Archive | January, 2016

Dhanush Joins Uma Thurman In “The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir”

Posted on 28 January 2016 by admin

Uma Thurman (“Kill Bill”), Barkhad Abdi (“Captain Phillips”) and Laurent Lafitte (“Little White Lies”) have joined Bollywood star Dhanush in MarjaneSatrapi’s “The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir.”

Alexandra Daddario (“True Detective,” “San Andreas”) is in advanced negotiations to take one of the lead roles.

TF1 International reps the English-language project and will kick off pre-sales at Berlin’s European Film Market.

Gemma Arterton (“Hansel And Gretel”), Abel Jafri (“Timbuktu”) and Seema Biswas (“The Queen Bandit”) complete the cast.

“Extraordinary Journey” will mark the most ambitious project undertaken by Satrapi, the Iranian-born French comicbook artist and filmmaker behind Cannes’ jury prize winner “Persepolis” and “Chicken With Plums.”

Satrapi made her English-language debut with “The Voices” starring Ryan Reynolds.

Luc Bossi’s Brio Films is lead producing. Vamonos Films, Italy’s PacoCinematografica and India’s Little Red Car are co-producing. “Extraordinary Journey” has already been picked up by SquareOne in Germany.

The comedy adventure tale is based on RomainPuértolas’ bestselling debut novel “The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir Who Got Trapped in an Ikea Wardrobe,” which came out in 2014 and has been translated into 35 languages. The novel follows the pilgrimage of a con man from India to an IKEA in Paris.

Satrapi’s film will follow the epic journey of a wild storyteller from New Delhi to Paris, where he falls in love with a woman and accidentally gets deported, along with a band of African refugees, to the far corners of Europe.

“It’s a story about love, magic and adventure and it takes place across three continents. I’m drawn to fantasy stories and I love creating worlds that don’t exist, imagining things in bigger and more beautiful ways,” said Satrapi, who aims at weaving fantasy with realism, grounding the story in today’s world and touching on the condition of refugees.

Bossi, who co-wrote the big screen adaptation with Puértolas and Jon Goldman (“Diplomacy”), said the film shared similarities with Wes Anderson’s “Grand Budapest Hotel,” Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris” and Roberto Benigni’s “Life Is Beautiful.”

Spearheaded by Avy Kaufman, the international casting is a key element of this project. Satrapi placed a large emphasis on bringing together a wide range of actors coming from diverse horizons to reflect the book’s spirit.

Dhanush follows the footsteps of a growing number of Indian stars who have been getting international parts over the last year. Recent examples include Irrfan Khan (“Jurassic World”), Anil Kapoor (“24”), Priyanka Chopra (“Quantico”) and Om Puri (“The Hundred Foot Journey”).

Pic will be shooting in June in Paris, Rome, Jodhpur and Casablanca with a crew that includes cinematographer Maxime Alexandre (“Warrior’s Gate,” “The Voices”).

Satrapi is repped by UTA, Thurman is repped by CAA and Abdi is repped by SMS Talent. Daddario is repped by UTA and Untitled Entertainment.

Tamil-Hindi actor Dhanush says he is “excited” about his Hollywood debut with Iranian-French director MarjaneSatrapi’s “The Extraordinary Journey Of the Fakir Who Got Trapped In The Ikea Cupboard.”

“I am very excited by this opportunity to work in a full length Hollywood film,” Dhanush said in a statement in Chennai.

In the move, the 32-year-old “Why this Kolaveri di’ star will share screen space with Uma Thurman, “Captain Phillips,” actor Barkhad Abdi, Laurent Lafitte and “The Bandit Queen” actress Seema Biswas.

“The director, MarjaneSatrapi, felt I would be apt for this role and I feel there are many facets I can explore for this character,” the “Raanjhanaa” actor said.

The national award-winning actor thanked his fans for “pushing me to explore new endeavours and challenges all the time.”

Based on the on RomainPuertolas’ bestselling debut novel of the same name, the comedy adventure movie follows a wild storyteller from New Delhi who falls in love with a woman when he reaches Parish, but accidentally gets deported along with a group of African refugees against his choice.

The novel, which came out in 2014, has been translated into 35 languages. It tells the pilgrimage of a con man from India to an IKEA in Paris which turns into a philosophical odyssey.

- See more at: http://indianexpress.com/article/entertainment/regional/dhanush-excited-about-hollywood-debut/#sthash.bLRat0hU.dpuf

 

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5 Issues The Liberals Must Address With The Return Of Parliament

Posted on 28 January 2016 by admin

Here are five things to watch for this session.

Budget 2016 and the deficit
Finance Minister is Bill Morneau just wrapped up his cross-country pre-budget consultations. The first budget is widely speculated to be end of March. The size of the deficit is the item to watch for as oil prices continue to decline and the dollar has dipped to its lowest point since 2003.

Opposition and the Progressive Opposition
The Conservative Party is holding true to #NewYearNewYou with a leadership election announced for May 27, 2017. Expect them and the repositioned “Progressive Opposition” NDP to continue to push on issues such as electoral reform and Canada’s role in the war against ISIS, while aiming to portray the Trudeau government’s fiscal plans as irresponsible.

Key agenda items
The government will be moving forward on some of its significant Throne Speech items. The clock is ticking for the government to fulfill its promise on electoral reform within 18 months of coming to power, including a commitment that the 2015 election will be the last conducted according to first-past-the-post.

In the wake of COP 21 and Canada’s commitments in Paris, government actions to curb climate change and address environmental issues will be watched closely. Infrastructure spending is a hot topic for provincial partners and municipalities who have a lengthy list of to-dos and high expectations. Legislating and regulating marijuana will also be high on the minds of many Canadians.

Items added to their agenda
The Supreme Court has given Ottawa a four-month extension to pass a bill legalizing physician-assisted suicide.

Senate Reform
With a new process and advisory board in place for appointing senators to the upper house, it’s expected that five of the 22 vacancies could be filled early in the new year — with two from Ontario, two from Manitoba and one from Quebec — to restore regional balance. There are big questions about exactly how the new Senate will work, given that the Liberals promised to make the Upper House of Parliament more independent and non-partisan. Could government legislation be blocked by the newly independent senate?

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TTC launches five new express bus routes

Posted on 28 January 2016 by admin

The TTC is applying a traditional transit solution to speed trip times along some of its busiest routes while Toronto commuters set in for the long waits it’s going to take to build the new subways and LRTs promised by politicians.

Five new or enhanced express buses are expected to attract about 400,000 new riders this year and 1.1 million annually when they mature.

The mostly suburban services will hit the streets March 27 and trim some trip times by about 20 per cent, says TTC chief customer officer Chris Upfold.

The five selected routes aren’t necessarily the busiest in the city. But they make sense because of the destinations they feed and the volume of riders.

In some cases busier routes don’t lend themselves to express service because there’s no room on the road.

“Dufferin is a much narrower road than the other roads we’re talking about. It is hard to get buses passing each other and that’s one of the reasons you get bunching on Dufferin. They can’t really leapfrog each other,” said Upfold.

Whereas you can have a local service passed by an express bus without too much difficulty on Kipling or Victoria Park Aves.

“An express bus is a nice overlay to a local service. When we started to run the Finch Rocket we found about half of people transferred across to that service. So rather than having the 40,000 people a day on the local route, now we have 20,000 people a day on the local route and 20,000 people a day on the express route,” he said.

The new express buses won’t cost the double fare that the TTC charges on its five existing downtown express routes, the 140 series of buses.

“Somebody could get on the local bus, go to an exchange point and get on an express bus,” said Upfold.

The five new TTC routes are:

 199 Finch Rocket: This route already exists but it is being enhanced with two new branches. The 199A bus will continue to provide weekday express service and, daytime and early evening trips on the weekend and holidays between Scarborough Centre and Finch Station. The new 199B will run between Scarborough Centre, York University and Finch Station during the week days and early evenings. The 199C will run express between Finch Station and Morningside Heights during the weekday rush.

 185 Don Mills Rocket: This service will provide expedited trip times for Flemingdon Park residents heading to Pape Station and Steeles Ave.

 188 Kipling South Rocket: The service will operate Monday to Friday during the day to expedite trips between Kipling Station and the Lakeshore Campus of Humber College.

 24E Victoria Park Express: This commuter service will run from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. between Victoria Park Station and Steels Ave. It will be a branch of the 24 Victoria Park bus. There’s no individual points but there are enough people who could benefit from better journey times.

 186 Wilson Rocket: This will be a daytime, weekday route only designed to speed the trip between York Mills Station and Humber College’s north campus. It replaces the 96E Wilson Express bus.

The $3.4 million net cost is part of the TTC’s base budget, covered among $95 million in annual TTC service improvements announced last year. The TTC needed new vehicles to provide it.

Although TTC staff are doing a broader review of express service, it’s not clear how many more routes it can add given that the city hasn’t approved more funding, said spokesman Brad Ross.

“New and enhanced express bus services we’re proposing for 2016 are over and above these five routes in our 2016 budget and that is something that the TTC board will need to discuss if we need to find savings elsewhere in the budget,” he said.

 

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Kathleen Wynne heads to India to boost trade

Posted on 28 January 2016 by admin

It is the world’s largest democracy with a population 100 times that of Ontario.

It boasts the fastest-growing economy on the planet.

And it will be the centre of Ontario’s political universe for the next fortnight.

India — where Premier Kathleen Wynne and a throng of ministers, MPPs, aides, academics, municipal and business leaders are headed this week — is top of mind at Queen’s Park.

The Star has learned Wynne will meet popular Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi in a bid to boost trade relations with Ontario.

Modi, a long-time friend of Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown, who met with him in India two weeks ago, has launched the Smart Cities Mission to create dozens of new planned satellite cities around major urban centres and rejuvenate larger towns.

The Indian prime minister hopes these “smart cities” will deliver modern waterworks, sanitation, electricity, health and education, public transit, internet connectivity, and good local governance in safe, secure and sustainable communities.

His mantra is music to Wynne’s ears because Ontario companies, colleges, and universities have expertise — in all those areas — that they are eager to share.

The premier leaves for India on Wednesday, leading a delegation that hopes to build mutually beneficial bridges between a province of 13,000,000 and a nation of almost 1.3 billion.

“I really believe that 2016 can be a huge year for Ontario and India,” Wynne said recently.

“(That’s) because of what is going on in India and the plan that Prime Minister Modi has put in place, the smart cities, the clean tech that is going be needed, the smart technology that’s going to be needed for his initiatives, and because of our potential here to provide capacity in all of those areas,” she said.

“We have worked for decades in Ontario to establish partnerships between India and Ontario, and our economies . . . are arguably more aligned than ever right now.”

Joining Wynne’s Team Ontario mission will be officials from the University of Toronto, Ryerson University, Western University, the University of Waterloo, Seneca College, Sheridan College, and other higher learning institutions.

“India’s focus on infrastructure development and clean-tech are areas where Ontario has a lot to offer,” said the premier, who will also travel to Mumbai, Hyderabad, Chandigarh, Amritsar, and Agra.

“We’re Canada’s clean-tech leaders and we’re making the biggest infrastructure investment in our province in our history,” she said.

“Our top priority as a government is jobs and growth, so now is absolutely the right time for us to double down on our global trade strategy and that’s what this mission is about.”

India is a natural partner for Ontario, noted Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie, who will be on the trip along with other municipal officials.

“Mississauga is home to a significant Indian diaspora and we have the potential to open our city to a great deal of Indian investment,” Crombie said in a statement, noting almost 15 per cent of her city’s newest residents were born in India and many Indian-based companies now have offices there.

Indeed, some 700,000 Ontarians are of Indian descent so the ties between the province and India are already strong.

But two-way trade between the jurisdictions has much room for improvement. In 2014, the most recent year for which figures are available, Ontario exported only $307 million in goods to India and imported $1.62 billion from there.

“By growing our presence in India, which is the world’s second-biggest country and one of the fastest growing economies on the planet, we’re diversifying our trade and investment partners and we’re building a more resilient Ontario economy,” insisted Wynne.

R.K. Perindia, India’s acting consul general in Toronto, said his country’s economy should grow by a blistering 7.5 per cent this year and is eager for “foreign investment in India and foreign partnerships.”

“We feel that the time is right for Canadian businesses to look at India. This is the best moment, we feel,” said Perindia, emphasizing “India wants to enhance its trade relations with Ontario” — especially in areas of urban planning, higher education, green energy, health care, and transit.

“There are many more sectors where Canada can help India.”

 

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THE TERRORISM CHALLENGE IN PAKISTAN

Posted on 28 January 2016 by admin

Dr. Hasan Askari

 The terrorist attack on the Bacha Khan University, Charsada, shocked the people of Pakistan who thought that terrorism was now under control. It seems that the Pakistani Taliban and their allies, dislodged from North Waziristan by the Zarb-i-Azb operation, have regrouped in Afghanistan and Pakistan to challenge the Pakistani state and society.

 The revival of terrorist activity calls for a review of counter-terrorism policies since the launching of the Zarb-i-Azb operation in North Waziristan on June 15, 2014. Earlier in February 2014, the first comprehensive National Internal Security Policy (NISP) was announced. After the terrorist attack on the Army Public School, Peshawar, on December 16, 2014, a National Action Plan (NAP), comprising 20-points, was announced for coping with extremism and terrorism.

 The Zarb-i-Azb operation was launched by the Army after the civilian federal government’s efforts to hold meaningful talks with Pakistani Taliban made no headway. When the terrorists attacked the Karachi Airport, the Army top command decided to launch the operation in North Waziristan on its own. The civilian government did not have choice but to go along with it. This operation dislodged the Taliban and their allies from North Waziristan. A good number of them succeeded in slipping out to Afghanistan, other tribal areas and mainland Pakistan. The Pakistan Taliban based in Afghanistan were beyond the direct reach of Pakistan’s security agencies. Some operations were launched in other tribal areas to nab them. These groups were weakened, not totally eliminated.

 The Pakistani Taliban and their allies who came to mainland Pakistan, had no problems in hiding as they already had their networks, supporters and sympathizers. Here, the Pakistan Army could not deal with them the way it conducted the operation in North Waziristan. In the cities and towns, it was up to the civilian federal and provincial governments and their bureaucratic and law-enforcing structures to track and contain these elements. These governments faltered in many respect, giving these elements time and space to revive them.

 The National Internal Security Policy (NISP) was a comprehensive document for controlling extremism and terrorism. It had clear objectives and a detailed organizational and institutional framework to cope with these challenges. However, no concrete steps were taken to implement the NISP. It remained dormant on its key points and objectives. Had this been fully implemented, there was no need of announcing the National Action Plan (NAP) in December 2014 for controlling extremism and terrorism.

Out of the NAP’s 20-Points, one point relates exclusively to the Army (military courts); five points related partly to the Army and party to the civilian government; and fourteen points relate exclusively to the civilian political and administrative system.

  The performance of the NAP has been uneven but better than the NISP because the military is pushing the civilian governments on the implementation of the NAP through the Apex Committees at the provincial level and the periodic meetings of the top brass of the Army and the senior federal minsters under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister. These new informal structure have greatly devalued the institutions of federal and provincial cabinets.

 Despite the Army’s pressure, the civilian side of the NAP is slow, inconsistent and marked more by rhetoric than action. If the Army relents the pressure for one reason or another, the fate of the NAP will not be different from that of the NISP.

There are two sets of problems in the handling of the NAP for countering extremism and terrorism. First, the mindset of civilian leadership is divided as to who is resorting to terrorism and how should the menace of extremism and terrorism be dealt with. Divergent interpretations are given as to who is the real culprit? Whether these are Pakistan based groups, some foreign governments funding these groups, or Pakistan’s pro-U.S. policies? The disposition towards the Kashmir focused groups reflects a lot more ambiguity on the part of the civilian and military leadership.

 Second, The PMLN and other right-of-centre parties and Islamic groups face a dilemma. All these parties draw support from the section of population that demonstrates sympathy for Islamic militancy and the view that the western powers are out to undermine the Islamic states, especially Pakistan. Therefore, political consideration and the imperatives of electoral politics impede the PMLN, the PTI and Islamic parties to pursue a tough policy towards religious hard line, sectarian and militant groups. They all criticize and condemn terrorism and killings of people. However, they avoid condemning specific groups engaged in violence or talk about external conspiracies or Pakistan’s pro-U.S. policies.

 The political considerations hamper impede the civilian power elite from fully implementing the NAP. Some action is being taken but it is not being pushed to its logical end. Take the issues of hate-speech and literature, banned organizations, funding to these groups, madrassa reforms and the state narrative to counter the discourse of militancy and terrorist groups.

The principles of constitutionalism, participatory governance, the rule of law and socio-economic justice should be the hallmark of governance and political management. A credible worldview based on religio-cultural pluralism, tolerance and equal citizenship should be disseminated among the people by all political parties, parliamentarians and the elected local government members. They should warn people against the groups that use religious appeals to justify mutual hatred and violence.

 The intelligence and law enforcing agencies should track extremist and violent groups based in all provinces, especially in the Punjab, which is a home to major sectarian and other Jihadi groups.

 Pakistan’s civilian and military authorities can no longer pursue inconsistent policies for coping with internal threats to societal harmony and political stability and economic strength. The failure to control these threats makes Pakistan vulnerable to external pressures and undermine its role at the global level.

 

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India to build satellite tracking station in Vietnam that offers eye on China

Posted on 28 January 2016 by admin

NEW DELHI/HONG KONG (Reuters) – India will set up a satellite tracking and imaging centre in southern Vietnam that will give Hanoi access to pictures from Indian earth observation satellites that cover the region, including China and the South China Sea, Indian officials said.

The move, which could irritate Beijing, deepens ties between India and Vietnam, who both have long-running territorial disputes with China.

While billed as a civilian facility – earth observation satellites have agricultural, scientific and environmental applications – security experts said improved imaging technology meant the pictures could also be used for military purposes.

Hanoi especially has been looking for advanced intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance technologies as tensions rise with China over the disputed South China Sea, they said.

“In military terms, this move could be quite significant,” said Collin Koh, a marine security expert at Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies. “It looks like a win-win for both sides, filling significant holes for the Vietnamese and expanding the range for the Indians.”

The state-run Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) will fund and set up the satellite tracking and data reception centre in Ho Chi Minh City to monitor Indian satellite launches, the Indian officials said. Indian media put the cost at around $23 million.

India, whose 54-year-old space programme is accelerating, with one satellite launch scheduled every month, has ground stations in the Andaman and Nicobar islands, Brunei, Biak in eastern Indonesia and Mauritius that track its satellites in the initial stages of flight.

The Vietnam facility will bolster those capabilities, said Deviprasad Karnik, an ISRO spokesman.

QUID PRO QUO

But unlike the other overseas stations, the facility will also be equipped to receive images from India’s earth observation satellites that Vietnam can use in return for granting India the tracking site, said an Indian government official connected with the space programme.

“This is a sort of quid pro quo which will enable Vietnam to receive IRS (Indian remote sensing) pictures directly, that is, without asking India,” said the official, who declined to be identified because he was not authorised to speak to the media.

“Obviously it will include parts of China of interest to Vietnam.”

Chinese coastal naval bases, the operations of its coastguard and navy and its new man-made islands in the disputed Spratly archipelago of the South China Sea would be targets of Vietnamese interest, security experts said.

Another Indian official said New Delhi would also have access to the imagery.

India has 11 earth observation satellites in orbit, offering pictures with differing resolutions and areas, the ISRO said.

Indian officials had no timeframe for when the centre would be operational.

“This is at the beginning stages, we are still in dialogue with Vietnamese authorities,” said Karnik.

Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry confirmed the project, but provided few other details.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a regular briefing that Beijing hoped the facility “will be able to make a positive contribution to pushing forward relevant cooperation in the region”. China’s Defence Ministry said the proposed tracking station wasn’t a military issue.

Vietnam launched its first earth observation satellite in 2013, but Koh said it was not thought to produce particularly high resolution images.

BLURRED LINES

Security experts said Vietnam would likely seek real-time access to images from the Indian satellites as well as training in imagery analysis, a specialised intelligence field.

“The advance of technology means the lines are blurring between civilian and military satellites,” said Trevor Hollingsbee, a retired naval intelligence analyst with Britain’s Defence Ministry. “In some cases, the imagery from a modern civilian satellite is good enough for military use.”

Sophisticated military reconnaissance satellites can be used to capture military signals and communications, as well as detailed photographs of objects on land, capturing detail to less than a metre, Koh and other experts said.

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Militarizing Police Does Not Serve Or Protect Canadian Citizens

Posted on 28 January 2016 by admin

Hijal De Sarkar

Political consultant

This week, we learned that the Toronto Police Service will be ordering C8 carbine semi-automatic assault rifles for front-line police officers.

The assault rifles, produced by arms manufacturer Colt Canada for the Canadian Forces, will cost $2,500 each, and will be in patrol cars on the streets of Canada’s largest city by May. Toronto becomes only the latest municipality to acquire a weapon described on its website as “battle proven in harsh combat environments.”

Late last year, Winnipeg police purchased a $400,000 armoured personnel carrier. A manufacturer video promoting the 14,000-pound, blast-proof Gurka MPV tactical vehicle with eight gun ports features heavy metal music and the words “make a statement” appearing on the screen.

Indeed, I have to wonder if that’s what these purchases are all about — making a bold statement about who makes the orders and who follows them.

Across Canada, local police forces are acquiring weapons and tools that are designed for military purposes, and policing is becoming increasingly militarized. The usual justification for ever more advanced weaponry is similar to Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders’ – it makes officers safer in an era of declining violent crime.

Crime in Canada is down so much that even the right-wing Fraser Institute has called for scaling back police departments.

Some local police departments receive equipment donated by the Canadian Forces. That’s how Windsor, Ontario and the mean streets of New Glasgow, Nova Scotia received armoured tanks free of charge.

Often, one event precipitates a build-up in arsenal and resources that the police keep long after the event is over.

Toronto Police purchased a Long Range Acoustic Device for the G20 Summit in 2010. Otherwise known as a sound cannon, this weapon was developed by the U.S. military to fight Somali pirates and Iraqi insurgents. It is powerful enough to make human bones vibrate, and it was used against Canadian citizens. It also continues to exist in the Toronto Police arsenal six years later.

“There is a difference between working with a community to build relations and foster trust, and patrolling a community that knows you are armed to the teeth with equipment that belongs in a combat zone.”

The Vancouver Police Department continues to operate its secretive Military Liaison Unit, despite it being created to coordinate security for the 2010 Olympic Games with the Canadian Forces. The unit travels four to six times a year to a base in Washington State to train with U.S. Army and National Guard personnel, in effect receiving military training. Vancouver’s MLU (there are others across the country) has seemingly no oversight or public accountability. In fact, even finding information on its existence is tough.

All of this is a major problem because a free and democratic society demands a clear separation between the military and your local police department in order to function and to safeguard the liberty we take for granted.

When we think about the militarization of the police, we often think of police in the U.S. These photos of local police officers responding to protests in Ferguson or Baltimore using some of the $450 million worth of war gear donated by the Pentagon to local departments is the kind of thing that comes to mind.

While Canada’s Department of National Defence does not donate nearly as much or as advanced military hardware to local police forces as its American counterpart, millions of dollars have been spent by local departments across Canada on equipment originally developed with war zones in mind.

Not only has this led to massive expansions in local police budgets in an age of austerity, it erodes the fundamental function of police departments: to serve and protect the community.

The basic ideas upon which modern domestic policing in Canada and the U.S. are predicated find their provenance in 19th century British Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel and his Nine Principles of Law Enforcement.

They state: “the basic mission for which police exist is to prevent crime and disorder as an alternative to the repression of crime and disorder by military force and severity of legal punishment” and that “the degree of cooperation of the public that can be secured diminishes, proportionately, to the necessity for the use of physical force and compulsion in achieving police objectives.”

There is a difference between working with a community to build relations and foster trust, and patrolling a community that knows you are armed to the teeth with equipment that belongs in a combat zone, not on their street. I argue that arming local police officers with the tools of a soldier is intimidation and amounts to compulsion.

The military and the local police department serve completely different roles. In an expensive race towards increasingly invasive and threatening policing methods, it has never been more important to remember that fundamental ideal.

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The low loonie is attracting Americans to Canada’s used cars — and that may mean higher prices for you

Posted on 28 January 2016 by admin

Enticed by the low loonie, Americans are snapping up Canada’s used vehicles in near-record numbers, leading to higher prices at home and possibly even contributing to soaring new-vehicle sales.

New data from AutoTrader.ca shows that there was a 28 per cent increase in U.S. traffic to the auto classifieds site between Nov. 1 and Dec. 31 compared to the same period in 2014, when the Canadian dollar was higher by about 14 cents U.S.

“As the Canadian dollar has weakened more and more, we’ve seen the demand coming from the U.S. increase,” said Ian MacDonald, director of consumer marketing at AutoTrader.ca.

“It kind of moves in lockstep: the weaker it is, the more we see increases in traffic from the U.S. to our site.”

According to data from DesRosiers Automotive Consultants, nearly 200,000 used vehicles were imported into the United States from Canada in 2015. This is the highest level since 2002 and a significant increase from the approximately 75,000 used vehicles that were imported in 2014.

“Much below 90 cents (U.S.) you start to see a trickle going south and now that we’re down into the 70-cent range, it’s more of a flood,” said Dennis DesRosiers, president of the consulting firm.

This is denting the supply of used vehicles available in Canada — last year’s exports amounted to about seven per cent of the total market — which means Canadians are paying more, said Carlos Gomes, senior economist and auto industry specialist at Scotiabank.

 “Coming into last year, the expectation was that (prices) would actually begin to weaken a bit because you were going to get an increased number of vehicles coming off lease,” Gomes said.

“It just goes to show you that the demand improvement is overwhelming any supply increase.”

This could even be a factor in the 1.9 million new vehicles Canadians bought in 2015, the third consecutive record year for Canadian auto sales.

“It does keep resale values just a little bit higher than what they otherwise would be, and that obviously helps the buyers of new vehicles in that they get more for their trade-in,” DesRosiers said.

However, Gomes stressed that used-vehicle affordability in Canada remains at record highs despite the increase in prices. An October report by Scotiabank found that a typical Canadian family now has to work 8.1 weeks to purchase a used vehicle, compared to 13 weeks at the turn of the millennium.

According to AutoTrader.ca, Americans were most likely to search for the Lexus RX, Dodge Challenger and GMC Sierra 1500, while the searches that saw the biggest year-over-year increases were for the BMW M-Series, Buick Enclave and Cadillac XLR.

“As you can probably tell from those vehicles, the general trend that we see is that it tends to be more luxury vehicles that American browsers are looking at on our site,” MacDonald said.

“That stands to reason, because a lot of what’s driving this is the value they can get for their dollar, so obviously the more dollars that they’re spending, the greater the savings.”

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Sleep Well – Your Life May Depend On It

Posted on 28 January 2016 by admin

An unfortunate part of our modern-day busy lifestyle is chronic sleep deprivation. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), lack of sleep has become a major public health concern, with insufficient rest being linked to medical problems, accidents and occupational hazards. People who regularly stay awake for too long are at a higher risk of developing illnesses like high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, cancer, and also mental issues like depression and memory loss, the agency warns.

While many young people may feel they can burn the proverbial midnight oil without paying much of a price, shortage of sleep and sleep disruption can wreak havoc on their middle-aged and older counterparts in ways not truly appreciated until recently.

A new study from the University of Toronto, Canada, found that older people who have trouble sleeping are in greater danger of suffering a stroke and/or other mental health problems like memory loss and dementia.

Waking up several times during the night, a.k.a. sleep fragmentation, is tied to subtle changes in the brain due to hardening of the arteries, which can lead to reduced oxygen supply and, in turn, to more serious damages like strokes, says Dr. Andrew Lim, a neurologist and lead author of the study report.

But it’s not just the elderly who should adhere to a healthy sleep regimen. Just one single restless night can negatively affect mood, concentration, attention span and other cognitive functions in people of all ages. In fact, as one study found, a night of disturbed sleep is like having a regular eight-hour sleep period cut in half.

Several consecutive phases of fragmented rest could result in negative health consequences on par with chronic sleeplessness, according to Dr. AviSadeh, a clinical psychologist at Tel Aviv University, Israel, and leader of the research project.

While sleep disturbances can occur throughout life, it gets harder to stay asleep as we age, for multiple reasons. Stress, anxiety, changes in the body’s internal clock, chronic diseases, certain medications, consumption of alcohol and caffeine, or use of nicotine and drugs can all be contributing factors. And, of course, diet also plays a role.

According to one study, a high intake of saturated fat and sugar is associated with lighter, less restorative, and more disrupted sleep. By contrast, eating greater amounts of fiber, as found in plant-based foods, can help enhance sleep quality.

Besides diet, regular exercise is also recommended for improving one’s restfulness. Physical activity does not only tire us out in a good way, it also reduces stress and lowers the risk of weight gain and related diseases — all of which are known to interfere with sleep.

In other words, the better we take care of your health needs in the daytime, the better we can rest at night.

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Divorce Month: Why Marriages End In January

Posted on 28 January 2016 by admin

The beginning of a new year is often a time of reflection and resolutions. The usual suspects are diet and exercise, but often people are ready for much bigger life decisions. For a couple struggling in a marriage, this might seem like the perfect time to end the relationship and move on. In fact, this happens so often that January has become known as Divorce Month.

Most people, if they are unhappy in their marriage, are probably thinking about breaking up long before the holidays. But given that the holidays are a traditional family time, couples, especially those with children, loathe creating a sad memory for their children. Yet once the decorations are put away and everyone is back in their routine, many spouses are ready to start taking steps towards a separation.

This doesn’t mean that couples are walking into divorce courts, ready to go on the first of January. More likely, they are starting to gather information and are beginning the process of separation. Some couples, or individuals, have already brainstormed what they want and are clear about their goals. Others are sad, and anxious and want to understand what is involved in dissolving their marriage.

There are important factors to consider prior to taking the next big step.

Are you sure?
It may feel as though it is too late to save your marriage, but consider visiting a marital counsellor or therapist. Alternatively, you can go individually and get advice on how to navigate your emotions around your separation and divorce, and how to deal with your children during this process.

How to separate
A separation can be negotiated entirely out-of-court, ideally using either a mediator or collaborative lawyers. Either can help couples come to a fair conclusion in a calmer atmosphere than other alternatives such as going to Court.

In mediation, a mediator is a third party who will help a couple make decisions together about their separation. Not everyone is comfortable with this, as they may not want to have such a direct conversation with their spouse. They may also be concerned that they don’t know enough about the laws around separation, e.g. tax implications. That said, mediators might call in lawyers or other specialists to clarify more complex issues.

In a collaborative lawyer-to-lawyer negotiation, a lawyer for each spouse advocates using a system of negotiation based on mutual interest and open communication.

The end of a marriage is an emotional minefield and sadness and hurt can get mixed up with financial discussions and decisions about children. By keeping the separation process outside the courts, you can maintain a less acrimonious atmosphere and hopefully come to an agreement with less stress.

How to share the news with your children
What you tell your children largely depends on their age and the circumstances of your situation. Generally it is a good idea to present a united message from both parents. Being on the same page will be less confusing for your children and will help maintain some stability in a situation that may feel unstable, especially in the early stages.

Should I start my separation in Divorce Month?
If you are considering breaking up, there is never a good time. The best you can do at any time is to know your objectives, stay calm, and treat your spouse as you hope to be treated.

 

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