Elspeth Lodge January 5, 2011 – 4:06 pm
Historically, political figures have softened the heart and opened the mind of tough Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin by giving him cute four-legged creatures, but Kyrgyztan’s PM Almazbek Atambayev has found another gift that will likely put him in Russia’s good graces for years to come. The Kyrgyztan parliament is in the process of naming a 4,500-metre mountain ‘Mount Vladimir Putin,’ reported RiaNovosti, BBC News and the Herald Sun; it will be in the Tian Shan mountain range not far from China’s border.
If the Kyrgyzstan parliament approves the mountain’s name PM Putin will be in well-known company — nearby will be ‘Mount Boris Yeltsin,’ named after Russia’s first president in 2002 — Also, close-by will be ‘Lenin Peak,’ which was renamed four years after the death of the first Soviet leader, reported RiaNovosti.
Officials believe the gift is meant symbolize the importance of the relationship between the two nations, it also shows gratitude for the extensive aid Russia pledged to give the Central Asian Country last December, when Kyrgyz premier Almazbek Atambayev visited Russia, reports All Headline News.
When the two PM’s met on Dec.27. PM Atambayev said “I have always said – when running for MP and for prime minister and when appointed as prime minister – that Russia is our main strategic partner. There is no alternative to it because we have a historical affinity and a shared past. I am convinced that only a united and common future is possible for our countries,” the Russian government reported in press release.
Putin himself has named a mountain, a 3,269 meter high mountain located in the westernmost area of North Ossetia, reported RiaNovosti on Dec.11. The PM named the Sugan Ridge mountain peak in honor of Russian Spies: the Peak of Russian Counterintelligence Agents. The name certainly isn’t as catchy or as ominous sounding as ‘Mount Putin.’
Other gifts Putin has received:
- Bulgarian PM Boyko Borisov gave Putin his Bulgarian Shepherd ‘Buffy’ in 2009.
- In 2008 the PM received a two-and-a-half-month-old female Siberian tiger for his 56th birthday. The cub weighed around 20 pounds and was curled up within a wicker basket, on top of a tiger print cushion. Mr. Putin will not reveal who gave him the tiger.
- Putin was presented with one of the smallest horses in the world during the opening ceremony of the International horse-racing complex in 2005.
- Former Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin gave Putin a Crocodile in 2002.
- Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev gave Putin a Persian gazelle in 2002.
Abdella II, the King of Jordan, gave Mr.Putin two Pure Arabian colts and a filly, Isis in 2002.
Russian Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu gave Koni, a Black lab, to Putin on New Years Eve in 2001.
Elspeth Lodge December 29, 2010 – 8:10 am
They may be members of the leisured classes, but the world’s aristocrats stayed plenty busy in 2010. From shacking up to hits in the “crown jewels,” broken legs, peeing snakes and snake-clad “glamour models” — oh, and apparently some sort of engagement — we present the year in royalty.
January 6: The first-ever joint portrait of Princes William and Harry is displayed at The National Portrait Gallery. Prince Harry complains that it makes him too “ginger” and that it gave his brother more hair than he deserved.
January 15: Kate Middleton watches William’s graduation ceremony (reportedly, he passed with “flying colours”) from a Royal Air Force advanced helicopter training course (skills which include: night handling, advanced and emergency handling, and formation flying).
Dylan Martinez/ Reuters
Britain’s Prince William’s girlfriend Kate Middleton (R) smiles during the Sovereign’s Parade at the Royal Military Academy in Sandhurst, southern England December 15, 2006. Prince William, eager to draw a line under a decade of conspiracy theories about the death of his mother Princess Diana, graduated as an army officer on Friday to launch his military career. REUTERS/Tim Ockenden/PA/WPA/Pool (BRITAIN)
William gets one step closer to his goal of becoming an RAF search and rescue pilot, and Kate’s attendance sparks speculation of an impending engagement.
January 17: Prince William arrives in Auckland for an official visit to New Zealand. (He flies business class in an attempt to be a “regular guy.”) While playing rugby with Auckland’s under-10 rugby squad, he’s hit in the groin with the ball; a youngster says proudly afterwards: “We got him in the crown jewels.”
Jan.25: Prince Harry reportedly moves in with long time girlfriend Chelsey Davy, with Ms. Davy giving him a key to her London flat for weekend visits.
CHRIS RATCLIFFE/AFP/Getty Images
(FILES) Photo shows Prince Harry and his girlfriend Chelsea Davy laughing before the Investec Challenge international rugby match South Africa vs. England in Twickenham, west London, on November 22, 2008. Prince Harry, third in line to the throne, has split with his girlfriend Chelsy Davy after five years, British media reported on January 24, 2009.AFP PHOTO / Chris Ratcliffe (Photo credit should read CHRIS RATCLIFFE/AFP/Getty Images)
February: Asked about the prospect of an invite to the Royal wedding, William says “Oh, you’ll have to wait a while yet.”
March 17: Prince William and Kate holiday with Kate’s family on the slopes of Courchevel, France. Rumors of an impending engagement grow stronger.
March 25: Prince Charles visits troops in Afghanistan. The prince, an honorary colonel of 10 regiments, reportedly laid a wreath at Camp Bastion in memory of 276 members of the British forces who have died; he spent the night with troops at a camp in Helmand province, after visiting Kabul.
April 8: Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, breaks her leg while hiking in Scotland.
April 9: It comes to light that Prince Carl Philip of Sweden began dating glamour model Sofia Hellqvist, known chiefly for her skill at posing alluringly while wearing only a snake.
April 15: It’s announced that Prince William is to be posted to Anglesey, North Wales as a search and rescue pilot.
April 25: Princess Beatrice becomes the first royal to complete the London marathon. And it was as part of a “human caterpillar.” According to the Telegraph, the 21-year-old princess joined her American boyfriend David Clark and 32 other people to run the length of the 26.2-mile course tied together with bungee cords.
April 30: “The Prince’s Foundation for Integrated Health,” a charity founded by Prince Charles, closes just days after a former official was arrested for money laundering.
May 7: Prince Harry graduates from an army pilots’ course at the Army Aviation Center in Andover, England. Chelsy Davy attends.
May 9:Princes Harry and William’s favorite polo pony, Drizzle, dies of a heart-attack at a charity polo match. The princes are said to be “very upset.”
May. 20: Prince Harry celebrates his qualification as helicopter pilot by going to Africa with Chelsea Davy and backpacking through Botswana and South Africa.
May 23: Princess Eugenie has a new boyfriend, soon after break-up with Otto Brockway, the nephew of Virgin tycoon Sir Richard Branson. (Apparently, completing a marathon tied together doesn’t cement relationships). Her new beau is barman Jack Brooksbank.
June: The official announcement that Prince Albert of Monaco is engaged to his long-time girlfriend Charlene Woodstock, a South African who swam in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.
June 15: Prince Harry threatens William with a python (as a joke) at Mokolodi Wildlife Foundation near Gaborone. The snake, clearly not impressed by royalty, then pees next to William’s feet.
June 17: The two princes visit orphans in Lesotho.
June 19: Princess Victoria of Sweden marries Prince Daniel, Duke of Vastergotland in a traditional ceremony at Stockholm Cathedral. In a previous, less heavily titled life, Daniel was the princess’ personal trainer.
June 24: The Queen visits Wimbledon and reveals she’s not a huge tennis fan when she asks nine-time champion Martina Navratilova if she played in Wimbledon often.
July: The 22nd official royal visit to Canada by the Queen. She gets that most Canadian of tributes: an exhibit at the Hockey Hall of Fame, with PM Stephen Harper telling her: “You are not only victorious, happy and glorious, you are also Canada’s most valuable player.”
July 6: The Queen addresses the UN for the first time since 1957. The U.S. ambassador had more pressing issues to deal with and skipped the event altogether.
July 10: Buckingham Palace announces that Peter Phillips and his Montreal-born wife, Autumn, are “delighted to confirm they are expecting a baby” — a child who will be 12th in the line of succession, and the Canadian believed to have the best chance of someday assuming the throne
Jul.25: The Queen opens her photographs up to the world on Flickr—more than 600 pictures of the royals, both archival and new.
August 6: The Danish Court announces Danish Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary are expecting twins, due in January 2011.
August 7: The Duchess of York faces a reported US$8-million in debt. One key adviser reportedly tells her that declaring bankruptcy may be the only way out.
August 25:Prince Nikolaos of Greece marries Tatiana Blatnik, an even planner for Diane Von Furstenberg.
October: Prince William is in Africa on holiday. At some point, he proposes to Kate Middleton in Kenya; the world is kept in the dark about the engagement until November.
October 23 :Kate and William are photographed attending the Gloucestershire wedding of a friend, again sparking rumors of engagement.
November 2: Kate Middleton’s parents visit Balmoral, the Royals’ country estate. Many believe this is the definite sign that the couple are engaged.
November 7: The Queen joins Facebook. Anti-monarchist comments appear on her wall, and are quickly quashed.
November 16: Clarence House officially announces the engagement of Prince William and Kate Middleton. The world goes insane, and Kate Middleton’s blue engagement dress is the subject of a £25 supermarket knock-off.
November 19: Prince Charles suggests in a television interview that the Duchess of Cornwall could become ‘Queen’ Camilla when he becomes king.
November 20: We have a venue: it’s announced that Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding is to be in April at Westminister Abbey.
November 21: Prince William’s former nanny says the royal engagement is “fan-flaming-tastic!”
November 23: David Cameron confirms the royal wedding will be a public holiday. Businesses warn that the long weekend will cost the economy £5-billion.
December 2: Snoop Dogg’s royal tribute is announced: a “perfect anthem for Prince William or any playa to get the club smokin.’” Snoop expresses his desire to perform at the royal stag party, but his invitation must still be in the Royal Mail.
December 10: As many as 20 protesters fighting education price hikes surrounds the car of Prince Charles and Camilla, smashing its windows and throwing white paint. Some yell “Off with their heads!” The couple still makes it to a planned charity event, but makes the return trip in a police van.
December 21: It’s announced that Zara Phillips is engaged to her rugby playing boyfriend, Mike Tindall. Ms. Phillips is the eldest granddaughter of the Queen, who is reportedly delighted by the news.
December 28: Alas, a wax Kate Middleton won’t appear at Madame Tussaud’s until after the royal wedding, Reuters reports. Once Ms. Middleton agrees to pose, the wax sculpture will take up to four months to complete. The museum is waiting to hear if the future royal will donate an authentic “Kate Middleton” dress for the statue. Queen Elizabeth, Prince Phillip, Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, and Princes William and Harry have already been modelled in wax.
With files from National Post staff
Jochen Luebke/AFP/Getty Images
Niza (L) and Nero with keeper Hanze Hamza.
Elspeth Lodge December 20, 2010 – 4:54 pm
Two rare white lion cubs (named Niza and Nero) born on Nov. 30 have graduated from intensive care in Germany after over two weeks of fighting for their lives — however, a third cub wasn’t so lucky.
A snow-white lion cub was found near death, lying on some hay beside its mother in Serengeti Park, after the park’s veterinary surgeon failed to realize “Brouks” a two- year-old lioness was pregnant.
“We thought she had only been playing with the lion. We never caught onto the fact that she had actually mated,” said Dr. Michael Böer, the parks surgeon, according to the Mail Online.
The cub died 48 hours later, but not all was lost.
“Brouks lay apathetically in the corner. I suspected that she might still have babies inside her,” Dr. Böer told The Mail.
The cat was sedated and was sent directly with a police escort to the Veterinary University in Hanover.
Professor Ingo Nolte, with a team of six men delivered two more white lion cubs via a seven hour operation.
Dr. Böer claims the cubs were just clinging to life when they arrived.
They were nursed back to health by Regina Hamza, who took on the role of “nanny” by feeding them up to ten times a day with a milk formula.
Now that the cubs are off the intensive care list, they hope to reintroduce the cubs to their mother soon. Since Brouks was ‘out of it’ when the cubs were born, she might not even realize she is a mother— so, it is unclear how the lioness will react when introduced to the little ones.
Jochen Luebke/AFP/Getty Images
Niza (L) and Nero.
Jochen Luebke/AFP/Getty Images
Nero bites in the nose of veterinarian Michael Böer.
Jochen Luebke/AFP/Getty Images
Niza (L) and Nero are bottle-fed by Regina Hamza.
Jochen Luebke/AFP/Getty Images
Niza (L) and Nero.
Elspeth Lodge December 17, 2010 – 6:49 pm
The PM gave a quick “Buffy” update on Thursday during a live and unscripted call-in show.
When asked about his new dog, PM Putin said Buffy is doing “Excellently,” but for one thing—”He draws me huge puddles around the entire house, and leaves piles,” he complained, “But he’s a very pretty boy, of course, and I love him,” he said, according to AP.
The caramel and white patched Bulgarian Shepherd Puppy was given to him last month by the PM of Bulgaria, and then re-named by a five year-old boy from Moscow in a national naming contest.
The name “Buffy,” had nothing to do with “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” which is aired in Russia. But, the PM claimed he just liked the way it sounded.
Elspeth Lodge December 16, 2010 – 12:42 pm
Tony Michael Connolly of Toronto was charged Wednesday with a series of 15 residential break-ins and six attempted break-ins in the Kingston Road and Warden Avenue and Kingston Road and Midland Avenue areas.
Undercover officers from the 41 Division Major Crime Unit were patrolling the area Wednesday when they allegedly caught Mr. Connolly in the act of breaking into a residence.
After what police say was an attempted escape, Mr. Connolly was caught and now faces 23 charges, including possession of burglar’s tools.
Toronto Police Constable Tony Vella said the police believe Mr. Connolly was acting alone. Const. Vella alleges that he scoped out residences before robbing them.
All of the alleged robberies were consistent, Const. Vella said. “Electronics, jewelry and money” is what the suspect was after— he was not looking for violence. All the houses in question were forensically examined.”
The suspect was to appear in court on Thursday.
Elspeth Lodge December 15, 2010 – 3:05 pm
The new editor of Russian Vogue: Viktora Davydova has made a bold decision that probably will land her on PM Putin’s naughty list this Christmas. Staring out from the cover of the January 2011 issue of Russian Vogue, in a $33,000 gold Balmain gown, hands on her hips, is former rhythmic Olympic gymnast and alleged former mistress of Russia’s PM Vladimir Putin: Alina Kabaeva, reported The Huffington Post.
And, even more apparent, some words are risquely positioned on the page — between her legs the text reads “Her Main Victory.”
The PM has worked for years to extinguish rumors of a romance with Ms.Kabayeva, which arose first when he asked for a private audience with her, after she returned with a bronze medal from the 2000 Sydney Olympic games — more rumors emerged in 2008, when the barely-known Moskovsky Korrespondent tabloid published a story on April 12th— they began a rumor that PM Putin had secretly divorced his wife and was planning to marry Kabayeva on June 15, the day Russia would celebrate the Holy Trinity.
The tabloid had claimed they had evidence of the affair from a source connected with the event planning firm Art-management in St. Petersburg. The source said the company was competing for the right to host the wedding, and allegedly said that the ceremony would be held in St. Petersburg’s Konstatinovsky Palace, where Mr. Putin hosted the Group of Eight summit in 2006, reported Radio Free Europe.
Radio Free Europe claimed that Grigory Nekhoroshev, the editor- in- chief of the Moskovsky Korrespondent defended the article’s content. There were also reports that Federal Security Service (FSB) officers raided the offices of Moskovsky Korrespondent and questioned the journalists who had “done research” for the article and then detained Mr. Nekhoroshev.
Mr.Nekhoroshev denied he was detained and said the FSB officers were actually, a group of friends, who had come to pick him up from work.
Representatives of both Mr. Putin and Ms. Kabayeva reported that everything the tabloid claimed was untrue.”There is not one word of truth in what you have said. I have always reacted negatively to those who, with their snotty noses and erotic fantasies, prowl into others’ lives,” Putin said, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
The Moskovsky Korrespondent was owned by billionaire oligarch Alexander Lebedev. The Daily Mail, The First Post and The Moscow Times claim that shortly after the incident, Mr. Lebedev closed down the newspaper to repair his relationship with Mr. Putin. After, of course, they retracted the story and said they had no facts to back-up their claims.
But tongues began quietly wagging again when in 2009 Ms. Kabayeva had a son and no father was in the picture or publicly revealed.
Ms. Kabayeva, now semi-retired from gymnastics, was also recently appointed to the Duma, the Russian parliament, where she represents the pro-Kremlin Party of United Russia. According to The Telegraph her appointment fell in tandem with a reported move by the party to include more young, beautiful women in the State Duma.
Whether there is any truth to rumors of an affair remains to be seen, but the new Vogue cover will start people talking again.
Russian PM Vladimir Putin revealed to Larry King that he is learning English by singing English songs with his teacher and CBCnews reveals he has recently started to take piano lessons — he showed off both of his new musical skills at a charity concert for children suffering from eye diseases on Friday evening in St. Petersburg.
The PM stood on stage in his black suit Friday evening and said “Like the majority of people, I can neither sing nor play, but I very much like doing it.”And, after playing the opening notes of Blueberry Hill like a child practicing the piano, the PM migrated to the microphone at center-stage and belted-out the words to the song with confidence. He was accompanied by a live band and female background singers.
A-list stars, some of whom paid $15,000 for a ticket, swayed and smiled in the audience — and even made peace signs at Putin during his performance. Celebs in the crowd included: Goldie Hawn, Mickey Rourke, Kevin Costner and Sharon Stone and others.
Post Primer: The royal engagement photos
Elspeth Lodge December 13, 2010 – 12:12 pm
The official engagement photos of Kate Middleton and Prince William were released to the world on Sunday. Below, the portraits demystified.
Were the photos airbrushed?
Mario Testino, the photographer of the two “official” engagement portraits, freely admitted to airbrushing the shots. However, sources say he only touched-up the pictures minimally and nothing was done to change the physical appearances of either the Prince or Ms. Middleton.
OK. So what, exactly, was done?
“There was a minimal amount of airbrushing done,” said one insider to the Telegraph.“The final portraits amount to a piece of art, rather like the official paintings that would have been done in previous generations, and so they were touched up a little to get them just right.”
The source told the Telegraph that nothing had been done to alter the couple’s features, such as thickening Prince William’s hair, and that the fixing up had more to do with background colour contrast.
Miss Middleton, who had never posed for an official studio portrait before, did her own hair and make-up; she also insisted on choosing her own clothing — two of the outfits were reportedly from the mid-level U.K. chains Reiss and Whistles.
ElleUk.com calls Miss Middleton’s style in both photos “luxurious, but accessible.”
In the less formal, more intimate photo Miss Middleton wears a cream coloured Whistles blouse that retailed for £95 when on sale. It was from the brand’s first collection—apparently the blouse is two years old.
How are companies cashing in?
Whistles plans to bring the blouse back so fans can buy it. Said a Whistles spokesperson:
“We are delighted that Katherine has chosen to wear Whistles in her engagement photographs. Whistles is known for its vintage inspired silk blouses which are currently best sellers in its stores. Due to a surge of customer interest we will be re-releasing the ‘Kate’ blouse as a limited edition in early 2011.”
In second, more formal picture Ms. Middleton is in a cream colored dress with a ruffle up the side— a ‘Nanette’ dress from Reiss’s current collection, which would have retailed for £159 when it was in stores last year and Links of London earrings.
So what message is Ms. Middleton sending?
According to ElleUk online, Reiss Brand Director Andy Rogers commented on Ms. Middleton’s wardrobe choice:
“I take it as a real endorsement of the British brand — she went for a premium British brand, rather than a British designer. I think that’s important; she could have gone for any designer in the world. I think she went for us because it meant she was able to wear something luxurious, something of a good quality, that’s appropriate for the current climate.”
Elspeth Lodge December 13, 2010 – 10:30 am
I’ve been following the Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s national puppy re-naming contest the way I would any important election: closely.
After a country-wide contest to re-name “Yorgo,” the Bulgarian Shepherd given to Mr. Putin by Bulgarian PM Boyko Borisov back in November the pup is now, simply, “Buffy.”
Thousands of names were thrown around, mostly evoking thoughts of Russia-Bulgaria relations or Russian patriotism. But the Russian PM went with Buffy, just, he told The Moscow News, because he likes the way it sounds. (And not, apparently, because he’s a big fan of Sarah Michelle Gellar.)
The name surfaced when a five year-old boy from Moscow, Dima Sokolov, wrote Mr. Putin an email suggesting the name— with the help of his parents.
Dima and his family were invited to PM Putin’s Novo-Ogarevo residence, near Moscow, on Thursday night, to meet the puppy, according to The Voice of Russia.
Since Russia recently won the right to host the 2018 World Football Cup, Putin gave Dima a football with his signature on it.
“In 2018, you will turn 13, so you will most likely play in Russia’s junior team,” said Putin according to The Voice of Russia.
- The PM said he’s growing daily
- Originally PM Putin said he wasn’t sure how his black lab Connie would interact with Buffy, but Connie was very “friendly” while Buffy likes to pull Connie by the ears, he said.
- The Voice of Russia reported that the PM says Buffy is a “pushy guy.” He like to open the door by running and getting on his hind legs to then push the door open.
Jim Gehrz / Minneapolis Star Tribune / MCT
Elspeth Lodge December 10, 2010 – 10:30 am
Daniel Clarke, a 22 year-old father of four, has been sentenced to two and a-half years in prison after shooting a young boy in a tree.
Clarke was in Norfolk, England hunting with an air rifle for pigeons, when he came across two young boys perched on a branch, according to the Telegraph.
A boy yelled down at Mr.Clarke that “he wasn’t a pigeon,” according to QMI. Clarke then asked him “if he was sure,” before backing away, saying: “Wait there, I’ll see if I can hit you from here,” reported the Telegraph.
Clarke told the boys that it would not hurt and that he had already tested the rifle on his dog.
Clarke then fired his gun and hit one of the boys in the head, the pellet barely missing one boy’s eye and leaving him with a puncture wound.
The injured boy climbed down from the tree and ran home, while Clarke continued to fire at him— one pellet whizzing past his head according to the Telegraph.
When the other boy climbed down from the tree, Clarke began firing at him too.
In Norwich Crown Court Judge Peter Jacobs told Clarke: “You had been gratuitously shooting pigeons before. Then you took careful aim and shot at the younger boy, who could have been blinded.This was a premeditated attack involving two children with an air weapon in a public place and you continued to fire after the injury was caused,” said the Telegraph.
Andrew Shaw, the defence, told the court: “My client’s life has been blighted by drugs and alcohol. He has four children aged from seven to six months and fathered his first child aged 15.”
Elspeth Lodge, National Post · Friday, Dec. 10, 2010
Toronto Police have identified 14 officers believed to have been involved or nearby during the controversial arrest of Adam Nobody during the G20 Summit in June. The names of the 14 officers have not been released to the public, but have been forwarded to the Special Investigations Unit, said police spokesman Mark Pugash. The SIU is looking into whether criminal charges should be laid in the case, which has garnered significant public attention. Video of the arrest of Mr. Nobody showed him being apprehended by riot police during a demonstration at Queen’s Park. The SIU deemed “excessive force” was used, but could not identify the officers involved. Stills from a video shot by an unnamed University of Toronto student, and published in the Toronto Star, show the face of an officer who appears to strike Mr. Nobody repeatedly with a baton.
Elspeth Lodge December 10, 2010 – 12:43 pm
Police are seeking public assistance to identify the suspect, described as an unshaven, white male of medium build and height. During the alleged attack he wore a black, hooded sweater and dark pants.
Ken Meaney, Postmedia News; With Files From Elspeth Lodge, National Post · Thursday, Dec. 9, 2010
An investigation that laid a total of 218 charges of child exploitation against 57 people, including 25 Canadians, is being called “the most successful project of its size that has occurred in the world,” according to an expert in online sex-crime detection.
“This is not the norm,” said Paul Gillespie, formerly of Toronto Police and now CEO of the Kids’ Internet Safety Alliance (KINSA). “This is huge. It is something we should be very proud of,” as it speaks to the level of expertise of Canadian investigators, which is “second to none.”
Charges were laid worldwide and involve children as young as four, revealed Detective Paul Krawczyk of the Toronto Police sex crimes unit, which led the investigation.
“That’s important to note — it’s boys and girls, of all ages. In this case, we believe the youngest to be four,” he said.
Det. Krawczyk said the number of images is in “the hundreds of thousands, if not millions.”
Among those charged are: Randy Miller, 40, a Napanee, Ont., children’s performer who went by Honker the Clown; Richard Dyde, 47, a York University researcher who once appeared on the Rick Mercer show; Michael Pellow, 68, a real estate agent from Toronto; Daniel Clayton, 29, of Calgary, a former British special forces soldier and securities expert and Toby Stimpson, 24, of Toronto.
In November 2009 — in partnership with U.S. authorities, 13 Canadian police services and international police services — officers from the child exploitation section of the Toronto Police Service sex crimes unit launched an international investigation into the online trading of child sexual abuse images and videos.
Dubbed Project Sanctuary, police infiltrated the ring after the arrest of an Anglican priest, Robin Barrett, 51, of Conception Bay South, N.L. He has since been convicted of possession of child pornography and distribution of child pornography.
“It was information gathered during the arrest and after that arrest that allowed us to infiltrate this network,” Det. Krawczyk said.
Over the next year, undercover officers launched an investigation into the 57 men who were allegedly trading images and videos and, in some cases, creating images by allegedly abusing children, police said.
The arrests were made as far back as November 2009 and as recently as this month.
According to police, in the United States, 26 men face 56 charges; in Canada, 25 men face 131 charges; and in Europe, six men face 31 charges.
Among those charged were 10 from Ontario, three from British Columbia, two Albertans, two from Saskatchewan and one from Newfoundland and Labrador. Details of the eight others who were charged were not revealed in order to protect the identities of the victims, police said.
In total, 25 children have been rescued: including eight from B.C. and four from the Ottawa area, along with 10 in the United States and three in Europe.
“I can tell you that some of the [images of ] victims we saw early in this investigation we continued to see in the latter stages of the investigation,” Det. Krawczyk said.
And because the images are still available on the Internet, the children continue to be exploited every day, he said.
“You can’t begin to describe what these children go through,” he said.
Peter J. Thompson / National Post
Pedestrians walk past the Main Street Public Library Branch on Toronto’s 137 Main Street, Friday December 3, 2010
Elspeth Lodge December 8, 2010 – 7:06 am
Four days after a deadly crossbow attack that left one man dead and his son accused of murder, the Main Street Library that was the scene of the bloodshed reopened its doors to the public.
A customer said she found re-entering the building “disconcerting” and found herself wondering “if ghosts exist.”
The scene inside early Tuesday afternoon was one of calm concentration as librarians went about their usual tasks.
About a dozen adult patrons browsed books and surfed the Internet.
Anne Marie Akins, Community Relations Manager for the Toronto Public Library system, said staff are still “shaken” by the incident, but to varying degrees.
“This neighbourhood loves this branch. It is a safe environment.”
Elspeth Lodge December 8, 2010 – 3:38 pm
“No you can’t have an invite!”
Prince Andrew was seen recently at the New York house party where he was badgered by A-list celebrities – including actor Woody Allen and CBS News anchor Katie Couric – for invitations to the the upcoming wedding of his nephew Prince William and Kate Middleton.
“Most of the chat started off about trade but by dessert, everybody could not hold back and asked him about the wedding. Everyone at the table, including Woody Allen, jokingly asked him for an invite to the wedding, but he just smiled,” a source told the Mail Online.
Ms. Couric pushed the topic and said she would be broadcasting live from outside Westminster Abbey, she half-joked with the prince that she should mail him a Blackberry, so he can report to her what’s happening inside.
Prince Andrew didn’t extend any invitations to the eager celebs at the high-powered party, hosted by his long-time friend, hedge-fund tycoon Jeffrey Epstein.
A source said to the Mirror:
“Prince Andrew was amused his dinner companions were so interested in every detail. What would Kate wear? What would the Queen wear? Would his ex-wife Sarah Ferguson be invited?
“But he politely batted it away and said, ‘I do not know, I have been away on business’.”
Elspeth Lodge December 6, 2010 – 4:41 pm
A nude and intoxicated nineteen year-old Sydney native led police on a goose chase through Munich’s main train station on Wednesday, ending in a fine of 100 euros ($132), the Calgary Herald reports.
The teen wore only a pair of shoes and carried his underwear in one hand as he ran from police in a freezing temperature — he eventually slipped on a wet floor in the station and fell. He wasn’t hurt, but the fall gave authorities time to catch up with him and take him into custody.
He told the police he had a bet with friends that he could travel through Europe naked— this was going to be his 11th city.
He quickly changed into his underwear when he was caught the Bavarian Police said, according to cnews. The teen said to the police “I just like to be naked.”
Elspeth Lodge December 3, 2010 – 7:56 pm
A Toronto student succeeded in attracting hundreds of supporters yesterday to a rally accusing administrators at Northern Secondary School of violating his rights to free speech.
But he also attracted a number of students from the school who weren’t so supportive, many gathering nearby and chanting: “Get a real cause!”
Emil Cohen’s backers included a local politician, parents and random citizens who heard about the “Appeal for Emil: Rally to End Censorship by Northern Administration” through the media.
The Grade 12 student was suspended for two days and lost his physical education privileges after a speech at a school athletic assembly criticized the school for its poor treatment of the soccer team. His speech was cut short and he was escorted off the stage.
“Sometimes you have to speak up. I don’t think it was disrespectful at all,” said Cara Worthington, whose husband was coach of the Northern Secondary school soccer team for 19 years.
That opinion was not shared by students who stood nearby in support of other sports teams. “Who is ‘we’?” one of the students yelled. “The school’s over here not over there!”
They managed to drown out Mr. Cohen when he attempted to deliver the complete version of his athletic assembly speech.
Among the allegations made by Mr. Cohen is that the school favoured the football team when it came to scheduling use of the field and the soccer team was supplied with inadequate equipment, uniforms and coaching.
While the two groups of protesters traded barbs, school superintendent Ian Allison stood off to the side, observing the scene and siding with no one.
“We’re here to support the students,” he said. “In terms of this rally, this is an opportunity for Emil and others to express themselves.”
The athletic assembly was an opportunity for something altogether different.
“The issue here is not the speech itself,” he said. “The issue is there was a process, and he didn’t follow through.”
Mr. Allison said the student did not work with staff and the speech was not approved. The assembly was intended to celebrate the achievements of student athletes in the school.
The rally organizers want the school to remove the suspension from his permanent record, return phys ed privileges, formally apologize, and ensure that students have the right to free speech.
Rosario Marchese, MPP and education critic for the NDP, criticized the school for its actions.
“It is absolutely wrong,” he told the crowd. “The teachers involved made a mistake and they should admit it. They should apologize to him and learn from this mistake.”
There was no indication from Mr. Allison that the administration would change its mind about Mr. Cohen’s suspension.
Andrew Barr, National Post
Elspeth Lodge, National Post · Friday, Dec. 3, 2010
Police are searching for two drivers after the death of a 31-year-old Brampton woman, who was struck twice in succession by vehicles that fled the scene.
Erica Carmichael was at the intersection of Torbram Road and Walker Drive when she was struck by a transport truck on Wednesday at 5:37 p.m.
After the truck hit Ms. Carmichael, it continued east on Walker Drive. A cargo van travelling behind the transport truck then collided with Ms. Carmichael and also departed eastbound from the scene.
She was declared dead at the scene.
Police report the victim was going from the “southeast corner of the intersection to the northeast corner” at the time of the collisions.
Constable George Tudos of Peel Regional Police said investigators are reviewing surveillance tapes from nearby businesses to discover what happened.
A witness is reported to have stopped to help the victim and then pursued the truck in his car, but did not return to the scene. Police are trying to track down the witness and any others who can help identify the vehicles involved. The transport truck was described by police as “bright white, with a sleeper type cab and a 53-foot box trailer.”
The only information they have about the second truck is that it is white.
Elspeth Lodge December 1, 2010 – 3:19 pm
A 44-year-old California RV salesman was arrested on Saturday morning for releasing one anchor at the stern of a cruise ship.
Rick Ehlert was on a Caribbean cruise with his girlfriend when he became intoxicated. Aol Travel reported that there were 1,950 lives put at risk when Mr. Ehlert drunkenly ambled into a restricted section at the stern of the boat, put on work gloves and released a cable attached to a hook holding the ships anchor — he lifted a bar and turned a handle, causing the anchor to release.
Surveillance footage had revealed Mr. Ehlert as the culprit. When confronted by authorities he freely admitted to releasing the anchor and was taken into custody.
When Mr. Ehlert arrived in Tampa, Florida (the ships destination) he was escorted to the Hillsborough County Jail before being turned over to federal authorities.
He could face up to 20-years in prison and up to $500,000 in fines.
The FBI has charged Mr. Ehlert with attempting to “damage, destroy, disable, or wreck a vessel.” He has also been charged with “attempting to endanger the safe navigation of the ship,” says AOL Travel.
Federal agents said that “free release of a cruise ship anchor” could have disabled the ship’s propeller or rudder, in effect jeopardizing the ship’s ability to maneuver, or the vessel could have been punctured .
The Holland America cruise line has released a statement to the National Post (and other media outlets) confirming the incident and thanking he authorities that helped deal with the situation:
“As this matter involves an ongoing criminal proceeding, Holland America Line will not provide any information beyond what has been included in the Criminal Complaint signed by FBI Special Agent John Manning. We can confirm that, to the best of our knowledge, the information in the Complaint accurately reflects what happened. As also noted in the Complaint, the Ryndam was unharmed by this incident. Finally, we want to extend our sincere appreciation to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Tampa, Florida, the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Customs and Border Protection for their immediate response to this incident and the very professional manner in which the investigation has been conducted.”
Dario Ayala/Postmedia News
Could rapper Snoop Dogg be a performer at Prince William’s upcoming bachelor party.
Elspeth Lodge December 1, 2010 – 3:34 pm
American rapper Snoop Dogg has created a PR field day by announcing his new song was written especially for Prince William’s bachelor party. But has the rapper actually been invited to the event?
There is speculation that Prince William has asked Snoop Dog to perform, but ABC reports it was Prince Harry who is trying to get the well known American rapper (once banned from Britain) to perform at the event.
Eonline.com and Aceshowbiz.com both reported that Snoop admits he has yet to be approached with an invitation to perform at the Prince’s bachelor party. According to these two sources the rumors of an impending invitation led him to the studio to write the new bachelor party anthem, for William.
A recent press release from Allhiphop.com claims Snoop will be definitely be performing at the party.
Entertainment Weekly said recently that “though it’s been rumored, we’ve got no clue if Prince William of Wales has invited hip-hop royalty [Snoop Dogg].”
Snoop said in the Allhiphop.com press release “When I heard the royal family wanted to have me perform in celebration of Prince William’s marriage, I knew I had to give them a little something, ’Wet’ is the perfect anthem for Prince William or any playa to get the club smokin’,” he said.
While some sources claim the song was especially tailored for William, MTV says the song was already “slated to be featured on Snoop’s new album” called Doggumentary, which will appear in March 2011.
The lyrics of the song have nothing to do with William or the Royal family — in-fact, they might be a little too racy for a Royal event —”Can you be my doctor?/ Can you fix me up?/ Can you wipe me down?/ So I can lick you up?” The rest of the song can be found on Snoop Dog’s website .
AFP Photo / Ben Stansall
Just think, you could see this in glorious 3D: Westminster Abbey, the wedding venue
Elspeth Lodge November 30, 2010 – 9:00 am
British broadcasters including Sky, BBC and Virgin are rumored to be seriously considering broadcasting next year’s royal wedding in 3D.
Jana Bennett, director of BBC Vision, confirms that meetings have taken place with other broadcasters and that there has been interest in airing the event in 3D,” to CNN.
But don’t rush out and buy that 3D TV just yet. Ms. Bennett tells CNN: “Our responsibility is to bring things everybody can see on air and 3D has a very limited footprint.”
According to The Daily Beast, Sky already has had success broadcasting such events as the Ryder Cup in three dimensions. But lack of 3D equipment is a definite barrier — a BBC executive told the Beast “the solution could be to pipe the 3-D broadcasts into public places, like pubs and movie theaters.”
Elspeth Lodge November 30, 2010 – 1:42 pm
Police have launched a fraud investigation after an ATM skimming device was discovered by a customer at the Toronto Dominion Bank on Saturday, November 13 near Bathurst and St. Clair Avenue West.
Police don’t believe any PINs were compromised, because the perpetrator never returned for the device, said Constable James Turnbull, a fraud investigator with 13 Division.”It was stopped right away, these happen commonly throughout the city.”
Often, says Constable Turnbull, the installers are part of organized crime factions in the city. A security camera image of a male suspect has been released and police hope the public can help identify him.
- Reuters) – President Dmitry Medvedev called on Tuesday for increasing social support to help resolve what he called Russia’s “demographic crisis.”
Elspeth Lodge November 30, 2010 – 5:01 pm
On Tuesday, President Dmitry Medvedev said in his annual address to the nation that Russia’s stability depends on a population increase and the well-being of Russia’s youth demographic. He charted a road map to recovery, which involved encouraging Russians to build larger families and to strengthen family values.
President Medvedev even added incentives: Russian families with three or more children could benefit from an extra 3,000 rubles ($100) a month from the government and free land to build a home.
He spoke of ways to deal with Russia’s approximately 130,000 orphans, reported Business Insider.
“Guardianship must be directly focused on child placement in families and helping foster families,” Medvedev said. “There should be no un-adopted children in our country,” said Medvedev, reported RioNovosti.
In further attempt to protect Russia’s youth, he says all convicted child offenders must be banned from the Russian education sector and anyone caught abusing a child will face the harshest of consequences.
The countries economic future could be at stake, BBC Cites in a Jan., 2010 prediction. Low population predictions were a key factor in the analysis, which showed Russia’s economy progressing more slowly than China’s, Brazil’s and India’s over the next 20 years.
Russia suffers from the 178th lowest birthrate in the world.
Elspeth Lodge November 25, 2010 – 4:25 pm
Will Leonardo DiCaprio make Saint Petersburg, Russia a regular travel destination? And has Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin adopted the American actor as his new best friend?
Mr. Putin welcomed Mr. DiCaprio to Russia for the first time this week. The occasion? A five day “Save the Tiger Summit.”
The two animal lovers came together for a common cause— and after chatting they soon found they had much more in common than just a passion for tiger conservation.
Mr. Putin believes that he and Mr. DiCaprio share some very admirable qualities — the first: they are both “real men.”
Mr. DiCaprio arrived at the summit late, due to two separate instances of plane trouble.
Mr. Putin was in the middle of a speech when Mr. DiCaprio finally arrived at the summit, he stopped his prepared speech immediately, and said “I would like to thank you for coming despite all the obstacles,” reported BBC News; “A person with less stable nerves could have decided against coming, could have read it as a sign — that it was not worth going.”
Mr. Putin had taken Mr. DiCaprio’s arrival as proof of his strength of character — he had “literally torn his way through to Saint Petersburg,” said Mr. Putin to the audience at the summit, reported Yahoo! News.
Mr. DiCaprio is a “muzhik!” declared Mr. Putin to the crowd — or “a real man!” the BBC reported, for his persistence.
Shouts of “Bravo!” rang out from the audience in response to all of Mr. Putin’s praises of Mr. DiCaprio.
Mr. Putin’s compliments are high praise for Mr. DiCaprio, as they come from a former KGB-er who has spent a lifetime concocting his image as a “real man” and “tough guy.” He practices judo, once shot a Siberian tiger with a tranquilizer gun, helped fly a fighter jet, burns rubber on the race track and uses very strong language during all of his speeches.
Mr. Putin already seemed smitten with Mr. DiCaprio, but he fell head-over-heels when Mr. Dicaprio referred to himself as “half-Russian.” Two of his late grandparents hailed from the country and he had always wanted to bring his grandmother to Saint Petersburg, reported BBC.
Mr. Putin was thrilled by his long lost countryman and said “I’m sure when you get to know Saint Petersburg you will be proud of your Russian roots.”
Then there are photos showing the two new friends, Mr. Putin and Mr. DiCaprio, two “real men” talking intimately and telling stories about tigers over tea.
Mr. DiCaprio spoke of his involvement tiger protection projects–and the actor is giving over $1-million to the effort. He also told Mr. Putin of his trips to India, Indonesia and Napal.
A French grandmother survived for 20 days in her bathroom due to easy access to water.
Elspeth Lodge November 24, 2010 – 11:00 am
French firemen busted down the front door of a 69 year-old grandmother’s second-floor flat on Friday, after neighbours noticed something at the pensioners door had gone unclaimed for ten days.
The woman had become stuck in her windowless bathroom in the town of Epinay-sous-Senart, a suburb of Paris, for 20 days, after the doorknob broke off in her hand, reported CNN.
When the rescuers entered her apartment they heard noises coming from the bathroom — so they broke down that door too.
Inside the bathroom they found a woman lying on the ground, said BBC, in a “very weakened” state. She had survived for three weeks by drinking warm tap water.
She kept up her morale by brushing her teeth and taking showers, reported Coventry Telegraph.net.
The pensioner banged on the wall with one of her shoes by day and on the bathroom pipes by night — but neighbours confused the sounds with DIY construction work, which they quickly struck up a petition to halt.
“You could hear banging sounds, like a hammer, even at night, but we thought they were doing work at night. We said: ‘They are going too far! They are preventing us from sleeping!’ If we had known…,” said a neighbour to local media.
When Putin first received his puppy, he held his new fluffy family member in his arms and looked down at it lovingly–he hugged it close to his chest and kissed it on its small, wet-little nose, reported Risnovosti.
Public displays of affection for the puppy and a recent announcement that he is letting the public help name the new puppy has some wondering, is Putin using the pup to gain popularity in advance of a 2012 presidential campaign?
Novinite.com, the Bulgarian news agency believes this is a possibility. While some Russians are heavily criticizing Putin — saying it’s all a PR stunt — many Russians have responded with an overwhelming amount of patriotic enthusiasm. The public has jumped at the chance to help “re-name” Yorgo — the Bulgarian Karakachan puppy the prime minister recently acquired as a gift from Bulgarian Premier Boyko Borisov.
According to novinite.com the leading name (right now) in the polls is “Balkan.”
The Russian government has kept the public updated on popular suggestions with updates on their website. They cite Russian names like Ros (Russia is called ‘Rossiya’ in Russian), Rus or Rossi. They say the author of the last suggestion explained that it was meant to suggest both the word ‘Rossiya’ and the name Carlo Rossi, the famous Italian architect whose works adorn St. Petersburg and its suburbs. Another suggestion, they say, was Nabur, an acronym of the phrase ‘nadezhda na budushchee Rossii’ (which means ‘hope for Russia’s future’).
Other popular name suggestions were related to popular people and things associated with Bulgaria, the puppy’s homeland. Some popular suggestion include Bratko, Shipka, Theodore (a Bulgarian tsar) and Perets (‘perets’ is the Russian word for pepper, and bell pepper is widely known in Russia as ‘bolgarsky perets’ – ‘Bulgarian pepper’).
Names also popped up having to do with Russian-Bulgarian relations. On this vein the Federation cites Borus (a contraction of ‘Bolgaria’, the Russian spelling of Bulgaria, and Russia) and Brin (Bulgarian-Russian initiatives).
Even some foreign language names were mixed in the pot: Svyat (‘world’ in Bulgarian), Mahbub (‘beloved’ in Arabic), Kraft (‘force’ in German), Caro (‘dear’ in Italian) and Kuri, an edible Japanese chestnut.
Besides the new pup, Putin is also the proud owner of a young Siberian tigress, a cat, two poodles, a she-goat and her offspring, a horse, a Persian gazelle, a crystal crocodile and a Labrador retriever, reports Rianovosti.
Elspeth Lodge November 23, 2010 – 2:13 pm
Momo or “Peach” is a cute, fuzzy, feminine name, but in January this pint-sized Chihuahua will join the Japanese Police Department as a valuable asset to its disaster rescue squad, becoming its first three-kilogramme (seven-pound) police dog.
On Friday, Momo proved that bigger isn’t always better when she won a one-year contract after sniffing out a human target after smelling its cap. She did this in a disaster simulation environment, in under five minutes. Seventy dogs tried out for the force, among them much larger breeds like Golden Retrievers, German Shepards and Beagles — but only 32 made the cut.
Momo’s small, high-pitched bark cannot terrify the enemy– and her bite is probably as feeble as her bark– but she has an enormous advantage in certain disaster situations– being able to fit her small frame into spaces other dogs can’t. This makes her a valuable asset after earthquakes and other natural disaster situations where people are often trapped under rubble.
“We would like it to work hard by taking advantage of its small size,” said a spokeswoman to Sankei Shimbun Daily, reports Yahoo News.
Momo’s owner is Keiko Matsuyoshi, an office worker in Sakurai, according to Japan Today. After Momo made the squad, Matsuyoshi rewarded her by cooking her favorite dish of chicken breasts stewed in tomatoes.
Mother found guilty of drowning children in tub
National Post Staff November 15, 2010 – 10:26 am
By Kenyon Wallace and Elspeth Lodge
Jurors wept Monday as they convicted a Barrie, Ont., mother of two counts of first-degree murder for drowning her two little girls in the family bathtub four years ago.
Elaine Campione, 35, wept, too, as she learned how she will likely spend the next 25 years of her life: behind bars.
Looking pale, thin and exhausted, Campione hunched forward as she cried, her long dark hair falling over her shoulders onto her baby-blue collared shirt.
“The circumstances of this case are undeniably and inordinately tragic,” Judge Alfred Stong told the crowded courtroom. “One can only hope that they do not reflect, even at their most extreme, a direction of our society.”
A few women on the jury wiped tears from their eyes as Justice Stong read the verdict after nearly seven days of deliberations, while Ms. Campione’s parents, sitting in the front row, were visibly shaken at the news. They have been by their daughter’s side the whole trial, forming a close relationship with her defenders, waiting patiently to hear what fate awaited their child.
Defence lawyer Mary Cremer described her client, who had been treated for depression, as a person “ravaged by mental illness.”
“This was an illness that she never asked to get,” she told reporters after the verdict. “It was an illness that unfortunately overtook her to the point where she just became sicker and sicker and sicker.”
In the year before she killed 3-year-old Serena and 19-month-old Sophia, Campione had been hospitalized three times for various psychiatric breakdowns. She tried to kill herself. She believed she was being followed by men who wanted to kill her. She thought aliens were visiting earth. She believed red symbolized blood and forbade Serena from touching anything of that colour.
During the trial, the jury heard how Campione wrote in a journal that she was sexually abused as a child in her native New Brunswick by a man who owned a farm where she did chores.
“It is more than disconcerting to think that if Campione had not been so abused, so used and discarded as a person, her two daughters could still be alive,” Judge Stong said.
The jury put the most stock in the Crown’s submission blaming Campione’s intense hatred for her estranged and allegedly abusive husband, Leo Campione. The drownings came shortly before she was to head to family court for a custody hearing.
She held them under the water in the bathtub of her Coulter Street apartment in Barrie. She then dressed them in pajamas, lay them down on her bed and wove rosary beads through their cold, lifeless hands. She called police two days later.
A home video, which Campione filmed the night she killed her children, shows a vindictive, angry woman. The footage begins with baby Sophia playing in the bathtub, laughing, smiling. Cut to an hour later, and the children are dead.
“Are you happy now?” Campione spews at the camera in a message intended for her husband. “You can visit them in their caskets.”
Campione will be formally sentenced on Wednesday, when her husband is expected to read a victim impact statement to the court. The judge said the Ministry of the Attorney General will be responsible for covering the cost of any counselling jury members need after the two-month trial.
Rosemary Gartner, a criminology professor at the University of Toronto, Monday likened the verdict to others in similar murder cases.
“In cases of mothers killing their kids, juries tend to have extreme emotional reactions. One reaction is that anybody who does something like this is obviously a bit crazy and deserves sympathy. The other side says, well, this is clearly the devil,” said Prof. Gartner.
The former reaction is a legal phenomenon known as “jury nullification,” where a jury will take into account mitigating factors, such as mental illness, or will even take pity on a young mother, and hand out a reduced sentence, as in the case of Andrea Yates, a Houston, Texas, mother who drowned her five children in her home’s bathtub in June 2001.
Ms. Yates was originally convicted of capital murder and sentenced to life in prison, but a jury overturned the verdict on appeal in 2006, ruling she was not guilty by reason of insanity.
In 2008, an Ontario Superior Court jury found Xuan Linda Peng guilty of second-degree murder for drowning her 4-year-old daughter Scarlett in the bathtub of her family’s Toronto home four years earlier. She had originally been charged with first-degree murder.
Judge defines ‘moral’ for jurors in Campione case
Elspeth Lodge November 12, 2010 – 11:21 pm
BARRIE — The jury deliberating the fate of a Barrie woman who drowned her two young daughters will continue their deliberations for a fifth day today.
Elaine Campione, 35, is on trial in Ontario Superior Court, on two counts of first-degree murder. Her lawyer has admitted the 35-year-old woman caused the death of her children, three-year-old Serena Campione and her 19-month-old sister Sophia, in October 2006, but argues Ms. Campione is not criminally responsible by reason of a mental disorder.
Yesterday, the jury asked for a definition of ‘‘morally wrong,” a phrase Justice Alfred Stong had used in his instructions before their deliberations. He read them the Canadian Oxford Dictionary definition of ‘‘moral.’’
The jury also asked for a definition and review of ‘‘balance of probabilities,’’ another phrase from his instructions. He repeated what he had told them earlier, that the defence needs to prove Ms. Campione was not criminally responsible on a simple ‘‘balance of probabilities,’’ rather than “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Ms. Campione looked pale and solemn, her eyes cast downward, almost closed, as the judge and lawyers spoke yesterday. She wore a pink-collared shirt and black coat, sitting nearly still.
Her parents and sister-in-law have been waiting calmly outside the courtroom with no news for three days now.
In the morning, Ms. Campione’s mother was asked, ‘‘Do you think there will be a verdict today?”
She shook her head, and said simply: ‘‘I don’t know.’’
Ms. Campione was 31 when she called 911 early in the morning to say she had drowned her two daughters in the bathtub of her low-rent apartment.
Ms. Campione and her former husband, Leonardo Campione, had been locked in a bitter custody battle over their daughters. Their four-year relationship ended with Ms. Campione accusing her husband of years of abuse and threatening to flee with the girls to her native New Brunswick. The two were set to appear in family court a day after Ms. Campione phoned to say she had killed her daughters.
Her lawyer, Mary Cremer, argued that her client was a loving mother who struggled with mental illness.
The Crown worked to paint Ms. Campione as a woman consumed with hatred for her former husband, who drowned her children as a final act of revenge.
A two-hour videotape of the girls, allegedly filmed by their mother on the day they died, was played in court earlier in the trial. The girls were seen in frilly clothing and then again in a bubble bath. Ms. Campione was heard at one point talking about the cleanliness of her apartment.
The camera was shut off. When the videotape resumed, the jury saw Ms. Campione crying and stating that her daughters were now in heaven. She was also heard making critical comments about her former husband, calling him “evil” and blaming him for not permitting her to leave Ontario with the children.
She drowned them, but is she guilty?
J.P. Moczulski, Reuters Files
Leo Campione at the funeral for his two daughters in 2006. Their mother, Elaine, is on trial for their deaths.
Joe O’Connor And Elspeth Lodge, National Post · Thursday, Nov. 11, 2010
Elaine Campione appears haunted in the photograph. Her eyes, dark and sad, are puffy and framed by black circles. Her smile is weak, forced. A gold crucifix dangles from her neck.
Ms. Campione’s left arm is wrapped around her three-year-old daughter, Serena. Serena does not look like her mother. Not in the photograph. Her eyes are dancing. She is smiling, and wearing a plastic yellow sand pail as a hat.
Her mother’s right arm is supporting her baby sister, Sophia. Sophia has the same dark eyes as her mother, only hers, too, are full of light. Sophia has chubby little arms and the wispy blond hair of a baby. The two little girls are the perfect innocents.
On Oct. 2, 2006, their mother drowned them in the bathtub of her apartment in Barrie, Ont. Ms. Campione dressed them in their pajamas the next day, wove rosary beads through their tiny, lifeless fingers, clasped their hands together and tucked them into her bed before finally calling police on the morning of Oct. 4.
Ms. Campione was charged with two counts of first-degree murder. For the past two months a court in Barrie has listened as two competing narratives emerged around who, and what, Elaine Campione really was.
Her lawyer, Mary Cremer, told the jury her client was a caring mother who doted on her children even as she struggled with mental illness.
The Crown painted her as a calculated killer, a woman so fueled by hate for her estranged husband that she was willing to murder her own kids.
The 35-year-old does not dispute her actions. She admits to holding the girls underwater until the last air bubbles escaped from their lips. At issue then in an emotional case, which has riveted a bustling bedroom community about an hour north of Toronto, is Ms. Campione’s mental state: Whether she was suffering from a mental disorder, experienced a clear break from reality, and whether she can be held criminally responsible for her horrific crimes.
A sequestered jury has been locked in deliberations for several days, and retired last night without a verdict. They will resume this morning. Their task is unenviable.
Ample testimony of the killer’s erratic behaviour was heard in court; about how Ms. Campione was hospitalized in a psychiatric ward three times in the year prior to the killings; how she attempted suicide; how she forbid her daughter, Serena, from touching anything red — because it symbolized blood; how she thought she was being followed by men who wanted to kill her and how, after being discharged from the psych ward on one occasion, she ran about her in-laws house babbling about aliens.
Her lawyer says the evidence shows a woman who was unraveling fast. That she was already broken mentally, and at the same time terrified
of losing custody of her kids to her estranged husband–an abusive man she feared — in an increasingly messy family court battle.
Leo Campione was pushing to obtain his wife’s hospital records. Off medication, beyond supervised care and feeling cornered, a complete psychotic episode ensued where — or so the defence contends — the act of murdering her children was viewed by Ms. Campione as an act of grace, a way of saving her precious babies.
The Crown believes otherwise. The photograph of the haunted-looking Elaine Campione is not the only visual aid the jury has been handed to consider. There is a home video, shot by Ms. Campione, from the night of the killings. It shows Sophia, her baby girl, smiling, laughing, and playfully splashing about in the tub while her mother sings “twinkle, twinkle little star.”
The camera is then turned off. An hour later, the video resumes. It is Ms. Campione, spewing an angry tirade at her husband, telling him their children are dead.
“Are you happy now,” she says. “You can visit them in their caskets.”
There is a cold and institutional feel to the courthouse in Barrie. It is a grim place, and with their daughter’s fate hanging in the balance — and their precious granddaughters murdered by her hand– Ms. Campione’s parents have sat quietly in the hallway while the jury deliberates.
Theirs is a solemn vigil. During the wait, a man pushing a stroller happened by. He stopped next to them. They waved and smiled at the squirming child inside.
It is impossible not to feel the heartbreak in this awful script, not to see how lives get ripped apart by a crime too horrible to contemplate.
The tot in that stroller looked to be about three. Serena, with her big sweet eyes, and bubbly smile, was the same age when her mother drowned her in a bathtub.
It was in their apartment on Coulter Street, just off Highway 400, a busy artery where life — in all its happy normalcy — just keeps on rushing by.
Woman solves Wheel of Fortune puzzle with just ‘L’ revealed
Elspeth Lodge November 10, 2010 – 10:24 am
“Is it just me, or was that the most amazing solve we’ve ever had?” asked Wheel of Fortune host Pat Sajak. Only the letter “L” had been revealed last week when Caitlin Burke shocked the Wheel of Fortune audience by correctly solving a seven-word puzzle. The phrase that won her a Caribbean vacation? “I’ve got a good feeling about this.”
Ms. Burke, a huge fan of the show, had always impressed friends and family with her puzzle solving skills, according to CNN. She claims her success is a result of watching the show a lot and thinking positively. “If you have a good feeling about something, just go for it!” she tells CNN.
The 26 year-old Penn State graduate is a New York fashion magazine editor, and a native of The Clinton Township, N.J.. According to WTOP.com, Ms. Burke won more than $53,000 in total from her stint on the game show.” (Her trip to the Caribbean alone was worth $6,500.) Ms. Burke plans to pay off her student loan, buy a Chanel bag and start a business.
35-year-old man faces 260 gun-related charges
Elspeth Lodge November 9, 2010 – 11:41 pm
Police have laid 260 firearm-related charges against a 35-year-old Toronto man after uncovering a stash of guns and ammunition believed to be destined for “drug dealers and gangsters.”
Officers from the firearm and gang task force and from the 14 Division major crime unit arrested Eric Reid on Thursday on outstanding warrants. Police say he was in possession of three replica handguns at the time.
The following day police searched a storage facility in the Greensboro Drive and Kipling Avenue area, where they recovered 13 long guns, 22 handguns, three extra-capacity magazines and 5,581 rounds of ammunition.
Another raid on Saturday produced two handguns and 181 rounds of ammunition at a home in Richmond Hill.
Police believe that all of the guns were obtained during two break-and-enters in the Durham region between Oct. 26 and Oct., 27. One of the victims has been charged by Durham Regional Police with careless storage of firearms, which were left in a Port Perry storage unit.
Six handguns reported stolen have yet to be recovered, though police believe they are on the streets of Toronto.
Among the charges laid against Mr. Reid are: possession of a prohibited firearm with ammunition, possession of a firearm knowing its possession is unauthorized, trafficking in firearms, unauthorized possession of a prohibited device and possession of firearm obtained by the commission of an offence.
He is scheduled to appear in court on Wednesday, at 2201 Finch Avenue West, at 10 a.m.
Jeff J. Mitchell / Getty Images
Poppies at the Lady Haig’s Poppy Factory on November 8, 2010 in Edinburgh, Scotland
Elspeth Lodge November 9, 2010 – 10:26 am
The Royal British Legion is banking on the sound of silence. It’s released a “2 Minute Silence” track on iTunes with the hope that it will top the music charts for the U.K.’s Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday. The goal? Raising money for vets, and getting people to sit back and reflect as the track “plays.”
The £1 purchase price (which includes a “music” video) goes towards supporting serving and ex-service personnel and their families. The video depicts celebs (including Thom Yorke, Andy Murray, David Tennant and Mark Ronson) being, well, silent.
Iron Maiden frontman and radio DJ Bruce Dickinson said, “My first thought about the 2 Minute Silence single was that it was the work of a madman – my second thought was no, it’s the work of a genius! It’s an honour to be involved with it,” according to Musicvice.com.
There is now a Facebook page to help create (presumably very quiet and respectful) buzz.
Week One at the Post
Before you Coco: Everything we know about Conan’s new show
Conan O’Brien returns to the ol’ teevee next week: No word yet on whether the beard ends with Movember.
Elspeth Lodge November 5, 2010 – 1:15 pm
Coco fans have seen their favorite media personality get a show, another show, and then a twitter account. Now, on Monday, they will see the familiar personality light up the small screen, again. Conan will host a new show, with a shockingly original title: “Conan.”
The show will be on basic cable, which means he won’t have to take part in the late night talk show ratings wars anymore, including rival late-night hosts like Leno and Letterman. Not only will he be on a different television platform than the two comedians, but his new show will air a half hour earlier.There are some aspects of the show that will remain anonymous (will we ever see Insult the Comic Dog again?, AND, will he shave off the beard he grew at the inception of his television vacation?) until its debut on Monday, but Conan hasn’t left his fans completely in the dark. Here is what we do know:
- O’Brien will be joined by his side-kick Andy Richter; they will have adjoining dressing rooms at the new Warner Bros. Studio.
- The new set will be cozier; while the audience will be about 250 people at the new venue, the Tonight Show sat over 300 people. The seats will be on a sharper slant, giving the space a more theatrical feel.
- There will be a traditional talk show setup; including a desk for the host, a sofa for guests, a house band on the right and guest band on the left. AP reports there will be a nighttime seascape background depicting the California coast under a bright, full moon.
- There will be a house band on the show, called the Basic Cable Band. The network confirms that famous late night drummer Max Weinberg, who used to accompany Conan on many of his skits, will not be returning. CTV reports that the 59-year-old drummer is recovering from heart surgery. He will be replaced by Jimmy Vivino, who is no stranger to being a part of the band. He filled in for Weinberg whenever he was on tour with Bruce Springsteen.
- O’Brien has kept his long-time Executive Producer Jeff Ross and his head writer, Mark Sweeney.
- The first guests will be Canadian Actor Seth Rogen, American actress and singer, Lea Michele, and the American musician Jack White.
Because of the “Tonight Show” debacle with NBC network– the time-slot war, which resulted in O’Brien walking away from NBC– and Leno regaining the late night lime light, Conan was legally prohibited from hosting a television show until September 2010– a part of his $45 million exit deal.
While Conan abandoned the NBC network, his fans stayed true. They immediately revolted by setting up “Team Coco” online. The site is a mix of news, photos, videos. It is also the source of information about where to look for the bright orange “Team Coco Blimp,”a dirigible that floats over stadium events.
Conan began using the web to communicate with his fans post-Tonight Show. He is now a constant Tweeter on Twitter. Recently he tweeted– “This Halloween, I’ve hired Larry King to sit in a rocking chair on my front porch.” And, “Why does everyone look so uncomfortable when my Katy Perry “Teenage Dream” ring tone goes off?”
He also took to communicating with his fans over Youtube and Facebook. He broadcast “Show Zero,” over the web just a little while ago. It was a two minute preview of the show, which included a guest appearance by “Big Bang Theory” Emmy winner Jim Parsons.
Now that O’Brien is legally allowed to make jokes on television, the show will air Monday–TBS in the United States (11/10 c)–Comedy Network and CTV in Canada. Just recently CTV announced that they will air the program at 1 a.m.– and at midnight ET on the Comedy Network.
John Lucas/Postmedia News
Some bison that escaped from an enclosure in Camrose, Alberta in August 2010.
Elspeth Lodge, National Post · Thursday, Nov. 4, 2010
Aggressive bison have been plaguing a small Northwest Territories hamlet, attacking pets and prompting the local school to cancel recess when the massive animals get too close to the playground.
“The herd [of bison] is large, larger than I think the town can handle right now,” Dianne Nelson, a resident whose dog was killed in an August bison attack, told CBC on Tuesday.
The Environment Minister, Michael Miltenberger, said this week he was planning to visit Fort Liard to discuss the problem with residents, and told the territory’s legislature Tuesday that a bison cull, or measures to scare the animals from the village, are being considered.
“If there’s … a number of incorrigible buffalo — as there are on Highway 3, for example, when the hunting season starts — the buffalo are not [to] be seen after the first couple of shots or the first couple of bison are brought down,” Mr. Miltenberger reportedly told the legislature.
A teacher at the local school, the Echo Dene School, said bison often come into the playground, preventing students from going outside at recess.
“I’m not here in the summer,” said the teacher, who did not want her name published, “but in September and August they are a real problem at the school.”
Another resident told CBC that in September and October the bison effectively took over the town.
“I’ve heard rumours that their were bison chasing children, but I never got a call for that — and the kids here are very ‘bison aware,’’’ said Corporal Wanita Minty, part of a four member RCMP detachment.
She said eight or nine bison headed toward the town’s community hall during a dance in August, but no one was hurt. “There are no bison in town right now.”
Ms. Nelson said a bison charged her dog as she walked it off-leash near the edge of town in August. The bison plunged its horn into the dog’s stomach, and the dog died in Ms. Nelson’s arms.
“We could tell that he had been gored, and then he just came staggering down the road a couple of steps and then fell over. He died quickly — that was the one merciful
thing about it,” Ms. Nelson told CBC.
Cpl. Minty said no other “recent” incidents have been reported to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. She noted Ms. Nelson lives on the edge of town, and is more likely to encounter bison.
‘‘It’s quiet and there are not too many people,” she said.
Zoo Atlanta’s giant panda gives birth for the third time
Zoo Atlanta / HO / AFP / Getty Images
Lun Lun and child on November 3, 2010
Elspeth Lodge November 4, 2010 – 11:24 am
On Wednesday, at 5:39 a.m, Zoo Atlanta became the only U.S. zoo in 2010 to welcome a giant panda baby.
Officials at Zoo Atlanta say the birth is “a significant achievement for global efforts to save a critically endangered species,” because less than 1,600 giant pandas remain in the wild (there are another 280 in zoos around the world, 11 of them in the U.S.).
Lun Lun, a 13- year-old female giant panda, was artificially inseminated on June 13 after she failed to mate with the 13-year-old father Yang Yang. This will be the couple’s third cub; all offspring were conceived by artificial insemination.
Like any good celebrity, Lun Lun gave birth in a specially prepared birthing room: a den within Zoo Atlanta’s giant panda building. The zoo even recorded her labour and posted it online.
Typically, a Panda labor will last from one to eight hours. However, Lun Lun’s first child, Mei Lan, who arrived in 2006, was born in thirty-six- hours — breaking the record for the longest panda labor ever recorded. Her second baby, Xi Lan, was born in 2008 in just under nine hours.
Zoo officials describe the new panda as “the size of a cell phone,” and say that Lun Lun’s maternal instincts are good and that she’s taking excellent care of her new baby.
CNN reports “a preliminary veterinary checkup will be performed as soon as staff is able to remove the cub without disrupting maternal care.”
The baby panda will be available for public viewing in the spring of 2011.
Carl de Souza/AFP/Getty Images files
A file photo of Kate Middleton, long-time girlfriend of Prince William, right.
National Post Staff November 2, 2010 – 6:00 pm
By Elspeth Lodge
Rumors of an impending royal engagement between Prince William and long-time girlfriend Kate Middleton are swirling in Britain, again, after Kate’s parents attended a private shooting party at Balmoral, the private residence of Prince Charles.
The Daily Mail claims that the visit to the property is especially symbolic, since it had to be approved by both Prince Charles and the Queen. The Mail printed a Photo of Carol Middleton, Kate’s mother. She is lying in the grass, learning how to aim a rifle, while Kate’s father watches. They claim it is “the clearest sign yet that Kate and Prince William are poised to announce their engagement after a marathon eight-year courtship.”
AFP throws a wrench in that theory, reporting that a royal source says Prince William often spends time at the residence with his friends “and this was just another one of those occasions.”
People magazine predicts that William will pop the question in February of 2011. Ingrid Seward, a royal expert, tells People “There won’t be an announcement before Christmas because William has got to ask the Queen first, and they will get married soon after.”
San Francisco bans Happy Meals
Reuters / Mario Anzuoni
National Post Staff November 3, 2010 – 10:05 am
By Elspeth Lodge
San Francisco children will have to live without without kid-sized burgers and fries — and the toy that comes with them. Ladies and gentlemen, the Happy Meal — at least in its plastic treat-and-a-burger incarnation — has been effectively banned in San Francisco.
The L.A. Times reports that the board of supervisors is taking action in the fight against childhood obesity, voting unanimously on Tuesday to limit toy giveaways in children’s meals too high in calories, sodium and fat. The board will also require that the meals are served with servings of fruits and vegetables.
From the Times:
Daniel Conway, spokesman for the California Restaurant Assn., bemoaned the ordinance’s passage and contrasted it with San Franciscans’ exuberant feelings after the Giants won the world series on Monday night.
“One day you’re world champions, and the next day, no toys for you,” Conway said.
McDonalds says the new law threatens business and that its guidelines deny parents the right to decide what their children will eat.
On a happier note, while San Francisco children will have to go Happy Meal-free, the McRib has officially returned from a 16-year hiatus to all 14,000 McDonalds locations.
Obama makes last push for young voters
Brendan Smialowsky/Getty Images
President Barack Obama enjoys family time on Halloween, just days before the crucial mid-term elections.
National Post Staff November 2, 2010 – 5:21 pm
By Elspeth Lodge
Barack Obama has made America’s young voters a priority in the last few days and hours before the crucial mid-term elections.
In the past weeks Obama has appeared on programming that reaches a large chunk of America’s youth: he made an appearance on the ever-popular network MTV and was interviewed on John Stewart’s “The Daily Show”; he also chatted with American Idol host Ryan Seacrest. The interview took place on on Nov.1., and aired on election day.
Seacrest took questions from Twitter and Facebook and even got President Obama to let his guard down a bit. The President described what his daughters wore for Halloween. “Malia dressed up as a Sour Patch girl and Sasha was a turkey and they were both pretty adorable.” he says. He chatted with Seacrest about his appearance on John Stewart’s Daily Show and joked about taking his BlackBerry on date nights with his wife, Michelle. “I would never take my BlackBerry to dinner on date night. I would get into big trouble,” the President said.
But Obama did tackle serious topics. He tried to reassure young people on unemployment, a hot issue that has dogged the Democrats this election season. “The most important message I have is make sure you’re doing everything you can to maximize your education and your skills because we live in a competitive global environment and the more best trained people young people in the world, not only is that going to be good for them but that’ll be good for the whole country,” he said.
Obama hasn’t ignored the rest of the electorate. According to the Associated Press the President was interviewed on Tuesday by popular radio stations in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Chicago and Jackson, Florida. He also taped a message on AOL’s “You’ve Got..” segment encouraging people to vote.
Starting next month I will be working for the National Post (http://www.nationalpost.com/)– a conservative leaning paper in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. There are a number of appealing aspects about this paper– but, most importantly they are keeping up with the shift from paper to digital news. The paper was started in 1998 and is currently owned by Postmedia Network Inc (http://www.postmedia.com/). On the website of the company, the President and CEO of Postmedia Inc., Paul Godfrey, (http://www.postmedia.com/2010/07/13/message-from-the-president/) states “Our brands reach more people in more ways than ever before and the future of our digital growth areas and emerging technologies hold tremendous potential.” This forward thinking attitude is what journalists everywhere value right now because of the rapidly changing ways people consume media around the world.