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Will 2015 election campaign see Nixon‚??s Justin Trudeau prophecy fulfilled?

Mon, 3 Aug 2015 18:12:14 EDT


OTTAWA—Justin Trudeau was just 4 months old when a sitting U.S. president pegged him for high political office.

“Tonight we’ll dispense with the formalities. I’d like to toast the future prime minister of Canada: to Justin Pierre Trudeau,” Richard Nixon said at a post-gala buffet in April 1972 during a state visit to Ottawa.

According to a contemporary news wire report, Trudeau’s father Pierre, then nearing the end of his first four-year Liberal mandate as prime minister, responded that should his first-born son — born on Christmas Day 1971 — ever become Canada’s leader, “I hope he has the grace and skill of the president.”

The anecdote says less about the current federal Liberal party leader’s prime ministerial worthiness than it does about a life lived in the spotlight.

Today, Justin Pierre James Trudeau is taking his first crack at fulfilling Nixon’s prophecy, and there’s a certain symmetry in that he’s attempting to replace Stephen Harper, a prime minister described as “almost Nixonian” by Harper’s own former chief of staff Tom Flanagan.

Sunny, approachable, sometimes too quick with a quip, relaxed in front of a camera and publicly eschewing the dark political arts — Trudeau is presenting himself as the open-book antidote to a decade of flinty, guarded Conservative governance.

Having lived much of his 43 years in the public eye, Trudeau needs little introduction to Canadians. He’s the first to recognize the downside.

The Trudeau name is like a magnet, attracting or repelling depending on one’s political polarity.

“The association with my father was never a reason for me to get into politics,” Trudeau wrote last year in his memoir, Common Ground. “It was, rather, a reason for me to avoid entering the political arena.”

Fate and family fame kept pushing Trudeau into the public sphere.

His youngest brother Michel’s death in a B.C. avalanche in 1998 made him a spokesman for avalanche safety. His eulogy at his father’s nationally televised funeral two years later further galvanized the attention.

Acutely aware of the perception of political entitlement, Trudeau entered politics in the gritty Montreal riding of Papineau, where he defeated the Bloc Québécois incumbent to become an MP in 2008.

Along the way, Trudeau learned he was a natural at the glad-handing, baby-kissing of retail politics, unlike his distant, ascetic father.

“I wasn’t at all my father’s son,” he wrote in his memoir. “I was Jimmy Sinclair’s grandson.”

James Sinclair, whose daughter Margaret married 51-year-old Pierre when she was just 22, was a federal minister in Liberal governments of the 1950s and represented a Vancouver riding for 18 years.

Trudeau added public pugilist to his resume in March 2012 when he punched the lights out of Conservative senator Patrick Brazeau, an imposing figure with martial arts and military training, in a charity boxing match. In the strange alchemy of leadership politics, the three-round bout made Trudeau a contender.

A year later it was a Liberal coronation when Trudeau won the leadership on the first ballot in April 2013, the sixth party leader in seven years.

He’s been finding adoring crowds — and a buzz saw of Conservative sneers, NDP eye-rolling and skeptical media squinting — ever since.

Too young. Too inexperienced. Too glib. Too rich. Too carefree.

He volunteered that he’d accepted speaking fees, including from charitable organizations, while serving as an MP — an acknowledgment for which he was pilloried.

He said he’d smoked pot, also as an MP, for which he was lampooned.

He joked — publicly and ill-advisedly — about Russian aggression in Ukraine, dictatorial Chinese efficiency and phallic CF-18 fighter jets, sending his opponents into paroxysms of outraged I-told-you-so’s.

But Trudeau has also made a number of tough calls that too few of his detractors credit.

He spiked any talk of a Liberal long-gun registry revival during his leadership campaign, a decision greeted with suspicion by friend and foe alike.

He came out hard and early against Quebec’s charter of values while others were still sticking a wet finger in the wind.

He ordered Liberal MP expenses be put online for public viewing, booted Liberal senators from the party caucus, expelled two of his MPs following sexual harassment allegations and moved decisively to derail the influence and electoral hopes of some old-school, bare-knuckle Liberal brawlers.

Trudeau has also attracted a roster of candidates with impressive credentials, from aboriginal leaders to Canadian Forces officers, international journalists and business leaders.

“It’s a sign of weakness and insecurity — not strength — if the best person you can enlist in your cause is the person you see in the mirror in the morning,” he wrote in his memoir.

He likes to say his campaign bid is based on platform and team, not name recognition — “the equivalent of a reunion tour for an aging rock band,” he wrote — or presidential prophecy.

Besides, who wants an endorsement from Richard Nixon?


Philadelphians rally to resurrect ruined hitchBOT

Mon, 3 Aug 2015 20:50:59 EDT


There may be hope for hitchBOT yet.

The Canadian-created hitchhiking robot was apparently decapitated and dismembered in the streets of Philadelphia just two weeks into an attempt to hitchhike from the east coast of the U.S. to the west, but a local tech group is offering to repair the beloved robot and get it back out on the road again.

“From what I can tell, we definitely have the technical skills to reassemble the bot, as long as we have the parts that we need,” said Georgia Guthrie, executive director for The Hacktory, a Philadelphia business that, among other things, offers classes for adults and kids on how to use technology creatively.

“It’s not like an impossible feat for us to do, it’s actually pretty manageable, so I thought, ‘Why not?’”

Guthrie first heard about hitchBOT, which successfully made it across Canada, Germany and the Netherlands before embarking on its ill-fated U.S. endeavour, Sunday morning when her boyfriend saw a post on Reddit and told her about it. She then sent out emails to volunteers and organizers, who she said were all excited to help out. Guthrie also emailed and tweeted at hitchBOT’s creators, but said she hasn’t heard back from them.

Guthrie is also working on tracking down where hitchBOT’s remains are. According to Twitter user Kyle Silva, one of the last people to see the robot intact, someone has brought the pieces back to Rhode Island and is arranging for them to be sent back to the creators later this week.

The Hacktory is trying to decide how to handle the project and plans a public meeting Thursday. Organizers have set up a PayPal account where people can donate to help cover the costs of the repair, and Guthrie said the group is also looking for the donation of a tablet PC, a component of hitchBOT that she suspects was taken when it was vandalized.

Guthrie hopes that, assuming The Hacktory can get hitchBOT’s remains and the creators agree to the repair, putting the robot back together and sending it on its way will help show that Philadelphia’s tech community is “really welcoming, really inclusive, very friendly.”

“I think Philly has a really bad reputation for this, but I think it’s mostly undeserved,” she said. “We think this is a great opportunity for us to put our skills to good use and we’ll do whatever we can ... I think there’s enough people who want to help and do something positive that we’re going to work to have some good thing come out of this.”

The Hacktory isn’t the only bunch of Philadelphians trying to get hitchBOT to San Francisco though — a Kickstarter by user Nick Green had already raised more than $2,000 by Monday evening, well above the $1,200 campaign goal.

“I recently read the story about [hitchBOT] being destroyed in Philadelphia shortly after starting its journey. As a citizen of the greater Philadelphia region it upset me immensely … A few of my tech savvy friends and myself will be working to rebuild the robot,” reads the campaign description, adding that all funds raised will go toward buying new parts. Guthrie said she’s reached out to Green but hasn’t heard back yet.

HitchBOT’s creators, Frauke Zeller of Ryerson University and David Smith of McMaster University, could not be reached for comment Monday but previously told The Canadian Press that many people have reached out with offers to rebuild hitchBOT and that her team will make a decision on whether or not they will bring the robot back to life in the coming days.

“We don't really know what to do, so we have to sit down with the whole team and really see where we are and what can be done,” Zeller said.

An update is expected to be posted on the robot’s website Wednesday.


Giraffe hunter sparks latest online fury

Mon, 3 Aug 2015 20:21:15 EDT


An American huntress has set off a social media firestorm after she posted pictures of herself posing with the corpse of a giraffe in South Africa.

The backlash against Sabrina Corgatelli, a university accountant from Idaho, comes in the wake of a controversy that engulfed U.S. hunter Walter Palmer, who killed a protected black-maned lion named Cecil in Zimbabwe last month.

On July 26, photos uploaded to a Facebook profile in Corgatelli’s name show her and her companion, Aaron Neilson, standing with the slumped body of a giraffe wrapped around her.

“I got an amazing old Giraffe. Such a amazing (sic) animal!! I couldn’t be any happier!!” the photo caption said. “My emotion after getting him was a feeling I will never forget!!!”

Earlier that day, a photo was uploaded to the profile showing Corgatelli sitting behind the corpse of a kudu, a species of antelope, at a private conservancy near South Africa’s iconic Kruger National Park.

“It was my #1 want on my list and I got him on the first day!!! Loving it there!!” the post read.

Other pictures showed Corgatelli, sometimes sporting hoop earrings and lip gloss, with three recently hunted animals: a large warthog, a blue wildebeest and an impala — another antelope species that she described as “one of Africa’s icons.”

“What a fun hunt!!!” the post beside the warthog shot states.

In the lead-up to her hunting trip, Corgatelli posted a meme of Leonardo DiCaprio on her Facebook wall. “To all the haters. Stay tuned, you’re gonna have so much more to be pissed off about,” it read.

The post would prove prophetic. Thousands of people posted on Corgatelli’s profile, calling her “vile,” “heartless” and “miserable.”

Some veered into profane misogyny with comments on her physical appearance.

Others bordered on threatening. “If I ever see you in person you will regret everything you’ve done to those innocent animals,” one commenter wrote.

By early Monday evening, the privacy settings on Corgatelli’s profile were tightened to hide her timeline and photos from the public, but not before it attracted more than 7,000 “likes” along with supportive comments from hunting sympathizers.

Corgatelli and Neilson appeared on NBC’s Today show Monday morning via Skype from South Africa to defend themselves.

“When you hunt an animal, everybody just thinks we’re cold-hearted killers, and it’s not that,” she told host Carson Daly. “There is a connection with the animal. Just because we hunt them doesn’t mean we don’t have a respect for them.”

Daly pointed out giraffes are herbivores, not predators, but conceded the safari hunt was legal.

“Giraffes are very dangerous animals. They could hurt you seriously very quickly,” Corgatelli replied.

Her accounting position at Idaho State University was highlighted by social media scolds, triggering questions around her job security in the aftermath of the controversy.

“How can you fault someone because of their hobbies? How can an employer chastise you for something you do on your spare time?” Corgatelli asked rhetorically.

On his own Facebook page, Neilson posted he had killed two lions in South Africa in the past two weeks.

He also weighed in on the controversy around Walter Palmer, believed to have killed a popular lion living in the area of Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe.

Palmer’s actions were “100% acceptable” as long as he was hunting with a legal permit in the proper area — a fiercely contested aspect of the case — Neilson posted.

“I do get seriously tired of the ‘ethical’ token thrown into the mix,” he wrote. “Who are you/I to determine another man’s ethics? We have laws to determine what’s right/wrong, ethics are your own to decide!!!”

Last month, Palmer, a dentist from Minnesota, paid $50,000 (U.S.) to join a hunting party that used bait to lure Cecil the lion out of the park, an act deemed unethical by the Safari Operators Association of Zimbabwe.

Cecil, a local favourite with a tracking collar monitored by Oxford University, was shot with a crossbow and then tracked, killed, beheaded and skinned, sparking a huge backlash on social media in the following week.

Palmer issued a statement early last week admitting to the killing and expressing regret. He said he didn’t know the lion was protected.

He has since shuttered his dental clinic and dropped out of sight. With Zimbabwe demanding his extradition from the U.S., Palmer complied with an open plea to contact the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife, currently conducting an investigation.

Like Palmer, Corgatelli and Neilson seem to be experienced big game hunters, with a variety of apparent kills posted on their Facebook accounts.

The Star reached out to Corgatelli via phone and email, but received no response by Monday night.

RELATED:

Dentist must have hated Cecil the lion: Mallick


Harper on the offensive, slams Wynne and Notley

Mon, 3 Aug 2015 14:30:47 EDT


OTTAWA—Conservative leader Stephen Harper took shots at Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and newly-elected Alberta Premier Rachel Notley as he went on the offensive during the first full day of the 78-day election campaign.

Harper said Wynne’s plan to enhance pension savings through the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan is a tax grab that will imperil jobs in the province.

“The people of this country—certainly the small business community—are firmly against these taxes,” he said, noting the federal Liberals are committed to a similar increase in Canada Pension Plan (CPP) premiums.

Wynne said Sunday voters should drive Harper out of office for his government’s refusal to help Ontario implement its new pension plan when Ottawa provides services to provincial pension schemes in Quebec and Saskatchewan. Harper is showing “blatant disrespect” for Ontario, Wynne said.

Harper said Ottawa has brought in several measures to help Canadians expand their savings and the Conservatives are considering allowing more voluntary contributions by individuals to the CPP. But the Conservatives are against government-mandated pension plan enhancements, he said.

“We’re not going to raise these taxes on Canadians,” Harper said at a press conference during a campaign stop in Laval, Quebec.

He also criticized Notley, whose Alberta NDP party put an end to years of Conservative rule in Harper’s home province with a surprise majority victory in May.

Notley has put off a provincial budget until October, has raised corporate income taxes and will replace the province’s flat income tax for individuals with a progressive tax system.

“The new NDP government--they can’t present a budget but what was the first thing they did? They raised taxes and that’s a disaster, an absolute disaster,” Harper said.

He did not mention that his government briefly put off its budget in the spring because of the fiscal gyrations caused by a severe oil-price crash.

Harper accused NDP leader Thomas Mulcair and Liberal leader Justin Trudeau of planning to raise Canadian taxes and run up budget deficits through increased spending programs.

The NDP has said it would cancel income-splitting on couples’ tax forms and raise corporate income taxes but reduce small business taxes. The Liberals would reduce income taxes for middle-income earners while hiking taxes for those making more than $200,000 annually. Both the NDP and Liberals have said they would not run budget deficits.

The Conservative government has run budget deficits for seven years but has promised a $1.4-billion surplus in 2015.

In his press conference in Laval, Harper also said his marathon election campaign won’t derail Canada’s bid to join a massive global trade zone that he’s predicting will be the fundamental trading network of the Asia-Pacific region.

The prime minister says Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations, which failed to reach an agreement late last week, are still ongoing, and Canada remains at the table, notwithstanding the dissolution of Parliament.

Negotiators will continue to defend Canadian interests, notably the country’s supply management system, which protects dairy producers, Harper said.

In his first campaign promise, he said a re-elected Conservative government would spend $60 million a year on increased and extended tax credits for businesses that hire trades people.

He says the apprenticeship job creation tax credit would help to deal with Canada’s long-standing skilled labour shortage.

The Conservatives would increase the maximum credit, first introduced in 2006, to $2,500 from $2,000, and also extend it to the third and fourth years of eligible apprenticeship training.

Harper planned Monday to travel to Kingston, Ont., and on toward the GTA, attending a rally at a golf course in Ajax.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau was expected to make an appearance in Calgary Monday; NDP Leader Tom Mulcair had no public events scheduled.

(With files from Canadian Press).


Obama lays out new climate-change plan

Mon, 3 Aug 2015 16:21:24 EDT


WASHINGTON—U.S. President Barack Obama declared his new carbon plan “the single most important step” the country can take to fight global climate change as he tried Monday to anticipate and rebut arguments from critics about harm his vision could do to American business.

Speaking in personal terms about his days at Occidental College in Los Angeles, Obama recalled the smog that made it hard to breathe when he went out for a run and the people who had to stay inside on especially bad days.

“You fast-forward 30, 40 years later, and we solved those problems,” he said. “At the time, the same time, the same characters who are going to be criticizing this plan were saying this is going to kill jobs.

“Despite those scaremongering tactics,” he said, “you can actually run in Los Angeles without choking.”

Obama said he was going “off script” in his references, underscoring the personal importance he attaches to this key piece of his ambitious second-term agenda. The new regulations are designed to cut carbon dioxide emissions from U.S. power plants by 32 per cent between 2005 and 2030, through new regulations that the Environmental Protection Agency administrator insists are “within the four corners” of the Clean Air Act.

Obama said the new regulations were the most significant step “America has ever taken in the fight against global climate change.”

But Republicans and business leaders were already vowing to fight him. They say Obama’s Clean Power Plan is part of a radical environmental agenda that comes at the expense of the American people. It could heap billions of dollars in added costs while shifting away from natural gas as a reliable and clean power source, said House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California.

“To the president, appeasing a fringe environmental movement has overtaken the more responsible path to grow our economy,” said McCarthy, vowing that the House will “consider every option possible to fight it.”

The plan would boost efforts already underway in California and other coastal states to increase the use of renewable power. But for mostly Republican-led parts of the country still heavily reliant on coal, the rules would force a major economic transition that many elected officials pledge to resist.


David Price's debut memorable event for Jays and T.O.: Griffin

Mon, 3 Aug 2015 19:06:07 EDT


On a sun-drenched holiday Monday at the Rogers Centre, Blue Jays versus Twins, it had the crowd feel of not only a baseball game but an “event” in what has for years been an event-driven city.

In what ranks as a virtual afterthought, the Blue Jays’ 5-1 victory against Paul Molitor’s Minnesota Twins lifted the Jays into a tie for the second wild-card spot with Minnesota.

But clearly — and far more important to the 45,766 fanatics in attendance — the game marked the debut in a Jays uniform of sublime left-hander David Price, producing a sixth sellout of the year.

It was the talk of the town. It was an event.

“There’s been four or five games in my tenure as a Blue Jay — Canada Day, Opening Day 2013 — for myself that really felt like there was something a little bit more to it than just a regular old baseball game,” fellow starter R.A. Dickey said of the love-in for Price.

“Today felt like that.”

No, all full houses in baseball are not created equal. Opening Day is a tradition. Canada Day is a national holiday and bobblehead giveaways attract a different type of crowd. But for Price and the Jays on this Civic Holiday, it was all about the players believing in themselves and the playoffs. Refreshing.

By 11:15 a.m., the Flight Deck in centre field, the standing room party area, was filled to capacity almost two hours before the game. The party had started, but all the talk was baseball, what the Jays did at the deadline and what they had the potential to accomplish on the field.

Interestingly, an informal eyewitness survey conducted by yours truly on a stroll to the outfield about 30 minutes before the game suggested there are fewer and fewer Jays jerseys being worn by fans celebrating the World Series teams and subsequent losing years.

Instead, more than 90 per cent celebrate theis current team, led by Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista, Russell Martin and Edwin Encarnacion. This team is being embraced by a new generation of fans that don’t remember those back-to-back titles. These fans have embraced this group as their own, hoping for their own World Series to celebrate.

The fans were there on Sunday to see Price make his first start as a Blue Jay and, in a fortunate coincidence, were able to pick up a Martin bobblehead at the same time. The crowd’s baseball knowledge and understanding of what they were about to witness as a preview of the next two months was impressive. They gave Price a standing ovation as he came to the dugout after warming up. They gave him another after he retired the Twins’ 1-2-3 in the first and did it again as he left the field after eight innings, having pitched three-hit ball with 11 strikeouts to boot.

“I was telling (bullpen coach Dane Johnson), I’ve been here 15 times as a visitor and I hadn’t seen a crowd like this,” said 42-year-old LaTroy Hawkins, who finished up for Price in working a perfect ninth. “I said to someone after the first inning, ‘If the crowd is hanging on every pitch and every hit like this the rest of the season, they’re going to be exhausted.’ ”

The crowd did go silent for a while in the fourth, as Price loaded the bases on a double and two walks with nobody out. On the second free pass, he took the throw back from Martin, for whom he had high praise, turned toward centre field, took a deep breath and went back to work. Tulowitzki made a running catch into centre, turned and threw a bullet to the cutoff man, then Price struck out two. After that he retired 12 more in a row. If runs had scored, the crowd may have been lost.

“Seeing him up close and personal, you can see how special he is,” Hawkins said. “You can look from a distance, look at the numbers and hear everyone talking, but seeing him up close and personal, it’s impressive. The way he mixes speeds, the location and how he just turns into a different person when guys get on base.

“He’s so comfortable being uncomfortable.”

For the past four days, since the first game played by Tulowitzki and through the deadline’s trade for Price on the penultimate day, followed by the surprise pickup of other vital parts for a run at the playoffs by GM Alex Anthopoulos, the clubhouse has been a happy place. The players can feel it.

There’s an extra spring in their step as the players prepare for games, and the results are obvious. As much as not doing anything at the deadline a year ago depressed the player atmosphere and subliminally may have dulled the will to compete, the opposite has held true this summer.

Think about it. In the past, an emotional weekend series like the Jays just completed may have led to an unintended emotional pancake at the start of the next series. But with the event of Price’s debut, that letdown never happened. The focus and intensity were there and with the added length to the batting order and the extra depth to the starting rotation and bullpen, the feeling could continue.

For the first time this season, the Jays must believe that in any five or seven-game series they have the depth in rotation, with Price, Mark Buehrle and Dickey, to compete.

“I think that creates its own kind of momentum,” Dickey said of the new depth. “Now that we’re in it and every game seems to be hyper-important, especially to the masses. To us, we can’t get too far ahead of ourselves if we win and we can’t beat up ourselves too much if we lose a game. These are huge games, every game from here on out. We’ve made the push. Our chips are all-in.

“There’s going to be a lot more opportunity for a lot more ‘event’ games, which is going to be fun for this city.”


NDP surges past Conservatives, Liberals in latest poll

Mon, 3 Aug 2015 05:00:00 EDT


The New Democrats have surged to a double-digit lead in public support, gaining more distance over the other federal parties than they have at any time in the past two years, according to a new Forum Research poll.

About four in 10 Canadians surveyed (39 per cent) said they would cast their ballot for the NDP if an election were held today.

The Conservatives fell from neck-and-neck status with the NDP last week to 28 per cent of voter support Sunday, while the Liberals were steady at 25 per cent.

Projected onto an enlarged 338-seat House of Commons, the survey results indicate the NDP would command a solid minority of 160 seats — 10 short of a majority.

The poll, conducted hours after Prime Minister Stephen Harper kicked off a marathon campaign Sunday for the Oct. 19 election, reveals the NDP, under Thomas Mulcair’s leadership, has turned its flagging fortunes around.

Last December, even though it was the official Opposition, it was a distant third, according to Forum data, trailing with 17-per-cent support. The Liberals, under Justin Trudeau, were dominant at that point, with 41 per cent.

The Liberals have since gone from a comfortable lead to a three-way tie for third place in the course of a year, poll results show.

“I … haven’t found a single instance of the NDP having a double-digit lead before today,” Lorne Bozinoff, president of Forum Research, told the Star.

“Now the government has released the hounds, as it were, people … are coming off the fence and ending up with the NDP for now,” he added in a statement.

The campaign — twice the typical length — will be the longest, and likely the costliest, election in modern Canadian history.

“Much can happen in that time because campaigns, and their errors, forced and unforced, do make a difference,” Bozinoff noted.

Sunday’s poll found a distinct gender gap in the Conservative vote, which attracts more than a third of male voters (34 per cent) but fewer than a quarter of women (22 per cent). The gap works the other way for the NDP: 35 per cent of male voters and an even higher 42 per cent of women.

After tying with Harper in previous polls as preferred choice for prime minister, Mulcair is now seen as the top choice, compared to Harper and Trudeau, who ranks slightly lower than both.

The NDP has stated its openness to a coalition with the Liberals, who last month expressed resistance to the idea. Forum data shows more than two-thirds of Liberal and NDP supporters (68 per cent) back it.

In Ontario, the NDP and Conservatives are virtually tied, with the Liberals lagging by double digits. The NDP has a solid lead over the Grits in Quebec, while the Bloc Québécois and Conservatives trail.

The NDP also leads in British Columbia, while the Conservatives dominate the traditionally right-wing Alberta, despite the provincial NDP’s landslide victory there in May.

In the formerly Liberal fortress of Atlantic Canada, the NDP has nearly half the support (45 per cent), while the Liberals are in a solid second (38 per cent).

The Forum Research poll was conducted between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Sunday using an interactive voice-response telephone survey. Weighted statistically by age, region and other variables, it polled 1,399 randomly selected Canadians age 18 or older.

Results are considered accurate plus or minus three percentage points, 19 times out of 20.


‚??It‚??s like hell here‚??: Greek markets return with a plunge

Mon, 3 Aug 2015 11:11:19 EDT


Greece’s stock market reopened after five weeks to the most savage wave of selling in decades, underlining a crisis that’s crippled the economy and pushed the country’s euro membership to the brink.

Banks led the plunge following the shutdown, which was due to capital controls to prevent the lenders from bleeding more deposits. Piraeus Bank SA and National Bank of Greece SA sank 30 per cent, the daily maximum allowed by the Athens Stock Exchange. The benchmark ASE Index dropped 16 per cent on Monday after sliding as much as 23 per cent.

“The situation in Greek equity markets will have to get a lot worse before it gets better,” said Luca Paolini, Pictet Asset Management’s chief strategist in London. “There are still critical risks to be resolved.”

The sell-off shows the scale of the crisis still facing Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras as he negotiates a third bailout with creditors after six months that have put unprecedented strain on the Greek economy and its financial system.

The Greek market came to a halt in June as Tsipras ended talks with the euro region to ask voters to decide in a referendum whether to accept the terms offered in exchange for emergency loans. The move snuffed out a short recovery in stocks, which have now lost more than 85 per cent of their collective value since 2007. The ASE slump on Monday was the biggest since at least 1987.

Traders in Athens said the market couldn’t function properly because of continuous halts as prices plummeted. They expect stocks to hit their lows in coming days before the market can gain any semblance of normality, according to Stavros Kallinos, head asset manager at Guardian Trust.

“It’s a total disaster, it’s like hell here,” he said from Athens. “You can’t have a market working properly with capital controls. It will be a gradual process. We’re moving forward, but a step at a time.”

The Greek government was forced to shut banks and impose capital controls before ultimately accepting a deal for bridge financing to avoid defaulting, even after voters on July 5 rejected more austerity and sided with Tsipras.

Banks re-opened on July 20 with limited services and restrictions on cash withdrawals still in place while officials worked on rules to resume trading on the stock market after what was its longest halt since the 1970s. The measures restricted the functioning of the economy, and data on Monday showed manufacturing fell to a record low in July.

Greek traders can only buy stocks, bonds, derivatives and warrants with new money such as funds transferred from abroad or earnings from the future sale of shares, or from existing investment account balances held at Greek brokerages, the finance ministry said in a decree on Friday.

No such constraints apply to foreign investors, provided they were already active in the market before the shutdown.

Because the rules will govern how money is raised to purchase securities, they could result in a “loss of confidence to the market mechanism and integrity” by making it easier to sell, according to the Association of the Members of the Athens Exchanges.

“It’s absolutely better to re-open the exchange,” said Thanassis Drogossis, head of head of equities at Athens-based Pantelakis Securities SA. “The important thing is to have a functioning market. It’s been a while!”

During the closure, investors used an exchange-traded fund listed in the U.S. as a proxy for Greek stocks. Turns out their speculations were right: the Global X FTSE Greece 20 ETF fell 17 per cent during the suspension.

“For sure it is an unusual trading session after 25 days of the market being closed,” said Nikos Kyriazis, an equity sales trader at NBG Securities SA in Athens. “Trading restrictions on local individual investors probably slow down a potential rebound in stock prices other than banks.”


These are the 58 MPs not running for re-election

Mon, 3 Aug 2015 15:25:00 EDT


There are 58 MPs not running for re-election, that includes 33 Conservatives, 14 NDP members, 5 Liberals, 4 independents and a member of the Bloc Québécois.

The departures aren‚??t all the result of retirements; several lost their riding nominations. Also the count includes a few, like Baird who have already left their seats.

Correction: A previous version of this feature omitted MP Lynne Yelich, who lost the Conservative nomination for the newly created federal riding of Saskatoon-Grasswood.

Designed by Craig Desson


Nine-year-old‚??s death prompts ban of bat boys, ball boys at games

Mon, 3 Aug 2015 17:18:49 EDT


WICHITA, KAN.—Following the death of Kaiser Carlile, the Liberal Bee Jays’ nine-year-old bat boy, the National Baseball Congress will not have bat boys or ball boys during the remainder of World Series games at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium in Wichita, Kan.

“It’s out of respect for the Bee Jays,” said NBC general manager Kevin Jenks. “ . . . It’s too emotionally charged. We’re going to remove it from the World Series.”

Kaiser died Sunday after he was struck in the head with a follow-through swing near the on-deck circle on Saturday afternoon during the Bee Jays’ game.

Kaiser, who was from Liberal, Kan., was wearing a helmet.

Bat boys retrieve bats from the home-plate area and return them to the dugout. Ball boys chase foul balls that stay in the field of play and also take more baseballs to the home-plate umpire. Parents sometimes contact the NBC to have their children participate as a bat boy or ball boy, and Jenks said it’s a volunteer position that is filled early in the process for all 60 games.

“We’re also responsible for the safety of these kids,” Jenks said. “At this point, safety is No. 1. It’s unfortunate that it takes a situation like this to implement that.”

As for future World Series, Jenks is unsure.

“We need to look at it and have some conversations and see what is best,” he said. “Our age limit is 10 years old. . . . We’ll talk about it; we may need to raise the age limit.” At 9, Kaiser was able to be on the field because he was Liberal’s bat boy all summer.

The Hutchinson Monarchs helped raise money for the Carlile family by walking through Lawrence-Dumont Stadium and asking for donations.

A GoFundMe page has been established — BigHits4Kaiser — at gofundme.com/4m6pwmm88g . As of 3:45 p.m. central time Monday, more than $50,000 (U.S.) had been raised to help Kaiser’s family.

The city of Wichita has not decided whether it will conduct an investigation into the death. Lawrence-Dumont Stadium is owned by the city.

Ken Evans, the city’s strategic communications director, said it is too early to decide on the need for an inquiry.

“I think we’re all kind of in shock at the moment with the rest of the community and focused on expressing our heartfelt sympathies for all the family and the friends and the folks involved with the tournament,” Evans said.

“. . . I just don’t think anyone is focused on that at the moment. It’s difficult for me to say anything about it, other than it seems premature for us.”


Paralympian Karen Van Nest finds new life in sport of archery

Mon, 3 Aug 2015 16:18:49 EDT


Being an elite amateur athlete is hard work both physically and mentally, but quitting the life can be harder still.

That’s why many athletes fight an aging or injured body in a desperate attempt to stay in sport for one more quadrennial.

That was Karen Van Nest’s dilemma.

At the 2000 Sydney Paralympic Games, the pistol shooter missed the podium by seven-tenths of a point, finishing in fourth. That would turn out to be her best result.

At the 2004 Games in Athens, she was fifth and in 2008 in Beijing, with mounting pain in her right shoulder, she dropped to 10th.

“A piece of me was dying,” Van Nest recalls.

“I knew I had to retire from shooting but I wasn’t ready to retire . . . I didn’t want to give up sport because I love competing,” she says.

“So it was a matter of — what else?”

The answer for her turned out to be archery, a sport requiring similar accuracy and mental concentration as shooting but one that was easier on her shoulder.

She began archery after the 2008 Games and by 2011 had qualified to compete for Canada at the 2012 Paralympic Games in her new sport.

“And I was having fun,” she recalls.

She finished ninth in London and now, with a few more years of archery experience in her quiver, the 52-year-old is looking to medal at the Parapan Am Games in Toronto and book her ticket to the Rio Games.

Leading the Canadian team at Varsity Stadium in Toronto is 2011 Parapan Am champion Kevin Evans from Jaffray, B.C. Robert Hudson, from Leoville, Sask., who captured the silver medal in 2011, and Alec Denys, from Douro-Dummer, Ont., a five-time Paralympic Games veteran who came back from retirement, and Van Nest round out the team.

Athletes can compete standing, on a stool or in a wheelchair in compound or recurve medal events. Van Nest uses a compound bow, which is more modern-looking with its cable and pulley system compared to the recurve, which is a more traditional-looking bow.

The way four-time Paralympian Van Nest took to para sport — she also won a bronze medal at the 2006 world rowing championships — it’s surprising that it took her nearly a decade after her accident to play any sport at all.

Van Nest grew up in North Bay, Ont., and was always active. She swam at the family cottage. She was a cheerleader and gymnast at school and, at one point, even dreamed of becoming an Olympic gymnast, but her family didn’t have the finances to pursue that goal.

At age 23, Van Nest lost her leg in a motorcycle accident.

“When I lost my leg all the activities ended. I was a little embarrassed — I didn’t try, I was afraid. I didn’t want to fail so for eight years, I did nothing,” she says.

“I didn’t even dance.”

Her sister decided to change that when she went home for a wedding and her sister badgered her to dance, something Van Nest had always loved.

“After an hour I said yes and got up and I felt good and that changed everything,” she says, smiling at the memory.

She tried all sorts of things after that. She got on a bicycle without a leg which, she recalls, didn’t work out very well. But other things did.

“I just had to learn how to adapt,” she says. “The loss of my leg wasn’t the loss of my life.”


Money to fix splash pad dries up: Fixer

Mon, 3 Aug 2015 16:35:50 EDT


There are lots of long faces among the kids who wish they were playing in the splash pad at Hendon Park.

And they can forget about it this summer, since the $30,000 cost of temporary repairs to open it for just a few weeks in August isn’t worth the cost, says the city’s parks department.

July was positively sweltering, compared to 2014, with temperatures in the mid-30s last week. It forces people to find ways to keep cool, with public swimming pools and splash pads in parks a lifesaver for parents with hot and cranky kids.

The Hendon Park splash pad, on Hendon Ave., near Yonge St. and Finch Ave., would normally be buzzing with children dashing through streams of water. But not this year.

Former Star city hall reporter Paul Moloney has had the Fixer’s back for 20 years and keeps an eye on things for us in the north end. He emailed to say the splash pad has been out of service all summer.

“My sister-in-law walks past there to get to the Finch subway and says the other day a group of kids were in tears after arriving to find no water would be shooting out of the fake palm trees that day, or any other day,” he said.

“In past summers, the splash pad has worked fine and is hugely popular. It would be interesting to know why they can’t get it going.”

We went there and found a sign with equally dispiriting messages on both sides: One said “closed for maintenance.” The other side said “Closed for season.”

STATUS: Lindsay Peterson, an area parks supervisor, emailed to confirm the splash pad will not open this year. Parks staff discovered in May that “severe winter weather caused much more deterioration than we expected. The existing rubberized surface had seriously deteriorated to an unsafe condition. The rubber had broken away from the underlying asphalt in spots and became rough and loose,” exposing metal stripping, said Peterson. “It’s a health and safety concern when children are running around barefoot.” The splash pad was built in 1995 and is scheduled to be replaced this fall at a cost of $300,000, but the city still looked into temporary repairs to open it for at least part of this year, he said. The lowest bid was $30,000 and “we debated spending this much money on something that is only going to be ripped out in September,” he said, before deciding the expense couldn’t be justified.

What's broken in your neighbourhood? Wherever you are in Greater Toronto, we want to know. To contact us, go to thestar.com/yourtoronto/the_fixer or call us at 416-869-4823 email jlakey@thestar.ca . To read our blog, go to thestar.com/news/the_fixer . Report problems and follow us on Twitter @TOStarFixer.


Why people watching their budgets are also watching Mulcair

Mon, 3 Aug 2015 16:13:10 EDT


The federal election is more than two months away. Yet it’s already apparent why the NDP has a decent chance of winning it, with issues that turn on household economics.

In a nutshell, NDP leader Thomas Mulcair will run on crowd-pleasing pocketbook issues, including increased CPP payouts to seniors on fixed incomes, affordable daycare, a pay raise for tens of thousands of minimum-wage workers, and a rollback of the seniors’ pension eligibility age to 65, from the 67 years of age imposed by PM Stephen Harper.

Apart from copious attack ads, the Harper playbook isn’t ideally suited to a 2015 election. Many of its policy points lack voter relevance, and some will put him on the defensive. Harper is at his most effective, sadly, when on the offensive, slagging his adversaries — bait that a statesmanlike like Mulcair seldom takes.

Harper is also touting his record of economic stewardship. That could be a tough sell.

Canada’s national debt has increased 27 per cent on Harper’s free-spending watch, or $131 billion. At 6.8 per cent, the jobless rate remains higher than before the Great Recession (it was 6.0 per cent in 2007). And after five consecutive months of negative GDP growth, Canada might be heading into a recession (six months would make it an official recession).

Harper claims Canada is outperforming its G-7 peers in terms of long-term economic vigour. But in the past two years, the U.S. and the U.K. have outperformed Canada in GDP growth and job creation. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecasts Canada’s future economic growth rate at 1.5 per cent per year, trailing that of the U.S., Germany, Britain and even Spain, which is currently enduring a severe recession.

Harper is also already trotting out more of his “boutique” tax cuts, which have the ring of genuine help. But they actually affect very few Canadians, in part because Canada’s 4.4 million people living in poverty do not have enough income to benefit from tax breaks.

Past examples of this Tory political “narrowcasting” — appealing to niches of the electorate rather than all voters — are the Harper tax breaks on the purchase of children’s hockey equipment.

Harper was at it again Sunday, Day One of the longest, costliest campaign in modern Canadian history. (The $375 million tab for Elections Canada alone would pay for 2.5 million affordable housing units.) Harper kicked off the Tory campaign with a pledge of tax breaks for businesses that hire tradespeople.

That is the microscopic approach to job creation long favoured by this government, and a dubious one that in this case would waste $60 million. A tax break won’t be the deciding factor for a business owner contemplating an investment in the wages, benefits and training costs of a new hire. But this trivial policy plank does give Harper a talking point with his small-business constituency, extolling the hugely exaggerated role of small business in job creation.

Justin Trudeau, sixth leader in the past 12 years of an underfunded Liberal Party, will struggle to break out of his appearance as the me-too candidate. Trudeau mimics Mulcair in pledging to roll back the retirement eligibility age to 65, and in faulting Harper’s record on job creation.

Minimum-wage increases were once a contentious issue. But today, Mulcair is aligned with popular and business sentiment in calling for them.

In a milestone decision in late July, New York State raised its minimum wage for fast-food workers to $15 (U.S.) an hour by 2018, a stunning 71 per cent increase.

Britain and Germany have recently raised their minimum wages; and Barack Obama and U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton each support minimum-wage hikes. Premier Rachel Notley has committed to raising the Alberta minimum wage to $15 (Cdn.) by 2018.

Major U.S. cities also have been raising their minimum wages, among them Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C. So have many large employers, including Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Target Corp., McDonald’s Corp., The Gap Inc. and retailer TJX Cos. (owner of Winners, Marshalls and HomeSense).

For several years, dating from even before the Occupy movement of 2011, public sentiment has been shifting toward fairness for the working poor, twinned with a growing contempt for the wealthiest 1 per cent.

In retailing, food service, tourism and other non-union low-wage ghettos, an increase in the minimum wage is the only pay raise the working poor will ever see. It’s worth repeating that most poor people go to work each day.

The chief argument against minimum-wage hikes is that the extra cost kills unskilled, entry-level jobs.

But that assertion, which countless studies have cast doubt on, is offset by improved employee morale and resulting efficiency gains. Higher pay also translates into a drop in costly employee turnover and in “shrinkage” (employee and customer theft).

And while rich people often don’t know what to do with a tax-cut windfall, or even notice they’ve received one, low-income households spend every additional dollar on postponed basic necessities. And that boosts consumer spending across the entire economy.

Mulcair arguably emerged from the shadow of his popular predecessor, Jack Layton, last September when he committed the NDP to restoring the minimum wage for federal government employees, and setting that wage at $15 (Cdn).

“It is unacceptable that in a country as rich as Canada people can work full time and still live in poverty,” Mulcair said at the time.

While that step would affect only federal workers and employees of federally regulated industries, increases in the federal minimum wage would put upward pressure on the lowest wages elsewhere in the economy. That not only would boost consumer spending, it would also reduce the growth rate of social-support funding to alleviate the hardships of poverty.

As noted earlier in this space, a recent poll by Global TV found that 74 per cent of Canadians support a higher minimum wage. And a majority — 52 per cent — favour a $15 minimum wage.

The NDP platform heading into the federal election also calls for tougher measures to curb global warming, restoring the thorough environmental assessment process for new energy projects that Harper has gutted, and an industrial strategy that promotes alternative-energy technologies and other high-pay job-creating 21st-century industries.

But those aren’t the issues by which the NDP will command attention, if it succeeds in doing so against an exceptionally combative incumbent PM.

More effective will be the NDP’s commitment raise Canada Pension Plan payouts beyond the current maximum of $12,000 a year, yet another populist measure. The Harper government has flatly refused to increase CPP assistance to fixed-income Canadians.

Harper’s dismissal of the issue prompted Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne to promote a new Ontario Retirement Pension Plan (ORPP) to top up inadequate CPP payouts. Wynne now says that the bureaucratic expense of creating an ORPP can be avoided if a future PM strengthens the CPP, which would be a break for Ontario taxpayers.

The NDP is also committed to creating 1 million $15-a-day daycare spaces across the country over the next decade. In a GTA that is growing by the size of Calgary every seven years, daycare spaces are both scarce and expensive. Annual daycare costs for just one child can run to $14,000 a year.

Affordable daycare, long a mainstay of European life, is an overdue reform. It was pioneered years ago in Quebec, where Mulcair was, of course, a popular provincial cabinet minister. Before Paul Martin’s government was toppled, the then-PM had promised to roll out the Quebec daycare model across Canada. That’s not a radical notion. It’s similar to Lester Pearson’s landmark achievement in making Saskatchewan’s pioneering Medicare system a coast-to-coast reality.

It’s Mulcair’s social-policy initiatives that likely account for most of the recent NDP gains in the polls. Affordable daycare, decent pay, and better CPP benefits that kick in at 65 rather than 67 are among the close-to-home issues to which voters most powerfully relate.

Mulcair’s first year in his current post was marked by a scattergun approach to issues. But the NDP has steadily gained traction since he made affordable daycare, a decent living wage, gridlock-busting urban infrastructure funding and enhanced CPP benefits the centrepieces of his party’s platform.

One of my friends behind the counter at my local Tim Hortons (many of whose minimum-wage employees work two jobs) would like to have a second child. But with daycare expenses of $12,000 a year, she and her husband cannot afford to do so.

That makes the minimum wage a genuine “family values” issue, since their current miserably low level is an impediment to family formation.

My friend is not the only denizen of “Tim’s Nation,” supposedly part of the Harper political base, who is paying a lot of attention to Mulcair these days.


Appeal dismissed in HIV lawsuit against stripper and government

Sun, 2 Aug 2015 23:36:00 EDT


A man who fought the dismissal of a lawsuit against his estranged exotic dancer wife, the federal and provincial government, Toronto health officials and a local strip club, has lost his appeal.

Percy Whiteman, who contracted HIV from Suwalee Iamkhong, his wife, launched the appeal after his $33-million lawsuit was thrown out by Ontario’s Superior Court in 2013.

In the lawsuit Whiteman alleged that the Zanzibar Tavern, where his wife had worked as a stripper, as well as the provincial and federal government, failed to protect him from his wife who was infected with the AIDS-causing virus.

“I have concluded none of the defendants are responsible for Whiteman’s contraction of HIV. Mr. Whiteman was the author of his own misfortune,” Justice Carole Brown wrote in her judgment at the time.

Iamkhong moved to Canada in 1995 after leaving Hong Kong where she had worked as an exotic dancer and, according to court documents, a prostitute. She tested positive for HIV shortly before leaving Hong Kong.

Whiteman met, and later married, Iamkhong while she was working as a stripper at Zanzibar.

They were married for seven years before she told him she had HIV and Whiteman discovered he too was infected.

Iamkhong was convicted of aggravated assault and criminal negligence causing bodily harm in 2007. She was sentenced to two years in prison and deported to Thailand in 2010.

Whiteman’s lawsuit alleged that Zanzibar was liable for Iamkhong’s actions, which exposed the public to her disease, and that government immigration and medical officials failed to protect him by not providing adequate testing when she came to Canada.

Whiteman said he would never have contracted HIV if Canada had started testing immigrants for the infection earlier than 2001.

He contracted the virus in 1997.

The Ontario Court of Appeal upheld the dismissal of Whiteman’s case on the basis that it came after the limitation period and there was “no evidence” that proved if the actions of the federal government had been different he would not have become HIV positive.

Sal Grillo, legal counsel for Whiteman, was unavailable for comment about any future plans for the case.

With Star files