Russian official calls on US and Europe to act against ‘terrorism’ – National

DAMASCUS, Syria – Russia’s deputy foreign minister called on the United States and Europe to take “serious” steps to combat terrorism during a visit to Damascus on Saturday, warning that several Middle Eastern countries are threatened.

“Russia will not stand idle toward attempts by terrorist groups to spread terrorism in regional states,” Sergei Ryabkov told reporters, apparently referring to the rapid advance of the extremist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant across eastern Syria and northern Iraq.

VIDEO GALLERY: Violence in Syria

Raw video: Truck bombing in central Syria kills 34

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Raw video: Truck bombing in central Syria kills 34

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Russia has been one of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s main allies since the start of an uprising against him in March 2011. Moscow has used its veto power four times at the U.N. Security Council to prevent international sanctions on Syria.

Both Russia and Assad’s government have portrayed the civil war in Syria as a struggle against foreign-backed “terrorists,” the word Damascus applies to all rebels fighting to end the Assad family’s four-decade reign.

Nearly two hours after Ryabkov’s comments, a car bomb exploded in a busy market in the rebel-held Damascus suburb of Douma, activists said. It was not immediately clear how many people were killed or wounded.

The activists said the market was crowded as many people went shopping a day before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, when observant Muslims fast from dawn to dusk and feast in the evenings.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the explosion caused extensive damage. The Observatory and an activist in the nearby suburb of Saqba who goes by the name of Abu Yazan said the Islamic State is believed to be behind the blast, because of a rivalry with other rebel groups in the area.

“Hospitals are full of wounded people,” Abu Yazan said via Skype.

Douma, one of the most populous suburbs of Damascus, has been under rebel control for more than two years.

The Islamic State has been fighting against rival rebel factions, including al-Qaida’s official affiliate, the Nusra Front, since January in battles that have left more than 6,000 people dead, according to the Observatory.

Ryabkov called for confronting terrorism by “taking integral measures against radicalism and by searching for a solution to prevent the influx of fighters from abroad,” adding that terrorism will have “catastrophic repercussions” on the entire region.

Thousands of foreign fighters, including hundreds from the former Soviet Union, are fighting against Assad’s forces in different parts of Syria, mainly on behalf of the Islamic State, which has carved out a sprawling enclave astride the Syrian-Iraqi border.

Ryabkov praised Damascus’ “responsible” decision to give up its chemical weapons, saying that doing so has boosted Syria’s security.

READ MORE: Conflict in Syria

On Monday, Syria finished handing over to Western powers 1,300 tons of chemical weapons it acknowledged possessing, completing a deal reached last fall under threat of U.S. airstrikes.

Ryabkov held talks a day earlier with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem and his deputy, Faisal Mekdad.

According to the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency, Ryabkov congratulated al-Moallem on removing “all chemical material” from the country.

©2014The Associated Press

Discrimination continues for seniors in LGBTQ community

WATCH ABOVE:  The celebration is bitter sweet for many visitors taking in the festivities. The acceptance and support a reminder of what life isn’t like back home. Cindy Pom reports.

TORONTO – For 85-year-old Alf Roberts, Canada’s largest gay pride celebration is a chance to celebrate an identity he only felt comfortable sharing in his old age.

“At last, after all these years I don’t have to be careful when people ask me if I’m gay,” Roberts said. “I just say yes, I am.”

VIDEO GALLERY: Word Pride 2014

WorldPride is this weekend and businesses along the parade route are gearing up for a massive party.

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WorldPride is this weekend and businesses along the parade route are gearing up for a massive party.

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Roberts came out when he was 80, shortly after moving into Fudger House, a long-term care facility for seniors in Toronto.

“I was a church organist for years and a music teacher, and you are very careful in those positions,” he said. “You don’t want everybody to know.”

For most of his life, Roberts would remain vague about his identity, responding “I am who I am,” when people asked him if he was gay.

Then, relief came when he realized that Fudger House touted a gay-positive environment.

Bill Ryan, a social worker and professor at McGill University, said it’s rare to be openly gay in a seniors home.

Ryan, who has conducted research on the elderly lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community for more than a decade, said stigma persists because residents in seniors homes lived in an era when homosexuality was considered a criminal act or mental illness.

Canada decriminalized homosexual acts in 1969.

“They grew up at a time when the only coping strategy that was allowed to them was to hide and camouflage themselves,” Ryan said, adding that most seniors don’t have the benefit of political activism over the last 30 years.

He added the baby boomer generation will be entirely different when they enter long-term care facilities.

“Those growing into their 50s and 60s would go to the courts and tribunals to claim their rights,” he said.

During his research on long-term care facilities, Ryan heard from one gay couple who would go into the senior centre’s bathroom to hold hands instead of showing affection in front of centre staff.

“He would visit during non-family visiting hours, and he would take his partner out of bed, help him into the bathroom and close the door behind him. Then they would hold each other for as long as they could and hug, and then he would open the bathroom door, put him back in bed, and not touch him again.

“It’s a powerful metaphor of what a lot of people experience,” Ryan said.

He added that the cohort of LGBT seniors in long-term care are particularly vulnerable, and are at higher risk of isolation and depression.

“The generation of those who haven’t had HIV or AIDS are dealing with a lot more isolation because many of their friends have died,” he said.

Donna Turner, spokeswoman for Rainbow Health Ontario–an organization that focuses on the health of the LGBT community –said changing the culture in seniors homes is an “uphill battle.”

Her organization is one of several that provides training to staff members in the hopes of quelling discrimination across Ontario.

“Long-term care facilities are particularly tough because there are some people who might already have pretty strong convictions, whether it’s residents or staff,” she said.

For the most part, care centres will ask for training after there has already been a “negative incident,” she said.

And while seniors homes in urban areas such as Toronto may be LGBT-friendly, she said, that’s not the reality across Canada.

Marie Robertson has been a counsellor and an activist for the LGBT community for more than four decades.

As a senior herself, Robertson, 61, said she has a “vested interest” in training staff to be LGBT-friendly at Canada’s senior care centres.

“So that when my generation needs care, we’re not going in the closet to access service,” she said, adding that she helps to train people in Ottawa.

Robertson said members of the elderly LGBT community lived most of their lives facing high risks of personal and professional discrimination.

“It was a very frightening time,” she said.

“Even in the last years of their lives, these people will die there and stay in the closet. That just breaks my heart.”

She added that while “some of this is their mind-set,” homophobia is still a problem in many seniors homes.

In the United States, this has led to the creation of centres marketed specifically to the LGBT community, however Robertson said in Canada that would be “a fantasy.”

She added that instead of isolating LGBT seniors, the answer is to address discrimination head on.

“I’ve been paying taxes all my adult life, and my taxes have gone into building the facilities that exist today,” she said.

With World Pride in Toronto wrapping up in a rainbow haze of revelry, Fudger House will be one of many organizations in Sunday’s parade.

Roberts — who has ridden in the parade since he came out at 80 — said it’s a chance to celebrate being true to yourself.

“If there are any young people who have someone they can talk to, they shouldn’t be afraid to come out,” he said. “That’s the message.”

©2014The Canadian Press

Survivor of fatal drunk driving crash shares her story

Getting into the car with a drunk driver behind the wheel almost killed 23-year-old Alyssa Alanis four years ago when the sedan carrying seven people she was in lost control, struck a light standard, flipped in the air and rolled over in Burnaby.

As Alanis copes with her decision to ride with a drunk driver, and struggles with her recovery, she wants others to learn from her mistake.

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“The consequences of one simple choice,” said Alanis as she broke down in tears, “can change not only your life but it can change others. Not only change it, but it can end it.”

The crash left the drunk driver, Baldip Chandi, uninjured, but two other passengers, including Alanis’s boyfriend died. He was sentenced on March 1, 2012, to three years in prison for drunk and dangerous driving. Alanis was thrown from the vehicle and was not expected to survive.

Corporal Robert McDonald, spokesperson for RCMP Traffic Services, was at the scene of the crash four years ago, and remembers being told that Alanis had a zero chance of survival.
“It took about a week before she finally changed her status from zero chance of survival to stable,” said Corporal McDonald.

February 2010 crash that killed two young men and injured three other youths.

Global BC

Alanis’s mother, Gigi, stands by her daughter’s side and desperately pleads for people not to drink and drive. She wants others to know about the struggles her daughter will face every day for the rest of her life.

“She may look normal physically but cognitively it’s very difficult for her,” said Gigi ” she can’t make decisions , she can’t go to school, she can’t go to work.”

“I used to be able to play the guitar,” said Alanis.

Alanis used to be a musician but her life has clearly changed forever.

“I used to be able to play the piano and I used to write my own music and perform it,” said Alanis “unfortunately I’ve forgotten all of that.”

RCMP officers across the province have launched their summer Counter Attack campaign, and both mother and daughter are using the occasion to warn others about the dangers of drinking and driving and the deadly risk of getting into a car with a drunk driver behind the wheel.

“It could change your life,” said Alanis “it could literally end people’s lives.”

Right Some Good shuts down Spring Garden, helps fill stomachs – Halifax

HALIFAX – It was a feast for the senses as a pop-up food festival shut down a popular downtown Halifax street and international, award-winning chefs rubbed elbows with Haligonians.

On Sunday, hundreds of people filled Spring Garden Road to celebrate the inaugural Right Some Good festival in Halifax. The event shut down Spring Garden from Queen Street to South Park Street.

The festival has run for three years in Cape Breton, but this is the first time it has made its way to Halifax and it seems foodies couldn’t wait to get their hands on some grub.

“It was delicious,” said Sean MacInnes, as he munched on a fish taco.

“It was light, tangy with a mild amount of spice.”

“I just had a fish taco that was so succulent and juicy. One was not enough,” said Emily Durant.

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“I’m working on the crab [dish] right now, just the different flavours mixed together is a party in my mouth.”

Those types of responses are exactly what Right Some Good Culinary Director Adorn Mofford hopes to hear.

Mofford said he was overwhelmed to see the number of people who came out to celebrate the pop-up food festival.

“It’s absolutely amazing,” he said. “It’s been fantastic. The turnout is incredible.”

Mofford said Right Some Good is meant to turn people on to local, sustainable ways of eating.

“Local is so important for the economy, for health reasons but also to know your farmer. The products are so fresh.”

It’s a sentiment Lunenburg chef Martin Ruiz Salvador agrees with. Ruiz Salvador is the chef at Fleur De Sel and is the only Nova Scotian chef involved with the pop-up festival.

He said he sees a difference when he cooks with local products.

“The real reason for me is flavour. It’s the taste of the food. No matter what you do, if you ship in asparagus from Mexico, it’s not ever going to be as good as if you get it from the Hutten Family Farm at the market,” he said.

“Food that travels less is healthier for you. It’s basically a win-win but the idea is first and foremost is flavour.”

Chef Michael Reidt is the owner of Miami based restaurant Pilgrim Culinary. He said eating local is even more important in an age where many people tend to use pre-packaged and processed foods.

“People lost touch with what’s growing around their area. We’re trying to go back to the old days where you only eat and consume what you grow and what’s around you,” he said.

“When you eat what’s around you and what’s available to you locally, this is how amazing it can be.”

Mofford said the reception from both chefs and foodies has been phenomenal and the event is already looking towards coming back next year.

The mayor’s office said this is the first time Spring Garden Road has been closed to vehicle traffic for the whole day for 15 years.

Spring Garden Road was shut down to vehicle traffic from 9:30 am to 9:30 pm.

Julia Wong/Global News

It’s Canada’s 147th birthday – guess who’s not invited?

OTTAWA – The Harper government is snubbing officials from a select group of pariah states, ordering its diplomatic missions around the world not to invite them to receptions celebrating Canada Day on July 1.

Foreign Affairs circulates a “persona non grata” list in June each year, warning its embassies, consulates and other missions to bar them from local events marking Canada’s birthday.

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The department has refused to release its latest list, but The Canadian Press obtained last year’s version – likely little changed for 2014, with the possible inclusion of Russia for the first time.

North Korea, Fiji, Belarus, Iran, Syria, Madagascar and Guinea-Bissau are prominent, largely because of Canada’s disapproval of unelected or badly behaved governments.

Taiwan is also on the list, though only because Canada does not recognize the island as a state rather than from any disapproval of the government.

Sudan has special status: officials can be invited, but only those not named in arrest warrants from the International Criminal Court.

Last year’s list, created before Canada’s vocal diplomatic rift with Russian President Vladimir Putin over incursions in Ukraine, does not include Russia – but Russian officials are likely unwelcome at receptions this year.

Canada’s relations with Myanmar have improved in recent years, and last year’s list allowed civilian officials from the Asian country formally known as Burma to attend Canada Day receptions.

An accompanying memorandum from deputy minister Morris Rosenberg also notes the invitation restrictions apply for events being held in Canada as well.

“The same considerations would apply to any official Canada Day event hosted in Ottawa and involving the local diplomatic corps,” he said.

The memo and related materials were obtained under the Access to Information Act, with a few parts blacked out under an exemption protecting international relations.

Asked to comment on the list the department provided to The Canadian Press, a spokesman said “it is not our practice to provide lists of country representatives invited or not invited to functions held at our missions abroad.”

“I’m afraid that’s all I have at this point,” Ian Trites said in an email.

Trites did not respond as well to specific questions about Russia’s status on this year’s persona non grata list.

Canada has applied sanctions against more than five dozen Russians and others linked to the Ukraine crisis, while Russia has imposed sanctions against more than a dozen Canadians in retaliation.

One of Russia’s close allies, Belarus, appears on the 2013 list with the most detailed explanation for its exclusion.

“The most recent election, held in December 2010, was marred by a lack of transparency in the vote counting process, a violent crackdown on protesters, and the detention of most of the opposition presidential candidates,” says the document.

“Given the current situation in Belarus – which continues to deteriorate – Canada sees no reason to modify its policy of limited engagement.”

On Friday, Foreign Affairs publicly released another list, naming the countries favoured for foreign aid from Canada. The document added Myanmar and six others to the 20 countries first identified in the 2009 version, while dropping Pakistan and Bolivia.

©2014The Canadian Press

Cameroon, Ghana investigate after World Cup eliminations – Montreal

DOUALA, Cameroon – The presidents of Cameroon and Ghana have called for investigations following disappointing World Cup showings that saw both countries eliminated during the group stage.

In Cameroon, state media said President Paul Biya had given his prime minister one month to submit a report on the Indomitable Lions’ “inglorious campaign.”

The report is expected to include steps for “a profound and deep restructuring of Cameroonian football,” said a statement from Biya’s office.

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READ MORE: Ghana throws Muntari, Boateng off World Cup squad

Ghana President John Mahama also said an investigation was needed to figure out why Ghana failed to advance to the knock-out rounds for the first time in three World Cup appearances, according to the state-run Ghana Broadcasting Corporation.

Mahama has already replaced the country’s sports minister along with his deputy.

Both teams placed at the bottom of their groups.

For Cameroon, the trouble began even before the tournament opened when players refused to board their chartered plane to Brazil until a dispute over bonuses was resolved.

The national football federation said it had to take out a “private loan” to meet player demands, increasing the sum given to each squad member by $12,000.

The total bonus was not disclosed.

READ MORE: Ghana star hands out cash in Brazilian slum at World Cup

In three games, Cameroon allowed nine goals and scored just one against Brazil after it had already been eliminated.

Toward the end of a 4-0 defeat against Croatia, defender Benoit Assou-Ekotto thrust his head into the face of teammate Benjamin Moukandjo and the pair scuffled in front of their goal before being separated by another Cameroon player.

Earlier in that match, midfielder Alex Song was sent off for elbowing Croatia’s Mario Mandzukic in the back in an egregious off-the-ball incident that has inspired a new song from Cameroonian rapper Maahlox Le Vibeur, complete with an elbow-jab dance move.

The national football federation derided the players’ “disgraceful behaviour.”

After the team was eliminated, local media began calling for sanctions.

The tabloid newspaper La Meteo ran a front-page headline of “All Guilty” underneath photos of sports minister Adoum Garoua, coach Volker Finke and captain Samuel Eto’o.

Ghana’s Black Stars also had disciplinary problems.

Two players were thrown off the squad just hours before its final match against Portugal.

Sulley Muntari was suspended for allegedly attacking a team official and an executive committee member of the national football association, and Kevin-Prince Boateng was suspended for alleged “vulgar verbal insults targeted at coach Kwesi Appiah.”

The suspensions came just after Ghana resolved its own dispute over bonus payments when the government chartered a jet to fly $3 million in cash to players in Brazil.

According to the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation, the national bar association criticized the move as illegal, saying it “sets a bad precedent for the citizenry.”

©2014The Associated Press

Gunmen fire on worshippers in churches in northeast Nigeria – National

ABOVE: A Nigerian government spokesmen on Monday acknowledged two attacks a day earlier by suspected Islamic extremists just a few miles from the town where more than 200 schoolgirls were kidnapped

BAUCHI, Nigeria – Suspected Islamic extremists sprayed gunfire at worshippers and torched four churches Sunday in a village just miles from the town where more than 200 schoolgirls were kidnapped, witnesses said.

Scores of people have been killed and survivors are hiding in the bush around Kwada village, residents said.

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“They killed dozens of people and burned houses after attacking worshippers,” survivor Mallam Yahi told The Associated Press by telephone from Chibok town, to which he escaped.

Some of the church buildings destroyed included the Church of Christ in Nigeria, the Deeper Life Bible Church and Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa, which is Hausa for Church of the Brethren in Nigeria, Yahi said.

He said the attackers went on to neighbouring Kautikari, where they gunned down villagers and burned down homes.

Police spokesman Gideon Jubrin said he could not confirm the attack because bad communications have kept officials from reaching the nearest security post at Chibok. That was the site in northeast Borno state of the mass abduction in April. Officials say 219 girls remain captive. Kwada is 10 kilometres (six miles) and Kautikari seven kilometres (four miles) away.

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Boko Haram extremists are demanding the release of detained fighters in return for the girls. Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan has been criticized for the slow reaction to the abductions and failure to swiftly rescue the girls. The United States has drones flying to help locate them and other nations have sent experts to help, but negotiations appear stalled.

Nigeria’s military has said it knows where they are but fears any military campaign could get them killed.

Jonathan on Sunday condemned other recent attacks – Friday’s bombing of a hotel that local reports identified as a brothel in Bauchi state, also in the northeast, and sectarian killings of sedentary farmers who are mainly Christian by alleged Fulani Muslim herders in northern Kaduna state.

“The president commiserates with all the families who lost loved ones in the heinous attacks and extends his heartfelt sympathies to all those who suffered injuries or lost their properties during the wanton assaults on Bauchi and Kaduna States,” said a statement.

He promised the attackers would be brought to book.

Jonathan made no mention of the near-daily attacks Boko Haram extremists have been mounting in the area around Chibok, an enclave of mainly Christian people in the majority Muslim north of the country. Bauchi and Kaduna states are governed by Jonathan’s ruling People’s Democratic Party while Borno is held by an opposition governor.

A year-long military state of emergency in three northeastern states, all held by political opponents of Jonathan, has failed to curb the 5-year-old Islamic uprising that has killed thousands of people. The militants have increased the tempo and deadliness of attacks this year, with more than 2,000 people estimated killed compared to 3,600 in all four previous years.

Boko Haram also has increased its theatre of operations to bombings in several northern towns and the capital, Abuja, in central Nigeria. It is also blamed for some attacks in central Nigeria, which some politicians say are being mounted by extremists disguised as Fulani herdsmen.

The extremists are blamed for last week’s bombing of a shopping mall in Abuja, the capital in central Nigeria, that killed 24 people. Boko Haram claimed two separate bomb attacks at an Abuja bus station in April that killed more than 120 people and wounded about 200.

Boko Haram wants to enforce an Islamic state in Nigeria, Africa’s biggest economy, the continent’s biggest oil producer and its most populous nation of about 170 million people divided almost equally between a majority Muslim north and mainly Christian south.

©2014The Associated Press

Canada Day 2014: ‘Weird gap’ frustrates some workers – National

TORONTO – On Monday, some people will go to work begrudgingly, knowing that others are still taking a holiday break.

Canada Day falls on a Tuesday this year, and because of the “weird gap” it creates in the work week, some workplaces have created a de facto extra-long weekend.

“We have both Monday and Tuesday off,” said Jennifer Fleming, who works for a PR company in Toronto and is spending the weekend at a lakeside cottage in Muskoka.

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“The suckers are the people who are going to be working,” said Philip Chin, near his Toronto office, where he’ll be in on Monday morning.

“A lot of people will be taking it off covertly,” said Chin. “They’ll be doing as little as possible on that day.”

“It’s kind of awkward because you can’t really do anything,” said Laura Swietochowska. “It’s just a weird gap in the week.”

Unlike Victoria Day or Thanksgiving, which are sliding statutory holidays that always create a long weekend, Canada Day is celebrated July 1 – whenever that falls.

Changing Canada Day to consistently create a long weekend, though, might be more of a hassle than the weird schedules it creates. It would require an act of Parliament.

And because it marks the day of Canada’s confederation on July 1, 1867, some people think the holiday should remain on that date.

“Canada Day should be celebrated on July 1. We have enough holidays that fall on the Monday,” said Julio Digirolamo, one of those with an extended long weekend.

“It’s Canada Day and it should fall on the national holiday.”

But David Rubinstein, who works in a flower shop, said that he could make use of the quiet day Monday while some of his customers are vacationing.

“All this cleaning up, and all this organizing that you do have to do and never gets done, gets done on days like that,” he said.

Next year, Canada Day will split the week again when it falls on a Wednesday – but after that, it’ll create a long weekend for the following four years.

©2014The Canadian Press

Publisher looking to revive ‘Johnny Canuck’ WWII comic book hero – National

TORONTO – A Canadian comic book hero used as a morale booster during the Second World War could soon return to print – if he gets a boost of his own.

Johnny Canuck, a Second World War Canadian comic book hero who in one issue fought Adolf Hitler in hand-to-hand combat, has been silent for decades. But now Toronto archivist and publisher Rachel Richey has obtained the rights to reprint the collection of classic comics for the first time.

Richey is launching a crowdfunding campaign in the hopes of resurrecting Johnny Canuck.

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The character appeared in 28 issues of Dime Comics written by Leo Bachle and published from 1941 to 1946. He’s a “hero” but not a “superhero” – he doesn’t have superpowers. Instead, Johnny Canuck fights using his strength, quick wit and patriotism.

As a teenager, Leo Bachle lied about his age to enlist in the Canadian army, said Robert Pincombe, a Canadian comics historian. After his age was discovered, Bachle returned to high school in Toronto. The Johnny Canuck character is physically modeled after Bachle, and his teachers and friends were often written into the comics, said Pincombe.

“Leo was a kid himself, so he knew what kids wanted to see,” Pincombe said. “He wanted to see action, wanted to see clear villains. So he brought all that to the page.”

Johnny Canuck was a glorified personification of the Second World War effort, Richey said.

“He’s a two-fisted, aviator-type character,” Pincombe said. “Comics in general rely on caricature in order to make the ‘good versus evil’ more clear.”

As part of the “war at home,” the Canadian government restricted American imports of non-essential goods, including comics and pulp novels. This gave Bachle’s homegrown hero a market in which to flourish, Pincombe said. The comics cost 10 cents and were a popular source of children’s entertainment.

The original Johnny Canuck was a symbolic character from 19th-century political cartoons, a Canadian version of Uncle Sam. His name has been used and adapted over time, including as the namesake of the Vancouver Canucks hockey team.

“Uncle Sam: It will be too bad Jack, if our hired men, Taft and Laurier, get us heaving high tariff bricks at each other” [Caricature of Uncle Sam and Johnny Canuck commenting on the proposed Reciprocity treaty of 1911]

Newton McConnell/Archives of Ontario

In the comics and elsewhere, the Johnny Canuck character appears in various ways, said Richey. He might show up as a lumberjack in one story and a soldier in the next.

Reintroducing him to the public imagination, she said, creates opportunities for artists to recast him further.

“He’s a really adaptable character,” Richey said. “And yes, maybe (war) was the situation for him in the forties, and now he can be supplanted into something else that Canadians believe in, or something that is threatening the Canadian way.”

Goalie Roberto Luongo wore a custom Johnny Canuck helmet while playing for the Vancouver Canucks, pictured here on October 20, 2011.

Rich Lam/Getty Images

Richey has reprinted other comics from the early 1940s. Her latest book, a collaboration with fellow comics publisher Hope Nicholson, is a collection of reprinted comics starring Nelvana of the Northern Lights, a part-Inuit demigoddess who rides into battle on the back of a polar bear.

There’s plenty of blatant Canadiana there too, Richey said.

“CBC Radio is featured in one panel,” she said. “You just look at (the comic) and you see wolves and trees and landscape.”

These black-and-white comic books are entertainment, but they are also historical documents that contain elements of wartime propaganda, she said. In the Johnny Canuck series, modern audiences will find jarringly racist depictions of Japanese characters.

If Johnny Canuck had continued his adventures into the mid-20th century, Richey said, he would have changed with Canadian society.

“Maybe if he was around for those 70 years that he was kind of lost to the depths of the Canadian comics, then he could potentially have changed,” she said. “For now we have this image of Johnny Canuck as he was.”

Richey raised $50,000 as part of the crowdfunding campaign to reprint Nelvana, and hopes to fund this venture the same way. The Kickstarter campaign for Johnny Canuck will begin Sept. 1.

©2014The Canadian Press

Canada free trade agenda: Roaring success or hopelessly stalled? – National

OTTAWA – The Harper government’s vaunted free trade agenda is either a roaring success or hopelessly stalled – and given that government officials aren’t commenting, even experts in the field are having trouble deciding which.

Next week, the government would have reason to trumpet its free trade achievements when hundreds of negotiators from 11 Asia-Pacific countries descend on Ottawa as part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) talks, viewed as the next big deal after the European pact known as CETA.

WATCH: Canada reaches free trade agreement 

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But Ottawa is barely acknowledging the event is even happening; so much so that the Council of Canadians issued a release Friday wondering why the government is “setting (a) new global standard” for secrecy.

There may be good reason for the underwhelming embrace of TPP.

With more than 20 negotiating rounds to date, it’s beginning to appear that the countries vying to create one of the world’s biggest trading blocks are just going through the motions.

“Everyone is indulging in a charade where negotiations are going forward. It’s the biggest game in town, but I’m not convinced TPP will see the light of day,” says Lawrence Herman, a Toronto-based trade lawyer formerly with Cassels Brock.

The situation is not much more clear with Canada’s agreement-in principle reached with Europe last October. Officials say CETA is taking longer than anticipated to render into legal text, but observers believe the deal has run into substantive roadblocks.

Also perplexing is why Canada has not ratified the foreign investment protection agreement with China, called FIPA, when the two sides signed the treaty almost two years ago.

The one agreement that appears to have staying power is the free trade deal with South Korea, although that rates low in terms of significance next to the Canada-European Union pact, or even TPP.

Trade agreements aren’t usually big vote-getters for governments, but the consequences for the Harper government of failure on CETA – or having to announce further concessions to the hard-bargaining Europeans – could be a serious issue entering an election year.

The federal government has made free trade deals a central plank of its economic agenda, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper all but declared “mission accomplished” for CETA at a ceremony in Brussels last October.

“The Conservatives have made this such a high-level issue for them that, if they can’t close these deals, they will have problems and it’s not just closing deals, it’s closing good deals,” said NDP trade critic Don Davies.

“But I think their rhetoric has never matched the reality.”

Matthew Kronby, a former Canadian trade negotiator who is now a partner with the Bennett Jones law firm in Toronto, says there are still issues to be worked out before CETA can be completed.

“It’s very close, but getting over that last hump is a challenge right now,” he said.

One key issue, sources say, involves the controversial investor-state clause that allows private firms to sue governments if they feel they have been unfairly thwarted in their operations.

Several European countries, including Germany, are said to be balking at signing because they fear they will have to offer the same arrangement to U.S. companies, which are notoriously more litigious than those in Canada. As well, the Europeans are concerned U.S. firms would be able to piggy-back on CETA to sue in Europe through their Canadian subsidiaries.

Further complicating matters, committee chairs from 16 European parliaments sent a letter last week to European trade commission Karel de Gucht asking him to consider CETA, and the Europe-U.S. trade deal if it comes to fruition, “mixed agreements” that require ratification from all 28 member national parliaments.

Trade consultant and former negotiator Peter Clark says the difficulties show that Canada never really had an agreement with Europe and the haggling continues on several fronts.

If the Europeans are getting cold feet over CETA, Davies says he has been told it is Ottawa that is having second thoughts about the investment protection treaty with China.

Reports of a cabinet rift over the agreement have surfaced, although a senior government official told The Canadian Press that concerns about labour mobility issues were alleviated somewhat last week by Ottawa’s overhaul of the temporary foreign workers’ program.

A substantive problem, says Davies, concerns the non-conforming measures clause grandfathered into the FIPA that would allow China to frustrate Canadian firms seeking to invest in the world’s second-largest economy. Canada has the Investment Canada Act and a few other well-known restrictions, but barriers are far more numerous and, perhaps, more mysterious in China.

“There could be thousands,” said Davies. “I asked for a list in committee and they (government officials) couldn’t provide them.”

But perhaps the most problematic is the talks surrounding TPP, which seek to create a trading block among 12 countries on both sides of the Pacific representing 40 per cent of the world’s economic output and 26 per cent of global trade.

U.S. President Barack Obama has set his sights on the Asia-Pacific summit in November for arriving at an agreement-in-principle, although Australia’s trade minister said recently the first half of 2015 is more realistic.

Even that deadline may be too optimistic, say analysts, given that Obama has not secured fast-track authority to negotiate a deal from the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, or even the Senate. The prospects that the mid-term elections in November will return a more friendly Congress appear slim, they note.

Fast-track authority gives the White House the green light to negotiate an agreement and send it to Congress for an up or down vote but, without it, any deal struck with the U.S. can be picked apart later by special interests in Congress.

“If I was negotiating I’d be quite skeptical about what can be delivered,” explained Kronby. “You make concessions and you make a deal and the U.S. comes back a year or two later and says it’s not good enough.”

©2014The Canadian Press

FX to remove graphic billboards for Toronto-shot series ‘The Strain’

TORONTO — Billboards promoting made-in-Toronto series The Strain are being taken down in the US following complaints from motorists.

Billboards for the show, which debuts on FX July 13, show a worm crawling out of a woman’s eye ball.

“We are in the process of replacing the key art for The Strain on outdoor media in several locations,” a FX spokesman said in a statement.

On social media, many people have been complaining about the marketing campaign for The Strain.

The 13-episode series from Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan, wrapped production in Toronto at the end of April.

It follows an epidemiologist (Corey Stoll) and his team as they investigate the mysterious deaths of passengers onboard a jet that lands at JFK in New York. They quickly realize a viral outbreak is threatening the city.

The Strain also stars Sean Astin and Canadian actors Kevin Durand and Robert Maillet.

BELOW: See the controversial image from the marketing campaign for The Strain.

Among critics of the billboards and posters is Kirsten Smith, writer of movies like Legally Blonde and 10 Things I Hate About You.

“Seriously, The Strain? I have to look at your disgusting eyeball billboard when I drive? Are you trying to make me crash and die?,” she tweeted.

“We can’t use the f word in a PG-13 movie but networks can put a giant bloody eyeball on Sunset Blvd.”

Smith added: “The bloody eyeballs are on buses too. So when you’re checking your blind spot, there’s an eyeball in it.”

Actor David Holmes (Reno 911) was more direct.

Here are a few more comments about the eye-worm billboards:

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Syrian clashes have left up to 7,000 dead since January: report – National

BEIRUT – Syrian activists say up to 7,000 people, mostly rebels fighting to overthrow President Bashar Assad, have been killed in infighting among rival Islamic groups across the opposition-held territory in the north.

WATCH: Violence in Syria

Raw video: Giant tunnel blast in Syria caught on camera

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Raw video: Giant tunnel blast in Syria caught on camera

01:12

Raw video: Truck bombing in central Syria kills 34




The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says it has documented 7,000 deaths as a result of the rebel-on-rebel violence since it erupted in northern Syria in January. The Observatory says its activists on the ground have the names of 5,641 rebels who have been killed in infighting. The names of another 1,200 dead fighters have not been confirmed, the Observatory said Sunday.

The death toll also included 650 civilians who got caught in the crossfire of the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front and its rival group, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

READ MORE: Syria

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    Syrian prime minister defects, widening cracks in Bashar Assad’s regime

©2014The Associated Press

R&B singer Bobby Womack dies at 70

Bobby Womack, a colorful and highly influential R&B singer-songwriter who influenced artists from the Rolling Stones to Damon Albarn, has died. He was 70.

Womack’s publicist Sonya Kolowrat said Friday that the singer had died, but she could provide no other details.

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With an incomparable voice few could match, Womack was a stirring singer and guitarist in his own right and a powerful songwriter whose hits like “Across 110th Street,” ”If You Think You’re Lonely Now” and “I Wish He Didn’t Trust Me So Much” captured the imagination of future stars in rock ‘n’ roll and R&B.

“He had a style that nobody else could ever capture,” longtime friend, gospel singer Candi Staton, said in a statement. “I loved him and I will miss him so, so very much.”

In a statement, musician Peter Gabriel said: “I’m very sad to learn of Bobby Womack’s death … His songs and his voice have been so much a part of the fabric of so many musical lives. In recent years, it was great to see Richard Russell and Damon Albarn bringing his music back into our attention. He was a soul legend. Our thoughts and condolences are with his family and friends at this time.”

Womack’s death comes as something of a surprise. Though he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease two years ago and overcame addiction and multiple health issues, including prostate and colon cancer, recently, he seemed in good health and spirits when he performed earlier this month at the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival.

He told the BBC in 2013 the Alzheimer’s diagnosis came after he began having difficulty remembering his songs and the names of people he had worked with.

And there have been many. The soul singer cut a wide path through the music business as a performer and songwriter in a career that spanned seven decades.

“I must have listened to Facts of Life for months, what an influence, what a voice, so long Bobby!!” Rod Stewart said in a statement to The Associated Press.

Womack was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009, long after he’d lost his fortune and his career to addiction.

He spoke of kicking his substance abuse problems in a 2012 interview with The Associated Press and all the friends he’d lost to drugs over the years.

“I think the biggest move for me was to get away from the drug scene,” Womack said. “It wasn’t easy. It was hard because everybody I knew did drugs. … They didn’t know when to turn it off. So for me looking at Wilson Pickett, close friends of mine, Sly Stone, Jim Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and I can go on and on and on, and I say all of them died because of drugs.”

According to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame website, Womack was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and sang gospel music at a young age, performing with his brothers in The Womack Brothers. Under the influence of gospel and R&B legend Sam Cooke, who signed the group to his personal label, Womack moved into secular music. In the early 1960s his group recorded “It’s All Over Now,” which was covered and by the Stones and became the band’s first number-one hit.

His songs have been recorded by multiple artists, and he played as a session musician in Memphis in the 1960s.

Albarn and XL Recordings president Richard Russell helped Womack regain his career with 2012 comeback album The Bravest Man in the Universe. The album was a departure for Womack, full of electronic music and beats. But it was lauded by critics for a simple reason: That distinctive voice of his still brought chills.

“I don’t think he ever really thought that he would do anything again,” Albarn said of Womack in March. “Watching his rehabilitation and watching his ability to confront new material and new challenges was nothing short of miraculous at the time, and he still today continues to battle his demons and his illness. But he’s a beautiful person and when he opens his mouth and that voice comes out, it is something that is somehow touched by God.”

AP Music Writer Mesfin Fekadu in New York and Don Schanche contributed to this report.

©2014The Associated Press