bolted to Nose Hill Park."A chase ensued, and David ran after the coyote that held his beloved dog in its jaws. "He was running but only at a gallop. It was like he was taunting me. And then finally he stopped and he dropped [Woody] and left him there," said David.David scooped up this pet, who appeared lifeless to him, and while hurrying home decided to try resuscitating Woody, like he had seen done online."I started blowing in his snout, I did it five times and he gurgled and then he kicked and his eyes opened," said David.On the mendWoody suffered some serious damage from the Jan. 8 attack. His ribs and sternum were broken. He had six puncture wounds, some nerve damage and some brain swelling.David says the little dog is "a little better, he's slowly recuperating."He took him off the painkillers this week and Woody even took some steps."Well, I learned that you don't come out and take out the garbage without having your dog on a leash, I guess," said David."That was the big mistake right from the get-go."Nose Hill Park is notorious for coyote sightings, and the residents of the surrounding communities, including Edgemont, are aware of their predatory neighbours. David says there is a lot of traffic from animals like coyotes and even bobcats in his neighbourhood, so he reached out to the city to see what could be done. He says they have been in touch and are studying the situation.In the meantime, Woody is on the road to recovery.

  • Growing the beard: Justin Trudeau's new look could be 'strategic'
    News
    Yahoo News Canada 360

    Growing the beard: Justin Trudeau's new look could be 'strategic'

    Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's bearded look could be a strategic move, meant to exude a sense of maturity, wisdom for his second term -- but not all Canadians are convinced.

  • Prof Quits After McGill Refuses To End Fossil Fuel Investments
    News
    HuffPost Canada

    Prof Quits After McGill Refuses To End Fossil Fuel Investments

    McGill says it’s taking other steps to reduce its carbon footprint.

  • It's already been a life-changing, deadly winter in St. John's. Are we ready for what's next?
    News
    CBC

    It's already been a life-changing, deadly winter in St. John's. Are we ready for what's next?

    As the City of St. John's prepares for its largest snow storm of the season, Mayor Danny Breen said calling a state of emergency is an option.As much as 70 centimetres could fall between Thursday night and Saturday morning, on top of 170 centimetres that has already fallen on the metro region.The city has already taken heat for its job clearing snow, but Breen says everyone is doing the best they can with what Mother Nature has provided."We had an extraordinary situation here with all this snow so quickly," Breen told reporters Thursday morning.Sidewalks have been packed with snow and ice since the first storm on Christmas Eve. Breen said town workers are struggling to clear the routes, because before they can finish the job, there is another snowfall and they have to start from the beginning again.Breen said crews have been working around the clock in the last few days to prepare for the incoming storm.The onslaught of snow so far this winter has forced people to walk in the streets on busy routes. Since Jan. 1, an alarming number of pedestrians have been struck by cars.Tragedy through a lensKeith Gosse photographs tragedy for a living but even for him, last Saturday was unusual.In one "hectic" day, four pedestrians were hit by vehicles in three separate collisions. As a photojournalist for the Telegram, Gosse was responsible for taking pictures of the aftermath. "It's not pretty. They're lying on the road, after being struck by a car. It's not a fun scene to deal with," he said. "You don't usually don't get that many in such a short time span."Since Jan 1, one pedestrian has been killed and eight others injured in seven separate collisions around the metro region. For Gosse, that means exposure to things most people never have to see."I've seen some pretty graphic stuff," he said. "One of the victims from the Mount Pearl incident on Saturday suffered a non-life-threatening injury, but it's going to be completely life-changing for that person." I don't know what the answer is. But we need to do a better job. \- Greg NatererGosse said the process has taken a psychological toll on him."I've come home from some pretty bad scenes and had to sit down and just stare at a wall for a half-hour because it's something that I don't ever want to see again."One fatality following a collisionMemorial University engineering professor John Shirokoff, 63, was struck by a vehicle while walking along the side of the road on Jan. 4. He died five days later from what the RNC described as "complications connected to his injuries."Greg Naterer, the dean of MUN's engineering department, was one of the last people to see Shirokoff in the hospital after the accident. "I was quite fortunate because I made it into the intensive-care unit just before he was about to go into the surgery, so I shared some last words with John. At that time, we all had thought that he would recover from the surgery. Unfortunately he didn't," Naterer said.Naterer described Shirokoff as a wonderful man, friend and colleague. He said the professor was dedicated to his students, even in his final moments."A thing that will stay with me forever is his concern for his students at that time. Just before going into surgery, not complaining, not bitter, not really talking much about his pain, but his concern for his students."Shirokoff was an expert on material science and engineering, and supervised more than 40 graduate students. Naterer said those students were devastated when they heard Shirokoff had died. At a celebration of life held by the university, attendance was so high that Naterer said some people had to sit on the floor."That's the type of person that John was."Naterer said he hopes Shirokoff's death sends a clear message about road clearing and pedestrian safety."He was walking along the side of Elizabeth Avenue and, as we know, pedestrian safety and clearing of sidewalks is an issue in this city.… I don't know what the answer is. But we need to do a better job," he said. "Pedestrian safety has to be right up there. It's not like, secondary."What can be done?Breen, along with Coun. Ian Froude, said the council will look at all options to improve safety and snow clearing around St. John's.The current snow-clearing budget is $18 million — a significant portion of the overall budget. Last year, the city added $150,000 to its budget for sidewalk clearing.The budget is based on the assumption of getting 350 centimetres of snow each year.Breen said if more money is to be allocated, it would result either in cuts to other areas or a tax hike for citizens but he said the city will consider it.Sidewalk clearing is done on a priority basis. School zones rank first, followed by major thoroughfares and then secondary streets."The challenge with this particular storm is that we have not gotten all the way through the Priority 1 routes before we get hit by another storm," Froude said. "Then the plows have to revert back to those Priority 1s, those school zones, before they can move on to the next section."While a state of emergency is possible, Breen said he hasn't given any thought to calling in the Canadian Armed Forces, which has been done in other Canadian cities, most notably Toronto in 1999 after 38 centimetres of snow.Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

  • 'Very troubling:' Passenger rights advocate says Swoop failed Canadians
    News
    CBC

    'Very troubling:' Passenger rights advocate says Swoop failed Canadians

    An air passenger rights advocate says the botched Swoop Airlines flight from Cancun to Hamilton is an example of how Canada's new compensation rules fail to serve the public.Gabor Lukacs, founder of Air Passenger Rights, tells CBC News he thinks Swoop — which was supposed to bring home 158 Canadians from Cancún to Hamilton Tuesday — will try to "hide behind loopholes" but says passengers should try and sue under an older statue that is still in effect.Those schedule to board Flight WO651 say they had trouble getting information from the airline, were offered "dingy" places to stay in unsafe areas of Cancún without transportation and in some cases, told they'd need to wait days for a new flight home. "It's incredibly troubling. It demonstrates how poorly the situation was handled," Lukacs says.Swoop told CBC News Wednesday it cancelled the trip set to land at John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport after a flight attendant on the plane was injured inbound to Cancún International Airport before Flight WO651."Industry regulations stipulate that we cannot operate a flight without a full complement of flight attendants," the airline wrote in a statement.Lukacs says Swoop, which is owned by WestJet, should have had a back-up crew."This is not an unusual situation and it's a perfectly reasonable expectation to have a backup crew at a popular destination," he says.Lukacs also adds the airline should have immediately rebooked flights to other airlines and offered transportation to hotels in the area.Swoop tells CBC in a statement Thursday it does not arrange back-up flight crews in every location it flies to "due to the unlikelihood of a flight attendant becoming ill or injured during a flight.""Travellers were automatically rebooked on the next available Swoop flight. However, we understand that travel arrangements are unique to travellers and, if the Swoop flight was not satisfactory, we are following our Flight Interruption Policies which include booking travellers on an alternate flight with a carrier that Swoop has a commercial agreement with," Swoop writes.Customers say they paid hundreds of dollars for food, transportation, hotels and flights they re-booked on their own.Shannon Dickson, 35, a law clerk in Hamilton, tells CBC News she hasn't tallied the entire amount because she's scared of the total cost but says she has forked out at least $500 — some of which includes what she says is a $15 fee to contact Swoop customer service."They can't just dump you in the middle of somewhere and say, 'you're on your own,' " Dickson says.The airline says it is compensating expenses in accordance with its flight interruptions policies for Mexico.Yesterday, Dickson and other passengers taking a United Airlines flight back to Toronto from Houston started making a passenger list to band together and take the airline to court."I'm about the principle of it," she says. "They really messed up and put a lot of people in danger."Current compensation rules have 'loopholes'Lukacs thinks Swoop will use the flight attendant's injury to try and dodge lawsuits.Under the current rules, if a flight is delayed, airlines have to provide updates every 30 minutes until confirming a new departure time and it must offer any new information as soon as possible.Passengers on delayed flights can contact the airline and file a claim for compensation within one year of the trip.The airline has 30 days to pay up or explain why it believes compensation isn't warranted.Those who don't agree with the airline's decision can take it up with the Canadian Transportation Agency, which Lukacs claims has "cozy relationships with airlines" and forces the passenger to prove delays or cancellations could have been prevented.The rules also state Swoop, which claims to be a smaller airline, has to pay between $125 to $500 to passengers for applicable flights when flyers are delayed by three hours or more in reaching their final destination.But unlike European Union regulations, airlines don't have to compensate customers if uncontrollable factors such as bad weather or mechanical problems discovered outside of routine maintenance checks delays or cancels the trip."This is a point where the new rules are causing lots of problems," Lukacs says."Swoop claims to be a small airline, which is dubious given it's owned by WestJet … The set of new rules is a way of deceiving the public. It's more protection for the airlines."Passengers have legal optionsLukacs says the passengers on Flight WO651 could be eligible for compensation if they use the Montreal Convention, part of the Carriage by Air Act.And that compensation would cover out-of-pocket expenses and missed time from work."The passengers should group up and sue swoop under Montreal convention and new rules and see what [the courts] say," Lukacs says."They may have to go to small claims, but Swoop will have to prove there was nothing they could have done to prevent it."Swoop has a flight scheduled to leave Cancún at 5:05 p.m. and land in Hamilton at 8:45 p.m. today. The flight has been delayed to leave at 5:40 p.m. and is expected to arrive in Hamilton at 9:20 p.m. today.

  • How To Protect Yourself From The Flu
    HuffPost Canada Video

    How To Protect Yourself From The Flu

    Flu season has arrived, here’s what you need to know to keep your health in check.

  • French director gets sex misconduct charge on actress claim
    News
    The Canadian Press

    French director gets sex misconduct charge on actress claim

    PARIS — A French filmmaker has been charged over the alleged sexual assault of an actress when she was 15.Director Christophe Ruggia received the preliminary charge Thursday of assault of a minor by a person in authority, the Paris prosecutor's office said.Ruggia had been detained Tuesday for questioning about allegations last year made by actress Adele Haenel concerning events in the early 2000s.Ruggia, who denies the claims, was placed under judicial control, meaning he was freed but must regularly report to officials. Preliminary charges can be thrown out at the end of the judicial investigation.Haenel, now 31 and an accomplished actress, says the director repeatedly touched her inappropriately during and after filming of the the movie “Les Diables" in the early 2000s. She told French media that she didn't file a legal complaint because she didn't trust the French legal system.The investigation is unusual in France, which hasn’t seen a wave of accusations of sexual misconduct by men in positions of power like the MeToo movement that shook Hollywood and U.S. politics.The Associated Press

  • British couple to attempt record-breaking transatlantic balloon flight from N.B.
    News
    The Canadian Press

    British couple to attempt record-breaking transatlantic balloon flight from N.B.

    FREDERICTON — A British couple is hoping to break through a glass ceiling with a balloon flight from Canada to Europe this summer.If the trip is successful, Deborah Day would become the first woman in command of a transatlantic balloon crossing, while Mike Scholes would become the first blind crewmember on such a trip.The two plan to fly from Sussex, N.B., to France some time between mid-June and early August, depending on air currents and weather.Day and Scholes of Sussex, U.K., have been planning the trip for six years and hope summer 2020 will see their dream come true."It's a challenge. We wanted to do something that hadn't been done before and this is what we came up with," Day, 56, said in an interview from the couple's home in England. The couple will be using an 27-metre Roziere balloon that uses helium in a cell at the top, and hot air below.Day is one of few women to ever pilot a Roziere balloon. She also has her commercial balloon licence, gas balloon licence and night rating.The attempt was originally set for last year, but a worldwide shortage of helium sent prices sky high. Those prices have since begun to descend — a good thing, since the couple will need about 2,000 cubic metres of the gas for their flight.Day said friends and family have been cautiously supportive."You get the comments — 'You're crazy' or 'What do you want to do that for?' — but nothing worthwhile is straightforward or easy, is it? There's always going to be a risk. In ballooning in general, there's always a risk. It's something we're very excited to be doing," she said.Scholes, 66, learned to fly balloons with Britain's Royal Air Force Reserve and did more flying with the Royal Navy. He then went on to set up his own balloon company and set five British ballooning duration records.However, a hereditary condition caused Scholes to lose his sight in 2007 and he was forced to give up his business of taking passengers on balloon flights."Passengers felt more comfortable when they knew the pilot could see where he was going," he joked.Soon after losing his sight, Scholes got a friend to take him and Day on a flight — Day's first time in a balloon — and after that she was hooked and got her own licence.Ballooning experts have recommended the pair fly in a capsule under the balloon, but instead they'll be using a traditional basket, Day said, because that will be easier to get out of should they have to ditch in the ocean.The couple will have a life raft and they have done training with the Royal Navy in case something goes wrong.Any profits from the couple's transatlantic flight will be going to the group Blind Veterans U.K., which has provided Scholes with rehabilitation and training.The flight will begin at low altitudes but could reach as high as 5,000 metres or more during the journey.The plan to depart from Sussex, N.B., is not just because the town is the namesake of their own hometown, but also because of the number of people with ballooning expertise there. The New Brunswick town hosts the annual Atlantic Balloon Fiesta, and has been the departure point for other transatlantic attempts in the past."I'm sure we'll be able to give them plenty of help for a proper send-off. There's a deep appreciation for balloons and balloonists in our community," said Mayor Marc Thorne.The trip is expected to take between three and seven days depending on the weather and wind currents."Records are lovely, but the main thing will be to get across safely," Day said.Details on the flight and updated tracking information will be available at www.transatlanticballoonchallenge.com and on social media via the hashtag balloonthepond.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 16, 2020.Kevin Bissett, The Canadian Press

  • Federal health minister says too early for broad drug decriminalization
    News
    The Canadian Press

    Federal health minister says too early for broad drug decriminalization

    VANCOUVER — Canada's health minister says talk about decriminalizing drugs to deal with the country's opioids crisis is premature until people have enough help to fight their addictions.Countries that have taken that step have supports in place to protect people, said Patty Hajdu, who toured the Molson Overdose Prevention Site in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside on Thursday with Mayor Kennedy Stewart."My personal perspective on decriminalization is that it can't be done in a broad sweep," she said.The way services are delivered in Canada vary from province to province in terms of what kinds of supports are available, she said."So I think that having a comprehensive kind of approach that includes things like prevention, treatment, harm reduction, enforcement, housing, those are the kind of things that are actually going to start to move the needle," Hajdu said."It's too premature to have a conversation about full decriminalization of substances until we get to the place where we have comprehensive support for people to get well."She said the crisis stems from people struggling with "dire health situations" that need a compassionate and pragmatic response.Last month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was not convinced that decriminalizing hard drugs is the solution to the opioid crisis, and other options need a chance.The most recent figures from the Public Health Agency of Canada show that nearly 14,000 Canadians have been killed by opioids since 2016.Hajdu said the Liberals have invested significantly in ways that are making a difference. Deaths due to overdose are going down because people have wider access to the overdose-reversing drug naloxone, she said.Stewart said Vancouver has been at the epicentre of the overdose crisis."But we're suddenly seeing it now move across the country with basically the cause being a poison drug supply."Hajdu said Vancouver has been leading the way on drug policy.Harm reduction along with collaboration between public health agencies, non-profit organizations and the city is important to make progress, she said.What works in Vancouver might not work in Thunder Bay or Edmonton, she said, adding that the federal government would like to see solutions that are rooted in local community support.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 16, 2020.Hina Alam, The Canadian Press

  • 'We don't want fish farms here,' says St. Marys Bay lobster fisherman
    News
    CBC

    'We don't want fish farms here,' says St. Marys Bay lobster fisherman

    Some people who live and work on St. Marys Bay in Digby County, N.S., want their local leaders to send a strong message to an aquaculture company that's eyeing the area for salmon farming."It's just a no-brainer. No, we don't want fish farms here," lobster fisherman Ritchie Crocker told CBC's Information Morning during an interview from his boat on Tuesday morning. Crocker, who has fished in the bay for 24 years, is worried about Cermaq's plans to set up open-pen salmon farms as part of a possible expansion into Nova Scotia.The Digby County location is one of five spots the international seafood company has been granted options to explore by the provincial government.The company wants to develop sites in Nova Scotia.In B.C., where Cermaq has some operations, the federal government has given salmon farming companies until 2025 to leave the West Coast. The federal government has control over B.C.'s aquaculture industry, while in Nova Scotia, the provincial government has oversight.The warden of the District of the Municipality of Digby said while he's aware of community opposition to salmon farming, he's not ready to make a decision. Jimmy McAlpine said his council will meet with Keith Colwell, Nova Scotia's minister of fisheries and aquaculture, to ask for more information."We're still trying to be ... educated on whether or not it's sustainable," he said. "If it is sustainable, then I don't know what the problem would be, but it has to be proven that they can provide a sustainable industry."Company wants to set up 15-20 farms Cermaq held public information meetings in Digby on Wednesday and will hold several more in the coming weeks after announcing last year that it's looking at a $500-million development in Nova Scotia.It's looking at sites in Mahone Bay, St. Margarets Bay, St. Marys Bay and sites in Guysborough and Richmond counties.Linda Sams, director of sustainable development for Cermaq, said the company wants to build a total of 15-20 farms in different locations, but that only about half would operate at any given time."It is large, so we're taking our time and very carefully investigating both the feasibility from an environmental perspective, business perspective and probably most importantly from a social perspective," she said.Crocker said fishermen in St. Marys Bay have several concerns, including the size of the salmon pens and lobster eggs."If they fill that site full, the lobster industry here will be depleted because of the lobster [eggs] being eaten," he said.Crocker also has questions about the pesticides and antibiotics used by aquaculture companies.Lois Oliver lives in Brighton and said many people in the area already oppose the much smaller Cooke Seafood aquaculture farm that operates in the bay now."There are smells and disgusting sights and flotsam that comes from these farms when some of them break apart during nasty weather and rough seas," she said. "And unfortunately, that industry does not have a good track record in picking up after themselves."Sams said the company wants to do more study in the area "to make sure that our fish feces, our fish pooh ... could be handled by the bay and we can predict where it goes."She said farmed salmon tend to prefer eating pellets over lobster eggs, and that the industry is using less antibiotics and pesticides than it did in the past.When it comes to treating farmed salmon for disease, Sams said Cermaq is looking into non-chemical options for conditions like sea lice."I understand people's concerns," she said. "We're really open to additional monitoring or making sure that people are very informed about if we ever have a situation where we treat our fish that we can share that information broadly and create assurance for people."Cermaq's next public meetings are scheduled for Feb. 6 in Saulnierville and Feb. 7 in Sandy Cove.MORE TOP STORIES

  • Upgrades around Lake Banook planned ahead of world championships
    News
    CBC

    Upgrades around Lake Banook planned ahead of world championships

    Members of Halifax's community planning committee agree with the call to make short-term and long-term improvements in the Lake Banook area.The Dartmouth paddling venue will host the World Canoe Sprint Championships in 2022.Municipal staff are recommending upgrades to the boardwalk and to two nearby municipal parks, Silver's Hill and Birch Cove, before the event takes place."They need improvements to put our best foot forward for 2022," Coun. Sam Austin said Thursday after the committee agreed to forward the recommendations to regional council.Terraced seating is in place now on Silver's Hill where spectators can watch the racing, but it is crumbling. According to Austin, there is already a plan that envisions improving and expanding the terraced seating.Halifax regional staff also want to improve the paths in Birch Cove Park where traditionally an athlete's village is set up for national and international paddling events.The staff report also said long-term upgrades are needed after the 2022 event is over to maintain Lake Banook as a world-class venue and attract future competitions."Places like Sherbrooke, Que., and Welland Canal in Ontario are premiere paddling facilities," said Coun. David Hendsbee. "I think we should look at what they have and try to keep up our game."Coun. Waye Mason agreed the municipality will have to take the lead, but he insisted there should be provincial and federal funding since Lake Banook is a national paddling venue."I guess this is a plea to our MLAs and MPs not to expect us to carry the burden on this," said Mason.MORE TOP STORIES

  • Privacy breach in Corner Brook sent to commissioner's officer for review, next steps
    News
    CBC

    Privacy breach in Corner Brook sent to commissioner's officer for review, next steps

    An investigation into an information leak on the City of Corner Brook's website is in the hands of the province's privacy commissioner.An analyst with the provincial office is looking into the report of the breach, and will help determine what the next steps will be for the city."We have the breach notification, and one of our analysts is reviewing it now and we may very well be going back to the city with some further questions," said Sean Murray, director of research and quality assurance with the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner."But what happens from there, I think it's too early to tell."On Tuesday, the city reported that private information on its website was accessed by four different users. The directory on the website — not available through links on the site — contained information used in a previous voters' list, including name, address and date of birth of about 10,000 people. While the directory contains that personal information, the city says it does not know if the personal information itself was viewed.When a breach is reported to the privacy commissioner's office, the affected body is asked to describe the breach, state what it has done to ensure the breach doesn't happen again and how it plans to notify those affected. After that, the office will decide if it needs more information, said Murray."We may then assess whether the public body has adequately addressed the situation or whether they may you know there may be further steps warranted."The office will also look into whether it believes there was malice in the intent of those committing the breach. That would also determine if law enforcement would need to get involved, although that's rare in breaches like this, he said.Murray says the city took appropriate action in issuing a news release the leak affected more than a few individuals.He also said anyone with concerns should contact the city, but if they are not satisfied with the response, he encouraged them to contact his office.'Very diligent'Once the breach was discovered, said Mayor Jim Parson, it was immediately dealt with, and all personal data on the list was removed from the server hosting the website."Our IT department is top-notch, very diligent, on top of these matters," Parsons said. "I have every confidence in them."Parsons said the data available was considered "low harm" but he's glad the breach was noticed before it went further.The city will implement a privacy audit for new software purchases and undergo further training of staff on privacy issues and employees requirements as it relates to the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act.Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

  • Cdn military program seeking help to find and take out waste in space
    News
    The Canadian Press

    Cdn military program seeking help to find and take out waste in space

    OTTAWA — The Canadian military is looking for help taking out the trash in space.Over the last two years, the military's Innovation for Defence Excellence and Security program has awarded 16 contracts totalling $4.8 million to Canadian companies and university researchers to find ways to identify some of the millions of pieces of junk orbiting the Earth.Now it is preparing to award more contracts, looking for companies that can track the smallest bits of space junk, as well as solutions to pulling space waste of all sizes out of Earth's orbit."The hazards posed by debris collisions include erosion to hulls, solar panels and optics," reads a request for proposals issued by the department's innovation science program last summer.It can also cause the junk in space to break up even more, compounding the space trash issue. The potential consequences are serious: it could cause the total loss of a space vehicle and hurt, or even kill, the astronauts inside them."Space debris will grow as the number of human-made objects in Earth orbits increase over time," the request says.The request for proposals closed in September and a spokeswoman for the military says contracts will be awarded this winter. The contracts are worth up to $200,000 each, for a maximum of six months.The European Space Agency estimates more than 129 million pieces of garbage are circling the Earth, pieces of old satellites, broken up rockets, and castoffs from human missions to space.The Department of National Defence is mandated to protect and defend Canada's space capabilities, including the satellites it relies on for communications, surveillance and navigation.A raisin-sized remnant from an old satellite or a rocket may be small but when it's travelling at speeds of up to 28,000 kilometres per hour as it circles the planet, it can cause significant damage to space craft or satellites.The Canadian military says current removal systems are ineffective and nobody has yet found a way to keep track of the smallest pieces of space debris.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 16, 2020.Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

  • News
    The Canadian Press

    Digital evidence a 'double-edged sword' in sexual crime cases: experts

    Text messages, social media posts and video are playing an increasingly central role in the investigation and prosecution of sexual crimes, but experts say digital evidence is a double-edged sword that can prolong cases and potentially discourage complainants from coming forward.A study published last year by researchers at three Canadian universities documented some of the ways in which electronic records have made their mark on cases involving sexual offences, which typically occur between people who know each other.Photos, video footage and other such evidence can provide key context and are often seen as more neutral than people's accounts, said the study based on interviews with dozens of sex crime investigators across the country."There are cases where digital evidence has been useful in challenging the 'he said, she said' narrative," lead author Alexa Dodge, a PhD candidate at Ottawa's Carleton University, said in an interview.But that material is still subject to human interpretation — and thus human bias — and collecting it can make cases longer and more invasive for complainants, she said. "It's not the silver bullet people think it might be," she added.Investigators who took part in the study reported growing backlogs in processing large amounts of digital evidence in already overburdened sex crimes units, a strain they said was exacerbated by the lack of specialized training and resources.They also expressed frustration at the length of time required to obtain warrants and the additional wait time for a forensic examiner to review a device.Some complainants, especially teens, are distraught at the prospect of turning over their phones — for many, a lifeline to their support network — for an extended period of time, investigators told the researchers. Some reported the prospect of going off the grid discouraged some complainants from proceeding with charges."These challenges led to assertions that digital evidence is a 'double-edged sword' that provides both more evidence to help solve (notoriously difficult to prove) sexual assault cases but also increases the complexity of these cases and creates burdens on both sex crime investigators and the victims of these crimes," the study said.Digital evidence has taken centre stage in a number of recent high-profile sexual assault trials, including a Toronto case in which a bar owner and manager were found guilty of gang sexual assault and administering a drug.Prosecutors argued hours of security footage shown at the trial portrayed the brutal sexual assault of a woman, while the defence argued the video depicted a consensual encounter. A sentencing hearing for the pair is scheduled for later this month.Defence lawyer Daniel Brown, who has written a book on prosecuting and defending sexual assault cases, said the justice system is actively grappling with how to handle its increasing reliance on a form of evidence that's only become prevalent within the past 10 to 15 years."Part of the reason why we see digital evidence play out in those cases is because it's one of the few types of cases that tends to happen in private without other witnesses being present...it's the type of evidence that tends to help give context to an otherwise complex situation," he said.Authenticating, preserving and interpreting such evidence are among the key challenges, he said. Text conversations can be altered, for example, and those involved may not remember what they meant at the time, he added.Video often doesn't give a full picture either, he said, noting footage can be visually choppy or lack sound.Brown said the justice system would benefit from more clarity on how digital evidence can be used.Legal reforms passed in 2018 made several changes to the way the courts deal with sexual assaults. One of the most controversial changes in Bill C-51 requires that defence lawyers obtain the court's permission before introducing private records such as texts into evidence, and allows complainants to participate in the application hearing.That change is being challenged in courts across the country, Brown said, with critics arguing it allows complainants to alter their account based on the defence's evidence and thus infringes on the accused's right to a fair trial.Two Ontario trial courts have so far upheld the change, but one in Alberta has ruled it to be unconstitutional, he said, noting the issue will likely end up before the Supreme Court of Canada.The new process also prolongs trials and increases the risk that cases will be thrown out for stretching beyond legally mandated timelines, he said.This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Jan. 16, 2020. Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press

  • News
    CBC

    P.E.I. women offering free foot care to those who can't afford it

    Shirley Spence has come through challenging times over the past few years and wanted to find a way to give back."Three years ago I found myself in a situation where I needed to create some employment," she said.Her marriage ended when she was 59 and she only had a part-time job."So I created an income," Spence said. She did some research and found out there is a "great need for foot care."So the trained nurse took a course in Moncton, N.B., and started offering the service. She said she "still doesn't have a lot of money," but wanted to give back to her community, so last year she started to offer free weekly foot-care clinics at Summerside Baptist Church."I just thought, on a whim, I'd start an afternoon clinic for free for people who might not have insurance or you know, may be on a very fixed income."Spence said when she started her foot-care business she gave herself Thursday's off, but that is when she offers the free clinic and it is busy."I'm there from one to five, but I have been known to see people before that," she said. We share, we laugh, we pray, so it has just been a wonderful experience for me. — Shirley SpenceShe said she usually has between three and five people show up for the service every Thursday.Some of the services she offers are basic foot care, foot soaks and nail cutting."Somebody with a mobility issue maybe can't cut their own toenails."Diabetic foot careShe also provides diabetic foot care."You're checking for sensation or loss of sensation," she said.Sometimes people come in with ingrown toenails or painful corns or calluses and she works on those.She said people have told her she is doing a wonderful thing, but Spence said she gets more out of it than the clients she helps."I'm getting to know the people in the church, it's just like a big family," Spence said. "I talk to these people, we share, we laugh, we pray, so it has just been a wonderful experience for me."The clinics are Thursday afternoons at Summerside Baptist Church and she can be reached at 902-303-4695.More P.E.I. news