Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Mid-Week Post

Let us begin...

Oh, how embarrassing this must be... for the Toronto Star:

John Cook, the Gawker editor who first reported that he saw an alleged video of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford smoking what may have been crack cocaine, is now saying the video might be “gone.”

In an article posted on the U.S. website Gawker Tuesday afternoon, Mr. Cook said that was what the owner of the alleged video told Gawker’s intermediary.

“It’s gone. Leave me alone,” was the message Mr. Cook said he received Friday.

The National Post has not seen the alleged video nor is the Post able to verify its authenticity. ...

Meanwhile, the editor-in-chief of The Toronto Star was suggesting in interviews on Monday that the alleged video may soon appear.

“[T]he video is slowly making its way to daylight, and when that happens, we’ll all be better off,” Mr. Cooke told The Province, a Postmedia newspaper in Vancouver. Two Star reporters have said they have seen the alleged video.

Oh, it's gone, just like your credibility.

And about that "better off" thing:

Toronto finished 2012 with a $248-million surplus, and although the city is still facing some significant fiscal constraints, its budget chair says the numbers are rare good news for Mayor Rob Ford.

Except that Trudeau didn't lead the charge:

On Wednesday, Trudeau held court on Parliament Hill, outlining his four-point plan to make parliamentarians more accountable and their finances more transparent.

(Sidebar: he held court. Imagine that.)

I wish people would stop trying to make Justin Trudeau appear as though he is some sort of statesman. Every time he opens his mouth (in this case, the Senate), he says something stupid and definitely unoriginal (ie- the Senate).

Ontario's privacy commissioner has found that former premier Dalton McGuinty broke the law by deleting gas plant e-mails:

Ontario’s privacy commission says the staff of former premier Dalton McGuinty broke the law by deleting emails and records relating to the controversial cancellations of two gas plants ahead of the 2011 election.

Information and Privacy Commissioner Dr. Ann Cavoukian said the deletion of emails violated the Archives and Recordkeeping Act. While she couldn’t confirm the deletions were politically motivated, Cavoukian went as far as to say the practice was suspicious.

"It is difficult to accept that the routine deletion of emails was not in fact an attempt by staff in the former Minister’s office to avoid transparency and accountability in relation to their work," Cavoukian wrote in her report

Well, duh.

No one wants to listen to a vain tart who scowls and goes on expensive holidays:

First lady Michelle Obama threatened to leave a nighttime fundraiser unless a protester quit interrupting her speech.

Obama was speaking Tuesday evening at a Democratic National Committee fundraiser in Washington. 

According to a pool report from a reporter who attended the event, an audience member started shouting in support of an executive order on gay rights halfway through Obama’s remarks. ...

The protester has been identified as activist Ellen Sturtz, 56, from LGBT rights group GetEqual. 

Sturtz was escorted out but it was reported she shouted out she was a “lesbian looking for federal equality before I die.”

Sturtz told the Washington Post the First Lady’s action surprised her. 

“She came right down in my face,” she said. “I was taken aback.”

Sturtz said she wanted President Obama to sign an anti-discrimination executive order.

Two tantrum-throwers, one solution.

The judge presiding over the bail hearing of a man accused of butchering Lee Rigby (well- he did do it. Everyone saw him. He bragged about it. There's film of it. I digress...) cuts him off:

A man charged with murdering British serviceman Lee Rigby outside his army barracks in London told a judge at his bail hearing that he is a soldier and complained about his treatment by police.

Michael Adebolajo, 28, is being held in custody ahead of a trial and didn’t ask to be released on bail. During a hearing at London’s Central Criminal Court today, Judge Nigel Sweeney switched off the video link to the prison where Adebolajo is being held because he repeatedly interrupted the proceedings.

Oh, poor, poor victim. Michael Adebolajo converted to a heresy and murdered a productive member of British society but HE is the victim in all of this. Whither the justice, I ask.

How do you engage a rogue state that repeatedly threatens its southern neighbour?

A former Canadian ambassador to North Korea says the Harper government isn't doing as much as it once did to engage the pariah state — a pullback that may be hampering its broader ambitions in Asia.

While not in the league of the United States or China, the current policy risks making Canada a non-player on the issue, said Marius Grinius, a retired veteran of both the senior diplomat corps and the Canadian Forces.

Grinius made four trips to Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, while he was Canada's envoy to South Korea between 2004 and 2007.

Grinius said he believes the current Canadian envoy to South Korea has yet to present credentials to communist leaders in the North Korea in order to get a first-hand view of the closed, backward communist state.

"You have to visit Pyongyang regularly to see what's happening in the streets and elsewhere," Grinius told the House of Commons foreign affairs committee Tuesday.

"That's the way you can establish credibility and expertise. Only then can you speak with some authority, having been there."

Let's stop right there. The real story is in the Korean countryside and in the north where the concentration camps are, not in Pyongyang under the watchful eye of a minder. One can forget about tough questions or criticisms of this totalitarian vassal state to China.

North Korea accuses South Koreans of kidnapping nine youths:

North Korea accused South Korean activists on Wednesday of trying to kidnap nine young people who the United Nations and South Korea believe were forced back to their homeland by China last week.

The United Nations said last week it was concerned about China's return of the nine to North Korea, where they face severe punishment, possibly execution, for having fled. The nine were first sent back to China after crossing into Laos.

Hundreds of North Koreans attempt to flee from their country every year, often first crossing into China and then making their way to Southeast Asia. Many end up at a reception center in Bangkok from where they are flown to South Korea.

The South Korean Foreign Ministry said the nine had been "forcibly deported to the North" after they were picked up by North Korean agents in Laos as they tried to make their way to South Korea.

But the North's KCNA news agency said South Korean "elements" had tried to trick the nine and take them to the South.

"Recently, a case of an unprecedented anti-humanitarian act of atrocity has been disclosed where traitorous puppet elements tried to trick and kidnap our youths and drag them to South Korea," the KCNA news agency said.

North Korea refers to the South as a U.S. puppet.

Some experts in South Korea say the North might try to use the nine in a propaganda campaign against the South or against international rights groups.

KCNA, quoting a spokesman for the North's Red Cross central committee, said the nine were forced to read Christian literature and had been given information critical of North Korean in an attempt to bring them to the South.

The South Korean government should "punish the instigators and apologize for the criminal act", KCNA said.

The South Korean government has come under criticism at home for failing to stop the deportation of the nine from Laos to China and back to North Korea.

Where is Megumi Yokota?

 From the defectors:

From the streets of Seoul to the European parliament, a new generation of North Korean defectors is stepping into the limelight, telling their personal stories to highlight the human rights abuses in their homeland.

It's a major change for the defector community, especially in South Korea, where for years they lived on the margins of society. Most did menial jobs and kept quiet, avoiding attention for fear of being labelled a "Red" or a "Sympathiser with the North".

Not any more.

"I plan to speak out as much as possible," said Hyeonseo Lee, who on a recent Friday evening addressed a street rally in Seoul for an event called North Korea Freedom Week.

Lee, 33, wowed the audience at this year's TED Conference, an international forum for people to promote their ideas. At the February gathering in Long Beach, California, Lee gave a harrowing account of life in North Korea and her eventual escape to South Korea via China, where she spent years in hiding.

Experts said it's too early to tell what impact this newfound outspokenness will have on international policy toward North Korea, already under layers of U.N. sanctions over its banned nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.

But in South Korea at least, prejudice toward defectors is ebbing away as more South Koreans hear their stories and meet them, said Shin Hyo-sook, head of the education research center at the North Korean Refugees Foundation in Seoul.

She said younger defectors had become more vocal in making calls for change after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, himself only 30, showed no sign of wanting to improve human rights.

"I think a lot more of these younger defectors feel a kind of social responsibility to improve human rights for their people," Shin said.

There's a movie in this somewhere:

In Alaska, scores of volcanoes and strange lava flows have escaped scrutiny for decades, shrouded by lush forests and hidden under bobbing coastlines.

In the past three years, 12 new volcanoes have been discovered in Southeast Alaska, and 25 known volcanic vents and lava flows re-evaluated, thanks to dogged work by geologists with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the U.S. Forest Service. Sprinkled across hundreds of islands and fjords, most of the volcanic piles are tiny cones compared to the super-duper stratovolcanoes that parade off to the west, in the Aleutian Range.

But the Southeast's volcanoes are in a class by themselves, the researchers found. A chemical signature in the lava flows links them to a massive volcanic field in Canada. Unusual patterns in the lava also point to eruptions under, over and alongside glaciers, which could help scientists pinpoint the size of Alaska's mountain glaciers during past climate swings.

"It's giving us this serendipitous window on the history of climate in Southeast Alaska for the last 1 million years," said Susan Karl, a research geologist with the USGS in Anchorage and the project's leader.

And here, too:

The fossilized remains of a 408-million-year-old fish species have been found in Spain, a study reports.

Researchers found scales, spines and shoulder bones of the new species (Machaeracanthus goujeti) in the town of Teruel and to the south of the city of Zaragoza. The fish lived during the Devonian period, and is a spiny shark (Acanthodii), an extinct type of fish that resembles both sharks and bony fish.

The discovery "expands our knowledge of the biodiversity that existed on the peninsula 408 million years ago, when the modern-day region of Teruel was covered by the sea," study researcher H├ęctor Botella, a paleontologist at the University of Valencia, Spain, said in a statement.

Little is known about the spiny sharks, other than that they only lived during the Palaeozoic Era (540 million to 250 million years ago) and really blossomed during the Devonian period (420 million to 360 million years ago).

But bones in the spiny shark group usually grow differently than the ones found here, suggesting the new species might be even more like sharks and arose during the diversification of jawed vertebrates.

Wait- there really is a Krusty Burger?

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