City in Brief
by Matthew Guité
→ Moving forward
The first meeting of Montreal’s new executive committee has been hailed as a collaborative success by its members following the signing of a major contract which would see a reduction in the amount the city pays into blue collar worker pensions. The contract was deemed a “historic agreement” by interim Mayor Michael Applebaum, who hopes to sign similar agreements with other employees, potentially saving Montreal up to $50 million annually. The committee includes members from all of Montreal’s major municipal parties and several independents, a factor which was a source of friction for the members of Applebaum’s previous party, Union Montréal, after he rejected their demand for five seats on the council and the position of chair.
→ Hide your iPhone, hide your Android
Five minors were arrested last week as part of an ongoing operation by Montreal Police to crack down on cellphone theft. The minors were suspected to be involved in as many as 10 robberies and were between 15 and 17 years old. Operation Match has been in effect since October. Cellphone theft is often a violent crime according to a statement released by the Montreal Police. It is hoped that new measures will help deter smartphone theft, as stolen phones will soon be tracked by the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association in order to prevent them from being reactivated on a different network.
→ That’s your cue
The Parti Québécois’ Environment Minister Daniel Breton has announced he will be stepping down following a number of minor but embarrassing incidents from his past coming to light. Some of the charges against Breton from before he became involved in politics include speeding tickets, a ticket for driving with a suspended license, lying on employment insurance forms, not paying his rent and filing his taxes late. Though he at first denied the claims, Breton has since admitted that all the charges are accurate. Until recently, most of his traffic violation tickets were also unpaid. Breton will remain as a Member of the National Assembly for the Sainte-Marie-Saint-Jacques riding and will keep his seat in the legislature.
→ More taxes!?
English public school boards in Quebec may be raising taxes to make up for a shortfall of up to $12 million in the Parti Québécois’ recent budget. At a meeting last week held to discuss the new budget and its potential impact on schools, the idea of raising school taxes was suggested as one way of making up for the deep cuts the new provincial government has made in order to eliminate the deficit. “Boards have to look somewhere to keep their funds up and the school taxes are their discretionary fund,” said Richard Goldfinch, president of the Quebec Provincial Association of Teachers. Officials suggested that the increase could take place off-island, as regions within the city are already at their maximum taxation.
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Nation in Brief
by Robin Della Corte
→ Shark on the lam
The ban on the sale of shark fins in Toronto has been nullified by Ontario Superior Court Judge James Spence. In September, the ban was passed by city council as a bylaw by a vote of 38 to four for environmental and health reasons which members of the Chinese business community questioned. Often used in soup at traditional Chinese weddings, shark fins are considered a delicacy. Those who supported the bylaw stated that the notion of killing sharks only for their fins is inhumane. Spence said that it is not in the city’s mandate to impose bans of such a nature.
→ Don’t honk at me
A bus driver is in trouble after a heated argument with a pedestrian who refused to move out of the way from the front of his bus. The Saskatoon, B.C. employee was caught on film hurling colourful insults. “I think he did it just to prove a point,” Josh Swejda, a student who filmed the incident told CBC News. “I don’t think he liked the fact that he was honked at, so that’s what started the whole thing.” The bus driver, who asked others to intervene during the incident, has been suspended after the video made an appearance on YouTube due to his behaviour. Three individuals tried to step in with one caught pushing the pedestrian down after the bus drove off. Saskatoon police are now investigating the incident.
→ A first for everything
In an oddly green move Saskatchewan is the first province to approve a new procedure of dealing with bodies that involves liquifying the remains. The process, called alkaline hydrolysis, uses a pressurized chamber to reduce the body to liquid and bone. It has been used for medical cadavers and animal remains for years but is now being accepted as an alternative to cremation in Canada, whereas it’s been common practice in certain states for some time. It is similar to cremation but more environmentally friendly since it doesn’t produce smoke.
→ Who let the cat out?
The first feline rabies case since 2001 was reported by the New Brunswick Public Health Department last week. According to CBC News, the unvaccinated pet bit its owner after returning to the house and died the following day. Rabies in felines is extremely rare but is often seen in bats, raccoons and skunks. Since it is the first case in a decade, there is no need for panic, according to the president of the New Brunswick Veterinary Medical Association, Dr. Mary-Ellen Themens. She did emphasize, however, that it is should serve as a reminder that the disease still exists and that precautionary measures are mandatory.
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World in Brief
by Matthew Guité
→ Rock ‘em, sock ‘em, eliminate ‘em
Researchers in England are planning to evaluate the possibility of technology rising up to wipe out the human race. Though the concept is often thought of as science fiction, researchers at the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk say that the subject must be analyzed with a mature attitude. “The seriousness of these risks is difficult to assess, but that in itself seems a cause for concern, given how much is at stake,” the researchers said in a statement on their website. The theory is that robots will outsmart individuals and the world will find itself at the mercy of them. Subjects of study will include nanotechnology and artificial life.
→ A new status
The United Nations General Assembly has voted overwhelmingly to approve an upgrade of Palestine’s status in order to grant it state recognition. The voting finished 138-9 in favour with 41 abstentions, with Canada and the United States both opposed. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said the vote was the “last chance to save the two-state solution” with Israel, while Israel’s envoy to the UN said he believes that the move was a step backwards. Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird explained before the vote why Canada would vote against the move, saying “We cannot support an initiative that we are firmly convinced will undermine the objective of reaching a comprehensive, lasting and just settlement for both sides.”
→ A game of chance
A town in Spain called Alameda has settled on an interesting way to combat their crippling unemployment: a job lottery. A handful of jobs as builders, street sweepers and cleaners are made available every few months to a pool of hundreds who put their names in for a chance to work for a short time. With 34 per cent unemployment in a town of just over 5,500, Mayor Juan Lorenzo Pinera has come up with the lottery as a way of sharing what little work his town hall is able to assign. The national unemployment rate in Spain is 25 per cent, rising to 52 per cent for those younger than 25.
→ Cut your losses and rob a bank
A 33-year-old inmate released for budgetary reasons was arrested less than an hour later for trying to rob a bank in Oregon. Christopher Franklin Weaver was released from prison Thursday morning at 11a.m. and police were called to the nearby bank robbery about an hour later. Weaver was in jail for parole violations relating to a sexual abuse conviction but was released along with approximately 30 inmates due to budget cuts. Earlier this year the jail was forced to close 96 beds also for budgetary reasons and since then dozens of inmates have been released on a weekly basis to make room for more dangerous individuals.