Above: Canada’s former ambassador to both Ukraine and Russia, Christopher Westdal, joins Tom Clark to discuss what could happen once the Crimea referendum is wrapped, and how Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s upcoming trip to Ukraine could go.
KYIV, Ukraine — The results of this weekend’s Crimea referendum are a foregone conclusion. What countless people around the world are waiting to see, though, is how the world reacts to a vote in favour of the region joining Russia.
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Crimeans overwhelmingly vote to leave Ukraine, join Russia
Russia’s doing nothing wrong: ambassador
Canadians keep close watch as Crimea referendum nears
If Russia gets Crimea, does it stop there, or is this all a prelude to war?
“I think there’s a real danger of armed conflict,” Canada’s former ambassador to both Ukraine and Russia, Christopher Westdal, said in an interview on The West Block with Tom Clark. “These are days of great drama and danger. I think that Crimea is a line in the sand that is being crossed.”
Before the vote took place Sunday, Canada, the United States and the European Union deemed it illegal and said they would not recognize the results.
The vote took place several weeks after Russian-led forces took control of Crimea, a predominantly ethnic Russian region. Its residents say they fear the Ukrainian government that took over when pro-Russia President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted last month will oppress them.
Russia raised the stakes Saturday when its forces, backed by helicopter gunships and armoured vehicles, took control of a village near the border with Crimea, in the first military move outside the peninsula. The forces also took control of a nearby natural gas distribution station, claiming the need to prevent possible acts of terrorism there.
WATCH: Global National’s chief political correspondent Tom Clark gets the very latest in Eastern Ukraine with colleagues Mike Armstrong in Donetsk and Paul Johnson in Crimea, where citizens were casting ballots on whether to join Russia.
“Were there to be a fight between Ukrainians and Russians, effectively a Slavic civil war, that would jolt the security structure of Europe,” Westdal said. “I don’t think, and I pray that’s not in prospect, but these are dangerous times. And all the time we speak, a single shot could lead to extensive violence.”
Russia’s ambassador to Canada last week told Tom Clark, who has brought special coverage of the situation from Ukraine for the past two weeks, there is no way the situation will escalate into full-blown war.
Canada, along with other Western states, has imposed sanctions on Russia. Canada has cut bilateral military activities with Russia and recalled its ambassador from Russia. The United States imposed visa restrictions on opponents of Ukraine’s government in Kyiv and paved the way for upcoming financial sanctions.
But that hasn’t shaken Russian President Vladimir Putin’s conviction that his military’s presence in Crimea, a former Soviet republic, is necessary.
Westdal said that coordinated economic sanctions likely won’t have much of an effect on Putin, and might even signal a misunderstanding of the crisis.
“I think that this is a crisis about security, and I think it needs to be addressed in those terms,” he said.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper will head to Ukraine later this week, where he will be the first G7 leader to travel there and meet with the interim government amid growing instability and violence between pro-Russian and pro-Ukrainian activists.
In Ukraine, Harper will meet with Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk to discuss how Canada and its allies can provide support following Thursday’s announcement from Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird that Canada will contribute $220 million to an international effort to stabilize the Ukrainian government’s finances.
The visit serves to confirm Canada’s recognition of the new government in spite of Moscow’s stance, Westdal said.
“But [Harper] will have a lot of baggage. He will be carrying the hopes, and now the deep fears, of Canadians” he said.
THE WEST BLOCK
Episode 28, Season 3
Sunday, March 16, 2014
Host: Tom Clark
Guest Interviews: Paul Johnson, Mike Armstrong, Christopher Westdal, Deborah Lyons, Graeme Smith, Murray Brewster
Location: Kyiv, Ukraine
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Please check against delivery at thewestblock桑拿按摩
On this Sunday morning, Crimean’s are voting on whether to leave Ukraine and join Russia. It is a vote condemned by most of the world, but Russia’s army is on the move. We have the latest.
Then we take you to Kabul, Afghanistan, to mark the end of Canada’s mission there. The flag is lowered. The final boot leaves the ground. What did we accomplish and what lies ahead? Some tough questions and a reflection on service and sacrifice.
It is Sunday, March the 16th. I’m Tom Clark with another special edition of The West Block from Kyiv. Well the people in Independence Square behind me are waiting and watching with the rest of the world to see what the next few hours will bring. All eyes are on Crimea and the referendum that’s under way. The results of the vote are really a foregone conclusion. The referendum essentially is rigged to produce the answer that Crimea indeed wants to leave Ukraine and join Russia. It is why the Russian Army is amassing as many as 10,000 troops along its entire border with Ukraine. If it takes Crimea, will it stop there? Is this all just a prelude to war?
We have Global news crews throughout the country today. In the very volatile Eastern Ukrainian area of Donetsk, we find Global’s Mike Armstrong. And in Crimea, Global’s Paul Johnson and that’s where we start. Paul, give a sense this morning of what you’re seeing, what you’re hearing on the ground as this drama is unfolding.
Tom this really feels like the successful conclusion to a carefully orchestrated campaign to obtain a yes vote to join with Russia, despite all of the opposition to this internationally and up in Kyiv. The referendum got underway this morning at 8 o’clock and from what we’ve been hearing from people who have been out to those polling stations and have voted, it seems to be coming off really without any problems. There’s fairly heavy turnout. We’re not hearing about any incidents at any of the polling stations. And among the people who have voted and have talked to the news media, who are gathered here, so far the result seems to be a yes vote to join Russia. Most of these people have said they voted yes. A couple of important things to consider though, this vote as we understand is being boycotted by the Muslim Tatar minority that lives here. It’s also being boycotted by a lot of the Ukrainian people who live here. The polls will close at 8 o’clock tonight. We expect we might get a result tonight a couple of hours after that. And then we’re going to have wait and see how the rest of the world reacts to this.
Okay thanks Paul. That’s Paul Johnson in Crimea. Well let’s go now to the very volatile Eastern Ukrainian region and the City of Donetsk where we find Global’s Mike Armstrong. Mike what is your sense this morning in that area? What are you seeing? What are you hearing?
Well Tom I think one of the things I’ve been struck by is the level of distrust in this region. There’s a lot of finger pointing between the pro-Russian and pro-Ukrainian factions here. It’s been all about demonstrations and counter demonstrations in recent days and they’ve come to blows at times. What you hear from both sides is that their opponents are not from here, that they’re outsiders bussed in and paid to cause violence. There’s also a great deal distrust of the media here. We’ve been called provocateurs at times as well in anger, and the media is a big factor here. People in this region watch mostly Russian news and there is an anti-western slant; stories that have been discredited by major news organizations are reported as fact on television here. For example, the demonstration Thursday where the pro-Russian group went after the pro-Ukrainian side was reported as a pro-Ukrainian mob attacking peaceful women, children and seniors. That’s simply not what happened but hearing it over and over is one of the reasons for all the distrust here.
Okay Mike, thanks very much. That’s Global’s Mike Armstrong in the Eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk.
Well one person who has been following this crisis very closely is Canada’s former ambassador to both Ukraine and to Russia, Christopher Westdal. He’s in Ottawa and I spoke with him earlier today.
Ambassador Westdal good to have you on the show, thanks for being here. When you take a look at the landscape this morning, just how close are we to armed conflict in this region?
Well I think there’s a very real danger of armed conflict. These are days of great drama and danger. I think that Crimea is a line in the sand that is being crossed and there will be consequences in terms of sanctions, but I think that the mainland of Ukraine is a red line; a blood red line. You were not in Ottawa Tom when the Ukrainian Ambassador here said that he would fight, and were there to be a fight between Ukrainians and Russians, effectively a Slavic Civil War that would jolt security structure of Europe. I don’t think and I pray that that’s not in prospect but these are dangerous times, and all the time we speak, a single shot could lead to extensive violence.
Yeah you hear that too a lot in Kyiv, people saying that they would take up arms if it came to it. But let’s take a look at the west’s response. Would coordinated economic sanctions have an impact on Vladimir Putin at this point?
I don’t think they’d have a decisive effect. I think they belie a misunderstanding of the crisis. I think that this is a crisis about security and I think it needs to be addressed in those terms and in the right forms. I think that the NATO Russia Council should address this issue among other bodies, but the council was created for the purpose. I think that there is a deal that can be done, although it’s very hard for diplomats to do a deal in the middle of the kind of strife and the sanctions, and the anger, and the rising tempers, and so on. But that deal essentially has to do with Russia recognizing a legitimate government in Kyiv and giving it peace and quiet and cooperating with it, and giving it a measure of political and economic freedom. And that is in exchange for the neutrality of Ukraine achieved through the reaffirmation of the 2010 law against military alliances. And I would think that NATO should want to note that reaffirmation.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has announced that he’s going to be here next week. What sort of effect do you think that’s going to have?
Well I think that his visit, the first of the G7 country, certainly confirms that we recognize the new government in Kyiv; whatever Moscow makes of it. I think that he will arrive and we don’t know what the situation will be Wednesday when he arrives. There will have been a few days to see what becomes of the result of the referendum. But he will have a lot of baggage. He will be carrying the hopes and now the deep fears of Canadians, millions of whom, and not only those with relatives or ancestors in Ukraine. Millions of whom, including myself who have worked there and left part of my heart and sensibilities there, who are taking this very personally. So he’ll want to speak and express the solidarity of Canadians, heartfelt and non-partisan. He will also have the baggage of our harsh rhetoric and hostility toward Russia and the status that we have proudly sustained as the last cold warrior standing and the most stubborn advocate of further NATO growth. We still think that NATO should be driven further up Russia’s nose. He will also have the history of the expectations and hopes that we have generated for EU integration which is not our gift to give and for NATO membership; hopes for NATO membership. And I think that he will have the responsibility to explain what the West and what Canada can and will do, and what it can’t and won’t do.
Ambassador Westdal awfully good to have your views on this subject this morning. Thanks very much for being here.
You’re welcome, thank you.
Well still to come on The West Block, we shift our focus to Afghanistan.
After 12 years, Canada’s mission in Afghanistan is now over. As the last boots leave the ground, what’s our legacy? That’s next.
The Canadian flag is hauled down after flying for more than 12 years at military bases in Afghanistan. The mission reshaped our forces and redefined who we are as a country. Now, Canada’s war is over.
Welcome back to Kyiv where we are keeping a standing watch on war. But a few days ago, we went to Afghanistan where last week, Canada’s military mission came to an end with little fanfare. And yet for more than a decade, it was a major part of who we were as a country. So what lies ahead? Well in a very heavily guarded Canadian embassy in Kabul, I sat down with Canada’s Ambassador, Deb Lyons.
Ambassador thanks very much. Awfully good having you on the program.
It’s great to have you Tom.
You actually volunteered for this job and a lot of people might say are you out of your mind?
I think a few people did, yeah.
Yeah, yeah, and not only that, but you’ve asked for an extension on this job.
Because it’s the right place to be at the right time; it’s very important, the work we’re doing here. It’s some of the most exciting work I’ve ever done in my career. It’s important work at an important time and a very important part of the world.
Describe to me a little bit though what’s going on. We’re not talking about the military sphere now; we’re talking about aid and development and building a civil society here and so on. What is so unique about this place that we haven’t seen anywhere else?
Well there’s a lot that’s unique about it. First of all, one thing I remind people about is that this region of the world is probably one of the most important for the 21st century. Three of the BRICs are neighbours or near neighbours of Afghanistan. This region is critically important…
Now just explain what you mean by the BRICs.
Sorry, we talk about the most important economies going forward Brazil, China, Russia and India. Three of those countries are neighbours or near neighbours of Afghanistan. Of course you’ve got Pakistan and Iran as neighbours; this part of the world is critical from a security perspective and an economic perspective. If this part of the world can have the peace and prosperity it needs, Canada and other parts of the world will have the peace and prosperity that we’re going to need in the 21st century.
So but to achieve that then, this is…is this an experiment then in the 21st century that you’re witnessing?
I think what we’re witnessing is a very unique experience where the world community, the international community has come together; some 60 countries to work both from a security perspective but also from a development perspective, building institutions, helping with governance, helping with policing, helping to build the economy. This I think is a model for the 21st century and what is important is that we get it right for the Afghans, but also that we get it right for the world community because we are going to have to be helping one another out. It is a global neighbourhood now and part of foreign policy, part of trade development, part of aid and development is to make all those countries stronger so that we’re stronger as well as a world community.
Now the army has left, how on earth do you continue to convince Canadians to invest money into a place that we’re quickly forgetting?
This is a country that is trending towards stability, and it’s trending towards stability because of Canadian treasure and Canadian blood that has been sacrificed here and because the Afghan people so badly want it, and so badly deserve it. There are enormous indicators of success and I’m seeing, on a daily basis, which is not getting reported sadly in the press, the enormous human infrastructure that is here. Afghans saying we’re staying, we’re not going away. This is our country, this is our future. We’re going to make it work. And the international community has given us that opportunity.
Okay I understand that in your job as ambassador here you have to be positive. You’ve got to have a sunny outlook.
No, I have to be realistic.
Well okay, let’s be realistic for a second. Surely you’re not saying at this point that this is total victory. That we have won.
Absolutely not, no.
That the Taliban are going to disappear and that the Taliban in fact are not going to come back into this town and take over again. You wouldn’t say that.
No I wouldn’t say that. What I would say is that we as a world community came in, particularly Canada came in, to the tough battle in the south to help the Afghans. Then we turned around and worked with them; trained them to help them help themselves, particularly in security, as a sovereign country. It was always intended that they would take over responsibility for their own security. Canada has trained them and helped them to do that. We’ve seen great success there. It is not all a happy picture at all. There are loads of challenges and loads of problems but this is an infrastructure that is building from a security perspective. From an economic perspective we’re starting to get some of the legislation in place we need. We’ve got enormous institution building happening. We’ve got a human rights commission that is recognized by the rest of the world as having a top “A” rating. We’ve got kids in school. We now have kids graduating. As our soldiers leave Afghanistan, we have got kids graduating from high school who started when our soldiers came. They’re building another future.
Ambassador Lyons awfully good talking to you. Thank you so much.
Come on back in a couple of months Tom.
Still to come, the ceremony that closed an important chapter in the history of the Canadian forces. We’ll bring you that moment and reflect on what the mission meant when we return. Stay with us.
Welcome back to The West Block here in Kyiv. Well as this crisis unfolds literally by the hour, we want to just take you back to Afghanistan for a moment and the end of Canada’s military mission.
For more than 12 years we had soldiers in harm’s way try to bring peace to that very troubled land. While they were there, politicians were reluctant to say much about the mission but now that the flag has been lowered, it is time to ask the tough questions.
Well joining me now, two veteran observers of Canada’s involvement in Afghanistan: Murray Brewster of Canadian Press, you’re eighth tour of duty over here Murray, and Graeme Smith formerly of The Globe and Mail, the author of The Dogs Are Eating Them Now, currently with the International Crisis Group living in Kabul. Welcome to you both.
Let me start just by quickly getting your thoughts on Canada’s departure.
Well it’s a sad moment in some ways. This is the moment when the lights switch off and everyone goes home, and the Afghans are left to fight this out amongst themselves. And the war is growing, you know the number of women and children dying every single month rises. We’re leaving behind a vicious, vicious war, and hopefully Canada can still help the Afghans survive that war and prevent this state from collapsing. But we’ll see, whether or not after these lights turn off if anyone’s still paying attention.
What struck me about the ending yesterday was the fact that there was no member of the Harper government that was present at the final ceremony. It was all military and it struck me as very strange because this was a government that tightly embraced this war in the beginning and yet nobody was around for the end.
We by no means had the biggest force here but in many respects just being here with the military gave us a place at the international table. Did we leave too soon?
Well Canada was a really big deal when it arrived. I mean when Canada sent a battle group south to Kandahar, we doubled the number of international forces in the entire southern region so it was a massive military shift. But you’re right, over the years we sort of got lost in the maelstrom of troop surges so that by the time the Canadians pulled out, it was a tiny little drop in the bucket. And so militarily did we leave too soon? Do we not leave too soon? In some ways it doesn’t matter because it’s a tiny, tiny fraction of the overall international forces. But like Murray said, when you have a complete absence of major Canadian figures here for the final ceremony, that doesn’t really leave me with a whole lot of hope that we’re going to keep paying attention.
I want to get Murray to the question of Afghanistan in a minute but just conclude for me the thoughts on the Canadian military here because this is the end of an extraordinary deployment for our country. It’s hard to see this sort of thing happening again.
Oh it’s very, very unlikely. I think that we’re going to see anything like this happen again within our lifetimes, the experience of Afghanistan was absolutely politically searing for the Harper government and I honestly do not see them deploying troops anywhere; boots on the ground. I mean perhaps they’ll contribute aircraft, perhaps they’ll contribute ships the way previous governments have. It was the taking of casualties but I think it was also the enormous expense of the war because you see that the government is driving towards a balanced budget for 2015, and a good significant chunk of that is coming out of National Defence. And I think that the Harper government despite many of its pronouncements about how much it loves the military has recognized that National Defence in the biggest discretionary line item in the federal budget. And it can be very helpful if you want to be able to balance the budget for I don’t know, things like income splitting.
Canada’s literally cutting up its armoured vehicles and selling them for scrap. Which you know, strongly suggests they’re not going to go do one of these things ever again.
What have we learned from this experience? I mean in many ways this was sort of the Petri dish for how the international community comes together and works. Was it a success overall Graeme? What did we learn from this? What’s the takeaway?
Well this whole idea of intervening militarily in countries that are deeply messed up and trying to make things better with boots on the ground is still a nascent science. Nobody really knows how to do it. I think Afghanistan will probably go down in the history books as an example how not to do it. Libya maybe was an example of how you can have a temporary benefit but then things can still end up getting pretty messy in the medium term and you know the international community is still learning. I’m afraid that Afghanistan casts a really long shadow on our policy internationally because if you look at Syria, probably a big reason why we’re incredibly gun-shy around Syria is we do not want to go do one of these things again.
And Murray, it seems to me that places like Afghanistan are going to lose out because of all the competing interests out there. I’m thinking right now the world’s eyes are more on Kyiv and Ukraine than they are on Afghanistan.
Well in coming over here for the final haul down of the flag, I had a friend e-mail me and say where are you going? Are you going to the Ukraine? And I said, well no I’m going back to Kabul for the flag lowering. Oh Afghanistan, that’s your grandfather’s war. And that just sort of sums up I think the attitude of the public and the attitude of policy makers. And I, like Graeme, share his very deep concern about whether or not the policy makers are going to stay focused on this country because it is still on the knife’s edge.
Murray Brewster of Canadian Press, Graeme Smith of the International Crisis Group and author of the excellent book on Afghanistan: The Dogs Are Eating Them Now. Thank you very much for being here and I’m glad we could do this final chat; Canadian chat here.
Nice to see you.
Nice to see you too Tom.
Well as one war ends another one threatens to start right here. The next move is Russia’s, and everybody’s watching. We leave you though today with some images of the end of an era in Afghanistan. From Kyiv, I’m Tom Clark. Thanks for being with us. See you next Sunday.
Visuals and clips from the flag lowering ceremony in Afghanistan:
The Government of Afghanistan can now take responsibility for its own security.
Canadian Forces Padre:
A red field, a white square and an eleven pointed red maple leaf; the Canadian flag probably one of the most easily recognizable flags in the world.
Gen. Tom Lawson:
Our flag was in the region early; in the air, on the ground and at sea. And since then, our experiences in Afghanistan have been woven into the very fabric of the Canadian Armed Forces.
ISAF Deputy Commander John Lorimer:
We here will regret that we will no longer see the famous maple leaf adorn our bases and on the uniforms of troops.
Gen. Tom Lawson:
The passage of time will afford all of us a more fulsome perspective and appreciation of the mission but for now, ladies and gentleman, it is clear that this mission mattered much. It cost us much. And it will be remembered deeply.
You have left a legacy here; one that you can look back on with pride as you depart for your most highly deserved journey back home to Canada.
In memory of those who served and the 158 who died.
TORONTO — Thousands of people lined downtown Toronto streets on Sunday afternoon for the 27th annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
The celebration of Monday’s Irish holiday travelled east along Bloor Street from St. George Street, south on Yonge Street and then west on Queen Street to University Avenue.
The parade grand marshal was boxer Katie Taylor, who won a gold medal for Ireland at the 2012 London Olympics in the women’s lightweight division.
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St. Patrick’s playlist: 17 songs for getting your Irish on
The 27-year-old athlete, who also has four world championships and five European championships, was accompanied by her father and trainer Peter Taylor.
The parade, organized by the St. Patrick’s Parade Society of Toronto, included colourful floats honouring various Irish counties as well as marching bands, clowns, live animals and leprechauns.
Many spectators along the route — who braved temperatures of -21 with the windchill — donned green hats and waved Irish flags.
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and his brother, councillor Doug Ford, walked most of the parade route handing out strings of green beads. The embattled mayor got a warm reception from many, including dozens who rushed to pose for photos with him.
Just south of Bloor Street, though, Ford was greeted with a loud chorus of boos.
WATCH: Toronto Mayor Rob Ford participates in this year’s St. Patrick’s Day parade by handing out green beads to onlookers
In Montreal, the oldest and largest St. Patrick’s Day parade in Canada also took place Sunday. The 191th edition rolled along Ste. Catherine Street as thousands of people lined the route.
BELOW: See photos from the 27th annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Toronto
The Embassy of Ireland in Ottawa estimates there are about 100,000 Irish living in Canada and, according to Statistics Canada, a little more than 4.5 million Canadians claim Irish ancestry.
“Today is a special day for all those Irish communities great and small across the world that come together in a spirit of pride and joy to celebrate their identity and their links of affinity and affection with their homeland of origin,” said Michael D. Higgins, president of Ireland, in his annual St. Patrick’s Day message.
“To Irish people by birth or descent wherever they may be in the world and to those who simply consider themselves to be friends of Ireland, I wish each and every one of you a happy, peaceful and authentically Irish St. Patrick’s Day.”
NEW YORK – The disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 has exposed wide gaps in how the world’s airlines — and their regulators — operate. But experts warn this isn’t likely to be one of those defining moments that lead to fundamental changes.
For financial and technological reasons, and because of issues tied to national sovereignty, the status quo is expected to prevail in the way passports are checked, aircraft are tracked at sea and searches are co-ordinated.
Authorities believe Malaysia airlines flight 370 was deliberately diverted
Authorities believe Malaysia airlines flight 370 was deliberately diverted
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In an age of constant connectedness, it’s almost inconceivable to lose a 209-foot-long airplane for more than a week, or be in the dark about what happened onboard around the time it went missing.
The reality is that large portions of the globe don’t have radar coverage. Over oceans, pilots fill in those gaps by radioing air traffic controllers at routine intervals with position updates. And while planes record sounds in the cockpit as well as speed, altitude, fuel flow and the positions of flaps, that information isn’t shared with anyone on the ground. Crash investigators only get access to the data on the recorders after combing through the wreckage.
Numerous experts have said it is time to update tracking abilities and use satellite links to provide real-time feeds on the operation of planes and conversations within the cockpit.
However, transmitting data by satellite from all 80,000 daily flights worldwide wouldn’t be cheap.
Airlines made an average of $4.13 in profits per passenger last year and $2.05 in 2012, according to International Air Transport Association, the industry’s trade group. Any additional costs would eat into those slim profit margins. Some experts say planes don’t crash frequently enough — let alone disappear — to justify the cost.
If such information were to be streamed live, there would be major concerns about privacy says Robert Clifford, a personal injury lawyer in Chicago who has been involved in several aviation lawsuits.
“Once it’s broadcast, the data from a plane would essentially be considered public access material – something that aircraft manufacturers, pilot unions, operators and even accident investigators don’t want,” Clifford says.
There’s also a question of who would receive and control that data. There are concerns that an airline, plane maker or government worried about its reputation could meddle with the information.
“You can’t assume that there would not be strong economic interests to tamper with information,” says James E. Hall, former chairman of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board.
A compromise solution is to create deployable black boxes – data recorders similar to the voice and data recorders currently in planes. During a catastrophic event, they would break away from the tail, have their own homing devices and ideally be found quickly. But given the confusion over the Malaysia Airlines jet’s flight path, it’s unclear if these boxes could help.
Search effort coordination
Malaysian PM confirms reports of deliberate acts involved in plane’s disappearance
Malaysian PM confirms reports of deliberate acts involved in plane’s disappearance
Malaysia Airlines: Six days, few clues in search
Looking for missing Malaysian Airlines flight
Malaysian military backtracks on possible location of missing plane
Then there’s the search: The Malaysian government has been widely criticized for how long the search has taken and for its release of contradictory information.
So why aren’t American investigators, who have a long history of dealing with plane crashes, taking charge? NTSB investigators and experts from Boeing are on the scene providing technical assistance. So are U.S. military ships and planes. But politics and customs dictate that everybody takes a back seat to the local government.
WATCH: Former head of NTSB believes that the investigation should now switch from the accident to a possible crime
The practice dates back to a December 1944 convention on international civil aviation in Chicago. Many of today’s rules of the sky were formed at that meeting, including one that puts the country where a crash occurs in charge of the search and investigation. If the airplane is registered in another country — which isn’t the case here — that government is entitled to appoint observers to be present at the inquiry.
Hall, the former NTSB chairman who now heads the law firm Hall & Associates, says it is time for the International Civil Aviation Organization – part of the United Nations – to set up an international team of investigation professionals.
“We can’t permit a situation to continue where we don’t have competent, independent people in charge of an investigation from day one,” Hall says.
However, Kenneth J. Button, director of the Center for Transportation, Policy, Operations and Logistics at George Mason University, notes that even U.S. investigators have made mistakes in past disasters. Further, he can’t imagine countries such as the U.S. ceding the investigatory powers they currently have to some international group.
“I think the Malaysian authorities may be unfairly blamed for a little of this,” Button says. “They’re getting a lot of information in and are handling it as best they can. Similar issues have arisen in most other countries.”
False and stolen passports
New details about men with stolen passports aboard missing Malaysian Airlines flight
New details about men with stolen passports aboard missing Malaysian Airlines flight
Passenger with stolen passport identified by Malaysian police
Malaysia Airlines: Stolen passports concerns
New clues may explain what happened to missing Malaysian flight
Flight 370’s disappearance also uncovered another lapse: passenger passports were not checked against Interpol’s database of 40 million stolen or lost travel documents. The fact is, most countries don’t run passports through the international policy agency’s computer system.
“It is not extremely unusual,” says Rafi Ron, a former chief of security at Tel Aviv’s airport and now head of New Age Security Solutions. To run the checks, countries would have to update software and link computer systems. “We’ve left a substantial loophole. There is only one thing behind it: cost.”
Without a computer link, it is hard to tell if a passport is stolen or a counterfeit. Ticket and gate agents don’t have much training is spotting fakes.
“Airline personnel only glance at the name to see that it matches the boarding pass and that the person presenting the passport looks similar to the person in front of them,” says Douglas R. Laird, former director of security at Northwest Airlines and now head of Laird & Associates, Inc. “With a long line of folks this becomes a real issue. They need to board the plane as soon as possible.”
©2014The Associated Press
MONTREAL – First Nations members are weighing in on the debate over Quebec independence — a hot topic so far in the provincial election campaign.
The head of the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador says his people have the right to determine their own future and aren’t bound to the result of another referendum vote.
Ghislain Picard says it’s useless to talk about Quebec sovereignty while there’s still uncertainty about the place of aboriginal peoples.
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Similar concerns were raised in the lead up to the last referendum in 1995.
Sovereignty has been a major focus of the election since media baron Pierre Karl Peladeau joined the Parti Quebecois last Sunday and declared he wants to help make Quebec a country.
PQ Leader Pauline Marois has, however, steered away from the issue in recent days.
If the PQ succeeds in getting a majority in the April 7 vote and works toward calling another referendum, Picard says First Nations will take steps to protect the interests of their members.
“We have the right to self-determination and this right is not negotiable,” Picard said in a statement released late Friday.
“Let us be even more clear: Quebec can decide what it wants in terms of its culture, its identity and its development, but it cannot claim sovereignty over a territory which is still, fundamentally, First Nation.”
©2014The Canadian Press
Good morning folks, today I showed and talked about the sharpest screen display technology available today for personal and business computing.
I showed Sharp’s IGZO screen technology on their 32-inch PNK322B monitor, $7,199. Needless to say it’s an amazing screen, in this case running on Windows. It’s a touchscreen too, in fact ten simultaneous fingers capable on Windows 8. It works with a stylus as well. Sharp does not own IGZO technology but is the first to license it in new monitors, laptops, tablets and phones.
Sharp PNK322B 32 inch ultra resolution ten finger touchcreen and stylus monitor supplied
Sharp PNK322B 32 inch ultra resolution ten finger touchcreen and stylus monitor
With a resolution of 3,840 x 2,160 pixels, the equivalent of four Full HD screens, it’s basically a 4K, Ultra HDTV squeezed down to 32 inches.
The Apple Store also sells a less expensive version without touch screen, the Sharp 32″ PN-K321 – 4K Ultra HD LED Monitor, $3,849 which comes with two built-in speakers.
Now for folks like you and me (hey, I have to send these back) you might wonder why I am showing such pricey items on TV.
Because the very same ultra-resolution Sharp IGZO screen technology is also available on the new Dell XPS 15 laptop starting at $1,899.99 compared to Apple’s MacBook Pro Retina display starting at $2,049. It’s also used on the iPad mini retina and iPad Air, but not that crazy 4K resolution.
Dell XPS 15 with eye-popping 3,840 x 2,160 pixel resolution supplied
Dell XPS 15 with eye-popping 3,840 x 2,160 pixel resolution
Let’s talk about the Dell XPS 15 which is sharper at 3,840 x 2,160 pixels compared to the MacBook Pro 15 at 2880-by-1800 pixels with similar IPS screen quality. But it comes with many more customization options such as a combo 1TB hard drive and SSD, or a Samsung 500 GB SSD. Both are armed to the teeth with Intel 4th gen i7 technology (the XPS Turbo Boosts to 3.2 GHz to Apple’s 3.5 GHz). They weigh in within a couple of grams 2.01 kg for the XPS versus 2.06 kg for the MacBook Pro and have a classy tier one look with attention to detail.
The XPS 15, which can surpass $4,000 with options, features a nice feeling medium hard rubber finish around the keyboard and wrist rest area and a sensitive multi finger touchpad.
It comes with Windows 8.1, a must upgrade from Windows 8, as applications recognize the ultra-screen resolution and you can easily change settings to see larger icons that retain their sharpness.
The XPS 15 screen is so sharp, you can’t see pixels with the human eye, it’s like working with today’s sharpest smartphones, but on a much larger screen. 杭州夜生活dell桑拿按摩
Some apps still have some catching up to look their best on these high resolutions. Internet Explorer works great with sharp graphics compared to Chrome browser, as it recognizes the sharper screen, as does Office 365. But Photoshop still shows tiny icons on this big screen. Still, images look drop-dead gorgeous. FYI, Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom 5 combo are available for only $9.99 US a month from https://creative.adobe杭州夜网/
IGZO, short for indium gallium zinc oxide, technology lights up its pixels more efficiently requiring less power, about 50 per cent less, and a thinner format. This gives another advantage to the XPS 15 as its battery lasts 10 per cent longer than the MacBook Pro.
The iPad mini retina also uses IGZO screen technology, as does the newest iPad Air, both thinner and longer lasting on batteries, but with a lower display score that more traditional display technologies like LTPS, used for years on iPhones.
I have seen IGZO technology on Japanese tablets and phones with impressive results. Time will tell if pushing traditional technology, like Samsung does, to the limits can match the start of new IGZO technology which has a brighter and energy efficient future.
Edmonton – Edmonton firefighters battled a blaze on the southside of the city early Saturday morning.
The blaze happened at a building at 70 Ave. and Calgary Tr. At around 1:50 a.m.
Fire officials say they were worried initially about possible hazardous materials because the building was used for industrial purposes.
“In a commercial structure that’s showing full involvement the way that this one was when we first arrived there was no urgency to put anyone inside that building until we knew what it housed,” said Cpt. Brad Kitiuk, Edmonton Fire & Rescue.
Once the owner arrived on scene and identified the materials inside the building, fire crews concluded it was safe to enter and extinguish the blaze.
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TORONTO — Pop star George Michael has “completely stopped” smoking marijuana.
The singer — who often said his pot habit kept him sane and happy — insisted he hasn’t gone near weed in over a year and a half.
“What can I say? I decided to change my life,” Michael told the UK’s Daily Mail.
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The former Wham! singer’s fondness for marijuana resulted in legal problems over the years.
In 2010 he served four weeks behind bars and lost his driver’s license for five years after crashing his car while under the influence of cannabis.
That followed drug-related arrests in 2006 (no charges were filed), 2007 (he was banned from driving for two years) and 2008 (cops let him go with a warning).
Michael has also had some high-profile near-death experiences including a serious bout of pneumonia that left him in hospital for five weeks and an incident last year in which he fell out of a moving vehicle on a British highway and suffered head injuries.
While he won’t discuss the accident, Michael said the pneumonia “almost killed me.”
He added: “It was very frightening and I’ll probably never feel quite as safe in life again. I also remember experiencing incredible guilt for my family and friends, because they literally spent weeks not knowing whether I was going to make it.”
Michael, 50, told the Daily Mail he recorded a version of Stevie Wonder’s “You And I” as a wedding gift for Prince William and Kate Middleton.
“I sent them a CD wrapped up in the cheesiest Royal wedding paper that I could find, covered in stamps of the Queen’s head,” he recalled. “And in their card I wrote, ‘Have the best day of your lives so far.’ And I really meant it.”
Michael, who was a friend of William’s mother Princess Diana, said she would have been “really, really pleased that William has met and fallen in love with someone who has the strength of character to be able to deal with the sorts of things that she couldn’t.
Michael’s new album Symphonica is a collection of cover songs recorded with a full orchestra.
NEW YORK – Emergency workers sifted through debris Saturday from the site of a deadly explosion at two New York City apartment buildings as they worked to reach the basement levels, clearing the way for investigators to search for clues that might reveal what caused the blast.
An uplifting moment from the painstaking recovery effort came as crews pulled a large water-damaged Bible from the rubble of the Spanish Christian Church, which was located in one of the two destroyed buildings. About two dozen people, including clergy members, carried the Bible in a solemn procession near the East Harlem site.
WATCH: Exclusive video of Harlem building explosion
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“This was in the depths of the rubble. Somehow God protected it,” said Rick del Rio, a bishop at the Church of God.
The church’s pastor, Thomas Perez, suffered heart palpitations when he saw the Bible, said Letitia James, the city’s public advocate. He was taken by ambulance to a hospital as a precaution, supporters said.
Workers were halfway finished with debris removal by midday. About 1,500 cubic feet (43 cubic meters) of debris had been hauled from the East Harlem site since the explosion, and an equal amount remained at the site, said Daniel Glover, spokesman for the Fire Department of New York.
Truckloads of scattered material will be sifted for any traces of human remains that might not have been found at the site, said city Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano. Although the bodies of all eight people reported missing after Wednesday’s blast have been recovered, the rescue operation was continuing in case others may be buried beneath the rubble, he said.
READ MORE: East Harlem explosion: Tests detect natural gas underground near site of NYC blast
Arson detectives and fire marshals were waiting to enter the basements to examine meters, check pipes and inspect any possible ignition sources, such as light switches, that might have caused the blast.
Cassano scheduled a news conference for Saturday afternoon to update the public on the progress of recovery efforts.
More than 60 people were injured in the explosion, and more than 100 others were displaced.
The theory that the explosion was due to a gas leak gained momentum Friday after the National Transportation Safety Board, which investigates pipeline accidents, said underground tests conducted in the hours after the explosion registered high concentrations of natural gas.
Gallery: Before and after photos of East Harlem explosion
The NTSB will conduct its own inquiry after police and fire officials determine what might have caused the blast.
Police have identified six of those who died: Griselde Camacho, 45, a Hunter College security officer; Carmen Tanco, 67, a dental hygienist who participated in church-sponsored medical missions to Africa and the Caribbean; Andreas Panagopoulos, 43, a musician; Rosaura Hernandez, 22, a restaurant cook from Mexico; George Ameado, 44, a handyman who lived in one of the buildings that collapsed; and Alexis Salas, 22, a restaurant worker.
Mexican officials said another Mexican woman, Rosaura Barrios Vazquez, 43, was among those killed.
The name of the eighth person recovered, a woman, hasn’t been released.
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Witnesses describe what they saw, heard in Harlem building explosion
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After touring a Red Cross shelter where some of the displaced residents have been placed temporarily, Mayor Bill de Blasio pledged his support to find suitable temporary or long-term housing options for those displaced.
“It’s our obligation as the city of New York, and I know all New Yorkers feel this way, to stand by them,” he said.
Investigators were trying to determine whether the explosion had anything to do with the city’s aging gas and water mains, some of which were installed in the 1800s. More than 30,000 miles (48,275 kilometres) of decades-old, decaying cast-iron pipe still are being used to deliver gas nationwide, according to U.S. Transportation Department estimates.
Fire and utility officials said that if the buildings were plagued in recent days or weeks by strong gas odours, as some tenants contend, they have no evidence anyone reported it before Wednesday. An Associated Press analysis of the city’s emergency call database from Jan. 1, 2013, through Tuesday also found no calls from the buildings about gas.
The blast erupted about 15 minutes after someone from a neighbouring building reported smelling gas, authorities said. Con Edison said it immediately sent workers to check out the report, but they got there too late.
©2014The Canadian Press
Watch the video above: ParaSport Day in Saskatoon
SASKATOON – The Paralympics are going on right now over in Sochi, so it’s only fitting that the City of Saskatoon along with partners hosted ParaSport Day on Friday.
Over 50 youngsters of all abilities, from ages 8 to 16, tried a variety of para-sports including wheelchair basketball, sledge hockey, goal-ball and cross-country skiing.
Coaches and athletes from organizations helped the children with skill development at Cosmo Civic Centre.
The free one-day event kicked off with an inspirational presentation from first-class parasport athletes.
“I think it’s fantastic that there are kids here today that have a disability,” said Amy Alsop, two-time Paralympic gold medalist.
“And I think its terrific that there’s kids who don’t have a disability and are here because I think it’s a real good experience to learn what it’s like to play wheelchair basketball and it gives them an appreciation for the student in their school that is in a wheelchair.”
This was the first ParaSport Day in Saskatoon, organizers hope it will become an annual event.
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