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Venezuela: National guardsman fatally shot as violence continues – National

ABOVE: Tear gas rained down on anti-government protesters in Caracas on Sunday, in a continuation of near daily confrontations with the National Guard (Mar 16) 

VALENCIA, Venezuela – The governor of a Venezuelan state says a National Guardsman has been shot and killed in the city of Maracay.

Aragua state Gov. Tareck El Aissami announced via his 苏州纹眉学校 account Monday that National Guard Capt. Jose Guillen Araque was shot in the head Sunday night during violence in the city some 125 kilometres southwest of Caracas. El Aissami gave no details, but said the captain was “killed by fascist groups,” phrasing officials often apply to protesters.

Prior to Araque’s death, the government had identified 25 deaths related to more than a month of protests in Venezuela.

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    Raw: Venezuela protesters march again

©2014The Canadian Press

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Families of fallen Canadians in Afghanistan reflect on loss – National

OTTAWA, Ont. – Was it all worth it?

It is a brutally awkward question, especially when posed in the context of Afghanistan.

There is no shortage of people opining about the now-concluded military mission that morphed into a costly, bloody humanitarian exercise.

But few of those voices truly count as much as the ones who’ve stayed largely silent through the tempest of this war – the families of the fallen, some of whom are speaking up for the first time in a series of interviews with The Canadian Press.

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Flags that dotted the highway of heroes are folded and put away, and now as the nation moves on, these people will continue to quietly bear the burden – our burden.

They will be left to ponder that uncomfortable question, more deeply and personally than the rest of us, and long after we have stopped trying to answer it for them.

As the last 100 soldiers rush into the warmth of home this week, these people will still have empty places at the dining room table and cling to the mementoes of lives inexorably cut short.

And although the scale of casualties from Afghanistan pales in comparison to the unmitigated slaughter of the First and Second World Wars, they say the grief and sense of loss is no less sharp.

There were 158 Canadian soldiers, one diplomat, one journalist and two civilian contractors who died over the dozen years Canada’s military spent in both Kandahar and Kabul. Here are their families’ words:

MICHAEL HORNBURG

Despite the investment of blood and treasure, the Afghanistan being left behind is far from peaceful and secure.

It teeters dangerously on a knife’s edge and that’s led Michael Hornburg of Calgary – who lost his son 24-year-old Cpl. Nathan Hornburg – to question why the West stayed after it was clear al-Qaeda had been routed in 2001-02.

“I think the Taliban got the message right away about not to shelter the al-Qaeda training bases there,” said Hornburg, recalling the bright September 2007 fall day when three officers came knocking on his door to announce that his “best friend” was lost to him.

“While I support human rights all over the world, in many ways I don’t understand why our Canadian Armed Forces would be there to stabilize Afghanistan.”

Michael Hornburg, who used to read classic literature out loud to his son even into his teenage years, said he tried to convince the boy to become a firefighter, or a cop, rather than a soldier. Their last 25 minute overseas phone conversation, the day before Nathan died, remains seared into his memory.

“From what (Nathan) told us privately and said publicly, he wanted to go and provide a better way of life for women and girls,” he said.

“He was always a very, very strong supporter in his life here in Calgary for the rights of women and girls, but I just don’t know that was worth his life. You know? For a worthless ass piece of (the) Rigestan Desert.”

ANNE SNYDER

Other families, including Anne Snyder – whose son Capt. Jon Snyder, 26, died in 2008 – wonder if the Afghans wanted the West there at all.

“Were we fighting a losing battle?” said Snyder, of Head of Jeddore, N.S.

When she sees the persistent, grinding poverty of the Afghan people and unabated violence, including last week’s bloody attack on the Kandahar intelligence headquarters, Snyder says you can’t help but ask questions.

“I don’t want to think my son died for nothing,” she said.

Her way of honouring Jon, who was posthumously awarded the country’s second-highest military medal for bravery, is to counsel other families of the fallen, including most recently relatives of suicide victims. She’s also dedicated a portion of her garden to him where poppies and lilies return each year.

BEVERLEY SKAALRUD

Beverley Skaalrud, whose son Pte. Braun Woodfield, 24, lost his life in 2005, wrestles with questions of political accountability and wonders if the country was mentally and physically ready for war in Kandahar.

“I feel we sent an ill prepared, inadequately equipped, enthusiastic and honourable military team into an area that was beyond our scope and means,” said Skaalrud, who lives in Airdrie, Alta.

“Did we draw the short straw? Was there political gain to be had by someone?”

Her son was proud to serve, but she isn’t convinced the government – both Liberal and Conservative – did enough to support the troops when they were in the field.

LINCOLN AND LAURIE DINNING

Cpl. Matthew Dinning would have celebrated his 31st birthday last weekend and is never far from the thoughts of his parents – Lincoln and Laurie Dinning – since his death in roadside bombing on April 22, 2006.

He believed the Canadian presence was making a difference and that’s all the validation his mother and father needed to hear.

“The soldiers who went over there really believed they could make a change,” said Laurie Dinning, of Wingham, Ont.

“Of course, from a parent’s point of view, the loss of a child is something we’ll never get over. We certainly have been able to move forward in our lives with lots of support from family and friends.”

Every Christmas the family puts two little Christmas trees alongside his grave with purple decorations marking each year since he’s been gone.

VALERIE BERRY

Being prepared to give up their lives is second nature to soldiers, and that possibility is something that haunts every military family. But the unlimited liability is not something you expect in the diplomatic service.

Their job is to prevent and war, not become one of its victims. But that’s what happened to Glynn Berry, 59, the political director of the Kandahar provincial reconstruction base, on January 15, 2006 when a suicide bomber smashed a vehicle into a military convoy.

His widow, Valerie Berry, has never spoken publicly. Like every other family interviewed by The Canadian Press, she said she was relieved to see final 100 troops are now safely out of harm’s way.

“From a purely personal perspective I am thankful our troops are returning home after having performed bravely and steadfastly in a very difficult situation, one that it would appear couldn’t possibly have been won in such a relatively short time,” she said.

Berry’s memory is kept alive in number of professional and personal ways, including a memorial scholarship at Halifax’s Dalhousie University, an annual lecture series on foreign and defence policy, and the awarding of a memorial cup at the annual Canada-Wales rugby match in Cardiff – something Valerie Berry says “would have made Glyn beam with pride because as well as world affairs and family he was passionate about the game of rugby and proud of his Welsh roots.”

She continues to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries, and does special things they normally enjoyed together, such as a walk in the woods amongst the deer or lunch out at a local pub.

“Sometimes, when I’m not sure how to go forward, I ask myself, ‘What would Glyn have said?’ and the answer comes to me.”

RAYNALD BOUTHILLIER

Raynald Bouthillier has immortalized his son and the images of other Canadian soldiers on the side of one of his tractor trailers, which rumbles over the highways and byways of northern Ontario.

Trooper Jack Bouthillier, 20, was killed in a roadside bombing in March 2009 and his father harbours “no doubt whatsoever” and doesn’t debate the merits of the mission with himself.

Bouthillier equates the war with the plight of first responders.

“They are ready to take risk to help others, and I think that’s why we went there in Afghanistan,” he said.

“After the World Trade Centre attack, there was no way the world could stay there and do nothing. I think it’s a bummer I lost my son, but you know, I’m not the only one. Many people there did sacrifice.”

For him, it’s not about the cause, it’s about the kind of man his son was, and what he represents to others.

“We’re so proud of the choice of career (that) Jack chose, and what he did with his life. He said, ‘I’m going to do my job as a Canadian and I’m going to give all the support I can to the (Afghan) people.”‘

WAS IT WORTH IT?

If there is something that binds all of the families together beyond their shared grief and sense of loss, it’s the belief that despite the opaque, uncertain ending to this war, their loved ones stood for something more than themselves.

“To say that our involvement was not worth it would be to dishonour my husband and everything for which he stood and everything towards which he worked during his long career,” said Valerie Berry.

“It hasn’t been a perfect conclusion and there is still instability and conflict in the region and a lot more to accomplish by the Afghans themselves but I believe that the quality of life has changed for the better for many people in Afghanistan, partly due to our involvement. Was it worth sacrificing lives? I suppose my thought is that we all die one day and if it is in serving one’s country in the most honourable way possible, then one can ask for nothing more.”

The sense of conviction among each of the fallen is something Anne Snyder clings to as she talks her way through her pain.

“I don’t want to think he died for no reason, and that’s were I’m sort of thinking perhaps it was worth it to him,” she said. “He did say he was doing the job he was supposed to do and he was being successful. He used to say to me, ‘Don’t be afraid, I am where I should be.”‘

While she may not believe it was worth it for Canada, Skaalrud, also fiercely proud of her son, described his desire to help the people of Afghanistan as honourable.

“Was it worth it? No. I don’t believe it was worth Canada’s human cost,” she said. “I can only hope, that the women and children of Afghanistan have gained a taste of freedom that will compel them to fight for it themselves.”

If there is nobility in sacrifice, there is also a tempered generosity of spirit and an expectation that the people whom Canadians fought for will show themselves worthy of what these families have given up.

“Our family hopes the Afghan people will embrace what our soldiers have done for them and just make their country what it should be,” said Laurie Dinning.

©2014The Canadian Press

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Canadian designers hope to boost business with online offerings

TORONTO – Sid Neigum’s creations are carried in shopping hotspots at home and abroad, and he’s now hoping that online sales will translate into a boost for both brand awareness and the bottom line.

The Alberta-born, Toronto-based designer is one of several homegrown talents being showcased this month on Gilt, a U.S.-based online shopping website that ships to more than 180 countries.

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“It just opens you up to the entire world versus just one town or one city,” said Neigum, a native of Drayton Valley, Alta., whose designs are sold in Toronto, Montreal, New York, Los Angeles, Seoul and Hong Kong.

“It opens you up to an entire new market of consumers that I hadn’t had before, and it’s just a great promotional platform, too.”

Like Neigum, Chloe and Parris Gordon aren’t relying solely on their runway presentation at Toronto’s World MasterCard Fashion Week to reach potential customers.

The sibling design duo behind womenswear and accessory brand Beaufille have an online shop on their label’s site, but see the partnership with Gilt as an opportunity for more widespread exposure.

“We’re sitting next to designers that we’d love to sit next to in a boutique setting,” said Parris of the site, which features such notable names as Diane von Furstenburg, Narciso Rodriguez and Kate Spade. “So for us as designers being new and Canadian, it’s a huge platform, and I think we’re really excited to be a part of it.”

A Statistics Canada report released last October found the value of online orders placed by Canadians reached $18.9 billion in 2012 – a 24 per cent increase from 2010. Among online shoppers, 42 per cent purchased clothing, jewelery or accessories. U.S.-based Forrester Research expects online retail sales in Canada to reach $34 billion in 2018 – representing 10 per cent of all total retail transactions in the country.

As bricks-and-mortar stores carve out a digital presence with e-commerce sites, a growing slate of Canadian online retailers are also vying for consumer dollars with curated collections of designer goods and added incentives aimed at appealing to homegrown shoppers.

Designer footwear site The September touts its duty-free offerings as well as free shipping and returns to Canadian customers, while eLUXE offers complimentary styling services and features homegrown labels like Smythe in addition to international brands. Luxury retailer SSENSE used an inventive approach to bring awareness and sales to the site a few years ago by styling the looks in a music video that consumers could click on and buy as they watched the clip.

“E-commerce in general continues to grow, but what we bring – and what some sites similar to us bring – is excitement every day, it’s inspiration,” said Marshall Porter, senior vice-president and general manager of international and business development for Gilt.

“It’s not just about finding a pair of black pants; it’s going to Gilt and seeing what inspired our curators and merchandising teams and hoping that it inspires our members as well.”

For designers looking to further bolster their brands through online sales, establishing an e-commerce platform is just the beginning with several other key elements needed to drive the momentum.

“You need to find the right programmer, you need to work on the design… and also you need to do the constant work of promoting and inviting the people to go to your page – so it’s a big challenge,” said French-born designer Cecile Raizonville of Matiere Noire, whose Montreal-based label launched its online boutique last September.

While e-commerce is a “different way of selling,” it’s one that has its advantages, like distinguishing which items are featured online versus those carried in real boutiques, she noted.

“It’s the opportunity to show all of our pieces so you can get feedback from the people, but mainly, you can divide the types of products that you sell and control the price point.”

Having an online sales presence will be of little benefit to designers without driving traffic to their respective sites, noted Steve Tissenbaum, adjunct professor with the Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University in Toronto. While some may be able to create email distribution lists and spread the message through word of mouth and social media, “the challenge is getting the critical mass of people who will attend.”

“If you’re a small designer in Canada and you are noticed, then what’s the story you’re telling? And are other people going to listen so that the site becomes popular for those designers?” said Tissenbaum.

“I don’t doubt that it will happen. I just think it’s highly unlikely that it’s going to happen in a big way,” he added. “It’s a difficult market. There are so many people who are starting companies. So many designers, so many singers.. small retailers – and then you have the large retailers to contend with.”

Another factor is attempting to shift consumer behaviour to entice them to try something new or unknown. Tissenbaum described the 80-20 rule, noting that on average, 20 per cent of the brands a consumer buys generates 80 per cent of their wardrobe.

“If you buy into that, then how likely are you to start to adopt a brand of which you’re not familiar with because it was carried by a particular distribution channel?”

Still, Tissenbaum believes the appetite for change and impulse purchases like those typically seen in traditional retail settings can translate to online.

“If I’m in Winners, and I find one of these brands… yeah, maybe I would buy it… because it’s something I really like and it’s an unknown brand, but it looks really good,” he said.

“First of all, I have to be going to Winners. The same with these websites. You have to be somebody who goes there. And second of all, you have to be someone who’s willing to buy something that you normally wouldn’t buy.

“I’m not saying that it’s not going to work – but it’s a long process.”

©2014The Canadian Press

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Alberta political turmoil spreads online

(Above: Laurel Gregory reports on how recent events involving the Tory Caucus have spread online)

EDMONTON – Two PC MLAs recently left the Caucus to sit as independents, and Premier Redford is being given a “work plan” by the party.

However, the highs and lows of the Alberta legislature are no longer kept inside the House. Now, more than ever, comments – good and bad – are being aired publicly, through social media.

“We’re getting – a much more, I think, uncensored sometimes – pieces of information from people right in the moment, right as stories are developing and as situations are changing,” says Justin Archer, managing director of Berlin Advertising and Public Relations.

Former Deputy Premier Thomas Lukaszuk- now minister of jobs, skills, training and labour – sent out a timely tweet Monday.

Friday night, Doug Griffiths – who used to be minister of municipal affairs, but is now minister of Service Alberta – sent out inspirational photos and messages about leadership.

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Some are questioning if there’s more behind some Cabinet Ministers’ posts.

“It’s been really interesting you know, with the challenges the government Caucus has had over the last week or so to see the pare and thrust in real time,” said Archer.

“There’s been sort of a drawing back of the curtain, where we just get to see more of them or maybe more of their points of view.”

However, when asked about the tweets on Monday, Griffiths hurriedly replied, “I’ve tweeted pictures like that for months.”

In less than one week, the PC Caucus has seen two MLAs resign to sit as Independents.

Monday, Calgary-Varsity MLA and Cabinet Minister Donna Kennedy-Glans resigned membership in the PC Caucus.

READ MORE: Another Alberta MLA resigns from PC Caucus 

Last week, MLA Len Webber announced he was leaving caucus because he could no longer work with Premier Alison Redford.

READ MORE: Calgary MLA Len Webber quits Tory Caucus, slams Redford 

On Friday, Associate Minister of Family and Community Safety, Sandra Jansen, spoke about her former colleague Webber while appearing on a national TV show, saying “I would say right now if Len had such a problem with what he perceived as bullying he should perhaps reconsider his decision to step into federal politics.”

“Maybe he should go back to being an electrician.”

It didn’t take long for the controversy to erupt on 苏州纹眉学校.

The leader of the Wildrose Party brought up the comments during Question Period on Monday.

“The minister supposedly responsible for ending bullying made a personal attack against her former colleague,” said Danielle Smith.

Jansen was not in Question Period on Monday.

Deputy Premier Dave Hancock responded, saying “sometimes when a camera or a microphone is put in front of us, in the heat of the moment, we say things that come out the wrong way.”

RAW VIDEO: Mason asks about Redford’s ability to lead in QP 

However, Smith pointed out it wasn’t just one instance.

“The lack of discipline has been remarkable to see,” she said.

“When you’ve got a number of different MLAs fighting with each other, people commenting on Sandra Jansen’s quite frankly inappropriate, bullying remarks when it came to Len Webber, Thomas Lukaszuk and Cathy Olesen jumping to his defence…”

“This is not a party that is united – not by a long shot.”

Follow @Emily_Mertz

©2014Shaw Media

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Air Canada suspends flights to Venezuela due to civil unrest – National

CARACAS, Venezuela – Air Canada decided to suspend its flights to and from Venezuela on Monday as anti-government protests continue to rattle the South American country.

In a statement posted on its website, the airline says it can no longer ensure the safety of its operation in Venezuela, which has been roiled by daily street protests over crime and a deteriorating economy for more than a month.

The airline said that it is monitoring the ongoing situation in Venezuela, and will resume flying into the country once “Air Canada is satisfied that the situation in Venezuela has stabilized.”

VIDEO Gallery: Venezuelan protests

Raw video: Students clash with National Guard forces in Venezuela

01:37

Raw video: Students clash with National Guard forces in Venezuela

00:52

Raw: Venezuela protesters march again

00:55

Protests continue during Venezuelan Carnival holiday

02:04

Raw video: Army clashes with protesters in Venezuela’s capital




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The first flights affected by the move are a scheduled departure from Toronto to Caracas on Tuesday evening and a flight from Caracas to Toronto on Wednesday morning.

The airline and travel agents have started notifying affected customers. Air Canada’s reservations and ticketing office in Caracas remains open.

The airline said affected ticket-holders can obtain refunds while those who are mid-travel also have the option to be rebooked on other airlines at no additional charge.

Air Canada’s suspension came just a few days after Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said any airline that reduced or suspended flights in and out of Venezuela would face severe measures.

Maduro said any airline that leaves won’t be allowed back while he is in power.

Turmoil in Venezuela

Demonstrations have erupted in numerous parts of Venezuela during the past month over crime and a deteriorating economy.

Protesters have been voicing their dissatisfaction with inflation that hit 56 per cent last year, soaring violent crime and shortages of basic necessities such as corn flour and cooking oil.

In a part of the capital, peaceful daily protests have devolved each afternoon into violent clashes with tear gas, rubber bullets, water cannon and Molotov cocktails.

Only a small segment of the demonstrators stick around for the skirmishes, but the damage wreaked by an even smaller subgroup has been highly publicized on state television.

©2014The Associated Press

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Sunny Fong of VAWK shows suiting, metallics at Toronto fashion week

WATCH ABOVE: VAWK fall/winter 2014

Sunny Fong of luxury label VAWK didn’t let his fundraising efforts slow him down. He sent a sharp, elegant collection down the runway, with a strong focus on pleating, metallics and animal textures.

Fong, who recently held an Indiegogo campaign, kept his fall/winter 2014 collection within two colourways (black and silver), highlighted with texture (python).

One of the highlights was model (and marathon runner) Amy, who walked down the runway with a custom-designed prosthetic leg from a company in Alberta. The filigree design fit over her leg.

A model wears a prosthesis as she shows a creation from VAWK while walking the runway during Toronto Fashion Week in Toronto on Wednesday March 17, 2014.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

Fong’s strong points were his suiting that combined wool with pleats, metallics and python versus his dresses. They were pretty, experimenting with subtle sexiness thanks to a close fit and sheer wedges at the torso and thighs but if you’re going to buy, spring for the suits.

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©2014Shaw Media

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Water woes gone but not forgotten – Lethbridge

LETHBRIDGE- The City of Lethbridge is back up and running after last week’s water emergency and boil water order.

The health risk for Lethbridge water is over and city officials say despite the smell of chlorine, the water is perfectly safe to consume.

But after last week’s local state of emergency and boil water order, some are asking why the city issued the boil water order in the first place.

“There is always people who will second guess what was done, but I’m confident it was the best possible decision,” says mayor Chris Spearman.

Municipal leaders did face some criticism on social media for the boil water order and local state of emergency.

These comments were posted to mayor Chris Spearman’s public facebook page:

This tweet was sent to the City of Lethbrige on 苏州纹眉学校:

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Dana Terry was one of the incident commanders for the city during the local state of emergency. He says, with such depleted water levels because of the high consumption, the city had to make public health it’s number one priority, “If we did have a fire, we used all that water up, it’s too late to put on a boil water order at that point because the dirty water is already there.”

The City of Lethbridge used Facebook and 苏州纹眉学校 to share information, but say even with so many sources to spread the word, a state of emergency takes time to share.

“We’ve got a large population that is not on those types of media and it creates concerns for us. When we try get the word out, we can get it out to a lot of people but not everybody,” adds Terry.

Despite criticism on social media, residents Global News spoke to said the city did what was best for residents.

“I think they did a really good job, it’s better to be safe than sorry,” adds one local resident.

City officials say an operational review will be conducted in respect to water quality management with the city.

The City of Lethbridge wants to assure the community that the water remains safe to drink.  Due to the river conditions, treatment includes higher than usual amounts of chlorine which is noticeable and expected.  The different taste and odor will continue for several days.

If you have any health related questions, contact Health Link Alberta toll free at #1-866-408-5465.

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CFL Combine up next for Bisons’ Gill – Winnipeg

WINNIPEG – CFL hopefuls will get to strut their stuff later this week at the CFL Combine. It’s a gruelling three days of not only physical testing but mental as well for the top draft eligible players.

Ranked sixth by the CFL scouting bureau, Winnipeg’s Evan Gill will be looking to make a name for himself and leave a lasting impression.

“I spent my whole life really on the field,” said the Manitoba Bisons defensive lineman.

That lifetime of playing football will come down to one weekend.

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“I feel pretty confident about everything going into Toronto,” said Gill. “I’ve been down training in Florida the past couple months. It all went pretty well. I mean it was a good experience and I feel pretty good going in. I feel healthy.”

Most of the drills at the combine involve strength and speed but the testing takes place on the field, in the weight room and even in the classroom with prospective players not only testing their muscles but also their minds with extensive interviews and even an intelligence test.

“You’re sitting there filling out a bubble sheet,” said Gill. “It seems to never end. So it gets to your head after a while, but I’m really looking forward to the whole experience.”

To prepare for the combine Gill has put on more than 20 pounds and now tips the scales at over 300 pounds.

Current Blue Bombers offensive lineman Chris Greaves went through the rigours of testing back in his draft year in 2010 and he told the Morning News on Monday that it takes months to prepare.

“You train for three months,” said Greaves. “You have to learn how to run like an Olympic sprinter, which is kinda awkward when you’re anywhere between 200 and 300 pounds.”

But nothing can prepare them for one segment of the combine where the players are paraded out one by one in their skivvies like it’s some sort of beauty pageant.

“It’s never a comfortable feeling, walking out there in nothing but skin-tight shorts and no shirt and walk out in front of a room full of a hundred men,” said Gill.

The three-day CFL Combine begins Friday with Gill’s Bisons teammates Anthony Coombs and Thomas Miles also expected to be in attendance.

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Europe’s other referendum? Italy’s Veneto region has its own independence vote – National

Crimea isn’t the only region in Europe that hopes to abandon the its ruling government and set out its own.

A long hop across the Balkan peninsula and the Adriatic Sea, the people of Italy’s Veneto region are also mulling an independent future.

And like Ukraine, Italy has no intention of recognizing a claim of sovereignty in its eighth-largest region.

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What’s different about this situation, apart from the lack of Russian troops occupying the region, is that it’s happening over the course of a week and it’s all online and, as of now.

It’s also not a referendum per se: It’s a vote to drum up support for a bill to call for a referendum on whether Veneto should break away.

READ MORE: Ukraine crisis: Putin declares Crimea ‘sovereign and independent’

The vote got under way on Sunday, the same day Crimeans voted almost 97 per cent in favour or reunifying with Russia, and will close on Friday.

Crimea’s Russian-speaking population, with encouragement from the Kremlin, voted in a widely discredited referendum to return to what is now the Russian Federation 60 years after the Soviet Union’s Nikita Krushchev handed over control of the peninsula to what was once Soviet-ruled Ukraine.

READ MORE: What are Crimea’s first steps to leave Ukraine and join Russia?

But Veneto is aiming to go back 217 years, to the independence it enjoyed before Napolean invaded in 1797.

Veneto was then a part of the Austrian empire for six decades, before Italy annexed it in 1866.

Veneto is home to approximately 4.96 million people – almost 270,000 of whom live in the would-be national capital of Venice – and a recent opinion poll reportedly suggested about 65 per cent of the population want to form an independent country.

Michelle Locke/AP Photo

Veneto is home to approximately 4.96 million* people – almost 270,000 of whom live in the would-be national capital of Venice – and a recent opinion poll reportedly suggested about 65 per cent of the population want to form an independent country.

The Telegraph reported Venetians in favour of sovereignty are unhappy with Italy’s faltering financial situation and want to cut ties with Rome.

“For decades there has been deep-seated dissatisfaction in the rich northern regions of Italy with what is widely regarded as inefficient and venal rule from Rome, as well as resentment that hard-won tax revenues are sent south and often squandered,” the Telegraph reported.

Those against talk of secession from Italy say Europe will be stronger if it’s not broken up into smaller republics.

“It is anachronistic to think of a Europe made out of regions when we should strive for a Europe of stronger nations,” Pietro Piccinetti, president of the Committee for the “No” vote, told the Independent. “We want to change, but within a stronger Italy.”

According to the Independent, Venetians are also voting on whether they want an independent Republic of Veneto to join the European Union and NATO.

International law professor Fabrizio Marrella told the Independent that could make the region more economically unstable.

“If it were to become independent, Veneto would leave the EU and then have to re-apply for EU membership. This would spell disaster for Veneto’s economy,” the Ca’Foscary University professor told the Independent.

While the vote may not bring about a new sovereign nation – Rome says it won’t recognize the results and the vote is not legally binding, according to Agence France-Presse – activists feel it could pave the way to independence down the road.

READ MORE: What you should know about Crimea’s referendum

“If Barcelona [in Spain’s autonomous Catalonia region] gets independence, Veneto could adopt the same method and get it, too. We have knocked politely on the door of federalism, but it did not open. Now we will break down the door,” AFP reported Veneto regional governor Luca Zaia saying.

Catalonia is due to hold a referendum on independence from Spain in November, the result of which the Spanish government refuses to recognize as a legitimate vote. Scotland will also hold a sovereignty vote in September, which the British government recognizes as legal.

Russian state media, meanwhile, has taken the opportunity to point out the Veneto vote is not getting remotely the same attention or criticism as the Crimean referendum, the result of which Canada, the United States, and many European Union leaders have called “illegitimate.”

Prime Minister Stephen Harper reiterated Monday that Canada views the result of the referendum is illegitimate because it was conducted under an illegal military occupation by Russia.

*CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported the population of Veneto was 3.8 million people. The population of Veneto is approximately 4.96 million. The number of eligible voters is reportedly 3.8 million.

©2014Shaw Media

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App for cancer patients puts rehabilitation at their fingertips – Edmonton

EDMONTON – A new app will make therapy more accessible for survivors of head and neck cancers.

Developed at the Misericordia hospital and the University of Alberta, the portable swallowing therapy unit will help patients with swallowing impairments complete their rehab in the comfort of their own home.

The technology will help patients understand what their muscles are doing while they swallow.

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The app will take two years to develop and test, and the Alberta Cancer Foundation has agreed to fund it – $1.9 million over the next five years.

Dr. Jana Rieger, the lead researcher on the project, said it will give patients more independence in their rehabilitation, in contrast to traditional therapy.

Traditional swallowing therapy requires patients come to the hospital three to four times a week to use the large rehabilitation equipment.

“What ends up happening is probably only about 10 per cent of patients who could benefit from this type of therapy actually come in and get it,” said Rieger.

“There’s lots of people out there living with swallowing disorders that we aren’t getting to as clinicians.”

The app is combined with an adhesive sensor under the jaw and a pendant that rests on the patient’s chest. The pendant speaks wirelessly to the app and it can send the patient’s data to health-care professionals anywhere in the province.

The technology has a few settings that the patient can set to motivate them to complete the therapy.

“Things like progress bars, goal-setting, how many times a day you’ve practiced, how many swallows you’ve done, were your swallows today as good as the ones you did yesterday,” Reiger said

“The progress bar might tell them that you’re only at about 55 per cent so you need to try a little harder. Or maybe you need to hold the swallow for a little longer.”

Linda Neill, a mouth cancer survivor, thinks the app has a lot of potential.

“I think it would be super beneficial,” she said, highlighting the privacy provided by using the app.

The app is being funded through the Alberta Cancer Foundation.

©2014Shaw Media

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Cost to park in Davos? $2,300 for five days – National

OTTAWA – The Conservative government abandoned the pricey car service for ministers at the Davos economic summit in Switzerland this year, but they still shelled out big bucks for parking.

Canadian taxpayers spent more than $2,300 in parking costs at January’s World Economic Forum, according to receipts obtained by the NDP under Access to Information.

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Both Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and Trade Minister Ed Fast attended the annual four-day meeting in January.

The documents show the cost of parking three cars for five days cost taxpayers $2,331.20.

“It seems to be an extraordinary amount of money,” said NDP ethics critic Charlie Angus. “I don’t think this government is very good at protecting the taxpayer when it comes to trips overseas.”

Angus noted that Davos is a small resort village, and he questioned why cars were even necessary.

“Do we need to park the cars for $400 or $500 a day? I don’t know. I think these are questions that need to be asked so that we can ensure value for Canadians,” he said.

“This is a government that’s telling Canadians to tighten up the belt, telling senior citizens the cupboard is bare, you’re going to have to work longer. So when they go overseas they have to remember they’re still working for Canadians.”

Still, the parking costs are way cheaper than the alternative: the NDP obtained documents that showed the government spent just over $23,000 in 2012 at the forum on four rental vehicles to chauffeur four ministers around.

This year, the government didn’t rent cars, but borrowed them from embassies, said a spokeswoman for the department of foreign affairs.

“Embassy vehicles from different missions were used to support and provide transportation to the Canadian delegation in Davos, including transportation to and from the Zurich Airport,” Caitlin Workman wrote in an email.

“Parking spots were rented in Davos for the use of those embassy vehicles. This was the most cost-effective way to support the Canadian delegation.”

She didn’t elaborate on where the cars were parked, or who used them.

The total cost of vehicle expenses was 2,632 Swiss Francs, or $2,726.99 at an exchange rate of 1.03 to $1 at the time of payment.

In addition to $2,331.20 parking at a business called “U Torta Sagl,” the government spent $302.02 on gasoline, $43.00 for a road tax, $44.56 for car washes and $6.22 to park at a different location for about an hour.

Hiring a car and driver in Davos would have cost approximately 1,000 Swiss Francs a day, or $1,036 at the time.

The forum, which took place between Jan. 22 and 25, brought together 2,500 business people and politicians, including the heads of state from more than 30 countries. The meeting addressed “the challenges facing the world in 2014,” according to the forum’s website.

Fast and Baird planned to “highlight Canada’s free trade leadership and economic success” at the annual meeting, said a note posted on the department of foreign affairs website. Fast and Baird also co-hosted an event to “promote Canada as an investment destination of choice.”

Gregory Thomas, federal director of the Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation, said he finds it hard to believe parking spots can go for more than $150 a day.

“I really question whether Foreign Affairs did it’s homework this time in finding an economical place to put the vehicles,” he said.

“It’s less than two hours from Zurich, they have shuttle buses going every 10 minutes. They obviously decided to go in style.”

©2014Shaw Media

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Feds to inform police if medical marijuana growers ignore new rules

OTTAWA – Health Canada says it will tell police if medical marijuana users fail to declare they have disposed of their homegrown stashes – a requirement of strict new federal rules.

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The department says it will share relevant information — including the names and addresses of those who flout the new system — with law enforcement.

Under the existing federal program, thousands of people have licences to cultivate marijuana for personal use to help ease painful symptoms.

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Major changes coming to federal medical marijuana laws

Beginning April 1, the government plans to allow only select commercial producers to grow marijuana under “secure and sanitary conditions” for postal distribution to medically approved patients.

Health Canada says anyone other than a licensed producer growing marijuana as of that date is breaking the law.

It means those who now possess or grow marijuana under the old rules must destroy and dispose of plants, seeds and dried pot by March 31. The Health Department recommends breaking up plant material, blending the marijuana with water, mixing it with cat litter to mask the pungent odour, and putting it all out with the trash.

It is sending letters to those enrolled under the old rules to say they must submit a signed form by April 30 confirming they have stopped growing pot. Users are also required to list the number of plants — and the number of grams of dried marijuana and seeds — they have destroyed.

Those who fail to comply will be reported to police, Health Canada says in a notice on its website.

WATCH: VPD will not enforce new federal medical marijuana laws

The department will also “continue to co-operate with police, and provide information needed to protect public safety, as appropriate.”

However, it will stop short of providing municipalities with a list of marijuana production sites that must shut down under the new rules, saying such information is protected by federal privacy law.

Patients, advocacy groups fight back

The federal threat to involve police amounts to criminalizing patients, said Legalize Canada, a group that plans to support federal electoral candidates who endorse legalization of marijuana.

The Conservative government recently floated the prospect of allowing police to ticket — instead of criminally charge — people for simple pot possession, the group noted.

“The hypocrisy is astounding.”

On Tuesday, several British Columbia residents will ask the Federal Court of Canada for an injunction that would allow them to continue producing their own pot or have a specially designated person do so for them.

They argue the planned new system would deny them a safe, affordable supply of the particular strain of marijuana that meets their medical needs. They also contend that denying people the right to produce their own pot would violate their Charter of Rights guarantee of “security of the person.”

The number of people authorized to possess — and often grow — marijuana under the federal program has risen to 37,000 this year from fewer than 100 in 2001.

In a court document defending changes to the program, the government says growing marijuana at home poses hazards including mould, fire, toxic chemicals and the threat of home invasion by criminals.

The government also rejects the constitutional argument, saying the charter does not guarantee the right to produce one’s own medication.

©2014The Canadian Press

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‘Happy St. Patty’s Day’ and 4 other mistakes you’re making in the name of the Irish – National

TORONTO – When you see the sea of green, the shamrocks, and glasses of Guinness glugged on Saint Patrick’s Day, you may be celebrating the wrong things.

Here’s a look at some myths surrounding St. Patrick’s Day and the storied man at its centre, so you don’t offend any true Irish with your popular festivities.

1. St. Patrick was Irish

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Nope! He was born in Britain around 390 C.E. to a Christian family, but only became interested in Christianity when he was kidnapped at 16 by Irish pirates and brought to Ireland to tend sheep as a slave for seven years.

Folklore suggests he escaped after a voice came to him in his dreams leading him to hitchhike back to Britain on a pirate ship (where he rejoined his family), but the voice then sent him back to Ireland.

He died on March 17, 461, after spending his life trying to convert Ireland’s Celtic pagans to Christianity and being beaten and harassed in the process. St. Patrick was mostly forgotten, until mythology grew and he was honoured as the patron saint of Ireland, hundreds of years after his death.

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2. You can accurately wish an Irish person ‘Happy St. Patty’s Day’

Wrong again! Even the Dublin Airport is offering words of wisdom for North American travellers in a Facebook post explaining that “St. Patty’s Day” or “Patty’s Day” are not to be used. The reason? Patty is a nickname for Patricia, and Saint Patrick was—as you may have gathered—not a woman named Patricia.

So get out the double D’s: St. Paddy’s Day works because it comes from Padraig – a version of the Irish name Patrick.

Fear not…there really aren\’t any snakes in Ireland.

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3. St. Patrick banished snakes from Ireland

The waters surrounding the country are far too cold for snakes to migrate to Ireland, so there are not currently—and probably never were—snakes in the green hills.

Most historians instead suggest the idea St. Patrick drove them away symbolizes him ridding Ireland of its former evil, pagan ways.

READ MORE: Thousands attend Saint Patrick’s Day Parade in Vancouver

4. Shamrocks are Irish

Nah- most clover species grow throughout Europe.

There may not be anything uniquely Irish about shamrocks themselves, but stories suggest St. Patrick used the three-leaf clover to explain the religion’s holy trinity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

5. Green has historical links to honouring St. Patrick

Turns out blue was the colour knights wore in the Order of St. Patrick.

The association with green likely dates back to the 18th century when Irish independence supporters used it to represent their cause. (Plus it goes nicely with the country’s grassy, viridescent hills).

©2014Shaw Media