Sacramento, Calif., OKs NBA Kings arena deal

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – With the clock clicking down, Sacramento city officials took their last shot at keeping the NBA Kings in California’s capital by approving a public-private deal to build a new 18,500-seat arena and retail centre downtown.

The city council’s approval of the arena Tuesday was the last step in what has been a full court press by Mayor Kevin Johnson to keep Sacramento’s only major league sports team from bolting to Seattle, where a new ownership group and arena deal awaits. He now must convince NBA owners to block the Maloof family from initiating the move, a deal made public in January.

Since then, the mayor, himself a former NBA All-Star, has scrambled to assemble a group to buy the team, convince Commissioner David Stern to consider a counter offer, and get approval for the financial deal that would build a $448 million arena on the site of a shopping mall — a development many say will revitalize a problem area in its bustling city core.

Next week, Johnson will present the arena plan and purchase offer to an NBA committee. The following week, the NBA Board of Governors will vote on whether the team can be sold, and whether it will stay or move.

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“We want the folks of Seattle to get a team, we wish them well, but we want to keep what’s ours,” Johnson said after the 7-2 vote to approve the arena. “We’re going to New York to talk about the viability of this market and the love affair we’ve had with our team.”

The Sacramento investment group includes Silicon Valley software tycoon Vivek Ranadive, 24 Hour Fitness founder Mark Mastrov and billionaire Ron Burkle, co-owner of the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins. Johnson announced late Monday that Paul Jacobs, CEO of the international technology company Qualcomm, also agreed to become part of the Sacramento bid.

“We have four billionaires who have said that Sacramento is worthy. It’s been a long time since people have validated us in this way,” said city councilmember Steve Hansen, who voted in favour of the deal.

The NBA has said the aging Sleep Train Arena in the suburbs four miles north of downtown no longer is adequate.

“We’re in competition to keep the Sacramento Kings from being taken away from us,” said City Manager John Shirey as he began outlining the arena plan for council members. “We’ve known all along that we need to present the NBA a first-rate, quality place for them to play.”

The Seattle group, led by hedge-fund manager Chris Hansen and Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer, has had a deal to acquire a 65 per cent stake in the team for $341 million.

The Chamber of Commerce, labour groups and fans spoke in favour of the arena deal, saying that keeping the Kings saves 800 jobs and creates 6,500 more during the construction and downtown revitalization process.

The plan was opposed by several groups and speakers, some of whom asked the council to take more time to study whether the deal is good for the city. City officials reached a preliminary arena agreement Saturday with the investment group, but the late negotiations left little time for community members to study the proposal before the vote.

“Mr. Mayor, your attempts to pull off an upset win could adversely affect this community for decades,” said attorney and professed Kings fan Jeffrey Anderson, who asked the council to put the plan before voters or he would file a lawsuit to stop it.

Other speakers said the timing of the deal was ironic given that nearby Stockton is in bankruptcy court after over-extending itself with debt, including a minor-league hockey arena.

Development partners compared their vision of a downtown arena to other projects that have revitalized urban areas such as the Staples Center in Los Angeles and the new Barclays Center where the Nets began play in Brooklyn this season. Architect AECOM, tapped to build a new Kings arena, recently completed the Barclays venue.

“I have a lot of faith in this site. It’s nothing short of world class,” said AECOM’s Bill Crockett.

The arena will be built on the west end of city centre on the site of the Downtown Plaza, an aging mall that has lost more than half of its sales revenue in the last 10 years as stores have moved to the suburbs. It’s just blocks from Interstate 5, a short walk from Amtrak and sits at a gateway to downtown and the city of 475,000.

The city’s share is $258 million, the bulk of which would come from event parking collections and ticket surcharges. Nearly all of the city’s parking lots are used by government workers who vacate downtown after 5 p.m. The city would own the arena.

The investment group will contribute $189 million to the arena construction and would be responsible for all capital improvements.

The 18,500-seat downtown arena also could host hockey, concerts and family entertainment. The development would include 475,000 in office space, 300,000 in retail space, 250 hotel rooms and 600 housing units.

The arena term sheet includes a 35-year non-relocation agreement with two five-year extensions that would keep the Kings in the city until the last quarter of the century.

Best-kept secret in B.C. is good news for drinkers: Booze prices will remain unchanged when HST ends

Liquor prices in B.C. are not going up on April 1 despite a three-per-cent increase in sales tax.

Those facts may be the best-kept secret of 2013, says Bruce Cran, president of the Consumers Association of Canada.

“We know consumers have been very concerned about this,” Cran said Tuesday. “It’s strange that B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch has a piece of good news, yet it’s not well-publicized.”

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    End of HST on April 1 means some things will be cheaper, and average B.C. family will save $350 a year

According to the provincially owned Distribution Branch, liquor prices will “generally remain unchanged” when sales taxes rise from 12 to 15 per cent on April 1 as the Harmonized Sales Tax is eliminated.

The Branch says its liquor markups at the wholesale level, which were increased in 2010 to compensate for a three-per-cent drop in sales tax under the HST, are being reduced to their former levels.

Liquor taxing and prices will return to their pre-2010 regime on Monday when B.C. goes back to a combination of the Provincial Sales Tax and the Goods and Services Tax.

The branch published its news on Feb. 15 at on bcliquorstores南京夜网, but the information was not widely picked up.

“Liquor markups will be reduced,” the branch said. “To minimize the impact on current shelf prices, the Branch will revert to pre-HST markup rates that were in place on June 30, 2010.

“Total provincial revenue from the sale of liquor products will generally not change.”

Vancouver lawyer Mark Hicken, who operates a website called, said the bulletins on that site are mostly reviewed by those in the liquor business.

“It’s kind of bizarre. The message does not appear to have been broadcast,” Hicken said.

Cran said the Consumers Association inquired last week but wasn’t given the information.

“We didn’t pick up on it. The distribution branch didn’t seem to have anything in place to inform the public,” he said.

Taxpayer Allan Galajda, who belongs to a wine-tasting club, was under the impression until Tuesday that the branch would keep its price markups and pocket the increased taxes.

“Why didn’t they say something? This is government’s inability to communicate with the taxpayer,” he said.

Now that the word is finally out, he’s pleased.

“It’s a level playing field. What they did on one hand they’re reversing on the other. It’s a good thing,” he said.


Tories claim Liberals gave ETFO a special deal – Toronto

TORONTO – The governing Liberals must have given Ontario’s public elementary teachers a special deal to resume extracurricular activities, the Progressive Conservatives charged Wednesday.

Premier Kathleen Wynne is refusing to tell taxpayers what’s going on behind closed doors with the teachers’ unions, said Tory education critic Lisa MacLeod.

“She talks about clarity, yet she refuses to provide any details,” she said.

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“Is she prepared to water down standardized testing in the province at the behest of teachers’ unions? Was there a promissory note for future negotiations to talk about future increases to teachers’ salaries?”

But Wynne insists there’s no special deal and no new money for public high school and elementary school teachers.

The Liberals are working with the unions on a new process for collective bargaining and how it will be implemented for the next round of negotiations once the current contracts expire in two years, she said.

“As I’ve said, implementation details, no new money and what’s the collective bargaining process going to look like going forward,” Wynne said in explaining the content of the talks.

“So that is really what we have been talking about. And whether you buy it or not, that’s the reality.”

The aim is to have a “clear bargaining process that has a provincial component and a local component,” she said.

Over the last few years, new contracts with teachers have been reached through a so-called provincial roundtable, where representatives for the government, school boards and unions hammer out a framework agreement.

That template is then used in local negotiations to fine-tune a final agreement, as the school boards are technically the teachers’ employers.

But talks with the unions need to remain confidential for now to create trust between all the parties so they can come to a resolution, Wynne said.

No details will be released until an agreement is finalized, said Education Minister Liz Sandals, a former school board trustee.

“What we know is that you don’t negotiate with the media, with the cameras,” she told reporters. “And as persistent as you may be, we’re not changing that rule.”

Students have waited long enough for the Liberals to clean up the mess they created, said NDP Leader Andrea Horwath.

“They’ve thrown the whole school system into chaos,” she said.

“They’ve put kids and families and parents and education workers through the wringer, and now they’re trying to clean up the mess. So God bless, clean up the mess and let’s move on.”

The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario said late Tuesday night that it was lifting a ban on voluntary activities, citing progress in talks with the government.

ETFO president Sam Hammond said in a statement that the talks will continue and the union is confident the government “has demonstrated a commitment to dealing with concrete items of importance” to its members.

Public school teachers withdrew from extracurricular activities in the fall to protest a controversial law that freezes wages, cuts benefits and stops strikes. It was used in January to force new two-year contracts on them.

Former premier Dalton McGuinty maintained the move was necessary to fight Ontario’s $12-billion deficit, but teachers said it violated their constitutional rights.

Talks with the unions started anew after McGuinty stepped down and Wynne – a former education minister – replaced him as Liberal leader at the end of January.

ETFO’s decision to lift the ban comes a month after the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation told its members that they could go back to extracurricular activities.

But OSSTF president Ken Coran noted a majority of public high school teachers may not return to extracurricular activities.

©2013The Canadian Press

Another arrest in Montreal’s two-year-old Mafia killing – Montreal

MONTREAL – There has been another arrest in connection with the 2011 murder of a Mafia boss in Montreal.

Pietro Magistrale, a 61-year-old resident of Laval, Que., was picked up today and faces first-degree murder charges.

A team of RCMP and provincial police officers has also been searching his home.

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    Profile: Salvatore Montagna

    Few show for funeral of reputed mobster Salvatore Montagna

    Rizzuto lieutenant Desjardins charged with murder of Salvatore Montagna

    Mob slayings rise after Rizzuto’s return

    Reputed Mafia don Vito Rizzuto summoned to Quebec corruption inquiry: reports

A half-dozen people have been arrested in connection with the killing of Sal (The Ironworker) Montagna, a former head of New York’s notorious Bonanno crime family. The group already included Magistrale, who had faced lesser weapons charges in the case.

Montagna was gunned down as he fled a home and was found by a river.

Crime analysts now believe that killing was a turning point in the Mafia war that has erupted in Montreal over the past several years.

They say it signalled the disintegration of the faction working to unseat the long-dominant Rizzuto clan, with that group having since splintered into new rivalries.

The original arrests in the killing came in December 2011 and included Raynald Desjardins, who is believed to have been a key player in the movement to depose the Rizzutos.

Now a number of those believed to have been undermining the Rizzutos are dead or in prison.

And reputed crime boss Vito Rizzuto is a free man, after having served a lengthy U.S. prison stint.

©2013The Canadian Press

UPDATE: Edmonton man facing more than 160 fraud and theft charges – Edmonton

EDMONTON – The Edmonton Police Service has charged 27-year-old Nathan David Crone with 164 charges in connection with a number of offences including forgery and theft.

Officers say the charges were laid after a lengthy investigation.

Crone is reported to have used as many as 22 aliases, and was allegedly found with numerous forged documents including birth certificates, driver’s licenses, health care cards, marriage certificates, passports, credit cards, and gift certificates.

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    Bad connection: Edmonton police charge two men in $1M cellphone fraud

    RCMP charge two people in connection with identity theft & credit card forgery operation

“As a result of the large number of complainants, this was a complex and lengthy investigation,” says Det. Rob Chan, Criminal Investigation Section with Southeast Division. “It is crucial to report your stolen identification to police so we can have more information to work within our investigations.”

“Report every instance to police. Whether it’s to the RCMP, whether it’s to a local police service, it should be reported. Even if they think that some of these items are simply lost, report them. Report them as lost.”

Police executed a search warrant at a home in the area of 101 Avenue and 121 Street in Edmonton on Feb. 22, 2013. Inside, officers found documents from about 120 individuals and businesses that were allegedly targeted by the suspect.

“(Officers) even found items, identification pieces from Saskatchewan and Ontario and as far away as Newfoundland,” said Chan. “It’s something that police all across Canada is involved in and is really concerned about.”

Crone is facing 164 charges, including possession of a controlled substance, possession of stolen property under $5,000, possession of the instruments for counterfeiting, possession of the instruments for forgery, forgery, possession of a stolen credit card, intent to obtain property and obtaining and possessing identity information.

Police are asking anyone who thinks their identification may have been stolen to contact them at 780-423-4567 or #377 from a mobile phone, or anonymously through Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

Canada to accept 1,000 more refugees from Bhutan over next 2 years – National

OTTAWA – Canada will resettle an additional 1,000 refugees from Bhutan.

The newcomers are ethnic Nepalese who were expelled from the Himalayan kingdom in the late 1990s and have been living in refugee camps ever since.

The United Nations began resettlement efforts in 2007 and Canada is one of seven countries involved in the program.

The Immigration Department says to date, about 5,000 Bhutanese refugees have settled in Canada.

Who gets to come in the new wave of resettlement will be decided over the next two years.

“We recognize the importance of family reunification in this process, and resettling refugees who already have family in Canada will help them adjust much faster and more easily,” Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said in a statement.

Canada currently accepts about 10 per cent of the refugees targeted for resettlement by the United Nations and has committed to increasing the number of refugees resettled overall by 20 per cent by this year.

But figures from last year show the government is falling short of its target.

Statistics show that the number of refugees resettled in Canada in 2012 was down 26 per cent from 2011.

The department blames unstable global situations for the decline, noting that it was forced to close the visa office in Damascus, which was responsible for processing thousands of refugee applications from the Middle East and North Africa.

The Conservatives are also cutting back on the number of refugees the government resettles, transferring more of the responsibility onto private groups.

They’ve also dramatically scaled back health benefits provided to refugee claimants, though those accepted to Canada via the United Nations are not affected by those changes.

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©2013The Canadian Press

Credit union predicts housing sales will pick up in B.C. but at a snail pace – BC

The Central 1 Credit Union is predicting that the British Columbia housing market slump will pick up later this year but economists caution not to expect a swift recovery.

In its annual forecast released Wednesday, the credit union predicts home sales in the province will gather a bit of strength this fall and hold steady for the rest of the year, but notes a return to better days will be slow and weak.

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“The year-long correction in home sales is likely to bottom out in the first quarter of 2013 and we’ll see a slow recovery through the rest of the year. But the gains will be modest,” said Bryan Yu, an economist with the credit union.

Last year saw a 12-year low in sales, with only 64,400 sold (compared with 76,817 in 2011,) and Yu anticipates there will be slightly fewer homes sold this year.

He said the resale housing market is hampered by sluggish employment and population growth as well as tighter mortgage requirements that have pushed some first-time buyers out of the market.

Following last year’s four per cent decline, the credit union expects the province’s median annual price to slip five per cent in 2013 to about $363,000, a level last seen in 2009.

In Greater Vancouver, annual resale activity is forecast to decline about four per cent this year to 31,500 homes.

The median price will dip six per cent to $474,000 but is expected to rise by the end of 2013, according to the forecast.

The report also says house sales in the Okanagan, Kootenay and Vancouver Island are expected to rise but for now remain near recessionary levels because of weak demand and excess inventory.

Yu predicts stronger economic conditions should increase housing starts by 2014, after they declined late last year because of falling prices and excess supply.

However, the uptrend will be tempered as interest rates are expected to rise from record lows, he said.

Kachkar not criminally responsible for snow plow death of Toronto Police officer Sgt. Ryan Russell

TORONTO – A man who killed a Toronto police officer with a snowplow showed no emotion Wednesday when he was found not criminally responsible.

Jurors reached the verdict in the trial of Richard Kachkar, 46, in the third day of deliberations.

The verdict means the jury believed Kachkar couldn’t appreciate what he was doing when he hit and killed Sgt. Ryan Russell, 35, on Jan. 12, 2011 because he was mentally ill.

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People who are found not criminally responsible are sent to mental health facilities for an indeterminate period of time and can be released only when a review board finds they aren’t a significant threat to public safety.

But the judge in the case still allowed Russell’s family to deliver victim impact statements.

Speaking directly to Kachkar, Russell’s father Glenn said Kachkar had smashed his family into pieces.

“You have no idea how much grief and pain you have caused,” he said.

“When you ran my son down with that plow and left him bleeding to death in the snow, a large part of myself died.”

Tracey Russell, the officer’s sister, said she needed her brother to talk to.

“It has been two years and the pain is still very much a part of our life now…. Ryan has a little boy, Nolan, he is a lovely baby… (who) will never know his daddy.”

The judge recessed proceedings when Russell’s wife Christine held up a photo of herself, her husband and young son.

He said he needed to take time to ensure the procedure for victim impact statements was being followed.

The judge had told the jury there was “no doubt” Kachkar was driving the stolen snowplow, but what the jury had to consider was his mental state.

The trial heard from dozens of witnesses over six weeks, including three psychiatrists who testified that they believed Kachkar was psychotic at the time he killed Russell while on a rampage through the city.

Russell was killed when he tried to stop Kachkar. The dashboard camera from his cruiser shows the plow doing a U-turn and then driving toward the police vehicle.

Russell reversed as the plow drove toward the cruiser. The plow was briefly off camera and witnesses testified that in that moment Kachkar slowed the plow and opened the door as if to get out.

The officer then got out of his cruiser and Kachkar accelerated at him, witnesses testified. The plow clipped the driver’s side front corner of the cruiser and Russell fired three shots toward the plow as it continued at him, but to no avail, witnesses said.

The 5,050-kilogram plow hit Russell, knocking him over and spinning his body toward the centre of the plow, where the blade struck Russell in the head, fracturing his skull and lacerating his brain stem.

Russell’s death came at about the halfway point of Kachkar’s two-hour rampage with the stolen plow.

Kachkar had spent the previous night at a shelter and suddenly fled before 5 a.m. that day, running out into the snow in bare feet. He stole a pickup truck with a plow attached to the front from two landscapers who had stopped for coffee.

The man from St. Catharines, Ont., drove the plow around the city, crashing into a luxury car dealership, hitting vehicles and crossing into oncoming traffic. Witnesses heard him yelling at various points about the Taliban, Chinese technology and that “it’s all a Russian video game.”

He was finally stopped by emergency task force officers who Tasered him and shot him in order to arrest him.

As paramedics tended to his gunshot wounds he worried they were trying to poison him or put microchips in his body, court heard.

Dozens of witnesses testified at the trial over nearly two months. Three forensic psychiatrists who testified, including one who had assessed Kachkar at the request of the Crown, concluded that he was in a psychotic state when he killed Russell, but they were all unsure exactly how to categorize his mental illness.

Dr. Philip Klassen said Kachkar appears to have been suffering for several years from a “low-grade” mental illness with periodic spikes, such as in 2006 when he woke up in the middle of the night screaming that he was possessed by the devil and slapped his wife.

Kachkar was estranged from his family at the time he killed Russell.

Klassen said if he had to offer a diagnosis it would be either an unspecified psychotic disorder or possibly schizophrenia.

Dr. Lisa Ramshaw testified that Kachkar was unable to apply knowledge in a meaningful way at the time. Kachkar was interpreting his world in a false way, believing people were after him, she said.

©2013The Canadian Press

‘Downward dog’ not required for returns: Lululemon – National

NEW YORK – No “downward-facing dog” is required.

Lululemon on Wednesday says no demonstrations of yoga or any other positions are needed to return the pricey black yoga pants that the company pulled from shelves last week after finding that they were too sheer.

“We do not require guests to demonstrate the sheerness of their bottoms,” Sari Martin, a Lululemon spokeswoman, said in an emailed response to a query.

The Vancouver-based yoga gear maker’s statement comes a day after a New York Post report that was widely circulated by the media recounted one woman’s tale of being asked by sales staff to bend over to prove that the yoga pants she was trying to return were sheer.

VIDEO: Lululemon pant recall (March 19)

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  • Lululemon wants to be ‘transparent’ with customers

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“The sales associate then perused my butt in the dim lighting of the change room and deemed them ‘not sheer,’ ” the woman, Christina Phillips of Toronto, told The New York Post.

Martin would not comment on the specific instance recounted by the Post, but said Wednesday that this is not standard policy for Lululemon staffers. To the contrary, she said that people who bought the black “Luon” yoga pants since March 1, either online or in store, can return them for a full refund, “no questions asked.”

The hubbub comes a week after Lululemon said it was recalling its black “Luon” yoga pants, which account for about 17 per cent of all women’s pants in its stores, because their material was too sheer. The pants are made from a combination of nylon and Lycra fibers.

The company still hasn’t determined the cause of the problem. And officials have declined to say when the items would be back in its stores. But the company has added more stringent controls and is diversifying its suppliers to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

The flap is a blemish for a company that has been a superstar in the athletic world. Lululemon has grown quickly as women and men have picked up its $100 yoga pants and other pricey workout clothing. Its devoted fans helped Lululemon, founded in 1998, become a $1.4 billion business.

But the pants snafu isn’t the only quality issue the chain has had, though. The company also has had sheerness problems with swimsuits and light-colored pants.

RBC Capital Markets analyst Howard Tubin said that while the sheer pants are an “odd” situation, it’s just a growing pain for the rapidly expanding company.

“They tried to get in front of this by not letting the merchandise satay on store shelves and they’re working with vendors to try to figure out how this happened,” he said. “They’re probably handling it the best way they can.”

Shares fell 75 cents to $62.28.

©2013The Canadian Press

Dundurn megamall to open within two years – Saskatoon

SASKATOON – Construction of a massive wholesale mall in Dundurn will begin in late fall, and the mega-facility will be open for business 18 to 24 months later, according to the CEO of the company behind the project.

Many in the Saskatoon area have expressed skepticism that such an ambitious project – which would be among the largest malls in the world – could actually happen, but Brightenview Development CEO Joe Zhou says there is no reason to doubt his company.

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“We are committed to moving this project ahead,” Zhou said in an interview on Tuesday. “Take a little bit of time and watch, and see how it works out.”

“We are here for good,” Zhou added. “It’s based on a solid business plan.”

The company plans to start construction with the 300,000-sq.-ft. Dundurn International Exhibition Centre, which is expected to contain 350 shops, followed by another two buildings covering 300,000 and 400,000 sq.-ft.

The 350 showrooms will go up for sale “like condos,” Zhou said, to owners of small-to medium-sized factories in China and other Asian countries. Once they buy in, Brightenview will help them build their businesses with marketing, accounting, web and translation services, he said.

Brightenview also has plans for marketing its space to corporate buyers from across North America, Zhou said.

All shops in the first phase will sell products related to construction and home improvement, in part because so much construction is planned for the regional economy, he said, predicting local construction firms will flock to Dundurn for deals on bulk items like lighting and bathroom fixtures from Chinese factories.

“It will be the first direct-buy option,” Zhou said. “We will have all the up-to-date, trendy products.”

Zhou would not name the investors behind the project’s $130 million initial phase, but said they are all Canadian citizens, some of whom immigrated from China.

“Our owners are Canadians,” he said. “We’re not talking about foreign investors who said, ‘Go do this.’”

Zhou said at least two jobs for locals will be created for each of the 350 shops, in addition to the foreign entrepreneurs themselves, who will move to Canada to establish companies. Dundurn was selected because of its road and rail links, the province’s favourable tax regime, and the long-term economic prospects of the region, Zhou said.

Another major factor that pushed Brightenview to choose Dundurn is the Saskatchewan Immigrant Nominee Program (SINP), which makes it relatively fast and easy for foreign entrepreneurs to immigrate to the province, he said.

To qualify, applicants must have a business plan, a net worth of at least $300,000, and a “good faith” deposit of $75,000.

Zhao said hundreds of Chinese and Asian business people and their families will move to the Dundurn area in the coming years. As a gesture to the citizens of Dundurn, he said Brightenview will help pay for the construction of a $7.5 million community centre in the town, including a new hockey rink, a library and other facilities.

Zhou said he understands why people may have trouble believing the Dundurn mega-project will actually happen, given its ambition.


Classification agency’s late introduction blamed for Bluenose II delays

LUNENBURG, NS — Bluenose II’s reconstruction delays and multi-million dollar budget overages are largely to blame on the province’s decision to hire an inspector after the ship’s designs were already drawn up.

The inspector — the American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) — should have been introduced earlier in the process to avoid costly retroactive changes, sources say.

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The Nova Scotia Department of Communities, Culture and Heritage awarded at least three major contracts for companies to work on the Bluenose II.

Along with hiring project managers and a group of Lunenburg shipbuilders, the province also paid Lengkeek Vessel Engineering $440,000 to design construction plans for the new Bluenose II, signing the contract December 2009. 

Sources close to the construction process and officials from the department confirm that ABS was hired after the ship’s designs were considered complete.

Generally classification societies are hired early in the creation of a new ship to collaborate in the design process.

ABS is among about a dozen international classification societies  offering expertise and instruction on ship construction and maintenance. Many corporations and insurance companies require that ships are classed to ensure they are built and operated safely.

“It’s useful, it’s warranted and it’s a good idea to engage the classification society early on, indeed even at a design stage,” says Jeffrey J. Smith, chair of the Canadian Institute of Marine Engineering.

Smith says hiring a classification society after designs are complete can cause problems and delays.

Changes requested by ABS require a multi-stage approval process, including rubber-stamps from project managers and the province, causing construction delays.

Sources say seeking out items as simple as electronic wiring can cause problems. The designers called for standard, industry-grade wiring. However ABS requested that wiring be sourced from a specific manufacturer. The builders contacted that manufacturer and drew up an invoice, along with a request to the province to change the designs. When all the new wiring changes were approved by ABS and government, the builder returned to the manufacturer only to find they were out of stock.

Many of the changes, like wiring, will delay the process and increase the cost. Some, however, will alter the ship’s performance.

Rather than a wooden rudder, ABS requested a metal one, along with metal braces along the hull, resulting in the heaviest version of the schooner yet.

The heavier construction could greatly detract from the ship’s performance in sea trials after its expected completion this summer. However, officials say there’s no doubt she will eventually pass the tests.

Unlike the original Bluenose, renowned for being fast, nimble and elegant, sources say when this new heavier version finally does hit the water — more than four years into its two-year construction plan — its sea trials will reveal a schooner that’s a slow, sluggish shadow of its former self.

Record-breaking cyberattack hits anti-spam group

LONDON – A record-breaking cyberattack targeting an anti-spam watchdog group has sent ripples of disruption coursing across the Web, experts said Wednesday.

Spamhaus, a site responsible for keeping ads for counterfeit Viagra and bogus weight-loss pills out of the world’s inboxes, said it had been buffeted by the monster denial-of-service attack since mid-March, apparently from groups angry at being blacklisted by the Swiss-British group.

“It is a small miracle that we’re still online,” Spamhaus researcher Vincent Hanna said.

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Denial-of-service attacks overwhelm a server with traffic — like hundreds of letters being jammed through a mail slot at the same time. Security experts measure those attacks in bits of data per second. Recent cyberattacks — like the ones that caused persistent outages at U.S. banking sites late last year — have tended to peak at 100 billion bits per second.

But the furious assault on Spamhaus has shattered the charts, clocking in at 300 billion bits per second, according to San Francisco-based CloudFlare Inc., which Spamhaus has enlisted to help it weather the attack.

“It was likely quite a bit more, but at some point measurement systems can’t keep up,” CloudFlare chief executive Matthew Prince wrote in an email.

Patrick Gilmore of Akamai Technologies said that was no understatement.

“This attack is the largest that has been publicly disclosed — ever — in the history of the Internet,” he said.

It’s unclear who exactly was behind the attack, although a man who identified himself as Sven Olaf Kamphuis said he was in touch with the attackers and described them as mainly consisting of disgruntled Russian Internet service providers who had found themselves on Spamhaus’ blacklists. There was no immediate way to verify his claim.

He accused the watchdog of arbitrarily blocking content that it did not like. Spamhaus has widely used and constantly updated blacklists of sites that send spam.

“They abuse their position not to stop spam but to exercise censorship without a court order,” Kamphuis said.

Gilmore and Prince said the attack’s perpetrators had taken advantage of weaknesses in the Internet’s infrastructure to trick thousands of servers into routing a torrent of junk traffic to Spamhaus every second.

The trick, called “DNS reflection,” works a little bit like mailing requests for information to thousands of different organizations with a target’s return address written across the back of the envelopes. When all the organizations reply at once, they send a landslide of useless data to the unwitting addressee.

Both experts said the attack’s sheer size has sent ripples of disruptions across the Internet as servers moved mountains of junk traffic back and forth across the Web.

“At a minimum there would have been slowness,” Prince said, adding in a blog post that “if the Internet felt a bit more sluggish for you over the last few days in Europe, this may be part of the reason why.”

At the London Internet Exchange, where service providers exchange traffic across the globe, spokesman Malcolm Hutty said his organization had seen “a minor degree of congestion in a small portion of the network.”

But he said it was unlikely that any ordinary users had been affected by the attack.

Hanna said his site had so far managed to stay online, but warned that being knocked off the Internet could give spammers an opening to step up their mailings — which may mean more fake lottery announcements and pitches for penny stocks heading to people’s inboxes.

Hanna denied claims that his organization had behaved arbitrarily, noting that his group would lose its credibility if it started flagging benign content as spam.

“We have 1.7 billion people who watch over our shoulder,” he said. “If we start blocking emails that they want, they will obviously stop using us.”

Gilmore of Akamai was also dismissive of the claim that Spamhaus was biased.

“Spamhaus’ reputation is sterling,” he said.

©2013The Canadian Press

Trudeau: Tories, NDP pandering to ‘fringe’ – National

TORONTO – With the finish line in sight, Justin Trudeau took his Liberal leadership bid to the financial heartland Wednesday, accusing both Prime Minister Stephen Harper and NDP Leader Tom Mulcair of pandering to political extremism.

At the same time, Trudeau declared he would “not go negative” in any election campaign if he becomes party leader.

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“We have two parties that are ideologically based around the fringes,” Trudeau said. “Where the Liberal party needs to be focused on is the actual large mass of Canadians … who are not driven by a specific polarizing issue.”

Speaking to business leaders at a downtown hotel, Trudeau said part of him was impressed how Harper won a majority government by using a high level of control, dominance, aggression and strategic divisions.

“I know that it doesn’t represent what Canada is,” he said.

Mulcair, he said, had adopted Harper’s divisive approach by attacking the resource economy of the West to pander to progressives in the East, while “playing extremely dangerous games with soft nationalists and sovereigntists” in Quebec.

“I am reminded of why it is so important that the Liberal party exists: that we remain a pragmatic, values-based alternative — a government or a party that is not going to be wrapped up in a particular ideology of the left or the right,” he said.

Trudeau also assailed the government’s single-minded focus on economics at the expense of the environment, saying it should not be an either-or proposition. “The economy is too important to neglect the environment.”

Trudeau said he fully expected the Tories to come up with vicious attack ads after the Liberals choose their leader, because “that is what they do.”

“It’s fundamentally about suppressing the vote, about convincing people to stay home and to disengage,” he said.

The result, he added, is increased cynicism and low voter turnout.

Harper has also turned many voters off with his rigid efforts to control his MPs, Trudeau said.

“People are tired of electing good people to be their voices in Ottawa, and instead getting representatives of Mr. Harper back in their communities.”

Trudeau said he jumped into the race because the Liberals were “looking for quick fixes still” and he felt he had something the country needed.

What’s clear, he said, is that the middle class is “struggling” under stagnant incomes and rising costs, arguing that a strong middle class helps boost society’s “most vulnerable.”

He offered few specifics on what he would do to boost the economy — assuming he gets the opportunity.

“A leadership campaign is not a time where you put forward a platform you try to sell for the next two years,” Trudeau said during an earlier stop at Ryerson University.

“It’s about actually generating the platform that will allow us to develop the kind of strong policy platform that will answer all of your questions in 2015 in time for the election.”

Trudeau is widely seen as the front-runner heading into the Liberal leadership vote next month.

©2013The Canadian Press